Guerrillas for World War III
excerpted from the book
America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy
by Christopher Simpson
Collier / Macmillan, 1988
The Vlasov Army and Waffen SS veterans from Eastern Europe worked
hard to integrate themselves into the evolving U.S. nuclear weapons
strategy during the cold war years. Colonel Philp and General
Gehlen, it will be recalled, began as early as the winter of 1945-1946
to use German officers and refugees from the East to gather information
about military construction behind Soviet lines. Each time the
location of a new Soviet military site was confirmed, word of
its location was passed to a special U.S. Air Force office at
the Pentagon whose job was the selection of targets slated for
As U.S. atomic planning grew more sophisticated, the role
of émigrés in America's nuclear war-fighting strategy
expanded quickly. By late 1948 paramilitary expert General Robert
McClure had won the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to approval of
a full-scale program of guerrilla warfare that was to follow any
U.S. nuclear strike on the USSR. From then until at least 1956,
when this strategy was at the height of its popularity in U.S.
command circles, preparations for post-World War III guerrilla
insurgencies employed thousands of émigrés from
the USSR. Pentagon documents show that Vlasov veterans and Waffen
SS men played a major role in these underground armies. Considering
the wartime record of these forces, there is reason to suspect
that a number of these enlistees may have been war criminals.
These émigrés did not, of course, create U.S.
nuclear strategy. The advent of atomic weapons and their impact
on international affairs would have taken place with or without
the use of former Nazis and collaborators in U.S. war planning.
The exile soldiers simply rode the coattails of the movement toward
reliance on nuclear weapons during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In many cases they themselves were not aware of what the Pentagon
had in mind for them. The integration of these groups into even
the most humble levels of U.S. nuclear planning, however, gave
the military and intelligence agencies a powerful reason to conceal
the Nazi pasts of their unusual troops.
The process of integrating ex-Nazi emigre groups into U.S.
nuclear operations may be traced at least to early 1947, when
General Hoyt Vandenberg became the first chief of staff of the
newly independent U.S. Air Force. Vandenberg had commanded the
Ninth Air Force in Europe during World War II, then been tapped
to head the Central Intelligence Group, the immediate predecessor
to the CIA, in 1946. Among the general's responsibilities at the
air force was the development of written plans describing strategies
and tactics for the use of America's new nuclear weapons in the
event of war.
"Vandenberg had a clear idea about just how he thought
a nuclear war was going to be fought," argues retired Colonel
Fletcher Prouty, who was a senior aide to the air force chief
of staff in the 1940s and later the top liaison man between the
Pentagon and the CIA. "[He] knew that if there was a nuclear
exchange in those days-and we are talking about atomic bombs,
now, not H-bombs- you would destroy the communications and lifeblood
of a country but the country would still exist. It would just
be rubble. People would be wandering around wanting to know who
was boss and where the food was coming from and so forth, but
the country would still be there." Therefore, the U.S. thinking
went, "we must begin to create independent communications
centers inside the Soviet Union [after the nuclear blast] and
begin to pull it together for our ends."
The army, air force, and CIA all began competing programs
to prepare for the post-nuclear battlefield. This included creation
of what eventually came to be called the Special Forces-better
known today as the Green Berets-in the army and the air resupply
and communications wings in the air force. The job of these units,
Prouty explains, was to set up anti-Communist political leaders
backed up by guerrilla armies inside the USSR and Eastern Europe
in the wake of an atomic war, capture political power in strategic
I sections of the country, choke off any remaining Communist resistance,
and ensure that the Red Army could not regroup for a counterattack.
In 1950 CIC and CIA agents used the Labor Services cover to begin
guerrilla training of at least 100 members of the far-rightwing
League of Young Germans (Bund Deutscher Jungen, or BDJ). These
"Young Germans" were no Boy Scouts; most were Waffen
SS and Wehrmacht veterans, according to a later West German government
investigation, and a considerable part of the leadership of the
group had been enthusiastic "Jew baiters" in the Goebbels
ministry during the Nazis' rule.
The budget for the clandestine group was 50,000 deutsche marks
per month, according to records seized by German police in 1952,
plus an ample supply of free arms, ammunition, and explosives
cached in the Odenwald Hills south of Frankfurt. American and
German advisers provided BDJ agents with extensive military instruction,
including, as a report in the West German parliament later revealed,
"use of Russian, United States and German weapons, including
machine guns, grenades, and knives . . . [as well as] light infantry
weapons and explosives." The underground group called itself
a U.S. "Technical Service" unit.'
But the training program was only the beginning. BDJ Technical
Service leaders decided that the best thing they could do for
Germany following a Soviet attack was to liquidate certain German
leaders they regarded as insufficiently anti-Communist. German
Communists were, of course, at the top of the Technical Service
assassination list. Next in line for elimination were leaders
of West Germany's Social Democratic party, the country's loyal
opposition during the Adenauer administration. The Technical Service
group planned to murder more than forty top Social Democratic
officials, including the party's national chief, Erich Ollenhauer;
the interior minister of the state of Hesse, Heinrich Zinnkann;
and the mayors of Hamburg and Bremen. BDJ's U.S.-trained underground
infiltrated the Social Democrats to shadow individual party leaders
so as to kill them more efficiently when the day to act arrived.
The plot unraveled in late 1952, however, when a chance arrest
by local police led to discovery of the hit list of Social Democratic
officials. The CIC's behavior following this accidental exposure
was so compromising that it raised serious questions in the German
parliament whether the U.S. government was aware of the Technical
Service unit's assassination plans all along. Then again, perhaps
the CIC response to the arrests was just stupid, not a conspiratorial
cover-up. Either way, American CIC officers took custody of the
arrested BDJ members and proceeded to hide them from the German
civil police, who intended to charge the "Young Germans"
with numerous weapons violations and conspiracy to commit murder.
The German chief of the Technical Service unit, an ex-Luftwaffe
man named Gerhard Peters, was placed under wraps for almost two
weeks in a U.S.-requisitioned building that was off-limits to
German civil authorities. U.S. CIC agents also seized all the
remaining Technical Service records that they could lay their
hands on, then refused to turn the dossiers over to the German
equivalent of the FBI.
But the cat was out of the bag. Soon Social Democratic deputies
were demanding investigations and pounding the lecterns in state
and federal parliaments all over West Germany. Unfortunately for
the Americans and for the Technical Service, their blunder had
been discovered in the midst of a closely fought election, and
the Social Democrats made the most of it. In the end, U.S. authorities
were forced to confirm, as the New York Times reported, that they
had "sponsored and helped finance the secret training of
young Germans, many of them former soldiers, to become guerrilla
fighters in the event of a war with the Soviet Union."
The question of U.S. use of former Nazi collaborators in assassinations
is important, and not just because of the obvious damage that
the Technical Service imbroglio did to U.S. relations with Germany's
influential Social Democrats. Few subjects are more deeply clothed
in mystery than this one, and the evidence concerning how U.S.
assassination operations worked during the cold war and who was
responsible for them is inevitably scattered and fragmentary.
All that can be said with certainty is that such murders did take
place and that in some cases former Nazi collaborators were instrumental
in carrying them out.
To put the case most bluntly, many American clandestine warfare
specialists believed that the most "productive"-and
least compromising-method- of killing foreign officials was to
underwrite the discontent of indigenous groups and let them take
the risks. American intelligence agencies' use of this technique
appears to have originated in operations during World War II,
when the OSS supplied thousands of cheap pistols to partisans
in France and Yugoslavia specifically for assassination of collaborators
and German officials. (According to Pentagon records,' the OSS
also air-dropped these weapons in areas where there were no significant
rebel forces so that the Nazis, upon finding the guns, would tighten
the screws on local populations and thereby produce new anti-Nazi
The concepts of maintaining "plausible deniability"
for the actual murder and of the expendability of the killers
themselves are a key to understanding U.S. assassination techniques.
In most cases, it appears to have been neither necessary nor practical
for U.S. intelligence officers to give precise instructions for
murder. Instead, the OPC gave directions to commit assassinations
to guerrilla movements in the same simple, sweeping terms that
had been used in wartime Yugoslavia. U.S. intelligence encouraged
insurgents to "eliminate the command and other dangerous
personnel of the MVD and the MGB [the Soviet secret police],"
as the psychological warfare appendix to a Pentagon war plan put
it in 1948. Other assigned tasks under the Halfmoon war plan,
as it was known included "organiz[ing] for the destruction
of industry, communications and other factors in Soviet war-making
capacity"; "engag[ing] in sabotage wherever and whenever
it disrupts enemy action"; and "creat[ing] panic and
Several organizations of former Nazi collaborators were ready
to undertake such slayings on a major scale. Covert operations
chief Wisner estimated in 1951 that some 35,000 Soviet police
troops and Communist party cadres had been eliminated by guerrillas
connected with the Nazi collaborationist OUN/UPA in the Ukraine
since the end of the war, and that does not include casualties
from other insurgencies in Lithuania and the Muslim regions of
the USSR that were also receiving aid from the United States and
These shotgun-style killings and guerrilla actions account
for the large majority of murders carried out with U.S. assistance
in Europe during the cold war. It is inappropriate, of course,
to lay responsibility for all these deaths at the feet of the
CIA. The rebellions against Soviet rule were not initiated by
the agency; they exploded inside the country out of discontents
that were bound to give rise to violent resistance. Still, it
is clear that CIA aid sustained such rebellions longer and made
them more deadly to all concerned than they might otherwise have
been. Moreover, these widespread shotgun-style slayings served
as cover for a smaller number of specific individual assassinations
that appear to have been directly ordered by U.S. intelligence
Former Nazi collaborators made excellent executioners in such
instances, because of both their wartime training and the fact
that the U.S. government could plausibly deny any knowledge of
their activities. Suspected double agents were the most common
targets for execution. "In the international clandestine
operations business, it was part of the code that the one and
only remedy for the unfrocked double agent was to kill him"
(emphasis added), the CIA's director of operations planning during
the Truman administration testified before Congress in 1976, "and
all double agents knew that. That was part of the occupational
hazard of the job." The former director, whom the government
declines to identify, also claimed, however, that he didn't recall
any executions of double agents actually occurring during his
tenure there. It is understandable that he might fail to remember
any executions; for admitting a role in such killings could well
lead to arrest and prosecution for conspiracy to commit murder
in Europe, if not in the United States itself.
"We kept personnel at several air bases around the world
for these types of missions," says Colonel Prouty, who was
responsible for U.S. Air Force air support of CIA missions overseas,
including the delivery of agents to their targets and subsequent
evacuation measures. "Some of these guys were the best commercial
hit men you have ever heard of. [They were] mechanics, killers.
They were Ukrainians, mainly, and Eastern Europeans, Greeks, and
some Scotsmen. I don't know how the Scotsmen got in there, but
there they were. None of them were American citizens." Prouty
asserts that teams of such "mechanics" were used in
cross-border infiltrations, in highly dangerous rescues of American
agents inside the USSR and China, and in special murders. According
to Prouty, there was no clear policy concerning the use of killing.
"It was an ad hoc event, and it [the actual assassination]
was done by third parties. If it had to be done in Yugoslavia,
for example, it was set up with exile Yugoslavians or the [emigre]
Polish groups. The [U.S.] Army had by far the best assets"
for this type of thing, he states, but "on the operational
level there was good cooperation with the air force, CIA, and
army." Many of the Eastern Europeans, he says were Nazi collaborators
during the war.
Several such killings did take place during the late 1940s
under Operations Hagberry and Lithia, both of which were approved
at senior levels of the Pentagon. These two instances, furthermore,
must be considered only the documented examples of a more widespread
practice. Hagberry required, according to army records, the "liquidation
of the Chikalov Ring, a possible Soviet intelligence net operating
within the U.S. zone of Germany." And Lithia, which began
under army auspices in November 1947, authorized "liquidation
in [the] United States Zone [of Germany] of the Kundermann Ring,
a large scale Czechoslovakian intelligence net." Army intelligence
believed that the Chikalov Ring and the Kundermann organization
had managed to plant double agents in certain emigre espionage
networks that were being jointly managed by the United States
and Britain under still another code-named project, Operation
Rusty, and it is those agents who were marked for "liquidation."
Army spokesmen today claim with shrugs of their shoulders that
all further files concerning Hagberry and Lithia have simply disappeared.
No further information is available, they say, and there is no
indication of who withdrew the Hagberry and Lithia files or when
Other people were murdered gangland-style during Operation
Ohio, according to published reports in the United States. Ohio
employed a squad of Ukrainian ex-Nazis to carry out at least twenty
murders m a displaced persons camp at Mittenwald, south of Munich.
The Army CIC and later the CIA are reported to have financed this
squad for strong-arm work against double agents, Soviet spies,
and similar undesirables. The fragmentary evidence still available
suggests that most of the squad's victims were double agents whose
deaths-when they became public at all-were attributed to factional
violence among rival right-wing Ukrainian emigre groups.
"We were just out of World War Two, and we were using
those [wartime] tactics," says Franklin Lindsay, the former
CIA/OPC paramilitary expert. "In my case, I had operated
only in wartime conditions. Given the feeling that we were very
near war at that time, one tended to operate in the same way as
in wartime." Lindsay, however, rejects the term assassination
as a description of CIA/OPC practice during his tenure there.
The records of Operation Bloodstone add an important new piece
of information to one of the most explosive public issues of today:
the role of the U.S. government-specifically the CIA-in assassinations
and attempted assassinations of foreign officials. According to
a 1976 Senate investigation, a key official of Operation Bloodstone
is the OPC officer who was specifically delegated responsibility
for planning the agency's assassinations, kidnappings, and similar
Colonel Boris Pash, one of the most extraordinary and least
known characters in American intelligence history, completes the
circle of U.S. agents, Nazi collaborators, and "mechanics"
involved in these highly sensitive affairs. Pash is not a Nazi,
nor is there any evidence that he is sympathetic to Nazis. But
his work for U.S. intelligence agencies places him in the critical
office given the responsibility for planning postwar assassination
Pash, now in his eighties, looks much like a bespectacled
retired high school teacher. That's not surprising. He taught
gym at Hollywood High School for a decade prior to World War II.
He is modest-even shy, some might say-with a gravelly voice and
a cautious manner born of a lifetime of keeping secrets. Politically
Pash remains loyal to the legacy of General Douglas MacArthur,
with whom he served in occupied Japan. Colonel Pash is one of
the few remaining originals of U.S. intelligence, and his experience
in "fighting the Communists" goes back to the 1917 Russian
Revolution. He was in Moscow and Eastern Europe in those days
with his father, a missionary of Russian extraction, and the young
Pash spent much of the Soviet civil war working on the side of
the White armies, then with czarist refugees who had fled their
country. In the 1920s Pash signed on as a reserve officer with
the U.S. military intelligence service, and he maintained the
affiliation throughout his years at Hollywood High. He was called
to active duty in the first days of the Second World War, played
a role in the internment of Japanese civilians in California,
and was soon assigned as chief counterintelligence officer on
the Manhattan Project, the supersecret U.S. effort to develop
the atomic bomb. (More than a decade later it was Colonel Pash's
testimony that helped seal the fate of scientist Robert Oppenheimer
in the well-known 1954 security case.) Before the war was out,
it will be recalled, Colonel Pash led the series of celebrated
special operations known as the Alsos Mission that were designed
to capture the best atomic and chemical warfare experts that the
Nazis had to offer.
After the war Colonel Pash served as the army's representative
on Bloodstone in the spring of 1948, when the tasks of that project,
including recruiting defectors, smuggling refugees out from behind
the Iron Curtain, and assassinations, were established. Bloodstone's
"special operations," as defined by the Pentagon, could
"include clandestine warfare, subversion, sabotage and .
. . assassination," according to the 1948 Joint Chiefs of
Staff records. In March 1949, Pash was assigned by the army to
the OPC division of the CIA. There, according to State Department
records, his responsibilities included many of the functions originally
approved under the Bloodstone program.
At the CIA Boris Pash became an administrator and organizer,
as distinct from a field operative. His five-man CIA unit, known
as PB/7, was given a written charter that read in part that "PB/7
will be responsible for assassinations, kidnapping, and such other
functions as from time to time may be given it . . . by higher
authority." Pash's fluency in Russian, his skill in dealing
with Bloodstone émigrés, and his solid connections
in anti-Communist exile circles were valuable assets in that job.
Indeed, those qualifications-along with his sterling record as
a counterintelligence officer-may well have been what led to his
selection as PB/7 chief.
As with so many other aspects of the history of U.S. intelligence
the evidence here must be carefully sifted. Pash himself denies
involvement in the Bloodstone program, asserting that he has "no
recollection" of Bloodstone or of "anything like that."
However, documents establishing his participation in Bloodstone
and PB/7 are now a matter of public record.
Pash did testify before Congress in 1976 that his responsibilities
at the CIA included planning for defections from Communist countries,
facilitating the escape of prominent political refugees, and disseminating
anti-Communist propaganda behind the Iron Curtain-all of which
were clearly Bloodstone activities. Pash's supervisor at the CIA
(who is not identified in the hearing record) offered further
details concerning some of the less savory aspects of emigre operations
during the 1940s that coincide with what is known of Bloodstone.
Pash's PB/7, the supervisor said, was responsible for "kidnapping
personages from behind the Iron Curtain . . . [including] kidnapping
people whose interests were inimicable to ours."
Much of the documentary evidence concerning what PB/7 did
during the first years of the CIA has disappeared, leaving both
Congress and the general public with many unanswered questions
concerning U.S. operations among émigrés during
the cold war. The CIA claimed in 1976 that it had "no record
of documents which deal with this aspect [i.e., assassinations]
of Pash's unit" and that even the office's charter was missing.
Colonel Pash himself insisted in congressional testimony that
he did not "believe" that he had any involvement in
or responsibility for planning or conducting assassinations. He
also testified that he had no recollection of the language of
the charter of PB/7, the CIA office of which he had been in charge.
Despite the mysterious disappearance of the PB/7 records while
in the hands of the CIA, the chain of circumstantial evidence
concerning some Bloodstone émigrés' roles in paramilitary,
kidnapping, and assassination operations abroad is too strong
to be easily dismissed. First, there is the incriminating Pentagon
document, quoted above, which indicates that paramilitary operations,
assassinations, and kidnappings were an explicit mission of the
Bloodstone program from its beginning.
Secondly, at least one key Bloodstone official, Boris Pash,
was active in Bloodstone's early phases in mid-1948, then became
chief of the OPC office responsible for planning paramilitary
operations, assassinations, and kidnappings at about the time
that control of "politico-psychological" and paramilitary
operations was passed from the Bloodstone committee to the OPC.
Thirdly, at least some Bloodstone émigrés with
backgrounds as Nazi collaborators-former Albanian Minister of
Justice Hasan Dosti, for example-went on to become deeply involved
in clandestine operations that did indeed involve paramilitary
operations, murders, and unconsummated plans for assassinations,
such as the 1949 and 1950 secret raids on Albania designed to
overthrow the government. (Dosti did not participate in the actual
field operations. But the organization he led, the Committee for
a Free Albania, served as a "private" cover for the
Albanian guerrillas, who were, in fact, organized and financed
by the OPC.)
Fourthly-and perhaps coincidentally-certain Soviet spies,
double agents, and "people whose interests were inimicable"
to those of the CIA were marked for death by the agency. Pash's
immediate superiors in the OPC acknowledge that the "one
and only remedy" for Communist double agents was to murder
them. According to published reports in the United States, persons
accused of being Soviet or East bloc agents were in fact killed
during this period by former Nazi collaborators at Mittenwald
and in other displaced persons camps, though under mysterious
circumstances that have never been clearly traced back to the
In the opinion of the author, the early Bloodstone operations
played a significant role in laying the groundwork for what one
Senate investigator later called "a procedure [within the
CIA] which, although not spelled out in so many words, was generally
understood and served as the basis to plan or otherwise contemplate
political assassination." The killings of minor double agents
in German DP camps were murders and deserve to be investigated
as such. More significant, however, is what these otherwise obscure
crimes appear to have foreshadowed: Before the decade of the 1950s
was out, the CIA is known to have established mechanisms for using
"deniable" assets and émigrés for the
execution of heads of state and other international leaders. These
later killings, which are arguably the most serious blunders ever
made by the CIA, have created blowback problems on an international
scale and have had a significant and generally negative effect
on the lives of millions of people.