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Authors: Jennifer Crump

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Canada Under Attack (20 page)

Louden had also devised a plan to explain the presence of so many Germans along the border. They would use the cover of German singing societies gathered to participate in a
. If they had to they would sing, for as Louden eloquently pointed out: a German could sing as well as he could shoot. Louden assured his audience that arming his force was not a problem. American arms manufacturers would sell to anyone, providing they had the money to pay for the goods. He could provide arms for a million men within a few days if he was given the money to pay for it.

The simplest part of the plan was the invasion itself. It would, he argued, be over in less than 24 hours. The German troops would land at six critical points along the Canadian border, capturing each and taking out any lines of communication that could be used by the Canadian Army. The Welland Canal would be completely destroyed. The Canadian forces would be surrounded and, if necessary, annihilated. Louden would lead the fifth troop to Ottawa himself.

The American military dismissed Louden's claims as a lastditch fantastical claim by a man facing serious jail time. But the newspapers on both sides of the border ran with the story. For a few days, while the story circulated, the public was on high alert looking for potential conspirators and secret German reservists. Eventually, with no sign of any imminent invasion, the story faded away.

The invasion plans did not.

In the fall of 1914 a small package was delivered to one of Germany's chief intelligence officers — Captain Franz von Papen. The return address on the package seemed innocuous enough — Eden Bower Farm, Oregon. Inside the package were detailed plans for the invasion of Canada. Its author was a German agent operating under the guise of an Oregon farmer. His plan outlined an invasion of Canada using powerboats and machine guns. His targets were the major ports along the U.S.-Canada border; his goal was to keep Canadian troops from aiding the British.

The plan was eventually given to Count Johann Heinrich Graf von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to the United States. Although it was not revealed until well after the war ended, von Bernstorff was heavily involved in planning and recruiting for the German war effort in North America. He also had access to a huge fund of cash for use in his efforts. For most of the war, von Bernstorff and other German operatives spent enormous sums on the recruitment of pro-German saboteurs and on funding their sabotage efforts.

Von Bernstorff gave the invasion plan serious consideration along with two other proposals for an invasion, including one that would go through British Columbia and would have involved German reservists in the United States supported by German warships from the Pacific theatre. In 1914, von Bernstorff offered up an alternative plan that called for the bombing of the Welland Canal.

The canal, which offered the only route around Niagara Falls and served as a main artery for both exports and imports, was of supreme economic importance to Canada. More important to the German operatives was the psychological effect that its destruction would have on the Canadian people. For good measure they included plans to destroy the railway terminals in southern Ontario and the grain elevators that surrounded Toronto.

British intelligence officers learned of the plot against the Welland Canal and quickly informed the Canadians, who deployed no less than 1,000 men and women around the canal under various guises. When von Papen realized that the area was too well defended to attack, he suspended the plan.

The majority of the plots and attempts at sabotage were launched from the United States, which remained neutral for most of the First World War. Sharing a largely undefended and open border, Canada was particularly vulnerable to operatives entering from the U.S. Canada had not yet developed a spy or antiterrorism agency so they relied on the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Sherwood, head of the Dominion Police. In turn, Sherwood relied on a complicated, somewhat informal network of telegraph operators, customs and immigration officers, special police, military personnel, private investigators, and watchmen. He developed a close relationship with the Pinkertons, the legendary U.S. private investigation firm. Despite a somewhat rocky relationship, during which the U.S. government accused the Pinkertons of playing both sides, they helped maintain Canada's defence for much of the war.

On December 12, 1914, Japan joined Canada in the war against Germany and the German government suspected that Japanese reinforcements would be sent to Europe via Canada's Pacific coast and then through the country's extensive rail network. In December 1914, the German Foreign Office sent von Bernstoff orders to disrupt, by any means possible, any potential routes for troop movements.

A secret telegram from the German Foreign Office warned, “The transportation of Japanese troops through Canada must be prevented at all costs if necessary by blowing up Canadian railways. It would probably be advisable to employ Irish for this purpose in the first instance as it is almost impossible for Germans to enter Canada. You should discuss the matter with the Military Attache. The strictest secrecy is indispensable.”

The most obvious target was the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Von Bernstoff directed von Papen to lead the operation. He in turn contacted a German reserve officer living in Guatemala, Werner von Horn, and contracted the job of bombing the CPR lines to him. Von Papen wrote von Horn a $700 cheque for his services.

Again the Canadians received some warning, but von Horn was still able to detonate a bomb on the CPR bridge over the St. Croix River between New Brunswick and Maine. The bomb did little damage and caused a mere six hour delay. There were suspicions but no one was really sure who had led the sabotage efforts. Canada did not get solid proof of von Papen and von Horn's involvement in the plot until much later, when von Papen allowed British authorities to search his luggage and seize his chequebook. Von Horn was eventually extradited to Canada and served time in a New Brunswick prison.

While von Horn fought his extradition, von Papen searched for another operative to launch attacks on targets in Canada. He recruited close to 100 German sympathizers to act as shock troops in the event of a German invasion of Canada. Additional attempts on the CPR lines were reportedly planned. A bridge bombing in Quebec was foiled by bad weather, and plans for another attack between Andover and Perth fizzled. Von Papen also recruited George Fuchs, a relative of Paul Koenig, one of von Papen's agents, and paid him $18 per week to monitor traffic on the Welland Canal with an eye to launching another strategic attack there. Fuchs was unemployed and an alcoholic, expendable in the German's eyes, but certainly not reliable. The original plans called for Fuchs to row across the canal and deliver a boatload of explosives to German operatives in Canada. Fuchs got into a fight and was arrested by the police. As he was being questioned, he mentioned Koenig's name and police decided to search his apartment. Unfortunately for von Papen and von Horn, Koenig had kept extensive records of his involvement, and theirs, in nearly every sabotage effort in North America. These records proved invaluable when von Papen was indicted by the Americans in April 1916, on a charge of plotting to blowup the Welland Canal. Unfortunately, by that time von Papen was already feeling the heat and had made his escape to Germany.

Reports of German activities in and around Canada had reached near hysterical proportions by the middle of the war. British authorities were particularly vigilant about reporting every rumour, substantiated or not. Sir Courtenay Bennett, the British consulgeneral in New York City, was one of the most vigilant. He repeatedly warned of an impending German attack on Canada. Large numbers of wellarmed Germans were massing on the border, he reported, and by 1915 their numbers had exceeded 80,000. Lieutenant-Colonel Sherwood of the Dominion Police dismissed Bennett's claims and Canadian, British, and American agencies disproved many others. While there were a minimum of nine incidents of violent sabotage in Canada between 1914 and 1915, there many discovered “plots” that simply did not exist and proved embarrassing to both government officials and the innocent “conspirators.”

There was nothing innocent about several conspirators, who by 1915 had turned their attention to the city of Windsor, Ontario. Albert Carl Kaltschmidt was one of von Papen's earliest recruits. In May 1915, Kaltschmidt, a machine shop owner from Detroit, recruited Charles Francis Respa and his brother-in-law, Charles Schmidt. It was clear that Kaltschmidt's loyalties did not lie with the United States, where he had settled, but remained with Germany. “We must do something for our dear Fatherland,” he told Respa and Schmidt. “You should not care anything for America or Americans because America will throw you out from your work, but we will give you good jobs after the war is over, and Americans will trample you with their feet.”

Respa's motivations were not purely nationalistic. Apparently he had not completed his military service in Germany and faced arrest there if he returned, which he desperately wanted to do. Kaltschmidt suggested that providing assistance to the fatherland in North America, by way of espionage or sabotage, might free him from this obligation and ease his return to Germany. Schmidt became involved simply by being married to Respa's sister.

Kaltschmidt considered targets in Detroit before dismissing them as too well guarded. He briefly considered attaching dynamite to a passenger train as it passed through a tunnel near the St. Clair River. He also sent Respa and other operatives to gauge the vulnerability of rail lines near Winnipeg. Eventually he turned his attention to the Peabody Overall Factory across the Detroit River in Walkerville (Windsor), Ontario, and to the Windsor Armoury. The factory supplied uniforms, gloves, and clothing to the British Army and the armoury trained and housed Canadian soldiers and served as a warehouse for Canadian military equipment. The factory was a particularly tempting target since Kaltschmidt had an existing relationship with its night watchman, a man by the name of William Lefler.

On June 21, 1915, Kaltschmidt met with Respa and Lefler and offered them $200 each to bomb the factory and the armoury. Kaltschmidt had come prepared. Once the men had agreed to his plan, he gave them two timer devices and 156 sticks of dynamite. That night Respa and his sister, Mrs. Schmidt, boarded a ferry and carried the dynamite, packed in their luggage, across the border. Respa hurried to the Peabody Factory where he handed one of the timers and half of the dynamite to Lefler and the hurried to the Armoury where he planted the other half of the dynamite at to the rear, where the Canadian Army barracks were, and set the timer. He and Mrs. Schmidt then hurried back to the ferry and crossed over to Detroit. At 3:00 a.m. an explosion rocked the city of Windsor — the bomb at the Peabody Factory had gone off. The one at the armoury failed to ignite and was soon discovered by the authorities.

Canadian authorities immediately focused their investigation on the night watchman, Lefler. He was soon arrested. Lefler immediately gave up Respa and Schmidt as his coconspirators. Respa was able to flee Detroit just before he was arrested but he quickly ran out of money and returned. Authorities promptly arrested him and he quickly confessed and handed over information on Kaltschmidt, who was put under surveillance by the Pinkertons. But U.S. authorities failed to arrest Kaltschmidt and Canada was unable to extradite him. Kaltschmidt confidently continued to finance clandestine activities. When the U.S. finally entered the war, Kaltschmidt's luck ran out. Thanks to the dossier compiled by the Pinkertons,
he was arrested and charged with making explosive devices intended to blowup factories in Canada, and with plotting to dynamite the Grand Trunk Railway between Port Huron and Sarnia. During the trial it was revealed that Kaltschmidt had received $70,000
from the German embassy to finance his activities.

During Kaltschmidt's trial a munitions factory in the tiny town of Nobel, Ontario, exploded. Several explosions occurred simultaneously, making it unlikely that they were the result of an accident. The military was immediately called to investigate and newspapers were filled with the accounts of possible German sabotage. The Pinkertons were called in and focused their efforts on determining which of the factory's employees were of German or Austrian descent. The Pinkerton agent working the case developed a list of men of German descent whom he considered to be possible suspects. The men, on nothing more than the Pinkerton agent's hunch, were immediately fired, though they were never charged.

In February 1916 a massive fire broke out on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, taking the lives of seven people. The papers were filled with accounts of the fire and speculation about the involvement of German operatives. Several men were questioned but no one was charged. A report released in May 1916 concluded that there was no clear evidence that the fire had been deliberately set. That did not seem to matter to the public at large. Their imaginations had been caught. The country was rife with German operatives.

With the Ontario border heavily scrutinized and Canadian civilians, military, and government employees on the watch for suspicious activity, German operatives decided to turn their attention to the west. Franz Bopp, the German consul general in San Francisco, was tasked with leading the sabotage operations in the west. Like von Papen he was provided with ample funds by the German foreign office. In April 1915, Vice Consul Wilhelm von Brincken, one of Bopp's assistants, met with a man named von Koolbergen, a Dutchman and naturalized British citizen. Von Koolbergen was offered $100 for the use of his passport, to which he readily agreed. The conversation continued and finally Bopp's emissaries offered von Koolbergen $3,000 to blow-up the Canadian Pacific Railway tunnel between Revelstoke and Vancouver. Von Koolbergen agreed and then left the German operatives.

Whether he had been leading the operatives on from the beginning or had simply experienced cold feet, von Koolbergen immediately contacted the British consulate and confessed the entire plot and von Brincken's involvement. The Canadian authorities, working with CP Rail, concocted a plan whereby von Koolbergen could collect his money and provide evidence that would help them convict von Brincken and other German operatives. Von Koolbergen crossed the border into Canada as planned and a few days later Vancouver newspapers carried a story about the collapse of a railway tunnel in the mountains between Vancouver and Revelstoke. Von Koolbergen returned to San Francisco to collect his money from the Germans. Von Brincken delightedly paid him $200 and asked him to return the following day for the balance of his fee.

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