Meet The Army's 'Suicide Squad' That Was Meant To Take Down Russia's Special Forces

Michael Peck

Key point: It was a desperate plan to slow the Soviet advance through postwar Germany.

Had the Cold War turned hot, there would have been no escape for the U.S. garrison in West Berlin. Marooned in a city more than 100 miles inside Communist East Germany, the U.S. Berlin Brigade—and the British and French garrisons as well—would certainly have been overwhelmed by Soviet and East German troops. Their presence helped keep half of Berlin free from Communist rule. But it was no secret that theirs was a suicide mission.

Yet there was a unique American unit with an even more hazardous mission: a small Special Forces detachment whose job it would during wartime to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Soviets and their puppet armies. That sentence bears repeating: Deep inside East Germany, in the midst of a vast Soviet military and secret police apparatus, a small group of U.S. commandos would attempt to blow up Russian supply depots and lead local resistance groups.

The phrase "suicide mission" doesn't even apply.

The unit had many names over the Cold War. But as James Stejskal, a veteran of the detachment, describes in his book Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite 1956-1990, they always knew what they were getting into. "They were aware of the odds against them and the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact forces stationed just kilometers away. Despite that, no one wavered in their commitment to face and deter the Soviet war machine."

The U.S. Army's Special Forces (SF) was born in 1952, and by 1956 SF units were deployed to Berlin. "The unit would first conduct sabotage attacks on vital targets such as rail marshaling yards, bridges, military command and control systems, communications, petroleum oil and lubricant (POL) facilities, power plants, and inland waterways," Stejskal writes:

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