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The Duquesne Spy Ring – Nazi Spies in America Before WWII

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The Duquesne Spy Ring – Nazi Spies in America Before WWII

Often forgotten with regard to World War II are the spies that operated in the US.

All too often we remember the great battles – Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the fall of Berlin. Hitler, as we all know, seen the US as a major threat with his plans for ‘Lebensraum’ in Europe.

Hitler, therefore, instructed the German secret service and the Gestapo to establish a network of spies in the US which would report back to Berlin. In the days after Pearl Harbor, 33 spies were convicted of spying for Nazi Germany, thanks to one of the greatest spy operations the FBI has ever been involved in uncovering.

William Sebold – “Tramp”

It all started with a man named William Sebold, a German American engineer who refused to give into the evil of the Nazi regime. On a return visit to his homeland, he was ‘persuaded’ by the German secret service to work as a communicator in a spy ring operating all over the USA.

A spy ring in the US had huge benefits for the Nazis. They could keep a close eye on the nation which had entered the first world war against them, and they could also use any information gathered on the US military and government to help their own future allies (most notably Japan).

Sebold was given training in using short-wave radios and told to work with a large group of spies who were already operating in the US. Before returning home however, he went to the American consulate in Germany and told him about the German attempts to turn him into an agent. He wanted to work with the FBI instead.

The FBI Counter-Intelligence Operation

This was the beginning of a counter-intelligence campaign whereby Sebold (operating in the US under the name Harry Sawyer) would meet German spies and transmit phony messages to the Nazis.

In the following months and years, over 200 messages were received from the Germans and over 300 were transmitted. An office was also set up for Sebold with a two-way mirror (so the FBI could view and record) for meeting with other Nazi spies.

In that room, hundreds of hours of meetings were recorded as well as documents, destined for Berlin, intercepted. There were several microphones placed around the office and a room located behind the wall housed several agents; all the while remaining quiet so the spies wouldn’t get suspicious or discover them.

Numerous Nazi plans were foiled, such as plans and methods to burn down production facilities and military installations. They also intercepted documents on US weapons. The office was also the scene of numerous conversations between the spies where they discussed future plans for the spy ring. These particular communications were crucial to the FBI to stop the expansion of the ring.

Techniques on making destructive devices were also discussed, with the obvious aim of stepping up their operations to a sabotage campaign within the US. Dynamite and blasting caps were also handed over for distribution which were then stopped by the FBI from going into action.

When the FBI had enough evidence on all the suspects, they were rapidly rounded up and put on trial. Most pleaded guilty and all were convicted of spying for Nazi Germany. Because of this intense investigation and surveillance, the US would eventually enter into the war knowing that the largest Nazi spy ring in the U.S. had been dismantled and put behind bars.

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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