Die Atombomben der Bundesrepublik: An Oral History of Germany's Nuclear Weapons Program

Let me guess that they will acquire some conventional rounds and externally modify them to look like, say, training rounds? Then if the theft is discovered its "just" an accounting error? Should nicely help to hide the theft as well because no one will be examining the rounds in storage that often or in such detail as to open one up?
 
Let me guess that they will acquire some conventional rounds and externally modify them to look like, say, training rounds? Then if the theft is discovered its "just" an accounting error? Should nicely help to hide the theft as well because no one will be examining the rounds in storage that often or in such detail as to open one up?
Nuclear weapons have to be extensively maintained and checked to make sure that they work, so eventually such a swap out would be discovered. That's not to say that swapping them out wouldn't buy you a good deal of time to squirrel them out of West Germany.
 
Nuclear weapons have to be extensively maintained and checked to make sure that they work, so eventually such a swap out would be discovered. That's not to say that swapping them out wouldn't buy you a good deal of time to squirrel them out of West Germany.
So simply swap the nukes for conventional rounds with no modifications done. At face value it still remains an accounting error, with the added bonus that every ammo storage facility, whether or not they are listed as storing 203mm rounds, will need to be thoroughly searched in an effort to find the missing nukes. That search will take a long time and will, naturally, be fruitless. Then the West have a problem to solve - what really happened? Which, given the passage of time, is likely to be a question never answered, as indicated by the whole theme of this wonderful thread. Oh there will doubtless be several theories and perhaps they might even come close to the truth but will they really want to make any of this loss public? It's going to be a very closely kept secret, which over the years will fade from the collective memory as the personnel move on. All of which adds a level of security to the German stockpile.
 

Nick P

Donor
So simply swap the nukes for conventional rounds with no modifications done. At face value it still remains an accounting error, with the added bonus that every ammo storage facility, whether or not they are listed as storing 203mm rounds, will need to be thoroughly searched in an effort to find the missing nukes. That search will take a long time and will, naturally, be fruitless. Then the West have a problem to solve - what really happened? Which, given the passage of time, is likely to be a question never answered, as indicated by the whole theme of this wonderful thread. Oh there will doubtless be several theories and perhaps they might even come close to the truth but will they really want to make any of this loss public? It's going to be a very closely kept secret, which over the years will fade from the collective memory as the personnel move on. All of which adds a level of security to the German stockpile.
Ah, no. They won't be searching for the missing nukes. That would give the game away. Embarrassing to admit publicly that you've lost weapons capable of destroying a small town.

It would have to be a stocktake of at least all the artillery rounds in the inventory. Total NATO stock check - looking at dates of manufacture etc. It would be easy to hide any missing nukes by making a big fuss over the disappearance of several anti-tank missiles or a couple of trucks or a warehouse of duff rifle rounds. A few courts-martial will look good for the press.
 
Clearly no one will be told what they are looking for but a very few people will be in the know and reviewing the returns of the stocktake to try to spot the missing weapons. When they don't show up they either assume the stocktake has been carried out incompetently but can't really do anything about it, otherwise the secret would be out. Or they assume someone has stolen them. Institutionally, they will be far more likely to go with the former explanation than the later and hope that, one day, the missing weapons will be found somewhere. They'll be waiting a long time and as the years pass, those in the know will become disassociated with the secret and assume that the weapons were found after they moved on. Eventually, (within 5 years?), everyone in the West who was involved will be away from the secret and it will simply be forgotten about.

Oh sure, eventually some aging ex-serviceman might speak to the media but will most likely be dismissed as just another conspiracy nut.

Maybe the Ossies even find out who the Westerners are who are in the know and can arrange some accidents to stop any potential word of the affair slipping out from that side of the curtain? If they do this, then after reunification, no German Chancellor is ever going to let it be known that they know about these accidents and kept quiet about it, it would be political suicide, so the secret will remain kept from the German side.

The main problem will be a German Vanunu letting the secret out - but again, paint him as just another conspiracy nut and you're still safe?
 
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Now I'd love a snippet of the officers in the American armed forces reacting to the missing nukes
I'd imagine some enlisted technician first finds the discrepancy, boots it up to his sergeant, who quickly boots it up the chain of command until it gets to a general who clamps down on the distribution of the knowledge of it all happening. Except while this is happening, possibly every enlisted and non-commissioned in the original unit hears about it, so there's a fair number of folks in need of silencing. Then there will be the (2 or 3?) relatively senior officers overseeing the stocktake who are in the loop. Probably somewhere around 30-40 people or so in total, assuming the original unit is a specialist one numbering less than a platoon in size? Even if the knowledge can be kept to only those within that unit who were at the storage site on the day of the discovery, it's still likely to be 20 or so.

This would be an Empty Quiver incident:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_nuclear_incident_terminology
 
So simply swap the nukes for conventional rounds with no modifications done. At face value it still remains an accounting error, with the added bonus that every ammo storage facility, whether or not they are listed as storing 203mm rounds, will need to be thoroughly searched in an effort to find the missing nukes. That search will take a long time and will, naturally, be fruitless. Then the West have a problem to solve - what really happened? Which, given the passage of time, is likely to be a question never answered, as indicated by the whole theme of this wonderful thread. Oh there will doubtless be several theories and perhaps they might even come close to the truth but will they really want to make any of this loss public? It's going to be a very closely kept secret, which over the years will fade from the collective memory as the personnel move on. All of which adds a level of security to the German stockpile.
A couple of things that make this implausible:

1) From all of my research, actual special weapons seem to have been kept in bunkers and were never actually forward deployed. Artillery units kept their own dummy rounds on hand separate from the real warheads. This link gives a lot of detail. I also assume that periodic inventories are kept. Plus, special weapons are stenciled and marked as such, which would make the mixup of a dozen warheads a fuckup of almost unthinkable levels of catastrophic stupidity. They're going to know that the weapons were swapped out.

2) You are right that this is not going to be publicized; it will be kept quiet, even from the West Germans. With the way events will unfold, the US Army is going to quickly figure out that with the level of sophistication involved, it was not some Red Army Faction or Islamic Jihad bums who swiped them-it was a nation state with considerable resources. That's all I'll say without giving too much away.
 
Reading back into this story, the warheads are stored at a secret naval facility in Rostock. Candidate storage location here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@54.1789243,12.1280635,39a,35y,90h,39.65t/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

or possibly in the basement, (a secretly extended boiler room perhaps), of one of these buildings, which look like they might be barracks, which would be good cover for people accessing the facility:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@54.1799145,12.1265874,233a,35y,39.47t/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en
 
The previous post also made me think a little bit about this topic, where to hide secret depot bunker?


I did a little research with Google Earth, the Helicopter pad in this version dates back to 1990/91 and not before, probably last changes in 1996/97.

The GDR has their own experience with secure buildings and there are a least three different countries, from whose experience they can learn, the three countries are USSR, Iraq and Nazi Germany:

  • The Soviet ideas about masking bunkers were ingenious. Thus, a nuclear war bunker for the leadership of the Estonian SSR was located under a rural vocational secondary school. Hence a secret bunker under a administrative building or maritime school is a possibility. And when they are prepared to disregard the Geneva Convention - under a hospital, especially under radiology department. Other possibility is in some prison complex.
  • Covert movement of large numbers of people is difficult, the simplest solution is to dissolve the movement into smaller patches in different times - In Moscow there was a secret bunker staffed 24/7, the staff at any moment was about 200, the normal lenght of a shift was 8 hours and so the first shift of 6 to 7 peoples arrived at 8 o'clock, the next shift 15 minutes later and so on for next 24 hours and there was a special clue: the entrance was hidden in a bath building.
  • Security against trespassers can be counterproductive to security against spy planes and satellites. One of the easiest ways for NATO imaginary analysts to find soviet ICBMS was to follow local roads, what were straight, had curves with great radius and ended in a area, what was surrounded by several consentric circles of barbed wire. A secure location must be somewhere, where you can use armed guards, heavy doors and/or other security measures without suspicion.
  • Iraq had method for masking secret part of industrial complex - building inside a building. German companies did build in the 1980-s a bunker complex or bunker-palace for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis did get military help from both sides of Cold War, e.g weapons handling building of British origin.
  • Nazi Germany was there before communists and there are certainly ideas and objects, that can be adapted.
  • One of the most effective possibilities is the separation of a part from an existing bunker - no heavy earthworks and no need to hide the building process of the object from spy planes and from ground based intelligence.

I look forward, to see how it is going to be solved.
 

Nick P

Donor
The previous post also made me think a little bit about this topic, where to hide secret depot bunker?


I did a little research with Google Earth, the Helicopter pad in this version dates back to 1990/91 and not before, probably last changes in 1996/97.

The GDR has their own experience with secure buildings and there are a least three different countries, from whose experience they can learn, the three countries are USSR, Iraq and Nazi Germany:

  • The Soviet ideas about masking bunkers were ingenious. Thus, a nuclear war bunker for the leadership of the Estonian SSR was located under a rural vocational secondary school. Hence a secret bunker under a administrative building or maritime school is a possibility. And when they are prepared to disregard the Geneva Convention - under a hospital, especially under radiology department. Other possibility is in some prison complex.
  • Covert movement of large numbers of people is difficult, the simplest solution is to dissolve the movement into smaller patches in different times - In Moscow there was a secret bunker staffed 24/7, the staff at any moment was about 200, the normal lenght of a shift was 8 hours and so the first shift of 6 to 7 peoples arrived at 8 o'clock, the next shift 15 minutes later and so on for next 24 hours and there was a special clue: the entrance was hidden in a bath building.
  • Security against trespassers can be counterproductive to security against spy planes and satellites. One of the easiest ways for NATO imaginary analysts to find soviet ICBMS was to follow local roads, what were straight, had curves with great radius and ended in a area, what was surrounded by several consentric circles of barbed wire. A secure location must be somewhere, where you can use armed guards, heavy doors and/or other security measures without suspicion.
  • Iraq had method for masking secret part of industrial complex - building inside a building. German companies did build in the 1980-s a bunker complex or bunker-palace for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis did get military help from both sides of Cold War, e.g weapons handling building of British origin.
  • Nazi Germany was there before communists and there are certainly ideas and objects, that can be adapted.
  • One of the most effective possibilities is the separation of a part from an existing bunker - no heavy earthworks and no need to hide the building process of the object from spy planes and from ground based intelligence.

I look forward, to see how it is going to be solved.
I had a tour of the Latvian Party Leaders Bunker some years ago. It's under a countryside spa hotel and rehab centre - ideal for hiding movements of large numbers of staff and VIP visits. "Where's the Deputy Secretary? He's gone to the Pensionat for a break."
http://coldwarsites.net/country/latvia/secret-nuclear-bunker-ligatne/

I've also been to the DDR main bunker at Wandlitz - It was highly visible from the air because of the empty field in the woods, surrounded by 3 clear lines of fencing. The barrack blocks next door were also a clue.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/HONECKER+BUNKER+5001/@52.778078,13.539411,829m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47a9b1fd532d6a23:0x1aead7a0bc19c85f!8m2!3d52.7804414!4d13.5423708?hl=en

Harnekop is interesting - it wasn't known to NATO until after the Wall came down. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harnekop_Nuclear_Bunker But when you look at the aerial view the line of fencing is visible in the woods.
http://coldwarsites.net/country/germany/harnekop-nuclear-bunker-north-of-berlin/
 
Die Schildkröte Und Der Hase
"So, what were the two serious options?" asked the Chancellor

"Grossman had assigned two different teams to come up with plans for getting access to a NATO nuclear warhead. These were die schildkröte und der hase (the tortoise and the hare). Hare had the hardest job-they looked at stealing the weapons in transit; they eventually proposed sabotaging a US Air Force helicopter in transit carrying larger air dropped weapons for maintenance, and making it look like a crash. The weapons would be recovered from the crash site and make their way back to the DDR. This was not entirely unfeasable-getting access to a US Air Force helicopter was a magnitude of order easier than the US Air Force storage facilities. Grossman simply thought it would look too fishy for the weapons to disappear. NATO would immediately suspect a state actor-probably the KGB and or us had been in on it. Plus, you'd have to reengineer the bombs afterwards into smaller weapons. More infrastructure, more people, more hard currency.....it never got serious traction as an idea. More practicably, hare looked at using subterfuge to actually get operatives into and out of a NATO nuclear weapons storage facility under forged orders/pretenses. For various reasons, the plan eventually boiled down to pulling a switch of two air dropped Mark 61 nuclear bombs during a drill on forged orders at a dual key airfield-whereas the US Army facilities were off limits to Germans, the shared nuclear weapons airbases were obviously not. It had a few advantages; NATO would truly just believe there had been a screwup in handling the weapons, there was a lot less luck involved. Still, it was required a lot of ground work and might take years to pull off; it still had a ton of moving parts. Hare was not so fast and carried too much risk."

"So, 'Tortoise' was the runaway winner?"

"Oh, yes. Grossman and Wolf always liked slow and steady. Less chance of discovery, less moving parts, and all the inside knowledge you needed was to know which bunker the weapons you wanted were stored in. The plan, at heart, was brutally simple. Dig a very long tunnel under one of NATO's Sonderwaffenlagers and make away with the bombs in the middle of the night, all the while making it look like it was the work of the Afrikaners or the Pakistanis. The engineering and subterfuge within the bunker eventually became much more complicated, but it was relatively cheap, quiet, and didn't require a lot of intelligence gathering or infiltration."
 
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Oh I like the tunnel idea very much. Very much indeed. This is basically a bank heist but with nukes rather than cash/gold the prize, so not out of the bounds of possibility at all. Ingenious.

The geology of each bunker complex can be assessed beforehand to help select the one with the easiest ground to tunnel through and a location that would explain the spoil from the tunnel as it appears on the surface. A building of some sort near the bunker would be a good cover for the tunnel entrance. Perhaps there's a quarry near one of the sites, or a dense forest where the spoil can be discretely dispersed? The bunker floor - would it be any more than 200mm or so of reinforced concrete? An easy thing to cut through in a weekend.

Presumably the work rota at the selected complex will be studied in the greatest detail, with a window for the break-in/theft being chosen for a time when the period between the bunker doors being opened is at it's greatest - at a weekend? Christmas-time might be good! The only thing that might cause a problem is if there are unscheduled "snap" inspections, initiated by higher command to check that the unit on site is up to the mark. An observer watching the complex with binoculars from afar should be able to provide adequate warning in the hopefully unlikely event of something unexpected happening though, so not really a big problem?

I think the Pakistanis would be better "culprits", they'd be much more difficult for a Western intelligence agency to penetrate than the more western South Africans. Although if clues could be left pointing to both, well, who can say which of the "real" culprits is trying to frame the other? An empty packet of South African cigarettes and a crumpled note in Urdu discovered in the tunnel should be sufficient. Clumsy and obvious? Yes, of course - but as long as they have the desired effect...
 
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Nick P

Donor
I had a tour around the weapons storage area at the former USAF Bentwaters a couple of years ago. Very secure complex, lots of guards and high visibility sight lines everywhere.
One part was the nuclear store. It had a huge safe inside a concrete cell in the centre of one bunker that was for storing either nuclear cores or the fuses. This was separate from the actual weapons. Without these the weapons would be useless (though a good scientist would be able to replace them).

I have the strongest impression that the floor below would be rather more than 200mm deep. I also wonder about motion sensors inside but if you have jets buzzing past every few minutes then it would be pretty pointless.

This guy has better pics than I took - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnyb558/32723257793/
 
Oh I like the tunnel idea very much. Very much indeed. This is basically a bank heist but with nukes rather than cash/gold the prize, so not out of the bounds of possibility at all. Ingenious.

The geology of each bunker complex can be assessed beforehand to help select the one with the easiest ground to tunnel through and a location that would explain the spoil from the tunnel as it appears on the surface. A building of some sort near the bunker would be a good cover for the tunnel entrance. Perhaps there's a quarry near one of the sites, or a dense forest where the spoil can be discretely dispersed? The bunker floor - would it be any more than 200mm or so of reinforced concrete? An easy thing to cut through in a weekend.

Presumably the work rota at the selected complex will be studied in the greatest detail, with a window for the break-in/theft being chosen for a time when the period between the bunker doors being opened is at it's greatest - at a weekend? Christmas-time might be good! The only thing that might cause a problem is if there are unscheduled "snap" inspections, initiated by higher command to check that the unit on site is up to the mark. An observer watching the complex with binoculars from afar should be able to provide adequate warning in the hopefully unlikely event of something unexpected happening though, so not really a big problem?

I think the Pakistanis would be better "culprits", they'd be much more difficult for a Western intelligence agency to penetrate than the more western South Africans. Although if clues could be left pointing to both, well, who can say which of the "real" culprits is trying to frame the other? An empty packet of South African cigarettes and a crumpled note in Urdu discovered in the tunnel should be sufficient. Clumsy and obvious? Yes, of course - but as long as they have the desired effect...
Glad you approve. I think it would appeal to the East Germans because a) it is fundamentally just an engineering problem*, b) it almost doesn't matter how good/bad the guards are, this way you don't have to deal with them, c) it keeps the intelligence you need to know to a minimum-at most you need to corrupt one guy or so. Basically, this a relatively simple thing to pull off. Yes, it is going to be a very long tunnel, but a tunnel is a tunnel. I've already thought of the cover for getting the dirt out. I would think that finding a quiet few spots to dump it would not overly tax the Stasi that much.

*and Germans are good at engineering problems, so long as they don't involve airports in Berlin.....
 
In the absence of motion sensors, it doesn't really matter how thick the floor is. All but the last 150mm or so can be cut out prior to the final breakthrough. There might be significant reinforcement to cut through but again, as long as what is left of the floor is still sufficiently stable, no one above will know that most of the floor slab has been removed.

Edit: Who built the bunkers? If there was a civilian contractor involved, perhaps the Stasi could get hold of the plans or get information from one of the site workers?
 
In the absence of motion sensors, it doesn't really matter how thick the floor is. All but the last 150mm or so can be cut out prior to the final breakthrough. There might be significant reinforcement to cut through but again, as long as what is left of the floor is still sufficiently stable, no one above will know that most of the floor slab has been removed.

Edit: Who built the bunkers? If there was a civilian contractor involved, perhaps the Stasi could get hold of the plans or get information from one of the site workers?
I'm going to assume that they have NATO and West Germany penetrated enough so that a lot of the information would be obtainable. Funnily enough, the East Germans atually built the Soviet nuclear bunkers before turning them over; I'll assume a West German contractor did the NATO ones. There are indeed motion detectors-around the perimeter of the bases, a tunnel avoids those. It takes until 1984 for the Army to adopt the very high tech WADS system for the interior of the bunkers.
 
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