Monday, November 22, 2010
In January 1938 Capt. Guy Liddell, then MI5’s deputy director of counterespionage, visited Washington, D.C., to share information about MI5’s surveillance on Mrs. Jessie Jordan, a suspected German spy resident in Dundee and working as a hairdresser with an unusually large overseas postbag. Liddell supplied the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the address of Jordan’s principal correspondent in the United States, a “Mr. Kron,” and the interception of her mail resulted in the identification of Sgt. Gunther Rumrich, a Sudetan German who had become a naturalized American citizen and was a deserter from the U.S. Army who had absconded with the sergeants’ mess funds from Fort Missoula, Montana. Under interrogation, Rumrich confessed that he had been recruited as a spy in May 1936 and ever since had communicated with his controller in Wilhelmshaven through Jordan. In addition, he named the other members of his network, including two couriers working on the SS Europa and four other spies, among them an aircraft mechanic and a draftsman working for the Sikorsky plant at Farmingdale, New York. J. Edgar Hoover’s delight at rounding up a major Abwehr spy ring was tempered only by the embarrassment caused by one of his special agents, Leon G. Turrou, who promptly gave a mildly inaccurate account of the case in his book Nazi Spies in America and was dismissed from the FBI.