The 6th Battalion/2nd SWTG is creating a heritage room dedicated to those who served in Berlin which will be named after our own former Detachment(A) CSM Jeff Raker tentatively to be named:
The 6th Battalion “CSM Jeffery H. Raker” Heritage Room
The Heritage Room to be named after Detachment(A) member Jeff Raker; is a well-deserved honor to one of the most respected Sergeant Majors to have ever existed in Special Forces.
For those of us serving in Detachment(A) in the late-70s, we remember well the dark time in Detachment(A) when the Deputy Brigade Commander relieved our commander in front of our morning formation inside of the Detachment(A) building. He then proceeded to order us to wear uniforms, get haircuts, and placed a big Detachment(A) airborne sign outside of building. He replaced the CO and XO with individuals that had no Special Forces experience, but novice airborne qualified who were available within the Berlin Brigade.
During this dark period in Detachment(A) history we lost all our Safe Houses and everything we all did to achieve our mission. Instead, we became the training cadre for the 6th Infantry – EIB training, Scout Swimming etc. Detachment(A) had no real Seargeant Major to fight for us at the time.
Then along came SGM Jef Raker. Bottom line: he immediately assessed the situation, saw the problems, and took over working with the Berlin Command SGM himself and Terry Swafford, gave briefings to the new Berlin Brigade Commander, and overnight we were back in civilian clothes doing our real mission. He restored our unit.
After this ordeal, SGM Jeff Raker’s efforts made Detachment(A) history up to Eagle Claw along with Colonel Stanley Olchovik.
The 6th Battalion/2nd SWTG have requested attendance by former unit members (i.e. those who served in Berlin) in order to break the site in correctly.
The date has not been set but will most likely be between 10 Mar and 20 May 2024. Stay tuned to Jim “Styk” Stejskal updates which will be posted here as they become available.
Written by: Carl Gregory, Veteran United States Army
𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, I’ve been fortunate to have five great friends who profoundly influenced who I am today. As we approach Veterans Day weekend, I want to pay special tribute to one of them, my warrior friend 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐌𝐚𝐣𝐨𝐫 𝐉𝐨𝐡𝐧 𝗣𝗮𝘂𝗹 𝐒𝐢𝐥𝐤!
His name embodies valor and dedication, epitomizing the resilience and bravery of those who have served in the United States military’s most challenging and covert units. Born in 1942 in Arlington, Massachusetts, Silk’s remarkable journey started with his ROTC days at Pennsylvania Military College and unfolded into a distinguished military career that spanned more than two decades.
His time in Vietnam as a Special Forces RECON 1-1 and 1-0, particularly the twenty-five highly classified, deniable, cross-border missions into Cambodia with MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group) Project SIGMA, marked a significant chapter in his life. MACVSOG was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit that conducted covert unconventional warfare operations before and during the Vietnam War. Established in 1964, it carried out cross-border operations in Laos and Cambodia, along with maritime operations against North Vietnam. The personnel serving in MACVSOG, like Silk, were engaged in highly dangerous and secretive missions, involving deep reconnaissance, direct action, sabotage, and gathering intelligence behind enemy lines.
In the face of overwhelming odds, with an extraordinary casualty rate exceeding one hundred percent, where over half of its members were either killed or went missing in action, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group) demonstrated exceptional courage and commitment. Remarkably, every member of this unit had volunteered, bearing the scars of battle and sustaining injuries, sometimes multiple times, throughout their service. Their sacrifice and bravery are a testament to their unwavering dedication to their mission and country. In recognition of these remarkable sacrifices and their steadfast dedication to duty, MACV-SOG and the individual members were deservedly honored with the Presidential Unit Citation (equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross individually) at a ceremony held at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, on April 4, 2001.
Following his valorous service in Vietnam, Silk continued to exemplify the exceptional skills and bravery synonymous with the Special Forces, during his tenure with Detachment A in Berlin, Germany. Detachment A was a covert unit of 90 Special Forces soldiers, known for their involvement in some of the most classified and sensitive missions of the Cold War. The unit, which existed from 1956 to 1984, specialized in unconventional warfare, sabotage, intelligence, guerrilla operations, anti-terrorism, sniper, and SWAT operations, often working closely with the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies. Silk’s role in such a unit underscores his extraordinary capabilities and the trust placed in him for missions of critical importance.
His military accolades, reflecting his exceptional service, include the Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, and numerous others. These honors not only signify his bravery and skill but also his dedication to his country and fellow soldiers. Sergeant Major Silk also holds a reserve commission as an Army Captain.
Silk’s life post-military has been equally remarkable, serving in law enforcement and as a skilled gunsmith, carrying the same spirit of service and expertise into his civilian life.
In addition to his extraordinary military and post-military career, John P. Silk’s impact extends into the realm of personal relationships and mentorship, illustrating the depth of his character and his commitment to nurturing the potential in others.
Our friendship, spanning over four decades, has been a testament to his unwavering loyalty and steadfastness. Silk, embodying the true spirit of a Green Beret, has always been more than a friend; he has been a mentor and a guide. His impact is profoundly evident in his influence on my daughter, Destiny Dawn Gregory. As she embarked on her journey to excel in the Vernon High School Army JROTC and her aspiration to join a US Military Service Academy, Silk has been an instrumental figure, sharing his wisdom, experience, and encouragement.
Just as he trained and guided our allies with skill and dedication during his time as a Green Beret, Silk applied the same level of commitment to mentoring me when I served under him in the 101st Airborne Division and for the past two years in the twilight of his life mentoring my daughter Destiny Dawn Gregory. He has truly been an inspiration and a guiding light, among several, behind her success, quietly working behind the scenes, and instilling in her the values of discipline, resilience, and the pursuit of excellence. His mentorship has been an important factor in shaping her into a young leader to become the Battalion Commander of her high school Army JROTC battalion in the incredibly short period of just 1 1/2 years, ready to face challenges with the same bravery and determination he has shown throughout his life as she reached for the stars for the last two year to obtain a congressional nomination and to be accepted into one of our nations prestigious military academies.
Destiny made a deliberate and thoughtful decision to not include SGM Silk’s academy recommendation letter in her applications. He is currently too unwell to navigate the complex submission process. However, the wisdom and guidance she received from him transcend the value of a written endorsement. The lessons imparted by SGM Silk are more than mere words on paper; they are lifelong treasures that will serve her well throughout her life. See the letter in the photos.
This aspect of Silk’s life – his role as a mentor and friend – is as commendable as his decorated military career. It reflects his belief in the power of passing on knowledge and fostering growth in the next generation, ensuring that the legacy of commitment and service continues.
This tribute to SGM John P. Silk is more than just a recounting of his service; it’s a celebration of the spirit of a warrior who represents the best of American values – courage, commitment, and unwavering dedication to duty. His legacy is not just in the medals and commendations but in the lives he touched, the missions he accomplished, and the indomitable spirit he embodies.
List of Awards
Presidential Unit Citation (Individual Award Equivalent to the Army Distinguished Service Cross) Silver Star Bronze Star Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal (1st OLC) Air Medal Army Commendation Medal (1st OLC) Good Conduct Medal (8th Award) Army Occupation Medal (Berlin) National Defense Service Ribbon Vietnam Service Ribbon (6 Campaign Stars) Humanitarian Service Medal NCO Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 5) Army Service Ribbon Overseas Service Ribbon (Thailand) Vietnam Campaign Ribbon (With Year Device) Combat infantryman Badge Master Parachutist Badge Military Freefall Parachutist Badge (HAL0) Scuba Divers Badge Special Operations Divers Badge Air Assault Badge Expert Marksmanship Badge (M-1) (M-14) (M-16) (45 Ato) Thai Parachute Badge/with Fourragere Vietnamese Parachute Badge German Parachute Badge Special Forces Tab Overseas Service Bars (4) Service Stripes (24 years service) Meritorious Unit Commendation Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
Chronological List of Assignments
Cadet, United States Army ROTC, Pennsylvania Military
College, Chester Pennsylvania
Basic Combat Training, Fort Dix, New Jersey
Advanced Individual Training, Fort Gordon, Georgia
JULY- AUG 1962
Jump School, Fort Benning, Georgia
Rifleman, Bravo Company, 327th Infantry Battle Group. 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Student, Special Forces Training Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Light Weapons Leader, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Heavy Weapons Leader, Detachment B-31, Phoug Vinh, Vietnam
Light Weapons Leader, 46th Special Forces Company Thailand
RECON Team Leader, B-56 Project SIGMA, Vietnam
Team Sergeant, HALO Detachment, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
Heavy Weapons Leader, Detachment A, Berlin Brigade, Germany
Operations Sergeant, Scuba Detachment, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
First Sergeant, Headquarters Company, United States Army Garrison, Fort Devens, Massachusetts
Chief Enlisted Advisor, United States Army Readiness Mobilization Region Nine, Presidio of San Francisco, CA
First Sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Chief Instructor, Headquarters. 1st United States Army ROTC Region, Fort Bragg. North Carolina
Administration Sergeant Major, Headquarters Company. United States Army Garrison, Fort McPherson, Georgia
February 28, 1986
Retired from active duty
Silver Star Award
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HBADQUARTERS, UNITED STATES ARMY VIETNAM
APO San Francisco
AWARD OF THE SILVER STAR
GENERAL NUMBER ORDERS 5712
1. T0 320.
The following AWARD is announced.
SILK, JOHN P
Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, APO 96240
Awarded: Silver Star
Date action: 9 July 1968
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam: Staff Sergeant Silk distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 9 July 1968 as an assistant patrol leader on a reconnaissance patrol. Moving through dense jungle, the patrol encountered a well-camouflaged and fortified enemy base camp. Entering the camp, they came under a fusillade of automatic weapons fire from an enemy force of unknown size, killing two allied soldiers and wounding two more. Disregarding his safety, Sergeant Silk exposed himself to the withering hail of automatic weapons fire to crawl fifty meters to administer first aid to the seriously injured soldiers. After moving the wounded to a covered position, he organized the remnants of his lead element and established a base of fire which enabled the remainder of the patrol to withdraw. Sergeant Silk then remained in an exposed position to direct artillery and helicopter gunship fire on enemy targets, His actions allowed the patrol to reorganize and assault the enemy emplacements. Encountering heavy resistance, the patrol withdrew to a secured landing zone. Again braving intense enemy fire, Sergeant Silk and three allied soldiers covered the withdrawal, thereby enabling the patrol to be safely extracted. Staff Sergeant Silk's gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Editor’s Note by Bob Charest
I first met John (Slick) Silk in 1967 in Vietnam, B-56 Project Sigma, where we both served from 1967-1968.
We then both served together on the same team, Team 1, in Detachment “A” Berlin Germany in 1973 – 1976. Later, we again met at Fort Devens, MA in 1978 -1981 where we both eventually retired. We both remain close friends and keep in touch today.
The following photo was taken by John Silk.
Back Row L-R: Kevin Monahan, Bob Charest, Richard Lahue, Ralph Ormes, Willy Headon, Ron Bruce
Front Row L-R: John Silk, Ernie Kirk, Frank Midell, Lee Dickerson, Paul Piusz, Spanky Airhart
Robert P. Olson served in Detachment “A” Berlin from April 1958 to September 1959. Bob Olson is one of the “Original” members. This is a narrative and some of Bob’s recollections of his time serving in Detachment “A”.
After attending Brown for two years, Bob decided to join Special Forces. He spent a year and a half in basic and Special Forces training where he acquired a myriad of skills including demolitions and parachuting. From there he went to Bad Töltz Germany. Bob had spent approximately three days at Bad Töltz and was sent off to Berlin – to this day Bob says, “I don’t know why.”
Bob arrived at Detachment “A” (DET-A) in the spring of 1958. It was not DET-A then, it was The Security Platoon, DET-A became their name later that year.
Things were vastly different back then. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, and Nikita S. Khrushchev was Premier of the Soviet Union. The Third World War and the threat of nuclear war was something everyone talked about and took very seriously.
School kids were trained to hide under their desks or “duck and cover“ which was a Federal Civil Defense Initiative instructing children how to react during a nuclear attack.
Berlin was broken into four quarters, the US, the French, the English and East Berlin. Khrushchev had announced that since the allies were way behind the Iron Curtain, that they should get out promptly or be thrown out.At that time, the odds were heavily stacked against the US. The US had about 30 tanks in Berlin and the Russians had about 3,000.
With Berlin city divided into four sections – American, British, French, and Soviet, the Brits had sent a Commando Unit, the French Foreign Legion Paratroopers and then there was the US equivalent – DETA comprised of approximately 53 or 54 Special Forces Green Berets. There were approximately four “A” teams (later two more teams were added). All were paratroopers. Each team was assigned to a sector. Bob was assigned to the French sector.
Detachment “A” was set up specifically to delay a Russian attack across Western Europe that may have sparked the Third World War.
The unit was established contrary to the Potsdam Agreement which divided Berlin after WWII as were the other units.
In the event of World War III, and with overwhelming numbers of Soviet forces expected to surge into Western Berlin, DET-A’s main mission was to conduct sabotage operations against strategic infrastructure such as railroad lines, and other vital targets, by blending into the city, creating havoc behind enemy lines, assisting and/or leading guerilla fighters behind enemy lines, and at all costs buy the allies as much time as possible to allow them to raise a counter-offensive.
For example, blowing up the railroad lines surrounding Berlin so the Russians would have difficulty moving troops and equipment toward Western Europe. Russian troops would have to be supplied through the rail network that ran through Berlin. DET-A would have to blow up that entire network and then run for a submarine that they were assured was waiting for them. The submarine was six to seven hundred miles away in the Baltic Sea. There were no formalized escape plans, you were basically on your own to make it to the pickup point.
There was little chance that anyone associated with DET-A would have survived such an attack, for most, it would become a ‘suicide mission’. The secondary mission was to train other troops, i.e., Brits etc. in Escape & Evade – if a war began. Its everyday mission included: training allied troops, reconnaissance, and where possible, driving the Russians to distraction.
The demographics of this group were unique. Of the fifty plus of DET-A probably half were foreign born. Many of them were recruited under the Lodge Act of 1950.
The group consisted of American WWII veterans who had had stormed Normandy Beaches and fought across Europe, many who fought in Korea, ex Nazi soldiers (who fought against them) ex-French Foreign Legion paratroopers who had survived Diene Bien Fieu by lying underwater in a swamp breathing through reeds, at least one Gypsy and at least one middle class kid from Westchester.
Until they were needed to activate and carry out their main mission, they trained and did other various activities. For example, they would build “topos” – Topographical maps – of these areas on ping pong tables and visit them occasionally. They would attend classes including German language, Morse Code, and demolitions.
Training was varied, everybody taught something. For Bob it was math – mathematical formulas to be applied to demolitions applications. Bob recalls SF history of which he remembers only that the concept for an SF team was born in the Balkans during WW2, when a guerilla leader named “King Kong” needed weapons, radios and people who could operate them, doctors to help with basic things (like birthing babies) and demolitionist or like Bob who in addition to teaching math taught about how to blow bridges although they wouldn’t let him try.
They jumped into Bad Tölz about every three months and spent anywhere from one to four weeks training.
Their winter exercise was rigorous and involved ‘extreme’ skiing in the Alps and other ongoing Special Forces-related training.
One problem in Berlin was that there was no way of knowing who anyone was. There was a bar called The Boyar thought to be Russian on the KuDamn, with fabulous vodka, Champaign, music and caviar. Bob remembers standing at the bar one night talking to an extremely well-dressed man who was obviously Russian (he may have swept out the embassy or been the head of the KGB, for all Bob knew). They drank a lot and swore brotherhood, forever. Then Bob pointed out that tomorrow we might be blowing each other’s heads off. He said,” yes, but that will be tomorrow – have another Vodka.”
Another time Bob was having trouble sleeping on the train, so he stepped out to see the sun rise. There was a guard, he was probably in East German uniform, but Bob remembers him clearly as Russian some 60 years later. He took out a Camel and then in a rare moment of soldierly brotherhood said –“ Papirosa” he said, “maybe a Lucky Strike”. They had used up their mutual language capability, so they smoked in silence. Bob warns “If anyone ever offers you a Papirosa, don’t take it – international peace is not worth it”.
One image that brings back Berlin the most for Bob is the Tower and wire. Back then there was no wall, rather a maze of fences, barbed wire, and towers. Bob spent more nights than he wanted to sleeping under one of those towers – nobody got shot, at least not them.
Many of the women Bob knew or interacted with was in somebody’s pay, most were probably being paid by both sides. Bob noted the promise of sexual paradise with Black Headed Criss on a night she knew they were parachuting into the mountains.
A friend once showed Bob a menu from Christmas dinner for their barracks (which they shared with an administrative group) they ate there. It had the names of all the people who attended. Then, they attended but their names were not on the menu, apparently, they did not exist.
Bob recalls having Crepe Suzettes for breakfast and introduced a friend of his to snails; The best food in town was at the French Foreign Legion Officers Club. Someone asked Bob if he had ever jumped out of an airplane. He told them about 30 or 40 times – they were very impressed because they only counted combat jumps.
Some of Bob’s fellow team members were involved with a highly sensitive operation which involved ‘The Wolf’ the head of the East German Intelligence. Though it did not come to fruition, it was a very intense time and one example of the dangers of their mission, and what they were up against.
Bob recalls some of his Detachment “A” members that he served with in those early years. The dates in parenthesis represent the time served in DET-A.
Leonard R. “Pappy” Barnett – (1958-1960).”with an 8th grade education taught me everything worth knowing about life.”
Harry E. Brown (1956-1961) – Bob spoke with Harry many years later when he was a lawyer in California. ” A really good guy”. Bob recalls attending Harry’s Morse Code class during his time in DET-A which proved to be a challenge, and “Harry was insistent that I learn.” Harry was also a ski instructor, and combat helicopter pilot.
Kenney Crabtree (1958-1960). Ken left a little ahead of Bob to get a job on some railroad – Bob predicted he would last 3 months (he lasted 2). He was an E5 at the time, made Lieutenant Colonel and was killed on 15 April 1984 along with an American embassy official, by a terrorist bomb in Southwest Africa.
Dunlap, Henry – “Big Dunlap, who was I remember was formerly a Florida state policeman.”
Laurice Dunlap (1956-1960, 1962-1965) –“ Lil Dunlap, as opposed to big Dunlap, whom I last saw at the 1999 conference. I remember little Dan lab explaining to me that it is possible to sharpen a knife on a piece of cardboard.”
Gerhard E. Frick (1958-1960) – “Only outspoken Nazi among us”.
Roland Goodman (1958-1960) – It is believed he went on to the CIA.
Roland R. Graves (1958)
Michael E. Ladue – Served in Detachment “A” during the time of the Cold War. Later, Mike was deployed with Air America Airlines in Southeast Asia, the U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency, all in this same area.
Maj Roman Piernick was their commander – (1958-1961). Bob only remembers that he announced in front of the German cooks that they would have new native clothes, and then raised hell when it was discovered that the Russians found out about it. “Enough said.” He also decided Bob was promising so he promoted him to Sergeant. Somone discovered that his MOS of 51613 meant that he had to be a Specialist, she he wore Sergeant stripes for a couple of months.
Max Randleman – Team Sergeant (1956-1959) – Bob states that “Max Randleman was probably the best soldier I ever met, and I had a lot to choose from. Kind, intelligent and brave. Max won the soldiers medal while we were in Berlin for pulling somebody out of a burning building. He was from WWII, a MSG and the leader of Team 1 – Bob having served on Team 4. Max was highly decorated and added the soldier’s medal to his collection while Bob was there. Mike Ladue just missed one.”
Thaddeus R. Pluta (1958-1960) – “On one jump Pigpen Pluto’s chute roman candled and Mike caught him – they talked briefly, Pigpen opened his reserve and Mike let him go, thereby missing a Soldiers Medal. Pigpen was our radio operator. Pigpen was undamaged.”
Daniel E. Sandy (1959) Team Sergeant.
Wilbur R. Stanbridge Team Leader (1958-1960) – “was our team leader he was a fine man.”
Robert R. Smith (1958-1960) “Railroad Smith”.
Johnnie L. Smith (1958-1960)
Donald E Thompson (1958-1960 ) “Lonesome Tom”.
“The men who served in Detachment “A” got no special recognition or compensation. Someone (who was a Classist said that we were the Spartans at the Bridge, all we could do was hold things up a little) but the Athenians stayed home with their wives.”
Bob and the other ‘Original’ members of Detachment “A” capture the very essence of the Special Forces legacy and character; those members who knew absolutely what could happen and served despite the most certain deadly consequences should they be activated.
Bob served as a ‘quiet professional’ and for over 60 years was unable to speak about his service in Detachment ‘A”. He is one of the ‘Originals’ and , one of the select few who served in this highly historical unit – Detachment “A”.
Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990
Published 17 February 2017
The massive armies of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies posed a huge threat to the nations of Western Europe. U.S. military planners decided they needed a plan to slow the juggernaut they expected when and if a war began. The plan was Special Forces Berlin.
Their mission should hostilities commence was to wreak havoc behind enemy lines, and buy time for vastly outnumbered NATO forces to conduct a breakout from the city. In reality it was an ambitious and extremely dangerous mission, even suicidal. Highly trained and fluent in German, each man was allocated a specific area. They were skilled in clandestine operations, sabotage, and intelligence tradecraft, and able to act as independent operators, blending into the local population and working unseen in a city awash with spies looking for information on their every move.
Special Forces Berlin was a one of a kind unit that had no parallel. It left a legacy of a new type of soldier expert in unconventional warfare, one that was sought after for missions such as the attempted rescue of American hostages from Tehran in 1979. With the U.S. government officially acknowledging their existence in 2014, their incredible story can now be told.
This USASOC Update covers the Detachment “A” stone laying ceremony that took place on 30 January 2014, at the USASOC Memorial Plaza. The stone laying ceremony was held in order to commemorate the valorous achievements of Detachment “A”.
A few recollections of my time (1978-1979) as a Det-A wife
by Marie von Haas
The women who were in West Berlin with the men of Det-A were integral to the mission of the Det. We were almost always a welcome sight when an assignment allowed them to return “home.” Where was home? Wives and children offered a bit of normalcy to their lives. Also, we were great at keeping secrets. Actually, that wasn’t difficult to do because we didn’t know much about what our guys were doing.
We lived in government quarters like all other Americans assigned to West Berlin, an island of freedom surrounded by communism. But our husbands were not like other Americans. I had a neighbor who lived upstairs from us who thought that Bruno was a “German Interpreter.” This was believable since she never saw him in official military attire. Bruno looked like a German, he smelled like a German, and he spoke like a German.
Living in West Berlin meant that we could go to the Post Exchange and Commissary like all other Americans. We could also visit and spend our money in the local German shops. We could drive our own automobiles around West Berlin, or we could ride the U-bahn.
I recall the many shopping sprees into East Berlin. In order to pass through Checkpoint Charlie, we had to make sure to get permission from the proper authorities. Our automobiles were also properly registered to pass through the frontier. God help us if we didn’t return after a day of shopping. On one spree I met Bruno in East Berlin. I left him there to return in the same way that he got there.
As Bruno’s wife I was also a member of the Officer’s Wives Club. I remember playing bridge with Amika Olchovik and other officer’s wives regularly.
A few of us, women of Det-A, played volleyball against other American women. I don’t recall having a team name. The champion team at that time was made up of Army women. They were in much better shape and practiced more than we did. We practiced whenever our coaches were in town. I recall Steve Santoya and Frank Closen yelling at us to “jump higher” to spike the ball. Their idea of volleyball I think was called “Jungle Volleyball.” Our children were often our cheerleaders.
Back left corner: Rich Herpers Right corner: Frank Closen Back l-r: Steve Santoya, Stewart O’Neill, Ron Braughton, Frank Wallace, Bruno von Haas, Jimmy Reeves, Candy Santoya, Becky Closen, Marie von Haas, Mrs. Wallace, Bilha Herpers Below left: Mrs. Braughton Below right: Mrs. Reeves circa 1978-79
Back row l-r: Johnnie Moore, Barb Moore, Mrs. Reeves, Jimmy Reeves, Ron Braughton, Frank Closen, Becky Closen Front row l-r: Rich Herpers, Bilha Herpers, Marie von Haas, Bruno von Haas, Steve Santoya, Candy Santoya, Robbie Robinson, Mrs. Braughton Far left: John Liner, unknown woman circa 1978-79
Around the table l-r: Holly Closen, Becky Closen, Heather Closen, Frank Closen, Bruno von Haas, Marie von Haas, Ron Braughton, Mrs. Braughton, Candy Santoya, (back of Steve Santoya head) circa 1979
In our spare time we created a cookbook. The women and men of Det-A shared their culinary talents by publishing “Detachment Delights” (1979). It contains 142 recipes.
I have submitted a copy to Bob Charest for the Det-A website and click on the pot below to view the cookbook.
DETACHMENT DELIGHTS Recipe Book
Det “A” Berlin 1979
Adams, Mrs. Shirley
Lemke, Mai Thi
0 lchovik, Amika
Olchovik, Stanley LTC
von Haas, Marie (Cover Design)
The women and men of Det-A shared their culinary talents
by publishing a cookbook (1979). It contains 142 recipes.
About the Author
The author, Marie von Haas, has been married to Bruno for 52 years. She is presently completing her PhD in History at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
1975-1978 Bruno served with the 10th SF Group (Abn), Bad Tölz, Germany before becoming commander of Team 6, S.F. Detachment “A” Berlin, Germany at LTC Stanley Olchovik’s request. He took the place of Lt. Powell in 1978.
With sadness we left Germany in December 1979 so that Bruno could fulfill his Infantry Officer obligation, IOAC, at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
In September 1969, Bob Charest arrived in Cold War Berlin and reported to Detachment-A, a classified and clandestine US Army Special Forces unit that didn’t officially exist.
The senior communications sergeant would spend nearly all of the 1970s operating undercover and awaiting activation. Charest, a veteran of cross-border operations with MACV-SOG who spoke both German and Russian, understood the stakes at play. If Russia, one of the four divisional powers in Germany, launched an invasion to overtake all of Berlin, Charest and other Detachment-A members would activate and conduct “stay-behind” sabotage missions against strategic infrastructure and vital targets. Without an escape and evasion plan, the team hoped to stall Soviet advances long enough until NATO reinforcements arrived.
On this date 32 years ago, the U.S. Army Special Forces — commonly referred to as “Green Berets” — were officially established as a basic branch of the U.S. Army. But their history began much earlier.
From the days when the 10th Special Forces Group was commanded by “the father of Army Special Forces” Colonel Aaron Bank and numbers barely ticked double digits to Green Berets today serving in 149 countries across the globe — the battlefields may change, but the principles remain the same.
One of the pillars of Army Special Forces (SF) is their language and cultural capabilities. Continue reading
This article was published by Stars and Stripes authored by Drew Brooks of| The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
For years during the Cold War, men such as Bob Charest and Jimmy Spoo toiled in secret.
As members of a clandestine unit of Green Berets based in West Berlin, they wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German and stayed on high alert 24 hours a day.
But today, the members of Detachment A Berlin Brigade will receive much deserved and long-awaited recognition.
Officials with U.S. Army Special Operations Command will dedicate and unveil a memorial stone dedicated to Detachment A Berlin Brigade at Meadows Field Memorial Plaza on Fort Bragg at 3:30 p.m.
Officials will also formally case the unit’s colors – the flag used to identify the detachment – for the first time.
The men of Detachment A were specially chosen Special Forces soldiers. Many were immigrants from Germany or eastern Europe, brought in for their cultural expertise.
Their missions were always classified, according to Charest, a former team sergeant and communications chief for Detachment A Berlin Brigade.
“Detachment A was a highly trained, one-of-a-kind unit,” Charest said in a unit history. “No one knew much about it during its existence.”
Charest and Spoo will speak during the ceremony, hosted by USASOC commanding general, Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland.
Detachment A Berlin Brigade operated from August 1956 to Dec. 30, 1984, according to officials.
A history of the unit, penned by Charest, outlines a unique and diversified team of about 90 men.
They carried non-American documentation and identification and trained at the highest standards, Charest wrote.
The men carried out secret missions to sabotage railways in the early days of the Detachment and later focused on anti-terrorist, sniper and swat combat.
“We were the Delta Force of Europe,” Charest wrote.
Detachment A also helped the CIA, and their equipment reads like it comes from a James Bond novel.
“One-shot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets,” lists Charest.
The unit was deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In Memorial Plaza, Detachment A Berlin Brigade will take its place of honor among other storied special operations units, including Task Force Ranger, the Alamo Scouts and the Office of the Strategic Services Detachment 10, among others.
The stone will feature the unit name above a crumbling Berlin Wall.
Charest said the memorial stone was the result of efforts by Detachment A veterans, many of whom plan to travel to Fort Bragg for the event.
The veterans meet regularly, but their ranks are thinning, Charest said.
“We were falling into oblivion,” he said.
In recent years, the detachment has been honored with a display at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, Charest said. The memorial stone will complete efforts that were begun by Spoo, a member of the U.S. Special Forces Hall of Fame who works for the U.S. State Department.
Spoo, Charest and dozens of other veterans made donations to pay for the stone.