29 March 2017

Berlin Memoir, Part 7

[This is the second-to-last installment of my “Berlin Memoir,” the chronicle of my 2½ years in military intelligence in Cold War Berlin in the 1970s.  Part 7 covers some of the trips I took out of Berlin (after my two-part stint at the German military intelligence school in 1972, which I wrote about in Part 6), both for leave and for temporary duty.  There are also a couple of operational screw-ups at the end of this section.  Once again, I have to suggest that readers who are just being introduced to “Berlin Memoir” go back and read Parts 1 through 6 to catch up not just with the narrative (which to be truthful is fairly haphazard anyway), but the definitions and explanations of terms, concepts, and other references I toss around once they’ve been introduced.  (The earlier parts of “Berlin Memoir” were posted on 16 and 31 December 2016, 20 January 2017, 9 and 19 February 2017, and 6 March 2017.)]

The MAD-Schule I attended in the summer and fall of 1972 wasn’t the only course I had to take while in Berlin.  I got designated the Station NBC Officer—that has nothing to do with radio or TV broadcasting; it’s Nuclear-Biological-Chemical, what used to be called CBR—and I had to go down to Oberammergau for a class at the U.S. Army School, Europe.  O’gau, as it was known to us GI’s, is a small Alpine town near the Austrian border in Bavaria not far from Munich, and the Army had a school there for various courses.  66th MI, whose HQ was just up in Munich you recall, had several programs there.  The course itself was unremarkable—just like any Army course you can imagine—but it lasted two weeks, and we got some time off now and then.  Since I didn’t have my car—I took the train there and back—I palled around with a couple of my classmates from other units, and we drove up to Munich one afternoon and poked around.  I remember we drove out to the Olympic Village—the one where the 1972 games were held (26 August-11 September) and where the Israeli athletes were kidnapped on 5 September and later murdered, later the subject of Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich

I don’t remember exactly when I was in O’gau, sometime in ’72, but considering when I was in Bad Ems, it must have been a couple of months or so before the Olympics.  I recall that the place was pretty empty—not a big tourist draw.  (I had been in Berlin when the kidnapping occurred.  I went to bed that night thinking that the athletes had all been saved—remember that the erroneous report was issued before the truth was revealed—but when I woke up the next morning, I found out that they had all been murdered and that the German police had killed all the kidnappers.) 

Aside from skiing, O’gau is also famous for its woodcarvers.  The most popular souvenirs from O’gau are little figurines carved from wood in the distinctive style of the town and painted (sometimes they’re left unpainted).  They’re usually figures of people in various Bavarian dress—and they’re all over town in every size imaginable.  (There are also a whole range of religious figurines available, including crèches.  Remember that Bavaria, like Austria, is very Catholic.)  However, the USARSCHEUR PX, which also carried a line of the O’gau figures, had commissioned a special version of the traditional carvings.  It was a “Spook”—a man in a black cloak and a big, black slouch hat, holding a silver-bladed dagger.  Think “Spy vs. Spy.”  (The band on the hat is “oriental” blue, the primary color of MI Branch.)  Well, of course, I had to have one of those!  What a hoot.  I have it still, on the bookshelf in my study—one of my best souvenirs of Germany and the Army.  

(I also bought a “real” O’gau carving.  My grandmother had made a trip to Bavaria—I don’t know if she actually went to O’gau, but she probably did—and had given me a little figurine, which I also still have on the other end of that shelf, so I decided to get something slightly less traditional.  I shopped around all over town and saw that the artisans also made other kinds of carvings, including reliefs, which were much less common.  I got an unpainted high-relief panel of four men around a tavern table, slightly impressionistic in style and about 15”L x 12”H.  It hangs over the inside of the door to my study.  It’s one of my favorite pieces.)

My trip to Oberammergau wasn’t a vacation, of course, nor was Bad Ems—though I did take advantage of being away from Berlin to do some recreating.  O’gau, in the Bavarian Alps, was like Garmisch-Partenkirchen nearby—an Army recreation center for skiing in the winter.  There were Special Services hotels in both towns; my family’d even done a ski vacation in Garmisch when I was a kid.  I wasn’t in O’gau during ski season, of course, but it’s still a cute little Alpine town, very picturesque, with lots of Stuben and little restaurants where you could sit and nurse a beer or glass of wine and people-watch or nibble on some cheese or a pastry.  And Bad Ems, frequented by the Kaiser and the Tsar, among other European dignitaries of the 19th century, was a former Imperial spa.  Germans were very devoted to their “cures” and doctors often prescribed spa cures and the patients took this very seriously.  In other words, both towns, though small, were substantial in terms of basic amenities because of the visitors they attracted.  I mean, they weren’t Muldraugh, Kentucky! 

I did get to go on vacations occasionally, too.  As hard as it could be to navigate the paper maze that was necessary to get out of Berlin, I did manage a few times.  There was that Christmas-New Years trip to my friends in France, for one—the one where I took the Train Militaire to Strasbourg.  (I don’t know how I managed to get leave for both holidays—I found out after I got back that SOP was to give personnel one or the other holiday off, but not both.  Just got lucky—someone was asleep at the switch.)  I spent Christmas 1971 with the Humiliens, our French friends from the days in Koblenz, in Villefranche-de-Lauragais, their little town in the Haute-Garonne near Toulouse, and took the train to Paris for New Years 1972 with their son, Marc, who was my age, for a party by the daughter of his godparents.  (I guess that made her his god-sister!)  On Christmas morning, I cooked French toast for my hosts—we had to do a little shopping around to find appropriate bread; I was afraid to try regular French bread.  This was a great astonishment for the Humiliens on two counts: first, the idea that I would (or, I suppose, could) cook for them was a surprise; second . . . well, French toast isn’t French!  They’d never heard of such a thing.  (That’s not so strange: the French, like most Continentals, don’t eat a big breakfast—just coffee and a roll.  That’s why it’s called a continental breakfast, don’cha know.)  Anyway, they were so thrilled, they talked about this event for years to come.  (I have photos of that visit, including one of me at the stove with Ninon Humilien, la mère de famille, kibitzing over my shoulder!)  I also remember that the Humiliens’ housekeeper, an old family retainer who’d worked for Mme. Humilien’s family for years, was incensed that not only a man, but a stranger would be invading her kitchen!  (The housekeeper was pretty old and nearly toothless, and spoke the local langue d’oc patois, so not only I but also Ninon and her family could barely understand her.)

(The trip to Paris wasn’t particularly remarkable, except for one anecdote.  Marc and I stayed at a pension near his godparents’ house, and after we had arrived and were having some dinner in the pension restaurant, he decided he ought to call his parents.  That’s not so strange, of course, but it’s what he said that still tickles me.  We were at the table and he said matter-of-factly, “Je dois téléphoner en France.”  “I have to call France,” he said—as if Paris were not France, but his hometown was.  In his head—this had not been an intentional joke, but a disingenuous utterance which I had to point out to him after he said it—Paris was a strange foreign land.  Of course, he wasn’t totally off base on that.)

Strasbourg (where the French military train from Berlin terminated), by the way, is an odd place in its own right.  It’s the capital of Alsace, which is a French province that was previously German (called Elsass), and has changed hands so many times it’s impossible to untangle the cultural history of the area.  Today, it’s solidly and staunchly French politically.  (During WWII, you may know, when Strasbourg was under German occupation, the display of the Tricolor was forbidden.  The Strasbourgeois, however, knew a way to get around that.  Beds in most European homes were covered not with blankets or bedspreads as we do in the States, but a kind of quilt the Germans call a Steppdecke and the French, a duvet.  It was common practice to air these out every morning by hanging them from the balconies and windows of the houses.  The Strasbourgeois just made sure their brightly-colored quilts were all hung out to air in the right order: blue-white-red.) 

In their cultural identity, however, the Strasbourgeois suffer from MPD.  They make and sell pastry that’s as French as anyone’s (German pastry looks terrific, but is tasteless).  But they make a wonderful wine that not only tastes German, but is sold in bottles that look like German wine bottles.  Even its label is schizophrenic: the name is Gewürztraminer, which sounds German (because it is), but it’s designated vin d’Alsace.  When I went into a shop there—I had a layover between trains—all the shopkeepers, many of whom have German names, spoke French. (I understand that they will refuse to speak German with customers—presumably even tourists from Germany.)  But on the street and among themselves, they speak German!  (In a Beckettian scene, if you order something in French at a counter, the counterman will turn and shout the order to the back in German!)

I must tell you about the Humiliens’ house in Villefranche-de-Lauragais.  It’s amazing.  It was actually Mme. Humilien’s family home and it’s the third oldest building in the little town—about 3,000 inhabitants.  (Villefranche is an old designation for a town that has been declared tax-exempt for services rendered to the king.  There are scores of Villefranches in France—though I suspect they all pay taxes these days.)  Only the Hôtel de France, a few yards up the Rue de la République (and which serves a renowned cassoulet, the regional specialty), and the mairie are older.  The house—what we’d call a townhouse today—was 700 years old in the 1960s.  That’s seven centuries—can you dig it?  That house was already two centuries old when Columbus sailed for the New World!  Much of the house had been redone over the centuries, of course, but there were lots of very old bits here and there: a Louis XII  (reigned 1498-1515) banister on the stairs (the stairs were newer, thankfully), Directoire (1795-1799) and Empire (flourished 1800-1815) furniture.  (I’m not positive, but I believe the basement was part of the 13th-century foundation.)  There was a sedan chair, the age of which I’m not sure though it looked to be 17th- or 18th-century or so, that sat in a nook at the foot of the stairs in the vestibule and which the Humiliens used as a sort of closet/cabinet for their stash of cigarettes and candy and such.  None of these objects had been bought as “antiques,” of course; they had been new when Ninon Humilien’s family got them. 

The Humiliens were carefully restoring things, all in the styles of their original periods.  I don’t know exactly when Mme. Humilien’s family acquired the house—they may have been the original owners—but they had it for at least several generations.  On the second-floor stair landing, there was two glass-enclosed étagères displaying family heirlooms.  Over the cases hung two portraits from the Napoleonic era—Mme. Humilien’s great (or great-great) -grandmother and -grandfather.  Her portrait depicted a cameo broach and his a Légion d’honneur—and those same objects were in the étagère below the paintings.  Neat!  When we first visited the Humiliens, right after Dr. Humilien retired from the army and they had just moved back, they had barely begun the restorations.  In one room, when they stripped off the Victorian-era (early Third Republic in France) wallpaper to refurbish the walls and repaper them, they discovered a small closet that had been papered over.  Inside were old family documents from Napoleon’s day.  Can you imagine having a family history that you can not only trace back that far—not just the early 19th century, but even earlier—but which is all still around you where you live?  Stuff like that just gets me.

I went back to Villefranche in September 1972 to attend Marc’s (first) wedding.  Weddings, actually.  Most French couples get married twice.  This is not just some weird cultural tradition—it’s a national necessity born of the French Revolution.  The First Republic (1792-1804) was so anti-clerical, a tradition that remains till this day, that priests were forbidden to perform legal marriages.  The only legal marriage in France is a civil ceremony.  But most French are still Catholic, so couples get married in a church with all the trappings, then rush off to the mairie or the hôtel de ville (both terms for the town hall) for a civil wedding.  (Sometimes they do it in reverse—either way, it’s the same deal.)  Anyway, I went back for the “event” (and wore my army dress blues to the ceremonies: boy, were they impressed—though mostly with my big, red American car!). 

I also took two trips where I met my parents someplace.  They also came to Berlin a couple of times—once on their way to Eastern Europe.  My dad was a little concerned, first because of his former status as a diplomat and his name having been published in an East German book, Who’s Who in CIA; and second because of my position in Berlin.  It was a little hypersensitive, I guess, but when Dad was at the embassy, a secretary had taken a trip to the East and had written a postcard home joking that she had seen the light in the workers’ paradise and wanted to join the party.  She got pulled off a tour bus somewhere!  Sometimes paranoia has a basis in reality.  You never knew with those guys.

(When it was published in East Germany in 1968, Who’s Who in CIA created quite a stir in the circles of official Washington, especially among foreign service officers.  Who’s Who in CIA purported to name everyone who worked for the spy agency—but it ended up naming almost everyone who ever served overseas, even privately.  In fact, it left out actual CIA people: Richard Helms, the Director of Central Intelligence in those days, is in there, but the woman who was the embassy spook in Bonn isn’t.  If you were anybody, you were in the book.  In fact, if you weren’t in the book—you weren’t anybody.  There was a rush on copies to see if your name was listed—and my dad is in it.  Believe me—or don’t: it’s really too late now, anyway—my dad was not in the CIA.  Though until the day his father died, he thought his son was a spy.  Because my dad’s employer had been the U.S. Information Agency, and Grandpa Jack was born in Europe where, in most languages, ‘information’ and ‘intelligence’ are the same word—Nachrichten in German, for instance—the information service was the intelligence service.  The ‘information’/’intelligence’ overlap was probably part of the reason that the book listed my dad.  Not entirely, though: he had served in the CIC during the Occupation of Germany and, in the Soviet Bloc, all diplomats were "spies" at some level or another—they just assumed all of ours were, too.)

The first time I met my parents for vacation was in England.  We toured the Lake District and the Cotswolds, and it was fun and interesting, but not worth reliving here.  We did stay in an inn in Salisbury or someplace like that which had hosted Charles I (reigned 1625-1649).  Like I said, stuff like that gets me.  We visited Stonehenge on that same trip—you could still walk among the megaliths then—and I was so flabbergasted because that place was already ancient when the Romans occupied Britain.  And no one knew then any more than now what the circle was really for or how it was built.  (I had a similar feeling when I was at Jericho—the overpowering sense of being in the presence of ancientness.) 

The other trip like that was to Greece.  My folks were booked on an Aegean cruise, and we met in Athens a week earlier to tour the mainland.  That was the trip for which I used the Air Force hop out of Berlin—Athenai airport is also an airbase—and on the return flight, which included a leg from Ramstein to Berlin, Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber, piloted the plane.  We had been chatting in the waiting area, walked out to the plane together, boarded, sat down, and buckled ourselves in.  The plane took off, and then Colonel Halvorsen turned to me and said, “Excuse me.  I’m going to fly the plane now.”  I thought he was joking at first—till he got up and walked into the cockpit.  My little brush with actual history. 

The tour of Greece was great fun and very interesting—we hit all the main spots like Delphi and Epidauros, and so on—and we had some wonderful Greek food (acquiring a taste for ouzo and taramasalata along the way), but there’s not a lot to retell otherwise.  I did see Mycenae, Agamemnon’s city, and stood on the ruin of the Lion Gate and looked out over the Plain of Argos toward the sea—the view the watchman in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon sees when he spots the signal fires from Troy telling the Greeks that the war was over.  Two years later, when I was at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I was assigned to do that monologue—and I pictured that view as I had seen it on this trip and imagined it at night with the signal fires appearing in the distance.  That was a trip—if you know what I mean.

The thing about this trip at the time—as opposed to later resonances—was that it was in the fall of 1973.  After I went back to Berlin, my parents boarded a Greek ship for an island-hopping cruise in the Aegean.  The Arab League attacked Israel on 6 October to start the Yom Kippur War and there were reports of attacks on ships in the Mediterranean and Aegean.  I was nervous, of course, and then I heard a report of a Greek cruise ship attacked in the Aegean.  Now, I knew the name of my parents’ ship, Epirotiki Lines’ MTS Argonaut, but I didn’t know its itinerary or the name of the attacked ship, so I immediately started calling the American Embassy in Athens to find out what ship was attacked and who had been on board.  Of course, no one knew anything yet, so I kept calling every day, even several times a day—all U.S. facilities in Europe where there were also military bases were on the same phone system; calling the embassy in Athens was no different from calling Frankfurt or Ramstein—until I finally learned that the ship in the attack was not the one my folks had been on.  Of course, my ’rents had no idea I was panicking—and their ship’s route was diverted to avoid the trouble area.

I’ve related some of the incidental things that were part of working intel in Berlin—many of them routine occurrences.  The walk-ins and phone-ins, records-checks on acquaintances, surveillances and demo coverage, SAEDA briefings, and so on.  I told you we kept a low profile, somewhere between clandestine and overt.  But we did have to do some standard spook things—like keep our phone numbers unlisted (both in the Berlin Brigade phonebook and the regular Berlin directory).  Of course, we had regular military ID’s, which we used to get on the post and into the ’X, and so on, and we had our MI creds—the “box tops”—for official duty.  But we had to have other ID, too—with fake names.  Each of us had at least two cover names, one of which was backstopped with some simple ID docs.  (We couldn’t get fake military ID’s or passports—except for an operation—but we had things like a fake Army driver’s license and some German papers.)  When I arrived at the Station, one of the first things I had to do was submit a list of a few names for potential cover ID’s from which Munich would select two, one of which would be on those low-level docs.  The idea was to choose names with the same initials as our own real names—so anything we carried with a monogram like a key ring or a billfold wouldn’t give us away.  I made up my list; I don’t remember all the names I submitted, though I do remember wanting dearly to put down Rudyard Kipling—but I didn’t.  I can’t remember both names I was assigned—I never used but one and that only once or twice, and never with any papers—but my cover name was Robert Klein.  An homage to the comedian—I guess the Army didn’t recognize his name.  (I think the other name I had, the one I never used, was the name of a high school classmate who had had the same initials as I did—but I can’t remember his name now.)  Anyway, cover ID’s weren’t something you needed for doing background investigations or as a glorified accountant, so most of the time I was in Berlin, I had no need for this.  It’s just part of the spook world I inhabited once for a while.

Sometimes, no matter how well trained you are or how carefully you plan, things go haywire.  The best-laid plans and all.  (And sometimes people are just incompetent.)  We had a phrase to describe the little mess-ups and unplanned distractions that occurred with sporadic regularity: The Five-To-Five Friday Flap—because they always seemed to occur at 4:55 on Friday afternoon, just as we were all leaving to go home for the weekend.  While I was in Berlin this happened a few times, at least once to major effect on the city and the Forces as you now know.  I’ve already recounted the big one; the other two incidents were related to each other because they happened during the same operation—though the incidents themselves weren’t connected.

One of my colleagues was running a CE investigation of an American civilian who was known to be buying popular and rationed items from the PX and selling them on the black market.  This was illegal for numerous reasons, not the least was that PX merchandise is sold tax- and duty-free.  Reselling them to Germans or others not entitled to shop at the government-subsidized stores was against both U.S. and German law, not to mention Army regs.  Illegality, however, wouldn’t have made this case one of interest to Military Intelligence; there had to be some other aspect to it.  The black-marketeer under investigation was also suspected of using the same contacts he made for his merchandise enterprise to sell sensitive and classified documents and information to anyone who’d pay for it. 

The investigation, in which I had had no part, had proceeded to the point where the agent in charge decided it was time to set up a stationary surveillance of the subject’s apartment in Kreuzberg.  The agent had arranged to rent a vacant apartment in a walk-up across the street and a few doors down from the subject’s, and Tech Support set up a whole slew of electronic surveillance equipment: video camera, monitors, VCR’s, microphones—whatever was state of the art in the early 1970s.  Then the Ops Officer recruited all available agents to man the surveillance 24/7, each pair of us taking an eight-hour shift.  My partner and I had the red-eye shift—midnight to 8 a.m.

Kreuzberg isn’t close to the Dahlem district where our office and residences were located, so we drove to the surveillance location.  However, since an American car (especially my candy-apple red Torino) or even a German car with green POV plates would be immediately recognizable and draw attention to our presence in the area, we drove to the HQ compound where we signed out one of the Station’s indigenous GOV’s—German Fords or VW’s—and a set of German license plates (the cars all had dual registrations—one for a POV and one for an indigenous vehicle; the plates were quickly exchangeable depending on our need).  We drove the GOV to a spot a few blocks away and around the corner from the apartment and walked to our post.  Our POV’s were parked back at the HQ area, of course, and it was common to park in the auxiliary PX lot across Clayallee from the compound.  There was insufficient space for POV parking on the compound grounds, and the POV lot was at the far rear of the compound, a distance from our offices at the front of the main HQ building.  During the day, leaving our cars in the PX lot was no problem, but in this instance there were complicating circumstances.

As I said, I had the midnight-8 a.m. shift, so I parked my POV at about 11 p.m. or so.  The ’X was closed at that hour, of course, and the lot was empty—except now for my big, red Torino.  Now, because of the spate of bombings and sabotage attacks by the likes of the RAF, some of which, as I’ve noted, had been fatal, the U.S. Forces had increased their security procedures and vigilance.  Cars entering the HQ compound, for instance, were thoroughly inspected, including using a giant mirror on a dolly to inspect the undercarriage.  A car left unattended in the PX parking lot well after hours attracted suspicious attention from the MP’s, and they attempted to identify the registered owner and find out why it was sitting there after midnight.  As I’ve noted, for security reasons, Berlin Station’s POV’s were all registered in Munich, not in Berlin, so the MP’s weren’t able to identify the car from the local records.  There were no computerized records available in the early ’70s, so determining after hours that the car apparently abandoned across from the U.S. HQ in Berlin was registered in Munich and then finding out to whom it was registered was a slow process, and it was taking too long for the MP’s sense of urgency.  They decided they had to blow up the car on site rather than take a chance it might be loaded with explosives. 

I don’t know how it happened, but the DA at the Station got wind of this impending action.  Because the 66th MI offices were right at the front of the building and compound, and the DA’s office was potentially vulnerable if the explosion was a large one—no one knew what was in the car—perhaps he was warned by the MP’s what was about to happen.  In any case, the DA knew the car in question was mine and got the MP’s to abort their plans.  Of course, due to the security measures in place for the surveillance operation, there was no way the DA could get in touch with me to tell me what had almost happened, so I never learned that I almost lost my car big time until after I returned to the Station after 8 in the morning to sign the GOV and the German plates back in.  I was mightily relieved that things had turned out the way they did instead of the way they might have.  (The Torino had been a college-graduation present from my parents—and Road and Track declared it their 1970 Car of the Year.  I really loved that car.)

That was a close one—but the next slip-up went over the line into disaster.  I was still on the red-eye shift at the surveillance, and we’d been at it for a week or so.  As I said, I was just a recruit on this gig, so I didn’t know anything about any of the arrangements that had been made—or hadn’t been made.  I just reported for duty at midnight and went home at 8 the next morning to get some sleep.  One night, after parking the GOV around the corner from the apartment, I had no sooner entered the room when someone out on the sidewalk started shouting and screaming.  The previous shift hadn’t even left yet, so there were four agents in the apartment still.  (That, actually, turned out to be part of the problem, as we were about to learn.)  Now, the tech set-up in the surveillance apartment included video cameras aimed at the subject’s apartment across the street so we could watch on monitors without posing in the window.  But this yelling was coming from right below our apartment on the sidewalk out front so we rushed to the window to see what the commotion at such an hour was all about.  It was the landlady of the building, screaming and pointing up at the surveillance apartment, gathering a crowd and, pretty quickly, a couple of Berlin cops.  We immediately radioed into the Station and got our police liaison officer to come out and help us handle whatever the matter was.  Whatever was going on, it was obvious we were in some kind of bind—the attention on our apartment alone was certainly a bad development, aside from whatever else might be happening.

It turned out that the landlady had begun to suspect something nefarious and probably illegal was going on in her apartment.  Her clue was that though the apartment had been rented by one young man—the special agent in charge of this operation—she had been watching as a parade of different men kept coming and going at all hours of the day and night.  She never saw the guy who had rented the place, but she noticed that there were half a dozen other men, and no women, who entered and left the apartment and no one seemed to be living there.  She concluded that there was a brothel operating in the apartment, or maybe a smuggling ring, and she wanted it out of her building.  Well, we managed to keep the cops at bay for a while until the liaison officer arrived, and then we pretty much had to let them in. 

As soon as they looked inside, they all knew what had been going on: all that high-tech equipment and the lack of any other furniture or other amenities—no fridge, no stove, no food except for thermoses and bags of food brought from home—told these savvy cops that they’d spoiled an intel operation of some kind.  (Berlin’s being spy central, the local cops were fairly cognizant of what was happening around them.  Besides, as I’ve said before, these guys were pretty competent anyway.)  Everyone pretty much laughed—there wasn’t much else we could do.  We knew we had gotten caught—the Army expression is very vulgar, but very apt: stepping on our dicks.  It hadn’t helped that the SAIC had neglected to inform the police liaison what he was setting up so the cops could be briefed if it became necessary.  As I said, I was just a hired hand on this one, so, after the SNAFU, I just went on home after returning the GOV and the local plates.  End of operation.  (I don’t remember if we ever caught the guy, or even if we even proved he was passing info.  He certainly would have discovered he was under surveillance after this public exposure of our little spook operation on his block.  As I said, it wasn’t my gig.)

(Berlin Station had had one female agent when I arrived, but she’d left Berlin by this time.  Women were only in the process of being integrated into Army operations in the early ’70s and female MI agents were rare—and highly prized.  The Women’s Army Corps, the WAC’s, to which most female soldiers were assigned, didn’t disband until 1978, after which women were assigned to the same branches as men.  If MI took only the best of the available talent, you can imagine the level of the women in its ranks because the pool was so much smaller to start with.  The agent at Berlin Station, an NCO, was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and one of the top agents I ever served with.  While she was still at the Station and I was just starting there, she acted as an unofficial mentor to me for the practical aspects of the job, the part you only learn OTJ.)

[In a few weeks, I’ll post the final section of “Berlin Memoir.”  In it, I write mostly about the theater group we started at the air base and some of the events, not just the performances, that grew out of that.  I hope you’ll come back to read Part 8.]

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