JOHN HUNTLEY

Tucson, Arizona

Classified Document Control Officer

December 1960-May 1963 

 

I was stationed with the 280th/78th ASA in Berlin from December 1960 to May 1963. I was one of the multitude of "newbies" that came in in late 1960 as replacements for the many people shipped out of Berlin following the October 1960 security exposures caused by the soldier who was caught in the East and who gave up the names of many of the ASA people that he worked with. In fact, I pulled guard duty on this individual in Frankfurt while I was waiting for assignment to Berlin.

 

 I worked initially as a morse code intercept operator in the Grunewald forest site before being "temporarily" detailed to the classified document control center at Templehof. I spent the remainder of my enlistment in that center, running the control, distribution and destruction of all classified documents for the 280th and the later 78th, maintaining the Top Secret document repository for the entire group, running a daily courier run to all the "spook" outfits in Berlin to collect  their material to be added to our own product which was then shipped via armed courier to Frankfurt on a 365-days a year schedule.

 

I  provided the armed guards for this (the actual courier came off a duty roster of all E5's and above enlisted personnel, officer personnel if the material was classified Top Secret) and the courier and guard traveled on the nightly duty train to Frankfurt. Other classified  material was carried back from Frankfurt to Berlin on the next night train. I was in Berlin for the Cuban missile crisis and the building of the wall and the resultant crisis in Berlin.

 

 I was involved in a smaller crisis when the Berlin duty train was blockaded by a Russian tank across the tracks inside East Germany on Thanksgiving of 1961. An East German civilian, trying to escape to the West, had jumped onto the train inside East Germany but was spotted doing so. The train was stopped and blocked for 3 days while the East Germans, through the Russian military, demanded we turn the civilian over to them which we finally did.  Total US armaments on the train were two MP's, my guard and the courier, each armed with a single 45 automatic pistol. The courier and guard had 400 pounds of classified tapes and documents and no means of destroying the material. Permission was requested, via radio, to seize the steam engine, which was the property of the East German railroad (the passenger cars were the property of the US army), to use the firebox to destroy the classified material. Permission was denied by higher authority who did not want to create an incident. Thanksgiving dinner was C rations for the entire train.

 

Following my separation from the military I married a German girl and returned to the US to go back to college and begin a family. I worked for over 40 years as an engineer and manager for IBM before retiring in 2005 and have lived in Tucson, Arizona for the last 28 years. I have returned to Germany many times over the years  both  to  vacation  and  for  work.   Berlin  is, of course, an entirely different city than it was during the early '60's when I referred to Berlin as the worlds biggest small town. Now it is a regular large city; busy, noisy, dirty and unfriendly. But at least I have my memories.

 

 
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