PARIS — Following the Second World War, people who had been involved with the American, British and other Allies’ “Jedburgh” teams supporting the European Resistance just before the Normandy landings, and the work of the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services in Asia, were among those planning for the eventuality of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
We know now that this invasion never was a serious risk, either while Stalin was alive or after his death in 1953, but it was a threat that preoccupied governments in the West. Before the creation of NATO, a rudimentary “stay-behind” network of Europeans was developed to provide the nucleus for resistance following such an invasion. This was the work of the U.S. State Department-controlled Office of Policy Coordination, predecessor to the CIA, and British Intelligence’s MI9 department, which had run underground networks during the war. The U.S. part of the project was later assigned to the Defense Department. The operation was called “Gladio” (a Roman short sword) and remained secret until 1990. (In Italy and certain other countries, it had been corrupted by acquiring a right-wing conspiratorial political character.)