Watch: Special Forces Detachment A in Berlin

Jack Murphy
February 13, 2020 - 1:26 pm
Checkpoint Charlie

Kate OMalley/ iStock / Getty Images Plus


U.S. Special Forces Detachment A was a clandestine unit operating in Berlin during the Cold War. These Green Berets had a real life Mission: Impossible:To wage urban unconventional warfare inside the city in the event that the Soviet Union invaded. If this were to happen, they would lay low in safe houses. And once the Red Army had passed over their positions, they would activate and engage in acts of sabotage against power plants, rail lines, and more. This was called the "stay behind" mission. 

Later, Det A was also given a counterterrorism mission because officials feared that a PanAm flight in Germany could be hijacked. Members of the unit were later called to help out with Operation Eagle Claw, America's efforts to free hostages held in the embassy in Tehran in 1980. Det A members went undercover as German businessmen and gathered critical intelligence. When the operation was launched, a half dozen Det A members went along as additional assaulters to free hostages in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building next to the embassy. Eagle Claw ended in a failure due to aircraft malfunctions at the staging area in Iran known as Desert One. The high profile nature of Operation Eagle Claw led to a compromise of the unit's operational security so it was shut down and a new unit called PSSE was used to replace it.

PSSE operated right up until the end of the Cold War.

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Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR.