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Franz von Rintelen
Died 1949 (aged 71–72)
Franz von Rintelen.jpg
Allegiance German
Service/branch primarily Espionage
Rank Captain[1]
Battles/wars German Empire World War I -- Espionage in United States

Franz von Rintelen (1877 - May 30, 1949) was a German spy working in the United States during World War I.

He came from a banking family with good connections in American banking. He spoke fluent English.

He was sent to the United States in 1915, while the U.S. was still technically neutral. Franz von Rintelen operated independently and received his funds and instructions directly from Berlin.[2] His mission was to sabotage American ships carrying munitions and supplies to the Allies. Arriving in New York City, he posed as a businessman and, with Heinrich Albert, set up a dummy corporation called Bridgeport Projectile, through which he purchased gunpowder, which he then destroyed. He also set up another company, the Austrian-subsidized Transatlantic Trust Company, where he had deposited a large amount of money on his arrival from Germany, he had an account in the name of Hansen.[3]

He worked with a technician to develop time-delayed incendiary devices known as pencil bombs, which were then placed in the holds of American merchant ships to cause fires in the ships' holds so that the crew would throw the munitions overboard.[1]

He also organized the Labor's National Peace Council to foster strikes to slow American aid to the Allies.

His work was largely successful and probably included some part in the Black Tom explosion in 1916. Also in 1915 he bought ammunition and supplied money to the deposed Mexican dictator Huerta and encouraged him to try and seize back power in Mexico.[4]

His colleagues were not all pleased with his success, and Franz von Papen (later Chancellor of Germany) sent a telegram to Berlin complaining about him. The telegram was intercepted and deciphered by British Naval Intelligence. As he sailed back to Germany on a neutral Dutch ship, he was captured at Southampton, England and interned in Atlanta, Georgia for three years.

He returned to Germany in 1920, a forgotten man. He moved to England, where he died.

Von Rintelen wrote The Dark Invader: War-Time Reminiscences Of A German Naval Intelligence Officer which was published in 1933.[5]


  • Franz von Rintelen (in ENGLISH). The Dark Invader: Wartime Reminiscences of a German Naval Intelligence Officer (October 31, 1998 ed.). Routledge. pp. 326. ISBN 0714647926.  


  1. ^ a b H.R. Balkhage and A.A. Hahling (August 1964). "The Black Tom Explosion". The American Legion Magazine. Retrieved July 5, 2009.  
  2. ^ Francis A. March and Richard J. Beamish (August 6, 2006). "History of the World War". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved July 5, 2009.  
  3. ^ Thomas Joseph Tunney (in ENGLISH). Throttled!: The detection of the German and anarchist bomb plotters, by (when ed.). Boston : Small, Maynard & company. pp. 376.  Open Source Book - oclc 349392
  4. ^ John S. D. Eisenhower. Intervention!: The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917 (July 17, 1995 ed.). W.W. Norton & Co.; 2nd Pntg edition. pp. 416. ISBN 0393313182.  
  5. ^ Franz von Rintelen (in ENGLISH). The Dark Invader: Wartime Reminiscences of a German Naval Intelligence Officer (October 31, 1998 ed.). Routledge. pp. 326. ISBN 0714647926.  


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