World Turned Upside Down


World Turned Upside Down

U.S. Naval Intelligence and the Early Cold War Struggle for Germany

Marvin B. Durning
Foreword by Robert K. Massie

208 pages


December 2007


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2011


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In 1955, after assignments at the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and on board a destroyer, Marvin Durning arrived at ONI’s office in Munich, Germany. During this year, he participated in the final stages of transforming Germany from a defeated enemy into a respected democracy, reestablishing its sovereignty, and shepherding its membership in NATO, which also involved rearming America’s erstwhile foe. At that time, Munich, like Berlin, was a nerve center for the Cold War. It was crowded with U.S. troops and German and Slav refugees. Radio Free Europe called it home. The city was, Durning writes, “a jungle of competing secret intelligence organizations: British, French, American, Russian, West and East German, Czech, Polish, and others.” Beneath the calm surface of everyday life in Munich roamed agents and double agents who witnessed defections, kidnappings, interrogations that ended in death, and assassinations by bomb explosions and by poison dart. World Turned Upside Down is Durning’s account of such activities. Durning served as the de facto executive officer of a small office of German intelligence specialists tasked with routine navy issues. But much more was underway. Known only to his commander, himself, and the yeoman who typed the reports, former admirals of the defunct German Kriegsmarine attended secret meetings at his commander's house in the suburbs of Munich, where they worked to plan and create a future West German Navy. In addition, Durning served as a liaison officer to the Gehlen Organization, the supersecret German intelligence and espionage organization, and he recounts their activities here.

Author Bio

After serving in naval intelligence, Marvin B. Durning became an educator and a lawyer. He served as a naval officer during the tense years of the Cold War struggle over Germany’s future. Durning is also an early leader in the environmental movement, and served the Carter administration as Assistant Administrator for Enforcement in the Environmental Protection Agency. He lives in Seattle.


"Durning's World Turned Upside Down provides a riveting, firsthand account of the complex shadowy world of intelligence in early Cold War Germany. Drawing upon his experiences while assigned to the U.S. Naval Intelligence Office in Munich in 1955-56, Durning offers his reader a window into the world of intelligence, sharing the sort of insight into working relationships, daily routines, and personalities that only an insider can provide. His account reveals how the U.S. Navy supported intelligence activities that ranged beyond the narrow maritime issues and worked closely with Army intelligence, the Gehlen Organization, former German admirals, and the CIA in fostering German-American relationships that endured for decades. A fascinating, highly readable account that encompasses midnight meetings, drop-offs of intelligence materials, and tantalizing insights into how U.S. naval intelligence participated in the broader Cold War struggle over Germany."—Douglas Peifer, professor, Department of Strategy, Air War College, and author of The Three German Navies: Dissolution, Transition, and New Beginnings

"Linking U.S. naval intelligence to Germany and the Cold War may seem a stretch, but in Marvin Durning's hands the story becomes gripping and credible. Here we witness the titantic forty-year struggle between East and West at ground level through the eyes of a young American officer who lived amid the personalities and plots that helped engineer Germany's stunning transition from Nazi enemy to democratic ally. Durning was there and part of this fateful game."—Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage

"This evocative book by Marvin Durning recreates and personalizes the mid-1950s atmosphere of Cold War Munich. It is a multilayered account of the historic postwar conversion of West Germany from enemy to ally. For one who had no special 'need to know,' this young navy intelligence officer grew in wisdom about high policy and played an unexpected role in implementing it. This is also a story of collegiality in secret work among American intelligence officers and between them and their German co-workers. Against a background of beer halls and moonlit drives, there are nicely etched vignettes of the author's colleagues."—Thomas L. Hughes, former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research

“Durning’s book adds to an increasing body of scholarship that highlights the roles and contributions of mid- and junior-grade personnel who implemented Washington’s policies during the Cold War. It gives insight on the day-to-day intelligence activities that transpired in small operating locations."—Journal of Military History

"Durning has done a great service by publishing an account of his year in Munich. . . . [He] provides enlightening details about the personnel and operations of the Munich station. . . . A useful addition to a comprehensive collection of works on German or Cold War intelligence history, this book could also serve as a brief introductory account of the rebirth of German military and intelligence services in the mid-1950s."—National Intelligence Journal