Sunday, May 27, 2012

British Security Coordination and Forged Maps

Source: The Irregulars: Roald Dahl And The British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington.  By Jennet Conant

The BSC's anti-Nazi underground was from the start "a shoe-string operation", and relatively little had been accomplished by the spring of 1942 when Hoover moved to rein in Stephenson's activities and ordered him to curtail their defensive efforts in the southern republics.  Hoover, Bryce noted, was a man for whom " jealousies and petty rivalries meant more than great causes."  Although the FBI direction was "on good terms" with Stephenson, "he was immensely touchy at the thought of any British interference in what he regarded as 'his territory.'"  In March, Bryce alterted Lippmann to the gravity of the situation: "If you felt at all inclined to write anything about the danger to S America, I could give you any number of facts which have never been published, but which my friends here would like to see judiciously made public, at this point."

Still preoccupied with Nazi designs on Latin America, Bryce, holed up in the BSC office, took to sketching worst-case scenarios on his blotter showing what the area would like it if forced to submit to Nazi rule.  There would be the inevitable rearrangement of national borders, with nazi-orientated governments probably gaining territories, while some homelands might be totally eradicated.  In his trial maps, he imagined what would happen if Hitler got his way and drew a logical extension of the idea: "The obvious aggrandizement of Paraguay, the land-locked and poverty-shricken but immensely militaristic kingdom of the great German dictator Storessner, would of course be enlarged: a great corridor to the Pacific, at the expense of Chile, Paraguay's old enemy.  The abolition of, the Switzerland of South America.

According to Bryce, after looking over his sketches, it occurred to Stephenson to try to pull a fast one and place a fake map in a known German safe house on the souther coast of Cuba, where Nazi agents stored radio equipment used for signaling U boats in the area.  Stephenson then planned to tip the FBI, which would promply raid the Nazi outpost and fall upon a "monster prize."  Bryce could only speculate on the immense value of such a find, especially when it came to sounding the alarm in America, whichs till felt safely removed from the Nazi threat:  "Were a German man of this kind to be discovered or captured from enemy hands and publicized among the good neighbors themselves, and above all among the 'America Firsters' with their belief that America could get along with Hitler, what a commotion would be caused."

One of Bryce's trial amps was immediatley given over to Station M, the BSC's technical facilities in Canada, where Eric Maschwitz ran a chemical laboratory and photograph studio, and had the ability to fabricate images, such as atrocity pictures, and to "reprint faultlessly the imprint of any typewriter one arth."  Forty-eight hours later Maschwitz and his team of experts had created an uathentic-looking German map, slightly worn and discolored from frequent use, which Bryce marveled, even "the Reich's chief mapmaers for the German High Command would be prepared to swear was made by them."

On this occasion, Stephenson may have outdone himself, passing the forgery on to Donovan, who gave it to Roosevelt.  On March 11, 1941, the president made a dramatic announcement during his Navy Day radio address, revealing that he had proof that Hitler's plans for conquest extended across the Atlantic Ocean.  "I have in my possession a secret map," he solemnly intoned, "made in Germany by Hitler's government - byt the planners of the new world.  It is a map of South America and a part of Central America as Hitler proposes to reorganize it."  Roosevelt went on to describe the principal features of the map, including the Panama Canal, "our great life line," and Germany's plan to carve the region up into five vassal states.  "That map, my friends, makes clear the Nazi design not only against South America but against the United States as well."  Bryce's map, which had been produced rather than procured by the BSC, was held up to the nation as one of the "grim truths" of Hitler's future plans and demanded a response.  Americans, Roosevelt declared, were "pledge to pull our in oar in the destruction of Hitlerism."

From the BSC's point of view, the map was a daring gambit that resulted in a propaganda coup.  As expected, the German government responded to Roosevelt's radio broadcast by angrily denouncing the document as a fraud.  The Italian government immediately demanded that unless the president published the map within twenty-four hours, Roosevelt would acquire "a sky-high reputation as  a forger."  Their furious protests only served to make the phony document appear more real.  At a press conference the following day, FDR declined to make his "secret map available, assuring reporters that it came from "a source that is undoubtedly reliable."  Bryce, who was sure the president's speech was inspired by his invention, was amazed by the impact of the broadcast.  "The item was made full use of by the media," he recalled, "and gave distasteful but unanswerable food for thought to the many who believed that European wars could have no influence on the inhabitants of the Wester Hemisphere."

While the map's trued origin was not discoverd at the time, Adolf Berle strongly suspected that Stephenson and his boys were behind it.  Another document cited by Roosevelt in the same speech, supposedly detailing a Nazi plan to abolish all the world's reigions, seemed equally spurious. Berle knew that the BSC specialized in manufacturing fake documents, and the written proof outlining German plans for world domination struck Berle as a bit too convenient.  In a memorandum forwarded to Cordell Hull, Berle warned that Americans should be "on our guard" against these "false scares" concocted by the British.  Only a month earlier, Berle had written a detailed memorandum enumerating the potential dangers of the British operation being run by the "security co-ordinator" Mr William S Stephenson, arguing that it was developing into a "full sized secret police and intelligenc service" and was supported by shadow force of "regularly employed secret agents and a much larger number of informers, etc."

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Since Dahl was putting his cards on the table, Wallace decided to venture a few questions about the clandestine intelligence organisation of which the airmen was a now a member.  Who exactly was he working for?  Dahl answered cautiously that the head of the BSC was "a secret" and known to only a handful.  "I asked if he knew his name," Wallace recorded in his diary.  "He said 'yes'  He says this secret and powerful gentleman can go right in to see the King or Prime Minister day or night, unannounced, any time he wants.  I asked if he himself could blow in on this high-power gentleman unannounced?  Dahl was shocked at the thought."

Wallace, who was not as wholly naive as Dahl supposed, was somewhat bemused by the extent to which the novice spy seemed to be in awe of his employer, especially when Dahl began boasting about the BSC's vast covert network, claiming the British had had "10,000 agents in Germany all through the war."  Wallace found some of his claims strained credulity.

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