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

"No, I'm not talking about those nuclear weapons. I'm talking about our nuclear weapons."
  • It was going to be a whirlwind of a week for her, as the newly elected Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Her schedule was crammed with meetings and briefings; as she looked at her calendar to prepare for the day, most of what she could see was predictably routine. Meetings with the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, a press conference after a working lunch, followed by a briefing from the Defense Ministry, followed by....a "Special Security Issues" meeting with an Admiral from the Bundesmarine...and only that Admiral. She quietly wondered what the hell that was going to cover. She'd end the day with party meetings, followed by a political dinner. A long day indeed.

    The first meetings were mostly what she'd expected. She wasn't surprised that the government finances weren't quite what the opposition had indicated, and she wasn't exactly looking forward to that mini summit with the Russian President either. The Defense Minsitry's briefing wasn't exactly news to her; she'd served as the shadow to the Defense Minister four years ago; she'd had intense discussions about increasing the Bundeswehr's strength by a full division in light of greater European tensions, and there were discussions about replacing the older Tornado strike aircraft with the chief of the Luftwaffe. Soon the meeting was running over, and the three others left, leaving her with the Admiral in charge of the fleet.

    He spoke: "So, you're wondering what the hell the next briefing is about, every Chancellor always does. Although the meeting is listed as taking place with me, you're actually going to be briefed by Konteradmiral Schmidt. For the purposes of public record, the meeting concerns political and military intelligence about Russian intentions towards NATO and the Federal Republic. Here's a summary you're going to have to read anyways. That's not what the meeting is about."

    Another man entered the room. "Gerhard here is going to tell you what the meeting is actually about; we'll talk about reintroducing fixed wing strike fighter capability to the Bundesmarine's air arm next week."

    The senior admiral left the room. Her interest was piqued.

    "So what the devil is all this about. It takes up a full hour of my schedule on the first day, so it must be important, complex, or interesting."

    "Chancellor, I'm here to brief you on the procedures surrounding the Federal Republic's special weapons capabilities."

    "You mean what happens if NATO were ever to have to use the B61 gravity bombs stored in the hardened aircraft shelters at Buchel airbase?"

    She quietly felt disappointed. She'd expected something more intriguing than this."

    "No, I'm not talking about those nuclear weapons. I'm talking about our nuclear weapons."

    Her jaw dropped. Expectations exceeded.

    "You're telling me that the Federal Republic built nuclear weapons, and neither Washington nor Moscow knows about them. How the hell....."

    "You're mistaken Chancellor, the Federal Republic never had a nuclear weapons program. Erich Honecker did. We inherited them. Kohl made the decision to keep them around."

    "Well, how the hell did the Ossis get the bomb....?"

    "Chancellor, that's what the hour is for. Every chancellor always wants to hear the story....."
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    Project Stachelschwein
  • The Admiral began "If you've ever wondered why neither Erich Honecker or Markus Wolf ever spent a single day in prison, this is the answer. The Bundesrepublik's current nuclear arsenal was basically born in 1968 amidst the events of the Prague Spring. Back then Erich Honecker was the Socialist Unity Party's secretary for security issues. As events in Czechoslovakia unfolded, Honecker watched as factions in Prague slowly manipulated Moscow into taking action. Although he applauded the removal of the reformers, a few things occurred to him. First, very soon, he was probably going to end up in charge of running East Germany; the day was coming when Walter Ulbricht, a Stalinist fossil, was going to be canned. He'd fallen out of favor with Moscow, and the Kremlin had more than quietly let it be known that he was their preferred successor. Secondly, if Moscow could be manipulated by internal factions into getting rid of Alexander Dubcek and the reformers, the day might come when the Kremlin decided it was time to get rid of him. Finally, he'd watched when once upon a time the USSR sold out their occupation zone of Austria to the capitalists; he had no desire to see the same happen to the socialist fatherland."

    Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany

    The Chancellor said "So Honecker wanted the bomb as a bargaining chip and as an ace in the hole for the day when the shit hit the fan, no"? As Chancellor, she could quietly see the appeal. No German wanted to relive the horrors of the Red Army's arrival in Berlin in 1945. At the same time, although highly unlikely, the day might come when an American President or NATO could not be relied upon to provide the necessary security for the Federal Republic. Although the shock was still there, she was already processing the implications of being the world's 10th nuclear weapons state.

    The Admiral answered "Should such a crisis ever arrive, Honecker would detonate a nuclear weapon in an abandoned mine in the Ore Mountains, and Moscow, Washington, and Bonn would have something entirely new to think about."

    He continued "At about the same time, there were rumblings that India and South Africa were embarking on programs to develop their own nuclear weapons. Israel already had the bomb by 1966. Honecker figured that if Israel could do it, the DDR could as well. The know how and resources were there, and if there were issues....well, there was nothing that the Ministry of State Security couldn't procure eventually.

    So, with that in mind, as a preliminary step Honecker summoned Markus Wolf, East Germany's spymaster, to a one on one meeting soon after he came to power in 1971. He asked Wolf to direct an in house expert at the HVA, the foreign intelligence arm of the Stasi, to write a secret briefing paper detailing a) how Israel had gotten the bomb, and b) how West Germany would go about building an atomic weapons program. In the short term, this would give Honecker some preliminary details and cost assessments for a nuclear weapons program for the GDR without arousing too much suspicion or running too many risks. Moscow would shit bricks at the mere thought of either Germany having atomic arms at their own disposal."

    The Chancellor asked "You mention that Markus Wolf managed to avoid prison. He must have rather quickly put two and two together, no?"

    Markus Wolf, East German Spymaster

    The Admiral handed her a thick file "Everyone always wants to read the file too. Markus Wolf was nobody's fool. Later on, Wolf wrote that Honecker seemed a bit too...excited about what should have been a routine request for information. Wolf decided to keep the whole thing secret from his big Stasi boss, Mielke. And so formally began what became known as Project Stachelschwein."
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    Comrade General Secretary, it's much easier to build a nuclear bomb if you cheat...
  • The Admiral continued "Three months later, Wolf and Colonel Wolfgang Becker, the head of the atomic weapons section of the HVA's Sector for Science and Technology (Sektor Wissenschaft und Technik) delivered their findings to Honecker. The summary of the report is in the file. They first discussed the West German capability to produce atomic arms. Becker found that on a pure technical level, the Federal Republic could likely produce an atomic weapon. By mid 1971, West Germany had amassed a significant amount of civilian nuclear technology, and had been operating nuclear reactors for some time. Facilities such as the Obrigheim reactor complex could serve as the key building blocks towards an atomic weapons program. However, Wolf also stated that it would be almost technically impossible for the West Germans to build the infrastructure necessary to either enrich uranium or to reprocess plutonium into weapons grade material without it being noticed by Washington and London. He added
    that it would certainly be impossible to hide such a program from the DDR's intelligence apparatus."

    Kahl Nuclear Reactor, West Germany

    Chancellor said "...and that doesn't even broach the massive shitstorm of domestic political consequences such a program would have brought upon any government went down that road. NATO's dual key system was plenty good enough for the Brandt government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Okay, what did they report about how Israel had gotten their bomb?"

    "Becker then stated that yes, Israel had indeed managed to obtain nuclear weapons. The big difference between Israel and a theoretical West German program was that the Israelis had gotten a lot of help. For example, the French had supplied the nuclear reactors at Dimona, the British special chemicals for reprocessing as well as fissile samples and heavy water, yellowcake uranium came from Argentina. The French were probably selling uranium to the Israelis as late as 1965. A large section of the West, particularly the French governments of the era, felt that Israel should get the bomb to prevent another Holocaust. President Kennedy tried to intervene in 1963, but by then the cake was baked. In other words, the West more or less either openly aided or turned a blind eye to Israel's ambitions. That's the direct opposite about how they would feel about a West German program."

    Dimona Nuclear Reactor Complex

    "Okay, Admiral. I think I knew most of that. But I'm sensing that's not the end of the report, is it?"

    "No, and here's where our story gets interesting. The Israelis obviously eventually built the infrastructure to be able to manufacture atomic weapons on their own. At the same time, they apparently took a massive shortcut to build their very first nuclear devices. The hardest part of any nuclear weapons program is obtaining a sufficient amount of fissile material to build a bomb. As Wolf said: "Comrade General Secretary, it's much easier to build a nuclear bomb if you cheat and skip this step, especially for an advanced nation state." The Israelis probably put together their first two devices by outright stealing at least 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a facility in Pennsylvania. Becker explained that the actual bombs themselves, although quite sophisticated, are much easier and less costly to build than the infrastructure necessary for obtaining fissile material."

    "I think I might see where this is going, but what happened next?"

    "Honecker asked Wolf and Becker if the West Germans could secretly build a bomb if they were to obtain the necessary fissile material, by say, stealing a nuclear warhead from a NATO stockpile. The answer was that it was probably difficult but possible that the West Germans could do so in secret on a very limited basis from the rest of NATO. Wolf added that he was doubtful that they could conduct such a project without the HVA knowing what was going on. After adding some qualifiers as to the insanity of such an act, Becker was dismissed. Honecker had another fact finding request for Wolf. I'll quote Wolf again: "Just how secure are NATO's nuclear materials and nuclear warheads in Western Europe, as compared to what was known about the same facilities and depots operated by our fraternal Soviet socialist brothers?"
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    The Edges of The Puzzle
  • The Chancellor leaned back in her chair and "Obviously the whole West German angle was a fig leaf, right?"

    The Admiral replied "Exactly. Washington watched everything the Federal Republic did closely, but the Russians, well they were obsessive paranoids on a whole other level. No way in hell could they ever run a top to bottom nuclear weapons program on their own without Moscow noticing. Honecker would have ended up in a gulag in a week."

    "But if the biggest job is already done for you, concealing the rest would be doable without Moscow noticing if you did it slowly and carefully, ja?"

    "Correct. After hearing the story of the Israelis diverting the enriched uranium, Honecker is basically asking Wolf how the DDR would go about stealing a limited number of warheads from a depot somewhere...and the interesting is that Wolf already knows some fairly large pieces of the puzzle. So he starts laying out the known borders of the jigsaw puzzle."

    "So when he makes his report in.....he knows.......?"

    "December 1971...that the idea of purloining a dozen warheads from a Soviet facility is a no go. Wolf's report takes four pages to say this the long way. The Soviets built five enormous nuclear storage bunkers in the GDR; the artillery shells and the missile warheads were stored at Stolzenhain and Lychen; the air delivered ones at the airfields at Brand, Finsterwalde, and Rechlin. Every single one of them a fortress guarded by much better than average security troops. Even if you're successful, the KGB and the Red Army would tear apart the Warsaw Pact until they found the damned things. Plus it would not take a lot of brain capacity to take a guess at who had the capabilities to steal them either. Later on, there would be a cursory look at stealing them out of a bunker in Poland; particularly the one at Podborsko in Pomerania, but that was quickly discarded. In any event, the Russians did not always keep the warheads fully forward deployed at all times; this changed in the early '80s, but in the era of detente, the Soviets largely opted to keep their warheads stashed in the Motherland. They could always be moved forward in an emergency."

    "On the other hand....."

    "Yes, on the other hand there's NATO which has most definitely forward deployed several thousand warheads in Western Europe; mostly in West Germany. That's already strangely enough a better starting point for Wolf for a few reasons. Firstly, you don't have a half a million paranoid Soviet eyes watching over you. There's a fair amount more freedom from the KGB to do things. Secondly, because you have NATO and the West German establishment thoroughly penetrated, you actually know more. A lot more. For example, the HVA knew a lot of things, but the design plans for Soviet nuclear warheads were not one of them. On the other hand, the HVA did had the designs for the B61 nuclear bombs and the W33 nuclear artillery shells. Along with specifications for some of the storage depots and bunkers where they're stored. There were some knowledge gaps, but he could see a path to those. Also, Wolf's HVA has a lot of experience moving things and people in and out of West Germany by now; the logistics are easier than trying to sneak things in from Poland or Czechoslovakia. Finally, the troops guarding the bunkers in West Germany are-well, you're largely dealing with the demoralized Vietnam era and post-Vietnam era US Army and Air Force. Morale is bad, and the Ordanance Corps isn't exactly attracting the cream of the crop either. In other words, stealing NATO atomic weapons is something that Markus Wolf thought was within the realm of possibility. He spends the next six pages walking Honecker through the known security vulnerabilities of NATO's atomic arms storage."

    "So you're saying that.....unsere atombomben are.....American? They never advertised that fact or suspected they ended up in....."

    "Rostock, the 12 warheads are stored at a secret facility the East German Navy built in Rostock. And Wolf hadn't actually settled on stealing them out of a US Army depot yet....."
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    ....for a brief window of time East Germany could steal a functioning nuke that they could use off the shelf
  • ".....although he is already mighty tempted for one other reason." the Admiral continued.

    "Why is that?"

    "Because Wolf knows that not all of those weapons are equipped with Permissive Action Links, devices which stop unauthorized usage of nuclear weapons. Wolf knew that the United States would not finish modifying all of their forward deployed warheads with PALs until 1974-1975. In other words, he knew that for a brief window of time East Germany could potentially grab a functioning nuke that they could more or less use off the shelf. That would allow the DDR to keep their initial nuclear weapons program very, very small indeed. Remember, the most important constraint isn't money, resources, or time-it was keeping the Russians in the dark. The smaller the flashlight you need to get the job done, the better."

    The Chancellor asked "So, he's clearly eyeing the atomic storage bunkers. Well, what other options did he have for getting the fissile material were there?"

    "Wolf was cautious and stayed within his initial remit of nuclear storage bunkers and nuclear facilities. Beyond the Sonderwaffenlagers in both Germanies, there are the plants and facilities that produce fissile materials for Soviet and NATO nuclear weapons production. The main Soviet facility at Mayak/Ozyorsk was a nonstarter. It's a closed city near Chelyabinsk, and Wolf judged his chances of getting fissile material from it as basically nil. Not without a huge and risky very long term operation. That left the British facility at Sellafield and the French complex at Marcoule. Wolf's intelligence sources in Britain were hit and miss; the British nuclear industry was a total black hole for the HVA. That left the French; as their nuclear industry was tightly tied into Germany's through Euratom, information flowed fairly freely to East Berlin. Wolf also had some sources within France, who when asked said that while French information security could be spotty, the physical security aspects around Marcoule were extremely tight. After the Apollo Affair in Pennsylvania, security got even tighter concerning fissile material. Wolf believed that Marcoule was a dead end."

    "...and the United States?" inquired the Chancellor?

    "For all of Wolf's successes in Western Europe, he never was able to crack into North America in a big way. He'd have to build an intelligence network from scratch to acquire nuclear material and get it back across the Iron Curtain. The juice simply is not worth the squeeze for him. Not when you have several thousand nukes sitting squarely within your operational wheelhouse."

    "So that leaves us back at pulling a heist from one of those nuclear storage depots, right?"

    "Well, that's all that there was for him to explore within his initial charge; to go any farther, he was going to have to get a hunting license from Honecker...."
    Of Geologists, Physicists, and Sparrows
  • "That brings us to the end of '71, correct?" inquired the Chancellor.

    "That's correct. At this stage, Wolf brings in one of his highly talented proteges, Werner Grossman, and informs him of General Secretary Honecker's concerns about nuclear proliferation and the security of atomic arms and materials. Wolf orders Grossman to plumb the HVA's files on four topics to see what's already available-the Stasi were the world's most incredible pack rats. They collected more data than they could ever really process. Anyways, Wolf gives Grossman the charge of collating all existing data concerning a) NATO's policies, procedures, and experience with dealing with lost nuclear weapons, b) information concerning how NATO moves their tactical nuclear warheads within Western Europe , c) the recruitment status of any individuals with physical access to NATO storage depots, NATO airbases, or NATO artillery units, d) updated files on assets relevant to the area of nuclear weapons. Grossman is also tasked with recruiting a clean physicist with a nuclear technology background who is not already an asset of the Stasi. Outside of Grossman, Wolf also requests a question and answer session with the HVA's geology expert concerning West Germany. You note that none of this touches on acquiring warheads or materials from the Russians, He writes in his notes that he was convinced by this point that that barring a Soviet aircraft losing a nuclear armed aircraft at the correct time and place, it was practically impossible to grab a Russian warhead or fissile material."

    "So, Wolf's trying to fill in his knowledge gaps beyond his initial orders from Honecker without arousing any suspicion from the Russians so that when the ask does come that he can lay out two to three options that could work? Right?"

    "Something like that. Grossman reports back on the US Air Force's various misadventures with SAC bombers that have crashed. Among other incidents, they lost a B-47 in 1956 with a pair of thermonuclear bombs they never recovered, there's a lost nuke sitting in a swamp in North Carolina lost off a B-52, and most famously, the Palomeres crash off the coast of Spain. In that case, the Air Force recovered all four bombs, two of which exploded, spreading radioactivity over a patch of Andalusia. Their record recovering their "Broken Arrows" is decidedly mixed. Secondly, Grossman tells Wolf that unlike the Soviets, the Americans tend to move nukes around using helicopters. They're more afraid of terrorism than the chance of a helicopter crash; their Russian comrades have the inverse problem. As far as agent recruitment, the HVA's existing assets in the Luftwaffe and Bundeswehr are insufficient to open locked doors or provide physical materials. Nuclear storage facilities have not, as until now, been a high priority recruitment focus. That can change in a hurry. He did go on to note that there would be a new class of what their Soviet friends referred to as 'Sparrows' coming available in another month or two. Finally, Grossman also identifies four to five agents who might have illuminating supporting information useful to their research task at hand. Wolf wrote that he felt prepared for his meeting with Honecker on January 21st, 1972."

    The Chancellor spoke "...an historic meeting?"

    "Oh, yes."
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    Promotional Artwork

  • My photo editing skills are terrible. This is the best MS Paint and I can pull off. And if you're wondering, Honecker is indeed fondling a W33 warhead mated to a 203mm shell.
    The Hunting License
  • "When I said that Wolf had to go and get a hunting permit, I actually meant that literally" the Admiral said.

    The Chancellor had a confused look on her face.

    "Hunting game was generally forbidden within the DDR; one had to have special written permission. Such rules generally didn't apply to the party brass, but Wolf wasn't quite yet at the Politburo level where they could dispense with the formalities, so Wolf had to fill out the paperwork to hunt on state lands with Honecker in January."

    "Hunting? In the middle of...January?"

    "First off, Honecker was obsessed with hunting, the man shot anything that moved. Secondly, ostensibly they were hunting rabbits, which don't hibernate."

    "Go on." indicated the Chancellor

    "On January 21st, 1972, Honecker and Wolf go hunting on state lands in Brandenburg-then the East German bezirk of Potsdam. After twenty minutes of discussing relatively routine intelligence reports concerning the West Germans-this is indeed the beginnings of Ostpolitik in the early 1970s, remember? Anyways, Honnecker suddenly starts talking about the threat posed by NATO's huge atomic arsenal, the disturbing developments going on in the West German nuclear industry, and the the nuclear arms race. And then Wolf remembers the next bit of Honecker's talk. You should read it word for word, Chancellor."

    The Admiral grabbed the file and turned it to the relevant page. The photocopy was highlighted

    The DDR stands on the frontline of the struggle between capitalism and socialism more than any other communist nation of the Warsaw Pact. We have thousands of nuclear warheads stationed within miles of the Inner German Border. Of course the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal exists to defend socialism from the current threat posed by the West. However, NATO may one day have the capability to inflict a first strike which decapitates the Soviet politburo out of the blue, leaving the Warsaw Pact defenseless from the West. It is therefore necessary that the German Democratic Republic obtain a limited nuclear arsenal as a failsafe against the threat posed to our socialist fatherland and our fraternal allies from the imperialists of NATO. In principle, it is is no different from the limited arsenals held by the United Kingdom and France to guard against an attack against the leadership of the United States. This must, of course, be done in secret outside of our existing nuclear program. If discovered, such an effort would have enormous international implications, and our Soviet comrades may misconstrue our intentions-they are not always capable of logical thought when it concerns Germany-even socialist Germany.

    "Honecker then went on to direct Wolf to have Comrade Grossman assemble a small group to present a feasibility study for covertly obtaining the necessary fissile material for an arsenal of ten to twenty tactical nuclear warheads in the 10-50 kiloton range. A preliminary report was to be made to the General Secretary in four to six months. Four would be better." the Admiral said.
    You Can Fit Two Nukes Into The Trunk of A Mercedes.....
  • "The next day, Wolf has a meeting with Grossman where he lays out what Honecker has requested, and it turns out that Grossman's already thinking ahead of him. Read."

    I turned to Comrade Wolf and said "Fissile material for 10-20 medium yield tactical nuclear weapons. Stealing it from our side of Europe is practically impossible. Their Sonderwaffenlagers are guarded 24 hours a day. The Soviets don't trust technology like NATO does and they therefore have eyeballs on their bombs all the time-when they are forward deployed, which isn't the case right now. I've looked at the plans for their bunkers like the one at Stolzenhain, it can't be done. Stealing them in transit without the Soviets knowing is similarly almost impossible. We also don't have anyone in the Soviet atomic energy program or anyone in a fraternal socialist state that could help in a meaningful way, and we can't obtain it through our own domestic means. Unless you want to bring in the Luftstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee to make one of their strategic bombers fall out of the sky into the Baltic, it's not doable, and even then we'd have to re-engineer their bombs to suit our purposes. A complicated mess. Pass.

    That leaves NATO; we do have contacts in their nuclear industry, but for an arsenal of 10-20 weapons, arranging for that much fissile material to fall into our hands would take a decade or more. Plus, you then have to build the bombs, which is more complicated. That leaves the several thousand tactical nuclear warheads stationed in the Federal Republic and Western Europe. When I asked how hard it would be for the West Germans to re-engineer an existing NATO warhead, he indicated that for certain artillery shells, they require very little work; the air dropped weapons contain PALs for security, their artillery shells not so much. So, that's the best option; 10-20 nuclear artillery shells; our expert said that if he were the West Germans, he'd go for the 203mm W33 weapons, which have yields ranging from 5 to 40 kilotons. They're gun type weapons, which are basically the AK-47 of the nuclear weapons-simpler, easier to convert, and easier to maintain, and almost guaranteed to work. Plus, they're relatively small and light; you can fit two nukes into the trunk of a Mercedes sedan, which makes them easier to exfiltrate once we have acquired them.

    As for obtaining the weapons from NATO, I think it's doable. Don't get me wrong, they are well guarded, but they are only well guarded against certain types of theft. The security precautions NATO currently has in place are largely meant to deter theft by a terrorist group or unauthorized usage by their own forces; their security protocols are vulnerable to breach by a much more serious effort. When you asked me to look at the data, I talked with one of the experts who wrote the report on NATO nuclear weapons security, and he laid out two ideas for how he would do it, one of which dovetails better with our purposes. I'll bring him in to lay out both. We'll need to collect more intelligence to fill some knowledge gaps, it's manageable. I think we could ultimately keep the number of people who actually know that we're stealing the weapons down to less than 20, maybe 15 if we're lucky. Plus, I think we might even be able to make it look like someone else grabbed the bombs. I assume we have a blank check for this, Markus....?"

    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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  • Sorry for the long blackout. Between the holidays and my terminally ill mother being in and out of hospital more than is usual for a few procedures, I've had my hands full. Things have finally stabilized, and there will be an update tomorrow. It's the beginning phases of 'The West German Job'. I have figured out what to do post-heist with this thing though....sorta. I'm also having a debate as to whether to move this more from a secret history timeline to a significantly noticeable POD in November 1983 (bonus points if you can figure out from that date what it involves). I may do a branching TL (Timeline A and B) and do both.

    Also, here's a funny story about an infamous Trabant speed trap from Paul Gleye's Behind The Wall: An American In East Germany 1988-1989,

    speed trap.PNG
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    Operation Schildkröte
  • "...and so with that, Operation Schildkröte began. Various departments of Wolf's HVA began working on projects that would enable the theft of nuclear warheads from the US Army. The technical services department was assigned the challenge of silently getting through meters of reinforced concrete, the illegals department ordered to position agents to purchase property to dig from, the department which dealt with Romeos found an entire class of students aimed at the various US Army sondenwaffenlagers in Southern Germany, another department the task of exfiltrating the shells back into the DDR from the Rhine River Valley area. It took about two months before the Romeos finally seduced not one, but two members of the 59th Ordinance Brigade, which handled the US Army's tactical nuclear weapons in West Germany. A poor army sergeant fell prey to an alluring HVA fraulein, and within a few weeks with the help of a few drugs slipped into his system and a very good Stasi interrogation team, he spilled the beans on the information the Stasi needed to know. He was actually none the wiser and just thought he had drank a bit too much the night before. "

    "With options available, the Stasi finally settled on stealing the weapons from the Sondenwaffenlager at Siegelsbach. It was a longer distance to tunnel than the other option at Fischbach, but fit the cover story better. Fischbach is out in the middle of absolute nowhere; the area around Siegelsbach is within an easy drive of several population centers. A Stasi illegal, a Turkish communist with a paper trail leading back to Islamabad, purchased a property suitable for use as a small warehouse to store inventory for an auto parts business; an ideal cover for moving the dirt and tunneling teams in and out in box trucks without anyone being the wiser. And with that, the the HVA was within a mile of their goal; they moved in and began the long dig towards their goal."