Top Secret Tales of World War II

( 1 )


Critical Acclaim for TOP SECRET TALES of World War II

"A book for rainy days and long solitary nights by the fire. If there were a genre for cozy nonfiction, this would be the template."-Publishers Weekly

"Perfect for the curious and adventure readers and those who love exotic tales and especially history buffs who will be surprised at what they didn't know. Recommended for nearly everyone."-Kirkus Reviews

This war was fought by soldiers out of...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$13.26 price
(Save 16%)$15.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (34) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $4.98   
  • Used (22) from $1.99   
Top Secret Tales of World War II

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 31%)$15.95 List Price


Critical Acclaim for TOP SECRET TALES of World War II

"A book for rainy days and long solitary nights by the fire. If there were a genre for cozy nonfiction, this would be the template."-Publishers Weekly

"Perfect for the curious and adventure readers and those who love exotic tales and especially history buffs who will be surprised at what they didn't know. Recommended for nearly everyone."-Kirkus Reviews

This war was fought by soldiers out of uniform. Stealth and ingenuity were their weapons. Victory was their only code of conduct.

In Top Secret Tales of World War II, noted military historian William Breuer documents espionage-in all its forms-as it evolved in the hands of both Allied and Axis agents of intelligence and counterintelligence. Here you'll find riveting tales of patriotism and treachery, subversion and sabotage, kidnappings and assassinations, and bribes and blackmailing-with frequently startling revelations about the secret wars behind both the battlefields and the headlines.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As evidenced time and again by the prolific Breuer (Hoodwinking Hitler, etc.), WWII continues to be a source of absorbing espionage tales. Springboarding off two of his previous works dealing with unexplained mysteries and undercover tales from the war, Breuer now plumbs his personal archives, official sources and the memories of aging veterans to produce these 75 accounts of intrigue--short-shorts all--with tantalizing titles like "Global Celebrity a Secret Agent" and "The Blond Beast's Ruse Backfires." The narratives offer quick and satisfying glimpses into a netherworld of secret agents, Nazis and duplicitous characters. In one vignette, President Roosevelt meets with the sultan of Morocco in Casablanca, where the American president is unaware that his every word will be transmitted to Adolf Hitler by the sultan, who is a Nazi spy. In another, the military tests a plan conceived by a Pennsylvania dentist to deploy an armada of common bats fitted with napalm bomblets to attack Tokyo. One of the more arresting tales is that of German agent Hermann Goertz, whose ill-fated attempts to set up shop undercover in Ireland earned him the nickname "War's Dumbest Spy." More fun than enlightening, this is a book for rainy days and long solitary nights by the fire. If there were a genre for cozy nonfiction, this would be the template. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Breuer's World War II thematic history series was published between 1999 and 2003, with individual titles costing $24.95. These Castle reprints offer the same volumes in hardcover for $9.99. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471078401
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 318,206
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM B. BREUER is a military historian and author of more than 25 books, 10 of which have been main selections of The Military Book Club. They include Undercover Tales of World War II, Unexplained Mysteries of World War II, The Great Raid on Cabanatuan, Feuding Allies, and MacArthur's Undercover War, all published by Wiley.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sinister Plots in the "New Germany"

A clear blue sky hovered over Berlin on the afternoon of June 29, 1934, when the chief of the German General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, was escorted into the cavernous office of Adolf Hitler, a World War I corporal. Hitler had seized absolute control of the government after being appointed chancellor seventeen months earlier by aging, senile President Paul von Hindenburg.

    The fifty-four-year-old Beck was highly regarded at home and abroad as the most efficient and humane German soldier of his generation. He had sought the appointment because of mounting evidence that the new German leader was planning on rearming the nation of eighty million persons to launch a war of conquest. In measured terms, Beck told Hitler that he did not intend to build an army to conquer other countries; his purpose was to create an efficient army to defend Germany.

    Hitler, noted for a quick temper, replied testily: "General Beck, it is impossible to build up an army and give it a sense of worth if the object of its existence is not the preparation for battle. Armies for the preparation of peace do not exist; they exist for triumphant execution in war."

    Before he departed, Beck told Hitler that another war would become a multifront conflict that Germany could not survive.

    Only minutes after returning to the imposing building on the Bendlerstrasse that housed the headquarters of the General Staff, Beck received a telephone call from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, a cagey and highlyproductive spy in World War I whom Hitler had appointed chief of the Abwehr, the German secret service, six months earlier, on Canaris's forty-seventh birthday.

    A slight, prematurely white-haired man who spoke with a lisp, Canaris was well educated and could speak the languages of Germany's potential enemies—England, France, and the Soviet Union. He, too, feared Hitler was embarking on a war path that would eventually destroy Germany as a nation.

    Speaking in guarded tones, Canaris told Beck that the dictator was preparing to launch a purge to wipe out all sources of opposition to his Nazi regime. Among the officers on the hit list were General Kurt von Schleicher. Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, and Schleicher's close friend and assistant General Kurt von Bredow, who had once held a high post in the Abwehr.

    Canaris told Beck that Hitler was convinced that Schleicher was conspiring with the French ambassador to get rid of the Nazi regime by restoring the Hohenzollerns, descendants of the traditional royal family, to the throne of Germany. Beck knew that Hitler's suspicions were well founded, and he sent a trusted aide to warn Schleicher of the danger. Schleicher, however, seemed unconcerned.

    At high noon on June 30, less than twenty-four hours after Beck had clashed with Hitler, five men in civilian clothes barged into General Schleicher's villa. They went to the study, where Schleicher was working on some papers, pulled out pistols, and shot the former chancellor. Frau von Schleicher, who had been in another room, rushed to the study. She, too, was shot and killed.

    Two hours later, General von Bredow was at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin drinking tea with a French diplomat when a messenger from General Ludwig Beck brought him an envelope with a short note telling him that Schleicher had been murdered. Bredow's face flushed in anger. Turning to the Frenchman, he said with a snarl, "I wonder why the pigs haven't killed me yet!"

    Bredow told his companion that Schleicher was the only man who could have saved Germany. "He was my leader. Now there is nothing for me," he declared.

    Bredow took a taxi to his home, and just past five o'clock that afternoon, he answered a ring at his front door. Two men whipped out pistols and riddled the general with bullets, killing him almost instantly.

    Adolf Hitler had launched one of the bloodiest purges that European history had ever known. He realized that war was the last thing most of his generals wanted, and he was convinced that they were conspiring to restore the Hohenzollerns.

    Hitler had set into motion a series of sinister plots to not only eradicate suspected foes bodily, but also to besmirch their honor. That approach began promptly when the war minister, General Werner von Blomberg, ordered that Schleicher and Bredow were to be regarded as traitors and that no general or admiral was to attend their funerals.

    Despite the risk to their careers—or even to their lives—General Ludwig Beck and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris ignored the strict order and dressed in full uniform, and carrying Schleicher's medals on silk cushions, they walked behind the cortege to the cemetery. At the gates they were halted by a group of black-uniformed Schutzstaffel (SS), an elite corps that served as Hitler's bodyguard and was fanatically loyal to him.

    On August 2, 1934, a month after Schleicher and Bredow were branded as traitors and buried, the long-senile, eighty-seven-year-old President Paul Ludwig von Hindenburg died at his estate in East Prussia. Earlier, Hitler had obtained a political testament from the Old Warrior that named Hitler to succeed him as president.

    Now Hitler moved swiftly. He had no interest in merely being president of a great nation. Only minutes after Hindenburg died, Hitler proclaimed himself führer (supreme leader) and launched a strategy to induce his admirals and generals to swear allegiance to him.

    No doubt acting on the führer's orders, War Minister von Blomberg directed all of Germany's generals—some three hundred of them—to assemble at three o'clock that same afternoon at the foot of the Siegessäule, the towering Column of Victory in Berlin. Unknown to the high brass, Hitler was preparing to inflict a coup d'état that would give him total control of Germany and the armed forces.

    The generals had been told that they were to participate in ceremonies to honor the dead President Hindenburg. Cannons were fired. A band played mournful tunes. There were two minutes of silence. Then General von Blomberg stepped forward to take the Fahneneid—the blood oath of the Teutonic knights. The army commander, General Werner von Fritsch, and General Ludwig Beck followed. Each held the flag of Germany in one hand and the Bible in the other while reciting:

I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German nation and people, supreme commander of the armed forces, unconditional obedience, and I am ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.

    All over Germany at the same time the rank and file of the armed forces recited the same blood oath.

    Walking with General Fritsch back to his headquarters, Beck stopped suddenly and said solemnly: "This is a fateful hour. [The oath] means physical and moral suicide."

    Further along the way, Beck halted again. Both generals realized that they had been tricked into taking an oath, not to Germany or the constitution, but to Adolf Hitler.

    "He took us unawares," Beck said mournfully. "I did not realize that we were swearing a completely new form of oath."

    Führer Hitler in the months ahead continued to rearm Germany. But to carry out his plans for widespread conquest, he would have to rid himself of all those on the General Staff who might oppose him and replace them with those who would do his every bidding without argument or hesitation. Strangely, perhaps, one of the first targets was Werner von Blomberg, the war minister, who had been the first general to be elevated to field marshal by the führer.

    Blomberg was known in the officer corps as the Rubber Lion—one willing to bend whichever way the führer desired. In December 1937 Blomberg, fifty-nine years old and a widower, asked Hitler's permission to marry a twenty-six-year-old typist. The führer gave his blessing and was a witness at the wedding ceremony.

    Blomberg and his new young wife departed for a honeymoon on the romantic Isle of Capri.

    A longtime crony of Hitler, General Hermann Goering, immediately began to hatch a scheme to oust the war minister. Known behind his back as Fat Hermann, Goering deeply coveted Blomberg's job.

    Goering turned over the exacting task of discrediting Blomberg to an expert in the field, tall, hawk-nosed Reinhard Heydrich, the young chief of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the security branch of the SS. Brilliant and with the instincts of a barracuda, the highly ambitious Heydrich and his underlings began poking into Blomberg's private life and found that he was quite fond of women. That was no crime in the Third Reich, but it could be a valuable blackmail weapon at some future date. Blomberg, Heydrich's agents discovered, occasionally donned civilian clothes and spent evenings in some of Berlin's more exotic nightspots.

    At the same time, SD men began sifting through old reports of the Kriminalpolizei (Civil Police) and hit the jackpot. Blomberg's beautiful new wife, Erna Gruhn, had had convictions for prostitution. Her mother was also well known to Berlin police as the proprietress of a "massage parlor" that was patronized by well-heeled men, presumably in urgent need of rubdowns.

    Goering was ecstatic. He rushed to see the führer and showed him the police docket. Hitler professed to be deeply distressed and immediately ordered the war minister to return to Berlin from his honeymoon.

    Blomberg was promptly sacked and went into exile with his wife. He ignored suggestions from German generals he had known for many years to take a Luger and blow his brains out.

    Now Hitler pondered the question about who would succeed Blomberg as head of Germany's rapidly expanding military organization. The führer was leaning toward appointing General Werner von Fritsch, whom Hindenburg had appointed commander of the army in May 1935. Aghast that he himself had not been chosen, Goering set about to "dig up dirt" on General von Fritsch.

    Again Reinhard Heydrich's sleuths scanned old police vice files and came up with the name of a German officer who had been blackmailed by an ex-convict and male prostitute named Otto Schmidt. No doubt frightened to be grilled by agents of a high government official, Schmidt, known as Bavarian Joe, admitted he had committed a homosexual act with a man he identified as General von Fritsch at the Wannsee railroad station.

    Hoping to gain more "proof" that Fritsch was a practicing homosexual, Heydrich's agents fanned out through Germany to interview officers in Fritsch's command. None would claim any knowledge of their boss's alleged homosexuality.

    Despite a total lack of confirmation of the charges, trial papers were drawn up against Fritsch.

    Learning of the trumped-up charges, Fritsch was apoplectic, and he demanded an immediate interview with the führer. Unknown to the general, Hermann Goering had arranged for Bavarian Joe to be present.

    In the library of the Reichskanzlei (Chancellery), Bavarian Joe repeated his story in front of a frowning Hitler. Schmidt had been well coached. The notorious ex-convict claimed that an "elderly gentleman" wearing a monocle, a short coat with a fur collar, and carrying a silver-headed cane entered the railroad station. In the lavatory, Bavarian Joe picked up the military officer and went with him to a nearby dark lane, he claimed.

    Fritsch protested that he had not been in the Wannsee railroad station for many years and that he had never owned a silver-headed cane. A soft-spoken man innocent of political throat-cutting, Fritsch played right into Goering's hands by not reacting violently to Bavarian Joe's story, the only "evidence" against him. Consequently, Hitler immediately sacked the high-ranking general.

    When it was later discovered that Bavarian Joe's true client had been an obscure cavalry officer with a similar last name, Achim von Frisch, the führer refused to restore the disgraced general to his former rank.

    Meanwhile, Hitler vastly reorganized the armed forces to make certain that when he was ready to go to war, the General Staff would have to comply to orders without argument. The führer created the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), the supreme command of the armed forces. All unit staffs would be subordinate to the OKW. Hitler took the title of supreme commander. His two top aides were both führertreu—totally loyal to him. They were General Wilhelm Keitel, who would be Hitler's chief of staff, and General Alfred Jodl, who was designated to be Hitler's chief of operations.

    On February 4, 1938, Radio Berlin, which, like every institution in Germany, was controlled by the führer, broadcast a long statement from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Field Marshal von Blomberg and General von Fritsch had retired for "health reasons," it was stated. Then the names of thirty-five other illustrious generals, who may not have been considered führertreu by Hitler or Hermann Goering, were read by the announcer. They, too, had gone into early retirement because of "health reasons."

    Word of the "failing-health epidemic" that had riddled the ranks of Germany's generals was flashed throughout the world by the news wire services. In the capitals of Europe it was clear: through a series of crafty schemes and ruthless maneuvers, the Führer had gained total control of eighty million people and the now powerful army, navy, and Luftwaffe.

"Burglars" Call
on a Japanese Spymaster

Lieutenant Commander Ellis M. Zacharias, who was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in Washington, D.C., had become convinced that Imperial Navy Captain Tamon Yamaguchi was the Japanese espionage leader in the United States. Yamaguchi, the Japanese military attache, was suave and charismatic. He spoke English fluently and seemed to enjoy the social life in Washington.

    Because of his suspicions, Zacharias made it a point to have personal contact with Yamaguchi as often as possible. On one of these occasions, in January 1936, Zacharias and his wife were guests at a gala party given by Yamaguchi in the Chinese Room of the ornate Mayflower Hotel.

    Sipping casually on a cocktail, the forty-four-year-old Zacharias, one of the few Jewish Naval Academy graduates of his generation, noticed that two German military attaches, Vice Admiral Robert Witthoft-Emden and Lieutenant General Friedrich von Boetticher, had become quite friendly with Yamaguchi. This development surprised the ONI sleuth. Previously, the relationship between the two Nazis and Yamaguchi had been quite frigid, reflecting the views of their respective governments.

    When the party was drawing to a close, Zacharias told his wife that the couple must remain as long as possible to see what would happen between the two Germans and the Japanese host. In social events given by Yamaguchi in the past, the two Germans had always departed after only a few minutes. Now the Nazis had stayed for nearly three hours. Zacharias felt that the party was held to provide an opportunity for the two Germans and Yamaguchi to discuss some important matters without attracting undue attention.

    Across the spacious room, now thinning of guests, General Boetticher and Admiral Witthoft-Emden were still clinging to Yamaguchi. The Germans cast periodic glances toward Zacharias. Plainly, they were irritated that he had not left the party.

    Nodding toward the two Germans and the Japanese, Zacharias told his wife, "Something's afoot!"

    The situation evolved into a cat-and-mouse game. Who would outwait whom?

    Finally, after the waiters had cleared all the dishes, Zacharias and his wife hurried to Yamaguchi's side to make certain that he, the two Nazis, and the Zachariases all left at the same time, thereby depriving the Germans of a chance to conclude their business with their host.

    Early the next morning, Zacharias discussed with his boss, Captain William D. Puleston, the puzzling German-Japanese lovefest at the Mayflower. Because the principal mission of military attachés at embassies is to be espionage agents, the ONI officers agreed that the German and Japanese intelligence agencies were now working in close alliance.

    Although the two ONI sleuths had no way of knowing the precise developments, their educated hunch was accurate. German Colonel Walter Nicolai, who had been in charge of Kaiser Wilhelm's far-flung intelligence apparatus in the Great War, had held secret meetings with his Japanese counterparts in Tokyo only two weeks earlier. Nicolai had suggested that the two nations pool their espionage resources.

    Nicolai stressed that only Caucasians could be effective spies in the United States because Oriental agents could be more easily detected. The Japanese bought the proposal. They would spy for the Germans in the Pacific regions, where Caucasian agents would be conspicuous. In turn, the Germans would pass along intelligence gleaned from the United States and the Panama Canal Zone.

    Adolf Hitler was enthusiastic over the arrangement, and he appointed Eugen Ott to be ambassador to Japan and to coordinate the two nations' intelligence exchanges.

    Now, within forty-eight hours of the Mayflower Hotel party, the ONI began a surveillance of the Alban Towers, an imposing apartment building at the intersection of Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues in Washington. In a high-level suite, Captain Yamaguchi maintained his living quarters. Captain Zacharias believed that the suite also served as a command post for Japanese espionage activities in the United States.

    On the first night of the surveillance, ONI technicians, huddled in an enclosed truck parked near the Alban Towers and using electronic devices, picked up mysterious noises somewhere in the building. Zacharias concluded that these sounds were being generated by a machine that encoded messages to be sent to Tokyo by sacrosanct diplomatic courier pouch or by radio transmittal.

    Consequently, an elaborate scheme was hatched to gain what intelligence agencies call a "surreptitious entry" to Yamaguchi's suite, inspect the encoding machine, and "requisition" any codes or other materials customarily used in espionage work.

    A major concern was that Yamaguchi might be home and catch the ONI "cat burglars" in the act, thereby igniting a major hullabaloo between the governments of Japan and the United States. Zacharias came up with the perfect answer: he and Mrs. Zacharias would invite their good friend Yamaguchi to have dinner at their home in suburban Washington on the night scheduled for the caper.

    When Yamaguchi, smiling and courteous as always, arrived at the Zacharias residence, the ONI officer excused himself, went into another room, and telephoned his headquarters. He recited one code word that meant the Japanese had arrived and the "burglars" could go to work.

    Meanwhile, earlier in the evening, Navy Lieutenant Jack S. Holtwick, a cryptanalyst (one who breaks codes), and a Navy radio expert named McGregor donned civilian electricians' outfits. Then they drove to the Alban Towers in a van with the name of a phony firm painted in large letters on the side. Explaining to the doorman that they had been called by a tenant, the two men took an elevator to Yamaguchi's floor, tiptoed down the corridor to his suite, and listened for any sound that might indicate there were armed guards inside.

    Working swiftly and with ears tuned to any noise that might mean the approach of someone, the two intruders used a special instrument to open the door without leaving a telltale mark. They conducted a thorough search, being careful not to betray their presence by moving objects. No electronic encoding device was found.

    After pocketing numerous documents from Yamaguchi's desk (hopefully he would believe he had only misplaced them), the "electricians" took the elevator to the lobby, walked past the bored doorman, and drove off in their van,

    The source of the ominous clicking noises in the building continued to mystify Zacharias. He thought it was possible that some unidentified American had leased another suite in the building for Yamaguchi to use as his communications center to keep in clandestine contact with intelligence sources in Tokyo.

    ONI continued its surveillance of the Alban Towers, and it became clear that Yamaguchi's suite was now the command post for the combined Japanese-German espionage alliance in the United States. Several months later, on November 25, 1936, the cozy relationship between Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and Emperor Hirohito's Japanese Empire became publicly known. In an elaborate ceremony in Berlin, Japanese and German diplomats signed what was called the Anti-Comintern Pact, binding both nations to counter what was described as subversive activity all over the world,

    Two years later, Tamon Yamaguchi was called back to Tokyo, promoted to rear admiral, and assigned to the Navy Ministry as a principal aide to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, chief of the combined Imperial Fleet. In that capacity Yamaguchi played a key role in developing a top-secret project: a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents



Sinister Plots in the "New Germany."

"Burglars" Call on a Japanese Spymaster.

Ten Moles in Hitler's High Command.

A Scheme to Declare Hitler Insane.

The Blond Beast's Ruse Backfires.

Did His Generals Sabotage the Fuhrer?

Her Serene Highness Plots with Goering.

A Bizarre Kidnapping Scheme.

The French Consul's Janitor.

A German General Spies on Himself.

A Baseball Player's Foresight.

Tailing a Soviet Spy in England.


A Weird Hoax to Launch a War.

Most Secret: Defuse the Magnetic Mines.

Mystery Explosion in a Nazi Shrine.

Goering Hires a Rainmaker.

Churchill's Amazing Gamble.

A Covert Weather War.

Masquerade on the High Seas.

Nazi Spies in the U.S. Capitol.

Two Tiny Tots Escape to England.

The World's Dumbest Spy.

Global Celebrity a Secret Agent.

A POW's Wife Unlocks a Code.

Canada's Covert " Luxury Fleet."

One Airplane Infuriates the Fuhrer.


A Cunning Forgery Pays Off.

Shopping for U.S. Secrets.

A Scientist on a Covert Mission.

"Black Propaganda" Warriors.

A Trojan Horse Hoax.

The Bulldog Bites the German Navy.

Keeno, King of the Robots.

A German POW Makes History.

A Kamikaze Plan Against Pearl Harbor.

Hijacking Mussolini's Money.

Hitler's Doom Seen in the Stars.

Abwehr Dupe: Vice President Wallace.

The Nazis' Most Unlikely Secret Agent.


A Batty Idea for Firebombing Tokyo.

The FBI Nabs a Honolulu "Sleeper."

A French Counterfeit Traitor.

Their Weapons Were Words.

Peculiar Demise of a Captured Plane.

A Bishop in Disguise.

The Mysterious Inspector Thompson.

A Nazi Counterfeiting Plot.

A Chance Meeting in a Cafe.

Hitler's Evil Guardian Angel.

Roosevelt's Guest a Nazi Spy.

Ruse in a Berlin Brothel.

A Spy Spies on the Spymaster.


A Female Resistant Tricks the Gestapo.

An Owner Blows Up His Factory.

A Plan to Bomb the United States.

The Princes and Seven Thousand Danish Jews.

Eisenhower's Secret Weapon.

A Call for Nazi Suicide Pilots.

A Plot to Murder Two Allied Generals.

Hitler Warned by a Female Spy.

An Alarming Breach of Security.

The Wizard and the Mushroom Man.

Warning: Your Submarine May Explode.

A Puzzling Episode in Normandy.

A Poison "Treatment" for Hitler.

Belgian Resistants Steal a Locomotive.

A German General Cuts a Strange Deal.


The Armee Secrete Saves Antwerp.

Machinations at a Dutch Hotel.

"Gift-Wrapping" a Kidnap Victim.

An Ingenious German Deception Plan.

Spies Swarm into the Third Reich.

Blasting Doomed Resistants to Freedom.

The Plot to Surrender a Nazi Army.

A Covert Plan to Seize Berlin.

Urgent: Pilfer One Hundred Huge Missiles.

Notes and Sources.


Read More Show Less


font size="+1">

THE HALL OF MIRRORS in the magnificent Palace of Versailles, a mammoth edifice built by Louis XIV in 1661, was bustling with formally garbed delegates from many countries on the beautiful day of June 28, 1919. They had gathered outside Paris for the signing of the peace treaty that concluded what euphoric Allied politicians labeled "the war to end all wars."

It was one of German history's blackest hours, for the victors-- mainly Great Britain, France, and the United States-- had inflicted harsh terms on the vanquished, including forcing Germany to acknowledge responsibility for starting the four years of bloodshed and carnage known then as the Great War.

With hostile neighbors on all sides, Germany had been virtually disarmed by the Treaty of Versailles. Her six-million-man force had to be slashed to a Reichswehr (army) of only a hundred thousand civilian volunteers, and this caretaker force was prohibited from having airplanes or tanks.

Almost before the ink had dried on the peace treaty, a cagey, monocled Old Prussian, General Hans von Seeckt, set in motion a series of clandestine events designed to lead to the rebirth of German military and industrial might. As commander of the Reichswehr, Seeckt, known as the "Sphinx" because of his enigmatic personality, began conspiring to use the authorized hundred-thousand- man force as a cadre for future rapid expansion. Only the best-educated officers and sergeants who had proven themselves to be dynamic leaders and courageous in battle were allowed to remain in the service.

General von Seeckt and his coconspirators in the Reichswehr had to proceed with extreme caution and utilize ingenious deceptions to mask what was really taking place. Many British, French, and American military officers were stationed throughout Germany to make certain that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were enforced.

Once Seeckt had selected the members of his private club, he made certain that their living conditions were vastly improved, that they had food items not available to civilians, and that their pay was hiked. The general then established a strict routine of sports and other recreational activities that developed strong, healthy soldiers.

Seeckt next created a series of military schools whose "civilian" instructors-- in reality high-ranking officers from the Great War-- taught sergeants and lieutenants the techniques of commanding entire divisions, in preparation for some future war. Among the eager students was young Erwin Rommel, a platoon leader in the war who was regarded by a superior as "the perfect fighting animal, cold, cunning, ruthless, untiring, incredibly brave."

In 1921, the Old Prussian, without informing the German government, negotiated a clandestine mutual military assistance pact with a highly unlikely ally, the Soviet Union, against whom Germany had fought bitterly during the Great War.

The alliance had been instigated by Nikolai Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. Back in March 1917, news of the downfall of Czar Nicholas II had reached Lenin in exile in Switzerland, where he had been trying to foment a revolution. In his impatience to return home, he accepted for himself and his friends the offer by the German Kaiser Wilhelm of a private railroad car to travel to Russia across Germany.

Kaiser Bill, as he was called by the Allies, was confident that Lenin would aid his cause by taking Russia out of the war against Germany. But Lenin's own aim was to make not only Russia but the entire world, Germany included, Communist countries.

Arriving in Petrograd (as St. Petersburg was then called) in April, Lenin called on the Russian masses to join him in overthrowing the moderate government and replacing it with a Communist one. Most of the peasants joined his Bolsheviks, and in October 1917 the government was ousted.

Lenin became absolute dictator. As Kaiser Bill had hoped, he took the huge but ineptly led Russian army out of the war.

Now, three years later, with both the Soviet and German economies in dire straits and inflation galloping out of control, Nikolai Lenin had instructed the Soviet ambassador to Germany, Nucolai Krestinski, to make a discreet approach to General von Seeckt. The result was the secret alliance between the two nations.

If it was not a shotgun marriage, it was certainly one of necessity. The Red Army lacked both professional leadership skills, and military schools for that training. Germany had no airplanes, tanks, or heavy guns, or an air force or a navy.

Under the terms of the pact, German military advisers would secretly assist the Soviet Union in modernizing its army. In return, the Reichswehr would receive periodic clandestine shipments of Soviet-built heavy weapons. At the same time, the cream of the Reichswehr would be sent to the Soviet Union (in civilian clothes) to be trained on the airplanes and tanks being developed there by German armaments experts.

Each year, a third of the annual budget of the Reichswehr went into a curious cartel: the Gesellschaft zur Förderung gewerblichen Unternehmen (the Industrial Enterprises Development Corporation). From its offices, one in Berlin and one in Moscow, it dealt directly with the Soviet government and had several subcontracting branches throughout the Soviet Union.

The seemingly commercial corporation was a cover for the Reichswehr. Under the direction of the phony firm, aircraft shells, submarines, and poison gas were produced in the Soviet Union and shipped clandestinely to Germany.

At his headquarters in Berlin in September 1921, General von Seeckt set up Sondergruppe R (Special Group R), the cover name for an operation run by selected officers to coordinate the numerous secret German manufacturing and military assistance programs taking place in the Soviet Union.

At the same time, the Old Prussian dispatched one of his key officers, Colonel Oskar von Niedermayer, to the Soviet Union to open the Zentrale Moskau (Moscow Central). Niedermayer immediately began dashing about the immense Soviet Union, wearing civilian clothes and carrying out his function of coordinating all secret German activities in that country.

Colonel von Niedermayer gave special attention to the three immense training bases in remote locales of the Soviet Union that were prepared for the "Black Reichswehr," twenty thousand strong, to conduct extensive and realistic field exercises.

These soldiers were the best and the brightest, destined for eventual high command in some German army of the future. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, each of these soldiers' names was "erased" from the rolls. Theoretically, none of them now existed.

Sent from Germany to the training camps in the Soviet Union under the most stringent secrecy, the men of the "Black Reichswehr" learned the art of war side by side with young Soviet officers, also selected for future high command, from high-ranking German officers. Hermetically sealed zinc containers were used to bring back the remains of German soldiers killed in the rigorous training exercises in which live ammunition was sometimes used.

Another area in which Germany rearmed was her air force. Although the 1919 Treaty of Versailles had directed that Germany destroy all of its combat aircraft and prohibited building more of them, the document made no mention of the use of gliders. So almost as soon as the treaty was signed, scores of active glider-flying clubs sprang up throughout Germany.

Glider flying developed into almost a craze in Germany during the first few years after the Great War. Although the young pilots looked upon their sport as an enjoyable pastime, many others envisioned the clubs as excellent training grounds for power-airplane pilots when the day came that Germany again had an air force. One of the latter was Hermann Goering, who was working in odd jobs as a salesman.

Goering had been a highly decorated fighter ace with twenty-two kills, and he had succeeded Manfred von Richthofen-- the famed Red Baron-- as a squadron leader after he was shot down. Now, as a civilian in an intolerable postwar Germany, he was bitter about the Treaty of Versailles, and he vowed revenge.

Early in 1922, Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, America's top fighter ace in the Great War and now an executive with an aviation corporation, was in Berlin on business. Four former German pilots, who had engaged in duels with Rickenbacker's squadron over France, played host to him. One of the four was Hermann Goering.

During a conversation at dinner, Goering told the American, "Our whole future is in the air. And it is by airpower that we are going to recapture the German Empire."

Rickenbacker masked his shock. Only four years after the greatest butchery in history to that time had ended, here was a famous German advocating rebuilding the nation's armed might and going to war once more.

Goering explained precisely how Germany would circumvent the restrictions in the Treaty of Versailles. "First, we will teach gliding as a sport to all our young men," he said. "Then we will build up commercial aviation. Finally we will create the skeletons of a military air force. When the time comes, we will put all three together, and the German Empire will be reborn."

A year later, in 1923, the Allied Control Commission that had been monitoring all German activities since Versailles relaxed some constraints in the treaty to allow the nation to expand its industry, including permission to build a "limited number" of civilian airplanes.

German aircraft manufacturers, delighted to be back in business after being shut down for nearly five years, took a liberal view of "limited number" and began producing hundreds of aircraft of all sizes.

Then, in 1926, General von Seeckt took another gigantic step in his master plan to secretly rearm Germany by creating an illegal "Black Luftwaffe." A special aviation branch, the Fliegerzentrale (Flying Center), was formed with a few squadrons of aircraft converted from civilian use.

Modern aviation equipment and designs were sorely lacking, however, because German industry, hampered by the Treaty of Versailles restrictions, could not provide sophisticated technology. So the Fliegerzentrale, under bull-necked Major Hugo Sperrle, a fighter ace in the Great War, sent "scouts" to several foreign countries to purchase aviation items that were available on the open market. Efforts focused chiefly on the United States, whose industrial and technological capacities were booming.

Sperrle learned from his "scouts" that most of the wanted devices, such as aircraft designs, automatic bombsights, and retractable landing gear, were classified as military secrets by the War Department in Washington and not for sale at any price. Undaunted, Sperrle and other plotters at the Fliegerzentrale decided that what they could not buy, they would steal.

The task of pilfering U. S. military secrets was handed to the Abwehr, Germany's secret service, whose operations had apparently been overlooked by Versailles. Diminutive Fritz Gempp, the Abwehr chief, sent Germany's first postwar spy, thirty-four-year-old Wilhelm Lonkowski, to the United States in 1927. His German passport identified him as William Schneider, a piano tuner.

Before sailing from Bremerhaven, Germany, Lonkowski had been furnished with a "shopping list" compiled by Major Sperrle. Items had been culled from American aviation magazines and trade journals. The scope of Lonkowski's mission would have staggered spies of less robust spirit: as a lone agent, he was expected to steal military secrets from such major corporations as Curtiss Aircraft, Westinghouse Electric, Seversky Aircraft, Fairchild Aviation, and Douglas Aircraft, as well as from the U. S. Army's Mitchel and Roosevelt airfields outside New York City.

Lonkowski soon found that the United States was a spy's paradise. No single federal agency was charged with countersubversive operations, and the United States was the only major nation in the world that had no secret service to ferret out the intentions of hostile powers. Consequently, unmolested and without fear of detection and arrest, Wilhelm Lonkowski rapidly recruited a network of domestic spies and began reaping a harvest of America's military secrets.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the Sphinx, General Hans von Seeckt, was continuing to use his guile to expand the Reichswehr's clout. Devising a deliberately misleading name, he created the Truppenamt, consisting of sixty of his most capable officers. This group's function was to form a new general staff, which had been outlawed by the Treaty of Versailles.

Seeckt also used evasive means to make sure that Germany would have a large pool of highly trained reserve officers. He achieved that goal by rotating men through the Reichswehr, thereby keeping its strength at one hundred thousand at any given time.

In the early 1930s, when a new leader, Adolf Hitler, told the world that Germany was no longer bound by the Treaty of Versailles and began rapidly to overtly expand its armed forces, it would have a large, motivated, and skilled officer corps, the best in the world.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world from Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Japan was gripped by a secret movement whose goal was a totalitarian state under absolute military control. Numerous covert groups, of which the Black Dragon was the most notorious, advanced the cause through machinations, murders, and mayhem.

In 1927, Japanese military leaders secretly drew up the Tanaka Memorial, a blueprint for armed conquest of the Far East and driving the United States and Great Britain out of the Pacific. The dream of the warlords was called Hakko Ichiu (the Eight Corners of the World under One Roof).

Japan had spent many years preparing for the inevitable war in the Pacific. From boyhood, young men were taught how to engage in armed combat. Schools were operated much like military units. Some of the teachers were army officers who lectured the impressionable boys that it was their duty to die if necessary to help Japan fulfill its divine destiny of conquest.

From 1931 on, each graduating class at the Japanese naval academy was confronted with the final examination question: "How would you carry out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor?"

On September 30, 1931, Japanese soldiers planted explosives on the tracks of the Japanese-owned railroad in Manchuria, a large province in northeastern China separated from Korea by the Yalu River. The plot to provoke a war with China failed when an express train raced over the dynamite charge without being blown up.

Then the Japanese saboteurs killed several nearby Chinese soldiers, and Tokyo fabricated a story that the Chinese had tried to derail a Japanese train. Based on that fraud, General Senjuro Hayashi, a Hakko Ichiu disciple, rushed his army in Korea across the Yalu into Manchuria and seized control of the province.

Militarists continued to consolidate their power in Japan by the expedient of getting rid of inconvenient persons. In 1932, a clique of navy officers murdered seventy-five-year-old moderate Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai. When the minister of finance refused to increase funds for the military, he was killed by army officers.

In an effort to incite the militarily weak United States into a war, a plot, ultimately unsuccessful, was hatched to murder Hollywood superstar Charlie Chaplin (then visiting in Tokyo) and U. S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew, a Harvard graduate who devoted most of his time toward keeping Japan and the United States from an armed conflict.

All the while, the Japanese warlords had been building one of the mightiest war juggernauts that history had known.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 25, 2012

    highly recommended

    well written and well researched true stories of World War II. Especially appealing written in the short and very short story format

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)