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Excellent history stories from proud veterans

With the Police Intelligence Section,
Provost Marshal Office, Berlin Brigade

The following article was submitted by Chief Warrant Officer 3 (Retired),


Steven served on active duty for 20 years as a special agent for the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID),
then became a DOD civilian GS-12 CID supervisory special agent for another 10 years of civil service.

edit work & photo layout by Reinhard v. Bronewski

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In the late 1960s I was assigned duties as the NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer-in-Charge) of the then newly created Police Intelligence Section, Provost Marshal Office (PMO) of the Berlin Brigade.

The Intelligence Section was to support the provost marshal (LTC Russell E. Parmenter) in his monitoring of civil disturbances in Berlin, with its chief purpose intended to monitoring, reporting and analysis of dissident activities and potential dissident threats against US Forces personnel and installations in Berlin, which threatened to undermine the safety and security of the Berlin command.

The officer charged with setting up the Intelligence Section was Deputy Provost Marshal (DPM), MAJ Robert L. Owens. It was he who selected me for this position. Prior to his assignment as the DPM, MAJ Owens had been a lead instructor in a program known by the acronym SEADOC, which was commissioned to assist chiefs of police, senior police officers, National Guard commanders, army officers (down to major), ways to better prepare law enforcement agencies to deal with the violent radical and anti-war riots. Before becoming lead instructor in SEADOC, MAJ Owens was chief counter insurgency instructor. He was assigned to the Berlin Brigade on the request of the Berlin Commandant, who visited Fort Gordon to get guidance as to how to handle violence in Berlin. Bob (MAJ Owens) was a professional in every way. He often took an active part in gathering intelligence during violent demonstrations and attending subversive meetings. Noteworthy is that Bob's first assignment to Berlin was as an enlisted man in October of 1947 (a year before I was born) where he was an MP with Co B., 759th MP Battalion, Roosevelt Barracks on Gardeschuetzenweg. Bob and I are still in contact with one another.

Of course I felt honored having been chosen for this job, but I was young, na´ve and lacked experience in intelligence operations, which evoked feelings of anxiety that I couldn't properly accomplish the mission. Since the Intelligence Section was new to the operations of the PMO, there was very little in the way of written doctrine for me to use as a guide to set up operations and get underway toward accomplishing this mission; but in MAJ Owens I had a caring and determined teacher as good as they come. Little did I realize then that this was to be but the beginning of what would become a lasting and much rewarding career in criminal investigation, much of which was focused on terrorism counter action.

The Intelligence Section was called into being during the height of the anti Vietnam War demonstrations around the world, including in Berlin. The radical left was openly critical of the US-led war in Vietnam, when at the time B-52s were carpet-bombing the Vietnamese countryside. During the nearly weekly massive antiwar demonstrations, protestors expressed their anti-US sentiments through propaganda campaigns, and later by physical attacks against US Army, its soldiers and even dependents. Starting in the late 1960s, radicalism grew from widespread civil disobedience to fanatical acts of violence in 1972 when terrorists of the left-wing German Baader-Meinhof-Gang, later the self-proclaimed Red Army Faction (RAF), exploded bombs killing US soldiers in Heidelberg and Frankfurt, and then launched a murder spree of German politicians and business leaders.

The day-to-day duties of the Police Intelligence Section included compiling and cataloging information from German police reports, US intelligence reports, local newspapers and other sources. Points of interest ranged from bars and trouble spots to subversive groups and individuals. This part of the job was at times boring, but an important component when considering the whole of the intent and purpose of the Intelligence Section.

In addition to the routine office work, the job also required that I and those assisting me worked long hours and many weekends out "on the street" infiltrating radical elements to gain information. Covert activities included attending subversive meetings by radical groups that openly encouraged hostility against the USA. The militants made it their goal to revolutionize otherwise peaceful protest rallies into violent demonstrations culminating in running battles with the Berlin police. Predictably, these acts of violence resulted in physical injuries of protestors, passersby and police forces.

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MAJ Robert Owens                                      LTC Russell Parmenter

The Intelligence Section would deploy numerous teams (2-3 men per team) to mingle with the activists with the basic mission to move with the riot mass and look for, e.g. damages inflicted, identify the various groups, size of the groups, license numbers, etc. After the event the teams adjourned to the PMO where a comprehensive report chronicled the teams' observations. The report was staffed through the Chief of Staff of the Berlin Brigade to the Commanding General.

It is understood that when violence-seeking radicals meet head-on with police formations people inevitably get hurt. These were also the peak intense periods during demonstrations where surveillance team members with an imprudent curiosity in getting the job done stood a very good chance of being acquainted with the business end of the legendary "Schlagstock", the dreaded German police truncheon made of pliable hard rubber, of which the riot police made liberal use of. I was slow to react one time, and became personally acquainted with the Schlagstock. It hurt!

I remember one occasion when I was at the Henry Ford auditorium of the Free University in Berlin to attend a talk given, among other radicals, by a member of the Black Panther movement. He was invited to address the German radical SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and spoke about tactics used by radicals in the United States when fighting with the police. I remember some tense moments during this two-hour lecture when selected undercover police operatives were exposed and in a not nice way asked to leave the premises. Of course this could just have been a ruse to make unwanted visitors (like me) feel unwelcome. I was not exposed.

On my departure the mission of the Police Intelligence Section was assumed by the CIA. As MAJ Owens had observed in the mid 1960s while teaching counter insurgency operations at the US Army Military Police School, the military police intelligence shaded differently than civil police and military intelligence. Yes, we wanted criminal information but we needed to get into dissidents, terrorists, guerilla activities. Regular police intelligence was not geared for the higher levels of insurgent warfare and traditional military intelligence was not geared for this gray area, either. He saw the military police as being well adapted to this nebulous area in between crime and full scale war. The insurgency operations as we witness them today in Iraq clearly validate his observations of some 40 years ago.

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My time in Berlin was rewarding in so many respects, for which I am forever grateful. Over the years I have often traveled to Berlin for business or personal trips, and will continue to do so for as long as my health permits and God willing. I have several very dear friends now retired from the Berlin police, as well as close friends who were stationed with me at the PMO and CID in Berlin, with whom I remain in contact.

I consider Berlin my home just as sure as San Francisco is my home. I love the "Berliners" and the mentality of the well known "Berliner Schnauze" and am very happy to quote from a song, "Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin" about man who "still has a suitcase in Berlin". I will always have several suitcases in Berlin.

Thank you, Reinhard, for this website and giving me this opportunity to add to your Honor Page with what I hope is an interesting snapshot of my time as a "Berlin soldier". I enjoy reading the entries in the guestbook and the interesting information and stories of personal experiences by former "Berlin soldiers".