Spies >

German Intelligence in New York City

In Fire on the Hill I have German secret agent Count Jaggi reporting, as did military attaché Captain von Papen, to Major Walter Nicolai, the director of German military intelligence, Abteilung IIIb.

Captain Karl Boy-Ed, as the naval attaché, reported to Major Nicolai’s opposite number in naval intelligence.

When the war broke out the attachés were ordered to secretly buy up or tie up American war production before it reached Britain and France.

They tried to disrupt the Allied war effort by:

Major Nicolai had sent various agents, such as Franz von Rintelen, to help von Papen and Boy-Ed with their operations. However, von Rintelen and von Papen clashed as soon as they met. Von Papen didn’t agree with all of the various grandiose schemes proposed by Rintelen to blow up ships, harbours, and warehouses. Von Papen was worried about the political fallout with the Americans by such large scale schemes.

Eventually, he would have Rintelen recalled to Germany. Rintelen was arrested by British authorities when his ship docked in England. He blamed von Papen for betraying him to the British.

As for Captain Boy-Ed, most of the covert operations he was running were to get stranded sailors back to Germany. He had opened an office in New York City and provided false papers and passports to those Germans who wanted to get back home.

Unfortunately, one of their operations was the explosion at Black Tom Island, in New York City harbour on July 30, 1916. The island was a major ammunitions depot. At the time there was over two million pounds of shells and explosives being stored in or around Black Tom, awaiting shipment to the Allies.

When the United States entered the war, American intelligence agencies began to better co-ordinate their efforts and began to aggressively roll up various German networks in New York City.

Sources and further reading


The Kaiser Sows Destruction - Central Intelligence Agency

CI Reader: An American Revolution Into the New Millennium, Volumes I, Office of the National Counter Intelligence Agency

Black Tom explosion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Jones, John Price and Paul Merrick Hollister. The German Secret Service In America, 1914-1918. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company Publishers, 1918.

Tunney, Thomas Joseph and Paul Merrick Hollister. Throttled! The Detection of the German and Anarchist Bomb Plotters. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1919.