|Franz von Papen, Future Supporter of Adolf Hitler, |
Was Military Attache to Washington, DC, in 1915
and Up to No Good
The United States entered the Great War in 1917 but readers of The Secret War on the United States in 1915 will quickly come to the realization that the Great War had entered the United States by 1915. How this happened is of particular interest in the current environment of NATO’s indirect involvement in the Ukrainian War. America’s 1915 involvement in the Great War had two aspects: the manufacture and sale of war materials to the Entente and Germany’s counter-campaign to prevent the delivery of those materials and to disseminate German propaganda in the U.S. Under the direction of their Secret War Council, German agents plotted cornering the market on strategic materials, labor unrest and sabotage.
Though neutral, Britannia’s rule of the waves had converted the United States into an Entente workshop. When the Council’s propaganda efforts failed to sway the balance of American public opinion, the Council turned to more direct action.
The common denominator in German efforts was money. Some initiatives were economic. Schemes included the setting up of manufacturing plants to justify the purchase of machine tools, raw materials, and to hire skilled workers—thereby limiting their availability to other businesses. Resources having been controlled, production was delayed and sales made to neutrals or Mexican civil belligerents. To the extent that these schemes were successful, deliveries to the Entente were interrupted.
For example, phenol is a chemical compound with many industrial uses, including as a keen ingredient in TNT. The German purchase of a year’s supply for Bayer Chemical Company (think aspirin) provided a cover to divert phenol from the production of high explosives. The dangling of German money to purchase mainstream and ethnic newspapers met with mixed success. The Secret War Council's influence in peace movements and labor disputes remains difficult to discern, but the effort was there. Most seemingly counter-intuitive was the encouragement of the U.S. preparedness movement that was justified for its potential to divert military equipment to domestic demand.
When monetary incentives failed to yield the desired results, the council turned to violent sabotage. Among the examples of the council’s efforts to raise the cost of Entente supplies were the injection of methylene dye into grain to create blue dough; cigar bombs that started fires aboard ships; plots to attack the Welland Canal; attempts to infect exportable horses and mules with anthrax and glanders; and most spectacularly, the Black Tom explosion. The book also makes a case for the War Council being an instigator of Mexican rebel attacks on American towns and interests, thereby distracting attention and military supplies from the Western Front.
This tome is part of a trilogy penned by author Heribert von Feilitzsch in which he makes a strong case for concluding that the Great War came to the United States in 1915, both for American commercial and German martial interests. Perhaps heedful of Deep Throat’s advice “to follow the money,” von Feiltzsch’s investigation into bank records and financial transactions has uncovered a web of espionage not often illuminated by other historians. Though dismissed as a massive failure, the author posits that, although the physical damage inflicted was negligible, like the later 9-11 attacks, the added costs of heightened inspection and security, plus delays in shipments and increased insurance rates, added to the expense of the Entente War effort while focusing American attention on more localized needs.
I recommend The Secret War on the United States in 1915 along with the others in the von Feiltzsch’s trilogy, The Mexican Front in the Great War and The Secret War Council to Roads readers who seek a thorough investigation into the role of the German Secret War Council in bringing the Great War to the United States.