Category Archives: Espionage

The New Role of Intelligence Agencies

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Ewald Wever is shown in the 1920 Census

The Bureau of Investigations, later known as the FBI, was a critical tool for the United States in counterintelligence during World War I, especially after the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was used to stop interference with the military, preventing insubordination in the military, and preventing support of the enemies of the United States during the war. Any person who conveyed information that was intended to interfere with the U.S. war effort or promoting the success of enemies was subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. In one famous case, Eugene Debs made a speech criticizing the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. These acts were stopped around the country by the Bureau of Investigations and one occurrence even happened right here in Suffield. In a declassified report from the Bureau of Investigations, the investigating officers detail this occurrence in Suffield. A fairly successful tobacco farmer of West Suffield, CT, Ewald Wever, discouraged many people in his tobacco warehouse not to buy the second Liberty Loans. He told the people that they would just lose their money because soon the Germans would be ruling over the United States. There were at least two people, who before talking to Mr. Wever, wanted to buy the Liberty Loans, but after talking to Mr. Wever, they decided against doing so because of the way that he talked about them. When Mr. Wever was later asked to buy some Liberty Loans, his response was that he had no money. This was obviously not true since it was well known to everyone around he was a quite wealthy man. Our research so far shows that Mr. Wever had a tendency to be pro-German as he was born in Germany before becoming a United States citizen. Once while in Springfield, MA, Mr. Wever refused to stand for the National Anthem until a fellow resident forced him to stand. Mr. Wever’s actions caught the attention of the FBI thanks to a tip from Charles Bissell, who has a strong connection to the Suffield School. The FBI followed up with Mr. Wever and their desired action is unknown.

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Hartford Courant article talking about a strike at Mr. Wever’s tobacco warehouse. Article date: February 21, 1917

Based on 1920 Census, Mr. Wever lived in West Suffield, CT, was from Germany and was sixty-two years old. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the tobacco warehouse that Mr. Wever managed was called the “Kaiser & Boasberg plantation,” which consisted of two warehouses, one where the women sort the shade-grown tobacco and the other where the men sort the Havana seed leaf. He lived with his wife and one of his sons and one of his daughters. The family also had a maid who lived with them, which shows that they were financially strong. While doing research on Mr. Wever through Ancestry.com, it was revealed that he had a total of four children with his wife. We continue to research the family of Mr. Wever and are looking to see if there are any direct relatives of him. We will also look into if Mr. Wever and Mr. Bissell were economic rivals, which may have prompted Mr. Bissell to report Mr. Wever. It was known that Mr. Bissell made money in tobacco, therefore this could give him a reason to report Mr. Wever. As we continue to look into new leads, look into acts of espionage in your own town.

Sources:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fbi-founded

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-congress-passes-espionage-act

https://search.proquest.com/docview/556434153?accountid=46995

The Government’s Tight Grip

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 9.34.43 AMMedia censorship was heavily seen in the war effort. The media could only report on a fraction of what actually happened in the war. Once the U.S entered the war, the government began to tighten its hold over what was said to the public. The U.S needed to make sure it could produce enough soldiers for war, and when the draft came out, some were skeptical if everyone would continue to support. If chosen anyone would have to fight and possibly die in war. In order to counter these many anti-war ideas, media sources were either terminated or forced into changing sides to support the war. People who promoted any anti-war ideas were fined heavy amounts and possibly even arrested.

In Connecticut, people could really see a crackdown in Bridgeport. Bridgeport was one of the U. S’s biggest exporters of war, and keeping those workers in the dark about the horrors of war was something the government worried about. The U.S did not directly come out with the idea of censorship but rather tried to use wordy language to try and confuse people to not quite understand what the Government means. This was because it violated the first amendment and was seen in Suffield, Connecticut by the lack of newspaper articles talking about war, and more specifically what was happening overseas.

Wilson had two major concerns. One being the abrupt change to pro-war might lead to some confusion and anger in the population and by silencing the media. The second reason is if the people were told about what was really happening, Wilson feared the people of America would be angry with him. The response he might have endured from the people could crumble the war effort around him. Wilson was so nervous of a possible revolt, he “prepared a bill authorizing the president to censor the press. (Wilson) himself declared this to be absolutely essential.”(Meyer, Source 1) Wilson had to manipulate the American people to get excited about the war by going as far as staging robberies and damaging property. He then claimed the attacks were from the Germans. It got so intense once the war was underway, a man was sent to prison for calling the war foolish. Things like this happened all throughout the war. Once the war was coming to end Wilson’s administration actually liked the idea of media censorship and the tight hold they had on the American people. Luckily this was stopped by the House of Representatives, and this censorship was lifted. This Censorship on the American people also raise an interesting question, “How much of the information we know today about the war was true?”

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These two images portrayed the Germans as beasts and promoted liberty bonds, which directly helped fund the government’s war effort.

Sources:

1: http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/03/that-time-in-wwi-america-when-censorship-was-legal/

This talked directly about Wilson and his plans to continue to censor the media and keep the firm grip the government had on the people even after war.

2: https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/censorship

This gave some background as to what the censorship was and how harsh it became.

3: https://revisionworld.com/gcse-revision/history/world-history/world-war-one-1914-1918/propaganda-censorship

This was more on the shift of the nation and how tight the hold of the government was on the American People.

Stopping the Elusive Germans On the Homefront

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Secret Service agents walking aside President Woodrow Wilson

I continue to explore the role of federal agencies in stopping pro-German attacks against the United States during the war. The Secret Service was crucial in stopping German spies from roaming around the United States and collecting information. In one case, a Secret Service agent was tailing a known German spy, and the spy had a left a briefcase on a bus. This briefcase was opened and contained many documents showing Germany’s efforts to stop America’s support to the Allies. The Secret Service played a vital role in finding German spies and foiling their plans against the United States.

The Bureau of Investigations (later known as the FBI) worked on many aspects including citizens antiwar sentiments. During the start of the war, they were told to keep their investigations into Germans limited because of the federal laws at the time. This changed through the years of 1914-1917 as the U.S. was getting ready to enter the war. They were involved in a few German cases including one in 1914 where there was a ring that was trying to obtain passports for German reservists that were in the U.S. when the war started. There was another case in 1915 where there was a plot to blow up the Welland Canal, which was a critical shipping point between Lake Erie and Ontario. The Bureau was able to break up this plot and arrested several people connected to the plot. They were also able to connect one of the men to the earlier documents from the Secret Service case with the briefcase. During the early years of the war, there were many sabotage attempts against British-owned firms and factories that supplied ammunition to Britain and Russia that were broken up by the Bureau of Investigations.  In 1916, the Bureau of Investigations officially began a counterintelligence policy.

These early efforts that the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigations unfolded showed Germany’s plots against the U.S. and was a contributing factor in convincing the United States to enter the War. Now that the United States has entered the war, I am going to dig deeper to see what the Secret Service and Bureau of Investigations did inside of the United States during the war. My plan will be to contact the FBI to find more information on their role during WWI.

Sources:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/the-bureaus-role-during-early-world-war-i-years

This source comes directly from the FBI, which means it is a reliable source for information on the early years of the FBI during World War I.

 

https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/6-12th-grade/operation-history/history-of-american-intelligence.html#catching-up-over-there

This source comes from the CIA talking about the early years of spying and the impact that different federal agencies had on World War I inside of the United States.

 

Espionage in WWI

First Hot Log December Unknown2017: If there is one thing that can be said bout every war, it is that espionage will always be used in a strategic manner in order to gain an advantage on the opponent. Espionage is the practice of spying or of using spies, mostly by governments in an effort to obtain political and military information. I am very interested in learning more about what role espionage took in WWI, and what impact Suffield may have had on espionage during this time. Espionage tactics in WWI took place in the form of eavesdropping, cryptography, and sabotage of enemy infantry. The Secret Service was the main intelligence agency for the United States during WWI, so it would be very fascinating to find out if any citizens from Suffield who were in the Secret Service during this time.

Espionage has always been a fascinating topic to me and that originates from the very first time that I researched my family history. My father and I found out that my seventh great grandfather, John Honeyman, was a spy for George Washington during the American Revolution. Honeyman first met Washington at a Continental Congress meeting, then again in the Continental Army. At these moments in time Honeyman and Washington’s friendship sparked into a bond of loyalty and trust, and this led Washington to be certain that Honeyman was the absolute best choice to help him cross the Delaware River. The way Honeyman spied was quite unique as he spied while being held as a prisoner to the British and studied camps in the town of Trenton. On December 22nd, 1776 Honeyman was captured by Americans to “talk” to Washington. When Honeyman returned, he told the British of his prisoner adventures and assured them no attack was imminent. This, obviously not being true, led Washington to attack the Hessians by complete surprise. From this, the Battle of Trenton was won by the American colonies and introduced a spark of hope in our darkest hour.

Source:

https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/espionage

http://www.centenarynews.com/article?id=161