Gehlen file photo [8418]

Reinhard Gehlen

Given NameReinhard
Born3 Apr 1902
Died8 Jun 1979


ww2dbaseReinhard Gehlen was born in Erfurt, Germany to a book store owner. He was raised a Roman Catholic. He joined the military in 1920, and graduated from the German Staff College in 1935. At the rank of captain, he was attached to the Army General Staff later in 1935. In 1939, he was promoted to the rank of major. In 1939, he was the staff officer of an infantry division during the invasion of Poland. In 1940, he became the liaison officer to Army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, then later in the year transferred to the staff of Chief of Staff General Franz Halder. In Jul 1941, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and soon after became a senior intelligence officer on the Russian front. In 1942, he was approached by Colonel Henning von Tresckow, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, and General Adolf Heusinger to participate in the assassination of Hitler; when the July Plot failed, Gehlen was able to cover up his involvement (his participation was not significant) during the subsequent investigations. In Dec 1944, he was promoted to the rank of major general and given charge of intelligence gathering. In Mar 1945, Gehlen and some of his senior officers microfilmed holdings of his Fremde Heere Ost organization and buried the films in watertight drums in several places in the Austrian Alps. On 22 May 1945, he surrendered to US Army Counter Intelligence Corps in Bavaria in Southern Germany.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Gehlen offered his intelligence archives, knowledge of Russian military organizations, and contacts across the Soviet Union to the Americans in exchange for the liberty of a number German officers including himself. The offer was accepted, and Gehlen's name, along with the names of his former senior officers, disappeared from prisoners-of-war lists. Gehlen and seven others gathered the buried drums in secret shortly after. On 20 Sep 1945, Gehlen and three of his officers were transferred to the United States to begin working for the Office of Strategic Services. Among his first contributions to the OSS was the revealing of several OSS officers who were, in secret, members of the US Communist Party. In Jul 1946, Gehlen was officially released from US captivity and returned to Germany. From Germany, he set up an organization consisted of 350 former German intelligence officers and operated under the cover of the South German Industrial Development Organization in Pullach, Germany, near Munich. This organization would eventually grow to 4,000 undercover agents. His agents, codenamed "V-men" and their group nicknamed the "Gehlen Organization", were instruments of the US Central Intelligence Agency in Germany against the Soviet nations during the Cold War. The Gehlen Organization was later evaluated to be ineffective in gathering valuable information from the Soviet nations, though successful missions such as Operation Crossword (infiltration of 5,000 anti-communists into Eastern Europe and Russia) and the uncovering of the Soviet assassination unit known as SMERSH proved the organization's worth.

ww2dbaseIn 1955, the Gehlen Organization was handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany under the government of Konrad Adenauer. On 1 Apr 1956, the organization formed the foundation of the newly created Federal Intelligence Service, with Gehlen at its helm with the title of president. In 1968, he stepped down into retirement due to a political scandal among top Federal Intelligence Service leadership.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2009


Reinhard Gehlen, circa 1940s, photo 1 of 2Reinhard Gehlen, circa 1940s, photo 2 of 2Generalmajor Reinhard Gehlen behind his desk, 1940s

Reinhard Gehlen Timeline

3 Apr 1902 Reinhard Gehlen was born.
14 Jul 1942 Reinhard Gehlen and Heinz Herre presented to General Franz Halder intelligence on the Soviet difficulty in recruitment and the redirection of Lend-Lease war goods to Egypt.
8 Jun 1979 Reinhard Gehlen passed away.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
11 Sep 2015 09:18:15 AM

He was not a nice man.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Reinhard Gehlen
Event(s) Participated:
» Invasion of Poland

Reinhard Gehlen Photo Gallery
Reinhard Gehlen, circa 1940s, photo 1 of 2
See all 3 photographs of Reinhard Gehlen

Famous WW2 Quote
"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us... they can't get away this time."

Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!