Commentary

January 19, 2013

Military Intelligence — this week in history: January 18, 2012

Black Tom Island Sabotage, July 30, 1916

Jan. 18, 1918: American intelligence agents arrest German spy in Nogales, Ariz.

While sources disagree on the exact date, when young Lothar Witzke crossed the international border into Nogales, Ariz., on January 18, 1918 carrying a Russian passport, he was already well-known to the Military Intelligence Division, or MID. He had been under surveillance as a known German spy and was suspected as an accomplice in the sabotage attack on Black Tom Island in New York Harbor that occurred on July 30, 1916. That explosion was described as a thunderous blast, felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland. It rocked the harbor, shattered skyscraper windows, and pelted the Statue of Liberty with shrapnel.

Black Tom Island was a wake-up call for many Americans. Many people, the president included, felt that their distance from Europe would buffer them from the violence over there. Germany was, after all, considered a friend, and thousands of her citizens lived productive, patriotic lives in America. Six months after the Black Tom explosion, British cryptographers would decode the Zimmermann Telegram, which is what propelled reluctant America into the War, but the Black Tom sabotage would elude justice for the next 23 years.

At the same time, people of Mexico were in the midst of revolution. The Punitive Expedition to chase down Pancho Villa had ended with no resolution and left many Mexicans with a dislike of American government. Ralph Van Deman, head of the fledgling MID in Washington, D.C., set up a number of listening posts along the Mexican border to monitor German communications and keep tabs on known espionage rings set up in that country.

One of these known agents was Lothar Witzke. A man of numerous aliases, Witzke was dispatched by his handlers in Mexico City to the United States. Little did he know that his companions were Allied double agents reporting Witzke’s every move to MID.

Dr. Paul Altendorf, known to American Intelligence as Operative A-1, reported his conversations with Witzke to Capt. Byron Butcher, a special agent with the Military Intelligence Division in Nogales, Ariz. Witzke was taken into custody, and a coded letter found in his luggage was sent to MI-8, the Army’s Code and Cipher Section, for decryption. It only took one night to decipher, and it read: “Strictly Secret! The bearer of this is a subject of the Empire who travels as a Russian under the name of Pablo Waberski. He is a German secret agent.”

After months of interrogation in a Texas prison, Lothar Witzke was sentenced to death — the only man thus sentenced in the U.S. during World War I. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison by President Woodrow Wilson.

For further reading:

“The Enemy Within: The Inside Story of German Sabotage in America,” by Capt. Henry Landau, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1937

“Sabotage at Black Tom: Imperial Germany’s Secret War in America,” 1914-1917, by Jules Witcover, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, 1989

“The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice”, by Chad Millman, Little, Brown, and Co., New York, 2006




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Cyber-Security-Scout-Article-06OCT2014

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

U.S. Army graphic by Lawrence Boyd “You Are the First Line of Defense.” That is the message those who are responsible for the defense of the Army’s networks wants to get out to the rest of the Army during National Cyber S...
 
 

Depression awareness showcased during month of October

Stand To! In observance of October as National Depression Awareness Month, the U.S. Army will join several organizations across America to inform the public about the signs and symptoms of depression. The public will learn the importance of seeking treatment and will be provided information about the availability of free online anonymous behavioral health screenings....
 
 

Robin Williams — could someone have helped?

I haven’t been able to talk about it until now, but I was really angry that Robin Williams committed suicide. I have been a fan of Williams since the Mork and Mindy days and always admired how much he had going for him. I knew he had problems, but somehow never considered that suicide could...
 

 
DoD

DOD recognizes commitment to prevent sexual assault

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department Wednesday honored exceptional groups and individuals from each military component who contributed an innovative idea or approach to positively impact sexual assault prevention and response programs. The Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award recognizes Service members and DOD Civilians whose work in support of service members has been particularly notew...
 
 

Trick-or-treat hours set for Fort Huachuca Oct. 31

Fort Huachuca Halloween trick-or-treating will take place Oct. 31 from 6 – 8 p.m. for children under 14. Children 9 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Standard access requirements for the installation remain in effect. This includes the requirement that everyone 16 and over entering the installation provide a valid picture identification and...
 
 

VA processes more than 1.3 million veterans’ claims in FY14

WASHINGTON — More than 1.3 million veterans received decisions on their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal year 2014 — the highest number in VA’s history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims. This second year of record-breaking production comes as VA continues to transform the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin