years ago, a U.S. Army plane, carrying two FBI agents on a secret mission, crashed
and exploded in the jungle of Suriname (then Dutch Guiana). It was January 15,
1943, and FBI Assistant Director Percy E. Foxworth, Special Agent Harold Haberfeld,
and thirty-three others died in the worst American aviation disaster of that time.
The wreckage was strewn across a mile and half of dense jungle and few remains
were found. Although sabotage was at first feared, later investigation showed
the crash was due to mechanical difficulties.
secret mission. The plane, a U.S. Army C-54, was shuttling the Bureau Agents
and other military personnel all the way to North Africa when it crashed in South
America. Neither G-man carried his badge or other material that could identify
him as an FBI Agent. Foxworth and Haberfeld, were working undercover and in secrecy
at the request of General Dwight Eisenhower. The General had asked Director Hoover
to send Special Agents to investigate an American citizen alleged to have collaborated
with the Nazis when they controlled North Africa.
importance accorded the mission can be gauged by the men who were sent on it.
"Sam" Foxworth was the FBI's Assistant Director in charge of its Special Intelligence
Service (SIS), a service created in 1940 when President Roosevelt tasked the Bureau
with counterintelligence and intelligence collection responsibilities in South
and Central America. Harold Haberfeld was a relatively new agent, but one who
had had extensive experience living and working in North Africa and who was fluent
in French, German, and Portuguese.
aftermath. Two agents were immediately dispatched to complete the assignment,
even as the Bureau mourned the loss of Foxworth and Haberfeld. "Sam Foxworth was
one of my most capable assistants," Director Hoover wrote, "His loyal, industrious
efforts have played an important role in the development of the FBI during the
past ten years. And Special Agent Haberfeld had an outstanding record in the service.
His excellent background and superior abilities were assurance of a splendid future
in the Bureau." In honor of Foxworth's service in the Bureau and his sacrifice
in the war, the U. S. Navy launched a Liberty ship named the SS Percy E. Foxworth
on February 8, 1944.
past is prologue. Today, agents of the FBI are located in 46 Legal Attache
offices overseas and are routinely deployed internationally on special investigative
assignments. Their mission? To ensure the security and safety of the American
homeland, just as Agents Foxworth and Haberfeld were tasked to do sixty-one years
Link: FBI History