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Operation Gladio is the codename for a clandestine North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) "stay-behind" operation in Europe during the Cold War. Its purpose was to prepare for, and implement, armed resistance in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion and conquest. The name Gladio is the Italian form of gladius, a type of Roman shortsword. Although Gladio specifically refers to the Italian branch of the NATO stay-behind organizations, "Operation Gladio" is used as an informal name for all of them. Stay-behind operations were prepared in many NATO member countries, and some neutral countries.

The role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Gladio and the extent of its activities during the Cold War era, and any relationship to terrorist attacks perpetrated in Italy during the "Years of Lead" (late 1960s to early 1980s) are the subject of debate. Switzerland and Belgium have had parliamentary inquiries into the matter.
Post-war creation
After World War II, the UK and the US decided to create "stay-behind" paramilitary organizations, with the official aim of countering a possible Soviet invasion through sabotage and guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines. Arms caches were hidden, escape routes prepared, and loyal members recruited, whether in Italy or in other European countries. Its clandestine "cells" were to stay behind in enemy-controlled territory and to act as resistance movements, conducting sabotage, guerrilla warfare and assassinations.
The stay-behind armies were created with the experience and involvement of former SOE officers. Following Giulio Andreotti's October 1990 revelations, General Sir John Hackett, former commander-in-chief of the British Army on the Rhine, declared on November 16, 1990, that a contingency plan involving "stay behind and resistance in depth" was drawn up after the war. The same week, Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, former commander-in-chief of NATO's Forces in Northern Europe from 1979 to 1982, declared to The Guardian that a secret arms network was established in Britain after the war. Hackett had written in 1978 a novel, The Third World War: August 1985, which was a fictionalized scenario of a Soviet Army invasion of West Germany in 1985. The novel was followed in 1982 by The Third World War: The Untold Story, which elaborated on the original. Farrar-Hockley had aroused controversy in 1983 when he became involved in trying to organise a campaign for a new Home Guard against a potential Soviet invasion.
Operating in all of NATO and even in some neutral countries such as Spain before its 1982 admission to NATO, Gladio was first coordinated by the Clandestine Committee of the Western Union (CCWU), founded in 1948. After the creation of NATO in 1949, the CCWU was integrated into the "Clandestine Planning Committee" (CPC), founded in 1951 and overseen by the SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), transferred to Belgium after France's official withdrawal from the NATO military organization – but not from NATO – which was not followed by the dissolution of the French stay-behind paramilitary movements.
British experience during World War II

Following the fall of France in 1940, Winston Churchill created the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to both assist resistance movements and itself carry out sabotage and subversive operations in occupied Europe. It was revealed half a century later that SOE was complemented by a stay-behind organisation in Britain, created in extreme secrecy, to prepare for a possible invasion by Nazi Germany.
A network of resistance fighters was formed across Britain and arms caches were established. The network was recruited, in part, from the 5th (Ski) Battalion of the Scots Guards (which had originally been formed, but was not deployed, to fight alongside Finnish forces fighting the Soviet invasion of Finland). The network, which became known as the Auxiliary Units, was headed by Major Colin Gubbins – an expert in guerrilla warfare (who would later lead SOE). The units were trained, in part, by "Mad Mike" Calvert, a Royal Engineers officer who specialised in demolition by explosives and covert raiding operations. To the extent that they were publicly visible, the Auxiliary Units were disguised as Home Guard units, under GHQ Home Forces. The network was allegedly disbanded in 1944; some of its members subsequently joined the Special Air Service and saw action in North-West Europe.

While David Lampe published a book on the Auxiliary Units in 1968, their existence did not become widely known by the public until reporters such as David Pallister of The Guardian revived interest in them during the 1990s.

Did NATO's Secret
Armies Rule Europe?

March 31st, 1972 In a small village in northern Italy, an anonymous caller alerts police to an abandoned car

When they open the door, the vehicle explodes, and three policemen are killed After the attack, another anonymous phone call blames an extreme left-wing group called the Red Brigades In response, the government rounds up two hundred communists This was just one incident in a long campaign of violence in Italy The Italian people had no choice but to trust right wing governments and the military to protect them from left-wing terror.

And this is exactly what NATO, and America in particular, wanted them to do, at any cost The stream of attacks in Italy continued from 1968 to 1982 Hundreds of people were killed and thousands more injured They became known as the Years of Lead The Red Brigades were blamed for the 1972 car bomb.

But upon reviewing the evidence, Judge Felice Casson found the explosive was really C4, which was used by NATO It had come from a secret stash of weapons hidden beneath a cemetery near Verona This cache was just one of many A decade later, Judge Casson caught the culprit behind the car bomb: Vincenzo Vinciguerra Far from being a member of the Red Brigades, he belonged to a neo-Fascist organisation.

During his trial, Vinciguerra openly admitted that he and other right-wing extremists were protected by the secret services Then, in 1990, Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti confirmed the existence of a secret army in Italy, called Operation Gladio Moreover, he revealed it was part of a continental network French President Francois Mitterand was then forced to confirm its existence in his country Then the European Parliament officially condemned “the clandestine creation of manipulative and operational networks… [and] the assumption by certain US military personnel … in NATO of the right to encourage the establishment in Europe of a clandestine intelligence and operation network.

” These underground armies were inspired by the resistance fighters of World War 2, who were invaluable in defeating Nazi occupations When NATO was formed in 1949, it recruited soldiers and brought in weapons to almost every European country The agents were trained by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and supplied by America’s Office of Strategic Services Today, these are known as MI6 and the CIA The secret armies were created so that if the Soviet Union invaded and defeated Europe's armies, there would still be warriors to stay behind and help drive the Soviets out.

But Doctor Daniele Ganser says they acquired a second, much darker purpose He says the Gladio operatives began a strategy of tension No longer would they prepare to resist a Soviet invasion, but they would prevent the spread of left-wing politics in the first place by creating an environment where citizens would turn to the military, the police and right-wing governments to protect them from domestic communism According to Ganser, this required false flag terror attacks, and undercover agents who would provoke left-wing groups to instigate their own violence Unfortunately, the evidence suggests Ganser is correct.

Paramilitaries existed in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and even in neutral countries like Finland, Austria and Sweden In France, the secret army were involved in trying to kill President Charles de Gaulle because he wanted to grant independence to Algeria In Turkey, the secret soldiers were involved in three military coups, and was heavily involved in the Turkish Mafia and drug smuggling In Germany, the Neo-Nazis behind a nail bomb in Munich were likely protected by conservative politicians Indeed, right-wing politicians and intelligence services were a crucial part of the strategy.

In 2000, the Italian Senate investigated and concluded: “Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian State Institutions” But few politicians actually knew about the secret armies, especially left-leaning ministers For instance, the Belgian Defence Minister found out about Belgian’s stay-behind soldiers in the news The army had kept him out of the loop because he was a socialist A more sinister example is that of centrist former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro.

In 1978, he proposed bringing Italian communists into the government He was then kidnapped and killed Again, the left-wing Red Brigades were responsible – but investigations suggest the criminals were controlled by right-wing freemasons who worked with and were partly funded by the CIA Not all of the stay-behind armies started campaigns of terror There were no attacks in Norway, Switzerland or Austria.

The explanation may lie in the interests of the USA A memo by military diplomat Count Edgardo Sogno reveals that, in 1974, he visited the CIA station chief in Rome to inform him of plans for an anti-communist coup The CIA chief responded, “The United States [supports] any initiative tending to keep the communists out of government” In 2001, General Gianadelio Maletti, former head of the Italian counter-intelligence unit, said, “The CIA, following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism, capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left” He then suggested President Richard Nixon used right-wing terrorism to fight communism.

In the 1990s, several Operation Gladio operatives and government officials revealed that left-wing extremist groups were deeply infiltrated by American and Israeli spies, and that the CIA provided funding and sat in on secret meetings As the Italian Senate revealed, “[Operation Gladio was organised] by men linked to the structures of the United States Intelligence” Doctor Genser says it may be no coincidence that the strategy of tension began when General Lyman Lemnitzer was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Before running NATO, he was President Kennedy’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff It was he who approved Operation Northwoods, a 1962 plot to carry out false flag terror attacks in America and blame them on Fidel Castro, in order to justify invading communist Cuba.

Countries like Italy and West Germany had particularly strong socialist and communist factions on government Could it be that Lemnitzer simply carried his plan to defeat communism near America, into Europe, and used NATO’s paramilitary network to do it? NATO, the CIA and MI6 refuse to comment on the secret armies They have barely admitted they exist Researcher and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds says there is a new operation, designated ‘Gladio B’ by the FBI According to her, US intelligence is cooperating with and using Islamist terror groups to destabilise former Soviet countries and the Middle East, in order to gain control of natural resources.

NATO’s secret armies were real and, though their official era is over, their methods may still be active