Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Spies Among Us


Detroit Windsor Germany war espionage history treason immigration

This month marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I on April 6, 1917. But nearly two years earlier, Detroit was the target of a plot to blow up a local manufacturing company plus a railroad tunnel to Canada and several targets in Windsor.

German immigrant and Detroit resident Albert Carl Kaltschmidt organized and paid a small group of fellow immigrants to destroy the Detroit Screw Works, which was manufacturing shrapnel for the Allied troops; the St. Clair Tunnel between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario; Peabody Co. in Walkerville, Ontario, which was manufacturing soldiers’ uniforms; and the Windsor Armories in Windsor. Other Windsor companies manufacturing munitions and supplies also were targeted.

Only the Peabody Co. was destroyed on June 21, 1915. Dynamite planted at the Windsor Armories, where Kaltschmidt hoped to kill 100 Canadian soldiers while they slept, failed to detonate.

According to a 1940 Detroit Free Press article looking back on the event (before the U.S. entered the Second World War), the plan was to wreck a gondola inside the tunnel, or “to send an explosive-laden ‘devil car’ into the tunnel ingeniously coasting on roller skates, one of the skates being produced as evidence” in the 1917 trial against Kaltschmidt and his co-defendants.

As for the Detroit Screw Works, “… guards and fences at factories and railroads thwarted most of Kaltschmidt’s daring plans.”  (more...)

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The Windsor Armories was the site of my Canadian Forces Reserve service. One of my senior NCOs had fought in the Battle of Ortona during WWII.

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