On February 19th, 1944, B Company, 7th Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division (aka Screaming Eagles), was hit by German artillery fire in a narrow valley just south of the town of St. Come-du-Mont. The German guns fired from the direction of the town, so the Americans could easily see their positions and fire their return fire upon them. However, they were so tightly packed that they couldn’t do any maneuvering; they were in a shooting gallery and the Germans were firing at them from the rear. So, what was the 101st to do?
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Dale Maple helped two German prisoners of war escape, forged a plot against the United States, and faced sinister reprisals.
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS Dale H. Maple and his two companions completed the first leg of their daring journey when, on 18 inst. February 1944 crossed the border into Mexico. They had left the Army base in Colorado three days earlier for the 500-mile trip south with flat tires and mechanical failures, but they still had a long way to go.
In Mexico, the trio met a curious customs official. When Klenow’s answers did not satisfy the officer, he called in American officials, who determined that they were not ordinary travelers. Maple was a deserter from the US Army, the other two were escaped German prisoners of war, and all three were on their way to Germany. The strange story of who they were, how they came to Mexico and what their intentions were led to a series of shocking revelations. Most shockingly, Maple was part of an active Nazi rebellion in the U.S. Army and was a key accomplice in a grand plan to fight on Germany’s side, an act that nearly cost him his life.
Born in San Diego, California in 1920, Maple had a knack for drawing attention to herself. After his parents bought him a piano at the age of 5, he became a musical prodigy and performed works by Beethoven and Chopin in public concerts. With an IQ of 152, he was the top student at San Diego High School, graduated first in his class of 585 students in June 1937, and received a scholarship to Harvard. In college, Maple excelled in foreign languages, learning most European languages effortlessly and graduating in German, her favorite language. He showed great interest in Germany – a strange affection, since his family was Irish and English. He was also a member of the Harvard Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He was six feet tall and weighed 160 pounds. He was described as a witty young man with a red face and a broad smile.
In 1939, at the beginning of Maple’s first year at Harvard, war had broken out in Europe and Americans were discussing how their country should respond. Most wanted to avoid foreign intervention. A Gallup poll in January 1941 found that 88 percent of those polled thought the United States should stay out of the conflict. Their voice was the 800,000-member America First Committee, which advocated neutrality and urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to try to drag an unwilling country into the war. Critics, however, claimed that the group had anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi undertones. In September 1941, famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, leader of the America First movement, was criticized for claiming that the American Jewish community was planning to drag the country into a war.
A more extreme organization was the German-American Bund, which supported Hitler unconditionally and unequivocally. The group drew 22,000 supporters to a February 1939 rally at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. If Washington were alive today, he would be Hitler’s friend, declared one of the speakers, Reverend Sigmund G. von Bosse. A Congressional committee chaired by Representative Martin Dees, Jr. a Democrat from Texas, recognized the Bund as a well-organized group that planned to form a pro-Nazi fifth column in the United States.
The German-American Bund holds a meeting with 22,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1939. Below: Members of the America First Committee marching in 1941. (Bettman/Getty Images)
(Photo: Irving Haberman/IH Images/Getty Images)
Harvard students also debate America’s role in the war, joining groups such as the British War Aid Committee and the Committee Against Intervention. Maple never joined the pro-Nazi organizations, but he was on Hitler’s side in other ways. He had a plaster bust of the German dictator in his room and was dressed up as Hitler at a party. He repeatedly approached the German consulate in Boston, apparently looking for help to continue his studies in Berlin.
Maple was an active member of the German Club at Harvard. Its members avoided European politics, but Klenow repeatedly and forcefully expressed his National Socialist views. The last straw came at a meeting in October 1940, when he insisted on singing Horst Wessel’s song, the Nazi party anthem. He was forced to leave the club, but he didn’t leave quietly. He publishes a statement in the student newspaper Crimson in which he reaffirms his Nazi views, justifies Hitler’s worst, and claims that even a bad dictatorship is better than a good democracy. This was too much for the Harvard ROTC commander, who expelled him from the unit. It attracted the attention of the press and was published in the 28th issue of Time magazine. October 1940 an essay on Klenow entitled The Making of a Nazi. He also attracted the attention of the FBI, who identified him as a person to keep an eye on in case the United States went to war.
Maple graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in June 1941. That summer, while visiting his father in San Diego, he applied for a job with a defense contractor, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. However, he was rejected as a security risk, so he returned to Harvard for graduate school. The eighth. December 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Maple calls the German embassy in Washington. He asked if he could accompany the diplomatic staff when they were recalled to Berlin so he could join the German army, but Clen was politely refused. Three days later, Hitler declared war on the United States, which, according to Klenow, put him in the position of being at war with the country whose ideals I wanted to defend.
In high school (above) and college, Maple participated in ROTC. But his increasingly fervent pro-Hitler views led to his expulsion from that organization, as well as from the German club at Harvard, which objected to the singing of the Nazi song, the Horst Wessel song (see below). (Gray Castle, San Diego High School, 1937)
(courtesy of Special Collections Department, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
MEPL WISHED that the label of security risk would haunt him, and decided that serving in the U.S. Army was the best way to get rid of that stigma. He reported on the 27th. February 1942. Maple was assigned to a field artillery unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, then served as a radio communications instructor at Fort Meade, Maryland, and was promoted to private before his past caught up with him. In March 1943 he was questioned by the Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), after which he was demoted to private and assigned to the 620th General Engineer Company at Fort Meade, South Dakota.
The 620th was not exactly a conventional army unit. These were nearly 200 people suspected of Nazi sympathies. Some of them were German citizens, , and some were active in federal activities or the America First organization. Others, like Klenow, publicly expressed their support for Hitler.
At the beginning of the war, the army determined that it had about 1,500 soldiers of questionable loyalty in its ranks. The Selective Service Act did not prohibit these men from serving, and none of them did anything while serving that would have warranted a court martial. But sending them to regular units can create a risk of sabotage and espionage.
The 19th. In May 1942, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered that these soldiers be quarantined in specially trained organizations, such as the 620th, and under strict supervision by loyal officers and NCOs. These units arrested individuals who were clearly suspected of subversion or disloyalty, even though the investigation found no concrete evidence of that suspicion, Stimson said. They will be unarmed and perform harmless tasks. As an added precaution, the CIC will establish a network of undercover informants who will report any suspicious activity by these soldiers. Three such companies were formed in the United States: the 620th, the 358th Quartermaster Service Company at Camp Carson, Colorado, and the 525th Quartermaster Service Company at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The men of the 620th soon realized that their unit was a mercenary army, made up of soldiers the army did not trust. When Maple joined Unit 620 in South Dakota, he found himself in a close circle of Nazi supporters, including Theophilus J. Leonhardt, Paul A. Kissman, and Frederick W. Ziering. Leonhard, 30, was born in Germany, came to the United States as a child and later taught political science at the University of Texas. When he was registered as an enemy alien in 1942, as required by law, he wrote that he was loyal to the German Reich. Kissman, a 28-year-old refrigeration inspector from Erie, Pennsylvania, spent several years in Germany and was associated with the federal government. Ziering, a 27-year-old machinist from Chicago, was born and educated in Germany. Maple was the only one in the entourage who was not of German descent and had never been to Germany.
In December 1943, the 620th was transferred to Camp Hale, Colorado. Built in 1942, the camp housed 16,000 soldiers, including ski troops from the 10th Mountain Division, a Signal Corps unit, and a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) unit. There was also a prisoner of war camp here where 200 soldiers of the Afrika Korps were held.
The sign (above) from Colorado’s Camp Hale (below) reflects an attitude not shared by Maple and some members of his unit or the African Corps POWs stationed nearby. (R. G. Zellers/Stephen H. Hart Research Center at History Colorado)
(Colorado Snow Sports Museum)
The loyal soldiers on the base know what the 620th is and consider these men traitors, leading to ostracism, insults and beatings. Even in the army these people were treated as second class soldiers. They did the same work as the prisoners, such as pulling weeds, chopping wood, shoveling dirt, and were given the same blue jeans work uniform – the only difference was that the 620th did not have a PW stencil on their work uniform, and the 620th was as free as any other American soldier to come and go as they pleased.
Although the army forbade it, the 620th and the prisoners fraternized. The POW camp was only two blocks away from the barracks of the 620th Infantry Regiment. Regiment withdrawn. Many Americans spoke German, and they worked on the same details as the prisoners. The 31st. In December 1943, Leongard and Siehring freed a prisoner friend, dressed him in an American uniform, and took him to Eagle, Colorado, for a three-day New Year’s Eve party, with Leongard footing the bill. They brought the prisoner in on the second. January 1944, back at Camp Hale, and the army has learned nothing.
Events turned riotous a few days later when the inner circle met on the 8th. Janvier secretly meets in a hotel room at the Shirley Savoy in Denver with a delegation from the 358th Quartermaster Company, a unit of suspected Nazi sympathizers from nearby Camp Carson. The men drew a swastika, toasted Hitler with champagne and devised an extravagant plan. As a diversionary tactic, the 358th mutinied at Camp Carson. As troops rushed out of Camp Hale to quell the uprising, the 620th took up arms. Brigade captured the armory of Camp Hale and freed the German prisoners. The 620th and prisoners would then wage a guerrilla war in the Rocky Mountains. They hoped, according to Maple, to disrupt the national economy and morale to such an extent that further participation in the war would be impossible……
Since this descriptive plan never made it past the discussion phase, the inner circle developed a slimmed-down version: Klenow defected and took two prisoners, who took the winding but unique route to Germany via Mexico, Argentina and Spain. In Germany, he organized contacts between German spies and the 620th Division. The army for the purpose of sabotage. The inner circle was able to bypass the CIC’s network of informants at Camp Hale because the WAC relayed the details of the surveillance system to his man in the 620th. Regiment.
To finance the trip, Maple borrowed money from his parents. He said he needed it to pay off his student debt. Theophilus Leongard, who knew Mexico well from his work in Texas, gave Klenow advice on Mexican geography, gave him a list of items he needed, and suggested a pawnbroker in Denver who could sell him guns. In late January 1944, Maple gave $50 to Paul Kissman, who purchased the equipment for Maple’s trip, including a .38 caliber revolver. On the 12th. In February, Maple and Kissman went to Salida, Colorado, to get new equipment: a yellow woman’s sweater, a scarf, and a purse to disguise one of the escapees as a woman. The next day they returned to Salida. This time Maple bought the car – a 1934 REO sedan – for $250 plus $5 sales tax.
Two days later, Maple carried out his plan. The 15th. In February, he slipped away from work at a nearby sawmill while Kissman replaced him. He leaves the base and meets two escaped German prisoners, Heinrich Kikillus, 33, and Erhard Schwichtenberg, 25. They boarded the REO, and Maple headed south through Colorado and New Mexico. They spoke German, ate in the car and slept during the night of the 15th to the 16th. February in. Due to downsizing, good tires had become scarce, and they had to repair a few along the way. When the REO broke down in New Mexico, it was an ignorant and dysfunctional U.S. Customs agent who told them to do it. At 12 miles from Mexico, the car finally stopped and they crossed the border on foot.
On February 18 at 4:30 p.m., Maple and the detainees confronted Mexican customs agent Medardo Martinez Mejia near the border town of Palomas, Mexico. Maple, who wore a pulled hat to hide his face and feigned a German accent, identified himself as Edward Mueller and gave general information he had learned from a POW. He stated that he and his companions were seeking employment in Mexico. Mejia became suspicious when they couldn’t show passports. He and another customs official became even more suspicious when Maple changed his story and said the trio was on their way to Germany. Mexican authorities called William F. Bates, an American immigration officer, who brought the men back to New Mexico. Maple told Bates that he and his companions were Jewish refugees from Europe, but Bates thought they might be German prisoners who had recently escaped from a camp in Amarillo, Texas.
FBI agent Delph A. Jelly Bryce interrogates Maple for five hours, and eventually Maple drops his German accent and reveals his true identity. He confessed to his subversive activities and accused his accomplices. He even described a plan he claimed to have devised to disrupt the American railroad network, which is vital for transporting troops and military equipment. Bryce was skeptical, but Maple drew a map showing the bridges and intersections whose destruction would cripple train traffic. The FBI arrested Klenow and charged him with treason in federal court.
A letter found with the prisoner Schwichtenberg confirmed the reason for the escape. It was written by Leonhard in German and given to Schwichtenberg to hand over to Nazi officials. It defines Leonhard as a young leader willing to risk everything for Germany. If Nazi agents contacted him, anything was possible, wrote Leongard, who later admitted it all had to do with sabotage and espionage. Leongard’s letter said that when the time came, I would probably gladly give my life for Germany.
Plans to provoke a revolt in the United States that would lead to war eventually turned into Klenow’s attempt to enter Germany with two escaped prisoners of war, Erhard Schwichtenberg (above) and Heinrich Kickillus (below). The result is their arrest and these sketches. (AP Photo)
After Maple’s arrest, the Army searched the barracks of the 620th. Regiment and the prisoners’ quarters, but the 620th anticipated this and destroyed all incriminating objects. German prisoners of war did the same, but not as thoroughly. Hidden in the wall, the soldiers found 20 gallons of fermented fruit from the prisoners’ smuggling trade and love letters from five WACs who were later court-martialed for their indiscretions.
The FBI’s criminal charges against Maple were a problem because a civil suit would have been public. Any disclosure of Nazi sentiment and subversion within the U.S. military would have embarrassed the military and given Germany a propaganda advantage. The case has been referred to a military tribunal, which will meet behind closed doors. The Army charged Klenow with the military equivalent of treason (Article 81) and desertion (Article 58), both capital crimes under the military manual.
The 17th. April 1944, the trial of two Maple generals, seven colonels, and three lieutenant colonels begins in the disciplinary barracks of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Two German prisoners testified against Klenow, as did Leonhard, Kissman and Ziering. Prosecutors presented compelling evidence, but Maple decided he could turn the tables.
He appeared in court and told an unusual story. He swore he was acting like an American patriot to justify himself and his equipment. He described the 620. He stated that the company consisted of two hundred very able, honest and loyal men, among whom there were only a few disloyal men, and that in his opinion the army had branded the whole company as traitors. According to him, by posing as a Nazi, I was welcomed with open arms by the more radical elements and became familiar with all their plans and shenanigans. He hoped, he said, that I could prove my loyalty to America if I gave this information to the right authorities at the right time.
His escape, Maple insists, was part of that plan, to capture him and bring him to federal court for treason. Because I controlled this public light, I wanted to light it myself to justify [the 620th Engineer Regiment, he said. He knew his actions could be misinterpreted, but he said he had so much faith in the ultimate decision and justice of the American people that he was willing to take the risk.
Prosecutors quickly presented Klenow with a letter he wrote to Kissman in anticipation of his trial. In it, Maple outlined his plan to mislead the judges by having Kissman, Leongard and Searing play along. Will use the abuse of Americanism as an angle, he wrote. Tell others: We’ll make it bigger. This letter, as the Army Review Board later noted, exposed the complete deception of his defense.
When Klenow’s credibility was undermined, his civil lawyer, Humphrey Biddle, used the only method he had left: He acted like he was crazy. No man with his education and common sense could have done what he did, Biddle argued, but the judges were not convinced. The eighth. In May 1944, Klenow was convicted of both charges and put to death by hanging. He thus became the only American soldier of the war to be sentenced to death for treason.
The military did not spare the death penalty: Between 1941 and 1946 it executed 140 soldiers for rape and murder and one for desertion. Klenow’s fate depended on the authorities reviewing his sentence. The 22nd. In June 1944, the verdict was confirmed by a four-member review board, but the final decision rested with President Roosevelt.
While things were looking up at the White House, Maple had an unlikely benefactor: Major General Myron C. Kramer, Judge Advocate General of the Army. The 63-year-old lawyer did not leave it at that. He prosecuted eight German saboteurs who landed on Long Island and Florida in June 1942. He actively advocated the death penalty, and in August 1942 six saboteurs were executed without mercy. After the war, he was a judge at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which handed down death sentences against seven Japanese political and military leaders.
Kramer saw Maple’s case as a call for a more benevolent form of justice than Maple’s Nazi heroes could have given him. I believe that the cause of justice will be better served, Kramer wrote to the President, if his life is spared, so that he may witness the destruction of tyranny, the triumph of the ideals he was trying to fight, and the final victory of the freedom he so flagrantly abused. Roosevelt accepts and converts on the 18th. November 1944: Maple’s sentence is commuted to life imprisonment and dishonorable discharge. Maple was sent to the Leavenworth Federal Prison to serve his sentence under section 61364-L.
Maple was sentenced to be hanged by the neck, but Army Judge Major General Myron C. Kramer argued that it would have been more appropriate to let Maple live to witness an American victory. (AP Photo)
Maple wasn’t the only one being punished. Leongard and Kissman were sentenced to life in prison and dishonorable discharge for helping Klenow plan and execute the escape. The Army could not establish a direct link between Searing and the plot, but he received a 10-year prison sentence and a dishonorable discharge for taking a German prisoner on a New Year’s Eve walk. Ironically, the escapees, Schwichtenberg and Kikillus, were not charged with any crime. Under the Geneva Convention, a prisoner cannot be prosecuted for escaping.
Shortly after Maple’s arrest, the Army disbanded the 620th Battalion, as well as the 525th and 358th, and reorganized them into one unit, the 1800th General Service Engineer Battalion. The German-Americans of the new Company A were assigned to a camp near Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where they spent their time repairing damage to farms caused by Army maneuvers. After the war, the government gave these soldiers a final insult: blue discharge papers. These dismissals, so called because of the color of the paper on which they were printed, were considered neither honorable nor dishonorable, but they deprived these men of benefits such as the G.I. Bill.
In 1946, the Army reduced the prison sentences of soldiers confined in federal prisons as a result of court convictions. Maple was born on the 8th. October 1950 from Leavenworth; Leonhard, Kissman, and Siehring were released at about the same time.
Maple quickly put his past behind him. He worked for the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego and gained experience in marine insurance. In 1964, he became an insurance manager at American National General Agencies, retiring as vice president in 1978. In his later years, he kept busy with computers and a hobby, building organs, but he refused to talk about his failed escape. He died in 2001.
Klenow’s attempt to smuggle escaped prisoners from Colorado to Germany cost him six years of his life and was an aberration from the start, a grandiose, insane plan with no chance of success. Of the 435,788 German prisoners held on American soil during the war, 2,222 escaped. Most of them were captured after a few days, and none of them managed to reach Germany. Maple turned out not to be as smart as he thought. ✯
Delph A. Jelly Bryce (right) had the reputation of being the FBI’s most accurate sniper; his department had the dubious distinction of being the only American soldier in the war to be sentenced to death for treason. (ACME/Getty Images)
This article was published in the June 2023 issue of World War II magazine.There’s a new documentary out exploring the shadow side of the US Military. The film, “I Am Partisan”, is a look into the hidden history of the American military – and the individual soldiers, officers and senior officials who perpetrated the largest deception in the history of warfare.. Read more about timothy hale wife and let us know what you think.
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