Conrad was a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, a Sgt, First Class from Sebring, Ohio. He was assigned West Germany where he served as the classified documents custodian to the 8th Infantry Division of the army. He was tasked with maintaining and protecting top secret documents related to the military plans in case of a war with the Soviet bloc.
His superior at the time was Zoltan Szabo, another U.S. Army Sgt. First Class who was a naturalized U.S. citizen from Hungary, but was also a Colonel in the Hungarian Military intelligence. In 1975 Szabo approached Conrad about helping him to provide information to Hungarian and Czechoslovakian intelligence services. Conrad agreed and began delivering information from the vaults housing the top secret documents he was supposed to be protecting. In return he received payments over the next ten years which allegedly reached into the millions of dollars. Court records demonstrated that by 1978 he had a swiss safety deposit box filled with gold bars.
In 1983, Conrad recruited Sgt. Roderick Ramsey to help him gather and disseminate the classified documents. Ramsey, who official was serving as Conrad’s assisted agreed to do so and aided Conrad for the next two years. In addition to Ramsey, other members of the Szabo-Conrad spy ring were Jeffrey Rondeau, Jeffrey Gregory and Kelly Therese Warren. Ramsey would allege that more than ten others people served the ring including one military officer who would eventually reach the rank of General.
More than 30,000 documents were passed over the course of a ten year period. The documents involved were among the most valuable in the world to the Eastern Bloc. Among these were NATO wartime general defense plans which indicated the positions of many military units and the description of where they were to be deployed incase of war, what their tasks were and what areas they would defend. It also included NATO strategies and nuclear weapon sites, all of which worked its way through the Eastern BLOC intelligence services, all the way up to the KGB.
In 1983, Conrad was arrested by the Federal Republic of Germany and charged with engaging in espionage with the Czechoslovakian and Hungarian governments. Because he had retired from the U.S. Army and was living in West Germany, neither the military nor the FBI had jurisdiction to arrest him. Thus they had to turn to the West German authorities to do so. He was found guilty on June 6, 1990 and because he was viewed as the head of the spy ring was sentenced to life imprisonment. It is estimated that he received over $1.2 million over the years in return for the information he passed. In passing the sentence, Chief Judge Ferdinand Schuth said that Conrad enabled the real possibility that “If war had broken out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the West would have faced certain defeat. NATO would have quickly been forced to choose between capitulation or the use of nuclear weapons on German territory. Conrad’s treason had doomed the Federal Republic to become a nuclear battlefield.”
In addition to Conrad’s sentence, Rondeau and Gregory were sentenced to 18 years each, Warren was sentenced to 25 years and Szabo was given a 10 month suspended sentence, in return for testifying and identifying documents that were passed to the Hungarian government.
Clyde Conrad died in Diez prison in in Koblenz, Germany on January 8, 1998, the victim of heart failure. He was 50 years old.