Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission - We Are The Mighty
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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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Here Are The Best Military Photos Of The Week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


An Arizona Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Phoenix soars over a low layer of clouds during a flight to the Western Army Aviation Training site in Marana, Arizona.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

Decommissioned Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV 61) is towed away from Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton. The Ranger is being towed to Brownsville, Texas, for dismantling.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Frost)

Army Pfc. Ryein Weber assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, qualifies with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Two Marines from Silent Drill Platoon practice spinning their rifles through the air to each other.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV)

Marines with Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division stand behind a blast blanket as detonation cord ignites, blowing the door in and giving them a clear passage to breach the building during an urban breaching course, aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff)

Dragoons assigned to Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment participated in a live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area located near Rose Barracks, Germany.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(Photo by Sgt. William Tanner, 2nd Cav Regiment)

Crews from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod conduct helicopter operations with Station Provincetown to remain proficient.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Enrique Ferrer)

NASA astronauts U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Virts and U.S. Navy Capt. Barry “Butch” Wilmore successfully completed their tasks on their third spacewalk in eight days, installing 400 feet of cable and several antennas.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(Photo: NASA)

A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), floats to the drop zone during the annual African-led training event Exercise Flintlock 2015 held in Mao, Chad.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Clegg)

U.S. Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire their M777 towed howitzer at high angle as part of Table VI Section Qualifications on Fort Bragg, N.C.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joe Bush)

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 274, are exposed to M7 A3 riot control CS gas by aggressors during a field gas event conducted part of the Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) Field Exercise held at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Orlando Perez)

Army Pfc. Aaron Hadley assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, qualifies at night with the M240 machine gun on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

A soldier assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 15-05 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard W. Jones Jr.)

U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, Right Wing pilot Lt. Matt Suyderhoud flies in formation with the Diamond pilots over Naval Air Facility El Centro during a practice demonstration.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

NOW: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator 

AND: 13 Signs You’re An Infantryman

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Here’s what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Via Flickr


One of history’s most brutal tyrants was a diagnosed schizophrenic on a mission to avenge his childhood years of repressed rage, according to Henry Murray, an American psychologist and a Harvard professor.

In 1943, the US Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, commissioned Murray to study Adolf Hitler’s personality to try to predict his behavior. In his 229-page report, “Analysis of the Personality of Adolf Hitler,” Murray described Hitler as a paranoid “utter wreck” who was “incapable of normal human relationships.”

“It is forever impossible to hope for any mercy or humane treatment from him,” Murray wrote.

After a frustrating childhood, Hitler felt obligated to exert dominance in all things.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Bundesarchiv

Hitler suffered from intolerable feelings of inferiority, largely stemming from his small, frail, and sickly physical appearance during his childhood.

He refused to go to school because he was ashamed that he was a poor student compared to his classmates.

His mother appeased him by allowing him to drop out.

“He never did any manual work, never engaged in athletics, and was turned down as forever unfit for conscription in the Austrian Army,” Murray writes.

Hitler managed his insecurities by worshiping “brute strength, physical force, ruthless domination, and military conquest.”

Even sexually, Hitler was described as a “full-fledged masochist,” who humiliated and abused his partners.

Much of his wrath originated from a severe Oedipus complex.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Hitler’s parents. | Wikimedia Commons

As a child, Hitler experienced the Oedipus complex — love of mother and hate of father — which he developed after accidentally seeing his parents having sex, Murray’s report says.

Hitler was subservient and respectful to his father but viewed him as an enemy who ruled the family “with tyrannical severity and injustice.” According to the report, Hitler was envious of his father’s masculine power and dreamed of humiliating him to re-establish “the lost glory of his mother.”

For 16 years, Hitler did not exhibit any form of ambition or competition because his father had died and he had not yet discovered a new enemy.

Hitler frequently felt emasculated.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Bundesarchiv

Another blow to Hitler’s masculinity: He was “incapable of consummating in a normal fashion,” old sexual partners shared with Murray.

“This infirmity we must recognize as an instigation to exorbitant cravings for superiority. Unable to demonstrate male power before a woman, he is impelled to compensate by exhibiting unsurpassed power before men in the world at large,” he writes.

As mentioned, when Hitler did have sexual relations with a woman, he exhibited masochistic behaviors. Hitler was said to have multiple partners, but eventually married his long-term mistress, Eva Braun, hours before the two committed suicide together in his Berlin bunker.

He suffered from indecisiveness and collapsed under pressure.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Wikimedia Commons

Even at the peak of his power, Hitler suffered from frequent emotional collapses from a guilty conscience.

“He has nightmares from a bad conscience, and he has long spells when energy, confidence, and the power of decision abandon him,” Murray writes.

According to Murray, Hitler’s cycle from complete despair to reaction followed this pattern:

• An emotional outburst, tantrum of rage, and accusatory indignation ending in tears and self-pity.

•Succeeded by periods of inertia, exhaustion, melancholy, and indecisiveness.

•Followed by hours of acute dejection and disquieting nightmares.

•Leading to hours of recuperation.

•And finally confident and resolute decision to counterattack with great force and ruthlessness.

The five-step evolution could last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks, the report says

He was ashamed of his mixed heritage.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Hitler speaks to Joseph Goebbels. | Bundesarchiv

Hitler valued “pure, unmixed, and uncorrupted German blood,” which he associated with aristocracy and beauty, according to Murray.

He offered the following explanation of Hitler’s contempt for mixed blood:

• As a boy of twelve, Hitler was caught engaging in some sexual experiment with a little girl; and later he seems to have developed a syphilophobia, with a diffuse fear of contamination of the blood through contact with a woman.

• It is almost certain that this irrational dread was partly due to the association in his mind of sexuality and excretion. He thought of sexual relations as something exceedingly filthy.

Hitler denied that his father was born illegitimately and had at least two failed marriages, that his grandfather and godfather were Jews, and that one of his sisters was a mistress of a wealthy Jew.

He focused his hatred on Jews because they were an easy target.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Hitler marches to the Reichstag in Berlin in 1933. | Bundesarchiv

Murray explains that Jews were the clear demographic for Hitler to project his personal frustrations and failings on because they “do not fight back with fists and weapons.”

The Jews were therefore an easy and non-militarized target that he could blame for pretty much anything, including the disastrous effects after the Treaty of Versailles.

Anti-Semitic caricatures also associated Jews with several of Hitler’s dislikes, including business, materialism, democracy, capitalism, and communism. He was eager to strip some Jews of their wealth and power.

He was moody, awkward and received compliments on his eye-color.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Marina Amaral

According to Murray’s report, Hitler received frequent compliments on his grayish-blue eyes, even though they were described as “dead, impersonal, and unseeing.”

He was slightly below average in height and had a receding hairline, thin lips, and well-shaped hands.

Murray notes that the merciless Nazi leader was known to offer a weak handshake with “moist and clammy” palms and was awkward at making small talk.

Sources say Hitler appeared to be shy or moody when meeting people and was uncoordinated in his gestures. He was also incredibly picky about his food.

Here’s Murray’s full report:

Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler by Amanda Macias on Scribd

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


ARMY:

Soldiers, assigned to KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East’s Task Force Hurricane, made up of Soldiers from The National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, hiked to the peak of Mount Ljuboten in southern Kosovo, Aug. 23, 2015.

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Photo by 1st Lt. Krista Yaglowski/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Africa, work with French Armée de Terre service members to offload a Puma helicopter from a United States Air Force C-17 in support of Operation Barkhane at Camp Kossei in N’Djamena, Chad, Aug. 23, 2015.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Morgan Salingue/US Army

NAVY:

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) The Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) participates in a night underway replenishment (UNREP) with Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./USN

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 1, 2015) Sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conduct a night replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Liam Kennedy/USN

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2015) U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25).

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos/USN

AIR FORCE:

An F-15C Eagle flies over East Anglia, England, Aug. 27, 2015, during a flyover event at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. The F-15C, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, circulated until it flew in unison with the U.K. Avro Vulcan XH558 to mark the first and last time these aircraft will fly together.

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Photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride/USAF

Staff Sgt. Saber Barrera, with 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck and refueling maintenance, works with a co-worker to replace an engine starter in Southwest Asia, Aug. 27, 2015.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Racheal E. Watson/USAF

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Stott, the 90th Medical Group superintendent, splashes through muddy water Aug. 29, 2015, during the second annual mud run at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The run attracted more than 100 Airmen and their families.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle/USAF

MARINE CORPS:

An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, from 2nd Tank Battalion, hides in the brush during a defensive maneuver on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2015.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Cpl. Ryan Young/USMC

Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, practice loading and unloading rounds during sustainment training on Aug. 21, 2015. The CAAT, composed of heavy machine gunners and anti-tank missilemen, is used to combat hardened targets as well as provide security.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers/USMC

A Marine assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, climbs a rope as part of the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by Cpl. Will Perkins/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Leading the way in maritime drug interdiction, the USCG Cutter Adelie interdicted an estimated 2,900 pounds of marijuana Saturday. This is the second interdiction of illegal drugs by Washington-based patrol boats within the last week.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by USCG

The 47ft motor lifeboats were conducting approaches to one another for training.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Photo by USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.


With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.

1. Maria Mandl

Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Maria Mandl after her arrest in 1945.

Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.

After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

2. Irma Grese

Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.

She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Irma Grese in 1945.

Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.

During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.

3. Hermine Braunsteiner

Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.

Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.

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Hermine Braunsteiner in 1946.

As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.

No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.

4. Margot Dreschel

Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Margot Dreschel in 1945.

She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.

5. Ilse Koch

Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.

She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Ilse Koch, taken after her capture.

The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.

She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.

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Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.


The drill, dubbed “Or Hadagan” (Hebrew for “the Light of the Grain”), will start on Sept. 5 and end on Sept. 14, The Times of Israel reported. Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.

According to military assessments, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.

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IDF Officers practice urban warfare. Photo from IDF.

While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

The ten-day drill will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel last held an exercise of such magnitude in 1998, a drill that simulated a war with Syria and was led by Meir Dagan.

“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. In the drill scenario, the cabinet tells the armed forces to vanquish Hezbollah – “as I understand it, the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” said the officer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Ross Perot was a veteran to be admired

Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.

The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.


As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.

“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”

Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.

“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.

When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.

It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Donald Large had one of the aptest last names in the history of last names. He was a beast, 6-ft. 6 inches tall and 240 pounds by the time he went through SAS selection the first time (more on that in a moment). But his road to military service started when he was just an over-sized tyke.


Badass: The Legend of Lofty Large

www.youtube.com

Born in 1930, he was just a boy when British troops preparing for service in France and Germany began training near his home. He watched the men readying to take the fight to Hitler and decided he would be a military man as well, a goal made even easier by his frame, and the frequent hunting trips his dad took him on.

He started as an Army Cadet, a sort of military-affiliated Boy Scouts in Britain, and then managed to get into the real British army at just 15 years old. As he trained in the military and then served Britain, he grew to his adult height and received the nickname “Lofty,” but he still craved combat.

Despite thinking Korea was a useless war, Large volunteered to serve in it and was ordered to the Gloucestershire Regiment. He fought at the Battle of Imjin where a terrain feature was named Gloster Hill after his unit’s defense.

But Large was wounded from a gunshot and shrapnel in the fighting and was taken prisoner, surviving a 10-day forced march to a prisoner of war camp. He survived another gunshot wound, disease, 80 pounds of weight loss, and two years of muscle atrophy and near starvation before he was swapped in a wounded prisoner exchange.

The army tried to give him a medical discharge, but he came back swinging over four years and put on even more muscle than he had lost. Once doctors cleared him, he put in for Special Air Service Selection, one of the most grueling military selection processes in the world. (When the U.S. formed Delta Force in 1977, the American officer in command formed the selection process from the SAS model.)

Despite all the scar tissues, Large reportedly did quite well in selection, only struggling with jumping out of the plane due to his being oversized for the plane and parachute. He weighed enough that he fell faster than other paratroopers, and this combined with a fear of heights made falling the hardest part for him.

But he was a stalwart man and made the jump anyway. He had proven himself capable and was on his way to the SAS.

Except.

Except that he rode a motorcycle soon after and crashed, crushing his ankle. The SAS told him that he would need to go back through selection to prove he was still capable of meeting the unit’s high standards. While most people would’ve probably waited a few months if they ever went back, Large simply re-bandaged his ankle, found out what his new boot size was with the swelling and bandages, and went back.

Yeah, he went back through selection while his ankle was still injured. He had only taken four weeks from crash to his second selection process.

He would serve with the SAS around the world and retired in 1973. He died in 2006.

(A hat tip to Today I Found Out whose video, embedded at top, brought Large to our attention. Their article on Large is good as well. People who want to know more about him and his exploits can see an interview series with Large on YouTube. The SAS Commando wrote his own biography before he died, Soldier Against the Odds, but it’s sadly out of print.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Relatives of Hamilton and Burr fought the famous duel 200 years later

Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.


The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.

Burr wasn’t the same after that.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Neither was Alexander Hamilton.

Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.

And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.

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Just kidding.

If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.

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Hamilton (right) is an IBM salesman from Columbus, Ohio. Burr (left) is a psychologist from New York.

In another fun, historical aside, Alexandra Hamilton Woods, four-time great granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, and Antonio Burr are also really good friends. They both serve as officers on the board of the Inwood Canoe Club, a club that offers kayaking and tours along the Hudson River.

Burr is the President Emeritus while Hamilton serves as Treasurer. Because of course they are.

Watch the entire duel recreation on C-SPAN.

Articles

Got Your 6 chief explains why vets need to lead the nation through this election

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We Are The Mighty’s editor-in-chief Ward Carroll recently sat down with Got Your 6‘s executive director Bill Rausch — a West Point graduate and Iraq War vet — to talk about the organization’s campaign to compel Americans to vote by viewing the experience through the lens of military veterans and for vets to lead the effort by their example.

WATM: What do you hope to gain by going to the conventions?

Bill Rausch: Over the next two weeks, Cleveland and Philadelphia will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign, which is why our attendance as veteran leaders is critical. Both campaigns have been supportive in providing credentials to our team helping us achieve four main objectives, which are to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets, engage the candidates on issues of importance to the veteran and military communities, compel veterans to participate in the electoral process as voters, community leaders, and candidates themselves, and, finally, to leverage the service and experience of veterans and military personnel as inspiration for all Americans to vote.

WATM: What should the veteran community take from your efforts over the next few weeks?

BR: Well, it’s not really about what veterans should take from it, it’s more like a challenge to veterans and the entire military community. Like we did during our time in uniform, we need to lead. As veterans and civic assets, we have a responsibility to call the country to action this November by participating in the electoral process — whether it be by registering and committing to vote, volunteering for a campaign, or running for state or local office. We need to engage candidates on policy issues that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Any candidate running for federal, state, or local office should be challenged to clearly define their policy stances on issues of importance to veterans. And, vets need to  educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets. Veterans may have taken off the uniform but their commitment to service has not faltered. Veterans vote at higher rates, volunteer more, and participate in their communities at rates higher than their civilian counterparts. It’s time we change the narrative of the damaged veteran by showcasing and highlighting actual veteran leaders serving their communities.

WATM: And what about the broader American public; what should they take from this effort?

BR: Good question. We also want to challenge the American public. While we’re focused on the military community, this campaign applies to everyone. All Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans by actively participating in our democratic process. Register and vote in November, regardless of your background or political leanings. We can all unite in the goal of increasing the political engagement of our citizens. In January 2005, 80 percent of registered Iraqis went to the polls to vote in the first national election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Images were beamed around the world of Iraqi voters holding up their ink-stained fingers as a sign of pride and hope for the future. Despite our national commitment to spreading the institution of democracy to others, America’s voting turnout was a paltry 54 percent of the eligible voting public in November 2012. We can and should do better. And all of us — not just vets, but all of us — should insist that the debates deal with real issues, ones that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Civilians have a responsibility to challenge candidates to outline their plans for supporting and empowering our veterans.

WATM: You’ve worked on a major presidential campaign, testified in front of congress and work with government leaders as the executive director of Got Your 6. Of all of that experience, what do you think  informs this campaign the most?

BR: I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May of 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election and I met with so many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of themselves and their families holding up their purple fingers on election day. These men and women faced down roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers to participate in their democracy with 80 percent turnout. Over the past 100 years, we’ve not even come close to that level of turnout. We can do better. We should do better. We will do better.

WATM: Given the plans and statements made by both candidates on reforming the VA, is there a candidate that you support?

BR: Got Your 6 is a non-partisan, non-profit veterans organization. We do not publicly support one candidate or party over the other. I am a member of the ‘veteran party’ and serving the veteran and military family community is my primary purpose this campaign cycle.

WATM: Do you know who you are going to vote for?

BR: I can tell you that I plan on voting at my local polling place, Fire Station No. 4 in Alexandria, VA with my wife and 2-year-old son. I believe that voting is a civic responsibility and that our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. For me, voting as a family is a way to lead by example and show my son the importance of voting in every election. It’s our duty and obligation as citizens of this great country to vote on November 8th, 2016 which happens to be veterans week and I can’t think of a better week for election day to fall on.

WATM: Agreed. Thanks for your time Bill, and we look forward to watching you and your team in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next few weeks.

BR: Thank you, Ward, and Beat Navy.

WATM: Good luck with that.

Articles

This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

The Vietnam War was a tough time in American history. The country was divided over the conflict, and protesters spoke out against the government in all sorts of ways.


Many veterans of the conflict returned home and were forgotten. But in the 1980s, a raft of new movies about the conflict hit the silver screen. One of the most successful was Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.”

While it made a huge impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the brave soldiers from Platoon?

Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.

Related: Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Chris Taylor

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(Source: Orion)

This young and naive kid who gave up a bright future in college to join the Army infantry had an interesting time after the war. He had some trouble with the law, his vision went to sh*t, and he changed his name to Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. But he also learned that he could throw a mean fastball.

After getting out of jail for grand theft auto, Vaughn made the Cleveland Indians baseball team and helped win them a pennant.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Due to his overwhelming popularity, Vaughn turned to partying and excessive drinking. He checked himself into rehab and stayed for so long, he left as a certified anger management therapist.

True story.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Sgt. Elias

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
(Source: Orion)

Now, everyone thinks that Sgt. Elias was killed when he gunned down in the Vietnam jungle — not true. That was just a government cover-up for a secret experiment he doing.

Elias’ real name is Norman Osbourne. Yes, the founder of Oscorp. He was testing a chemical that could turn humans into superhumans. Once the first round of human testing was possible, he quickly faked his death before heading to New York.

Unfortunately, the testing didn’t go as planned and he turned himself into freakish Green Goblin.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

Sadly, he attempted to take down one of the many superheroes who protect The Big Apple, and he met his doom.

Sgt. O’Neill

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(Source: Orion)

All this tired soldier wanted to do was take some much-needed RR to avoid a massive third act firefight. Well, O’Neill eventually made it back to the states after seeing fierce combat in the Vietnam jungle.

He decided the Army wasn’t for him anymore and was discharged. O’Neill became a sports writer but got beaten up by an Italian football coach during an interview.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

After collecting an undisclosed monetary settlement, O’Neill curled his hair and went on to become an Internal Medicine doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital.

He changed his name to Perry Cox and was placed in charge of all the medical residents.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The frustration he feels every day causes him to get nasty bloody noses which he treats with shock therapy.

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

Sgt. Barnes

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(Source: Orion)

Soon after Chris shot him in the chest, combat medics arrived on the scene and patched Barnes up in time. After a few years of therapeutic healing and some facial plastic surgery, Barnes made a full recovery.

His recovery was considered nothing short of a miracle, and he managed to fulfill a lifetime dream of becoming a major league baseball catcher.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

He eventually made amends with “Wild Thing” after informing him that Elias was actually a crazy f*cker. The two played alongside one another for a few seasons before Barnes became the ball club’s manager.

In the offseason, Barnes moonlights as a Marine Corps sniper and travels deep into enemy territory taking out high valued targets.

But don’t tell anyone we said that — Op Sec and all.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

MIGHTY HISTORY

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

Alexandre Walewski, born to a Polish countess in 1810, was the acknowledged son of a Polish count who had served the last king of Poland before it was annexed by Russia — but most people who knew the family suspected that he was the son of the countess’s lover, Emperor Napoleon. Napoleon’s illegitimate son later ignored his Polish roots and joined the French Foreign Legion.


Countess Marie Walewska was a beautiful woman who married a much older man, Count Athanasius Walewski, who had a burning desire to see Poland break from the Russian Empire and establish itself as a free land once more. A former chamberlain to the last Polish king, Walewski and many of his contemporaries fervently believed that Napoleon was their best chance at a free Poland.

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I mean, she’s pretty if you’re into that “classical beauty” thing.
(Portrait by François Gérard)

So, when the count learned that Napoleon had the hots for his young wife, he encouraged her to go to him. Marie was, by many accounts, pious and initially reluctant. But she eventually became one of Napoleon’s mistresses and, in 1809, became pregnant with what she suspected was an imperial child.

When young Alexandre was born, the rumor mills quickly commented on how much he looked like the French emperor, but Walewski publicly acknowledged the boy as his own, granting the boy the privileges of nobility.

Alexandre grew up with his two acknowledged fathers. At the age of 2, Napoleon gifted the boy the title of count and 69 farms with a combined revenue of 170,000 francs, though the lands were later taken after Napoleon’s first abdication.

So, little Alexandre was the acknowledged son of a count, the biological son of a countess with her own family line, and a count in the Kingdom of Naples by Imperial decree.

But Alexandre shared his Polish father’s desire to break Russian rule of Poland, and, at the age of 14, this got him in trouble.

The Russian Army came calling for young Alexandre and he ran away, first to London and then Paris. In France, the royal line was back on the throne but Alexandre was not punished for his father’s reign. King Louis-Philippe sent him back to Poland.

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The young Count Alexandre Walewski was considered handsome despite his neckbeard.
(Portrait by the school of George Hayter)

In Poland, Alexandre reached the age of 20 and quickly fell in with an attempted rebellion led primarily by Polish officers at the military academy. The uprising had some early success, and Alexandre was sent to London to be the group’s envoy to England. As it would turn out, he was lucky out of the country when the Russian army crushed the uprising in 1831.

Alexandre married the daughter of an earl that December but she tragically died — not long after the deaths of their two children. In 1834, Alexandre was a widower with no living children, so he decided to go back to France.

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Typical French Foreign Legion uniforms in 1830s Algeria.

Once there, he applied for French citizenship, which was granted, and a French commission. Soon, Capt. Alexandre Walewski was serving with the French Foreign Legion in Algeria.

During this period, French forces in Algeria were focused predominantly on driving back the Ottomans and ensuring French control of the country. Alexandre distinguished himself as a light cavalry officer and was eventually awarded the grand cross of the Legion of Honor.

Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission
Facing off against the Arabs in Algeria took guts, as these Frenchmen found out when they were stomped at Constantine in 1836.
(Print by Auguste Raffet)

By 1837, Alexandre was ready to return to civilian life and he took up writing. He continued to serve as a diplomat when called upon, occasionally representing his cousin, Napoleon III, a French president who would be emperor from 1848 to 1870.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British crew sang a hilarious song as their ship burned

People who serve in the military tend to develop a pretty dark sense of humor. It comes with the territory. When a very large part of your life involves risking it for your country and for the guy next to you, the idea that your last moments could be closer than you think never fully leaves your mind.

This can change a person. Veterans have a different outlook on some of the more serious aspects of life, laughing at things many others would never dream to, for fear of offending others or, worse, tempting fate. For the crew of the British destroyer HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War, this change became readily apparent and their darker sense of humor flourished.


In 1982, the military junta that ruled Argentina decided that the nearby Falkland Islands, a series of small and strategically unimportant islands off the Argentine coast were going to belong to Argentina again. They had been held by Britain for about 150 years at that point. After a workers’ dispute saw Argentine laborers raise the Argentinian flag on South Georgia Island, Argentina invaded. Soon, 10,000 Argentinian troops occupied the islands. The Argentines thought the UK was unwilling and unable to defend their territories so far from the mainland. They were wrong.

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They thought the woman with the nickname “Milk Snatcher” was gonna just let them have the goddamn Falklands.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dispatched a two-carrier naval task force to the area and declared a 200-mile war zone around the Falklands. Within two months, the British retook the Falklands and punished the Argentinian military, but their win was not totally without loss. One of the deadliest weapons the Royal Navy had to face was the new French-built Exocet anti-ship missile. The versatile weapon is capable of sinking enemy vessels with a single, well-placed shot.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in sinking the HMS Sheffield.

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Exocet: the trump card of naval warfare.

The Sheffield was on alert but was more concerned about the submarine threat from Argentina’s navy. The crew was totally unaware of the incoming ordnance until they could see smoke from the sea-skimming missiles. The firing aircraft, two Argentinian Navy Super-Étandards weren’t even detected. One missile hit the water, well away from the ship, but the other hit the Sheffield just eight feet above the waterline.

The ship was set on fire and, because the missile hit Sheffield’s water main, there was no way to put it out. Smoke and flames quickly filled the ship, beginning from the second deck where the Exocet missile struck. The crew could only gather and accept the ship’s fate as it burned and they waited to be rescued. Some 20 British sailors died in the initial explosion.

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The HMS Arrow was on its way to rescue the Sheffield’s crew, so they formed a chain to keep everyone together and a Sub-Lieutenant named Carrington-Wood led the crew in singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. To this day, it’s the most-requested funeral song in the UK.

The Sheffield did not sink immediately. She was looked at to see what could be salvaged and only began to take on water as she was towed across the Atlantic. When she sank, she was the first Royal Navy ship to be sunk in action since World War II.

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