Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21: Pearl Harbor Spy Found Guilty

On this date in History .... 1942:

Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn, a member of the Nazi Party, was found guilty of spying, just 76 days after his efforts aided the enemy in the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

The FBI had been suspicious of him since 1939 because of his “question contacts” with Germans and Japanese.  He had two houses, lots of money, threw lavish parties for military officials while expressing deep interest in their work …. but no real job or source of income. His answer to inquiries about his wealth was that he had made good investments overseas. It was also curious that this German National was an “advanced student of Japanese language” and he was never able to give a definitive answer as to the reason he was in Hawaii. He had a 25-year old married son who was a secretary to a high official in the Nazi Bureau in Berlin.

The Kuehns ended up in Hawaii from a bizarre string of events that began with their then-17-year-old daughter, Susie Ruth, who had been a mistress of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.  When Goebbels tired of her, she turned out to be difficult to get rid of, due to her father’s close friendship and connections to the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler. But when the Japanese requested a German spy to work in Hawaii (because a German would be less noticeable in the American environment than a Japanese spy), Goebbels saw his chance to get rid of the whole family and recommended the Kuehns for the position.

While in Hawaii, the entire family participated in spy activities.  Susie Ruth became a modern version of Mata Hari and dated many young military officers but her biggest contribution was when she opened a hair salon.  She intentionally set her prices very low so the military wives would be sure to become regular customers and a good source of information as they gossiped about things they heard from their husbands.  Sometimes the salon was so busy that Mrs. Kuehn had to go down there to help her daughter record and document the information that would later be transferred to the Japanese consulate.

Even the ten-year-old son, Hans, would work the spy game, becoming the only bona-fide child spy in history.  Dressed in a little sailor suit while taking a walk with his dad, he quickly became a favorite of the sailors, who would take him aboard the ships. Coached by his dad on what to ask and with a keen mind to remember everything he saw, he came off of the ships with information his spy father could never obtain.  His father was always careful not to go on board with little Hans so any attention, good or bad, was never directed his way.  It was just a cute little boy who showed a passion for the big ships.

After December 7, the FBI and local law enforcement, who had been watching the Japanese consulate, found officials in the consulate burning piles of paper. Once decoded, they were found to contain a set of eight signals for U.S. fleet movements. For example, a light shining in the dormer window of Kuehn’s Oahu house from 9-10 p.m. meant that U.S. carriers had sailed; a linen sheet on a clothesline at his beach house between 10-11a.m. meant the battle force had left the harbor.  Evidence was found showing he had send “specific and highly accurate” details, in writing, to Japan.

He was sentenced to “death by musketry” which was commuted to 50 years of hard labor.  He was released just four years later and deported.

sources for this information includes the website.

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