COLD WAR TARGETS
Stars and Stripes
By Matthew M. Burke and Marcus Kloeckner
Disgraced U.S. Air Force officers were set up, newly uncovered Stasi documents reveal uncovered Stasi documents reveal
According to 250 pages of Stasi files obtained by Stars and Stripes from the German government, the Soviets plotted to target and discredit the men, then considered “high-value targets,” culminating on the night of the crash.
For nearly 40 years, Bill Burhans has steadfastly maintained he wasn’t drunk when, as an Air Force lieutenant colonel driving fellow U.S. military liaisons home from a holiday party with their Soviet counterparts in East Germany, he lost control of the car, careened up an embankment and slammed into a bus.
When the car came to a stop on Dec. 29, 1979, Air Force Lt. Col. James Tonge, his passenger, called to him to move the car to the shoulder. But Burhans sat frozen, except for his trembling hands.
It was as if he’d been “hit in the head with an ax at the slaughterhouse,” Tonge would later tell U.S. investigators in a sworn statement.
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