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Was he detained or watched in that period? I am currently writing a monograph on Rintlen's life.

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He was not the 'hero' that he liked to think himself and is, unfortunately, always portrayed as having been. As far as I can determine, he was a narcissist, womanising braggart that was a lousy 'agent' and 'saboteur'.

The Dark Invader : Captain Franz von Rintelen :

He merely held a commission in the Seewehr naval coastal artillery. After his failures on the 'Washington Front' in and eventual gaoling, in , as the common criminal that he was, he spent the rest of his life trying to justify himself. Due to causing all sorts of trouble in Germany post war, he was forced to live abroad, settling in the UK in the s.

Maintaining that he was anti-Nazi, he remained extremist and was interned in After release in he linked up with the British Union of Fascists until his death Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.

From the archive, 14 January 1939: Former German spy reveals myths of the trade

In April , Captain von Rintelen arrived in New York carrying a Swiss passport and orders to run a sabotage campaign under illegal cover. Rintelen spoke fluent English and knew Manhattan's banking and social milieus. He was as unschooled in covert action as his embassy counterparts but was more innovative and seemingly inexhaustible.

Within weeks of his arrival, he had enlisted sailors and officers from the odd German ships languishing in New York harbor, turning a workshop on one of the ships into a bomb factory. He convinced a German-born chemist across the river in New Jersey to fill cigar-shaped firebombs and claims to have used Irish dockworkers to plant the devices on Allied ships in American ports. The shipping news soon noted a rash of mysterious accidents at sea—ships carrying munitions from America were damaged and their cargoes ruined by fires.

In May a U-boat off the coast of Ireland sank the British liner Lusitania with appalling loss of life, including Americans.

Captain Franz Von Rintelen

The sinking turned public opinion against Germany and angered President Wilson, who ordered the Secret Service—previously confined to protecting presidents and hunting counterfeiters—to watch German diplomats. Officials in Washington began to see what was afoot. Not long after the sinking of Lusitania , Captain Rintelen was ordered to Berlin for consultations and boarded a Dutch steamer for the long trip.

In a time of war, foreign agents are at work on American soil. They blow up buildings and munitions factories. They sink ships at sea with explosives hidden in the cargo. In a campaign of sabotage and terror, they kill hundreds of U. Spies and fifth columnists -- some American-born, some recent immigrants still loyal to their native land -- hold clandestine meetings in New York and other major cities, plotting violence against the United States.

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Overmatched police officers, unused to fighting an enemy they can't see, struggle to identify the terrorist cell's ringleaders before more havoc and unleashed and more innocents are killed. Sounds like a pretty good espionage thriller, doesn't it? Or the plot of every Die Hard movie ever made? In fact, it's nothing less than authentic -- albeit long-forgotten -- American history, brought to vivid life in Howard Blum's latest book, Dark Invasion: A hundred years after the chilling events it describes -- events that will strike an eerily familiar chord with anyone who pays even cursory attention to the vagaries of America's War on Terror -- Dark Invasion reminds us, as Blum put it in a recent conversation with LIFE.

New York cops hunting a terrorist cell in the midst of World War I?

Here was the birth of American homeland security, in a sense. I couldn't make up anything he said or felt or thought -- but I'd still have to portray all of that in a way that keeps the reader involved.

Tunney, had once written a memoir, and that the German naval officer and spy who masterminded so many of the often-deadly acts of sabotage -- Franz von Rintelen, the self-styled "Dark Invader" -- had penned a two-volume memoir, Blum knew he had what he needed to structure a cohesive, suspenseful and, above all, accurate story. The number of German operatives active in America during the early years of the First World War is hard to determine with absolute accuracy; historians estimate that the core terrorist network included around 28 people.