Watch the BBC's forgotten series on Operation Gladio
This three-part TV series, which exposed NATO's secret Nazi armies, still has the ability to make your jaw drop 30 years later.
On Tuesday I published a new article which is the first in a new series about Operation Gladio, NATO’s Cold War-era network of Nazi terrorist armies.
Gladio is a wild topic. It’s hard to get your head around the sheer scale of it. One of the three main sources I’ve relied on to write these articles is a three part 1992 BBC documentary series by the late American film maker Allan Francovich.
You can watch all three parts in the YouTube videos embedded on this page.
The whole series is 2 hours and 25 minutes long. It’s a stunning watch, something hard to tear your eyes away from.
The first 15 minutes in particular hits you over the head with revelation after revelation:
Gladio was an “invisible army” that secretly manipulated European countries. They used “internal subversion” to fight an ideological anti-communist war against the left, and even established governments.
The secret terrorist armies were trained in Britain and the US, under the authority of Western intelligence agencies.
These agencies often recruited fascists and Nazis “for the simple reason that they fought the communists.”
Gladio were operative in France, Belgium, Italy and several other Western European countries.
This was often done without the knowledge of elected politicians, who were sometimes even the targets of Gladio operations.
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The series includes a staggering array of interviews with first-hand participants in the secret army — from fascist terrorists and military intelligence spooks all the way up to senior CIA officers William Colby and Ray S. Cline. We meet all the major players, including Gladio fascist Vincenzo Vinciguerra and Licio Gelli, the head of an organization called (I kid you not) the P2 Masonic Lodge.
I have not been able to find anywhere online that the film is available to buy. It’s frankly unthinkable to imagine the BBC of 2022 ever airing such a series, critical of British and American intelligence. There are several pirated copies online posted to YouTube and other such sites. I’ve included the one above simply because it’s all three parts in one video.
Unfortunately the online copies are of quite low quality. They all appear to be the same copy-of-a-copy, with a massive time stamp imposing itself over the top of the frame. Luckily the image quality is just about good enough to render the subtitles visible (essential in a series whose interviews take place in so many different languages). If any reader knows of the existence of a better quality copy, do let me know in the comments section.
Update: Thanks to the reader who pointed me towards a copy which is of much better picture quality and has no time stamp. I’ve replaced the YouTube embed in this post.
Update, 20 April: The high-quality three part version that was on YouTube has unfortunately today been set to private. So we’re back to the time-stamped version for now, unless another reader can help out.
Allan Francovich himself died prematurely in 1997. He was only 56.
His other films included 1980’s On Company Business, which exposed the dirty dealings of the CIA. It was partly financed by US public broadcasting, but “upset the CIA so much that political pressure was applied to PBS” and the channel only aired it once, despite having planned three showings.
He also made 1994’s The Maltese Double Cross, which debunked the official narrative about the Lockerbie bombing.
There is some speculation online that Francovich died in mysterious or suspicious circumstances, but I could find no hard information on this. His cause of death at the time was reported as a heart attack that hit him as he travelled via Houston airport.