Cover image for Operation rollback : America's secret war behind the Iron Curtain
Operation rollback : America's secret war behind the Iron Curtain
Grose, Peter, 1934-
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Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 256 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
An iron curtain over Europe. Nazis and Communists ; Resistance -- Washington at peace. Liberals and conservatives ; "Did I do it right?" -- Political warfare. Kennan's design ; The secret game -- Guerrillas, sabotage, and subversion. Starting with intellectuals ; Into battle ; Combat high and low -- Aftermath. Anticommunism on the Hustings ; Legacy.
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E183.8.S65 G76 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Fascinating . . . well-documented . . . thought-provoking and entertaining" (Publishers Weekly), Operation Rollback is a tale of intrigue and espionage that reveals how and why suspicions on both sides drove the world into the Cold War. In 1945 the United States and the Soviet Union started secretly mobilizing forces against each other, building intricate intelligence networks of spies and digging in for the postwar era. America's secret action plan, known as Rollback, was an audacious strategy of espionage, subversion, and sabotage. Concealed for four decades by all involved, the dangerous episodes of the Rollback campaign have only now come to light.

Author Notes

Peter Grose was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and an executive editor of Foreign Affairs; he also served in the Carter administration.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

An intriguing history of the fledgling U.S. intelligence war against the Soviet Union, Grose's chronology account centers on the late 1940s and early 1950s. As with the military in these years, reductions in spying resources were reversed as attitudes hardened toward the Sovietization of Eastern Europe. Grose is an astute analyst of how the secret war was started and who its promoters in D.C. officialdom were. In contrast with his later criticism of U.S. secret operations, diplomat George Kennan was the primal instigator of them, subsumed as "Rollback." Encouraged by armed groups active in Estonia and Ukraine, Kennan bureaucratically battled to give them paramilitary support. Disgusted by the coolness of the Pentagon and the CIA to his guerrilla warfare plans, Kennan brought forth an entity called the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) to carry them out. As they eventuated, most of OPC's military projects fizzled, while its hand in political propaganda remained concealed. Well-researched and contextualized, this is a shadowy corner of the cold war that intelligence buffs will eye intently. Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

As WWII came to a close, the Soviet Union and the United StatesDuneasy allies in the agonizing struggle to defeat HitlerDbegan maneuvering their intelligence agencies against one another into what would eventually become the dangerously polarized Cold War. Grose (Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles, 1994) is a former New York Times foreign correspondent, the former executive editor of Foreign Affairs and now a Kennedy School of Government fellow at Harvard. He tells a fascinating and well-documented tale of intrigue and double-dealing during this heady period of covert policy making and secret actions. He reveals that it was none other than legendary Sovietologist George Kennan who helped orchestrate American strategy, advocating containment of the Soviet Union with one hand, and secretly working against his own official policy with the otherDculminating in a secret plot to throw the Communists out of Eastern Europe. Kennan's plan, Operation Rollback, aimed to subvert the Soviet empire by stirring up resistance in its satellite countries. Grose, using newly declassified material from both the U.S. and former U.S.S.R., takes us through the intricate machinations of Rollback and its architects, presenting a hitherto untold tale of a project that was kept secret even from the CIA, and includes enough revelations throughout to sustain the tension. He writes, for example, that Rollback's planners circumvented Congress entirely and funded the operation with unaudited U.S. Treasury and Marshall Plan dollars, and that Soviet authorities were tipped off about the operation by such spies as the British Kim Philby. Students of American politics will be surprised to learn that a prominent figure from 1960s' antiwar activism, William Sloan Coffin, trained undercover saboteurs for Rollback missions. Thorough, thought-provoking and entertaining, this is a work that casts considerable light on a topic that has long lingered in the shadows. Photos not seen by PW. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



1 Nazis and Communists As the nazi reich was crumbling all around him early in 1945, Joseph Goebbels, creative propagandist for Hitler, shared his forebodings with the German people in an editorial. The Russians were poised to occupy all of eastern Europe, Goebbels declared in late February, and "an iron curtain would at once descend." Goebbels's warning, carried on shortwave radio, caught the attention of a literary stylist on the other side of the war: Winston Churchill, prime minister of Britain. Perhaps without remembering its source, Churchill used the ominous image in his first message to President Truman not three months later: "An iron curtain is drawn down upon [the Soviet] front; we do not know what is going on behind." Striving to impress the new president, with whom he yet had no personal rapport, he then cabled on June 4: "I view with profound misgivings . . . the descent of an iron curtain between us and everything to the eastward." And nine months later, when Churchill, by then out of office, spoke at a small college in Fulton, Missouri, Truman's home state, the image finally caught on, to become the singular metaphor for the gathering Cold War. Churchill declared: From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe-- Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, and Sofia; all these famous cities and their populations around them lie in what I might call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow. Few Americans who heard Churchill that day could have confidently placed Stettin, Trieste, or any of the other named cities on the map. If one drew a 600-mile-long line from Stettin in the north to Trieste in the south, dividing the European continent at its narrowest, all of the cities except Berlin would be east of the line. Stettin, by then known as Polish Szczecin, was the capital of Pomerania, on the western bank of the Oder, less than a hundred miles northeast of Berlin. German settlers had built the town in the twelfth century. In 1945 nearly four million Pomeranian Germans had fled toward the West to escape the Red Army in its advance against the disintegrating Third Reich. Cosmopolitan Trieste was the Adriatic port that had given the old Austro-Hungarian Empire access to the seas. By the end of World War II, it was effectively integrated into Yugoslavia under the control of the communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. For the purposes of Churchill's rhetoric, the line was a natural demarcation, but the realities on the ground in 1946 required modest adjustments. Vienna, capital of Austria, was east of the direct line, as Churchill said, yet American, British, and French troops, as well as Russians, controlled the venerable (and vulnerable) city under a four-power occupation authority. Prague and the lands of the Czechs--Bohemia and Moravia--were actually a little to the west of Churchill's line, but they were occupied by the Red Army alone. Also to the west were the German lnder around Berlin; under Soviet occupation, they soon would become the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). With those adjustments, the line that Churchill drew that day in Missouri endured intact for forty years, for all the overt and covert efforts of the most anticommunist Americans to roll it back. What had over time been called central Europe disappeared for half a century, absorbed into a rigid delineation between East and West. Just eight years before, Churchill's predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, had dismissed a crisis in this central ground as "a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing."2 (Chamberlain's dismissive statement was uttered only 650 miles from Czechoslovakia; Americans were another 3,600 miles farther away.) The disparate nations behind this curtain were not prominent in United States foreign policy, save among ethnic and academic specialists whose interests rarely intruded upon general public perceptions. The diverse nations of eastern Europe faded into an undifferentiated and hostile land mass under communism, monolithic and, it was said, dangerous to America's global interests. To be sure, Poland enjoyed an enduring hold on the American imagination--tenacious, throbbing, and Roman Catholic, fabled for Chopin and Paderewski and its nineteenth-century struggle for nationhood against the vise grip of Russia and Germany. From the waves of migration early in the twentieth century, Polish immigrants had built a strong political presence in the United States, backed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, as Roosevelt and Democratic Party strategists were ever mindful. The acts of the traditional predators upon Poland drew Britain and France into the war against Hitler; once the war was won some five years later, Stalin's designs moved the Polish state bodily westward. Poland absorbed Pomerania and the Baltic coast; in return, Polish lands in the east passed into the Soviet Union. Polish nationalism was a culture resting on a shifting territorial base. Czechoslovakia, by contrast, was a relatively new cause. From his years as a practicing historian, Woodrow Wilson had been intrigued by the Slavs, predominant in central Europe before the invasions of the German knights and merchants. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the uneasy merger of Czech and Slovak nationalisms found voice in the remarkable political skills of Toma Masaryk and Edvard Bene, diplomatic charmers who knew how to flatter the sensitivities of the western democracies to gain privileged status for their artificial homeland. Yet by the time Hitler sought to unite into his Reich the long-established and industrious German population of the Sudetenland, ringing the Czech heartland, Britain and the western democracies could not summon up sufficient sympathy to bestir themselves for this "far-away" land. Hungarians were Magyars, not Slavs, remembered by Americans of idealistic inclination for the uprising of Lajos Kossuth in the heady revolutions of 1848. The Magyars had allied themselves uneasily with the triumphant Germanic culture of the Hapsburg Empire in the mid nineteenth century, and they joined the Nazis at the start in fighting the western allies and Russia. Hungary was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1944. Though Hungary was well to the east of Churchill's line, the western allies did not initially regard it as lost to a Soviet sphere of influence. Hugging the eastern shore of the Baltic, Lutheran Estonia and Latvia, geographically and politically beholden to Soviet power, clung to the vision of independent nationhood that they had enjoyed between the two world wars. Like neighboring but Catholic Lithuania, with its cultural and political ties to Poland, they hoped for western support against Soviet Russia. The South Slavs, joined together in the Yugoslav Federation, were nonetheless fractured between Orthodox Serbs, who had resisted Hitler, and Catholic Croatians, who had readily embraced Nazism in its local manifestations. The Slavs farther east, Ukrainians and Belorussians, lived on lands truly uncharted to most Americans--save the active Ukrainian population in the United States (and Canada), which struggled to make their national identity a cause of interest. Given this perplexing diversity, American policymakers seemed inclined, like Chamberlain, to dismiss the whole area. In 1943, Czech president Bene urged Americans to accept the eventual predominance of the Soviet Union in eastern Europe. Later that year Roosevelt breezily informed the troubled archbishop of New York, Cardinal Spellman, that even if regions of particular Catholic interest--he cited Austria, Hungary, and Croatia--fell under Soviet "protection" after the war, twenty or thirty years of European influence would make the Russians "less barbarous." Early in 1945 some voices in the wilderness, such as those of navy secretary Forrestal and Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg, tried to turn official attention to the plight of eastern Europe. Their motivations for concern were not altruistic: Forrestal, formerly of Wall Street, was growing obsessed with the communist threat to capitalism; Vandenberg had a large Michigan constituency of immigrants from eastern Europe. A measure of their loneliness in political life was Walter Lippmann's dismissive remark as late as the start of 1946 that acceptance of a Soviet sphere of influence in eastern Europe was only realistic. After all, he told his millions of readers, this was only "one small specific area of the globe." In this small specific area, these faraway countries of which Americans knew so little, American political and strategic thought found its focus in the first decade after World War II. Here was the first battlefield of the Cold War, the campaign to roll back the Iron Curtain. The weaponry to be deployed would come from the new (to Americans) arsenals of intelligence, subversion, and espionage. * Once the United States became established in the 1950s as a superpower of the Cold War, the government could summon up sources and methods for acquiring accurate, real-time, on-the-ground information about lands and peoples hitherto unfamiliar. But in May 1945, America was on its way to unilateral disarmament in the realm of strategic intelligence. "Intelligence," so called, was a fractured pursuit, combining visions of high purpose with low-life transactions in dark alleys, with military officers and civilian professionals competing for the attentions of policymakers and the services of agents in the field. The military intelligence teams that had supported the Allied invasion across France and into Germany found themselves after the Nazi surrender with a fundamentally altered mission. Instead of assembling the order of battle and tactical intelligence necessary for an advancing fighting army, they were tasked with supporting an army of occupation. Clinging for the first postwar months to the image of Germans as enemies, the Army G-2 staff pursued suspected remnants of the fallen Nazi regime across the ruined German countryside. Another military branch, the Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC), should have been better equipped for the local security missions of an occupation administration. CIC detachments, after all, were accustomed to the freewheeling ways and nonaccountable practices endemic to the running of spies. But the CIC was, like the rest of the armed forces, a corps of ordinary Americans, drafted into service for the duration, with neither dedication nor ambition in the tradecraft of intelligence. Weary from fighting a war, too many officers and men of the CIC succumbed to the venal motives of an occupying army. Discipline was lax, and anyone with casual access to CIC insignia could pursue nefarious, self-enriching missions without the nuisance of official orders. Stories of black-marketing and looting of art works and other civilian treasures came to mar the reputation of the CIC in occupied Europe. Most complicating of all in 1945 was the upstart civilian intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Later generations of American intelligence professionals liked to trace their lineage not from the military branches but from the broad- ranging OSS. Created by Roosevelt to remedy the haphazard and uncoordinated gathering of information that had allowed the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the OSS became in just four years an expansive, inclusive, and erratic intelligence apparatus, distinct from the traditional and confined intelligence staffs of the uniformed services, responsible to no one but a preoccupied president. Businessmen, partisan fighters, professors, technicians clever at devices for sabotage, all worked side by side in the OSS. Exploits of both derring-do and sophisticated analysis were subsequently and appropriately heralded in the popular and professional literature. But with the end of the war, the OSS seemed a strange hybrid in a morass of conflicting purposes. Its founding director, the dynamic William J. Donovan, was ever difficult to place in a bureaucracy. A restive corporate lawyer from Buffalo, New York, he was already fifty-eight when Roosevelt called him to active duty in 1941. Twice he had run as a Republican for public office, including the governorship of New York in 1932, and twice he had lost. But he was a veteran of foreign wars, a cavalry officer on the Mexican border in 1916 (where he picked up the sobriquet "Wild Bill"), a Medal of Honor winner in World War I. Innovative and hyperactive, he had shown a penchant for secret missions during the Russian civil war in 1919, the Italian campaign against Ethiopia, the Spanish civil war, and diverse military missions to Czechoslovakia and the Balkans in the late 1930s, even as he gained stature as a Wall Street lawyer and pulled in clients for his firm, Donovan and Leisure. He had an undeniable gift for cutting through petty obstructions, for energizing talents and getting things done--not necessarily in an orderly way, but getting them done. Energy, smoke, mirrors, and imagination had built an unprecedented civilian intelligence service for the United States in World War II. To his credit, Donovan recognized the demands that would be made upon the broad profession of intelligence in the postwar era. But his proposal in November 1944 to turn his agency into a peacetime instrument of government backfired in a blaze of tendentious publicity from the anti-Roosevelt press. Donovan always pursued several purposes at the same time--a virtue for a master of spies, self-defeating for a man of politics. From early in the war, the OSS faced the dilemma of whether or not to collect intelligence about the Soviet Union as well as about the Nazi enemy. Roosevelt, determined to maintain Stalin's alliance and trust, ordered Donovan to restrain his people--and himself. For instance, even though a chance encounter gave the OSS secret access to the private secretary of the Soviet ambassador in Washington, Donovan broke off the contact. Early in 1943, he was tempted by a proposition to develop sources on Soviet activities in cooperation with the less inhibited British intelligence agencies. But the State Department honored the presidential edict and declined to get involved in undercover activity, refusing to provide diplomatic cover for an OSS officer in the Moscow embassy. (Later that year, however, a single OSS analyst, Thomas Whitney, quietly joined the embassy staff, with the concurrence of Ambassador Harriman. He became a trusted colleague of George Kennan's.) Donovan was never a man to settle for a tightly circumscribed mission. If he could not target the Soviet Union, he would take the opposite tack in seeking to enhance his agency's effectiveness: cooperation with the Soviet ally against the common enemy. On Christmas Eve, 1943, Donovan flew to Moscow for professional discussions with the Soviet external intelligence services. The astonished Russians quizzed Donovan in detail "about the particular methods of spying, American style." How did Americans introduce agents into enemy territory? How were these secret agents trained? What equipment did they carry? Donovan responded in his expansive way. The Russians volunteered no information about spying, Soviet style. The Soviet government delayed a formal reply to the American offer of cooperation, and during that six-week interim early in 1944 more sober minds prevailed in Washington. Even Roosevelt concurred in the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover, who as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was responsible for internal security, that cooperation with Moscow on matters of espionage and intelligence risked becoming, at the least, counterproductive. In 1944, swept up in the end-game enthusiasm of the invasion of continental Europe and eager to serve the triumphant military, Donovan turned his intelligence service in a less visible but ultimately more fateful direction, to the urgent tasks of tactical military intelligence rather than the strategic political intelligence for which it had been assembled. His OSS parachuted men behind the lines and built networks in France and the Low Countries as the Allies pushed toward the Rhine. Inside Germany itself the OSS tried to develop fifth columns and resistance to the disintegrating power of the Nazis. This change of mission risked provoking the existing rivalry between the civilian OSS and the military intelligence staffs, of course. But Donovan knew what he was doing, even if his rivals did not. One of the most tightly guarded secrets of the war was a special asset available to the OSS and not to the other intelligence services. This was SIGINT, or signals intelligence: intercepts of German army and police communications that the British had been collecting and exploiting since early in the war. Churchill had agreed in 1942 to share this invaluable real-time intelligence with the United States but, to guard the secret to the fullest, with only one select, specially classified agency. Created for the purpose was a counterespionage branch of the OSS called X-2. Donovan's agency was thus uniquely equipped to provide Eisenhower's advancing forces with accurate and detailed intelligence of the names and locations of resistance networks. The military intelligence staffs were not apprised of the source of this sensitive data; the OSS relished the power of its special, mysterious asset, which came at the bureaucratic expense of its rivals. The crucial military decision in the last weeks of the war can be traced to information provided by Donovan. In diverting the Anglo-American drive away from conquest of the accessible capitals-- Berlin and Prague--and turning his land armada toward southern Germany, Eisenhower was acting on OSS intelligence. Donovan's agents had assembled clues that the Nazis were building an underground army of 35,000 to 40,000 guerrilla fighters, with a last-ditch military redoubt in the Alps, to fight on even after the fall of the Nazi capital. The Americans succeeded in cutting Bavaria off from the rest of Germany, but found there no organized guerrilla units, no Alpine redoubt. The OSS "played a key role in the redoubt myth," wrote one irreverent Donovan aide, William J. Casey, years later. "We were unable to explode it and we should have, easily. We had a dozen teams in the redoubt area and none of them reported anything justifying belief that enough military strength could be generated in that pastoral, undeveloped country to resist five million Allied troops for more than a few weeks." Casey, who became director of intelligence under President Ronald Reagan in 1980, was one conservative who harbored enduring suspicion about this seeming intelligence failure. Eisenhower's 1945 decision to chase the mythical Nazi guerrillas and their redoubt gave the advancing Russians opportunity to capture cities and territory in central Europe that otherwise could have fallen to the armies of the West. Cold War anticommunists who saw conspiracies all around them suspected that left leaning officers of the OSS might have contaminated the evaluation of tactical intelligence over the winter and spring of 1945, for the postwar benefit of the Soviet Union. American intelligence lost its most powerful advantage with the Nazi surrender in May 1945, when its access to secret German communications became irrelevant. No information source remotely comparable was available about the Red Army occupation forces in eastern Europe or the Soviet Union itself. Having lost his special asset, Donovan then lost his patron as well: Roosevelt may have relished the skullduggery that Donovan promoted, but Truman had no use for it nor for the overreaching Donovan himself. Acting on impulse, in the style that characterized his early presidency, Truman abruptly fired Donovan and abolished the OSS in September 1945. * The European continent was a pit of human and physical misery after the six years of World War II. It was "the most violent and frightening decade in European history," in the words of the British historian Alan Bullock.6 Beyond the millions who had perished in war, no less than 60 million persons had been uprooted from their homes, nearly half removed to some other country to serve as slave labor for the Nazi war machine or to escape marauding armies of victors and vanquished alike. The occupiers of the fallen Reich found some 10 million homeless Germans, mostly uprooted city dwellers foraging the countryside for food and shelter. A further 12 million who had fled or been expelled from Germany's eastern territories poured into the western occupation zones, mainly the American zone of Bavaria, arriving, at one point in 1945, at the rate of 40,000 per week. Another 7 million lingered in German prisoner-of-war camps, for which the occupation regimes had to assume sudden responsibility. Among these displaced persons were men, women, and children from the Soviet Union, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Cossacks, citizens of the Baltic states, and Poles whose home villages had been incorporated into Soviet territory. Some 5 million Soviet nationals were found across western and central Europe, including 2.8 million forced laborers and 1.15 million captured Soviet troops who had survived in POW camps. Intermingled were a million other Soviet citizens who had volunteered to fight under Nazi command against their own communist government; these people surrendered to the western armies rather than face a vindictive welcome home from Stalin. Even before V-E Day, the western allies had wondered about these renegade Russians. Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) mounted a clandestine deception operation in 1944, dropping fake documents and subversive equipment to pinpointed locations in France, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway where the Russian units were known to be deployed--hoping to make their German officers suspect an anti-Nazi resistance movement among the Russian soldiers. In at least one case, the SOE believed that their mischief mission had caused the Germ an command in northern France to replace the Russians with SS fighting units. As victory approached, the western allies became concerned about the fate of these Russian volunteer units. At first Soviet spokesmen affected disinterest, claiming that too few men were involved to be a matter for government concern. As British historian Nikolai Tolstoy concluded, "the Soviet Union was reluctant to admit publicly that any of its subjects were opposed to their Marxist government." Yet when he met Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta, Stalin obtained their agreement to a seemingly routine "housekeeping" measure committing the western allies to the repatriation of Soviet citizens found in the various territories liberated from Nazi rule. This commitment, signed at the working level by the American military attach in Moscow, Major General Deane, and a Red Army counterpart, was not made public until a year or so later. With the war's end, the enormous scope of the problem came into view. The western allies demanded a routine order-of-battle report from the captured Nazi high command, and two weeks after the surrender General Alfred Jodl issued a pathetic accounting, documenting the anarchy that had befallen the armies of the Third Reich in its closing days. When he last heard from them, the Nazi commander in captivity reported, Russian volunteer units (presumably anticommunists all) were as follows: "a) 599th Russian Brigade, appr. 13,000 men, on march from Denmark southwards . . .; b) 600th Russian Infantry Division, appr. 12,000 men, last reported in Bohemia- Moravia; c) 650th Russian Infantry Division, appr. 18,000 men, last reported on march from Muesingen to the Linz [Austria] area." On and on went the meticulous but feckless accounting. Western observers saw the problem in human terms. When the novelist George Orwell visited a POW camp outside Munich as a British war correspondent, he reported: Prisoners were passing through it from day to day, but at a given moment the number there was about 100,000. According to the American officer in charge, the prisoners were on average 10 percent non- German, mostly Russians and Hungarians. The Russians were being sorted by asking the simple question, "Do you want to go back to Russia or not?" A respectable proportion--of course, I have no exact figures--answered "not," and these were regarded as Germans and kept in the camp, while the others were released. By the end of June 1945, 1.5 million Soviet nationals had been returned to Red Army detachments in eastern Germany. Up to this point, contemporary reports indicate, the repatriation proceeded without incident or resistance. But as the months passed, news spread through the camps of displaced persons about the fate befalling those who had been returned to the Soviet Union: arrest as traitors, sentences of hard labor, even execution on the spot immediately after the western escorts had withdrawn from the sites of transfer. Scarcely noted by the British and American public at the time, this repatriation later became one of the most searing controversies of the early Cold War. Honoring a commitment at Yalta undertaken before they understood the nature of the problem, the western allies eventually employed military force to dispatch hundreds of thousands of Soviet nationals back to the mercy of the Red Army, to certain punishment or death. * Churchill had slightly overstated the case when he complained to Truman that "we do not know what is going on" in the lands conquered by the Red Army. Ill coordinated and sporadic, British and American intelligence teams had in fact made numerous feints into eastern Europe before the war's end. As early as March 1943, Donovan had sent a three-man mission to Budapest to try breaking Hungary from its alliance with Hitler; the men were promptly incarcerated. Late in 1944 a young OSS lawyer, Frank G. Wisner, reported from Romania that the advancing Red Army had deliberately let two Nazi divisions out of a trap, freeing them to fight the British and Americans in the Ardennes campaign on the western front. The OSS and the British SOE fielded a joint mission behind German lines in northwest Moravia (Czechoslovakia) in February 1945, aimed at opening radio contact with London and preparing landing fields for larger teams. The team ultimately made its way to Prague, but not in time to set up a deterrence to the Soviet occupation of the capital. The American Third Army under General George S. Patton crossed into western Czechoslovakia in the first days of May, but Eisenhower, acting in good faith about the understandings of Yalta, ordered his general to halt the advance along a line drawn through Karlsbad, Pilsen, and Budweis. The restraining order angered Patton, but at least the names had a pleasant resonance among American troops who knew good German beers. British teams were ahead of Donovan's men in clandestine missions to penetrate Nazi Germany and organize networks of agents and informers for the occupation. One SOE agent named Fordwick actually made his way into Germany in October 1944 from a clandestine base in Denmark, contacting Danish workers in German industrial centers to start spreading defeatist propaganda. Learning of the mission, the British Foreign Office ordered it scuttled, fearful of undermining the allied policy of unconditional surrender, and reprimanded an SOE case officer serving under diplomatic cover in Stockholm. Once the Nazi Reich surrendered, and intelligence about the Red Army finally became a priority for the western occupiers, front- line officers confronted a stark reality that posed moral and practical dilemmas for which they were not prepared. It became evident in the first months after the war that Germans, Nazi or not, possessed a great deal more intelligence and expertise about Soviet Russia and the Red Army than any other source. American conservatives, who, after the World War I armistice, had collected reports by the defeated German General Staff about Bolshevik atrocities, had long been impressed by the expertise of Germans about Russia and eastern Europe. In the 1920s, financiers such as Hjalmar Schacht, seeking American loans to rebuild German industry, fed their interest. As early as 1920, the National City Bank of New York circulated a report originating (anonymously) from Schacht and his business associates arguing that America could benefit from "the exact knowledge of Russian conditions possessed by Germany, which the United States will be able to successfully avail themselves of." Developing their instincts for self-preservation as the Nazi enterprise collapsed in 1945, German officers recognized that their expertise about the East could be a vehicle for ingratiating themselves with the conquering allies. Intelligence on the Soviet Union soon became the coin of the realm, with any former Nazi of gumption claiming special knowledge, even control of secret networks of agents in eastern Europe who could be mobilized to serve the western allies just as they had served the Nazis. The summer of 1945 opened the era of fabricators and paper mills in American intelligence, with real and, more often, fictitious sources of information dangled before the Americans in return for favorable treatment from the war crimes courts. Lacking other access to developments within the Soviet zones of occupation, the Americans in Europe were tempted by these information sources, for all the absence of quality control. Within a month after the Nazi surrender, the X-2 branch of OSS, charged with hunting down war criminals, received three separate offers from former members of the Nazi intelligence services to turn over their agent networks in Soviet-occupied territory. The officers involved fell into the "automatic arrest" category, and X-2 flatly rejected the offers. Other American intelligence organizations were not so scrupulous. At the POW camp of Wrgl, near Kitzbhel, a forty-three- year-old German general struck American military interrogators as more interesting than the rest of the unruly crowd of war prisoners. Reinhard Gehlen had turned himself in to the American army on May 22. Humility was not a common trait within the German General Staff, and Gehlen did not hesitate to express his irritation at the lack of respect shown to his person by the Americans. Gradually, successive interrogators begin to appreciate that this prisoner, while probably not as important as he said he was, deserved special attention for the services he could provide. For Gehlen, who had been head of Hitler's military intelligence on the eastern front, possessed a card- file memory of agents and locations and a scholarly familiarity with the Red Army and the Soviet system of warfare and government. Transferred to more comfortable captivity than the routine POW camps, Gehlen began to open up the project that he had been devising for the past six months.12 Secretly, for any sign of defeatism in the ranks would have brought immediate execution by the SS, Gehlen had been spiriting away from his military headquarters files and documents about Soviet affairs in eastern Europe, which he buried in a mountain hideout in Bavaria near the Czech border. Through June this wily Wehrmacht general dribbled out more and more data and insights to American intelligence on what was becoming their topic of greatest concern--on condition that he and his closest associates in conspiracy not be treated with the contempt meted out to all the rest who had worn the Nazi uniform. By mid-July American interrogators were sufficiently impressed with the prize that had fallen into their grasp: Gehlen's name was discreetly removed from the circulated lists of German officers subject to automatic arrest, and a special alert about his potential value was passed up the line to General Edwin Sibert, chief of army intelligence (G-2) in the U.S. occupation zone. Sibert was a man sophisticated enough in the business of intelligence to have understood the disadvantage his G-2 staff had been operating under during the last year of the war, lacking the valuable asset of SIGINT. He was determined not to let such a liability recur and to grab for his own service any asset that seemed a promising source of intelligence. Holding to none of the X-2 inhibitions about traffic with the Nazi enemy, Sibert had already shown interest in German intelligence professionals whom the rest of the army considered war criminals. He did not bother to inform the OSS or any other intelligence service of his catch. Unlike lower-ranking intelligence officers, however, Sibert understood the necessity of working within the chain of command, and he arranged for Gehlen and a few of his closest associates to be spirited out of Germany and flown in disguise to the army's interrogation center at Fort Hunt, Virginia, for further interrogation, cross-checking, and testing of credentials. For ten months Gehlen was held under wraps in the United States. When he was allowed back into Germany in June 1946, he returned with secret status and authority within the intelligence apparatus of the American military government. By the summer of 1946, Washington's top military intelligence officers had abandoned the fervor of de-Nazification and were arranging for ex-Nazis with "special" qualifications, such as expertise in rocket science and other high technology, to be excused from the indignities of prisoner-of-war status and join the service of the United States for the demands of the postwar era. Included among these special qualifications was demonstrable expertise on the USSR. As Major General Stephen J. Chamberlin, director of army intelligence in Washington, informed Eisenhower, "valuable intelligence on Russia and Russian dominated countries can be developed more rapidly by this method than any other." In the less formal language of an American staff officer in Frankfurt, speaking to journalist John Gunther, "Are we dealing with our former enemies, or our future allies? We have not yet decided whether we want to win the last war or the next one." Between World War III and a Fourth Reich, Americans in Germany saw the former as the greater threat. If the United States was to learn what was happening behind the Iron Curtain, they believed, they must start with the expertise of the Nazis. * Weapons systems are difficult to dismantle even when they no longer serve the purpose for which they were devised. The superpower combatants found this out about their stockpiles of nuclear weapons when the Cold War was over in the 1990s, and the United States found it out concerning its weapons of intelligence at the end of World War II. President Truman could abolish the OSS with a stroke of his pen; more difficult was deciding what to do with the field agents and communications channels established in a war that was over. At its demise at the end of September 1945, the OSS had on its duty rolls 10,390 persons, including nearly 6,000 abroad, distributed among nine overseas missions. Those involved with research and analysis (including the important wartime Foreign Nationalities Branch) were transferred to the supervision of the State Department. The actual "spies," agents in the field and the case officers who ran them, were reassigned to the War Department in a section specially set up to receive them, the Strategic Services Unit. The SSU represented the remnant of an intelligence apparatus in decay; by December 1 it numbered no more than 1,900 officers. The SSU's mandate was to demobilize and disperse these wartime assets. Yet from the start, the unit's intelligence professionals were determined to keep a structure in readiness, secretly, for a future "efficient peacetime clandestine intelligence agency." They first signaled their intent on October 25, 1945, in a memorandum to their chief, marked "for American eyes only," in which they proposed to preserve capabilities for "support of underground forces" and "clandestine subversion of enemy morale." None of them yet envisaged a campaign to overthrow communist governments but they believed there was no harm in stockpiling the weapons. Encountering no resistance from "American eyes," the surviving intelligence officers spelled out the details of their undercover design in January 1946 for a tightly restricted audience in Washington: The SSU would maintain up-to-date rosters of "recoverable personnel" who had returned to private life but could be called back on duty when needed; "local agents who have served American secret intelligence purposes well have been "sealed off," with arrangements made to resume contact in the future"; and a central file was assembled on more than four hundred thousand individuals, known agents of foreign intelligence services and other secret organizations "whose activities are or may be inimical to American interests." All these preparations were for an undefined future. In the field those first months after the war, the dwindling arsenal of intelligence was a jumble of overlapping missions, competing jurisdictions, and interagency rivalries. The SSU, Army G-2, and CIC maintained separate reporting channels to Washington; seldom did they communicate with each other, and never with the intelligence services of the British and French in their own zones of occupation. In Munich no less than ten American army and military government units were pursuing distinct and uncoordinated activities; in one case, three of them conducted separate reliability investigations of the same potential informer. In Berlin the SSU retained a former Gestapo officer named Karl Krull, who strolled the streets to pick out former Nazi comrades who were either looking for a job (most of them) or, more ominously, had already signed on with the Soviets to spy on the western occupation--for the Russians also were engaged in building new intelligence networks. When fingered by Krull, former Nazi officers would be "turned" by the Americans to serve as double agents in the new war of espionage. Sometimes the demands of intelligence clashed with official policy imperatives. When the American military government ordered a former Nazi evicted from his comfortable apartment to provide housing for a family of displaced persons, the American occupation officers had no way of knowing that the officer, one Heinz Schmalslger, was already employed by SSU and was providing reams of documents on Soviet intelligence methods and networks in eastern Europe. Schmalslger was allowed to keep his flat; the DPs had to wait for other quarters. * Scattered down the chains of command of American military intelligence were officers who were unwilling to depend solely on the remnants of Nazi networks. Though they had to start from zero, various CIC units in occupied Germany and Austria set out to build their own access to information. The destitute refugees and POWs were a humanitarian problem for the occupation authorities, but these displaced persons also represented potential sources of information about the Red Army and the Soviet infrastructure. The CIC established elaborate interrogation procedures to systematically assemble data about industrial and military facilities from POWs, forced laborers, and Red Army defectors who could provide firsthand descriptions of what they had seen and experienced. Countless stories of humanity in upheaval show through the interrogation files: the thirty-five-year- old teacher of science and mathematics in Odessa who defected from his artillery regiment at the Hungarian border; his parents had perished in the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, and he had no other family; the twenty-four-year-old lieutenant in the Red Army signal corps, veteran of the battles for Budapest and Vienna, who, after being ordered back to Moscow, decided that surrender to the Americans might bring him the chance of a better life; the Pole from Belorussia liberated from a German POW camp in Czechoslovakia who had witnessed the Red Army massacres of Polish officers at Katyn Forest in 1940 and had resolved never to return to the Soviet Union. Immediately upon the German surrender, the American army commandeered a former Luftwaffe camp at Oberursel, outside Frankfurt, where Nazi intelligence officers had grilled captured British and American fliers. Some forty American interrogators, fluent in German, Russian, French, Italian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Spanish, and Dutch (even one who could handle Japanese, mainly when cursing), settled in at Oberursel.16 A similar center was established across the Austrian border in Salzburg. At first the interrogators sought evidence of lingering Nazi guerrilla activity. As this line of questioning dried up, the Americans turned their attention to what could be learned about the Soviet Union. The first problem they faced was determining the bona fides of each individual. "The interrogators . . . were always on the lookout for [Soviet intelligence] agents in disguise," explained one veteran of the operations, "men who would present themselves in the West as refugees from communism and would learn every detail they could of American intelligence proceedings, the identities of American officers, the places they used for their business."17 The Kremlin never tired in its curiosity about spying "American-style." After many months of interrogating the destitute homeless, the American officers confronted the problem of what was not so politely called their "disposal." The Americans had learned enough by early 1947 about the fate of displaced Soviet nationals repatriated to the Red Army. Though most of their interrogation subjects were willing to take their chances in returning to their former homes, others did not want to go back. At a level far below the vision of the statesmen, the human treasure of postwar Europe had been taken in hand by particular interests. All sides--British, American, Russian--were seeking technicians of Nazi enterprises to contribute scientific expertise for new national ventures in high technology. The builders of a future Jewish homeland, Zionists, combed the DP camps starting as early as the summer of 1945 for fighters and intellectuals ready to be smuggled out of Europe to populate and develop Palestine. The 430th CIC detachment in Austria devised a novel method of disposing of defectors and informants from Soviet-occupied lands. These officers were accustomed to operating on their own, without documentation or reference to the higher occupation authorities. The commander, Colonel James Milano, son of Italian immigrants in West Virginia, resolved in the summer of 1947 to set up a route for smuggling truly displaced persons to South America, where they would establish new identities, secure from the hit men of Soviet intelligence. Latter-day United States government investigators described the mechanism, apparently unknown to higher authorities, as "a sort of underground railroad, dubbed a "rat line," and it ran from Austria to Italy, where it relied on a Croatian priest, Father Krunoslav Dragonovic, who was attached to a seminary in Rome where Croatian youths studied for the priesthood." After an official investigation in the 1980s, Milano came forward to tell his long-secret story without the euphemisms of government officials. Father Dragonovic was "completely corrupt," Milano's chief of operations told him, "runs a visa racket on the side . . . will sell them for fifteen hundred cash no questions asked." But what caught the alert officers" eyes was an American citizen associated with the Catholic father in his lucrative pursuits. This American's daytime job was in the eligibility office of the politically respected International Refugee Organization in Rome; he clearly knew all the devices for getting visas for foreign countries for persons of shady provenance. If the CIC men in Austria could have compared notes with the remnants of the old OSS and consulted those card files assembled by the SSU, they might have learned a good deal about this particular American. His name was Robert Bishop, and he was a veteran of undercover exploits in wartime Romania. Presumably to protect the secrets of American Cold War intelligence, his name was deleted from the official investigation of the "rat line." Bishop would later figure prominently in the effort to roll back the Iron Curtain, but for Milano and the men of the CIC in 1947 he was a disappointment. He "suddenly lost his mental stability," as the evaluations put it, became an alcoholic, and had to be confined to the psychiatric unit of an American military hospital. The 430th CIC detachment in Salzburg nonetheless decided to pay Dragonovic the then-extravagant fee of $1,500 from their unvouchered funds to "dispose" of each defector from Soviet justice, once their use as intelligence sources was exhausted; the Americans called each one a "visitor" or a "VIP." All records of previous identities were erased as the men disappeared into new lives, families, and livelihoods in Bolivia, Argentina, and other South American countries. Nothing was put in writing about a minor American army intelligence operation--or almost nothing. One contemporary report survives, a rambling assessment by CIC operations officer Captain Paul Lyon: [Dragonovic] is known and recorded as a fascist, war criminal, etc., and his contacts with South American diplomats of a similar class are not generally approved by US State Department officials, plus the fact that in the light of security, it is better that we may be able to state, if forced, that the turning over of a DP to a welfare organization falls in line with our democratic way of thinking and that we are not engaged in illegal disposition of war criminals, defectees and the like. The refugees of the rat line surely numbered only in the dozens--many more, at $1,500 a head, would have raised questions even in the unvouchered funds of the CIC. But the demonstrated efficacy of this novel escape route proved tempting beyond measure for a different sort of "disposal." Sent along to Dragonovic and then to safety in South America was one particular intelligence asset for the United States in the gathering Cold War, a Nazi war criminal named Klaus Barbie. He was indeed a defector, but not from communism. Both the French and American systems of justice were on his trail, but he had also provided much useful data to American intelligence. Rather than face the consequences of legal and public disclosure of the connection, the CIC decided to "dispose" of him. Barbie, called the "butcher of Lyons" for his role in Nazi atrocities in France, lived for the next thirty-three years as a free man in Bolivia. Only in 1983 was he discovered under his new identity and deported; tried for crimes against humanity in 1987 and sentenced to life imprisonment, he died in a French prison in 1991.Copyright 2000 by Peter Grose. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Excerpted from Operation Rollback: America's Secret War Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Grose All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Overture: The Vexing "Mr. X", The two visions of George F. Kennanp. 1
I An Iron Curtain Over Europe
1 Nazis and Communistsp. 11
"People of whom we know nothing"
Unilateral disarmament of intelligence
The secret of "Wild Bill"
Russians: allies or enemies?
Germans: enemies or allies?
The "rat line"
2 Resistancep. 32
Crackly radio signals from the Baltics to the Balkans
The Forest Brothers
Romania's load of plenty
Hungary's Scarlet Pimpernel
"Bandits" from Ukraine
Bothersome Russian emigres
II Washington at Peace
3 Liberals and Conservativesp. 53
Ideological ferment in a sleepy town
An unwelcome visitor
Unwelcome testimony
The FBI finds new bearings against communism
The public perplexed
4 "Did I Do Right?"p. 69
The president perplexed
A New Dealer visits Moscow
Clandestine operatives in action
Political operatives in action
III Political Warfare
5 Kennan's Designp. 87
The Soviet enemy discovered
The Long Telegram
Truman reaches out
Kennan conceives a plan
NSC 10/2
6 The Secret Gamep. 100
A special agency hidden within the government
An expansive Frank Wisner
Money: "the heart and soul of covert operations"
Congress looks the other way
IV Guerrillas, Sabotage, and Subversion
7 Starting with Intellectualsp. 121
"Organization X"
Emigres in harness
Fussing and feuding in exile
Mike Josselson and the Congress for Cultural Freedom
8 Into Battlep. 144
Is there a "CIA type"?
Frank Lindsay, the businessman
William Sloan Coffin, the divinity student
Michael Burke, the entrepreneur
Failing the test case in Albania
9 Combat High and Lowp. 164
Blowback from Romania
Low-flying unmarked planes
Parachute drops
Arrests, accusations, denials
Deception in Poland
Mischief in Ukraine
The perils and travails of the NTS
V Aftermath
10 Anticommunism on the Hustingsp. 193
"Liberating the Captive Nations"
The FBI turns against
The White House
Ethnic politics
The troublesome Congressman Kersten
John Foster Dulles takes power
Kennan is moved out
11 Legacyp. 211
Rollback frays at the edges
And at the core
Restraint in Berlin
In Hungary
A devastating verdict on covert action
Glasnost and Rollback
Notes on Sourcesp. 225
Author's Notep. 241
Indexp. 245