Spook tour: How it all began
In 1962, my orders said to proceed from the Army Language School (German) to a detachment of the 513th MI Group stationed inside the British Zone of Occupation in Lüdenscheid, West Germany. From Rhine-Main AFB, I went by train to Iserlohn, West Germany, detrained with my luggage, and waited on the curb for my ride to Lüdenscheid to come.
Soon, a white VW screeched to a halt. The driver, a huge man in a suit and tie, looking like a Sumo wrestler, told me to throw my bags in the back and we took off like a bat out of hell through a series of hair-raising steep turns leading down the hills from Iserlohn to Lüdenscheid. During the breakneck drive, none of my many questions were answered. The driver (later, I learned his nickname was "Kill") showed his ID to a Belgian MP guarding the gate to a military barracks (kaserne). Stopping in front of large sandstone headquarters, he told me to climb the steps and to enter the building.
Entering the massive door, I was seized by two large Belgian MPs, dragged down a set of stairs, and thrown into a dungeon-like cell where I remained bewilderingly all alone for an hour. Next, I was taken to an interrogation cell where I met M. Van Den Plas who, in French-accented English, said he was in charge of Belgian counterintelligence and that I was suspected of being a covert agent of the USSR.
M. Van Den Plas dismissed my U.S. government passport and my U.S. Intelligence Corps credentials as clever forgeries. M. Van Den Plas (who looked like the actor, David Niven) kept throwing accusatory questions at me to which I responded with only my name, period. After an hour, I was locked back in my cell, only to overhear M. Van Den Plas tell the guards, in Flemish, to prepare a firing squad for dawn. Flemish is close enough to German that I got the gist of what he was saying. Gulp!
Considering that by then I had traveled all the way from California to W. Germany with no proper sleep, my brain was starting to shut down and I am thinking this Belgian nightmare might even be real and this might be my Waterloo. But, just then, there was a commotion on the steps leading down into the dungeon.
Several men in suits and ties were coming down the stone steps singing: "For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow." This whole bizarre episode was a huge practical joke designed to test my temperament and judgment under stress and fatigue. And so, I met the Special Agents of the Special Security Team (SST) who would be my colleagues for the next 18 months. M. Van Den Plas and I became the best of friends.
Mr. Price, my assigned partner, took me over to the Belgian Officers’ Club which was a hotel, bar, and restaurant all in one. The O Club was almost new, built for the Belgians as a war reparation. When I got to my assigned quarters, I slept like there was no tomorrow. But there were many tomorrows that led to a very interesting tour of duty in West Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
©2022. William Hamilton. www.central-view.com