Mission Potsdam: The Story beyond the ‘Bridge of Spies’
20-22 June 2019
The United States Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) to the Commander-in-Chief (CinC), Group Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG) operated in East Germany from April 1947 until October 1990, the Day of German Unity. The “Mission Potsdam” Conference will highlight the intelligence gathering and liaison activities of USMLM, a unique HUMINT organization with an analytic capability. Working in cooperation with its Allies, the British (BRIXMIS) and French (FMLM) Missions, USMLM collected and the best intelligence of any Cold War unit focused on GSFG. The soldiers and airmen of USMLM were the only Americans who had daily contact with the Soviet Army. Few knew the Soviet Soldier better.
As the only observers with daily access behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, Mission reports provided not only a realistic picture of the Soviet Army, but also a window into East German society. Until formal diplomatic recognition of the GDR in September 1973, USMLM also represented American interests throughout the GDR.
The conference will afford attendees the opportunity to learn about these unique HUMINT assets, while filling a gap in objective knowledge. Presenters will include former USMLM and State Department personnel familiar with the complexities of intelligence operations behind the Iron Curtain.
The conference is being organized by the Allied Museum Berlin, the Berlin Wall Foundation, the German-Russian Museum, Berlin-Karlshorst, the Center for Contemporary Historical Research, Potsdam and the Potsdam Museum, where the event will be held. The Potsdam Museum has been recently renovated and occupies a central location in downtown Potsdam. The conference’s German partners will conduct a German language colloquium on Thursday, 20 June, when noted scholars will present their research on the environment in the GDR during the Cold War period.
On Friday, attendees will have an opportunity to tour former the Soviet command bunkers in Zossen-Wünsdorf, south of Berlin, as well as visit Jüterbog, location of the largest Soviet garrison in the GDR. Wünsdorf was also the headquarters of the Nazi High Command and, as such, contains the history of two former adversaries. In addition, presenters from the two conference sections will have an opportunity to meet and share information.
At any given time, there were 10 AMLM tours operating in the GDR. The reconnaissance ‘tours’ focused on reporting on Soviet military activity. Tours were planned at operational headquarters in West Berlin, before traveling to the Potsdam House to stock up on provisions. To prevent units The Tri-Missions divided the GDR into Areas A in the north; B in the west and southwest; and C in the east and southeast. There was also a Local Area
The Ministry for State Security, MfS, or Stasi, presented constant challenges and individual Soviet Army commanders were particularly robust in blocking and detaining tour personnel. On occasion, Mission tour vehicles were rammed and personnel subjected to violence. While there were many planned assaults on Mission personnel, only two deaths occurred in the 43-year existence of the Missions. In 1984 French Adjutant Philippe Mariotti was killed when his vehicle was rammed by an East German truck in a planned attack near Halle; one year later, almost to the day, American Major Arthur ‘Nick’ Nicholson was killed by a Soviet sentry near Ludwigslust. The Socialist Unity Party (SED) attempted in vain to persuade Soviet leadership to restrict and curtail Potsdam Mission activities. In addition, party officials and the Stasi teamed up to make propaganda videos warning citizens against Mission activities.
Following is a tentative schedule of presentations/panel discussions. (There may be additional topics, based on presenter availability.)
Thursday, 20 June. German Colloquium.
Friday, 21 June.
0900-1630. Staff ride to GSFG Command Bunker, Zossen-Wünsdorf and Jüterbog, former Permanent Restricted Area (PRA).
Evening Opening remarks and summary/outline of the Colloquium and the Saturday Conference. Dr. Stephen V. Hoyt, President, USMLM Association, Professor, University of Maryland, University College (UMUC).
The Allied Missions and the City of Potsdam. Dr. Jan Kostka, co-curator (??), Potsdam Museum. Dr. Kostka will address the climate in the city of Potsdam, with a focus on the reactions of those living in the city from 1947-1990.
UMUC reception for all conference attendees. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with former Mission members and with presenters.
Saturday, 22 June.
Welcome remarks. Dr. Stephen V. Hoyt, President, USMLM Association.
USMLM in the Context of the Cold War: the role played by USMLM (and the Allied Missions in general) in the overall political climate of the Cold War. Presenter: Ambassador Gregory G. Govan, BG, USA (ret); Ambassador to MBFR/CFE; Commander, OSIA (On-Site Inspection Agency, now DTRA); Chief, USMLM; and Defense Attaché to the Soviet Union.
“A Review of the Academic Literature on the Allied Missions.” Frederic Ischebeck-Baum and Danny Chahbouni. Frederic Ischebeck-Baum is a Fellow of the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War; he was previously Assistant Director of the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College, London. Danny Chahbouni is a research Associate, with the Point Alpha Foundation. Mr. Chahbouni has conducted research into USMLM, Able Archer and topics.
The Changing Political Climate within the GDR. Events in the GDR had an affect on the Allied Missions. Presenter: E. Wayne Merry, Senior Fellow for Europe & Eurasia, American Foreign Policy Council and retired Foreign Service Officer who served as the Department of State’s Berlin Desk Officer and as a diplomat in the GDR, in addition to other assignments.
“NCO View.” SFC (ret) George “Al” Partridge, SFC (ret) Eberle Davis and an NCO (TBD) discuss their work at USMLM. Al Partridge was a tour NCO at USMLM and also served at DTRA.
Moderator: COL (ret) Lawrence Kelley, USMC. Colonel Kelley served at USMLM from 1983-1986; he was also a team leader at the Onsite Inspection Agency (OSIA) and at DTRA. In addition, Kelley has been actively involved in ….(need more)
Panel. German Intelligence and the Missions. Hauptmann Sasha Gunold and Herr Söhnke Streckel. The focus of this panel will be present information on East and West German intelligence operations that targeted the Soviet Missions in the Federal Republic and Allied Missions in the GDR. (Details to follow.)
Moderator: Oberst Armin Wagner, Director, Bundeswehr Museum, Dresden. (Additional bio to follow.)
Air Operations: Challenges and Successes. MG Michael Ennis, USMC (ret) was Director of Marine Corps Intelligence and a tour officer at USMLM; LTCOL William Burhans, USAF (ret) was a tour officer at USMLM. (More details to follow.); LTCOL Bennett McCutcheon, USAF (ret) was a tour officer at USMLM and .. (need updated BIO info).
Panel. The Military Missions: Legacy and Importance. Panelists represent Great Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union.
Major General (ret) P G Williams CMG OBE; Chairman, The BRIXMIS Association,
SES/Colonel, USAR (ret) Mark Handy; Senior Executive Service (MG equivalent);
Brigadier General (ret) Jean-Paul Staub, Chairman, FMLM Association];
Dr. Dmitri Trenin, Director, Carnegie Moscow Center,
MG (ret) P G Williams CMG OBE; Chairman, The BRIXMIS Association; SES/COL, USAR (ret) Mark Handy; Senior Executive Service as Area Intelligence Officer for Eurasia, Defense Intelligence Agency.; BG (ret) Jean-Paul Staub, Chairman, FMLM Association; (Possible: Dr. Dmitri Trenin (tentative), Director, the Carnegie Moscow Center, former officer at the Soviet External Relations Branch (SERB), Potsdam, the organization that interacted with the Tri-Missions on a daily basis.)
Dr. Trenin is a noted observer and commentator on US-Russian affairs, LTC (Ret.) of the Soviet/Russian Army, former officer at the Soviet External Relations Branch (SERB), Potsdam, the organization that interacted with the Tri-Missions on a daily basis.
Wrap Up. Summary: all presenters and panelists available for questions and final comments.
Additional topics may be addressed based on speaker availability.