When the war began Herr von Papen, now vice-chancellor of Germany and formerly military attache in Washington, was at the head of the Central Powers’ espionage service in Washington. In a short time he ceased to be satisfied with espionage activities only and tried his hand at sabotage. He obtained the services of a number of Hindus and took especial pleasure in the destruction of train and bridge communications between the United States and Canada, in order thus to tie up the arms and munitions delivery from this country to England and France (in general such transports took this route). Besides, he experimented on American freighters with bombs and capsule explosives, had fodder intended for English horses poisoned, etc.
In order to be able to carry on this “business” on a larger scale the thorough Franz founded, with the aid of a few straw men, the “American Import and Export Company”. He made Dr. Albers, German financial attache, chief of the concern.
Of course the English spy system soon saw through the ruse. The English Intelligence succeeded in placing an agent, a Miss Voska, as private secretary in the von Papen business firm. This lady knew her “business” well; no letter left the concern before she had it copied or photographed, and soon handsome Franz became enamored of her. Miss Voska discovered everything which appeared desirable to the English spy system; if the other officials would not hand over documents, then Herr von Papen would oblige. Besides, handsome Franz was enamored of her. At a stroke there was no longer any sabotage attempt which was not prematurely frustrated; by the dozens the von Papen agents were clapped into prison. All the world laughed, but he noticed nothing!
English and American authorities watched their activities for some time. Finally they prepared for a strong move; Through Miss Voska they smuggled into von Papen’s hands a completely obsolete plan of American coast defense; von Papen paid a very high price for it and sent it by special messenger to Germany–the document was completely worthless to European army leaders–as proof of his diplomatic qualities. This bit of vanity proved his downfall.
Miss Voska, who knew everything, learned from him all the details of the exploit. He let her into the secret that an American journalist named Archibald would take the plans along to Europe in a hollow walking-stick. He even told her the name of the steamer, the route, the time when each move would be made.
And when the little boat entered the next port, in England, the journalist, to the great astonishment of von Papen, was arrested, and the documents and the mysterious walking-stick were confiscated.
The next day the press published the complete story. Von Papen was made the laughing stock of all and shortly thereafter he was ordered out of the United States and left, accompanied by his assistant’s assistant, Boy-Ed, German marine attache.
So Germany’s game in Washington was definitely lost. Soon thereafter the American government made the sinking of the Lusitania the occasion for declaring war.
Attached to a secret report of the German foreign office is a short documentary notice which reads briefly.
“According to confirming reports from circles in America which are friendly to Germany and according to facts determined by this office itself, the activity of the military attache von Papen must be criticized as having been primarily provocative of America’s declaration of war upon Germany.”