• U.S.

ARMY & NAVY: Spy Business

5 minute read

In Manhattan last week the U. S. Government edified U. S. citizens with a continued story about spies. Cast as villains of the story were 18 defendants indicted (TIME, March 7 et seq.) as German agents.

Present for the telling in Federal Judge John C. Knox’s courtroom were Johanna Hofmann, a red-haired hairdresser on the German liner Europa, ex-Private Erich Glasser of the U. S. Air Corps, and one Otto Hermann Voss, formerly a mechanic in a Long Island aircraft factory (Seversky) which makes planes for the U. S. Army. Still at large, presumably in Germany, were 14 other defendants.

The 18th was Guenther Gustave Rumrich, an Austro-American who deserted from the U. S. Army, joined the German intelligence service in 1936. Spy Rumrich turned Government evidence after his blunders, notably an attempt to get passport blanks delivered to him in Manhattan by describing himself over the telephone as the Under-Secretary of State, exposed the ring last February.

Wide-eyed, naïve Mr. Rumrich set the theme for as fantastic a comedy as ever made fools of peepsters. He got $290 a month from the Germans. They got: 1) Government weather reports (available to anybody); 2) a subscription to the unofficial Army & Navy Register (which welcomes subscribers); 3) a Government Printing Office list of Army & Navy publications (free to all); 4) continuous assurances, often delivered by transatlantic messenger, that invaluable information would be turned up most any day.

As a witness, a brunette, Senta de Wanger, appeared in a greenish-gray sport jacket, green skirt, green hat. Miss de Wanger runs a liquor store at Hempstead, N. Y., near the Air Corps’ Mitchel Field, L. I. She was sought out by absentee William Lonkowski, one of the few who was portrayed as a spy capable of digging out worthwhile information. To him and his wife German-born Senta rented part of her quarters.

Soon she noticed that Voss frequently visited her tenants. Miss de Wanger also noticed that the Lonkowskis spent much money on liquor and parties. One night she asked Mrs. Lonkowski where they got the money. “From the Government—the German Government,” replied Mrs. Lonkowski. She and her husband vanished after U. S. customs and Army officers caught Lonkowski red-handed with military airplane plans, swallowed his denials, let him get away.

Brunette Katherine Moog, who runs a nursing home for convalescents in Manhattan, identified herself as a friend and traveling companion of slick Dr. Ignatz Griebl, supposedly a key member of the gang. Beauteous Miss Moog related that she ran into Dr. Griebl on a Germany-bound ship in 1937. She proceeded with him to Berlin and there was introduced to Lieutenant Commanders Udo von Bonin and Hermann Menzel of the German War Ministry.

“They were wonderful gentlemen. They paid me, oh, so-o-o many compliments.”

The U. S. prosecutor tried to get her back to the subject of spying. “Ah,” said Miss Moog, “I will not forget the flowers, the beautiful flowers at the roof garden. And those wonderful gentlemen. One gentleman, I remember, he said, ‘I have not been in that wonderful America for eleven years. I love America,’ he said. ‘President Roosevelt is the greatest navy man in the world.’ ” Miss Moog ignored interruptions of the prosecutor, sighed on: “It made me very happy when those wonderful gentlemen said they liked President Roosevelt.”

The official gentlemen suggested that a lady of Miss Moog’s attraction might well open “a villa in Washington” with German money. There she would explain Naziism to Congressmen, military and naval officers, newspapermen. Although she and Dr. Griebl did nothing and heard nothing more about it, they continued to visit Berlin night spots and absorb champagne at the German Government’s expense. Miss Moog’s prolonged account of this so vexed long-legged Judge Knox that he finally slapped the bench, barked: “Stop that, now!”

One who had a great deal to do with turning up the spies was ex-G-Man Leon G. Turrou, who resigned last summer. 15 minutes later contracted to write a newspaper series (never published) on the spy plot. Seamy-faced Mr. Turrou last week told the jury how he spied on the spies. Defense Attorney George C. Dix asked Mr. Turrou whether he had inquired of Dr. Griebl: “How much will it be worth to you not to be sentenced to prison as a German spy?”

“I never said that,” yelled Mr. Turrou.

Lawyer Dix consulted a deposition taken from Dr. Griebl in Berlin, shot back: “Didn’t he say ‘I think I could raise $5,000 cash?’ ”

“Never,” cried Mr. Turrou.

Judge Knox cautioned Lawyer Dix not to make speeches to the jury. “I want to show,” replied jury-minded Mr. Dix, “that there was a conspiracy to allow Griebl to escape and to frame these smaller fry.”

While helpless Mr. Turrou was on the griddle, the prosecution introduced two documents signed by Mechanic Voss. They attested that he had dealt with Captain-Lieutenant Erich Pfeiffer of the German naval intelligence service, supplying him with data including a fuel tank design. Voss found the plans in a Seversky garbage can.

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