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Battleground Berlin

Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War

Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 584
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  • Book Info
    Battleground Berlin
    Book Description:

    Battleground Berlinis the definitive, insider's account of the espionage warfare in Berlin between CIA and KGB from 1945 to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Two intelligence veterans-major players on opposite sides of the Cold War-have joined in an unprecedented collaboration to tell the story. Basing their narrative on personal recollections, interviews with other CIA and KGB officers, and documents never before made public, the authors provide a vast number of new details of CIA's infiltration of the new East German intelligence service; the construction, operation, and uncovering of the Berlin tunnel; and many other initiatives and countermoves dealing with the series of crises that racked Berlin and jeopardized an uneasy world peace during this period.Battleground Berlinilluminates some of the most compelling mysteries of the Cold War, including:· what really happened the night the Soviets "discovered" the Berlin Tunnel;· who ordered the building of the Berlin Wall-and why did the West seem so ill prepared;· how did infighting among Soviet leaders affect decisionmaking during the most critical moments of the Berlin crisis;· how did power struggles between KGB and its protégé, the dreaded East German security service, shape the political landscape of East Germany and heighten tension in West Berlin;· how much did the famous defector Otto John reveal to KGB-and why is he still unable to clear his name;· and much more.The book, an operational and organizational history of the world's two most important secret service organizations during a critical time, unveils the vital connection between intelligence gathering and political decisionmaking at the highest levels. Full of intrigue and suspense, it is a story not to be forgotten.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14302-7
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Key Players (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. List of Abbreviations (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. Behind the Lines in the Cold War (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
    Jonathan Brent

    Rarely does a book demand some comment from its publisher, butBattleground Berlinis such a work. Its origins lie in the vast complexities of the Cold War; the story it tells has never been told before; its point of view is unique in the annals of espionage literature in this century.

    For schoolchildren today, the Cold War will be only another topic in history class, along with the Roman Empire and the American Revolution. Twenty years from now, it will be little more than an echo of a past to which few will have direct access any longer. The...

  8. Part I. The Sides Line Up
    • 1 CIA’s Berlin Base: A Question of Knowledge (pp. 3-23)

      On Christmas Eve 1943, Gen. William Donovan, head of America’s first central intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Services (oss), arrived in Moscow. He had just completed an exhausting trip to China, and he was determined to establish a liaison relationship with the Soviet foreign intelligence service similar to the one that already existed between the Soviets and the British. To the astonishment of us Embassy Moscow personnel, Donovan was whisked right to the office of Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov on the day after he arrived. There he explained his plans for Bulgarian operations. Although Molotov seemed displeased at...

    • 2 KGB Karlshorst: How It All Began (pp. 24-50)

      Standing on a dark street corner in East Berlin in the damp chill of the evening, the Soviet captain fingered the note he had stuffed in his pocket. He was about to meet his contact for help in defecting to the West. No real soldier, he had recently arrived in Germany from Leningrad as a member of a team of specialists hastily assembled to oversee production in East German factories of badly needed parts for Leningrad’s growing electronics industry. He had always been fascinated by the West, and he loved American jazz. When word of his new assignment came through,...

    • 3 The Berlin Blockade Challenges Western Ingenuity and Perseverance (pp. 51-78)

      As the East Germans became more resentful of Soviet occupation policies, and as disagreements between the former Allies intensified, sporadic Soviet harassment of land vehicles and airplanes entering West Berlin evolved into a blockade and sparked fear of war. Although the Soviets called the blockade a response to Western actions on currency reform, it soon became a test of Western determination to remain in Berlin. The feeling among Western leaders that Czechoslovakia had been lost as a free nation and that they were being strong-armed in Berlin made them determined to create a West German state that would be part...

    • 4 The Korean War: Pretext or Premise for Rearming West Germany? (pp. 79-102)

      After the blockade, the apparent return to normal relations among the four powers made it difficult for the West to improve the defense of Western Europe. Opposition to rearming West Germany remained strong even though the Western Allies realized that without German participation the USSR would win a military confrontation in Europe. The Korean War dramatically changed these attitudes. The invasion of South Korea by the North Korean People’s Army in June 1950 was instinctively seen by many in Europe as a prelude to a similar assault in Germany by the Soviets or the growing East German paramilitary forces. The...

    • 5 Cold Warriors in Berlin: A New Era in CIA Operations (pp. 103-126)

      In response to the Korean War and the perceived Soviet threat in East Germany, CIA developed a major covert action capability, much of which was centered in Berlin and directed against the Soviet zone. How this operation came about and how KGB responded is an essential part of our story. In this account we are able, for the first time, to draw upon documents and witnesses from both sides. In the United States, the idea of covert action—or “covert psychological operations” as they were then called—took shape during 1947–48, initially in response to Communist-led actions in France...

  9. Part II. The Crisis Years
    • 6 East German State Security and Intelligence Services Are Born (pp. 129-141)

      The largest, best equipped, and most pervasive police-state apparatus ever to function on German soil did not emerge full-blown. The Soviets had to nurture it until it became the East German Ministerium fuer Staatsicherheit (Ministry for State Security), often referred to as Stasi or MfS.¹

      In 1945–46 responsibility for security in the Soviet zone rested solely with the MGB operational sectors established immediately after the war. The informants and agents recruited by MGB for internal security coverage and for operations in the Western sectors of Berlin and in West Germany were primarily Germans, and many belonged to the newly...

    • Illustrations (pp. None)
    • 7 Stalin Offers Peace, but the Cold War Continues (pp. 142-150)

      On the surface at least, 1952 had been the year in which Josef Stalin initiated a series of exchanges with the Western powers that appeared to offer the prospect of a united, neutral Germany.¹ The responses of the Western Allies, each of which demanded all-German free elections, were interpreted by some as a rejection of this “last chance” for reunification. Others believed that the Soviet offer was a propaganda ploy aimed primarily at delaying ratification of the Allied–West German contractual agreements and the integration of West Germany into the Western defense structure. A May 1952 CIA National Estimate viewed...

    • 8 Soviet Intelligence Falters After Stalin’s Death: New Revelations About Beria’s Role (pp. 151-162)

      With Stalin’s death in March 1953, the inevitable struggle for power began: such members of the old guard as Molotov, Anastas Mikoyan, and Lazar Kaganovich were overshadowed by a new triumvirate of Georgy Malenkov, Nikita Khrushchev, and Lavrenty Beria. Each member of this uneasy partnership was eager to propose “reforms” that would give him an edge over his opponents.¹ Beria, now minister of internal affairs and a Presidium member, was no exception. Although some of his actions—like amnesty for political prisoners and his proposals for limiting Moscow’s Russification programs and improving the lot of non-Russian nationalities—appealed to many,...

    • 9 The Events of June 1953 (pp. 163-182)

      Asked by a newspaper interviewer about the “Fascist putsch” in East Berlin on 17 June 1953, Yevgeny Pitovranov, the senior MVD officer sent to command the Karlshorst apparat after Beria’s arrest, replied: “Putsch—that’s an exaggeration. It was the reaction of people to the blunders of the country’s leadership, an abscess that in those circumstances could not help but break open. Moreover, it was inadmissible to use tanks in such a situation.”¹ Not every retired KGB officer who remembers those times would agree. But there is consensus that the strikes and demonstrations that developed in East Berlin and other GDR...

    • 10 The Mysterious Case of Otto John (pp. 183-202)

      The story of Otto John, president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt fuer Verfassungsschutz, BfV)—the West German counterespionage agency—is a fitting sequel to the events of June 1953, but in fact it spans the entire time frame of this book. A veteran of the wartime resistance, suspected of Gestapo ties yet involved with British intelligence, John became in 1950 the first postwar West German counterintelligence chief while harboring deep misgivings about the policies of the government he served. These views and his own emotional, quixotic nature attracted KGB attention, and an attempt was made...

  10. Part III. BOB Tries Harder
    • 11 The Berlin Tunnel: Fact and Fiction (pp. 205-237)

      No operation in BOB’S history cost as much time or money as did the effort to penetrate key Soviet and GDR communications via a tunnel deep below the Soviet sector. And since the night of its choreographed discovery in April 1956, few clandestine operations have ever received so much attention. Not all of this attention has been wholly accurate, and none of it has been complete. In volume 26 of the State Department’sForeign Relations of the United States for 1955-57,published in July 1992, the reader is referred to David C. Martin’sWilderness of Mirrors“for a detailed account...

    • 12 Redcap Operations (pp. 238-254)

      Throughout the West the 1950 North Korean invasion had created fears of similar hostile action against West Germany that could lead to general war. Intelligence on Soviet plans and intentions was urgently needed, yet tighter Soviet security had stemmed the flow of voluntary defections, which by 1952 had become CIA’S primary source of information about the Soviet regime. In response, with the approval of top American officials, CIA created its worldwide program of “defector inducement”—called Redcap after the railroad baggage porters who eased their clients’ passage.¹ First priority went to efforts to recruit Soviets as sources or, as the...

    • 13 BOB Concentrates on Karlshorst (pp. 255-266)

      Bob’s Redcap program had always tried to extend its operations into major Soviet garrison areas throughout East Germany in spite of tighter Soviet and East German security measures. But BOB’S effort was poorly organized; each branch tried independently to develop operations against those Soviet components that interested it most. The result thus depended not on the experience of branch personnel but on the nature of their operations. Those in the atomic energy group, for example, were seasoned operators working against a specific target. But the separate counterintelligence branch (CE), successor to X-2, was still occupied with unproductive Soviet double agents...

    • Illustrations (pp. None)
    • 14 The Illegals Game: KGB vs. GRU (pp. 267-282)

      From the outset, both Soviet military intelligence and state security’s foreign intelligence relied heavily on “illegals”—intelligence officers documented as foreign citizens and sent abroad—to conduct their foreign operations. Indeed, illegals figured in many of the most important successes of Soviet intelligence World War II and the Cold War. Before the Allied victory over Germany, Soviet illegals operations had depended on agent networks in Austria and Germany to supply the documentation needed to transform Soviet officers into foreign citizens.¹ But from 1945 on, East Germany became the most important center for KGB illegals support. In appendix 7 we describe...

  11. Part IV. Tests of Strength
    • 15 KGB and MfS: Partners or Competitors? (pp. 285-304)

      Since the Berlin Wall has come down, the opening of East German Ministry of State Security files has produced an avalanche of publications on MfS organization and operations. But the Soviet side of the Stasi story has not yet been revealed. It is told here for the first time, based on KGB documents and accounts KGB officers who worked directly with MfS.

      During its nascent years, the East German security service and its Soviet tutors were thwarted by the twin shocks of Beria’s attempts to “reform” Soviet state security and of the 17 June uprising. While BOB was doggedly digging...

    • 16 Khrushchev’s Ultimatum (pp. 305-316)

      Well, are you ready to leave Berlin?” GRU Lt. Col. Pyotr Popov intended this as a joke, but neither George Kisevalter nor David Murphy was in the mood for levity. It was 17 November 1958. Popov had called an emergency meeting to announce his imminent departure for Moscow on what everyone hoped would be a brief visit—but all realized that it could be the end of the operation. There were other worries as well. One week before, Nikita Khrushchev had announced that because of violations of the Potsdam Agreement, the Western Allies had forfeited their right to remain in...

    • 17 BOB Counters the Soviet Propaganda Campaign (pp. 317-326)

      As BOB’S target-room analysts were assembling material for a counterattack on the Soviet and East German “espionage swamp” campaign, another part of Khrushchev’s offensive required immediate BOB attention: his promised withdrawal of Soviet forces from East Berlin. In a pamphlet circulated in West Berlin, the Soviets threatened that the “Soviet Komendatura would be closed down and guard troops withdrawn from East Berlin as part of the handover of its functions to the East Germans.”¹ The NATO allies, of course, were expected to follow suit and withdraw forces from their sectors of West Berlin. But for the Allies to have followed...

    • 18 Bluffs, Threats, and Counterpressures (pp. 327-340)

      For BOB, 1959 had been a good year. Its Karlshorst sources had provided the information that the Western Allies needed to call Khrushchev’s bluff on his threatened military withdrawal from East Berlin. Using its files and recent operational accounts, BOB had been able to provide detailed intelligence on the real extent of Soviet East German intelligence and subversive operations based in East Berlin. This information, used in publicity campaigns and by the US Secretary of State at meetings with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, blunted Soviet attacks against West Berlin as an espionage swamp and removed the issue from the diplomatic...

  12. Part V. Concrete Diplomacy:: The Berlin Wall
    • 19 Facing the Inevitable (pp. 343-362)

      Regardless of the complexity of the policy issues affecting West Berlin’s future, it was evident to BOB that it would have to move faster to prepare its agents in the East for the inevitable closure of the sector borders. Nevertheless, for BOB, 1961 still began on a high note. David Murphy and his BOB crew were waiting for the appearance of the mysterious Heckenschuetze, “Sniper,” Whose identity had been a matter of intense speculation in CIA ever since his first letter had been received in the West in March. Later communications had contained references, albeit often obscure ones, to possible...

    • 20 Countdown to the Wall (pp. 363-377)

      The Vienna summit in early June 1961 was a pivotal event in the Berlin crisis, which had festered since November 1958, when Khrushchev issued his first ultimatum to the Allies: either settle the Berlin problem on his terms within six months or he would sign a peace treaty with the GDR ending Allied rights in Berlin. In Vienna, Khrushchev made the same threat again. Kennedy, still smarting from the Bay of Pigs debacle, emerged from the meetings determined to take whatever measures were needed to defend the Allied position there. Planning these actions, including proposals for covert paramilitary operations by...

    • 21 The Berlin Wall: Winners and Losers (pp. 378-395)

      The first order of business for CIA following the border closure was to convince President Kennedy that West Berliners’ fury at Allied passivity during this crisis could, unless appeased, seriously interfere with his plans for addressing the peace treaty threat. BOB, meanwhile, was busy dealing with the effects of the Wall on its operations: it rapidly activated emergency links with its sources, shifted its operational priorities, and reduced its staff, all while providing intelligence support to Gen. Lucius Clay, back in Berlin as Kennedy’s personal representative. As 1961 ended, BOB strained to maintain contact with agents in the East and...

  13. Epilogue (pp. 396-398)

    The Berlin Wall represented an important tactical victory for KGB because it kept BOB at a distance in East Germany, but the struggle for Berlin continued for many years. Within the decade, Willy Brandt’s Eastern policy (Ostpolitik) had resulted in full recognition of the GDR by the West, the virtual abandonment of reunification plans, and the signing of the Four-Power Treaty, which preserved West Berlin as a separate entity. It was the ultimate irony for the Soviets that these changes were the work of a Social Democratic chancellor. From Lenin through Khrushchev, Soviet leaders had rejected Social Democrats as legitimate...

  14. Appendixes.: More Detail from CIA and KGB Archives
  15. Notes (pp. 455-512)
  16. Index (pp. 513-530)