Bruno von Haas received this picture from Becky Closen that she found among Frank Closen’s belongings. Bruno remembered this design very well. There was a group of Det “A” ers, who got together and thought about having their own FLASH for Detachment “A” back in the fall of 1979. Nick Brokhausen designed the FLASH and somehow Frank became the recipient, and this has been in darkness I guess until Becky resurrected it from on old belongings box of Franks. It amazes me on how things seem to phoenix, out of nowhere, and present themselves.
This is now been incorporated to on our Detachment”A” web site’s header and as another artifact of our history.
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Bob Charest served in Vietnam and with Special Forces Detachment A conducting the urban unconventional warfare missions in Berlin in the event that the Soviets ever invaded. In this episode we discuss Bob’s career bouncing between Vietnam, Thailand, and Berlin where he served in Project Sigma (which became MACV-SOG) where he did cross border ops into Cambodia, working for the CIA in Thailand, and doing clandestine sabotage ops in Berlin with Det A.
Checkpoint Charlie The Cold War, The Berlin Wall, and the Most Dangerous Place On Earth By Iain MacGregor published by Simon & Schuster will be available October, 2019.
Bob Charest and James Stejskal provided input to this book.
About this Book
A powerful, fascinating, and groundbreaking history of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous military gate on the border of East and West Berlin where the United States confronted the USSR during the Cold War.
East Germany committed a billion dollars to the creation of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s, an eleven-foot-high barrier that consisted of seventy-nine miles of fencing, 300 watchtowers, 250 guard dog runs, twenty bunkers, and was operated around the clock by guards who shot to kill. Over the next twenty-eight years, at least five thousand people attempted to smash through it, swim across it, tunnel under it, or fly over it.
In November 1989, the East German leadership buckled in the face of a civil revolt that culminated in half a million East Berliners demanding an end to the ban on free movement. The world’s media flocked to capture the moment which, perhaps more than any other, signaled the end of the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie had been the epicenter of global conflict for nearly three decades.
As the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall approaches in 2019, Iain MacGregor captures the essence of the mistrust, oppression, paranoia, and fear that gripped the world throughout this period. Checkpoint Charlie is about the nerve-wracking confrontation between the West and USSR, highlighting such important global figures as Eisenhower, Stalin, JFK, Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Zedung, Nixon, Reagan, and other politicians of the period. He also includes never-before-heard interviews with the men who built and dismantled the Wall; children who crossed it; relatives and friends who lost loved ones trying to escape over it; military policemen and soldiers who guarded the checkpoints; CIA, MI6, and Stasi operatives who oversaw operations across its borders; politicians whose ambitions shaped it; journalists who recorded its story; and many more whose living memories contributed to the full story of Checkpoint Charlie.
We Are the Mighty author Logan Nye has published an article dated 14 August 2018 entitled The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion.
Ballad of Green Beret Auf Deutsch
Aus den Wolken springt der Tod,
Zwoelf Green Berets im Morgenrot
Unterdrueckte zu befrein
Ziehn sie in den Kampf hinein.
Halten dort ein streng’s Gericht,
Fuerchten Tod und Teufel nicht.
Dschihadisten’s feige Brut
Zahlt den Preis mit ihrem Blut.
Wenn auch ein mancher faellt dabei,
Denn die Freiheit ist nicht frei,
In der Heimat warten schon
Die junge Witwe und ihr Sohn.
Eines Tag’s gewinnt auch er
Das Barrett, das Helden ehrt;
Denn wo das Sternenbanner fliegt
Steh’n Green Berets, stets unbesiegt.
Lyrics by Jeffrey H. Raker, CSM USA Special Forces (Ret)
When Bob Charest realized that Detachment (A)’s history was fading away into the historical dust bin, he started an effort to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold. With this most important goal at stake, and with the knowledge of how important this unit and its members were to the Special Forces history he began an endeavor that took years of hard work and dedication to accomplish the one goal in his mind: to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold; to finally bring about the recognition that was so richly deserved to the Detachment(A) unit and its members. He could not let this unit fade away.
He began by organizing Detachment(A) functions – Detachment”A” members were scattered all over the world. They started out very small but grew each year and have become very successful.
He then created a new Detachment(A) web site and domain, dedicated exclusively to Detachment(A). In conjunction with this, he wrote and published the article “A Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade in 2012. Then things just took off. He continued organizing and hosting Detachment(A) functions with increased numbers and success.
The Thumbnail Look at Detachment(A) Berlin Brigade was circulating for some time, and the Special Forces Association(SFA) got hold of it and published the article in the 2013 Winter edition of the Drop Magazine.
Bob also worked with the SFA and was able to obtain a section dedicated to Detachment(A) in the Drop Magazine.
The Detachment(A) functions continued to grow with members getting together to share stories about serving in Detachment(A). These functions were gatherings of the Detachment”A” folks, and the format and motto was simple: come as you are, pay as you go, BYOB and no agendas and no politics. Jeff Raker told him never change this format.
Bob organized several projects to continue to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold which were all team efforts including representation of Det-A in the JFK Museum, collecting Det-A artifacts, and managing the project that brought Jimmy Spoo’s Memorial Stone idea to fruition. He made it a team effort which allowed all Detachment(A) members to contribute to the Memorial Stone, which they generously did. He coordinated with SFA to manage the contributions. The project was fast and furious, collecting all the money that was needed and then some. All monies over the necessary funds were donated to the Green Beret Foundation.
The Detachment (A) Memorial Stone Dedication Ceremony was hosted by LTG Charles Cleveland, Commanding General for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) on 30 January 2014.
The Memorial Stone ceremony was covered by the local copy press and was also televised. It was a major success and a real team effort.
Bob then continued his efforts and wrote another article for the VFW Magazine entitled: “In the Eye of the Cold War Hurricane, Detachment A Berlin Brigade” which was published in the November/December 2014 issue.
It was at one of the Detachment(A) functions that James “Styk” Stejskal indicated that he would like to write a book about Berlin Special Forces.
In the meantime, to keep the momentum going with the goal to bring Detachment(A) in from the cold, Bob worked with WeAreTheMighty.com and published the article: This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War. The article was published on 1 February 2015.
Another article was then published by WeAreTheMighty.com which featured Detachment(A): The 6 most-secret units in military history which was published on 14 June 2015 followed up with a video.
Bob also worked with two highly established authors and writers who wanted to write books about Detachment(A). These two projects were put on hold because fellow Detachment(A) member James Stejskal’s book was still in progress and Bob did not want to interfere with his efforts until his book was published.
Bob continued his efforts and worked with NEWSREP’s reporter Jack Murphy from NEWSREP.com who published a short article about Detachment(A) entitled: Detachment A: the Cold War Sabotage Experts of Special Forces published on 27 April 2016.
Jack was a guest at the September 2016 Det-A function. He interviewed Detachment(A) members for a follow-up article which was published on NEWSREP.com in a 4-part series dated from 07 February 2017 – 10 February 2017.:
Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces Missions from Berlin to Iran
Part 1: Detachment A: Clandestine Special Forces missions in post Hitler’s Berlin published 6 Feb 2017
Parr 2: Detachment A: Green Berets play cat and mouse with communist agents published 7 February 2017
Part 3: Detachment A: counter-terrorism and Operation Eagle Claw published 8 February 2017
Part 4: Detachment A: Final missions, the wall comes down, and the end of an era published 10 February 2017
Jack conducted in depth interviews with Det(A) members and the articles he published were outstanding. Jack has been instrumental in bringing to light Det(A)’s legacy to the public with his professional writings.
All of these articles are posted on the Detachment(A) website.
Jim’s book entitled Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 was published 17 February 2017.
Our function in Fayetteville NC in memory of Jeffrey Raker in June of 2017 featured a Detachment(A) formation at the Memorial Stone. This was probably be the last formal formation of Detachment(A).
We also now have a biography in the making. There were interviews conducted at the function. We have two teams of biographers as well as the military professionals.
WeAreTheMighty.com published another series of articles about Detachment’A”:
“The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion” authored by Logan Nye and published on 14 August 2018.
“Top-tier special operators of the Cold War worry about modern ‘soft skills’ ” authored by Logan Nye and published an article on 29 August 2018 entitled .
“A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations” authored by Blake Stilwell and published an article dated 23 August 2018 entitled
For many years, and at many functions, Jeff Raker has spoken about Bob Charest bringing Detachment-A in from the cold. At the September 2016 function, he honored Bob Charest by recognizing all the projects and efforts Bob has done for Detachment-A. He presented a thank you card signed by the Detachment(A) members and here is what he said:
“I am not modest in what I’m going to say right now. One reason we are all here; one reason Det-A, after all those years Detachment-A got put on the map. One reason there’s a marker at headquarters, with Detachment-A on it, is because one individual, he did have some help, but one individual went all out and made sure we didn’t die. That individual is here, and because of that individual, we are all here. And Bob if you will be so kind and stand up – with this card that we all signed thanking you for keeping us together, thanks Bob.”
For Bob, this was the ultimate honor, one he will never forget, from Detachment(A) members and from one of the best Special Forces soldiers he has ever served with, and a very special friend.
Our biographers Barry Duplantis and Mark Valley were searching the freedom of information act data base have come up with a copy of DET A OPLAN “Strangle”. The documents came to light though James’s research as detailed in his book, SF Berlin.
Earlier this year, Gil called Bob Charest and discussed a concept and idea he had for making of a Detachment “A” plaque. Bob said ‘go for it’. Gil came up with the concept and design, hired a woodcarver to construct the plaque, and funded it. Gil put a lot of thought, time and effort into this plaque.
Gil wanted an ‘eagle’ cane for Detachment ”A”. Eagle Canes are a tradition in many states. Woodcarvers/artists hand craft each custom cane and donate it to the veteran; in support of our veterans. Maine shares in this tradition and Gil hired George and Donna Gunning, of Windsor ME. They carve each eagle cane individually to specifications and donate it to any veteran who has honorably served, no matter how long they served.
Gil wanted the eagle cane to be focal point feature of the plaque.
The woodcarvers did their research about Detachment “A”. They read the articles posted on our web site and as they learned more about Detachment “A” they became very enthusiastic about the unit and the project.
The overall plaque design consisted of: the eagle cane mounted on the plaque, Detachment A” items, US Army items and a large area for Detachment “A” members to sign their name and dates they served in Detachment ”A”.
Gil collected all the items he wanted on the plaque then created a mock-up where each item would appear on the plaque. The entire project took about 4 months. There was a lot of collaboration and iterations – Gil was very particular on what he wanted.
Gil’s Detachment “A” Plaque Description
The actual wooden plaque is 4 feet long and 2 feet high. It weighs 40 pounds. It will be positioned at a 20 degree angle for proper viewing. Gil described each component of the plaque as follows:
The most distinguishing feature of this artifact is the Eagle Cane. The cane has an intricate Bald Eagle’s Head carved and painted into the handle representing the national symbol of freedom and independence. The shaft of the cane consists of the American Flag, the Army Branch of Service emblem, a burned etching of “Detachment ”A” with dates of existence 1956-1984, and the Berlin Occupation Medal.
On the left side there is a burned-in wooden block etched with MG Sidney Shachnow’s name, as he is the best known Commander of Detachment “A”. In the center there is another larger burned-in wooden block containing the Special Forces Crest, SF Shoulder Patch, American and German Wings, and two Detachment “A” coins one coin for the Head and one for the Tails which were Gil’s own coins. The head consisting of a parachute, represents the infiltration into Berlin by Detachment “A” members led by MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret). The tail consisting of a broken wall represents the exfiltration of Detachment “A” out of Berlin as LTC Piasecki(Ret) was the officer in charge of the final 10 days to clear out, sanitize and clean the station. On the right side of plaque there is another burned -in wooden block etched with LTC Eugene Piasecki’s name.
The far right side of the plaque contains the Taps List with those departed members of Detachment “A”. It is positioned under base of the cane. Gil expressed its significance to be that whenever the base of a cane touches the ground it serves as a reminder of our honored comrades and brothers who are no longer with us, and to honor them and never forget them.
The original taps list was sent out for reformatting and printing. It was originally printed on plain white paper. The owner wanted to know about the ‘Taps List’. When Gil explained it to her she ordered it to be re-printed on parchment and refused to accept any payment.
On the back of the plaque Gil wrote: “Donated by Gil Turcotte, SGM(Ret) 2017”.
The rest of the plaque is reserved for Detachment “A” member signatures and certain dignitaries. Each member signs their name along with time served in Detachment “A”.
Detachment “A” Plaque Signing
Gil arrived on Wednesday to the 2017 Detachment “A” function in honor of Jeff Raker with the plaque.
Gil designated that the first signature and the location of the signature at the top of the bald eagle’s head be reserved for Bob Charest. Gil wanted Bob to have this distinction of being the first to sign because he ‘brought Detachment “A” in from the cold” and “made it prominent by bringing long due recognition for the unit”. Bob was honored as the first Detachment “A” member to sign the plaque at the head of the eagle.
Members present on Wednesday also signed the plaque including John Lee, Chris Feudo, Rick Westbrook, Steve Bright, Lee Fondas, and Eugene Piasecki who signed under the block containing his name.
On Thursday after MG Jim Guest’s speech, Gil had CSM Jeff Raker’s son Jeff to sign the plaque on his father’s behalf and in his honor.
Gill then caught up with our distinguished guest speaker MG James Guest’s(Ret) former Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command and obtained his signature.
Gil continued collecting signatures from all Detachment “A” members present at our function. He also signed for some members with their permission, who were unable to attend, including Daryl Katz, Peter Gould and Doug Curry.
On Friday, right before our ceremony, Gil got MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) to sign the plaque under the block containing his name.
Our June 2017 function in honor of Jeff Raker, included the presentation of the plaque. At the conclusion of our ceremony after MG Shachnow’s speech, Bob Charest called on Gil Turcotte who then presented the plaque to MG Sidney Shachnow(Ret) who then donated it to the JFK Museum on behalf of Detachment “A”.
About the Cane Woodcarvers
At the far right bottom corner of the plaque contains the woodcarver’s names George and Donna Gunning, Windsor ME, 2017. They did not want to put their logo because they thought it might detract from the plaque but Gil convinced them to place it on the plaque. They have produced 3,800 canes for Maine veterans at no cost to the veterans. Donations are accepted to keep the tradition going. Gil presented them with an autographed copy of Styk’s book Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 as a gift, along with a donation for their work.