Bomb Threats and Terror: Flashbacks to the Baader Meinhof Gang


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The last week was stressful for me. I am dealing with a contractor who is causing problems, and I had a number of other issues going on at work. Likewise, as you know from my last two articles, I was dealing with people in the neighborhood who were and still may be working to make sure that the kids in our neighborhood don’t have a safe place to play. Of themselves they would have been stressful and time consuming but not anything that would amp up my anxiety level. 

But this week, my base and another one nearby were the targets of a significant number of bomb threats, in fact on Wednesday we had five separate bomb threats on my base and I ended up spending over half of my day in our Emergency Operations Center. Now I know that for most Americans that bomb threats are of little concern, mainly because they have never really experienced actual terror threats in their neighborhoods that impacted their daily lives for months on end. Bigger events like the 9-11 attacks are a different matter. 

Most Americans live in a nice cocoon of comfortable safety were  terrorist bombs are something that blow up in other countries. But my life, and that of my wife have been different from most Americans. For almost three years we lived with the very real threat of being bombed, kidnapped, or killed by members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, or as it is sometimes known as the Red Army Faction when we were stationed in what was then West Germany during the Cold War. Not only them, but by Muammar Ghadafi’s regime was was sending out terrorists bombers who were bombing places where Americas congregated, clubs, and shopping areas.

Of course I also dealt with the possibility of being blown up by Improvised Explosive Devices during much of my tour in Iraq. So for me, and to some extent Judy, a bomb threat is a source of real anxiety because on two occasions we barely missed being blown up by Baader-Meinhof bombs in 1985, and two years after we returned from Germany the aircraft that we flew home in was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie Scotland by a bomb planted by Libyan terrorists. 

When we lived in Germany in the mid-1980s the threat was real and as I said on two occasions, once at the Frankfurt Post Exchange and once at Frankfurt International Airport, we almost ended up in the middle of bomb blasts that killed and wounded a good number of people. The threat was such that before you got in your car in the morning or started it, that you looked to make sure that there was nothing suspicious. When you entered a base, not only was your identification checked, but your car was inspected. Units on the base had to supply soldiers to patrol the perimeter of the base, and as a young officer I often had to be in charge of the overnight patrols. 

Likewise, because of the threat you remained observant to things around you even when out in town. One Saturday in 1986 while walking through the parking lot at an early version of something like a Wal-Mart in Wiesbaden, a place called Wertkauf we noticed something unusual. As we walked toward the store there was a van that had it back hatch open and a number of people sitting in it. For a moment our eyes locked that the people in the van watched us until we got out of site. Both of us noticed the obvious suspicion and hatred in their eyes. But we went in and did our shopping. When we left they were gone. We mentioned to each other how strange it was but we went home. The next day we went to dinner at a restaurant downtown and as we past the main Police station, we saw a wanted poster for Baader-Meinhof/Red Army Faction members, so we went in and made out report, which the Polizie took seriously and interrogated us for over two hours. Most of these people were arrested and tried for their crimes after they lost sanctuary in East Germany when the wall came down. 

So when these threats occur, especially when they appear to be well coordinated in order to maximize the disruption, I get amped up. My mind goes back to those days in Germany and Iraq. But not only does my mind go back to those places, but it imagines the reality of what could happen if whoever was calling in the threats was also intent on actually killing people. Sadly, it wouldn’t be that hard to kill a lot of military personnel in an attack around our area, there are far too many soft targets, and as a matter of course I pretty much avoid them, even when there are no broadcast terror or bomb threats. When I do go to them I am on high alert looking for things that might be out of place. Hypervigilance is a part of my life with PTSD, and bomb threats only make me more hyper vigilant. 

The threats we had this week were all false alarms. Thankfully no one set off any actual bombs, but at the same time I wonder if the strategy of the callers is to lull people into a sense of complacency, thinking that there is no basis to the threats. If so that would be a good strategy, because people might stop taking them seriously, opening a gateway for a real bomber. 

The Navy has put out a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever has been behind this weeks’ threats. Personally, if I ever found out who was doing this I would do my best to have them locked away forever. 

Thankfully my stress level has gone down over the past couple of days, with Wednesday being the worst day this week. I stil might have to deal with fallout from my contractor over the weekend but I am prepared for that. So until tomorrow. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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4 Comments

Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, terrorism

4 responses to “Bomb Threats and Terror: Flashbacks to the Baader Meinhof Gang

  1. I appreciate your honest sharing.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. It’s really interesting to read about your experience with the Baader-Meinhof Group. There’s a lot of media hype and “terrorist-chic” image surrounding them, it’s refreshing to read a first-hand account, even a brief one.

  3. Sam

    I was doing a Google search for “1985 Frankfurt PX Bombing” to research the attack and found your Blog. I was stationed in Germany from 1985 to 1987 with the 3rd Armored Division. I was a young private and was just out of AIT. Germany was my first duty station country. You are “spot on” Padre Steve, West Germany was a terrorist insane asylum. My company from the 1/48th Infantry, out of Gelnhausen, was assigned to Reaction Force duty at 5th Corps Headquarters. My platoon was assigned duty around the PX. I had come off of my guard shift and was about 50 meters from the car bomb when it detonated in the PX parking lot. This was the start of my long journey down the dark road of PTSD and TBI. This was my second encounter with terrorists since my arrival in Germany. Six months prior, I had been at Rhine-Main Air Force Base to shop for music cassettes on a day off. Every GI in Germany learned quickly to go to the Rhine-Main BX or the Mainz-Kastel PX for the freshest tunes. I was in the Burger Bar when the base came under bomb attack from the Red Army Faction. The ceiling collapsed on us but I was not seriously injured in that one. Like you, I became hypervigilent and avoided any place that looked like a soft target, after that. While on guard duty back at my home Kaserne, a fire extinguisher was thrown over the perimeter fence and landed behind me. It was full of dynamite. Luckily, it malfunctioned. My last one there, was a car bomb parked between my barracks and the PX. It fizzled ,too. Til this day, I don’t know how they got a car with German plates inside the gate. The PX was just past the front gate at my Kaserne. FYI Brother, you have the only known photo of the Frankfurt PX bombing aftermath that I have ever been able to find. There were 10 Purple Heart Medals awarded to US Military personnel wounded in that attack. Keep the Faith Brother! I am very excited to have found your blog. I look forward to reading more- Great stuff from my first perusal.
    1SG Sam
    100 % Disabled Veteran.

    • padresteve

      First Sergeant, thanks for your recounting of the period. It is amazing to think what we went thru on a daily basis back then. People have no idea what living under the constant and daily threat of terrorism really is like. Blessings on you!

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