capture of German spy Teodore Erdmann Erich Lau 57 years ago,
on October 18, 1946 -- the last of the infamous German espionage
"Ludwig ring" --was put in motion five years earlier
by a jaywalker in New York City.
was "Senor Don Julio Lopez Lido," ostensibly a courier
for Spain, crossing against a traffic light one spring evening
in 1941 when a taxi struck him -- fatally throwing him under
the wheels of another car. His companion, who had tried to
stop the accident, instantly grabbed Lido's attaché
case and left the scene.
York police took note of the companion's suspicious actions,
but even more were puzzled by dead man's possessions: his
papers were in German, not Spanish; his notebook contained
names and possible assignments of some U.S. soldiers; his
clothes had no labels. They turned these items over to the
FBI. The Bureau, though, could not identify the mysterious
companion of the false Lido.
case at the time puzzled them too: secret messages from a
mysterious "Joe K" -- forwarded by British censors
in Bermuda -- described vital American defense information.
Neither the Brits nor the Bureau had been able to identify
the spy. Then the Bureau itself intercepted a message from
"Joe K" that used secret writing to tell his superiors
of "Senor Lido'" fatality. A connection was made,
and the hunt was on.
the pieces together
K' turned out to be none other than U.S.-born Kurt Frederick
Ludwig. Ludwig had moved back to his parents' native land
as a young man
and German intelligence was delighted
to recruit him as an agent in the war effort. It had senthim
back to the U.S. in March 1940 to set up a spy ring of young,
industrious agents who could gather information about U.S.
troops, U.S. order of battle, and U.S. manufacturing.
Lido" turned out to be Captain Ulrich von der Osten of
the German Abwher, and -- the final piece of the puzzle --
his companion was none other than Joe K/Kurt Frederick Ludwig.
Tracking Ludwig around the country, FBI agents were able to
identify Ludwig's spies and contacts. Arrests followed, and
in March 1943, eight members of the Ludwig ring were tried
and sentenced to long jail terms.
long arm of the law
case, though, was not over. One agent -- codenamed "Bill"
-- had eluded capture, and the FBI continued to follow new
leads in the case. One led to Teodore Erdmann Erich Lau, a
German-born Argentinean who had served as paymaster for the
Ludwig ring in 1941 and 1942. The Bureau tracked "Bill"
through South America, England, and Canada, until agents finally
captured him in New York
57 years ago today, on October
18, 1946. In short order, Lau was tried and sent to prison
like the rest of Ludwig's ring.