Missing section of Cold War spy tunnel unearthed in Germany

Part of the unearthed tunnelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A missing section of a secret tunnel, constructed by British and American intelligence agencies to spy on Soviet and East German government communications during the Cold War has been unearthed in Germany. The tunnel, believed to be nearly half a kilometer (1/3 mile) long, was part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operation GOLD, also known as Operation STOPWATCH in Britain. It was based on an idea initially suggested to the Americans in the early 1950s by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), which had carried out a similar scheme in Soviet-occupied Austria. The CIA adopted and funded the program at the cost of nearly $7 million. At its completion, the underground tunnel connected a secret entry-point in Rudow, West Berlin, to a location beneath Alt-Glienicke in East Berlin. The aim behind the project was to tap into underground telephone cables facilitating Soviet and East German military and civilian government communications. But the KGB, the Soviet Union’s foremost intelligence agency during the Cold War, was aware of the project almost from its infancy, thanks to George Blake, a British informant who was later convicted to 42 years in prison, but managed to escape to Moscow in 1966. Interestingly, the KGB did not reveal the tunnel’s existence to the Soviet and East German militaries, fearing that a sudden rerouting of communications cables would expose Blake as a Soviet mole. Instead, they allowed the tunnel to operate for nearly a year before publicly exposing its existence in 1956. At that time, Soviet and East German authorities dug up the eastern section of the tunnel and bussed in hundreds of international reporters, as well as tens of thousands of East Germans, to view the tunnel, in a massive propaganda campaign. In 1997, part of the tunnel that crossed West Berlin was excavated and transported to the Allied Museum in Berlin. But the fate of the section of the tunnel that crossed East Berlin remained unknown until last weekend, when Werner Sobolewski, a former employee of the East German military, stumbled across it while chopping wood at a forest in Paswalk, near the Polish border, 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of Berlin. It now appears that the East German authorities transported it there in the late 1950s, once they were finished showing it to the world. According to Allied Museum historian Bernd von Kostka, who spoke to Bloomberg, it was assumed that the eastern section of the tunnel had been “melted down because it was made of valuable metal”. There is no mention in Soviet and East German declassified files of the reasons why Moscow decided to reveal the existence of the tunnel in 1966. Western intelligence documents currently available to historians are equally cryptic about the operation.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

3 Responses to Missing section of Cold War spy tunnel unearthed in Germany

  1. T.H.E. Hill says:

    In addition to the chapter on the tunnel in “Battleground Berlin” by David E. Murphey, Sergei A. Kondrashev, and George Bailey, there is an academic study by Professor David Stafford entitled “Spies Beneath Berlin.” There is also a novel that fictionalizes the story of the tunnel by an ex-ASA-er: “Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary.” The three together create an very interesting picture of Operation GOLD, covername: PBJOINTLY.

  2. intelNews says:

    @T.H.E. Hill: Thanks for these great resources. I didn’t know abut the chapter in Murphey et. al. Will search for it. [JF]

  3. Chris W. says:

    Interesting to note the EuroDiscovery aired a segment on the tunnel on 21 Aug, 2011 that included several of the people thast built the tunnel, did the SigInt, that did the tunnel coverup and a Russian that was involved with the traitor.

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