On January 2, 1942, 33 members of a Nazi spy ring headed by Frederick Joubert Duquesne were sentenced to serve a total of over 300 years in prison. William Sebold, who had been recruited as a spy for Germany, was a major factor in the FBI's successful resolution of this case through his work as a double agent for the United States.
A native of Germany, William Sebold served in the German army during World War I. After leaving Germany in 1921, he worked in industrial and aircraft plants throughout the United States and South America. On February 1936 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Sebold returned to Germany in February, 1939, to visit his mother in Mulheim. Upon his arrival in Hamburg, Germany, he was approached by a member of the Gestapo who said that Sebold would be contacted in the near future. On September, 1939, a Dr. Gassner visited Sebold in Mulheim and interrogated him regarding military planes and equipment in the United States. He also asked Sebold to return to the United States as an espionage agent for Germany. Subsequent visits by Dr. Gassner and a "Dr. Renken," later identified as Major Nickolaus Ritter of the German Secret Service, persuaded Sebold to cooperate with the Reich because he feared reprisals against family members still living in Germany.
Since Sebold's passport had been stolen shortly after his first visit from Dr. Gassner, Sebold went to the American Consulate, in Cologne, Germany, to obtain a new one. While doing so, Sebold secretly told personnel of the American Consulate about his future role as a German agent, and expressed his wish to cooperate with the FBI upon his return to America. Sebold reported to Hamburg, Germany, where he was instructed in such areas as preparing coded messages and microphotographs. Upon completion of training, he was given five microphotographs containing instructions for preparing a code and detailing the type of information he was to transmit to Germany from the United States. Sebold was told to retain two of the microphotographs and to deliver the other three to German operatives in the United States. After receiving final instructions, including using the assumed name "Harry Sawyer," he sailed from Genoa, Italy, and arrived in New York City on February 8, 1940.
The FBI previously had been advised of Sebold's expected arrival, his mission and his intentions to assist them in identifying German agents in the United States. Under the guidance of Special Agents, Sebold established residence in New York City as Harry Sawyer. Also, an office was established for him as a consultant diesel engineer, to be used as a cover in establishing contacts with members of the spy ring. In selecting this office for Sebold, FBI agents ensured that they could observe any meetings taking place there. In May, 1940, a shortwave radio transmitting station operated by FBI Agents on Long Island established contact with a German shortwave station abroad. This radio station served as a main channel of communication between German spies in New York City and their superiors in Germany for 16 months. During this time, the FBI's radio station transmitted over 300 messages to Germany and received 200 message from
Frederick Joubert Duquesne was born in Cape Colony, South Africa, on September 21, 1877, Frederick Joubert Duquesne emigrated from Hamilton, Bermuda, to the United States in 1902 and became a naturalized United States citizen on December 4, 1913. Duquesne was implicated in fraudulent insurance claims, including one that resulted from a fire aboard the British steamship Tennyson, which caused the vessel to sink on February 18, 1916. When he was arrested on November 17, 1917, he had in his possession a large file of news clippings concerning bomb explosions on ships, as well as a letter from the Assistant German Vice Consul at Managua, Nicaragua. The letter indicated that "Captain Duquesne" was "one who has rendered considerable service to the German cause."
When Sebold returned to the United States in February 1940, Duquesne was operating a business known as the "Air Terminals Company" in New York City. After establishing his first contact with Duquesne by letter, Sebold met with him in Duquesne's office. During their initial meeting, Duquesne, who was extremely concerned about the possibility of electronic surveillance devices being present in his office, gave Sebold a note stating that they should talk elsewhere. After relocating, to an Automat, the two men exchanged information about members of the German espionage system with whom they had been in contact. Duquesne provided Sebold with information for transmittal to Germany during subsequent meetings, and the meetings which occurred in Sebold's office were filmed by FBI Agents. Duquesne, who was vehemently anti-British, submitted information dealing with national defense in America, the sailing of ships to British ports and technology. He also regularly received money from Germany in payment for his services.
On one occasion, Duquesne provided Sebold with photographs and specifications of a new type of bomb being produced in the United States. He claimed that he secured that material by secretly entering the DuPont plant in Wilmingtem, Delaware. Duquesne also explained how fires could be started in industrial plants. Much of the information Duquesne obtained was the result of his correspondence with industrial concerns. Representing himself as a student, he requested data concerning their products and manufacturing conditions.
Duquesne was brought to trial and was convicted. He was sentenced to serve 18 years in prison on espionage charges, as well as a 2-year concurrent sentence and payment of a $2,000 fine for violation of the Registration Act.
Other members of the spy group included: Paul Bante, Max Blank, Alfred E. Brokhoff, Heinrich Clausing, Conradin Otto Dold, Rudolf Ebeling, Richard Eichenlaub, Heinrich Carl Eilers, Paul Fehse, Edmund Carl Heine, Felix Jahnke, Gustav Wilhelm Kaercher, Josef Klein, Hartwig Richard Kleiss, Herman W. Lang, Evelyn Clayton Lewis, Rene Emanuel Mezenen, Carl Reuper, Everett Minster Rpede, Paul Scholz, George Schuh, Erwin Siegler, Oscar Stabler, Heinrich Stade, Lilly Stein, Franz Stigler, Erich Strunck, Leo Waalen, Adolf Walischewski, Else Weustenfeld, Axel Wheeler-Hill, and Bert Zenzinger.
Background information on each member of the spy ring. Detailed chronology of events. Information on the disposition of the cases against each member of the spy ring. Sworn affidavits of Frederick Joubert Duquesne. Sworn affidavits of other members of the spy group. Transcripts of letters found in Duquesne's apartment. Transcripts of interviews with other members of the spy ring. Listings of findings from searches of the homes and apartments of spy ring members. Information obtained from bugging. Radio messages sent and received from the Bureau's station at Centerport, Long Island.
The collection contains a text transcript of all recognizable text embedded into the graphic image of each page of each document, creating a searchable finding aid. Text searches can be done across all files.