Spying on America: Leon G. Turrous The Nazi Spy Conspiracy in America

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Assuming the role of a senior American military officer, Rumrich threw caution to the wind and simply telephoned the medical section at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. Identifying himself as a specialist with the U.

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Army Medical Corps, he told the duty officer that he had arrived in New York City for a conference on military readiness and discovered that he had left some important statistics on venereal disease at his office in Washington, D. Aware of the lax security assigned to this type of information, he brazenly ordered the Fort Hamilton medical staff to deliver the data to him at the Manhattan hotel where he was staying.

Within days, this valuable information concerning the status of U. His new mission—one that meant potentially greater rewards for Germany but that increased his risk of discovery—was to obtain blank U. These were valuable commodities for both the Abwehr and the Soviet intelligence services, and acquiring them was a top priority for both. Using sophisticated technology available only in the most modern laboratories, blank passports could be forged so as to appear genuine even to experts examining them with the naked eye. Because few Americans traveled abroad during the s and s, customs and immigration officials at border crossings were not adequately trained to spot forgeries, making passports valuable false identity documents for espionage agents across Europe and Asia.

The U. Using a hushed voice for dramatic effect, he explained that he was in New York City incognito and ordered the delivery of thirty-five blank passports to Mr.

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The dumbfounded clerk could not conceive of such a bizarre request. A quick check confirmed that Hull was in Washington, D. A package containing blank passport applications, rather than the blank passports Rumrich had requested, was readied and sent on its way under the close observation of State Department investigators and the New York City Police Department. Rumrich was arrested by police officers on February 14, , when he took possession of the package.

With Rumrich in custody, State Department officials immediately began questioning the lawfulness of the arrest.

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Although posing as a U. Even more troublesome for the bureaucrats was the potential embarrassment to the State Department if Secretary of State Cordell Hull was subpoenaed to testify at a high-profile court proceeding in New York City against someone whose crime was questionable. In July British postal authorities received a report concerning the suspicious behavior of a woman living in Dundee, a sleepy little farming town in central Scotland.

Daily shipments of mail and packages postmarked from countries in South America, Europe, and Asia were arriving at the obscure address, along with daily postings from the Dundee resident back to these and other foreign addresses.


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The volume of mail soon caught the attention of the curious postman who handled the route. The report was quickly forwarded through the British Postal Service, eventually making its way to London and the headquarters of the British Security Service, known as M15, which launched an inquiry. Who was this anonymous person living quietly in Scotland?

M15 quickly identified her as Mrs.

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Jessie Wallace Jordan, a hairdresser in her early fifties who worked in a local beauty shop. She lived in a tiny fiat on Kinlock Street in a working-class neighborhood, kept to herself, maintained a modest lifestyle on a meager income, and rarely traveled. With such blandly predictable behavior—except for her unusual mailing activities—and no friends or contacts that raised any security concerns, there was no reason for anyone to suspect that Mrs. Jordan was an espionage agent. Surface impressions can be misleading, however, as British authorities soon discovered.

A deeper probe by M15 officers over the next few months gradually uncovered a link between this obscure beautician and espionage. Although she had been born in Scotland and was a British citizen, Jordan had been living in Dundee only since , after residing in Germany for thirty years. Before the First World War she had met and married a German traveling through Scotland, moved with him to Germany, and acquired German citizenship. Her husband had served in the German army during the war, receiving wounds that later proved fatal.

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A second marriage in Germany had ended in divorce. Jordan had told friends that she had broken all ties with Germany and that her only close relatives lived in Scotland; yet an investigation of her travel patterns uncovered a number of unexplained trips to Germany in that she had not mentioned to anyone. MI5 veterans had long suspected the Germans and the Russians of conducting espionage in Great Britain, but in the nearly two decades since the end of the First World War, the understaffed and underfunded security service had unearthed little meaningful evidence.

In January , however, MI5 arrested four spies involved in a Soviet ring that had been quietly stealing blueprints for naval weapons from the Woolwich Arsenal. Now, with the Dundee investigation, another act of espionage in the British Isles may have been uncovered, and like any sophisticated counterintelligence service, MI5 began thinking beyond Mrs.

By secretly examining the contents of her mail and tracking her mailing patterns, MI5 hoped to find other spies operating in Great Britain, particularly moles burrowed deep within the British government and the military establishment. Surveillance of Jordan soon began producing encouraging results. Over time, a careful examination of her mail led investigators to conclude that the letters and packages were not intended for Mrs.

Jordan; rather, they were destined for Germany and its intelligence establishment, as well as intelligence agents in other parts of the world. Regardless of her reasons, Jordan was clearly spying for the Germans, and the British began reaping valuable information about German agents and operating methods throughout the world. Then, when it was satisfied that enough information had been acquired, it would develop a scheme to quietly intercede and gain control of the operation, without the knowledge of the Germans or the Russians.

His next paragraph, however, stopped the British investigation in its tracks.

A direct threat on the life of an American military officer left the British with no options. On January 29, , Colonel Raymond E. Lee, the U.

Eglin, the base commander, was in no danger and had received no such instructions. Next the War Department requested FBI assistance to observe activities around the McAlpin Hotel, looking for the mysterious Crown and awaiting his telephone call to the colonel. Under questioning by military authorities, Rumrich quickly admitted planning the document theft and the elimination of Eglin.

He was turned over to the FBI on February 19, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who was vacationing in Miami, was unaware of the case and was reluctant to get the FBI involved. Attorney General Homer Cummings, like Hoover, knew nothing of the arrest and ordered an immediate damp on all news releases concerning the investigation.

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A stickler for clear lines of authority and responsibility, Hoover abhorred the messy jurisdictional issues this case presented. The espionage charges would surely be dismissed for lack of merit, and Rumrich would end up facing only the charge of desertion. Despite pressure from the War Department to pursue the matter because of the threat to Colonel Eglin, Hoover continued to resist. Turrou was chosen because of his previous experience with the attempted sabotage of the navy dirigible the USS Akron by a fanatic Communist and because of his fluency in German, Russian, French, and Italian.

Turrou started the investigation with a series of illuminating interviews with a talkative Rumrich that soon revealed the vast extent of the Abwehr spy network in the United States. Details about how Rumrich had begun spying, his methods of keeping in contact with his Abwehr masters in Europe, leads to other spies in the United States and Canada, and a catalog of his successes and the ease with which he was able to obtain military and government secrets all cascaded out in rich detail.

The chatty spy, hoping to save himself, outlined Abwehr methods for passing on instructions, receiving messages, and checking on agents around the World. He identified Karl Schleuter, then in Germany and a steward on the steamship the SS Bremen, as the courier who had carried his information to Germany. Messages and packages between Rumrich and Pfeiffer were carried by ordinary crew members, particularly Schleuter. Sending and receiving mail and packages from mail drops was an alternative method of communication designed to enhance the security of the operation. After further questioning by Turrou, Rumrich revealed the identities of two people he had tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit as spies: a U.

Navy Department employee with access to code and cipher information, and a seaman in Newport News, Virginia. He was more successful, however, with Erich Glaser, an army private assigned to the Eighteenth Reconnaissance Squadron at Mitchell Field in New York, who had already supplied him with important army air force and navy codes and ciphers. Turrou also learned that Hoffmann was due to arrive in New York City sometime in the next few days.

As for Rumrich, his twenty-one-month espionage career produced some impressive results. Rumrich routinely frequented taverns and bars along the docks and wharves, casually chatting for hours with unsuspecting sailors, merchant seamen, longshoremen, and stevedores interested only in a few drinks and some relaxed conversation. In this way, Rumrich picked up an important answer to a seemingly innocuous question here, a valuable tidbit there, or an interesting piece of gossip somewhere else.

When assembled and combined with his own observations, these disparate pieces of seemingly irrelevant data created a clear picture of ship destinations and descriptions, warship movement and construction, and the volumes, types, and destinations of cargoes moving in and out of the port of New York City. All were now hopelessly lost to Germany. Turrou then interviewed Greibl and learned that he was a physician, born, raised, and educated in Munich, who had immigrated to the United States in Supported by his wife, Maria, a nurse he had met while serving in the German army, Greibi continued his medical studies at Long Island Medical College and later at Fordham University.

With no admissions by Greibl, Turrou was forced to let him go. Within months, an agent assigned to a ship crew met Greibl in New York, assessed his value for intelligence collection, signed him up, and introduced him to Lonkowski. He roused the audience with fiery rhetoric demanding that U. The Yorkville section of Manhattan was one of the largest German colonies in the United States at the time, and German American physicians were a rare commodity.

The high status accorded to Greibl in the community allowed him exceptional access to information that was not available to the average person. German immigrants living in the area preferred his medical services because he spoke their language, had a similar background and common cultural experiences, and shared their sense of pride over the successes of the new Germany. Greibl exploited this relationship and gently pried into the private lives of his patients without raising any suspicions. Taking medical histories could prove very productive.

One such agent recruited by Greibl was Christian F. Danielsen, a marine engineer living in Maine. Employed at the Bath Iron Works in Bangor, Danielsen soon began supplying the Germans with secret blueprints of destroyers and other warships that the company was designing and building for the navy. Every month or so, he traveled to New York and personally delivered his cache of secrets to Greibl.

In this careful yet deliberate manner, the Abwehr maintained a successful international military-industrial espionage organization with access to a wide variety of valuable technical information. With the U. To illustrate the magnitude of these losses, one need only examine the period between January and July The focus of the Rumrich interviews turned next to Lonkowski.

Born in Silesia before the turn of the twentieth century, Lonkowski had been educated in German technical schools and served in the German army as an aircraft mechanic during the First World War. As one of the few persons knowledgeable about airpower, his ability to move about Europe, studying foreign aircraft development, became critical. In he traveled to France using an alias to assess the state of aviation development there and returned to Germany with a large cache of valuable information. That success led to other foreign intelligence assignments and eventually to his most important Abwehr mission.

In , with a false passport and a new alias, Lonkowski was ordered to the United States to steal U. Topping the German wish list were new and more efficient airplane motors under commercial development and new propeller designs being tested by the Westinghouse Corporation.

After settling into a routine in the United States, Lonkowski was surprised to discover a benign counterintelligence environment. Government agents never questioned him, never inquired about his personal history, and showed no interest in his associates, his loyalties, or his comings and goings. In general, he found American industrial conditions rather inviting for an experienced, cautious, and enterprising spy.

His good work habits and common sense soon caught the attention of Ireland management, leading to a promotion to the personnel department, where he took control of the hiring and firing of workers. This allowed Lonkowski to plant two other Abwehr agents, whom he had recruited before leaving Germany, at the Ireland Corporation. However, three spies at the same location were unnecessary, so the small espionage ring gradually expanded.

Curtiss was conducting experimental research on lightweight aluminum airframes at the time. Voss, also thirty-three, had served in Finland and France during the war. After the armistice he spent another two years in the volunteer corps of the German army, followed by attendance at a technical school until He eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked for the Seversky Aircraft Company manufacturing airplane propellers for the U.

Gudenberg and Voss sent their stolen military secrets to Lonkowski, who packaged them for transatlantic shipment via courier to Berlin. The success of this efficient little ring was remarkable. Having successfully completed his mission, Lonkowski was anxious to return home to Germany. He was set to sail for Europe on September 27, , when he was detained by U. Customs Service officers, who had discovered material in his bags suggesting his involvement in espionage. Lonkowski was later released and returned to his home on Long Island when the documents were deemed to be inconsequential.

Before authorities could get wise to his activities, Lonkowski contacted Greibl, who wasted no time taking him to Canada, where he anonymously boarded another ship bound for Europe. Born in in Leipzig, Germany, he immigrated to the United States in and joined the army fifteen months later. His military service record included a stint in the Panama Canal Zone, reenlistment in , and another three years in the Philippines until his discharge in After only a short time as a civilian, Glaser reenlisted in January and served in the air corps at Mitchell Field until his arrest.

Glaser and Rumrich originally met in the Panama Canal Zone, and he later lived with Rumrich and his wife for a time in the Bronx. As noted earlier, Rumrich identified Glaser as one of his agents and provided a full description of his espionage-related thefts. Faced with accusations of supplying highly sensitive cipher and code data to the Germans, Glaser made a complete confession.

Turrou confronted her with Rumrichs accusations along with incriminating letters addressed to Greibl found during a search of her belongings. Alone and trapped, Hoffmann too admitted spying for the Germans and described her role as a courier, carrying military secrets between Greibl and her intelligence bosses in Germany and delivering messages, money, and instructions on her return to the United States. She identified other crew members doing spy work and defended her activities, explaining that refusal to assist the Abwehr would have meant the loss of her job.

Parachutes over Persia. Operations and Operatives. Defects and Deficiencies. Back Matter Pages About this book Introduction This is the first full-length work to be published about the spectacular failure of the German intelligence services in Persia Iran during WWII. Based on archival research it analyzes a compelling history of Nazi planning, operations, personalities, and intrigues, and follows the protagonists from Hitler's rise to power into the postwar era.

Abwehr British Intelligence catastrophic failure clandestine activity counterintelligence covert initiative espionage intelligence history intelligence liaison intelligence policy intelligence service intelligence strategy Iran MI5 Middle East organizational failure Persia sabotage Second World War security intelligence Adolf Hitler history.

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