The priceless, Mr. Price
In the early 1960s, U.S. Army Special Security Teams (SSTs) provided counter-intelligence, counter-sabotage, and counter-espionage protection to the U.S. nuclear weapons storage sites in West Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. The Soviets were desperate to get their hands on one of our nuclear weapons or even on a diagram showing how they worked
My Intel partner, Bob Price, was a street-savvy New Yorker who looked like the actor, William Holden. We lived in a Belgian Officers Club in West Germany. Belgian officers speak French. Bob spoke French. I spoke German, and enough French. Perfect team.
We spent most of our time traveling northern Germany and the Netherlands in our European-cut suits, long hair, pointy-toed shoes, and shoulder-holstered .38s, staying in hotels, haunting bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, watching for signs of the East German Intelligence Service (Stasi), the KGB, or the anti-nuke movement (Atom Gegner) making any moves against our nuclear weapons storage sites. We gave the "impression" our day job was servicing American-made office machines.
Whenever we visited a U.S. nuclear storage site, we were greeted warmly by the GIs and usually invited to lunch. We came in "out of the semi-cold."
During one mess hall lunch, the captain in charge said they could not open the safe in his Orderly Room that contained the papers he needed to order more food supplies for the unit. He asked, "Could one of you Spooks open my safe?"
Mr. Price gave me the signal to meet in the latrine where he whispered, "Call our clerk back in the office. Ask him to read you the factory combination for the standard-issue U.S. Army safe and slip it to me."
After lunch, we invited everyone over to the Orderly Room to watch Mr. Price work his magic. Mr. Price asked for a towel to be spread on the floor in front of the safe. He asked for a pair of latex gloves. With everyone but the armed guards outside crowded into the Orderly Room, Mr. Price knelt on the towel, donned the latex gloves, and put his ear to the combination lock dial. He asked for absolute silence as he began to spin the combination dial left and right.
Little did they know that Mr. Price had just memorized the factory combination setting for the standard U.S. Army office safe. After several minutes of purposely applying some wrong combinations, Mr. Price dialed in the factory combination. The door to the safe popped open. Viola!
Treated to a great round of applause, Mr. Price stood up and took a bow. The captain retrieved his paperwork. And everyone breathed a sigh of relief that next weeks rations could be ordered.
We were heroes that day. Little did those GIs know that back "in the semi-cold," we would be violating many of their personal rights with our Nanny-state over watch of whom they met when they went out on pass. Especially, any females we suspected were working for the Stasi or the KGB. Our little SST was determined that none of "our" GIs would fall into a Soviet Honey Trap. We never gave a thought to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
©2022. William Hamilton.