tv Intelligence and Espionage During World War I CSPAN October 5, 2014 2:55pm-4:01pm EDT
increase data protection. >> they are not looking to endorse a particular solution, but rather describe the attributes of what it should look like. they have to be secure, privacy enhancing, and let that be a bit of a guidepost for the solutions around it. looking at the pilots that we , it will basically be used in lieu of a password. others are testing the different types of biometrics, fingerprints, and voice recognition. not to say that these will all ,e the solution for everybody but these are the kinds of things we are testing out. >> monday night on c-span two. >> coming up next, former intelligence analyst for the state department and the cia
explore the history of espionage during world war i, focusing on four american agencies that participated in spying. including the u.s. army. public library and truman library institute cohosted this hour-long event. >> thank you for the warm introduction and warm welcome. i was not planning on talking about ufos. when the topic comes up, it's irresistible. recently let me say that in the 1990's the cia declassified a u-2 spy plane program written back in the 1970's, if i recall correctly. thatf the findings was they had carefully gone back and correlated domestic ufo reports with classified u-2 flights and
discovered an extremely high correlation. this is true. a lot of these that they had seen where the sun glinting in a way that cannot be discussed at the time. all right. down to business, it is a real pleasure to be here. i am flattered by the introduction and turnout today. much -- so much. let's talk about intelligence. intelligence history has been dominated by the history of the creationgency whose truman oversaw. you will hear people who should know better say that nothing important happened prior to the world war ii era office for strategic services. this is drivel, of course.
in fact many of the main theonents thomas that practices, as manifested during world war ii and even today have their roots even in world war i, which is what i want to talk about today. intelligence of course involves many different forms of collecting information. world war ii saw the flourishing of a number of them. feel free to ask me about any of these in the question and answer , but it began with aerial photography, the u-2 spy plane and spy satellites and signal intelligence and the interception of enemy messages and the breaking of the code snipers and extraction of the information found therein. you have been reading about the nsa a lot in the last year. however, today i specifically want to talk about american espionage. it was of course not invented in world war i.
the old joke is that it is the second oldest in the world. you see it referred to an ancient text's. the first battle in human history in which there was a , spies play ant pivotal role in two different aspects of the battle. it was of course widely practiced in the civil war, but most of what was done in terms was demobilized and disestablished after the war. in the 19th century when america rediscovered or reinvented intelligence, they largely did it from scratch. world war i was seminal in a lot of ways.
there are three different ways in which it played a key role in the development of american espionage, cheney meeting meaning of the word spy. century spy was largely synonymous with seldom before world war one did the u.s. government recruit spies as penetration agents to seal secrets. to the extent that the u.s. toelligence agencies needed attain information from foreign bureaucracies, this was accomplished by politely asking for them. [laughter] sometimes that works.
during world war i, however, it plays much more open emphasis on reporting on private enemy conversations, that sort of thing. as i talk about some of the spy cases in the rest of this conversation, be on the lookout for what kind of spying i am talking about because in world war i -- secondly, u.s. spy agencies had to excerpt with various kinds of cover find, excuses, but the official covered or nonofficial cover being a businessman or other sorts of things, and you will see that reflected in some of the cases i will talk about. third, espionage forced on military intelligence personnel new ways of understanding jogger free, so before world war i, intelligence officers had primarily been required to examine the terrain with an eye of a general. for instance, what kind of pieces of ground may hide enemy forces or provide cover for friendly forces to move around.
or were the best positions to but an observation post. now, intelligence officers begin to look at the terrain with a new set of eyes. diplomats or smugglers or international businessman. it was not very important. it might require herculean efforts to get information from a mere 20 miles away but trivial to get information from a thousand miles away. intelligence officers needed to know things like what countries had friendly diplomatic relations with other countries. they need to know what international businesses had branches on both sides of the border or where there was cross-border business traffic or labor moving back and forth. it began important to know where ethnic communities were. or where foreign students went to school because they might have connections back to the old country. in order to get information out of the enemy territory, you had to know things about mail system and what kind of censorship systems. were telegraphed cables ran.
all the sorts of things. ok, so, what u.s. government agencies were conducting espionage during world war ii? i will talk about four of them. we will talk about a case or two under the officers of each of these. the state department, the navy, the war department and the american expeditionary forces actually fighting in europe, france. let's start with the state department. as you all know, world war i started in the late summer of 1914. the united states stayed out of the war until april 1917. during that time, germany and to a lesser extent its ally austria-hungary had espionage tactics here in the united states. british intelligence was also primarily active here. during this period of american neutrality, the secret service, the bureau of investigation and the investigators of the u.s. postal service were very active trying to run down a lot of these espionage and sabotage and fraud cases. they did a lot of tripping over each other.
secretary of state robert lansing was concerned about this and proposed creating a special office to review the reports of these investigators from different organizations. he argued that because of the nomadic sensitivities involved, the office should be in the state department and the state department should receive investigators from the bureau of investigation. justice wanted nothing to do with this which is the theme of americans. [laughter] in april of 1916, the secretary created the bureau of secret intelligence.
it's job was to issue instructions to agents and digest and analyze the reports without they're going through the regular channels of the departmental correspondence. the leadership of the bureau of secret intelligence went to a man named leland harrison. one colleague described him as a secretive man who was very interested and good at espionage. he worked very well at naval and military intelligence. thanks to his efforts, the state department was the closest thing we had to a central interagency coordinator of intelligence that existed during world war i. many of you probably know a man named allan bellis who was the director of the cia during the eisenhower administration.
both of these gentlemen have connections with them. secretary lansing was an uncle. leland harrison during world war ii served for the oss in britain. he was a real senior diplomat. the bureau of secret intelligence did a lot of domestic work. in 1916, ever since salty over topping of the telegraph lines led by joseph nye. you would give a daily report to the secretary on what they would learn. one particular in january 1917, nye was able to tell the secretary that the german ambassador was about to tell him later in the day that germany had declared unrestricted submarine warfare out in the atlantic, which is what was one of the big things that brought the u.s. into the war.
secretary lansing was so impressed with what nye was doing that he made them as special assistant to the secretary and making him the first security officer for the state department. harrison brought nye into the bureau of secret intelligence and gave him the title of chief special agent. he started recruiting other special agents from the postal service. at least one of these were sent overseas to cairo to report on the military in political situations there. in fact, the bsi came out of state department attempted to
deal with domestic security issues. it also did a lot of things with foreign issues. through means that are still a little obscure to me, they obtained codebooks used by foreign government and passed this material to the war department. that is fast something of the order of 15 officers overseas to conduct espionage. they operated in places like switzerland. revolutionary russia, netherlands and the mexican border area. mexico being a major concern at that time but we will not get into that. one of those officers that they sent abroad was a man named james mcnally. these excerpts from the new york times gives of the sense of the drama that surrounded his life. here you see a reference to the state department having refused
to confirm his nomination. here a report on his death two years after world war i avenue and being broken down and health due to heart disease. he was an immigrant to the u.s. from britain and he joined the state department consular service, which is separate from the foreign service at this time. he got consistently unenthusiastic appraisals room his superiors. in 1917, things got worse. he was posted in china where an american businessman accused him of embezzlement in 1909, a charge that dogged him for years
and was later why he was not confirmed by the senate for a post in germany. in germany, a colony in china, he became very popular and friendly with the german population and his daughter married a german naval officer. right about this time, his health gets pretty bad. he had heart disease. he had to resign his position and recover his health. as his health was coming back, the state department, which probably would've been happy never to see him again, under the influence of his important friends, which included president woodrow wilson's secretary, offered him a nomination to be consul in nuremberg, germany, which he was turned down for. his alleged impropriety back in china.
he was then put into a lower ranking position which did not require confirmation. during this time serving in germany just before world war i, mcnally developed contacts in the german navy through his son-in-law. his son-in-law's father was an admiral and a personal friend of the kaiser's. mcnally passed this information that he acquired through these contacts. a naval officer attached to the embassy in berlin to be a military diplomat and to collect overt, non-clandestine intelligence. he passed this over and we thought his work was invaluable. for instance -- in january 1917, germany announces unrestricted submarine warfare which is a turning point for the united states but also for mcnally. in the next month, he comes back to the united states and gets a meeting with the secretary of state and delivers the briefing on the submarine situation which made such a big impact. the department tried again to get him confirmed as consulate in switzerland. he is rejected and is made of
vice consulate in zürich where he is able to maintain his german contacts. now, mcnally's reporting was remarkably rich and nuanced and appeared to answer a lot of american intelligence needs. in mid april of 1917, he reported to washington about the details of a december 16 memorandum. urging unrestricted warfare which give a lot of insight into german strategic thinking. in august of 1917, he submitted a lengthy report on the food situation in germany and the variety of tidbits, including the sinking of the lusitania and german estimates of allied shipping they sunk every month. in february 1918 -- ok -- perhaps we should carry on.
and every of 1918, he reported that the german chancellor had wanted to restore belgium for the sake of peace. we are good. ok. we will carry on. in june of 1918, he reported the nine submarines that left the base bound for the american coast and he gave the names of some of the captains. mcnally, despite the information he was providing, was hard to work with. he was disgruntled that has rank did not correspond with his contributions to national security. in august 1917, he boasted that "no country had ever entered a war with such a detailed knowledge of an enemy's fighting branch such as ours due to my work." president wilson was sympathetic and urged action on secretary lansing who manage the pay raise
but cannot get a formal promotion but led mcnally to complain to the number two in the state department. he said it was costing the country thousands of lives and millions of dollars. mcnally's ego and a radical ways did not endear him to americans and allies around him in zürich and doubts rose about his loyalty. it was kind of novel at the time. mcnally was openly associating with his german officer for son-in-law. and was known to make rash statements that could be known as anti-british or anti-french.
most of his close friends in switzerland were pro-german. a lot of americans were really uneasy about this. allen dulles was there at the time and recounted he could never figure out of mcnally was a crook or a good american. other american officials were less ambivalent and thought he was a traitor. things came to a boil in march 1918 when the french requested and received permission to arrest mcnally as he cross to the spanish-french border. he arrives in paris to be grilled. the first person who gets to them as a u.s. military intelligence officer who says oh, great, you are here, let's talk about joint espionage operations, and then the security people said no, we want to talk to him. the interrogated him for a month. while the was happening, the british were intervening saying to send this guy home. he had friends in high places. leland harrison stayed by him, even though he admitted the
reliability of mcnally's information was falling off. he said the military intelligence division and naval intelligence wanted and still on the job. he was returned to switzerland because president wilson said send him back to switzerland where he still had enemies and there was another round of this. allen dulles wrote to his uncle saying he didn't know if he was a traitor or not but maybe working with the allies so difficult that he should come home for the sake of the alliance. the secretary of the u.s. embassy in zürich continued to intrigue against him. it led wilson to write something
to the secretary. "i am sorry that they feel the way they do about mcnally, but i think they should abide loyally by our decision to keep him in switzerland." we see more of the element involved and they do and i don't know who he is but whoever he is he should mind his own business. he was released and sent somewhere else and dies a year later, and the state department was probably glad to see him go. the navy department -- the office of naval intelligence was created back in 1883 which led to development of the first permanent intelligence organization in american history. in fact, the office of u.s. naval intelligence still exists. by the time world war i came along, it started out as a progressive forward thinking
organization but by the time world war i came along, it was not well respected or effective. the navy intelligence efforts were by far the least productive and less sophisticated of all the government intelligence organizations. in june 1915, the navy secretary approved a plan to allow to do secret work. in may 1916, the chief of naval operations allowed various intelligence operations and keep the list of such dependable persons up to date. prepare secret service and decipher codes to communicate with such agents. oni was happy to do this and recommended that they are among the ex-pat communities in portugal, singapore, and china. these intelligence agents should be chosen not by the naval, but by retired officers or officers who were traveling allegedly on leave.
oni focused primarily on china. the results were not impressive. the operations in europe were similarly modest and marked by amateurism. roger welles, the head of oni, allowed that the men alike babes of innocence despite their drinking and playing and profanity. he said they were not up to it in diplomacy and intrigue nor indeed in wisdom. the only really good intelligence officer that oni implanted in europe during the war was brack who did some espionage in spain. the navy's main effort in human intelligence collection was through attaches. during the war, oni dispatched agents to countries in which there was no naval attaché. and when there was no naval medications but they were shortcomings among these agents as well. the u.s. lacked with germany had was men with an understanding of secret service methods. oni had civilian volunteers with the right language skills and sent them overseas. damning with faint praise, the
report noted that the greater number of agent selected were found fairly competent and some of them developed ability of high order. these agents likely relied on american businessmen. oni also relied on the state department to allow them to take naval officers and appoint them as consular officers and pretend to be civilians overseas. before the war, they put a lot of emphasis on asia but during the war, oni put effort into latin america. there was a great deal of concern that there might be a secret german submarine base in mexico or central america. it would allow german submarines to wreak havoc on ship transports going to europe.
or maybe concerned the german radio stations are in mexico or latin america. oni began hiring anthropologists as agents to conduct anthropological reconnaissance. as you might imagine, the navy was not particularly interested in mayan ruins but they were really interested in german submarines. there was a wonderful book written about sylvanus morley. ultimately there was not a german submarine base, and the work they did was pretty
irrelevant but pretty interesting. i also think he looks like a whole lot of young indiana jones. [laughter] the work of morley and others like him for the navy in mexico and central america -- the debate that really continues as reverberated to this day. when the war was over, one of morley's colleagues who is now generally recognized as one of the founding fathers of american anthropology. he was rather a leftist and more sympathetic to the german allies during the war, wrote an impassioned letter in which he said a person who uses science as a cover for political spying demeans himself as an investigator and asks for assistance in his alleged
researches in order to carry on under this cloak his political machinations, prostitute science in an unpardonable way to be classified as a scientist. pretty harsh words. boaz was actually censured by his colleagues at the time for saying this. over time, his point of view actually carried the day in the anthropological community. i believe it is the american anthropological association who rescinded the censure a few decades ago. they're very leery with working with the government, in particular the cia. war department. a much bigger player than the navy in the espionage. it was first created under a different name in 1885. it actually was then reorganized accidentally out of existence as a result of the reforms of the war department which were instituted in the early 1900's by the secretary of war.
the war department did not have the central intelligence organization as the war loomed. one army officer, ralph van deman, shown here who had experiences in intelligence officers in the philippines war started to agitate for military intelligence to be re-created was in 1917 with him as the head. he served there until 1918 and was replaced by marlborough churchill. a more anglo-saxon name i dare you to find. [laughter] the mid's biggest function was counterintelligence in the united states during the war.
there was a broad range of other intelligence. one of the things it also did was administered military communications, officers serving abroad as the bull diplomats. they learned from the british and french colleagues. the key posts for spying against the germans overseas were in switzerland, and the netherlands and denmark. i will talk briefly about netherlands and denmark. the netherlands was particularly important because it bordered both germany and the german occupied belgium. it was a convenient place to move spies across the border. the germans became aware of this and erected the wire of death -- an electric fence along the border to stop spies. the u.s. military in the netherlands was a gentleman named colonel edward davis.
he is the one on the left. here is a better photo of him. he is the one on the right here. davis found that operating out of the netherlands, you cannot use americans to penetrate germany because they always give themselves away and americans cannot pass as german. he found that normal trade could be used to bring people across the border and a lot of people conducted business across the dutch-german border. the attachés used a chain system that allowed the officer to go into the target territory passing orders in one direction and receiving information without the source of information being aware it was going to the americans. davis had seven or eight systems of spies, some in the netherlands, some in germany, and some in belgium. and the netherlands, the office had a somewhat flashy case.
someone reported -- someone got a journalist. the german intelligence press guidance on what they did not want one printed in the newspaper. this provided useful clues on the western front -- german propaganda and strings among the central powers and cross statistics and other important economic information. the office ran other important cases as well. western germany, someone davis described as an older gentleman, was an important source of german military plans. this german had a friend who was a german colonel of engineers. he would share this information with his group of friends. davis got information when they would withdraw when the collapse came in the west. one of the primary tasks of allies was organizing train watching, which was to say the british and the french organized and recruited people in occupied belgium and back in germany. people doing the normal course of their business would spend the day overlooking train tracks and would count trains.
the british and the french had this cooperative system of reporting on these matters and that information provided to the timing and direction of impending german offensives and helped them learn whether the germans were transporting germans from the western front to the eastern front or vice versa. by doing this, train watching to provide warning farther in advance albeit with less precision and more of a time lag. just to give you some sense -- here is a diagram passed to the americans right as we were entering the war of train traffic in belgium on one particular day. the americans did not really do any of this in the netherlands. they did not want to step on the allied toes. they did do this out of denmark.
the u.s. attache in denmark but these ideas to work and discovered it. they were working on establishing systems in different parts of denmark. finally of the four agencies i would talk about -- the last one is the american expeditionary forces. this is primarily the army who fought primarily in france under the command of general john j. pershing who recently came back from commanding the punitive expedition in mexico where he unsuccessfully chased poncho villa. the core what became his staff departed for france in the spring of 1917, he took with them an intelligence officer. dennis nolan who you see on the right.
the only intel officer he had initially. over time, nolan built an organization that ran into the low 100's. the american expeditionary force created divisions and other organized by him. this section in charge of espionage and counterespionage was called g2b which was headed first by lieutenant colonel who had been pershing's intelligence chief and who had in fact been involved in the failed plot to poison pancho villa's coffee. he did not drink enough of it. by a major officer also. nolan interesting enough, once
he got some experience, he found that clandestine intelligence was less interesting and less useful in providing timely information about what was going on in the battlefields. for instance, the work of the code people or the aerial reconnaissance folks. he found it useful in getting strategic information about german government policy, the economic situation, morale, changes in commanders. despite nolan's lack of enthusiasm about espionage, the aef was rather active in this field. there was a network of russian agents previously controlled by the russian military, russia having completely come apart in the bolshevik revolution. g2b amounted to the boulder operations of award using a czech immigrant.
he was a czech-american from bohemia. voska was an ardent supporter of czechoslovakia and was the american representative of tomas masaryk, who would become the first president of czechoslovakia. under orders to help the allies out, voska formed an 84 person intelligence organization headquartered in new york, which penetrated german operations here in the u.s. when voska's organization gathered information on the espionage, sabotage, it would pass to the american intelligence, first to an attache, later to organization known as what we know as mi-6. also to the providence, rhode island journal. [laughter] over time, the organization passed things on to the justice department bureau investigation
and some of the newspapers as well. the organization sources were primarily ethnic czechoslovakian's and people who would become as yugoslavs. the people who held official positions in the empire. his group had four different penetrations into the office of the austrian consulate general in new york. his work also required extensive communication with fellow revolutionaries back in austria-hungary. when the united states entered the war, domestic operations were turned over to the u.s. government. the head of the military intelligence division thought this was a fabulous idea. secretary of war was rather less enthused because his concern was much of what voska wanted to do when europe was to cause
disturbances within the enemy territory which are the secretary noted was the kind of thing president woodrow wilson said the germans were doing in the u.s. nevertheless, voska got position as a captain in the army and was able to choose three lieutenants to work for him which he recruited. before he departed for france, he consulted with the state department which charged him with certain things they wanted accomplished in austria-hungary. he also met with the committee on public information which was the united states propaganda agencies. the word propaganda did not have necessarily the negative connotations it has today during world war i. propaganda was good if they came from us.
he met with the committee of public information to discuss how he can help them in propagandizing austria-hungary. he took all of these ideas to friends. he arrived in france in 1918. he found himself in charged of a section collecting military, economic, and political information from germany-austria-bulgaria and the occupied parts of france and italy. italy being one of the british and french allies. in his first report which he sent to his superiors eight days after he arrived, he said it was very urgent to start immediate revolutionary acts throughout turkey, romania, hungary, and
austria. he thought by stirring up national revolution, the allies could impede the central power's ability from moving east to west and vice versa. he also thought that graded increase requirement for enemy troops in southern europe thus spreading the enemy forces even thinner. he thought it might be possible to block the danube and defense and industrial facilities on enemy soil and he collected information as well. he had additional people from his new york days. he had volunteers from
czechoslovakia, france, and italy. in the netherlands, he joined forces with a former courier from his organization who was put in charge of an effort to collect information on munitions factories in western germany and was able to set up in 1915 which established a courier service into prague. when inserting people into belgium, people typically got
them across the border as vendors or laborers because there was a lot of cross-border traffic and this sort of thing, and they would bring back a lot of information. he conducted his most important operations out of italy and against the austrian hungarian empire. even before he came to italy, czechoslovakian deserters set up with the help of an italian army using line crossers and bringing out military information from sympathetic units of the austrian army and also distributing propaganda. when voska arrived, he was running these efforts with the help of the americans. he found the austrian army was rife with revolutionaries. furthermore, the austrian army organized its units into ethically-based units. there will be a czech regiment, and a polish regiment, and a this regiment and a that regiment. entire units were vulnerable to revolutionaries. he found was not much need to distribute propaganda because it was so ripe with these units. he also helped the italian army raise a czech legion which also grew to the size of a corps. in october 1918, austria was coming apart. the emperor was trying to contain these explosive forces and issued ambiguous victory
that could have been read as dissolving the empire. people started to walk home. a national government started to form in different cities. in october 1922, hungary declared their independence. hyundai area and soldier started walking home. a lot of tectonic forces were in work. as this was going on, voska's organization managed to bring out an austrian officer sympathetic to the cause and handed them the battle plans. voska took this information to the italian army and urged an offensive. the italian commander probably took voska's information as confirmation of what he already knew. it would deal a death blow to the austria-hungary army.
in october 1924, the italians supported by various at life forces, lost an offensive and the austrian army collapsed. i have gone rather longer than i initially intended to. just a few words in closing. i hope i have done a couple of things here. maybe aside from tell some fun stories. and hopefully conveyed a little bit of the business of espionage. how it was conducted a century ago and by looking at that, you can understand more and giving you another way of understanding world war i and underlying what everybody knows which is the pivotal role in modern history of that war. i would be glad to take any questions you may have. if people interested in asking questions can come up to the microphone. i would be happy to talk about any other aspects of intelligence. thank you. [applause] question here.
>> thank you, dr. stout. i would like to ask you about -- you said you had these four organizations that came out of world war i that served as the template for the development of american intelligence institutions and agencies. about the talk was fascinating but we always wonder what happens when the peace comes. i am interested in your position because i suspect you look at this with the office of naval intelligence. what is the impact of the red scare on of the development of these institutions? >> it is really interesting. right after world war i, there was a red scare and at one point, they thought the united states might be days away from an actual civil war. one of the things this did was it helped create this notion that peace is very hard to define.
the american tradition was you have entities of varying degrees of formality -- and once war is over, they go away. they went away after the civil war and revolutionary war. that red scare made that much more difficult. there is no shooting but now there is this new kind of war that was actually similar to what the germans were doing. we need to carry on. so that provided an added raison d'être to the people who said we only do this during wartime. it is true that all the agencies decreased in size and budget during the interwar period. i looked at this with the american intelligence division. the common wrap on this was that m.i.d. ran out of business. if you compare the numbers of people in the military intelligence division to the number of people in the u.s.
army, which clearly did not go out of business, it hit some hard times but did not go out of business, they declined in precise proportions. this carried on. in fact, in the military intelligence division, one of the things they did in early 1919 was they wrote an official history of what they had done during the war. they wrote one copy of it. let it all hang out -- all the good and bad things we did. they kept it in the files and up until about 1975, anybody that knew was made to read it. it was 2400 pages long. by the way. [laughter] probably not a good introduction into the organization.
the intelligent effort certainly shrank during the interwar period. sir? >> thank you, dr. stout. i do not have a question but i have a comment. >> uh oh. [laughter] >> i was fortunate to be selected as a special agent for the intelligence corps. >> it had its origins in the world war i as the corps of intelligence police. >> yes, yes, thank you. this is so fascinating to me. what i learned is there a lot more going on that you are ever will able to tell us.
at the training headquarters in maryland, there was a lot of posters and sayings. one of the sayings was similar to what you started talking about that espionage is the world's second oldest profession. the rest of that said it doesn't have the high moral standards. [laughter] [applause] >> i think we can agree although it was not a question, it was still worth it. are you going to try and top that? ok. >> i actually have a question. the americans were late to the war, late starting their intelligence operations. my question is -- did france, britain reach out to america during the early years of the
war and try to get them involved in an intelligence aspect? >> during the period american neutrality? >> yes. >> no, not really. they wanted to stay out of the way of the americans and they do not have tremendous respect for security services at that time. when we did enter the war, the british and the french put a real full-court press on the united states and said fine, you can run operations in latin america or denmark, that would be harmless. [laughter] for god's sake, do not find anything on the netherlands because you will step on our toes. and by the way, we don't think the american expeditionary force needs to do much in the way of intelligence. we will do it for you. they were afraid we would not do it competently. the british did not even really want the american expeditionary force to be an independent army of its own. the real preference was the americans send either individual replacement soldiers to the british army or maybe small units. pershing has some abstract administrative position but they
really wouldn't be an american army. they were pitted to that context. pershing and the u.s. government were having none of that. but, they tried. sir? >> my question is about the flu. how did that play into any of the people that were involved? >> that is a good question. i will probably disappoint you by saying i haven't really seen much of anything in the records of the influenza playing any particular role in influencing intelligence activities. obviously, they were all afraid of it. it was effecting everyone around them, but in terms of anything beyond that, i don't know. >> i think my question may be a
repeat of his. i could not hear too well. can you give us some examples of battles or even skirmishes where intelligence played a role? >> that is a really great question. on the american side, the americans really only engaged in two major offenses. they helped in a modest way in defending against the german spring offenses. american intelligence was, to be frank, not pivotal in the actual military operations. american intelligence played some role in the senior commanders, so pershing and his
staff, and back in washington so they are understanding the general strategic direction of what is going on. but, intelligence was -- the important thing about intelligence was it was performing the mundane, day-to-day order of battle like understanding who the german forces are across from us and how many are there. how many divisions can we expect the germans to bring in terms of reinforcements to help defend once we attack in how many days.
it is important but not dramatic like a big turning point kind of -- we stole the key document and it told us we need to go over there. that was really none of that. you got some that during world war ii, but in world war i, it was more day in, day out, daily grind of intelligence. not a whole lot of sexy in terms of decision-making and dramatic turning points. >> you touched on this on moment ago. when we came into it, our sophistication of intelligence operations was not apparently all that great. what did the british and the french think of us when we came and had that opinion changed any by the time the war was over and we had our legs under us? >> their view of us when we came -- it was pretty disdainful. that was not entirely unfair. by the end of the war, the american intelligence effort was entirely respectable. it was not as good as the british or the french, but it was in the ballpark. considering we had been belligerent for almost 20 months and really seriously in france only for 11, that was quite respectable. i think the british and the french acknowledged that. they thought they were better and they were. and there was some degree of cultural arrogance, but by and large, we got strong marks of improvement from the british and the french. we cooperated a lot with the french intelligence but less with the british simply because there were some minor exceptions
-- american forces were not really fighting alongside the british, mostly the french. after the war, there were discussions between american and british intelligence officials about how -- we can see in what turned out to be the interwar period -- they did not call it that -- there may be some grounds for intelligence operations in places where our interest overlaps and other places we can slit our throats which was the phrase the officer
from mi used. the americans were respectable. >> you mention a number of times that a number of these kind of intelligence agencies were primarily concerned with domestic counterespionage. can you expand a bit on what the types or extent of german or austrian-hungarian espionage was during the war? >> the germans and the austrian to a lesser extent were quite active in clandestine and espionage operations during the neutrality here in the u.s. much of what they were doing was trying, in various ways, to make it difficult for the united states to continue selling munitions to the allies. for instance in 1916, they blew up a munitions dump outside new york. that was munitions that was contracted to go to russia. there was an effort against pak animals we were selling to the allies. there were some explosions at ammunition factories. the germans were also trying to fight the british on our soil in the sense that there were a lot of americans or immigrants to america who had come from parts
of the british empire and had kind of a grudge. or at least many of those people in those communities had a grudge against england, like the irish-americans and the indian americans for instance. there were some efforts to whip up anti-british fervor among those communities as well. the british spent a lot of time trying to thwart this. during the war itself -- there were minimal laws against this at the time in the united states -- when the united states entered the war, actual german and austria-hungarian espionage activity dropped to near zero because suddenly it became dangerous.
you are likely to end up hanging from the end of a rope. also, espionage at least requires some degree of communication back to the home country and it became very difficult for somebody in the united states to secretly communicate with german intelligence back in berlin during this time. there were lots and lots of reported spies in world war i during the time we were actually in the war, very few. a lot of very silly misconceptions among the american population. >> thank you. one of the turning points and americans wanted to get involved in world war i is the u.s. government intercepted a message from germany going to mexico after mexico entered the war. they said they would get texas. can use plain how that occurred? >> that is the zimmerman telegram and it was intercepted by the british and deciphered and made available to the americans as a way of influencing us to give us
further reason -- by the way, reasons were stacking up pretty heavily during that time -- further reasons to go to war against the germans. that was a naval intelligence operation by the british. ma'am? >> hi. i am wondering how all this espionage activity fed into the paranoia of the american people. how much did they know? i know you weren't supposed to say sauerkraut, you said liberty cabbage. german measles became something. >> oh, really? that i did not know. the american public was -- once we actually entered the war, they were aware of german spies. there were very few. the public and the u.s. government spent a lot of effort
investigating a lutheran church where the lutherans were largely germans. they investigated one naval officer, i believe, because his housekeeper looked german. my personal favorite -- there was, the u.s. consul at, i want to say laredo, texas, they had occasion to be on the mexican side of the border, and they noticed these blinking lights coming from the american side of the river. they thought this must be somebody signaling to german agencts here in mexico. a big investigation ensued and they discovered it was from a boarding house on the u.s. side of the border. on the back porch there was a bare lightbulb hanging down the porch on a wire. [laughter] the wind would make it swing and would intermittently be obscured
by the shrubbery. this was heavily investigated. [laughter] it is funny today, but at the time, this was deadly serious stuff. german spies were everywhere except that they weren't. [laughter] thank you. >> thank you so much, mark, for being here. we will see you next time. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3.
to join the conversation, like us on a stock. jeremy grantht, whose agency promotes more internet security talks about ways to increase data protection with alternatives to passwords.. >> the government isn't looking to promote any particular solution, but describe the attributes that the solutions have to look like. that have to be easy to use and interoperable. that will be a guidepost for industries to develop solutions around it. we have some that are looking at smartphone-based apps that will basically be used in lieu of a password to log into different types -- sites. fingerprint, voice recognition. not every one of these is going to be the solution, but they are the kind of things we're testing out. 8:00 easternht at
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