Secret Intelligence in the Twentieth Century

By Heike Bungert; Jan G. Heitmann et al. | Go to book overview

6

The WRINGER Project: German Ex-POWs as Intelligence Sources on the Soviet Union

Horst Boog

The WRINGER project was an intelligence operation of the US Air Force (USAF) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was designed to gain information of military value on the Soviet Union through systematic interviewing of German prisoners of war repatriated from there.

The following is mainly based on an article by James Erdmann, 1 a lieutenant colonel in the USAF intelligence establishment and later professor of history at the University of Denver. The piece was published in 1982 with permission of the USAF. In addition, I drew from articles by Robert Jackson 2 on post-war strategic Air Intelligence and Squadron Leader John Crampton 3 on RB-45 operations. Last but not least, my interpretation benefited from personal experience. Unfortunately, the volume on US air intelligence covering the WRINGER project is still classified. 4 Nevertheless, it can be established without doubt that the results of the WRINGER project were invaluable at the time both for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and for an overall assessment of the Soviet Union. They filled an information gap that could not be bridged by existing means of air reconnaissance.

In August 1949, the Soviets detonated their first nuclear device near Semipalatinsk. The Soviet long-range bomber force was slowly building up a nuclear lift capacity based on the Tupolev Tu-4, a copy of the B-29. Although an attack on the USA by these planes would have been a one-way mission because of their lack of range, it was

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