tv Intelligence and Espionage During World War I CSPAN September 13, 2014 8:55pm-10:01pm EDT
their basic thinking -- they continue to abide faithfully by the precepts. >> on sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span tv, a discussion of president ronald reagan's legacy. 2014 marks 10 years since ronald reagan's death. grippers include reagan lou cannon and former speechwriter peggy noonan. coming up, intelligence agencies -- mark stout before the history of as the nose during world war i. he focuses on four american agencies that participated in spying, the navy department, the war department, the state department, and the extradition. forces abroad, including --
thisruman library cohosted event. >> thank you for that warm introduction and the warm welcome. i was not planning on talking about ufo's, but when the topic comes up it is irresistible. i will briefly say back in the and's, the say declassified internal history they had written of the u-2 spy plane program, written back in the 1970's if i recall correctly. they hade findings was gone back and correlated domestic ufo reports within classified u-2 flights and discovered there was an extremely high correlation. [laughter] this is actually true. ufo's that people it seemed was the son blinking off you to's but could not the explained at the time. pleasure to be
here. i am flattered by the introduction and by the turnout today. thank you so much to the truman library is to do. today, we will talk about intelligence. american intelligence history has been dominated by the history of the cia, and the cia creationncy whose truman oversaw, but it has dominated history to the point where you will hear people who should know better say nothing important happened in american intelligence prior to the cia or its immediate predecessor. this is actually dribble, of course, and nothing -- many of the main components, many of the practices as they were manifested during world war ii, the cold war, and even today have their roots in world war i. that is what i want to talk about today. of course, intelligence involves
many different forms of collecting information. world war ii saw a number of them. feel free to ask me about any of these in the question and answer period. we began with aerial photography, which evolved in to the u2 spy plane and satellites. of enemyre information. you have been reading a lot about the nsa in the paper the last year. and american espionage -- they d human beings to acquire information. in world warvented i. there is a joke that it is the second oldest refashion in the world. you can find references and all sorts of ancient text. the first battle in human history in which there is a tactical account, i.e. an account of what happens on the
attlefield, 1274 b.c.e. and spies played a pivotal role in two different aspects of the battle. espionage has been around for a long time. practices during the civil war. that legacy did not carry forward. the organization was demobilized and be established after the war. in the 1920's when the -- when america rediscovered espionage, they were largely doing it from scratch. was the assembling point in a lot of ways. i want to talk about three different ways it played a key role in the development of american espionage. first, it changed the word "spy." "spy" wash century largely synonymous with scouts. spies are people use it out to
look with their eyeballs or maybe binoculars to look at what the enemy was doing and bring reports back. didom before world war i the u.s. recruit spies as penetration the u.s. intelligence agencies needed to obtain information from foreign bureaucracies. this was accomplished by politely asking for it. [laughter] sometimes that worked. however, it war i plays much more an emphasis on documents from inside bureaucracies reporting on private enemy conversations. when i talk about some of the of cases, be on the lookout what kind of spying i am talking about. u.s. spy agencies during world war i had to experiment with various kinds of for intelligence
officers to do what they are doing. they pretended be state department officers. o'er nonofficial cover, being businessman and you'll see that reflected. espionage forced new ways of understanding geography. intelligence officers have primarily been required to examine the terrain with the generals. 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. 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 at 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. wentere foreign students 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 of 1970. we were new -- 1917. time, germany and to a lesser extent its ally ia-hungary at -- had espionage tactics here in the united states. british intelligence was also primarily active here. during this period of american neutrality, the sacred service
-- 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 langdon 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 resignation -- investigation. just as wanted nothing to do wantedis -- justice nothing to do with this which is the theme of americans. [laughter] 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 vermont oh -- departmental correspondence. the leadership of the bureau of secret intelligence went to a man. -- collie described him as a 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 ellis who was the
director of the cia during the eisenhower administration. most of these gentlemen have connections with them. the secretary was an uncle. leland harrison during world war in britain. the oss he was a real senior diplomat. the bureau of secret intelligence did a lot of domestic work. 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. the secretary was so impressed with what he was doing that he made them as special assistant to the secretary and making him the first security officer for the state department. into thebrought nye bureau of secret intelligence and gave him the title of chief special agent. otherrted recruiting special agents from the postal service. one of these were sent overseas to cairo to report on the military in critical situations there. bsi came out of state department attempted to deal with domestic security issues. withso did a lot of things foreign issues. for means that are pretty obscure to me, they obtained
codebooks used by foreign government and passed this material to the war department. the is fast something of 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 offices 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 onto zs the appraisals from his -- unenthusiastic appraisals room his superiors. in 1917, things got worse. where ansted in china american businessman accused him , aembezzlement in 1909 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. -- rightut this time about this time, his health gets pretty bad. 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 nürnberg, germany egos of 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. he was a personal friend of the kaiser's. 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 non-clandestine intelligence. and weed this over thought his work was invaluable. the in january- rthe 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. of 1917, he reported to washington about the details of a number random -- memorandum. urging unrestricted warfare which give a lot of insight into german strategic thinking. of 1917, and he submitted a lengthy report on the food situation in germany and the variety of tidbits. andsinking of the lusitania german estimates of allied shipping they sunk every month. ok -- uary 1918 -- perhaps we should carry on. the german chancellor has restored for the sake of
peace. should we pause? ok. we will carry on. in june of 1918, he reported the nine submarines that left the americand for the coast and he gave the names of some of the captains. mcnally, despite the information he was providing, was hard to work with. ranks disgruntled that has did not correspond with his contributions to national security. 1917, he boasted that no country had ever entered a war with such a detailed fightinge of enemies i th 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 eagle and a radical ways did not endear him to americans and allies around him in zürich and doubts abourose about his loyalty. it was kind of novel at the time. mcnally was openly associating with a 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. he 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 her mission to arrest mcnally -- permission to arrest mcnally as he cross to the spanish-french border. your rides in paris to be grilled. paris to bes in grilled. the security people said that they wanted to talk to him. for aterrogated fohim month. while the was happening, the british were intervening saying to send this guy home. he had friends in high places. 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.
switzerlandned to because president wilson said send him back to switzerland where he still had enemies and there was another round of this. uncledulles wrote to his 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. the secretary of the u.s. continue toürich siege against them. him. that wilson -- it let wilson to write something to the secretary. 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 you should find his own business -- he should mind hehis own
business. he was released and sent somewhere else 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. by the time world war i came along, it started out as a progressive forward thinking organization but by the time the boar came along, it was not well respected or affective -- effect ive. the navy intelligence efforts were by far the least productive and less sophisticated of all the government intelligence organizations. secretary15, the navy cleared a plan to allow to do secret work.
chief of navale variousns allowed intelligence operations and keep the list of such dependable persons up to date. secret service and cipher codes to communicate with such agents. he was happy to do this and recommended that they are among the ex-pat communities in 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. he focused primarily on china. the results were not impressive. the operations in europe were
severely modest and marked by amateurism. ed that the oni allow men alike babes of innocence despite their drinking and playing and profanity. he. 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 ck who did some espionage in spain. the navy's main effort in intelligence collection was through attaches. dispatchedwar, oni agents and when there was no but they wereons 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. theing with faint praise, report noted that the greater number of agent selected were found fairly confident -- competent and some of them a bell -- developed ability of high order. relied onts likely american businessmen. oni also relied on the state department to allow them to take naval officers and appoint them as consular officers and pretended the 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 and.
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. they began hiring anthropologists as agents to gicalct anthropolog reconnaissance. they were not particularly interested in mayan ruins but they were really interested in german summaries. -- submarines. there was a wonderful book sylvanusy about morley. the work they did was pretty irrelevant but pretty interesting. i'll think he looks like a whole lot of young indiana jones. [laughter] morley andge work of
others like him for the navy in --ico and central america the debate that really continues as reverberated to this day. when the war was over, one of his colleagues who is not generally recognized as one of the founding fathers of american anthropology. he was rather a leftist and more sympathetic to the germans wrote an impassioned letter in which he said a person who uses science as a cover for political as an demeans himself investigator and asks for assistance in his alleged researchers in order to carry on his political machinations, prostitute science in an unpardonable way to be classified as a scientist. pretty harsh words.
he 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 center a few dead decades ago. they're very leery with working with the government, in particular the cia. or department -- 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 1900s by the secretary of war.
the war department did not have the central intelligence organization as the war loomed. here whoofficer shown had experiences in intelligence officers in the philippines war started to agitate for military intelligence to be re-created widget was in 1917 with him as the head. he served there until 1918 and was replaced by marlborough churchill. was's biggest function 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 matdiplomats.
they learned from the british and french colleagues. for responding 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. place toconvenient move spies across the border. thisermans became aware of in the erected to the wire of death -- an electric fence along the border to stop spies. the u.s. military in the metal lens -- netherlands was a gem -- ad colonel edward davis 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 penetrate germany because they always give themselves away and americans cannot pass as german. he found the normal trade could be used to bring people across the border and a lot of people conducted business across the dutch-german border. they 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, summoned the lens and germany and belgium.
office netherlands, the ran a 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 another important economic information. the officer 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 corner -- kernel of engineers. he was sure this information with his group of friends. when theyinformation
would withdraw when the collapse came. of of the primary tasks allies was organizing train watching which was to say the british and the french organize 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. it was discovered that german military trains had different an differentrs configuration of cars depending on what kind of unit it was. this was taken from a memoir from her british intelligence officer. 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 offensive and help 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 father in advance -- farther in advance albeit with less precision and more of a timeline. 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. attache and denmark but these ideas to work and discovered it. they were working on establishing systems in different parts of denmark. of the four agencies i
would talk about -- the last one is the american expeditionary forces. who is primarily the army fought primarily in france under the command of general john j ershing who recently came back from commanding the punitive expedition in mexico where he unsuccessfully chased poncho villa. staff,e what became his he took with them an intelligence officer. dennis nolan who you see on the right. the only intel officer he had initially. the american expeditionary force created divisions and other organized by him. in charge of
espionage and counterespionage was called g2b which was headed first by lieutenant colonel and would in fact be involved in the failed plot to poison pancho vi lla's coffee. he did not drink enough of it. 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. n's lack ofa enthusiasm about espionage, they were around their active -- they were rather active. there was a network of russian agents previously controlled by the russian military, russia having completely, part in the bolshevik revolution. b amounted to the boulder operations of award using a czech immigrant. he was a check american -- czech-american. from bohemia.
voska was an ardent supporter of czechoslovakia and was the american representative of the man who would become the first resident of the for -- the first president of czechoslovakia. under orders to help the allies 84 personrmed an intelligence organization headquartered in new york which penetrated german operations here in the u.s. when voska's organization gathered information on the sba notch, seven ties or economic warfare activities. ater to organization known as what we know as mi-6. also to the providence, rhode island journal. in theme,
organization past things onto 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 consulate general in new york. required extensive communication with fellow revolutionaries back in auster-hungary -- 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. got position voska as a captain in the army and was able to choose three lieutenants to work for him which he recruited. france,e departed for he consulted with the state department which charged him with certain things. he also met with the committee on public information which was the united states propaganda agencies. not havepropaganda did 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. --r ride in france in 1918 he arrived in france in 1918. the occupied parts of france and italy. italy being one. hehis first report which sent to his superiors eight days , he said it was very urgent to start immediate revolutionary acts throughout turkey, romania, hungary and austria. he thought by storing up national revolution, the allies could impede the central powers ability from moving east to west and vice versa. he also thought that graded
increase requirement for enemy troops in southern europe thus making the forces even thinner. he thought it might be possible to block and seven ties defense and industrial facilities on enemy soil and he collected information as well. he had additional people from his new york days. the mid: the army for new york speakers. he had volunteers from czechoslovakia, france and italy. he joined forces with a former courier from his organization who was put in charge of an effort to collect information on your missions factories in western germany and was able to set up in 1915 which established a courier service into product prague.
there was a lot of cross-border commerce and they would bring back a lot of information. he conducted his most important operations out of italy and against the austrian hungarian empire. italy,fore he came to czechoslovakian deserters set up with the help of an italian army using line crossers and bringing out military information for sympathetic units of the austrian army which turned to him and also this riveting propaganda -- and also distributing propaganda. voska arrived, he was running these efforts with the help of the americans. he found the austrian army was right with revolutionaries. the austrian army organized its units into ethically-based units. there will be a polish regiment,
and that regiment. and tired units were vulnerable to revolutionaries. much needas not 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. o in october 1918, austria was coming apart. the emperor were strike to contain these explosive forces and issued ambiguous victory that could have been read as dissolving the empire. government started to form in different cities. hungaryer 1922,
declared their independence. a lot of tectonic forces were in work. as this was going on, voska's organization was able to bring out an austrian officer sympathetic to the cause and had them the battle plans. voska to this information to the italian army and urged an offensive. the italian commander probably took his information as confirmation of what he already knew. it would deal a death blow to the army. 1920 four, the italians supported by various at offensives, lost an and the austrian army collapsed. i have gone rather longer than i initially intended to. just a few words in closing. i have done a couple of things here.
i will convey a little bit of the business of espionage. how it is 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 with 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 to come up to the microphone. i would be happy to talk about any other aspects of intelligence. thank you. [applause] >> thank you. 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. 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 a varying degrees of formality -- and once it is over, they go away. they went away after the civil war and revolutionary war. that red scare me 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. added -- tovided an the people who said we only do this during wartime. agenciese that all the decreased in size and budget during the interwar. period. i looked at this with the american intelligence division. of the common -- the common
wrap on this was they 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 and precise proportions. this carried on. one of the things they did in early 1919 was the road and 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. files and upin the and till about 1975, anybody that knew was made to read it.
it was 2400 pages long. that is probably not a good introduction to the organization. the intelligent effort certainly shrank during the interwar period. >> i don't have a question but i have a comment. oh.h >> 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. >> 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. it doesn't that said
have the high moral standards. [laughter] >> i think we can agree although it was not a question, it was great. can you top that? ok. >> i actually have a question. the americans were late to the war, late starting their intelligence operations. 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 american neutrality? 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. the we did enter the war,
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. do not findke, anything on the netherlands because you will step on our toes. and by the way, we don't think the american expeditionary force me to do intelligence, we will do it for you. they were afraid we would not do it competently. british did not even really want the american expeditionary force to be an independent army of its own. the real preference was the americans bring replacement soldiers or small units. pershing has some abstract administrative position but they really wouldn't be an american army. they were pitted to that context. ng and the u.s. government
were having none of that. but, they tried. >> my question is about the flu. of did that play into any the people that were involved? >> that is a good question. 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. can you give us some examples of battles or even skirmishes for intelligence playing a role? then the american side,
americans really only engaged into major offenses -- in tw major offenseso. iny helped in a modest way 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 and back in washington so they are understanding the general strategic direction of what is going on. -- thetelligence was important thing about intelligence was it was performing the mundane, day-to-day order of battle like understanding who the children forces are across from us and who is there. how many divisions can we expect
the germans to bring in terms of reinforcements to help defend once we attack and 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. in world war i, it was more day in, day out, daily grind of intelligence. terms ofle lot sexy in 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. and the the british french think of us when we came and had that opinion it 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 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. 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 somed, there may be grounds for intelligence operations in places where our interest overlaps in other places we can slit our throats which was the phrase the officer from mi use. d. 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 espionage was during the war? and the austrian army areas were quite active in espionagee and
operations during the neutrality here in the u.s. much of what they were doing was trying, in various ways, 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. it was contracted to go to russia. against pak effort animals we were selling to the allies. there were some explosions at munitions factories. the germans were also trying to soil the british on nour 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. like the irish-americans and the indian americans for instance. to whipre some efforts up anti-british fervor among those communities as well. the british spent a lot of times. 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 austrian hungarian espionage activity dropped to near zero because suddenly it became dangerous. espionage at least requires some degree of communication back to the home country and became very difficult for somebody in the united states is secretly communicate with german intelligence back in berlin during this time.
ofre were lots and lots 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. 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 a way ofs as influencing us to give us further reason -- reasons were stacking up pretty heavily during that time -- reasons to go to war against the germans. that was a naval intelligence operation by the british.
ma'am? all thisondering how espionage activity set into the paranoia of the american people. how much did they know? i know you weren't supposed to say tower crowd -- sauerkraut, you said liberty cabbage. german measles became something. >> i didn't know that. -- onceican public was 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. navalnvestigated one
officer, i believe, because his housekeeper looked german. my personal favorite -- there at, a wants. consul to say laredo, texas, they noticed these blinking lights coming from the american side of the river. they thought this must be somebody signaling to german agency here in mexico. i big investigation ensued and was from aered it 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. andwind would make it swing 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. >> thank you so much for being here. we will see you next time. [applause] >> you were watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span three. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> we are excited to announce it is launch week for the 11th annual studentcam documentary contest. $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to middle school and high school contest winners. this year's theme is the three branches and you.
we but like you to tell a story that demonstrates how it policy, law or action under the executive, legislative, or judicial branches has affected you in your life or your community. the competition is open to students in grades six through 12 and students may work alone or in groups of up to three. contestants are asked to produce a five to seven minute video documentary supporting their topic and to include some c-span programming. that $100,000 in cash prizes will go to 150 students and the 53 teachers. the grand prize winner with the best overall entry will win $5,000. ist the line for entry january 20, 2015 and winners will be announced in march. dentcam.org for more information on this year's contest. >> on sunday at 8 p.m. eastern,
>> coming up next, eric wittenberg discusses the battle vilian station. he explains how ulysses s karen decided to send calvary commander sheridan on a raid. he describes the decision sheridan and his counterpart made and how those choices led to a decisive confederate victory. >> i would like to say the man i am about to introduce needs no introduction. it is so cool to be introduced