The Austrian stay-behind organisation during the Cold War
ÖWSGV, also written as OeWSGV, was the abbreviation of
Österreichischer Wander-, Sport- und Geselligkeitsverein
(Austrian Association of Hiking, Sports and Society). It was the
mysterious cover name of a secret
paramilitary stay-behind army
that existed in Austria in the 1950s and 60s.
The organisation was founded with the consent of
and the CIA,
to combat communist attempts to assume power in post-war Austria,
and was largely funded by the CIA.
Just before World War II, Austria became part of the Third Reich
(i.e. Nazi Germany)
by way of the Anschluss 1 in March 1938 .
Although this officially meant that Austria had joined voluntarily,
it was seen by the Allied powers as occupation by Nazi Germany.
It was therefore agreed in the Declaration of Moscow
that the Allies would regard Austria as the first victim of Nazi agression,
and that it should be treated as a liberated and independent country
once the war was over .
Allied occupation zones in Austria after WWII
When Austria was liberated, the country was divided into four
occupation zones, under control of the
United States (USA),
the Soviet Union (USSR),
the United Kingdom (UK)
Like Berlin, the capital
Wien (Vienna) was divided into similar zones, but the central
district was administered jointly by the Allied Control Council.
Although the Western Allies wanted to withdraw gradually
from 1950 onwards, the country remained under occupation of the
Soviet Union until 1955.
Meanwhile, in the spring of 1946, the
Cold War had begun 2 and the Western
Allies were afraid that the country would be invaded by the Soviets once
the Allies had left (which had happened to
Czechoslovakia in 1948).
Because of this, the UK had been quietly
arming the Austrian so-called B-Gendarmerie 3 since 1945,
and were even discussing an independent Austrian Army by 1947.
The Americans, who shared this fear, even created a backup government
base in Salzburg.
At the same time, they also started the secret training of an
underground Austrian army at a rate of 200 men a week, which was
complemented by training of the B-Gendarmerie from 1950 onwards.
In the fall of 1950, the American aid was coming to an end, and Austria
faced the communist-led general strikes, which are regared by many as
the most dangerous events since the end of WWII. The communists stormed
trade union offices and disrupted railroad traffic, but failed to gain
sufficient public support for their actions, and finally had to admit
defeat. The strike intensified the militarization of Western Austria,
with active input from France
and the United States CIA
As a result of the East-West tension, the Americans and the French had
started the formation of a secret well-trained
that had bases at strategic positions throughout the country, with
weapons caches, communications centers and thousands of (secret) agents
that were trained in intelligence, sabotage and man-to-man fighting.
The organisation was initially setup within the B-Gendarmery,
with Franz Olah being one of the key figures on behalf of the
Austrians, and American espionage specialist Franklin Lindsay
on behalf of the United States.
The organisation was known under various names, such as
Militärisches Sonderprojekt (Special Military Project)
and Einsatztruppe (Action Group). It played an important role
in defeating the massive communist-led (and Soviet Union insprired)
October Strikes of 1950, that are regarded by historians
as the most serious events since the war. The strikes came at a
time when the Americans wanted the occupying forces to retreat,
and raised the fear of a Soviet invasion.
The secret stay-behind organisation, that eventually consisted
of approx. 2500 people, finally became known under the intriguing
Österreichischer Wander-, Sport- und Geselligkeitsverein (OeWSGV),
literally: Austrian Association of Hiking, Sports and Society,
also established by Franz Olah.
The organisation had the full cooperation of
and the CIA
In 1955, the B-Gendarmerie became part of the newly established
Bundesheer (Federal Army).
Anschluss is the German word for 'connection' or 'joining'.
From 1996 onwards, it is written as Anschluß.
In Austria, the Cold War began in the spring of 1946, a year before
the outbreak of the global Cold War. ➤ Wikipedia
The B-Gendarmerie was the predecessor of the Austrian Federal Army
(Österreichisches Bundesheer), similar to the German post-war
Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS). ➤ Wikipedia
Over the years, the Austrian stay-behind organisation used a variety of
radio sets, ranging from the first valve-based spy radio sets developed
in post-war Austria, to a fully automatic pan-European digital long-range
radio station. Below is a non-exhaustive overview of spy radio sets that
were used at one time or another by one of Austria's secret stay-behind
The first spy radio set to be issued in post-war Austria, was the
developed in 1948 by Dr. Ing. Hermann Berger
in Innsbruck (Tirol, Austria).
It was developed with constent of the Western occupation forces (USA, UK
and France), but entirely outside the view of the
Soviet Union (USSR).
The problem was that during the war, the Allied Forces had decided to treat
Austria as a liberated and independent country after the war, but that the
Soviets didn't want to live up to this promise.
Development of the BE-20
started in the late 1940s, with the first protype,
the BE-20/1, being presented for evaluation to the French Army in 1948.
After some modifications, this resulted in an order from the French for 50
The front panels of these radios had French text.
The BE-20/2 was nicknamed Poste Cunzi, after Berger's contact
person within the French Army.
In addition, Berger got an order, probably from the Americancs,
for another 50 units that were to be supplied to the secret section of
various Police stations, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Staatsschutz)
and the command stations of the Western occupation forces.
This version was known as the BE-20/3.
The Berger BE-20 was in production until at least 1953,
after which it was gradually replaced by cheaper alternatives,
mainly supplied by the American CIA.
➤ More about the BE-20
In the early 1950s, suitable alternative spy radio sets became
available from countries like the
As a result,
it was no longer necessary for the Austrians to develop their own equipment
and it was decided to replace the BE-20
units by the American RS-6 radio set.
The RS-6 was developed by Motorola
in the US
in 1951 and was initially
intended for exclusive use by the
It was based on the earlier
A few years later, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) started ordering the
RS-6 for use aboard aircraft during secret — covert/clandestine — missions.
From that moment on, the RS-6 became noticed by other services and
was used as a clandestine radio station
– spy radio set –
for stay-behind organisations.
In Austria, the OeWSGV used it from the mid-1950s onwards. The set
consists of a transmitter, a receiver and a power supply.
A fourth box, the so called filter unit, was used to connect the other
three units together. The PSU had an electro-mechanical vibrator
that allowed the set to be powered from a 6V DC source such as the
battery of a car. The PSU was used as the central hub to which all parts
➤ More about the RS-6
By the late 1980s, a new fully automatic digital radio system was
introduced. It was developed by
and was codenamed
HARPOON. The set was designated FS-5000
and replaced all
existing clandestine radio sets in Europe.
By this time however, the
had already fallen (1989)
and the Soviet Union
was about to collapse (1991).
As a result, HARPOON was the last set.
The FS-5000 consists of a number of modules that can be
combined in several configurations, depending on the requirements.
The complete system fits inside a standard briefcase, as shown
in the image on the right. It has a built-in burst encoder
with high-end NATO-grade encryption,
and has an operational range of ~ 6000 km.
In some countries, the FS-5000 was known
under a different name, such as AZO-90 in the
The official Telefunken designator was SY-5000.
➤ More about the FS-5000
The Austrian Stay-Behind Organisation (SBO)
was known under various names, including:
- Militärisches Sonderprojekt (Special Military Project)
- Einsatztruppe (Action Group)
- Österreichischer Wander-, Sport- und Geselligkeitsverein
(Austrian Association of Hiking, Sports and Society)
The following people were involved in the stay-behind organisation:
Oskar HelmerInnenminister (Minister of the Interior) ➤ Wikipedia
Franz OlahSecretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior ➤ Wikipedia
Karl MajcenLater: Generaltruppeninspektor ➤ Wikipedia
Emil SpannocchiRittmeister (Captain), later General ➤ Wikipedia
Zdenko PaumgarttenLater: General ➤ Wikipedia
Franklin LindsayAmerican espionage specialist ➤ Wikipedia
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 08 April 2015. Last changed: Friday, 21 May 2021 - 09:14 CET.