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.


 
 

 
U.S. Army photos

Military Intelligence – Moment in MI history

Nisei interpreter provides critical in World War II battle U.S. Army photos Capt. Tom Sakamoto is pictured ca. 1955. Military Intelligence history has numerous examples of heroic Japanese-American Soldiers who served during Wor...
 
 

Asian/Pacific Heritage Month: “Many Cultures, One Voice: Promote Equality and Inclusion” May 1 – 31, 2015

During the month of May we honor Asian and Pacific Americans for their military service and contributions to the success of our Nation. Despite historic obstacles, Asian and Pacific Americans have persevered and contributed to every aspect of American life. This month, we pay tribute to the tenacity, hope and resolve of Asian and Pacific...
 
 

“Army Civilians – Key to Mission Success”

For nearly 240 years, Army Civilian employees have been an integral part of enhancing and sustaining the readiness of America’s Army in times of war and peace. The Army team appreciates our civilian workforce for their daily support to Soldiers, their Families and our Nation. Our civilian employees provide mission-essential capabilities, stability, continuity and leadership,...
 

 

BLUE BORDER MESSAGE / SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE COMPLETED

At a court martial on 25 March 2015, a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, was tried for committing sexual acts on multiple occasions by causing bodily harm. The 2LT pled not guilty, but was found guilty to the charge of sexual assault. On 27 March 2015, the 2LT was sentenced to a dismissal. The sexual assault...
 
 
Earth-Day-poster

Army Earth Day 2015: Sustain mission, secure future

STAND-TO! Celebrated each year on April 22, Earth Day started in 1970 as a grassroots effort to create an awareness of the Earth’s fragile environment, encourage environmental stewardship, and ultimately, develop environmenta...
 
 

Army Volunteer Corps shares philosophy on volunteerism

Special to The Scout Volunteering is a defining part of the American experience. From the Minutemen at Lexington to today’s all volunteer force, the Army relies on the fundamental connection between volunteerism and citizenship. The strength of the Army lies in its Soldiers, and the strength of Army communities lies in the talents and contributions...
 




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