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Old 05-30-2012, 09:15 PM
Location: Richfield, idaho
97 posts, read 179,320 times
Reputation: 144


Originally Posted by WIHS2006 View Post
Several times now I have heard little rumors about Soviet Spetsnaz commandos infiltrating Alaska throughout the Cold War. Did such things actually happen?

I found this to be especially interesting:
Spetsnaz Invades America

The above incident allegedly took place on Little Diomede Island but I have been unable to find a date or year. There are also additional unconfirmed reports that Soviet commandos were spotted several times on St. Lawrence Island in early 1988.
I heard the same story when I was visiting my sister in alaska. Her husband at the time was a captain in the Alskan scouts. over a dinner party he mentioned it with one difference (no one was killed). several other officers then mentioned that someone else had found soviet batteries on this or that island on this or that time period. My point is that none of these officers could actually mention who it was or agree on a date or an island. uhm?.... this brings out -in my mind- ufos. could this be a version of a soviet ufo?
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:36 AM
Location: Ukraine, Kiev
1 posts, read 6,680 times
Reputation: 16
Originally Posted by BlackShoe View Post
The Spetsnaz was part of the GRU and under its direct control. They were not part of the regular Red Army, and were outside of its chain of command.
Trust me, GRU - its a part of Red Army. GRU is under the Ministry of Defense.

Originally Posted by BlackShoe View Post
Their duties were sabotage, assasinations, intelligence, and special operations.
Originally Posted by BlackShoe View Post
The were and are the Russian equivalent of our Navy Seals, Army Delta Forces, or the British SAS.
Not quite.
Navy Seals = frogmen of USSR Navy. Still known as "combat swimmers"
USSR had many troops, which are known as "spetsnaz".

About Alaska - i think, it's not true. For many reasons

(Sorry for my bad english)
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Old 08-11-2015, 05:43 PM
4 posts, read 15,045 times
Reputation: 24
This took place between October 1979 and March 1980. That winter in Alaska was one of the coldest I experienced during my time there, and certainly slowed down our unit mobilizations. The infantry battalion that was stationed at our base basically took to staying indoors, even doing PT in the mess hall on most days; this being before the base had a dedicated gymnasium. The State Guard, being Alaskan residents, continued to drill and even held their yearly winter exercise as scheduled, though they were plagued with equipment failures. The air components faced more days where they couldn’t fly than days they could, and that was also the winter we lost an HH-3 Jolly Green with all-hands to in-flight icing.

Anyway, at the time I was attached to a certain Special Forces Group, stationed in Nome. We were the only winter-conditioned SF unit at the time, and we routinely participated in exercises with both the Alaskans and Canadians. Our job would be to act as stay-behinds in order to sabotage the pipeline and generally cause havoc for the Russians if the balloon ever went up. As such, we spent a lot of time operating on the North slope, conducting mock sabotage drills, long-range patrols, and practicing infiltrations of pipeline and military installations. Most of the time these drills were conducted in secret, as success in our mission would have depended entirely on evading detection. During the regular large-scale exercises however, we operated with the knowledge and cooperation of the Guard or Reserve elements who were drilling, them protecting the valuable installations we would try to infiltrate. These blocking forces made the exercises much more realistic on our part, and often it would take several weeks to successfully accomplish our mission. During at least one such exercise, a particularly alert and well-drilled Guard unit foiled our mission entirely and ‘captured’ our entire force when our luck ran out. This cooperation was beneficial for the Guard units, as it gave them an unpredictable and Opfor as well as a tangible boogeyman to motivate them to stay alert and maintain discipline despite the conditions.

This was before MILES existed, and so during these exercises we ran with unloaded weapons (sometimes the Guard used blanks when they would function; we never used any as firing our weapons basically meant mission failure) and artillery simulators. For those of you who are firearms enthusiasts like myself, you’ll be interested in what we were issued. Most of us had M16A1’s, camouflaged white with the trigger guards removed to accommodate mittens. The CAR15 variants that most SF units used at this time proved woefully inadequate for winter conditions as muzzle velocity and reliability was dramatically impacted by the cold. In fact, the State Guard still favored the M14 for use as its design seemed less affected. Our rifles never worked well with blanks in the cold, even with the proper BFA, but they seemed to do okay with live ammo. Some of our M16’s had the venerable M203 grenade launcher mounted underneath, but for our purposes these were mostly used for 40mm flares and smoke grenades, and meant we didn’t have to carry the heavy Vietnam-era M79 that the 203 had replaced.

When we weren’t in the field on exercises we had a great deal of free time. Unit PT had basically been curtailed since our XO had been reprimanded for having us do PT on the flight line in -20* temperatures, and there was no room in the mess or hangars. We didn’t have access to a lot of entertainment, so we played a lot of ping-pong and Texas hold-‘em. Since I was a medic, I got permission from my CO to accompany the CG helicopters that operated out of the base on good weather days. Over the course of the winter I flew several missions as an observer aboard their aircraft, helping however I could in performing search and rescue missions off the coast. Twice we hoisted critically injured or ill sailors from ships in the middle of the Alaskan sea. Eventually other medics in my unit began doing the same, as well as pilots from our aviation component, who learned a great deal about flying in dangerous winter conditions from riding along with the CG pilots who were familiar with the area. Where I’m leading with this is that our unit formed a unique connection with the Coast Guard aviation unit in the area, as well as some familiarity with the State Guard leadership. This gave me a unique perspective during the events that followed, and led me to some conclusions that not very many outside of my unit arrived at. With that background in place, I’ll go on to describe the events I’m writing about to the best of my recollection. Bear in mind that this all took place 35 years ago, when I was twenty-four. I’m now pushing sixty, and have been in a lot of other places and done a lot of other things since then.

In late October of 1979 we were gearing-up for a mobilization of several reserve infantry battalions slated to last three weeks. That year the scenario was to counter an enemy incursion across the Tundra, and to defend against attack on the pipeline. My unit was playing opfor, as usual, operating behind blufor lines and attempting to sabotage operations and cause havoc. This was my third time in the field on such a large-scale operation since arriving at the unit in September. The exercise took place in the Tundra on the Northwest slope, including the island of Little Diomede (Ignaluk in the native tongue), which is only three miles from Big Domede (or Ratmanuv, as the Soviets published it on their civil maps), which is Russian-held and on which a small Soviet garrison and weather radar installation was located. As a rule we did not operate on Little Diomede, due to its close proximity to Russian territory and the fact that we wished not to antagonize them unduly. The general feeling was that if we left them alone, they would leave us alone. At least, that unspoken policy held until that year. During Polaris Wind we stationed a Surface-to-Air missile unit there on the island, which included a sophisticated air defense radar system, under the guise of being Air Force weathermen.

Since the islands are within binocular distance of each other, I’m sure it was quite obvious to the Soviets that the missile launchers weren’t meteorological equipment. This apparently drew their ire, as their small base stepped up their operations tempo substantially. They began receiving three or four helicopter flights per week, whereas up until then it had been more like one per month for resupply. Each time their long-range Mi-8 ‘Hip’ helicopters approached or departed Big Diomede, they were lit up by our air defense radar, which their pilots no doubted detected to their great consternation. The air defense commander conducted continuous engagement drills with his teams, if nothing else than the fact that it was good training for them on a live target. From what our intelligence people could make out, and what little satellite reconnaissance trickled down to us enlisted guys, it was concluded that the Soviets had effectively doubled the size of their garrison. Not that that concerned us, because we all believed that things would return to normal as soon as our exercise concluded, and thus there was nothing to worry about.

As the operation wound down, we conducted infiltrations on the pipeline and of installations on the coast. This was a very successful exercise for us, although the severe weather resulted in a few injuries that could have been avoided otherwise. The State Guard experienced a number of equipment failures as well as an airplane forced-landing that resulted in resources being devoted to search and rescue for several days. In the last week of the operation, the air defense unit on Little Diomede was ordered to stand-down and began packing up to ship home. The State Guard maintained a presence consisting of a platoon of Eskimo Scouts who were still stationed on the island, but were preparing to leave within days. Something you must understand is that no one wants to be on Little Diomede any longer than they have to. I cannot begin to stress how sparse the island is. The only settlement is a clump of shacks and a dry goods store situated to one side of a hill, which is home to roughly a hundred people. There are no sewers, no waste disposal (everything must be incinerated or left to fall through the ice when it melts in the brief summer), and at that time, only one source of running water. The units there had to pack everything in, and pack everything back out when they left. If someone was injured or became ill, they had to be helicoptered back to Nome, which could only take place maybe two days out of a given week due to the low ceilings that hung over the island constantly, coupled with dense fog that often flowed across. Every landing was exciting due to the gusting winds that swept over the island from the sea, often gusting up to sixty knots. Landing a boat was tricky as well, since the only safe harbor offered practically no protection and the current tended to push vessels right up against the rocks that form the base of the island. In fact, at that time the only supply ship visit was once a year in late June when the weather was absolutely perfect, and the vessel only stayed long enough to unload cargo and cast off.

Our detachment’s UH1 Huey helicopters couldn’t make the journey from Brevig Mission without refueling in Wales, and the return trip depended on favorable winds since there was no fuel available on the island. Thus the mission of resupply and medevac was delegated to the Air Force HH-3s, which could carry enough fuel to reliably make the round trip with useful load, and the Army CH47s, which could do so with a sling-load. Suffice to say, Little Diomede was and still is one of the most remote inhabited points in Alaska. The late Senator Stevens even remarked such when he visited in 2002.
It was during the second week of November that I first heard that one of the Eskimo Scouts had gone missing on the island. At that time a ground search had scoured every meter of the island in an effort to locate the soldier. As the island was only approximately two square kilometers, this was thoroughly executed, and no trace of the man was found. The common belief among those of us who heard it was that he had fallen through the ice that enclosed the island, or perhaps even gone AWOL and attempted to hike home across the ice. I never heard much more on this, as the last of the unit returned home after a week of fruitless searching and the exercise concluded, with all forces withdrawn from the island and surrounding area.

The last week in November I hitched a ride on a transport plane to Brevig Mission in order to provide medical training to local volunteer search and rescue workers for a few days. Among them were two members of the Eskimo Scout platoon that had lost a man on Little Diomede two weeks before. During the course of my time there, the missing soldier came up in conversation. This is when I learned that they still hadn’t found a trace of him, but that the Scouts were preparing to scour the island and surrounding ice-pack again when the weather allowed. The weather had been unforgiving virtually the entire month of November, but was forecast to be better in December. I wished them luck and truly hoped they would find their missing man, or at least an explanation as to what had happened to him.

I later found out that a squad of scouts did go back, along with a couple of MPs and an Alaskan State Trooper. The MPs and State Trooper interviewed residents of the village while the Scouts combed the island for four days, finding nothing and exhausting themselves. The villagers yielded nothing, having not seen a trace of the missing scout. This supported the ‘fell-through-the-ice’ theory, and this is what the MPs concluded. I’m also told that during this time a Polar Bear was killed on the island by a native hunter, and his stomach contents summarily examined at the behest of the State Trooper. No evidence of the scout falling prey to the animal was found inside. While the idea of a Polar Bear making its way to Little Diomede seems dubious at first glance, one must remember that during the months of November through March, the icepack mostly solidifies between the mainland and the Diomede islands, most years becoming stable enough to allow dogsledders and even fool-hardy snowmobilers the potential to make the forty-five mile trek to Little Diomede if weather cooperated and they had the desire. That an Apex predator well-known to cover 40 miles in a day might travel that distance for its own reasons doesn’t surprise me at all.

With both the military and civil authorities in agreement that the scout most likely fell through the ice never to be seen again (far stranger things have happened) the case seemed mostly closed. It was during their search however, that the scouts noticed that the increased activity across the channel on Big Diomede was still ongoing. The Soviets brought in helicopters twice during their stay there, and while the Soviet helipads were concealed from direct observation by virtue of their location and the island’s terrain, the scouts reported that they did not appear to be ordinary Mi-8 cargo helicopters, but rather specialized-looking variants painted a dull white camoflage rather than the typical mustard-green the Soviets favored at the time. What appeared to be either rocket-pods or external fuel tanks were mounted on stubby wings.

Unsure what it meant, the Eskimo Scout’s unit intelligence officer wrote a brief report based on their men’s observations, which eventually made the rounds to my detachment of the 11th SFG at Nome. Our CO was curious what they were up to, and since intelligence-gathering was a nominal part of our mission, he decided to begin tasking small elements of our detachment with recon patrols, not to incur upon Soviet territory. Since we didn’t have any more exercises planned for the month of December, our unit began sending patrols up to Brevig Mission, where they’d catch the weekly mail helicopter out to the island, in order to arrive inconspicuously. At the time this was a flight performed by the State Guard or alternatively an Air Force HH3, and so it was by that virtue we found ourselves with the benefit of help from the Eskimo Scouts, who knew the island extremely well (having canvassed it twice in as many months) and were extremely proficient at survival and cold-weather operations, even compared to us in the 11th.

I was on the first and third patrol on the island, having volunteered since I had a personal relationship with some of the Eskimo Scouts involved, and generally seemed to get along with everybody I encountered. Each of our patrol elements always included a medic and assistant, as well as a good deal of medical supplies due to the increased risk and isolation as well as the fact that the locals had no medical facilities themselves. Any opportunity to create goodwill with the locals was one that we seized whenever possible. The first patrol was uneventful except for the hateful weather. To my knowledge no useful intelligence came from it, except that the Soviet helicopter flights had slowed to once-weekly; still four times as frequent as they had been earlier in the year. I spent most of my week there providing treatment for a young girl who had fallen from the hilltop overlooking the village and suffered some injuries two days before we arrived. The most significant was a compound fracture of her left tibia, which had rapidly become infected. We were eventually forced to evacuate her to the mainland, having stabilized her enough over the course of the week that she could make the flight. We did have to leave two of the Eskimo Scouts behind in order to make room in the helicopter for her litter and one of her parents to accompany her back to Nome, where she was operated on and made full recovery.

The second patrol on the island didn’t include me as I was once again occupied cross-training other members of my unit as well as local reserve forces in battlefield triage and medical treatment. It wasn’t until I got back to my unit in Nome that I learned that the second patrol had returned with the news that I would carry like a stone in my gut for months: the two Eskimo scouts we had left behind on Little Diomede were not there when the mail helicopter returned the following week. According to the locals they had disappeared two days after the helicopter had left with our patrol and my patient. They had gone out to the far side of the island and not come back. The second patrol had begun searching immediately upon hearing this news, fearing the worst. Distrust was sown between the members of the patrol and the locals, whom they suspected of not telling the truth. To make matters worse, the weather rapidly worsened until it was impractical to continue the search until the winter storm abated three days later. By then all tracks and sign that might have led to the two missing scouts was covered in sixteen inches of snow. The search continued the remainder of the week, but found nothing. Exhausted, the weary patrol returned to Nome with the news.

The third patrol was formed quickly, leaving the day following second’s return to Nome. I volunteered again, and this time we went in armed with a full combat load. Four more Eskimo Scouts joined us, one of which was a dog-handler accompanied by his search-and-rescue dog. By this time all kinds of suspicions had formed in our minds as to what was taking place in the Diomedes. Everyone in my unit had a theory, even the Air Force helicopter pilot that flew us out from Brevig Mission who had heard about it from the second patrol on their return flight home. The prevailing theory was that the locals had something to do with it, and some of the theories as to what exactly was taking place were pretty macabre. I tried to stay upbeat and not let myself believe that the seemingly harmless villagers could be capable of such things, but it also seemed the only reasonable explanation. That was when the first real sense of fear began for me. I know I’m not the only one in my unit that slept with his M16 chambered and safetied, sling around my neck. Our patrol leader brought along a personal sawed-off shotgun in pump-action flavor that he carried with him whenever he was in the village. We stuck together, methodically searching outward from the village to the coast, slightly altering our direction each day. Trudging along in our snowboots in the scouring wind was exhausting, but we were able to leave a large portion of our packs and gear at the village, owing to the small size of the island. We were able to return just before or soon after dark each day, sleep on the floor of the schoolhouse which was warmed by a single kerosene-burning stove (whale-oil had not yet made a comeback in those parts) and begin searching again at first light. After four days of this, we were exhausted and the weather had not given us a single break, even snowing again briefly on the third despite forecasts to the contrary.

On the fifth day the weather deteriorated to the point where visibility was a mere fifty meters. We called off the search early that day lest we lose someone else. Trudging back to the village, the wind began to whip with a vengeance, and it started snowing, falling heavy and being driven sideways by the wind. I could hardly see the back of the man in front of me by the time we reached the village, having navigated back solely by virtue of the Eskimo Scout’s skills as our guides, supported heavily by their own magnetic compass. I never knew we were close to town until we were walking down what served as the main street. When we reached the windowless schoolhouse we barred the door to the wind and snow and huddled around the warmth of the kerosene stove until we could move our fingers enough to get out of our snowsuits and boots. Supper that night was wonderful, but I couldn’t tell you what it was if you put a gun to my head. All I remember is that it was hot, and that is what mattered.

Day six is when our breakthrough took place. We went to bed expecting the blizzard to continue through for a day at least, perhaps even long enough to delay our departure. At that point we had no hope of continuing the search during our time there. However, much to our surprise when we woke up at sunlight the next day the storm had abated as abruptly as it began. The snow must have ended sometime early during the night, as it had not built up much more than it had when we went to bed. All of us had fallen asleep, as exhausted as we were, even though we had divided into shifts of two men who were supposed to stay awake and rotate through on guard duty, a practice that we had adopted our first night back on the island. Fortunately the door remained barred and the outside unmolested. We dressed quickly and began our searching patrol, this time leaving the town in the direction of the farthest point on the island, the southern tip.

As usual, the Eskimo Scout with the dog led, followed by his companions, while the rest of us fanned out, doing our best to keep up. Since we were going so far, roughly half again as far as we’d been going previously, we elected to bring our full rucks in case we had to spend a night out on the flats, a prospect none of us liked. After hiking most of the morning and early afternoon with no more than a handful of breaks and a fifteen-minute stop to eat, we were beginning to fatigue. We had reached the coast line where the island begins to round off, and had turned East, hugging the coast and paying close attention to the steep grade down to the sea, looking for anything there was to be seen. It was about an hour after we reached the coast that the dog first caught scent, despite all the snow and the cold. It followed strongly for several minutes until it lost the trail. The handler made several efforts to find it again, but to no avail. Nevertheless we were sure that we were closer than we’d ever been before. We marked the spot where the dog had first alerted, then where it had lost the trail, and divided up into two-man groups to canvass the area.

A half-hour later, we found the remains. In a small gully that led in from the shore was an area of snow that had clearly been distressed since the last snowfall. It became obvious from studying the prints left all around that a pack of tundra wolves had arrived here either that very morning or the night before, right after the snow stopped falling. They had dug through the deep snow and found the body of one of our missing Eskimo Scouts, four weeks dead now. They had it torn apart and scattered to feed, as packs do. Not a great deal remained, except scraps of clothing that might have been an issue snowsuit, a chewed-up backpack missing its contents, and a pair of snow goggles, the very same kind I was wearing.

An eerie silence descended over our work for the next several hours, digging through the snow, photographing, and digging some more. It was obvious that had it not been for the wolves, our work in cataloging would have been much less difficult. There was no rifle, and very little gear that we found except for a grisly boot with remains inside, and the aforementioned goggles. We took photographs of the site until we ran out of film, trying to ascertain what he’d been doing out here, all alone; If he really was alone. I never saw the photos that we took after they were developed, but I never need to because those images are burned into my mind forever. It was obvious to me then, examining the remains, that it wasn’t the wolves that had killed him, they had simply been scavengers after the fact. All of the wounds inflicted by them were done post-mortem, with no bleeding. If not for the wolves digging him up I’m not sure we would have ever found the body.
When we were done collecting and photographing, our navigator took azimuth from the hill near the town, as well as any other points he could identify, in order to accurately fix the position for his report as well as future investigators. We still hadn’t answered the most important questions, and in my mind the only question: Who had killed him? If anything, now we only had more questions: Had the body been moved? What was the cause of death? Why? We could rule out wolves, and I felt we could rule out hypothermia, as he was still wearing his boots and at least part of his snowsuit when he was killed. As a general rule, people suffering from hypothermia begin feeling warm and euphoric as their body shuts down. They often remove their outer clothing and shoes despite the freezing cold. Many victims are found dead with a trail of warm clothing behind them. We found no such indications here. The strangest part to me was his missing rifle. One of our group had brought an issue metal detector, and spent several hours methodically sweeping it back and forth over the snow. Not only did this fail to uncover a rifle, neither did it detect a magazine, knife, wristwatch, binoculars, load-bearing harness or even a steel belt buckle, all items the Scout was known to have been carrying on his person which were missing from the scene. Items that every one of us had on right then.

This led me to be convinced the body had been moved. One of the Scouts voiced the opinion that the village was responsible for this, but no one could agree on what a plausible motive could possibly be. By this time it was becoming dark, and our patrol leader had to decide whether it was more important to stay the night on the tundra to secure the scene, or to make the trek back in order to radio our superiors as soon as possible. He elected to inform them of the discovery, a decision I agreed with, as there was nothing more to be gained there. We had found no more remains, not a trace of the other missing scout, and no other metallic items despite searching almost the entire afternoon. One of the scouts had carefully sketched realistic depictions of the site and the relative locations of the items and remains we had found, and between those and the photographs I felt confident that we had preserved all that we could.

Before we left we carefully covered the spot we had found the largest remains in with a tarp, staked into the hardpacked snow at four corners and then covered with loose snow to hold it down. Having done this, we set off to make for the shelter of the village hoping to make it back not long after dark. We arrived about an hour and a half after the last light had gone, and our patrol leader quickly went to work warming up the radio transceiver we had set up upon first arriving. We were able to make contact with the radio repeating station at Wales airstrip, and get them to relay a coded message to Berig Mission, which would hopefully make its way to our HQ in Nome. We expectantly waited for a reply for the next two hours, but when none was forthcoming we checked back in with the radio operator in Wales, who confirmed that he had no traffic for us at that time. Disappointed by the lack of response our urgent news had garnered, we quietly went to bed, each man thinking his own dark thoughts. This time our watches were kept diligently and the night passed without incident.

A helicopter arrived at first light, waking the bleary-eyed villagers who were surprised by this unscheduled landing. This time a twin-bladed CH47 unloaded a handful of MPs who had dispatched from Nome upon receiving our message. Also with them were Alaskan State Troopers, who brought their dogsled teams, sixteen dogs all told. The helicopter was also heavily loaded with supplies. This group stayed six days. We led them out to the site, and they set up a makeshift camp nearby where they could work. My group stayed long enough to watch them dig up half the hill-side and the gulley where we had found the remains, and the State Police questioned every inhabitant on the island, attempting to retrace the steps of the two missing men. They had already spent hours meticulously interviewing and investigating each member of the unit who had been present on the island at the time of the disappearances, and had found no possible motive or plausible evidence of foul play in that regard.

The investigators left after almost a week, with little answer to the questions that were foremost in everyone’s mind. During this time, the group that had helicoptered in after receiving our report, along with my own patrol, had extensively canvassed the island. We’d been fortunate that the weather had been reasonably good during this time, good enough to allow search parties to carefully retrace the steps of previous patrols. We determined conclusively at the end of the week that our patrols had thoroughly searched the entire island, and that there was nothing more to be found. I returned to my unit in Gnome on the Chinook along with the rest of our people. The flight back was long, rough, and unusually cramped since the Chinook only had half the web-seats installed, allowing cargo to fill the remainder of its cavernous fuselage. I was glad to be back in Gnome, which I considered ‘civilization’, with hot water and warm beds. I especially had a new appreciation for the excellent food in the mess hall, delicious compared to what we had been subsisting on for nearly two weeks.

My unit sent two more patrols to Little Diomede in the next two months, routine sovereignty patrols (‘Sovpats’, as we referred to them, pronouncing it as one word. At the time, we understood the ‘SOV’ to conveniently refer to the Soviets, little distance away.) and keeping our arctic skills fresh. I wasn’t able to accompany the first patrol, and felt lucky, because I was frankly sick of the island, despite lingering curiosity regarding the fate of the two Eskimo soldiers. I did go along with the second patrol however, and this is where my portion of the story becomes quite interesting.
We arrived in the first week after New Years, January 3rd, which was a Thursday, if my notes are accurate. Our patrol’s orders were to remain on the island one week, returning on the flight home the following Thursday, if weather allowed. We departed with rations and supplies to last two and a half weeks, since the weather in January was predicted to be volatile, and our SOP was to always have double what we expected to use. Once again, we carried full loud-outs with live ammunition, since this had become standard procedure when operating in isolated areas. Our patrol consisted of the typical special forces ‘A-Team’, which was ideally comprised of twelve soldiers. Ours was short one man, since one of our unit’s sergeants had a urinary tract infection, and our team leader didn’t see a reason to change the unit’s organization by moving in a man from another squad. So we were eleven men when we left Brevig Mission, where we’d picked up three Eskimo Scouts who were to accompany us out to Little Diomede with their own orders.

Once we touched down on the island, we established our radio communications outlet to communicate with the relay station at Wales, and then set out on our patrol, which we planned to bivouac at the closest point on the island in relation to Big Diomede, temperature and conditions allowing. We left the settlement at about noon, taking a bearing from the summit of the hill and heading out on a compass heading that would lead us out to southwestern edge of the island, where we hoped to be able to observe activity on our neighboring island, teeming with Russians. As we left we watched the helicopter depart, heading back to Brevig Mission. I was about the fourth or fifth man in our loose column, headed by our team leader and one of the Eskimo Scouts who had elected to accompany us overnight. In addition to my already significant field equipment and rations, I also had half the medical supplies we carried, the other half carried by my assistant, who headed up the rear of our column. My pack was unusually heavy since I had neglected to drop off the extra week’s worth of rations that everyone else had left behind at the village. I realized this once it was too late and I was stuck carrying several extra pounds that kept my mind occupied with kicking myself the entire hike.

We neared the coastline, and paralleled it until we came to a crest that offered some protection from the wind. Our team leader called a halt, and fixed a bearing on the summit, which was still visible in the clear air. He fixed our position on his topo map, and made the decision that this place was as good as any to spend the night. We spent about a half hour erecting our single-man arctic pup tents, staking them down securely in case the arctic winds whipped up over the course of the night. We also unrolled sleeping bags, split into security shifts, and set up the observation scopes we had brought along, camouflaging them since they were too white to blend in with the greyish snow. White camouflage netting over the lenses prevented glare from making ourselves known to any Soviet observers who might glance across the gulf. After I’d rested, relieved that I no longer had the weight of the pack on my shoulders, and had eaten one of the rations, further reducing my pack weight, I spent some time digging into the snow so that my tent would be further out of the wind, and creating a break around the sides to block the prevailing wind and prevent it from stealing my meager warmth.

One of our group had a minor frostbite on the bottom of an ear, where his parka had pulled back and his patrol cap hadn’t covered it fully. I examined it briefly and decided it wouldn’t require treatment, admonishing him to keep it clean even though I didn’t have to. By this time night was already falling, even though it had seemed like bright noon daylight when we’d first begun setting up our camp. My wristwatch had stopped, as they often did at those temperatures, and I had lost track of time. I placed it inside my parka, hoping the springwork would thaw overnight and I could rewind it in the morning. It was for this reason that I never knew exactly what time the action first occurred, except to say that I had been asleep for a short period, and the second watch was up and on guard when the first shots rang out.

Going back to the beginning of the evening, we had all eaten supper, observing light and noise discipline, and occasionally peering through one of the scopes in the fading dusk. The Soviet island, dubbed ‘Ratmanuv’, one of the many Russian names for it and the one that most appealed to us, was unusually quiet. Nothing stirred, and only a few lights were on. The generator that typically powered them wasn’t running, or at least none of us could hear it even listening carefully. Our assistant team leader speculated that they had a battery group that supplied power to the base when the generators weren’t running, and we shared the assumption that it must be shut down at night. About a half-hour after full dark, the temperatures had dropped sharply, going down into the negatives, and we went to sleep, except for the two men on first watch, situated at opposite ends of our line. I slept that night zipped fully into my artic bivouac bag, surrounded by insulating down. Even then I was cold, and so I never even took my outer layer of clothing off, except for my snowboots. I popped two chemical heaters and placed them so as to avoid contact except through several layers of clothing, to avoid burns. Now comfortably warm, I drifted to some semblance of sleep.

I was awoken by shouting, followed by rifle fire. First a few single shots, and then a burst of automatic fire that seemed to last forever. I was instantly awake and moving. I tore out of my bag, grabbed my M16 which lay alongside me, and the flashlight that was on a lanyard around my wrist. Shimmying out of my tent into the pitch black, I lay prone on my belly, trying to wrap my mind around what was going on. I had no perception of where the shots came from, except that they had been at least a hundred yards or so away. In this lull I realized I had forgotten my boots, and was already at risk of losing toes to frostbite. I rolled over to my bivouac sack and grabbed them, shoving my feet into them and lashing them as quickly as I could while keeping my eyes up on the horizon. Our team leader was alert now, and shouted for a sound-off, which we all gave in turn. The entire camp was moving, the last two men coming out of their tents. One of my companions crawled over to me, rifle across his arms, and asked me what in hell was going on. I replied that I had no idea, using not exactly those words.

Our team leader, I found out later, had assumed that our watch had been surprised by a caribou or similar wildlife and had opened fire. He presently called for sectors, which ordered each of our group to watch our assigned sector of fire. A moment later he called “Lights ready”, and then “Lights up!”. On cue, we all switched on our lights, illuminating our sectors out to the reach of their diminutive beams, twenty yards or so. Each of us was weapon up and safety off, ready to fire. The team leader told me later he expected one of our beams to illuminate a fleeing caribou or perhaps even a polar bear. Instead, he was shocked when, as soon as our lights came on, we began taking fire from our West, the direction of the coastline. Automatic fire glanced over our heads, and we returned it, cutting off the lights. I saw muzzleflash from about a hundred yards away or so, though I couldn’t make out the form of the firer. It wasn’t tracer fire, so I didn’t see where the rounds were going, except that I could hear the sharp crack and hiss of the rounds going overtop our position. It was too dark to use the sights, so I aimed using the point-shooting technique we were trained on for night fighting. As I squeezed the M16’s trigger I let loose a burst of automatic fire that took me by surprise. I had unconsciously flicked the selector all the way from ‘SAFE’ to ‘AUTO’ in my (admittedly) frightened panic, and I’m sure every one of my shots went far wide. I collected myself and forced myself to thumb the selector back to SEMI, and let loose several more shots in a quick string, doing my best to put the rounds where I had seen the muzzle flash come from.

After what seemed like an eternity interrupted only by sporadic rifle fire and a brief burst from the M60 that our machinegunner had finally gotten up and into action, our team leader was shouting “Cease Fire! Cease Fire! Cease Fire!” He had to repeat himself one more time to end the shooting from our left, which was farthest from him, but it finally stopped. He then ordered us up and forward, in bounding overwatch by pairs. When it was my turn, I raced forward about twenty yards and hit the dirt (snow), landing sharply on my elbows, rifle up and aimed to fire. I had switched the thirty-round magazine for a full one as I ran, so that I would have a full magazine when I needed to fire again. Two more bounds and we had reached the ridge overlooking the coastline, and could make out fleeing shapes several hundred yards down from our position. A few of our riflemen fired on them, and the gunner and his assistant went prone beside me, training the big machinegun on them. The team leader ordered a ceasefire again, and had us check for wounded, sounding off in the dark. We were all yelling by now, the quiet night completely shattered by the brief (and perhaps one-sided) firefight. Our team leader launched a flare using his M203 launcher, and its red glow illuminated the ground we overlooked brightly, nearly as well as the noon-day sun. Another short burst of rapid automatic fire from down below provoked a burst from our gunner’s M60, this time the uninterrupted string of tracers lancing across the coastline like a laser. In the stark light of the flare, I could make out four or five figures below me, racing towards what might have been a small boat beached on the edge of the sea. At the time the boat’s shape struck me as odd, as it was shaped like a fat cigar, and didn’t appear to be a zodiac-type inflatable or any type of landing craft I’d ever seen. The gunner shifted and put a burst of fire into the boat before the team leader shut him down again, this time grabbing him by the back of his parka hood and screaming in his ear to cease fire.

It didn’t matter much by then, because there was no longer anything to shoot at. When I looked away, the running figures had just reached the boat and were beginning to clamber aboard at the top. In the time I spent glancing at the gunner and my team leader, the boat had begun to reverse off the shoreline. I looked back in time to see it recede in to the water. The boat disappeared and the flare burned out simultaneously. The brief, heart pounding action was over. My ears were ringing from my own shots and the bursts of the machinegun. We lay there, prone on the ridge for several minutes, processing all that had just happened, before our team leader fired another flare and we scanned for targets again.
When it burned out, he ordered us up and down the ridge, leaving the M60 gunner on overwatch with his assistant gunner and another rifleman with a flare launcher. He split the remainder of us off to his assistant team leader, assigning me on him, and we descended the ridge slope in two teams, spaced apart a hundred yards on either side of the overwatch.

We searched the coastline in a combat patrol, alert and ready. In an hour we found nothing. No bodies, and no other movement. When the dawn came, we began to put together the string of events that had taken place that night:
Our camp had footprints leading up to it from the coast. At least three, and possibly a fourth person had made the treacherous climb up from the sea, and then into a position two hundred or so yards from where the westernmost soldier had been on watch. There were several imprints in the snow where figures had lain prone, perhaps for a long period of time, since they had shifted individual positions over time. Another, lone set of long, shallow imprints depicted that one man had left his position, crawling forward towards our camp, reaching within fifty yards of our edge. This had been where the perhaps the first burst of fire had come from. About a half dozen shell casings were strewn right of this position, before the man had run back towards his other companions. The shell casings we found were unlike any we’d seen before. They weren’t 7.62x39mm, which we referred to as “.30 caliber soviet” and was standard issue for the AKM, the standard issue Soviet rifle at the time (a modernized derivative of the AK47). These cases were roughly the same length, but necked to a much smaller caliber, even smaller than our own 5.56 that fed our M16s. At the original position further out, nearly twenty shell casings were found strewn outward. It was apparent that they had provided brief covering fire for their fleeing man.
There was no blood or other evidence that our own fire had scored a hit at either of these positions. Moving further down to the coast, there were several shell casings we found along the path our attackers had taken, leading to a track in the muddy sludge at the coastline. The track was about two feet wide, leading from about two yards out of the water, down into the sea, a sharp ‘V’ that tapered off at the sides. It was obvious that this was where our landing craft had been, but none of us could speculate on what would make it. It was about a ten-inch indention in the soft sludge, deeper than any of the footprints and with a much larger area, indicated the craft was much heavier than what we would consider typical of a simple boat. It was similar to the bottom of a pontoon on a seaplane, though what I had seen was no aircraft of any kind, and this had been much heavier.

No blood here either, although there were some scraps of equipment found. The remains of an obviously Soviet field ration confirmed in our minds that we had been attacked by Soviet infiltrators, perhaps the infamous Spetznatz that occupied rumors in our mess halls. We also found items that were military in nature but that we couldn’t figure out their purpose. I found out later that one turned out to be the lid off the case to an NBC filter, standard infantry issue, Soviet army. Another was just their version of a 9-volt battery, probably to power a flashlight. At the shore, several more people had disembarked the vessel, but had milled around nearby it, probably for several hours. This was incredibly disturbing, though the events of the entire night were disturbing enough. We had come under fire, returned fire and made a hasty reaction to contact, and driven them back into the sea, with no losses of our own. None even wounded, despite the close range contact with the group that climbed up to reconnoiter our camp. Total rounds expended: one-hundred thirty-six of ours (approximate), and thirty-three shell casings of theirs (recovered). A lot less than I had expected, considering how much fire it felt like we’d taken. Each man on our team had fired an average of less than half a magazine each, though two of ours hadn’t fired a shot.

By mid-day the group our team leader had sent back to the settlement at first light to report our short battle had made their coded report to Wales, which would push it up the chain of command with great urgency. We fully expected a squadron of helicopters carrying an entire heavy company to reach us within hours. At this point we figured we’d started a war. Once we’d canvassed the beach thoroughly in the daylight, we took up positions along the ridgeline overlooking the coasts, and waited.

We expected a Force, capital F, to reinforce us within hours. We did get a response within hours, but what we got wasn’t what we expected. Instead we got officers from the DIA (including a light colonel, which probably set a record for the highest rank ever to set foot on Ignaluk), accompanied by a few ‘civilian analysts’, determined by our general consensus to be CIA. They arrived in an H-53, which landed right at the reflective panels we had put out to denote safe landing zones for two helicopters at a time, since again, we were expecting a large reaction force. They received a brief report from our team leader, but didn’t react with the surprise or the urgency we expected them to. They acted skeptical, and we were ordered to stand down while our team leader and assistant TL walked the officers through the events of the night before, and handing over the evidence we had collected, including the strange shell casings and other objects. In the meantime, the rest of us sat in the relatively warm interior of the helicopter, alternatively sleeping and standing a watch, since we hadn’t slept since first contact. The crew thankfully kept the APU running, warm bleed air keeping the cabin heated and the hydraulics fluid warm so that it could restart. It was my turn to watch and so I stepped out the side door of the big chopper, just as the officers were returning. Several had cameras, having cataloged the strange track left by the vessel and the relative positions of the landing party and our camp. They took casts of the boot prints left by the Soviets, at least the ones left undisturbed by our party’s canvass of the shore that morning. The light colonel ordered us into the chopper, and we departed to be debriefed in Gnome, after a fuel stop in Wales. The radio personnel present at the Wales station when our call went out joined us in the chopper before we departed, apparently to be debriefed as well.
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Old 08-11-2015, 05:44 PM
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This is basically where my story ends. An un-fulfilling ending that creates far more questions than I ever got answers for, and not the ending I’d picked, but this is the one that my story got. Upon arriving in Gnome, which we had regarded as ‘home’ for several months, we were kept separated from our unit. We were billeted in the old Air Force barracks on the other side of the field, the fifteen of us, including the radiomen from Wales sharing half a floor. We were basically isolated from everyone else on base for about a week, and were each interviewed three times by members of the DIA, observed by the civilians who we were by now certain were CIA. We were finally debriefed, ordered never to discuss the events of the last few months with anyone else, even each other, and eventually transferred to different units. Records were probably sealed, since this never became public knowledge until after the Cold War was over, but I never went back to look. An FOIA request might reveal some facts, and perhaps someday I’ll put in for one, but I doubt there are any facts to be revealed, other than what I’ve related above. I heard years later that the boot prints matched those issued to Soviet Naval infantry, and learned at the same time what some of the objects we found were, but those were basically rumors I heard through unofficial channels.

I didn’t find out what the shell casings were from until 1991. A friend of mine had purchased a new rifle from a dealer in Atlanta, and wanted to show it to me, claiming it was the first of its kind to be imported. When I came over he handed me what appeared to be a regular AKM in semi-auto form, common in the US by that time. Then he handed me the magazine, which struck me odd because it lacked the normal curve of an AK47 magazine, and was made of thermoplastic. I asked him about it and he explained that it wasn’t an AK47 at all, but rather the rifle that had replaced it in Soviet service, an AK74. I was surprised, since I’d never heard of it, but was absolutely shocked when he handed me one of the rounds it fired and explained it was in a new, smaller caliber contemporary to our 5.56. The round was exactly the same as what we had collected on Ignaluk after our firefight. That was when I first identified the casings we had found as 5.45x39, the current Russian-issue round, officially adopted in 1974. The Spetnatz we had encountered (probably Soviet Naval reconnaissance troops, not true Soviet OMON, the GRU’s version of our Delta Force or Navy Seals) had probably been issued the rifle soon after it was adopted, and our encounter may have been the first use of it in anger, since it predated even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Moving back to the aftermath of our encounter, from then on all forces were given a standing order not to operate on Little Diomede, including even the Eskimo Scouts. I don’t know if Soviet operations on Ratmanuv ramped down as well, since I was never there again, but I know that they kept their observation station there for several more years, at least until the end of the Cold War.

The incident, and the events that led up to it, was hushed up as best as could be done. We never found out anything conclusive on the fate of our missing Eskimo Scouts, but it’s obvious to me that at least one had been killed by the Soviets. It’s been my fervent hope for many years that the other two that disappeared without a trace were not captured and held prisoner, although I don’t think that’s likely. There’s not much that an Eskimo Scout would know that would be valuable to military intelligence, and the risk of starting a war between the two great powers wouldn’t have been worth taking one prisoner. Of course, if that’s true, it still doesn’t explain the reasons for the Soviet incursions onto the island. They were probably killed in encounters with Soviet recon troops as well, as we might have been if we’d been a smaller force at the time of our encounter.

It’s also become apparent to me that the vessel the Soviet soldiers used to infiltrate our shoreline was a submersible designed explicitly for such use, the track left behind from the V-shape of the lower hull, in order to keep it from becoming grounded and unable to launch again. I’ve seen pictures of Soviet-era designs that would fit the bill, and appear at least similar to what I briefly saw that night.

I’m still not sure of who shot first, whether our watch or the Soviets, or why. If they wanted to take us captive then they would have surrounded us and closed on our camp silently. If they wanted to kill us they would have spread out and all opened up at once, and might have been successful. I do know why we reacted the way we did; we thought we were repelling a Soviet invasion, right there in the middle of a cold, dark January night. And repel them we did, thanks to the fact that we out-numbered them by almost two-to-one. We were lucky, much more so than the Eskimo Scouts who had disappeared before us.

The Russian government still denies that any such forays into US territory took place, and probably will continue to do so. Until they tell their side of the story, I doubt we’ll ever find out the real facts.
Please note that I’ve purposefully avoided naming names, so as not to risk identifying the other people involved in this incident. If you were, you know who you are, and I want to make it clear that I respect your right to privacy. I’ve also changed certain units, so as not to reflect the actual units that were involved, so that I don’t implicate specific individuals. If one is interested, they can easily look up which units were stationed at Gnome 1979-1980, and ascertain from there which the actual units involved were. All of those records are public information.
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Old 08-12-2015, 07:23 AM
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Holly smokes! Do you have like the reader's digest abridged version of the above? It's like, I'll just wait for the movie version, it will take less time.
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Old 08-12-2015, 09:13 AM
Location: Texas
38,859 posts, read 25,364,478 times
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Originally Posted by Medic18D
so forth and so on...
Hey n00b...

When you cut and paste, you're supposed to include a link to the source.

Just FYI

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Old 08-14-2015, 05:44 PM
Location: Southeast Michigan
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Interesting story but it defies common sense.

If I was a Soviet Spetznaz leader whose unit just killed an American scout (the killing itself serves no purpose unless it was an "oh ****" split second situation) I'd make sure all of his stuff remained intact so when the remains are eventually found suspects the foul play. Don't think these guys were in dire need of American rifles.

More importantly, what's there to warrant such activity ? Rock and ice and snow ? They have plenty of it in Siberia.
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Old 08-14-2015, 11:24 PM
Location: Maryland about 20 miles NW of DC
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Originally Posted by Werewolf_USSR View Post
Trust me, GRU - its a part of Red Army. GRU is under the Ministry of Defense.


Not quite.
Navy Seals = frogmen of USSR Navy. Still known as "combat swimmers"
USSR had many troops, which are known as "spetsnaz".

About Alaska - i think, it's not true. For many reasons

(Sorry for my bad english)
Spetsnaz is Russian for Special Unit or Force. I would say they are more like US Army Rangers or in some elite units the US Army Special Forces or Green Berets. I thought GRU units were attached the the Commisariat for State Security (KGB). The Party had this arraignment for it feared the possibility if push came to shove it might face a military coup (Bonaparteism) . This was also the reason for the separate chain of political officers or zampolits in every unit of Soviet military forces.
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:01 AM
1,535 posts, read 1,376,890 times
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Originally Posted by Ummagumma View Post
More importantly, what's there to warrant such activity ? Rock and ice and snow ? They have plenty of it in Siberia.
Your point is very sound logically. But... cold war politics often fell short on the "logic" component.

Rather, emotionally driven decisions were made on both sides in response to emotional decisions the other side made. Therefore, the idea of sending patrols to the barren island on the US side for vague purposes could well have made "sense" at the time.

Originally Posted by Ummagumma View Post
If I was a Soviet Spetznaz leader whose unit just killed an American scout (the killing itself serves no purpose unless it was an "oh ****" split second situation) I'd make sure all of his stuff remained intact so when the remains are eventually found suspects the foul play. Don't think these guys were in dire need of American rifles.
I don't know. Maybe the weapons were taken as personal trophies?

It is also strange that the story relates that the Eskino scouts (I think they prefer the name 'Inuit') thought that the villagers were behind the deaths. I imagine that the village is a pretty clannish place. Even still, why would the villagers want to kill other Americans in general and Eskimo / Inuit scouts in particular? I wonder if there are rivalries between the various Inuit groups?
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:30 PM
Location: Elysium
12,272 posts, read 7,978,924 times
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Originally Posted by Cryptic View Post

It is also strange that the story relates that the Eskino scouts (I think they prefer the name 'Inuit') thought that the villagers were behind the deaths. I imagine that the village is a pretty clannish place. Even still, why would the villagers want to kill other Americans in general and Eskimo / Inuit scouts in particular? I wonder if there are rivalries between the various Inuit groups?
All Eskimos don't belong to the Inuit ethnic groups
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