Okay, It's Time to Come Clean. One evening, after the Fall of the Wall but long before German Reunification, I hopped in the car and drove into East Germany to spend some face-to-face time with some real, honest-to-goodness "Bad Guys."
I studied several of our official military maps beforehand, and I had planned out my route in detail. It was only a half-hour drive from Fulda to the border, then another half-hour to my destination. I pulled into town and parked my car somewhere inconspicuous, then I made my way through several neighborhoods on foot. I cut through people's backyards, and I hopped over fences... making sure that I was using a random pattern so I couldn't be followed.
I was dressed in civilian clothes that would pass for a native German, and as I approached my destination, I blended into a crowd of East German college students who were milling about. I was 25 years old at the time, so my youthful appearance and choice of attire matched the rest of the group.
A short time later, two Bad Guys in officer uniforms happened by. I left the group of students, and I approached the two Bad Guys. I greeted them with a thoroughly awful Bad Guy accent - which was by intention. I explained in a mixture of German and Bad Guy dialect that I had studied their language in school (which was true), and that I hoped to study more (which was also true). As I continued to speak their language badly, I was gambling on the notion that all I had to do to sell the illusion that I was an East German college student was to make sure that my grasp of the German language exceeded theirs.
My ruse paid off - the two Bad Guys dropped their guard, and they were more than willing to help out a poor college student who was butchering their language. Shortly after that, I was asking them questions about their uniforms, what they thought of Germany, where they were stationed, and... some other things. It's been years, so I don't really remember everything that I asked them. (Although, even if I did remember what I asked them, I'd still say that I didn't remember, so I'll leave it to you to decide whether I'm telling the truth.)
After several minutes, I decided that I needed to make my exit. I thanked the pair of Bad Guys for their time, then I joined another group of college students that were walking in the opposite direction of my car. After I had walked a sufficient distance, I broke from the group of students and headed down a narrow street, and then I began a long process of cutting through yards and hopping fences as I made my way back to where I had stashed my car. When I arrived, I made a quick inspection and decided that it hadn't been touched, then I climbed behind the wheel and headed out of town. I didn't head west, though - I headed north for a half-hour or so, then I headed west.
I had lots of details bouncing around in my head, but I was careful not to write anything down until after I had crossed the border back into West Germany.
I will admit, this short jaunt into enemy territory was... fun. And it produced a modicum of interesting information, but nothing that was earth-shattering. However, years later, I can put this entire experience in perspective: no one knew where I was. This wasn't anything that I was tasked to do. I wasn't working for anyone else. I was a member of the US Army, in civilian clothes, in a civilian vehicle, on foreign soil. If I'd been caught - or killed - there's a very good chance that no one in the West ever would have known what happened to me.
In other words, I was an idiot.
My spouse would like me to remind everyone that even though 30 years have passed, she’s still angry about this.