My first “fiction” work: Room 526 

Posted January 17th, 2016 by szthamm

Room 526004Although this is a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact, and on some forty years I spent in the intelligence services of the United States of America. The particular circumstance the book deals with, and expands upon, was the U.S. Navy’s interest—in the 1950s—in developing a highly advantageous titanium submarine hull. In learned Navy-associated journals, expert submarine structural engineers, and metallurgists praised the advantages of titanium hulls over the usual HY-80 (high yield) steel commonly used—but when it became apparent that the cost of a fleet of titanium submarines would exceed the entire Navy budget, articles on titanium became rare. In Soviet intelligence circles, this was taken to mean the U.S. Navy’s interest in titanium had gone “black;” in other words, had become highly classified.

I first heard of titanium submarines when I became a submarine analyst at the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) at Suitland, Maryland. “Old timers” told wonderful stories— folklore—about the U.S. Navy’s interest in titanium. These stories encouraged me to write this fictional account of a highly classified clandestine operation, an operation ordered by the President of the United States, an operation intended to induce the Soviets to spend themselves into bankruptcy by themselves building titanium submarines. Actually, whether or not they could afford it, the Soviets did build six highly automated, modern, titanium submarines, but all were decommissioned after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

At NISC, I eventually became the project officer for Soviet attack submarines, including the ALFA Class SSN, a class of submarine built entirely of a titanium alloy.  In 1993, I had written an “After Action” account of an Intelligence collection – largely an effort by the Central Intelligence Agency – against Soviet Navy Projekt 705, the all-titanium nuclear-powered, fast attack submarine that carried the NATO designation ALFA Class SSN.  And on 19 January 1979, Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) received a letter from Commander, U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, informing Naval Intelligence that CIA’S extraordinary collection, and Naval Intelligence’s timely analysis of the ALFA Class SSN threat, had saved the Navy $325 million in new torpedo designs.

I believe it was the first time in history that this type of intelligence collection and analysis had ever been officially credited with saving such a large sum of money.

The Agency accepted my After Action report, and on 30 June 1994, James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, awarded me “The Studies in Intelligence Award in Recognition of an Outstanding Contribution to the Literature of Intelligence.”  For more than a decade this treatise remained classified. Found in Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 17- 24, this treatise is entitled “The ALFA SSN: Challenging Paradigms, Finding New Truth, 1969-79.” It is available online at the CIA website. Or, believe it or not, as a download from Amazon. It was the declassification of the CIA article that gave me the needed “kick-start” to compose this manuscript.

There’s a second story line in the book. It’s about how the principal character, U.S. Special Agent Hans Reiter, came to break a cardinal rule of all clandestine intelligence services: Never become friends with your asset—the “asset” in this case being a Soviet Intelligence officer recruited by Reiter to spy for the U.S.

While this account is fiction, it is as close to fact as security rules permit.

Room 526 is available from The Saltmarsh Press ( for $16.95.


Recovered Territories 

Posted August 23rd, 2010 by Gerhardt Thamm

Copied from “Wroclaw in your pocket May-August 2010.”

In 1948, Wroclaw’s Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) played host to the largest, most organized propaganda event in Poland’s history: The Recovered Territories Exhibition. Read the rest of this entry »

Wroclaw (Breslau) 2010 

Posted August 23rd, 2010 by Gerhardt Thamm

Along the Autobahn on our return to Wroclaw from Jelenia Gora via Jawor, we again marveled at the many fields overflowing with yellow rapeseed blossoms. There are several advantages to growing rapeseeds over the previous crop of sugar beets. Rapeseed is harvested during the dry summer months, not during the wet, cold, months late in the year. The crop can be cut easily with a combine, not like sugar beets which were dug out of the ground manually. Once off the Autobahn, we realized that we hadn’t yet photographed this colorful crop. Jackie, the adventurous one among us, set out through the muddy fields and ditches, and Erwin captured the moment in a wonderful photograph. We arrived in Wroclaw a little after midday, returning to the Radisson Blu Hotel. And again, we got upgraded to business rooms that were large and comfortable. Our friend Uwe Strehlow, my old German Navy colleague, had mentioned that he might meet us at the hotel, and when we arrived, there he was, sitting at the bar with a beer. We had a joyous reunion, and from then on, we became a group of six. Read the rest of this entry »

Jelenia Gora (Hirschberg) 2010 

Posted August 23rd, 2010 by Gerhardt Thamm

We departed Jawor the next day, may 17th, a Monday, driving south toward Jelenia Gora, formerly the German city of Hirschberg. Erik and Erwin were interested in the route I described in Boy Soldier, where the front line had been, the no-man’s land, the minefields. Thus, a short way south of Jawor we ventured toward the foothills of the Sudeten Mountains: the Riesengebirge.

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Return to Jauer – 2010 

Posted August 21st, 2010 by Gerhardt Thamm

Since I had joined the American Army and become an intelligence agent (See Making of a Spy, my second book), my security clearances prohibited my traveling behind the Iron Curtain. But even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the demise of the Soviet Union, I had felt no desire to return to Silesia. Periodically I toyed with the idea, generally after a family gathering where lots of different narratives of the Old Days tickled my curiosity bone and made me wonder how things had changed under the Polish regime. But I generally concluded that Jauer and Silesia were parts of my past that were best preserved in memories.

Some two or three years ago, my older son Erik suggested that we ought to visit Jauer. He and his younger brother Erwin wanted to see the place my parents and I had so often described. Undoubtedly, from stories told by my parents, my sons, especially Erwin, had romanticized Jauer. He mentioned wanting to visit the old wine cellars that my grandfather had patronized, and the blacksmith shop to which I had often led horses to be shoed. He wanted to see the family manor house on Vorwerkstrasse, the fields that my grandfather had cultivated for so many years, and the road to the sugar refinery in Altjauer, the destination to which I had driven the horse-drawn wagon loaded with sugar beets, and the residue “Schnitzel” — shredded and reprocessed sugar beets — loaded for the return trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Another perspective 

Posted June 30th, 2010 by Gerhardt Thamm

After publication of Boy Soldier, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Hanns Neidhardt, Colonel, Austrian Bundesheer (ret.). He wrote that he well remembered the Jauer boy soldiers because of our voracious appetites. He recorded his memories of the last offensive combat activity in County Jauer in his own book Mit Tanne und Eichenlaub, Kriegskronik der 100. Jäger-Division, vormals 100. Leichte Infantrie Division, Leopold-Stocker Verlag, Graz-Stuttgart, 1981. The 100th Jäger was composed of Austrians, Silesians, and Belgian Walloons in roughly equal portions; the remainder consisted mostly of boy soldiers and a few old men from the local militia (Volkssturm). Read the rest of this entry »