. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Cold War Arms Caches Leave Austrians Seeing Red

VIENNA, Austria -- Fearful of a Soviet takeover after World War II, the United States hid at least 79 weapons caches in Austria for anti-communist partisans. Now the U.S. ambassador has apologized for not telling the current government about them.

An unspecified number of weapons, pistols and explosives were hidden by U.S. occupation troops in the 1950s, the Kurier newspaper reported Sunday.

U.S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt told Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitkzy and President Thomas Klestil about the sites in a meeting Saturday.

"I would like to apologize that Austria was informed so late about the matter," Hunt told Austria Press Agency late Saturday. "This is a relic from the Cold War."

Vranitkzy said he was astonished Austria had been left in the dark for so long. The belated disclosure "does not correspond with the excellent level of our countries' relations," the APA quoted the chancellor as saying. He said it was imperative "to find the places of these caches together with the U.S. authorities as soon as possible."

Hunt promised within days to provide details on the sites, which are said to be concentrated in the western province of Salzburg. She said they did not pose any danger to the population.

However, Fritz Molden, a former Austrian journalist, said Sunday that the secret weapons depots were established at the initiative of the Austrian government led by Chancellor Leopold Figl, and planning for them began in 1948. He claimed that some depots were also placed in the Soviet occupation zone in eastern Austria.

Molden told the APA he had acted as a liaison between the Americans and the postwar Austrian government. However, it was not clear why the information was not handed down to subsequent governments.

According to Kurier, a U.S. congressional committee monitoring CIA activities found documents on the weapons caches that had not been known to the Clinton administration.

A report Saturday in the U.S. newspaper The Boston Globe prompted Hunt to inform the Austrian government, Kurier said. The report said CIA agents stashed the weapons while the U.S. military conducted loud military maneuvers as a diversion.

For 10 years after end of World War II, Austria was occupied by the wartime Allies, with the country and the capital of Vienna subdivided into American, Russian, British and French zones.