Richard “Jim” Laritz, SOA #1301, 81, passed away on 20 April, 2015, in Boise, ID. Jim enlisted in the Army in 1951 and served in combat in Korea earning several valorous awards. After Korea he volunteered for the newly formed 10th Special Forces Group and served with the 10th and 77th SFG’s until 1957. He went to Officer Candidate School in 1959 and returned to the 10th Special Forces Group, Detachment A, Berlin Brigade. In 1963 he joined the 5th SFG and went to Vietnam until 1966. He served with the JCRC in Thailand from 1970 to 1973. He was an advisor to the 19th SFG in Salt Lake City from 1979 to 1983. He had served 40 years when he retired in 1990. He held numerous awards and decorations including several Purple Hearts. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with Star, Ranger Tab and Army Aviator Wings. He retired to Idaho to be closer with his family. He purchased some land on the Snake River where he worked full time building ponds, planting trees and cultivating a beautiful oasis. He is survived by his wife, Kathy; sons, Rick, Brian and Kish; daughters, Kathrin, Patricia and Rochelle. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren.
LTC Raymond Rau passed away 12 April 2015.
Charlie Corneilson representing Detachment-A, was present at the Interment of LTC Rau which was held at Arlington National Cemetery on 13 August 2015. Here is what he wrote:
Just back from the LTC Rau service at Arlington. His gravesite provides a good view of DC across the Potomac.
LTC Rau rated a horse drawn caisson with two riders and at least one outrider (I had to follow the procession in my vehicle so my view of the caisson procession was marginal/heavily blocked), a firing detail, a flag detail, a general escort platoon (minus) and a platoon (minus) sized band…all in all somewhere in the amount of sixty or so troops from the 3rd ID. The 3rd ID element was commanded by a CPT with several subordinate officers and senior NCOs assisting.
I tried to speak with the attending Chaplain to get the verses he read, but I was unsuccessful as he departed immediately for another service (sorry). He delivered a very convincing homily that touched on the voluntary service given by LTC Rau that was exceptionally above what is to be expected from most men and how LTC Rau had more than earned the right to be at Arlington.
The band played a hymn (unrecognized, but familiar to me) at the casket caisson transfer ceremony and ‘America The Beautiful’ at the actual graveside ceremony. The bugler that played ‘Taps’ performed it in the most cleanly dignified and spine-tingling manner I have ever heard (I have performed this myself once in an emergency in years past…this Bugler was an outstanding musician with the proper military soul for the moment). The flag detail performed all actions with unforced dignity…with purpose, but slowly…appearing almost reluctant to remove the flag from the casket and LTC Rau (with none of the BS snap/flash/’disco slides’ that had been previously observed in recent years).
I can not stress enough how respectfully and dignified this was all collectively performed. I have been to a number of Arlington ceremonies over the last few years and though all have been professional and dignified, there was nothing perfunctory about this ceremony like some have ‘almost’ seemed to be.
Clearly this was a ceremony of demonstrated honor that we can all be proud of one ours receiving.
Weather could not have been nicer…sunny, very light breeze, temp in the upper 70’s and most rare of all for this time of year for DC…no humidity.
I spoke with Mrs. Rau at the following reception held at the Fort Meyer Officers Club, identifying myself as an unofficial Det A rep. She really brightened at that and spoke at some length as to how much LTC Rau enjoyed that assignment and that he had continued to talk about the Det guys years after he left the unit. She sends her regards to the Det members and wishes you to convey that to all.
To the best of my knowledge, I was the only Det guy present.
One other SF guy was there (readily identified by the SF unit crest lapel pins which we both wore). He and LTC Rau were in the same ROTC class in college and were subsequently Ranger School buddies and ongoing, lifelong friends. I did not get his name fully but it was something like STOL IC or SKOLIC (sorry, too much background noise for my oversized but now bad ears and I had no opportunity to try and get it/write in down accurately). He was an officer and said that he entered SF in ’62, starting out in Panama. He was with B-52 in ’66…got there just as Beckwith was leaving. He also mentioned at some point in time having had an “A” camp about 25 klicks southwest of Danang (dates and exact camp UNK). He also worked at the schoolhouse at Bragg/MacKall (ran air ops training). He said he spent about nine years total in SF between the 5th, 7th, 8th, and Bragg schoolhouse. Still a formidable, hard, and very in-shape looking guy (I hope I look half that good in 15-20 years). He was visiting LTC Rau up to the very end. He drove up from San Antonio just for the Arlington service (that says a lot right there!).
As best as I can tell, we where the only SF reps present. Most everyone else was clearly a retired aviator, though there were several young serving officers of various Army branches present (LTs and CPTs)…family and family friends. One other guy of note…a former Infantry Platoon Leader, Company Commander and (I think also) Bn S-3 from the 173rd (Nam era) with extensive Ranger assignments that served somewhere/sometime with LTC Rau in Vietnam and became a subsequent life long family friend.
I did not start out to write a spot report, but I did wish to convey a bit of the ceremony and my writing got away from me. So be it…it is what I experienced today.
This was the absolute best military ceremony I have witnessed at Arlington or anywhere else, hands down (to very much include the funeral details I personally organized and ran for my SFA 65 stay-behinds at Tolz when I was last in 1-10 at Stuttgart).
Though I never served directly with LTC Rau, it was very much my pleasure and honor to represent my former team-mates and the many others that did.
COL Raymond Rau, former Commander of Detachment(A) Berlin period 1976, passed away on 12 April 2015. Ray had a distinguished military career as a US Army Officer. Decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Funeral services were held on 19 April 2015 in Woodland, Texas.
For full details click here.
Norman “Clyde” Felker, 82 passed away Thursday, July 31, 2014 at his home after a prolonged illness surrounded by his loving family.
Clyde was a well known and well respected member of Detachment “A” having served from 1968 through 1971.
Clyde was a U.S. Army veteran serving in the Korean War from 1952-1954. He reinlisted in 1962 and served in the Vietnam War from 1967-1968. Clyde was a 5th Special Forces Green Beret Paratrooper, having over 200 jumps and was a sharpshooter and demolitions expert. He was also a recipient of the Bronze Star. He ended his military career and retired in 1980 as a Recruiter.
Jon Sidney Roberts, age 77 of Brooklyn Park, passed away December 14th, 2015.
Jon served in Detachment(A) from 1958-1961.
The following is a link for additional information:
Lee Dickerson passed away on 20 March 2016. Lee is pictured below in the front row.
Martin Urich Passed away on 5 August 2016. Martin was 93 years old. He was one of the original members of Detachment(A) having served in the sixties and seventies and was an original member of the Decade Association in the Special Forces Association.
Martin was a Lodge Bill troop who joined Special Forces after having served in World War II. Martin participated in the largest tank battle of the war: Kursk.
Detachment(A) member SGM(Ret) Danny Lee Fowler, life and decade member of SFA, passed away on 2 May 2016. Danny was with Detachment(A) from 1974-1980.
Graveside service with honors will be held on Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 1:30 pm at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Memorial service will be on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 10:30 am at First United Methodist in Seguin.
Detachment (A) Berlin Special Forces 1956-1984
A thumbnail look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade
Compiled/Written by: Bob Charest Detachment(A) Team 1 Scuba, Detachment(A) Team 3 Team Sergeant (1969-1972) Detachment(A) Team 2 , Detachment(A) Commo Chief 1973-1978
In 1956, six modified Special Forces Operational “A” Detachments from the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed in Bad Tölz were relocated to West Berlin as the 7781 Army Unit (also known as 39th SFOD) and embedded within HQ and HQ Co., 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team was composed of one Master Sergeant and five enlisted team members. The overall OIC was MAJ Maltese and his XO, CAPT Barton. After several moves in 1958 the unit found its final home at Andrews Barracks, West Berlin, assigned to HHC, US Army Garrison, Berlin, with its new name – Detachment “A” (DET-A). DET(A) was a clandestine unit constantly on high alert status 24 hours a day. In 1962 DET(A) was separated from the Garrison and became Detachment(A), Berlin Brigade, US Army Europe, which it remained until deactivation in 1984.
Detachment (A) was a unique and diversified, unconventional classified unit. With staff, the unit numbers were approximately 90 men. Detachment(A) encompassed all the Special Forces missions over its existence: unconventional warfare, stay behind, direct action, and anti-terrorist. For example when I arrived in 1969, they operated under the cell concept. Then in the late sixties transitioned to six, 12-man “A” teams, each having its own mission requiring different and multiple skill sets including scuba, HALO, etc.
A certain breed of troop were instrumental in Detachment(A)’s missions. They brought in depth knowledge of other nations, language capabilities and other much needed skills and knowledge essential to Detachment(A). Some of these men were products of the Lodge Act, and many of these troops still had families behind the Iron Curtain. Men like Peter Astalos who served in the Romanian and German armies during World War II; Martin Urich who participated in the largest tank battle of World War II “Kursk”, and many more.
In later years during the Cold War another breed of men were joining the Special Forces originating from all over Europe. Men such as MG Sidney Shachnow born in Kaunas Lithuania, imprisoned for three years during World War II, joined Special Forces in 1962 and served for the next 32 years in Special Forces rising through the ranks to become a Two Star General. He was the Commander of Detachment(A) in the early 1970s. Hermann Adler, Team 3 Leader 71-72, born in the Sudentenland, Czechoslovakia.
After MG Shachnow’s departure from Detachment(A), his replacement was relieved of duty in front of our morning formation by the Berlin Brigade DBC. He was replaced along with several other key individuals who were not Special Forces qualified. Under their direction we were all put back in uniforms. Our Detachment(A) sign logo now had a big Airborne logo appended to it. We were assigned various duties to train the Infantry units of the Berlin Brigade, i.e., EIB training, Scout Swimmer, etc. Their NCO’s looked to us as cadre. These command changes had a detrimental impact on the unit and compromised DET(A)’s mission.
The unit then got a new commander. Colonel Stanley Olchovik, who was born in Czechoslovakia, was an accomplished linguist and had extensive Special Forces operational experience.
CSM Jeffrey Raker, another standout born in Germany, was also assigned to Detachment(A) . He volunteered for Special Forces in 1963, and rose up to Command Sergeant Major. He served as the Sergeant Major of Detachment(A) from 1977-1981.
Colonel Olchovik and Sergeant Major Raker restored Detachment(A) to its primary classified missions. Under their leadership the unit was able to regroup and achieve 100% language qualification, and hone its unconventional warfare and special operations skills. They set up training with the Bundesgrenzschutz GSG9, SAS, and Special Police units. SGM Raker selected and trained two individuals who made the reconnaissance to Iran to plan Operation Egle Claw – Iran Hostage Rescue Mission 1979. He then selected the Detachment that was to rescue the hostages held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CSM Raker served over 30 years in the Army.
It was men like these that made Detachment(A) what it was– a clandestine unit of Green Beret commandos on high alert 24 hours a day operating in the Cold War era.
Becoming a member of the unit required the potential candidate meet the highest of standards. Those standards were rigorously set and enforced. The slightest infractions were not tolerated. The members of this unit were selectively trained, language qualified SF soldiers, many former German and Eastern European immigrants who brought much needed culture, geographical and language skills to this assignment. They dressed in mostly civilian clothing purchased in both West and East Germany and carried if required, non-American flash documentation and identification. Their missions were always classified.
Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense.
For example, on Monday, it was the daily dozen plus a one-mile run. Tuesday, the same but a 2-mile run which progressed through Friday to a 5-mile run. Four times per month we performed a four-mile cross-country run through the Grunewald Forest. Another example, a month in Southern Germany where we trained for winter warfare, which consisted of both downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was a required skill for our various targets in Berlin. Some attended the CIA specialized demo course at Harvey Point, NC. We also conducted intense special internal demolitions by our demo personnel.
DET(A) participated in all the Flintlock exercises along with our sister unit 10th SFGP(ABN) located in Bad Tölz Germany in various ways sometimes as assets, Guerrilla Chief as well as participating in communication exercises. We would combine our Scuba training with 10th SFGP in Bad Tölz, Germany.
Each month, we conducted our airborne operations staging and flying out of Berlin Tempelhof AFB and jumping into Bad Tölz, Germany.
Some of the tools of the trade used were coal filled with C-4 for the earlier sabotage of the rail ring surrounding Berlin. One-shot cigarette-lighter guns also known as stingers, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines, noise suppressed weapons for elimination of specific targets. A myriad of weapons and vehicles were available. All of our scuba gear was German Dräger. This included a Dräger one-man portable decompression chamber.
Other tools included dual passports, or dual nationalities, GS ID cards for specific reasons. Diplomatic passports walk on water IDs for exploring boarder areas in all sectors. Vehicles utilized included both US and German registration. We used German weapons, i.e., Walther MPK 9mm that fit in a briefcase.
Area studies were conducted to gain a solid understanding of the culture, languages, history, geographical data, and target acquisition.
The status of forces agreement with the four powers occupying West Berlin specified no elite forces. However, the allies the British, Russians, and the U.S. etc., had their own elite forces.
We participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises and exclusive DET(A) city exercises in Berlin, which included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance, and in-city communications. DET(A) had a city course that we taught to the 10th SFGP personnel as well as SEAL Team Two from Crete.
DET(A) knew that the KGB had us under constant surveillance and possessed dossiers on all of us. Part of our city training was against the Soviets surveillance of us.
Unit members wore civilian clothes, spoke fluent German, and grooming standards were relaxed, i.e., long hair.
Bob Charest Example of Relaxed Grooming 1977
During the mid 70s our mission was changed to anti-terrorist, sniper, and swat combat in cities. We were the Delta Force of Europe.
In 1978 DET(A) was tasked by the CIA to dig up several mission support sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay behind operations and check the conditions of the equipment in them, i.e., weapons, demo, commo, medical, and to recommend replacements.
Detachment”A” was deactivated 1 October 1984 and the doors locked on 17 December 1984.