My lecture at Cercle K2, a Paris based think-tank that seeks solutions to the social, political and economic problems facing the world today. I am proud to acknowledge that I am a founding member. The lecture was held at the beautiful Ferdinand Foch Auditorium on the grounds of Ecole Militaire in Paris, France on June 24, 2015 before an audience of 700+ people (event page). Here is a video of my lecture followed by the text:
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Good evening. This is one of the most memorable evenings over the course of my sixty-nine years on this earth. At one point in my life the notion that Ray Batvinis, a simple kid from Long Island in New York, would be honored with an invitation to travel to Paris to speak at one of the world’s finest military education centers would have been unthinkable. Even now, as I stand here before you, I still have to pinch my arm as reminder that this is really happening.
But these things don’t just happen. Many talented and dedicated people were required to put together this program. With that in mind, I want to open my remarks by extending my gratitude first, to my friends General Jean-Pierre Meyer, Jean-Michael Icard, for inviting me to join Cercle K2 and offering me this opportunity to share some thoughts with all of you this evening. Next I want to thank Vincent Nouzille. First, for his generous assistance to me over these many months of preparation, and for his patience and tolerance for my often tardy responses. I also want to acknowledge all of the anonymous men and women struggling behind the scenes with the lighting, acoustics, seating, security and the myriad of other tasks. I don’t know you but you have my sincere thanks. And finally I reserve my most sincere appreciation to you, the audience, for sacrificing a beautiful evening in this magnificent city to be here tonight. It means a great deal to me.
I am from the Federal Bureau of Investigation having served as a Special Agent for twenty-five years. Following my retirement in 1997, I continued serving the FBI in one way or another. First, as a teacher, instructing FBI agents on counterintelligence and counterterrorism methodologies. Later, I criss-crossed America visiting dozens of local FBI offices teaching FBI personnel the history of their own organization. More recently as a historian, I’ve dedicated my life to conveying the FBI’s story to a larger and wider audience through writing and lecture forums such this.
Since its founding one hundred and seven years ago the FBI’s role in the U.S. state-craft process has grown increasingly important. It is far larger than most scholars believe, far more compelling than has been revealed to date and clearly beyond our capacity for discussion this evening.
My plan for tonight, then, is to offer some insights into a small, yet critically important, segment of that history. Last month the world celebrated the end of the Second World War in Europe. May 7, 2015 marked the seventieth anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Allied Powers near the town of Reims in northwest France. So what I offer tonight are features of the FBI’s role in fighting the war by examining some events and personalities that you will hopefully find interesting.
But before we start I want to provide you with a important foundation for our story by addressing three important factors. The first is the French connection of the start of the FBI. The second is an understanding of unique structure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, the third, is a bit of history about its legendary and often controversial director, J. Edgar Hoover.
Charles J. Bonaparte was born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 9, 1851. His father was Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, the son of Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of French Emperor Napoleon I. His mother was an American named Susan May Williams. Charles completed Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts and then went on to a law degree at the Harvard University law School. Years later he became a trustee of Harvard.
After completing his studies at Harvard, Bonaparte returned to Baltimore, Maryland where he started a legal practice. Over the succeeding years he became active in Republican Party politics and in local as well as national reform movements.
His rise to national prominence started in 1885 when he founded the Reform League of Baltimore, civic group dedicated to improving municipal services and more efficient government. From 1902 to 1904 Bonaparte was a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners overseeing the administration of Native – American lands throughout the country. He became an officer of the National Civil Service Reform League while taking on a trusteeship role of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
In 1905 Bonaparte joined the U.S. government when President Theodore Roosevelt nominated him as Secretary of the Navy. A year later, Roosevelt made him the highest law enforcement officer in the country as the Attorney General of the United States.
During this period President Roosevelt committed his administration to reigning in the monopolistic trusts such as Standard Oil of New Jersey and Armour Meat Packing Company which he believed were strangling commerce in the country. His weapon of attack was law enforcement to look for possible violations of federal law. Roosevelt’s problem was that the Department of Justice, despite its role as the investigative and prosecutorial service of the government had no investigative arm of its own. Bonaparte had to borrow Special Agents from the United States Secret Service, an arm of the Department of the Treasury, which was and still is responsible for the protection of the President of the United States.
Gradually Bonaparte’s investigators began uncovering evidence of illegal activities on the part of these trusts and even more important links of collusion between these companies and members of the United States Congress. When these revelations hit the newspapers the consequences were predictable.
Outraged senators and congressmen, hoping to stall any further investigations, vented it wrath at the President by cutting off funds that Roosevelt used to support the Department of Justice’s employment of Secret Service agents. Congress made a serious mistake by trying to cow President Roosevelt. Instead, he simply ignored them by dipping into a special reserve fund for the use of the Chief Executive.
The president then ordered Bonaparte to hire his own cadre of investigators who would be under his exclusive jurisdiction, answerable to no other branch of government. Bonaparte wasted no time. By 1907 he had hired a collection of investigators answerable to the attorney general and by the following year 1908 the predecessor of the FBI, the Bureau of Investigation was born.
Such is charged with the duty of investigating violations of the laws of the United States, collecting evidence in cases in which the United States is or may be a party and performing other duties imposed by law.
This is the duty charge for all Special Agent of the FBI. Special Agents are not intelligence officers. They are not spies. They are law enforcement officers charged with investigating criminal and civil cases which will be tried in federal and state courts around the nation.
The FBI incorporates counterintelligence, counterterrorism and criminal investigative responsibilities into one organization. There is a major value to this type of setup. It permits one organization the latitude of conducting almost seamless examinations of foreign espionage agents, terrorists, terrorist cells and criminal matters. This is an essential tool for our country in leveraging unrelated criminal activities of spies or terrorists for the advancement of the counterintelligence and counterterrorism goals when and if the need arises. (I would be pleased to offer you some interesting examples of this point during the question and answer period to follow.)
My third point focuses on the historical importance of J. Edgar Hoover, the founder of the modern FBI. Hoover, this man of legend and possessing an international reputation was born on January 1, 1895 in Washington DC. Raised in shadows of the U.S. Capitol building, he received both his law degree and master’s degree in law from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
In 1917 he joined the U.S. Department of Justice as a young staff attorney. Seven years later he became director of the FBI – a position he held for the next forty-eight years serving under eight presidents and more than twenty attorneys general. Two attorneys general who would be noteworthy for this audience were Robert Jackson, selected by President Truman to serve as the chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg war crime trials, and Francis Biddle who presided over the Nuremburg Trial as one of the judges.
When Hoover took command of the FBI in 1924, it was tiny organization that had no arrest power, carried no weapons and had a limited portfolio of federal laws to enforce. By the morning of September 1, 1939, the first day of the Second World War, Hoover had expanded the FBI into the most powerful law enforcement agency in the United States.
During those fifteen intervening years he also transformed law enforcement into a true profession. He started by raising the professional standards requiring FBI Special Agents to have law and accounting degrees. Driven by the shocking kidnap and murder of the infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindberg, Congress passed historic legislation in 1933 which federalized crimes that had been previously state and local in nature. Examples included bank robbery, motor vehicle theft, and tracking down fugitives who fled from one state to another.
The law immediately expanded the FBI’s authority to fight the growing lawlessness that was gripping America during these Depression years. Now the FBI’s west coast Seattle, Washington office could hunt for a thief who robbed a bank three thousand miles away in New York City. A murder suspect from the upper New England state of Maine could be arrested almost four thousand miles away as she tried to slip into Tijuana, Mexico at the San Diego, California border crossing.
Out of the 1930s emerged a host of legendary criminals hunted down by FBI agents. They included “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Baby Face” Nelson, Melvin “Creepy” Karpis, and perhaps the most famous of all, John Dillinger, killed in a gun fight one evening outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater by the now famous “G-Men.”
Hoover was a student of scientific criminal detection. In 1932 he created the FBI’s Laboratory Division which is located at Quantico, Virginia. Today some 500 scientists and Special Agents travel the globe providing forensic exams, technical support, expert witness testimony and advanced training to the FBI’s domestic and international partners. He created the Identification Division which by the time America entered the Second World War contained the finger prints of millions of Americans. Located in West Virginia and called the Criminal Justice Information System it is holds the largest collection of fingerprints and criminal history records in the world which can be instantly searched using state of the art technologies.
In 1935 Hoover founded FBI National Academy. It’s mission was to provide uniform training to the nation’s many state and local law enforcement agencies. Officers from all around the country traveled to Washington where they studied scientific aids in crime detection, preparation of reports, and criminal investigation techniques to name a few. As the Second World War approached new courses were taught in combatting espionage and sabotage. Eighty years later there are no exact numbers of the total number of police officers who passed through the Academy. Some idea can be gleaned, however, by the fact that its alumni group, the FBI Academy Associates, currently has over 17000 members in 170 countries around the world. This includes almost fifty police officers from France.
In February 1938 the FBI faced its first truly important spy case. It was an embarrassing and badly handled investigation but one which opened the eyes of my government’s leadership to the dangers of espionage and the terrible losses of America’s advanced military technology and designs. What followed was a year of bureaucratic wrangling over which government agency was going to lead a new and much needed counterespionage reform movement.
President Franklin Roosevelt finally settled the matter on June 26, 1939 at his Hyde park, New York home.
His historic order to his cabinet secretaries read as follows:
“It is my desire that the investigation of all espionage, counter-espionage, and sabotage matters be handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice, the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, and the Office of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department. The Directors of these three agencies are to function as a committee to coordinate their activities.
No investigation should be conducted by any investigative agency of the Government into matters involving actually or potentially any espionage, counter-espionage or sabotage, except by these three agencies.
I shall be glad if you will instruct the heads of all agencies that the above named, to refer immediately to the nearest office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation any data, information or material that may come to their notice bearing directly or indirectly on espionage, counter-espionage or sabotage.”
President Roosevelt’s sweeping order reverberated throughout the government. It permanently changed the role of the FBI by abolishing the policy which allowed each cabinet department to handle its own subversive, sabotage and espionage investigations. Cabinet secretaries were now required to report these allegations to the FBI for investigation. It vastly expanded the FBI’s reach throughout the country as well as the government and military industrial community. And lastly it marked the start of what we today refer to as United States Intelligence Community.
Within weeks of the President’s order Hoover established the FBI’s first counterespionage training course in Washington, DC. A new Intelligence Division was created within the FBI to manage these new responsibilities. A Plant Security Program was also established requiring FBI agents to examine factories and industrial plants with army and navy contracts for compliance with government ordered security procedures. (This is an interesting feature of this period which led eventually to what we call in America the “Industrial Security Program.” Perhaps it will come up during the question and answer period later this evening.)
Hoover quickly formalized his liaison relationship with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on security and counterintelligence matters and also pursued direct contact with British intelligence. Strangely, during the course of my research, I found no record of attempts either by French security officials or the FBI to develop a relationship.
Following Germany’s May 10, 1940 attack on France President Roosevelt began issuing a new series of orders that profoundly affected the future of the FBI. In June he issued top-secret instructions to Hoover, without informing Congress, to create America’s first foreign espionage service. One month later the FBI’s new Special Intelligence Service composed of Special Agents, posing as businessmen, began moving into Latin American countries to recruit sources with access to high grade military, economic and political secrets. Throughout the Second World War the service expanded its range of operation throughout the world until it disbanded following congressional passage of the National Security Act in 1947 which assigned foreign espionage to the new Central Intelligence Agency.
Next President Roosevelt ordered Hoover to electronically intercept conversations of embassy and consulate officials; a decision that abruptly elevated the FBI from a counterespionage service into my country’s first counterintelligence service. Evidence that Hoover moved quickly is found in his August 1940 memo offering the president assurances that the FBI was monitoring the telephone conversations of the embassies and consulates of Germany, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Vichy France.
The German invasion spawned a third milestone. With armies on the march, refugees fleeing in all directions, border crossings closed and communications disrupted the State Department called on Hoover for assistance in delivering diplomatic mail throughout war torn Europe. Hoover provided five Special Agents who posed as diplomatic couriers. Louis Beck, fluent in Russian and German, went to Moscow. Spanish speakers Raymond Leddy and William Doyle were assigned to Lisbon and Madrid, Peter Hoehl, a German speaker went to Berlin while Horton Telford, who spoke impeccable French, was based in Zurich. For the next fifteen months Telford, who you will meet again later, regularly traveled between Paris and Istanbul dropping off and picking up diplomatic mail along his route.
An interesting and previously unknown aspect of America’s war against the Axis powers was America’s participation in the now famous Double Cross System. Until recently the name applied only to British build-up and use of its stable of double-agents who sent a careful mixture of misleading and accurate information to the German military planners over a long span of time. The goal of the project was to convince the German high command that the planned Allied invasion of Europe would fall at the Pas de Calais forcing the enemy to concentrate the bulk of their troops in this area. The goals was to ease the pressure on the invasion forces that would hit the beaches along the Normandy Coast.
To fully understand why the Double Cross System was so successful we must return to the summer of 1939. Six weeks before Hitler’s armies crossed his eastern border in Poland, Polish military leaders invited British and French cryptographic experts to a secret meeting in a forest near Warsaw. Before a stunned audience the Poles demonstrated their successes in decrypting messages generated by the so-called Enigma Machine – the centerpiece of German military communications system then being used by Hitler’s air force, army, navy and the Abwehr. Hitler and his generals believed it be impregnable to cryptologic attack.
With Polish agreement the British and French teams hurriedly arranged for the transfer of the entire project to France while erasing any evidence that could possibly be discovered by invading German forces. The hope was that the combined teams could continue to build on the Polish successes by breaking into more and more messages at a faster pace.
Nine months later when Germany invaded France the code-breaking operation was again moved, this time to southern France and from there to an obscure English country estate called Bletchley Park. This site was chosen for cold and calculated reasons. It was located about forty miles north of London on a railroad line equidistant between Britain’s two greatest centers of scholarship – Cambridge and Oxford. It was from these great centers of learning that many of Britian’s greatest code-breakers succeeded reading Germany’s most secret messages – a triumph that took on the code-name, ULTRA. One of the great Bletchley Park cryptologic heroes is Alan Turing, the Cambridge mathematician, who invented the world’s first computer, and was played so well by Benedict Cumberbach in the movie, The Imitation Game.
Despite frequent set-backs it can be safely said, in my opinion, that by April 1942 the combined British and French code-breaking work at Bletchley Park had, in effect, won the intelligence war against the Germans. Gradually the Allied code-breakers wormed their way inside the Abwehr’s most secret messages revealing the identities of all their agents together with details of operations targeted against Great Britain and the United States. Now the Allies knew what the Germans knew and did not know about Allied plans and intentions.
By the summer of 1942 ULTRA convinced the British Security Service (MI5) that the Abwehr had no effective espionage apparatus in Great Britain. MI5 had either captured or turned as double agents all German agents sent to Great Britain. This was a pivotal moment in the Second World War because it meant that the Allies could now go on the offensive by sending misleading and false information to the Germans with no fear of discovery by German agents.
Thus was conjured up the Double Cross System. MI5 soon began placing an odd assortment of genuine and imaginary double agents, each with distinct backgrounds and personalities, near key military sites throughout England, Scotland and Wales where they transmitted phony intelligence reports about everything from shipping figures, troop dispositions and movements to wartime alliance issues. ULTRA enabled MI5 to track the flow of these messages through the German communications system for confirmation of acceptance or sign of high command skepticism.
Today we are all familiar with the most famous Double Cross agent. He was a Spaniard named Juan Pujol Garcia. Working with Tomas Harris, an imaginative MI5 officer of British/Spanish descent, Pujol slowly became the Abwehr’s most valuable agent in Great Britain by convincing them that he had developed a network of more than twenty-five sources – all figments of MI5’s imagination. By May 1944, German commanders along the Atlantic coast were fully accepting the lies carefully crafted by Pujol and his band of Double Cross agents. In recognition of his brilliant accomplishments the British government awarded the Order of the British Empire while the Germans gave him the Iron Cross.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the FBI quickly became an active participant in the “Double Cross System.” In January 1942 FBI technicians had located a house in Wading River, New York which would it used throughout the war for the transmitting Double Cross information to the Abwehr’s radio station located in Hamburg, Germany. For security reasons the site was ideal. Located about sixty miles east of New York City it was isolated on the north shore of Long Island atop a steep bluff and surrounded by a forest. The back of the house faced north east overlooking a large body of water called Long Island Sound with the state of Connecticut visible about eighteen miles in the foreground.
As far as the local community knew the house was rented by a young man named Donald Johnson who lived there with his wife and Vicki Sue, their infant daughter. He was, in fact, Special Agent Donworth Johnson of the FBI. To discourage nosy neighbors from coming around Johnson posed as a physician suffering from tuberculosis which necessitated a quiet existence and plenty of fresh air. At any one time two or three FBI radio technicians secretly lived and worked on second and third floors where they received German instructions and tapped out phony coded messages to Hamburg in reply. Hidden in the basement was a Buick car engine used to supplement local electrical service needed to power the radio transmitters hidden on the upper floors of the house. It used a standard car muffler to reduce noise and vented the fumes out through a basement window to prevent the carbon-monoxide poisoning of Johnson, his family and his team.
From January 1942 until days before the German surrender in May 1945 this little house sent and received hundreds of messages that contributed to the war effort. As an aside the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of which I am a member and the Historian held a ceremony at the site in May 2014. At the time we unveiled a plaque commemorating the sacrifices made by the men and women who lived and worked there throughout the war.
The FBI’s debriefings of these double agents produced volumes of valuable intelligence information. They recounted, among other things, their recruitment into espionage, mission objectives, handlers, and training. German based sources described their transit through occupied France over the Pyrennes Mountains into Spain and on to Portugal where Abwehr agents assisted them in arranging passage to the Western Hemisphere.
One very important FBI source was Jorge Mosquera, codename ND98. Born in Argentina Mosquera was a business man in Germany for almost two decades before the Abwehr sent him to America in June 1941 with orders to acquire information on US development of the atomic bomb. Mosquera supplied a treasure trove of data about false identities, cutouts, and other Abwehr tradecraft which led to a better understanding of the enemy.
Alfred Meiler, codename “Kohler,” was another FBI source. The fifty-one year old Dutchman, born and raised in Nijmegan, Holland, sold electrical supplies. Meiler’s motivation for assisting the Germans was simple – to escape Europe. As a Jew he understood what awaited him if he turned down the German invitation. He told the FBI about his recruitment in Holland, his espionage training at the Hotel Lutetia, the Abwehr headquarters here in Paris, and the complexities of his transit out of France.
But perhaps the most noteworthy wartime FBI double agent for this audience was France’s version of Charles Lindberg. His name was Dieudonne Costes. Born in November 1893 in the French village of Septfond, Tare-et-Garone, Costes began his flying career as combat pilot on the Balkan Front during the First World War. Later he joined Latecoerte Airlines and then moved on to Breguet Aeronautics Company testing new aircraft.
Success in the fledging new aircraft business during the 1920s meant capturing the world’s imagination. And nothing did that better than setting distance and speed records. Over the next few years Costes daring exploits made Breguet an aviation leader. In 1925 he scored his first triumph with a round trip flight from Paris to Assuan, Egypt. A year later, flying round trip from Paris through Iran and onto India, he captured a world distance record of 5396 kilometers which he then surpassed with an 8000 kilometer roundtrip flight between Paris and China.
Costes became an instant American hero in September 1930 when he and his co-pilot, Meurice Belmonte, made the first successful trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to New York. His achievement led to a White House visit as a guest of President Herbert Hoover. Days later New York City celebrated the Frenchman with a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue as a million people roared their approval.
In the 1930s Costes moved into the financial side of the business. By 1939 he was the president of Hispano-Suiza, an aircraft engine manufacturer, with 14000 employees at factories in France and England.
Costes first came to FBI attention in October 1942 when he walked into the American legation in Lisbon, Portugal to report that he had been a reluctant German Abwehr agent since the summer of 1940. Accompanied by his wife, Mary, (she had no knowledge of his spying activities) he was then awaiting the departure of the SS Cabo De Hornos which would take them to Buenos Aires the first stop in his Abwehr assignment. His Abwehr mission was a large one – use his prestige to gather intelligence on the latest aircraft advances and designs in the enemy’s growing arsenal of weapons. Once he was permanently situated in either Washington, DC or New York the Germans would send a radio operator from France to transmit his intelligence back to Germany.
Upon arriving in Buenos Aires in January 1943 Costes came under the scrutiny of William Doyle, the FBI’s local SIS man. Doyle was a skilled operator who knew where to find useful information. In this case, it was the Free French émigré community whose hatred for Germany made them a source of valuable intelligence. They urged caution on the FBI man in his dealings with Costes. Yes, he was a French national hero. But he had unusually close ties to the Vichy leadership. Another question mark was his unusual access to German occupied Paris. Finally, and, perhaps most important, why would the Germans allow the couple to so easily leave France for a visit to the Western Hemisphere? These Free French suspicions of Costes gained extra weight when U.S Customs officials later examined Mrs. Costes’s baggage. Concealed in her wardrobe was a spectacular cache of jewelry valued at the time at $345,000. (Today’s equivalent would be about 4.5 million Euros.)
A few weeks later the Costes’s ship docked at Miami, Florida. Waiting for him was one of Hoover’s top investigators, FBI Assistant Director Earl J. Connelley, Jr. Connelley wanted to assess Costes and to facilitate his entry through the Customs and immigration procedures. Accompanying him was “Robert Marchand” a good looking and smartly dressed young man who spoke flawless French. To anyone who inquired Marchand claimed to be a French-Canadian with a murky background that included hints of smuggling. The less said about him the better.
He was, in fact, an FBI agent named Robert Maheu who would serve as Costes’ secretary and interpreter until the end of the war. Some of you in the audience may recall the name “Maheu” from his career many decades later when he worked as a confidant and assistant for Howard Hughes, the reclusive American billionaire.
Costes and his wife posed serious headaches for the FBI from the moment they arrived in New York City. Consistent with their high profile image the FBI temporarily moved the couple into the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel until more suitable long-term arrangements could be made. Mrs. Costes, who had been accustomed to a lavish life-style in Europe, refused to live anywhere except an “apartment hotel”, the type of dwelling which had suitable maid service.
Among the many swanky Manhattan residences selected by the FBI and rejected by Costes were the Del Monico renting at $3580 a year ($47000 in 2012), the Ritz Towers at $6500 a year ($85538 in 2012) and the Hotel Pierre at $4800 a year ($63,167 in 2012). Eventually the couple settled for a three bedroom furnished apartment at the Park Lane, an apartment-hotel located next to the Waldorf Astoria at a rate of $4200.00 a year ($55,270 in 2012).
Connelley frustrations almost boiled over when Costes gave him his next list of eye-popping demands. He insisted on $600.00 per month for food, $100.00 for English lessons, and $150.00 for the musical accompanist Maria hired in anticipation of her planned opera debut – plus another $600.00 per month for “diverse expenses such as taxis, theaters, clothing et cetera.” As if this wasn’t enough Costes also demanded that the FBI send $150.00 to Algiers for Maria’s widowed sister and two children. In the end the FBI agreed to pay him $1600.00 in living expenses which Costes would have to rely on for is monthly living expenses. The exasperated Connelley minced no words in assessment of Costes calling him a “well-fed Axis collaborator who had become a great French patriot who is here now to serve his country if this can be done with greatest degree of comfort and luxury to himself.”
As for Mary Costes she played her new role as a glamorous French refugee to the hilt. She routinely splashed her photo across New York’s society pages taking every opportunity to offer her views on the European situation. “As she sat in the salon of her suite at the Park Lane she looked as if she had just come from the Rue de la Paix” one reporter noted, as she described the eagerness of Paris courtiers to continue designing as they did when Paris “was at its gayest.” All in an attempt, she proudly charged, to keep up the “spirit of France.”
Behind the glitz and the glamour the couple’s domestic life was in turmoil. FBI microphones in the apartment recorded seemingly endless hours of uninterrupted silence between the two. The FBI soon learned of Maria’s secret romance with a forty-five year old Russian named, Gregory Ratoff, then living in California. Since immigrating to America in 1922 he had become a prominent actor and movie director with more than seventy films to his credit. In 1944 he won additional fame as the director of Song of Russia a pro-Russian film that was later targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee as an example of Communist propaganda in the Hollywood movie industry. After the war Maria remained in the United States moving to California where she moved in with Ratoff. The two would marry four years later after Ratoff’s divorce from his first wife, the actress, Eugenie Leontovich.
After setting up residence in New York City, Costes, now carrying the FBI codename “Tom X” together with Marchand began sending coded letters containing intriguing information to the Germans. Signing his breezy cover letters as “Gaston DeChant” he started his secret-writing messages by confirming his safe arrival in the US. “Generally speaking the American press received me well”, he gloated. “All newspapers were favorable, except one, PM, a newspaper of the extreme left.” Later messages reported intelligence data. One described his guided tour of the French cruiser Richelieu docked for repairs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Others hinted at a new army source in Panama, an airline employee who would carry messages dead-letter boxes in Portugal, and additional tours of American laboratories and manufacturing facilities. British code-breakers routinely confirmed the Abwehr’s delight over his success.
After almost a year and half delay, Paul Cavaillez, Costes wireless radio operator, arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana in October 1944. Through some complicated FBI maneuvering the two men finally met and began working together under the ever steady gaze of Marchand. Within days of the German surrender Cavaille, who had never radioed one message to the Germans, was charged with espionage. On September 25, 1945 he pleaded guilty to charges of trading with the enemy and sentenced to a five year prison term.
As for Costes, he quietly returned to France a month later only to face arrest by French military authorities in June 1947 on charges of collaborating with the enemy before his dispatch to America. After two years in prison and lengthy trial, Costes was acquitted of treason, having convinced the court that his feigned collaboration was simply a ploy to betray the Germans by escaping from France to double-cross the Germans by assisting the FBI.
My last item touches on another little known aspect of the war that you may find interesting. Three days after the liberation of Paris twelve handpicked FBI agents posing as army officers entered the city. One of them was Frederick Ayer, Jr. – nephew of the legendary American general, George S. Patton. The group came from assorted backgrounds. Four of them were former Mormon missionaries who Ayers described as “polished linguists, tireless workers” with an “intimate knowledge of large areas of the countries we were to invade.” Five others, including Ayers had traveled to Europe extensively. Two had little travel experience. Rounding out the team was a German speaking former policeman from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Their mission was a simple one – conduct espionage and treason investigations involving Americans on the European continent during the war. Ayer later described it in a memoir, Yankee G-Man, as “tying-up European ends of domestic espionage cases and to spearhead the investigations of United States citizens accused of treasonable activities on the continent.” George Luhan was typical of the investigations that the team pursued. Luhan was an American born in New England. After Pearl Harbor Luhan found himself trapped in Europe and facing German imprisonment. Dreading this prospect, he threw in his lot with the Nazis, first as a translator, and then as a propagandist, writing script for Josef Goebbels and later as a broadcaster. Ayers and his colleague, Special Agent Donald Daughters, working with French police tracked him down in Paris where he was living at the time. After a series of interrogations in which he denied everything Luhan finally broke down and gave a complete confession. Before any action could be taken against him Luhan hanged himself in his prison cell.
This was not the first arrival of the FBI in Europe. A year earlier as Allied troops moved up the boot of Italy FBI agents posing as army officers followed them. One of the most famous cases emerging out of this period was arrest of American, Ezra Pound, the renowned poet, who had been broadcasting Nazi propaganda to Allied countries since the start of the war. Pound was returned to America where he was later determined after trial to be mentally incompetent and hospitalized at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for many years thereafter.
Now we return to where we started. In July 1945, Horton Telford, the FBI agent who had carried the diplomatic mail between Paris and Istanbul in 1940 and 1941 returned to Paris from his Havana, Cuba assignment. Not as a diplomatic courier but to the American embassy in the history making role as the FBI’s first diplomatic representative to the new government of France. He remained in this position for the next five years. Next month marks the seventieth anniversary of the start of his new second Paris assignment.
That concludes my formal remarks and now I’ll turn the program over to Vincent for the next session of the questions and answers.