Bruno von Haas received this picture from Becky Closen that she found among Frank Closen’s belongings. Bruno remembered this design very well. There was a group of Det “A” ers, who got together and thought about having their own FLASH for Detachment “A” back in the fall of 1979. Nick Brokhausen designed the FLASH and somehow Frank became the recipient, and this has been in darkness I guess until Becky resurrected it from on old belongings box of Franks. It amazes me on how things seem to phoenix, out of nowhere, and present themselves.
This is now been incorporated to on our Detachment”A” web site’s header and as another artifact of our history.
This interview was conducted by The Team House hosts Jack Murphy and Dave Parke.
Bob Charest served in Vietnam and with Special Forces Detachment A conducting the urban unconventional warfare missions in Berlin in the event that the Soviets ever invaded. In this episode we discuss Bob’s career bouncing between Vietnam, Thailand, and Berlin where he served in Project Sigma (which became MACV-SOG) where he did cross border ops into Cambodia, working for the CIA in Thailand, and doing clandestine sabotage ops in Berlin with Det A.
Checkpoint Charlie The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place On Earth By Iain MacGregor published by Simon & Schuster will be available October, 2019.
Bob Charest and James Stejskal provided input to this book.
About this Book
A powerful, fascinating, and groundbreaking history of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous military gate on the border of East and West Berlin where the United States confronted the USSR during the Cold War.
East Germany committed a billion dollars to the creation of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s, an eleven-foot-high barrier that consisted of seventy-nine miles of fencing, 300 watchtowers, 250 guard dog runs, twenty bunkers, and was operated around the clock by guards who shot to kill. Over the next twenty-eight years, at least five thousand people attempted to smash through it, swim across it, tunnel under it, or fly over it.
In November 1989, the East German leadership buckled in the face of a civil revolt that culminated in half a million East Berliners demanding an end to the ban on free movement. The world’s media flocked to capture the moment which, perhaps more than any other, signaled the end of the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie had been the epicenter of global conflict for nearly three decades.
As the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall approaches in 2019, Iain MacGregor captures the essence of the mistrust, oppression, paranoia, and fear that gripped the world throughout this period. Checkpoint Charlie is about the nerve-wracking confrontation between the West and USSR, highlighting such important global figures as Eisenhower, Stalin, JFK, Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Zedung, Nixon, Reagan, and other politicians of the period. He also includes never-before-heard interviews with the men who built and dismantled the Wall; children who crossed it; relatives and friends who lost loved ones trying to escape over it; military policemen and soldiers who guarded the checkpoints; CIA, MI6, and Stasi operatives who oversaw operations across its borders; politicians whose ambitions shaped it; journalists who recorded its story; and many more whose living memories contributed to the full story of Checkpoint Charlie.
We Are the Mighty author Logan Nye has published an article The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion.
Ballad of Green Beret Auf Deutsch
Aus den Wolken springt der Tod,
Zwoelf Green Berets im Morgenrot
Unterdrueckte zu befrein
Ziehn sie in den Kampf hinein.
Halten dort ein streng’s Gericht,
Fuerchten Tod und Teufel nicht.
Dschihadisten’s feige Brut
Zahlt den Preis mit ihrem Blut.
Wenn auch ein mancher faellt dabei,
Denn die Freiheit ist nicht frei,
In der Heimat warten schon
Die junge Witwe und ihr Sohn.
Eines Tag’s gewinnt auch er
Das Barrett, das Helden ehrt;
Denn wo das Sternenbanner fliegt
Steh’n Green Berets, stets unbesiegt.
Lyrics by Jeffrey H. Raker, CSM USA Special Forces (Ret)
When Bob Charest realized that Detachment (A)’s history was fading away into the historical dust bin, he started an effort to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold. With this most important goal at stake, and with the knowledge of how important this unit and its members were to the Special Forces history he began an endeavor that took years of hard work and dedication to accomplish the one goal in his mind: to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold; to finally bring about the recognition that was so richly deserved to the Detachment(A) unit and its members. He could not let this unit fade away.
Bob Charest, an eight-year veteran of Detachment(A) 1969-1972 and 1973-1978, launched this endeavor as an independent look into the Military History of Detachment(A), 39th Special Forces, Berlin 1956-1984.
He began by organizing Detachment(A) functions – Detachment”A” members were scattered all over the world. They started out very small but grew each year and have become very successful.
He then created a new Detachment(A) web site and domain, dedicated exclusively to Detachment(A). In conjunction with this, he wrote and published the article “A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in January 2012. Then things just took off. He continued organizing and hosting Detachment(A) functions with increased numbers and success.
The Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade was circulating for some time, and the Special Forces Association(SFA) got hold of it and published the article on their website Home – Special Forces Association in the 2013 Winter edition of the Drop Magazine.
Bob also worked with the SFA and was able to obtain a section dedicated to Detachment(A) in the Drop Magazine.
The Detachment(A) functions continued to grow with members getting together to share stories about serving in Detachment(A). These functions were gatherings of the Detachment”A” folks, and the format and motto was simple: come as you are, pay as you go, BYOB and no agendas, no frills, and no politics. Jeff Raker told him never change this format.
Bob organized several projects to continue to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold which were all team efforts including representation of Det-A in the JFK Museum, collecting Det-A artifacts, and managing the project that brought Jimmy Spoo’s Memorial Stone idea to fruition.
Bob made the Memorial Stone project a team effort which allowed all Detachment(A) members to contribute to the Memorial Stone, which they generously did. He coordinated with SFA to manage the contributions. The project was fast and furious, collecting all the money that was needed and then some. All monies over the necessary funds were donated to the Green Beret Foundation.
He also worked with USASOC and General Shachnow on ceremony activities including speakers, guests, press and many other ceremony details. He also ensured that special recognition was attributed to Major Hermann Adler who was unable to attend.
The Detachment (A) Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony was hosted by LTG Charles Cleveland, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) on 30 January 2014.
The Memorial Stone ceremony was covered by the local copy press and was also televised. It was a major success and a real team effort.
Bob then continued his efforts and wrote another article for the VFW Magazine entitled: “In the Eye of the Cold War Hurricane, Detachment A Berlin Brigade” which was published in the November/December 2014 issue.
It was at one of the Detachment(A) functions that James “Styk” Stejskal indicated that he would like to write a book about Berlin Special Forces.
In the meantime, to keep the momentum going with the goal to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold, Bob worked with WeAreTheMighty.com and published the article: This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War. The article was published on 1 February 2015.
Another article was then published by WeAreTheMighty.com which featured Detachment(A): The 6 most-secret units in military history which was published on 14 June 2015 followed up with a video The 6 most-secret units in military history
Bob also worked with two highly established authors and writers who wanted to write books about Detachment(A). These two projects were put on hold because fellow Detachment(A) member James Stejskal’s book was still in progress and Bob did not want to interfere with his efforts until his book was published.
Bob continued his efforts and worked with SOFREP’s reporter Jack Murphy from SOFREP.com who published a short article about Detachment(A) entitled: Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces published on 27 April 2016.
Jack was a guest at the September 2016 Det-A function. He interviewed Detachment(A) members for a follow-up article which was published on SOFREP.com in a 4-part series dated from 07 February 2017 – 10 February 2017:
Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces Missions from Berlin to Iran
Part 1: Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces missions in post Hitler’s Berlin published 6 Feb 2017
Parr 2: Detachment A: Green Berets play cat and mouse with communist agents published 7 February 2017
Part 3: Detachment A: counter-terrorism and Operation Eagle Claw published 8 February 2017
Part 4: Detachment A: Final missions, the wall comes down, and the end of an era published 10 February 2017
Jack conducted in depth interviews with Det(A) members and the articles he published were outstanding. Jack has been instrumental in bringing to light Det(A)’s legacy to the public with his professional writings.
The full article is entitled: Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces Missions from Berlin to Iran
All of these articles are posted on the Detachment(A) website.
Jim’s book entitled Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 was published 17 February 2017.
Our function in Fayetteville NC in memory of Jeffrey Raker in June of 2017 featured a Detachment(A) formation at the Memorial Stone. This was probably the last formal formation of Detachment(A).
There was work performed for a project towards a biography of Detachment(A). Barry Duplantis and Chase Millsap collaborated on this project. There were interviews conducted at the function. The two teams of biographers as well as the military professionals worked together on this project. These efforts resulted in videos of some of our Detachment”A” members which are published on the Detachment(A) website. Barry Duplantis conducted video interviews with Detachment”A” members and Barry Duplantis along with Chase Millsap generated the Detachment”A” Intro video 1956-1984.
Next, Bob unexpectedly found out that many Detachment”A” members also served in the SOG unit so he published the Who’s Who in Detachment”A”/SOG on 7 Feb 2018.
WeAreTheMighty.com published another series of articles about Detachment”A”:
“The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion“ authored by Logan Nye and published on 14 August 2018.
“Top-tier special operators of the Cold War worry about modern ‘soft skills’ “ authored by Logan Nye and published an article on 29 August 2018.
“A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations” authored by Blake Stilwell and published an article dated 23 August 2018.
On 19 May 2019 after much work and review, Jack finalized his Detachment”A” publication entitled: Unredacted: Special Forces Detachment A—Cold War espionage and counterterrorism from Berlin to Iran.
The Who’s Who In Detachment”A”/SOG list was followed up with an article Bob Charest wrote on 5 Apr 2021 entitled Det-A and SOG which was published by SOA in their 1 May 2021 Newsletter.
Many of the articles have been updated over the years as well. Thanks to all the gifted contributors who worked with Bob to provide exceptional articles and other media-related information about Detachment”A”.
For many years, and at many functions, Jeff Raker has spoken about Bob Charest bringing Detachment-A in from the cold. At the September 2016 function, he honored Bob Charest by recognizing all the projects and efforts Bob has done for Detachment-A. He presented a thank you card signed by the Detachment(A) members and here is what he said:
“I am not modest in what I’m going to say right now. One reason we are all here; one reason Det-A, after all those years Detachment-A got put on the map. One reason there’s a marker at headquarters, with Detachment-A on it, is because one individual, he did have some help, but one individual went all out and made sure we didn’t die. That individual is here, and because of that individual, we are all here. And Bob if you will be so kind and stand up – with this card that we all signed thanking you for keeping us together, thanks Bob.”
For Bob, this was the ultimate honor, one he will never forget, from Detachment(A) members and from one of the best Special Forces soldiers he has ever served with, and a very special friend.
Another Special Forces legend Major General James Guest also recognized Bob’s efforts with this message when recognizing a new chapter being formed in the Upstate South Carolina.
It is great that Upstate South Carolina will have a Special Forces Chapter to preserve the legacy of the Special Forces and the Special Forces Soldiers. They prove the truth of the old adage that out of a 100 soldiers, 80 are just there, 10 insure the mission is done, 1 leads the 10 in doing it. I believe that the SF are all in the ranks of the 10 who will get the job done regardless of what it takes. Bob Charest represents the 1. He rescued the Legacy of the Berlin Detachment from the dustbin of forgotten history and added it to a place in the Legacy of Special Forces to its rightful place of Honor in the Special Forces Regiment.
The SF Soldiers will keep the Legacy always. MG Jim Guest
This goes without saying that coming from MG Jim Guest, a very special honor.
There are now countless articles and videos about Detachment”A”. Detachment”A”, its rich legacy within the Special Forces community, is now in the history books and it all started with one man, Bob Charest who saw the legacy of Detachment”A” fading away; its history forgotten; Bob set in motion the recording of the Detachment”A” history and legacy. He has worked tirelessly: organizing and hosting Detachment”A” gatherings, establishing a history related Detachment”A” website, the inaugural overview article entitled A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in January 2012 and engaging and coordination with numerous organizations, individuals and projects to get the Detachment”A” history and legacy recorded.
Our biographers Barry Duplantis and Mark Valley were searching the freedom of information act data base have come up with a copy of DET A OPLAN “Strangle”. The documents came to light though James’s research as detailed in his book, SF Berlin.
This article was published in the Fayetteville Observer authored by Drew Brooks.
Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.
Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.
Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.
With a literal line drawn between the forces – American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin – the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.