THE BIGGEST PRIVATE EYE OF ALL
The most secret of all cloak-and-dagger operations of the Second World War was directed by a mysterious millionaire from Winnipeg named William Stephenson. Here, for the first time, is the story of the man who pulled the strings which spiked Hitler’s guns in the western hemisphere
THIS IS about a mysterious middle-aged Canadian millionaire who during the Second World War became the mastermind of British intelligence throughout the Americas. His New York headquarters staff of more than a thousand hand-picked Canadian men and women spoke of his doorkeeper as “Peter,” of his secretary as “Gabriel” and of him as “God.” Only a handful of them knew him by sight.
Today his name is unfamiliar to the ordinary citizen, but he is known to the world’s foremost industrialists, bankers and statesmen as Sir William Stephenson. He was knighted for his war services by King George VI and awarded the Medal For Merit, the U.S.’s highest civilian decoration, by President Truman.
After winning the MC, DSC and Croix de Guerre in the 1914-18 war Stephenson built up a fortune with capital derived from royalties on an ingenious can opener he found in a German prison camp. By the middle Thirties his financial interests were world wide and he was in a unique position for garnering industrial intelligence. He provided Winston Churchill with ammunition for oracular speeches on the growing might of Hitler during the days of Baldwin’s blindness and Chamberlain’s timidity.
In 1940 Churchill sent him to New York to command all his government’s secret-service operations in the western hemisphere. Stephenson directed an organization called British Security Coordination from an office in Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. The staff was mainly Canadian because Canadians had a special facility for getting on with Americans and could be recruited nearer at hand.
Under Sir William’s leadership BSC trained hundreds of Canadian and American parachutists for jumps into occupied Europe; caused the sinking of many enemy submarines by decoding their radio signals and pinpointing their position at sea: delayed Hitler’s attack on Russia by six weeks with a few calculated indiscretions; neutralized „ vast German sabotage ring in the Latin American republics: contributed to the smashing of dummy companies operated in various parts of the world by the German industrial cartel of I. G. Farben; helped to sustain American faith in British victory during the dark days between Dunkirk Continued on page 67
Continued on page 67
The Biggest Private Eye of All
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7
and Pearl Harbor; and ruined the reputation in the U. S. of the Vichy French with a dossier so full of boudoir gleanings that President Roosevelt described it as “the best bedtime story I have ever read.”
When a treacherous British seaman offered to sell the German consul in
New York news of convoy movements it was BSC that produced evidence which led to his execution. When Sir Henry Tizard took British scientific secrets to Washington and found himself in the company of two men he took for FBI agents, BSC discovered they were Nazi spies. When Noel Coward, the renowned British author-actorcomposer, was bitterly criticized in the House of Commons for being out of England in her hour of peril he was doing highly secret work for BSC.
Stephenson, who crossed the Atlantic forty-three times during the war, had a
habit of turning up at the scene of any crisis. By chance he was in Ottawa on the night that Igor Gouzenko, stalked by superiors who were determined to bump him off, fled the Russian Embassy and pleaded for political asylum in Canada. Frenzied with fear Gouzenko watched the Department of External Affairs hesitate on account of the immense diplomatic and political consequences involved. Insiders think it was Stephenson who urged that Gouzenko be given shelter, and thus opened the dam gates to that flood of bizarre information which led to the
spy trials of 1946, and the subsequent arrest of the atom-bomb traitor Alan Nunn May.
In addition to his secret work during the war Stephenson played the classic Canadian political role of hinge between London and Washington. Through him most of the facilities of the centuries-old British Secret Service were made available to the United States.
At the end of war J. Edgar Hoover, Chief of the L'. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, wrote Stephenson a letter of gratitude for the tips he had received from the United Kingdom on
matters of internal security and General William J. Donovan, head of the U. S. Office of Strategic Services, said: “Bill Stephenson taught us all we ever knew about foreign intelligence.” In Intelligence circles during the war Donovan and Stephenson were popularly known, respectively, as Big Bill and Little BÜ1.
Ernest Cuneo, who was wartime liaison officer between Stephenson's BSC and Donovan’s OSS, and is today president of the North American Newspaper Alliance, says: “Stephenson is the only man who enjoyed the
unqualified confidence of both Churchül and Roosevelt.”
Robert E. Sherwood, deputy director of the U. S. Office of War Information, frequently consulted Stephenson on how Churchill might react to certain passages in speeches he was writing for Roosevelt.
When, in 1946, President Truman awarded Stephenson the Medal For Merit this coveted honor went, for the first time in history, to a non-American.
William Samuel Stephenson was bom near Winnipeg fifty-six years ago. Between the wars he spent most of his
time in England where he owned a Tudor farm on the Thames at Marlow and a town house in New Cavendish Street, one of the most aristocratic quarters of London’s West End. After the war he retired for several years to Jamaica. Today he lives with his American wife in a penthouse with a fabulous view atop one of the most expensive blocks in New York.
On Wall Street, Threadneedle Street, Bay Street and St. James Street, Stephenson today is known for talents and sentiments far removed from the orbit of the cloak and dagger. For six months this year he was chairman of the Newfoundland and Labrador Corporation. a crown company formed to bring new industries to the tenth province. In that time he cajoled enough new investors to Newfoundland to keep Premier Joseph Smallwood busy for the next three years. “The idea," Stephenson said, “is to provide an extra bottle of milk for the kids.” Stephenson is the originator and mainspring of World Commerce, a British - Canadian - American company at 25 Broad Street, New York, which, by barter agreements and dollar guarantees, is trying to get around currency restrictions now choking world trade. Recently the Christian Science Monitor quoted an Italian businessman as saying: “If there were a hundred World Commerces there would be no need for the Marshall Plan.”
Stephenson is a slight erect figure with the springy walk of a lightweight boxer and there is a faint hint of the ring in his rugged countenance. He has a ruddy complexion, crisp grey hair and a mouth that slips easily into a wrygrin.
His eyes, so dark it is impossible to determine their precise color at three feet, have great impact. They bear steadily on the visitor, not in any unfriendly way but in a mood that seems to shade back and forth from whimsical observation through speculation to vigilance. It takes » strong personality to hold his gaze. Charles Yining, recently retired president of the Newsprint Association of Canada and a wartime lieutenant of Stephenson's, says: "I would hate to be in the same room thinking of something I didn't want him to know.”
Many stories are told of Stephenson's powers of perception. During the war a Canadian girl secretary who had pricked her forefinger and covered it writh a tiny square of plaster entered his office. Without looking up from his desk Stephenson said. “What have you been trying to do? Kill yourself?”
The pace at which he reads is also legendary. “I’ve watched him reading a novel,” says a close friend, T. G. Drew-Brook, i Toronto stockbroker, “and he reminds you of a man riffling through an index for a reference.”
One girl on his wartime staff handed him several sheets of closely typed manuscript. He flicked the pages, grunted and handed it back. “Surely,” she said, “you can't have read it properly?” He gave her a succinct résumé of its contents, reciting several passages verbatim.
Although he is reticent, Stephenson, a hearty drinker of dry Martinis is gregarious at heart. Among his many friends are Louis St. Laurent, Brooke Claxton. Dana Wilgress (former Canadian high commissioner in London), the Aga Khan, Henry R. Luce (editorin-chief of Time Inc.,) and the British newspaper barons Kemsley, Camrose, Rothermere and Beaverbrook. He also plays host to scores of obscure people he has met and liked during his travels.
Stephenson rises each morning at five. Every day he takes a long walk. He is a crack shot with „ pistol and
loves hunting and fishing. He has shot tiger and black panther in central India and Kashmir. Today he hunts and fishes in Prince Edward Island, one of his favorite resorts. He reads a lot and collects books, curios and paintings. Lady Stephenson is a quiet gracious woman, the former Mary French Simmons, of Springfield, Tenn.. whom he met on an Atlantic liner in 1924 and married soon afterward. Friends say they are a devoted couple. They have no children.
In spite of his multitude of associates in high places Stephenson rarely gets into print. Throughout the war he was never mentioned by the Press of either Britain or the U. S. His personal clippings for thirty years would not cover four sheets of foolscap. He dislikes talking himself and is adept at making others garrulous.
He never speaks to writers of his early life or of his wartime experiences. Most of BSC's chronicles still remain under Top Secret labels in the archives of Ottawa, London and Washington. Even so, from a wide variety of sources in Europe and America, it has been possible to piece together a picture of Stephenson’s extraordinary career.
He was born in Point Douglas, just outside Winnipeg, in 1896. His father owned „ lumber yard and. as a boy, Stephenson liked to tinker around with the machinery. When the First World War began he was eighteen and still at Argyle High School, Winnipeg. He was excellent at mathematics, manual training and boxing. He went straight from school into the Royal Canadian Engineers and was commissioned before his nineteenth birthday. Within a year he had won the Military Cross in France. Later he was gassed, and he spent his j convalescence learning to fly. He j transferred to a Royal Flying Corps squadron in which the Toronto stockbroker Drew-Brook was serving.
“When he arrived I was orderly officer,” says Drew-Brook. "I reported to the CO that he looked so sick I didn't think he would be much good.
He was an unspectacular pilot until he got badly shot up. Then he was ready to take on the entire German air force.”
Stephenson shot down twenty planes in six weeks. One of his victims was Lothar von Richthofen, brother of the I famous Baron von Richthofen. Early in 1918 he went to the aid of a French j two-seater aircraft which was engaged j by five Germans. In the whirling dogi fight the -French gunner failed to distinguish him from the foe and disabled his machine with a burst of fire. Stephenson bailed out over German territory and was captured. The contrite French gave him the Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Behind barbed wire in Holzminden, Germany, he excelled at the daily contest to see who could steal most from the guards. Among Stephenson's loot was a can opener, so cunningly designed he began to brood over it. Because of wartime difficulties it had been patented only in Germany. Austria and Turkey. When Stephenson escaped some weeks later he took the j can opener to England and patented an improvement of it in every country in j the world.
After the war he spent a year or so in Winnipeg. But soon royalties from the can opener netted him enough money to return to England and try his own hand at inventing. During the Twenties he developed and financed a device which enabled the London Dailx Mail to transmit the first publishable photograph from one point to another. The twenty-eight-year-old tycoon then revealed himself as a prophet when he told excited reporters: “In a few years everybody will have moving pictures I
in their own homes radiated from a central point. It is simply a matter of speeding up the wire-photo principle about twenty-five times.”
Before he was thirty he had made a million dollars and married Mary Simmons, who was wealthy in her own right. The early Thirties saw him in control of a score of companies.
He was Sound City Films, which produced more than fifty percent of British movies; he wras General Aircraft Ltd., which created the twin-engine low'-wing Monospar and won Britain's classic King’s Cup in 1934; he was
Earl’s Court Ltd., w'hich built the world’s biggest stadium and exhibition hall in the London suburb of that name; he was the Pressed Steel Company Ltd., which made ninety percent of British car bodies for such firms as Morris, Humber, Hillman and Austin; he was Catalina Ltd., one of the first manufacturers of plastics in the United Kingdom.
In the middle Thirties he was operating on fix’e continents and in touch with the biggest banking houses on earth. He was already telling his associates that democratic capitalism
could be sax'ed only by developing backxvard areas and raising standards of living. With the Aga Khan he financed new schemes in the Middle East and India. He traveled xxidely and was entertained by ambassadors, prime ministers and industrialists. In the diplomatic salons of Europe he stood quietly in a comer, smiling in his characteristic wry way, inclining his head, encouraging people to talk . . . talk . . . talk. Then he took his leave politely. As he fitted together the jigsaw of information he saw the pattern of impending war.
Stanley Baldwin brushed off Stephenson’s warnings. But the Foreign Office listened to his stories of the secret factories that were spewing out new j arms for the Reich. For several years ; before the war he made trips to | Germany at his own expense, ostensibly on business. His access to the balance ; sheets of foreign companies enabled him to form an accurate idea of what | happened to the raw materials that | Germany was piping in.
In 1936 Stephenson gave Churchill j proof that Germany was spending the equal of four thousand million dollars a year on guns, tanks and submarines. All through Chamberlain’s appeasing ¡
Í term Stephenson is said to have supplied Churchill with facts and figures which gave punch to the great orator’s speeches and set mighty forces stirring behind the tranquil façade of England, j In late 1939, after the outbreak of hostilities. Stephenson was in Helsinki when Russia invaded Finland No details of the trip may be given. I Associates say, however, that Stephenson carried out one of the most delicate missions of the war “at great personal risk.”
When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940 and sought a man to coordinate British counter espionage, anti-sabotage, economic warfare, political warfare and secret intelligence in North and South America, he thought j of the astute and well - informed Canadian, Stephenson. Just before the fall of France Stephenson reached New York and set up an organization which was to become the eyes, ears and nose on this side of the Atlantic of such secret cadres as PID (Political Intelligence Department , Political Warfare Executive (Ministry of Information), MI5 (War Office), Naval Intelligence (the Admiralty), Special Branch (Scot! land Yard), Special Operations Executive (Ministry of Economic Warfare) \ and Security Executive (Ministry of I Transport).
The scope of his responsibilities demanded specialists in many fields. Because he knew Canadians would get on well with Americans he turned to his own country'. He recruited scientists, industrialists, economists, geologists, farmers, stockbrokers, schoolmasters, newspapermen, policemen and many » other types from all over Canada. The military personnel ranged from admiral, general and air marshal down to the lowest noncommissioned ranks. BSC, as it became known, was in touch with British intelligence agents from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Before the war was over the headquarters staff in New York exceeded three thousand.
Stephenson was not without sage advice. In a Wall Street banking house ■ he met Sir William Wiseman, a cultured, cryptic, bloodhound of a man who twenty-six years before had foiled j Franz von Papen’s crackpot plot to invade Canada from the United States and who had dueled successfully with 1 ranz von Rintelen, the German master spy who organized the Long Tom explosion.
In tribute to Stephenson today Sir William Wiseman says: “He had a much more difficult task than I. The Germans were far better organized in Y orld War Two. I gave him what j help I could.”
Stephenson reached the United States at a time when Dunkirk, the blitz and the U-boats had shaken American confidence in the Commonweaith’s ability to pull through alone. He told Roosevelt: “The
arsenals of Britain are empty. But she | will win out. The British do not kneel
One of his first jobs was to offset the propagandist influences of pro-Nazi I groups financed from Berlin and this he
did by disseminating Britain’s point of view in circles extending from the theatre to embassies.
In an old farmhouse near Toronto he had BSC train secret agents for operations behind the German lines. Hundreds of Canadians, most of them of Central European origin, volunteered for courses in parachute jumping, weapon training, unarmed combat, knife play, use of explosives, lock picking, shadowing techniques, ciphers and radio communications.
Final exercises were held in central Toronto. Operating as if in hostile i territory the trainees had to find themselves shelter, set up a secret radio and begin gathering and broadcasting information. Many of them were picked up by Canadian counter-espionage forces, quietly released when BSC explained their true role, and taken back for further schooling.
The majority dropped into Central Europe and provided the Allies with useful information. Many were never heard of again.
Stephenson’s Ontario school tutored FBI men and other Americans who became the foundation of Donovan’s OSS. It also drilled in anti-sabotage tactics many British and trusted foreign executives of industrial plants in South America.
The Latin American republics were the scene of tortuous undercover struggles between Stephenson’s men and German agents. Oil, tin, bauxite, antimony, mica, balsa wood, rubber, sisal, copper, quinine and many other raw materials coveted by both sides brought clandestine economic warfare to its zenith there. Stephenson’s policy was to unearth the German agents, prove them guilty of breaking the laws of the country in which they were operating and get the South American governments to take action against
Americans who served in a liaison capacity cite one case from BSC’s record which is typical of its highly co-ordinated work.
In 1942 a series of radio signals emanating from a man who signed himself Apfel were intercepted by BSC monitors in Chile. There were references to many German names including Hirth, Braun and Gersten and a mention of the need for more funds to start work in the northern republics.
British agents in South America were alerted and were able to learn that Hirth, Braun and Gersten were members of e sabotage ring and the mysterious Apfel was their chief.
Information on Apfel was difficult to get. BSC followed many false leads. Commercial, industrial and diplomatic contacts were questioned discreetly over and again; enquiries extended to Peru, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.
Finally a BSC informant in a German bank in Argentina reported that Apfel was the nickname of a man named Von Appen who was head of the Hamburg
please send it to a member of the armed forces serving overseas. If you know no one in the services, enquire locally if some organization is collecting magazines for shipment. In most areas some organization is performing this valuable service.
Amerika T,ine in Valparaiso. Later the same informant saw a German sea captain by the name of Lange remove what looked like seven large tubes from a strong box held by Von Appen in a German bank in Buenos Aires.
Stephenson’s agents got hold of the “tubes,” which were sabotage derices. This led to the arrest of Von Appen by Chilean police. He confessed nothing, but was restricted in his movements to a small village. Chilean surveillance, however, was not very effective. In 1945 a Chilean ship blew up. Evidence pointed to Von Appen again. Under
rigorous cross-examination he confirmed BSC’s suspicions: He had been assigned to destroy South American installations of value to the Allies, including the Cubatao power station which supplied electricity to the Brazilian cities of Santos and San Paulo.
There were simpler and more colorful operations.
Before the United States entered the war the British were anxious to immobilize about twenty German and Italian ships which were preparing to sail from the Mexican ports of Tampico
and Vera Cruz. No British vessels were available to intercept them. A Stephenson aide mentioned this to the U. S. Navy. As the enemy ships moved into the Atlantic by night U. S. warships suddenly turned searchlights on them. Two of the German ships were immediately scuttled by their crews. The rest fled back into Mexican ports, where they remained until the end of the war. Thus, without a shot being fired or a breach of neutrality committed. the United States won a naval battle for Britain.
In May 1941 the government of
Bolivia was pro-British. But its military attache in Berlin, Major Elias Belmonte, was fanatically pro-Nazi. BSC learned that Belmonte, with Nazi aid. was planning to establish „ Hitlerian regime in Bolivia. It was important to confront the Bolivian government with proof of this conspiracy.
A British secret agent in Portugal reported that plans for the coup were in possession of a German courier who was bound by air for Bolivia. His first port of call would be Recife, in Brazil. BSC agents in Brazil were ordered to intercept the courier and steal the
For three weeks the airport at Recife was watched, but BSC had no luck.
On June IS. 1941, a woman who had been planted as secretaryto a German agent named Fritz Fenthol, in Rio, informed BSC that her boss was leaving for Buenos Aires and thence for Bolivia with an envelope addressed to the German minister in La Paz.
In Buenos Aires Fenthol called at a German bank. In the elevator a BSC man picked his pocket. The documents proved to be the detailed plans by which Belmonte hoped to stage his revolt and seize power. Theywere presented to the Bolivian government.
Belmonte was arrested. The Bolivian minister to Berlin was withdrawn. The German minister in La Paz was kicked out. And Bolivian raw materials continued to flow smoothly to the British.
One of BSC’s cases was that of George Thomas Armstrong. Armstrong served as fifth engineer in a British merchantman. He had several convictions against him in the United Kingdom for petty thefts. He saw in the war nothing more than a chance to make some easymoney-. He thought it would be a good idea to sell the Germans news of convoy movements. He bluntly approached German agents in Lisbon. They suspected he was a counter-espionage agent and would have nothing to do with him.
Armstrong failed to take into account the fact that on everyBritish merchant ship, and in many foreign ones, there was a man working under the title of Observer, whose dutywas to keep his eyes and ears open on the lower deck. The Observer did not miss Armstrong's visit to the Germans. When the ship docked the next time in New York the Observer reported, as was customary, to BSC. BSC watched Armstrong visit the German consul in New York. The consul was not so careful as his Lisbon compatriots. He bought some information from Armstrong. Evidence of the deal was procured by BSC. No attempt was made to apprehend Armstrong on American territory-. When he stepped off his ship in England. however, he was arrested. On July 9. 1941. he was hanged in Wandsworth Jail. London, the first British traitor of the war to be executed.
Germany was desperate for industrial diamonds and, deprived of legitimate sources by the British blockade, Nazi agents built up a huge smuggling ring. Sailors and passengers in neutral ships made small fortunes bygetting diamonds through British naval control ports in the bowls of pipes, false heels, cigarettes, chewing gum. balls of wool, needles, walking sticks with trick ferrules, and many more craftyplaces.
Most of the smuggled diamonds came from South America and reached Germany via Portugal. It proved impossible to choke the pipe line at the receiving end in Lisbon, so transmitting points in Uruguay were tackled. Inspectors W. Rudkin and Ivor Reece, of Scotland Yard, were sent to Uruguay to work in co-ordination with Stephen-
I CONFESSION I
B The truth, although no one M I has said it ¡¡
M In abstaining from deeds g § indiscreet, g
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son’s outfit. The traffic was choked in a few months. Toward the end of the war British agents in Germany reported many factories were working at half capacity because of the diamond famine.
The spider’s web extending from Stephenson’s BSC headquarters in Rockefeller Center to a legion of scattered undercover men had at its core the most efficient communications system in the world. A Canadian electronics expert, whose name cannot be given, designed equipment which coded and decoded messages in seconds, thereby saving hours of human effort. BSC business in code made up more than fifty percent of the traffic on the normal trans-Atlantic cables and kept a secret transmitter in Canada operating at full capacity day and night.
In 1943 a German submarine surfaced off the coast of Uruguay. It broke radio silence for a few seconds to report its position in code. The message was picked up by a BSC radio monitor on the coast. It was transmit-
ted to New York. It went through the decoding machine and was passed on to the Admiralty. The Admiralty informed a Royal Navy task force at sea. Only three minutes elapsed between the submarine’s first broadcast and the receipt of the signal by the RN destroyers. Within half an hour the submarine was sunk with depth charges.
Stephenson’s opposition was not lacking in skill and daring. Early in the war Sir Henry Tizard arrived in the United States with a carload of British secrets in nuclear fission, radar, proximity fuses and penicillin. It was Stephenson’s responsibility to protect him. When Tizard reported to Stephenson that two FBI men were already looking after him Stephenson made enquiries. The supposed FBI men were German spies.
Stephenson personally directed operations which led to the exposure of espionage by Vichy French diplomats who functioned in the United States until Pearl Harbor.
The U. S. relations with Vichy were useful because, in Churchill’s words, they opened “a window” on occupied France. But the pro-Nazi activities of Vichy officials in the United States gave Britain many misgivings. Until De Gaulle, for example, seized the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the south coast of Newfoundland, they fed a radio station in these colonies with propaganda designed to breach British-CanadianAmerican accord.
Stephenson’s staff produced photostatic copies of letters, receipts, memoranda and other incriminating documents. Among those implicated was Gaston Henri-Haye, Vichy ambassador to the U. S. The French appetite for gallantry was exploited to the full.
Mistresses of many Vichy officials reported confidences to BSC. The dossier, relished by Roosevelt as “bedtime reading,“ did much to destroy the illusion of Vichy as a pitiful but honorable government striving to preserve the remnants of u glorious civilization.
Stephenson also helped to expose the chain of companies operated throughout the world by the German trust I. G. Farben. BSC agents in the employ of these firms in the United States photographed instructions from the Reich that goods they manu-
factured must be labeled “Made In Germany” and exported to South America to give industrialists the impression that, in spite of the war, Hitler was in “business as usual.” Confronted with Stephenson’s evidence, the U. S. Custodian of Alien Property seized SI,-500 millions worth of German
One of the best examples of BritishAmerican co-operation before Pearl Harbor took place in Yugoslavia. At the end of -January 1941 Yugoslavia. Britain's remaining hope in the Balkans, nervously wavered toward the
Axis by signing a pact of amity with Hungary, one of the junior partners. Fhince Paul, the Regent, refused to receive Anthony Eden.
In Yugoslav air force headquarters in Belgrade, however, there was a man named General Richard Simovic whose office was the secret centre of opposition to the pro-Axis government policy and to German ambitions. Stephenson suggested that it would be a good idea for the U. S. to send an emissary to Simovic.
General William J. Donovan, later commander of OSS, was chosen.
Donovan would have exceeded the President’s constitutional authority had he committed the United States to helping Simovic. But, at a social function, Donovan let drop a few calculated indiscretions, suggested by Stephenson, which electrified Simovic into action. The indiscretions convinced Simovic that the United States was now one hundred percent behind Britain and that therefore Britain could not lose.
On March 27 Simovic seized power. Young King Peter escaped from regency custody down a rain pipe. Prince Paul was banished. British flags flew everywhere. People danced in the streets. The German minister was publicly insulted. The Führer was astonished and infuriated. On April 6 he invaded Yugoslavia after a crushing air raid on Belgrade. Simovic’s forces were overwhelmed, but the diversion delayed the German drive into Russia by six weeks, which may have had a decisive effect on the Wehrmacht’s planto take Moscow before snowfall.
Stephenson advised Donovan throughout the growth of the OSS. which reached a strength of twelve thousand. He also co-operated with and never lost the friendship of J. Edgar Hoover, of the FBI, who resented Donovan’s assumption of counter-espionage responsibilities overseas. Stephenson likewise had the friendship of Robert E. Sherwood, the American playwright and deputy director of the Office of War Information which had its catfights with OSS.
Stephenson’s role in high - level negotiations between Churchill and Roosevelt is well defined by Ernest Cuneo, of NANA. “He always knew.” says Cuneo, “what neither of them could ever give. Therefore the other never asked. He cut out the customarv diplomatic rigmarole whereby one statesman says to another: Tf I asked you this in public what would you say?’ ”
Throughout the war Stephenson was at his desk twenty hours a day, seven days a week. His staff wondered when he slept. Friends say his tremendous demonstration of endurance aged and exhausted him
At two o’clock one morning, during the New York dim-out, the senior BSC staff on the midnight-to-eight shift saw him flit from the office and were thankful he proposed getting some rest. At three-forty-five he telephoned from his room in Dorset House, a hotel across the way, to say that a chink of light was showing under one of the office blinds. At five he was back, shaved, changed, spruced up, ready for the next day’s work.
Stephenson was immensely proud of his Canadian female staff. He took a personal interest in making sure they all got decent quarters in Manhattan. One of his instructions to them was that they should never give anyone the impression they were in secret work. For the protection of BSC most of the girls voluntarily lived limited social lives. Throughout the war only two girls were guilty of indiscretions. Over-
awed by the importance of their work these two began to cultivate an air of intrigue. When this was spotted they were sent home.
One of the most important members of the staff was an elderly Scottish woman named Esther Stewart Drummond Richardson. As head of the coding department she had the reputation of a slave driver. When she became fatally ill in New York shortly after the war Stephenson sat up all night at her bedside during her last hours of life.
On D-Day Stephenson flew as a rear gunner in a bomber over the invasion coast. He was annoyed because he encountered no German aircraft to shoot at. But he found some consolation in the fact that the huge armada below, about to close the ring around Hitler, owed much of its force to his own efforts.
For a time after the war, according to a close friend, nothing seemed important to him.
From 1946 to early 1951 he lived in semi-retirement in a beautiful home in Montego Bay, Jamaica. He ate like a bird and lost his once-famous palate for vintage French wine. The primitive dwellings of the natives touched his pity. He surprised many famous guests by inviting them to accompany him on a visit to a neighbor who turned out to be a mulatto farmer with whom he chatted for hours. He sometimes hired two hundred natives to come and sing to his friends and every Christmas he threw a party for between four and five hundred. He built his native neighbors a fine new church.
Gradually he recovered his interest in business. He took new industries to Jamaica and Newfoundland. John Pepper, vice-president of World Commerce, one of the companies Stephenson originated, says:
“He is a great Canadian and has done more than any other man in the world markets to bring Canada’s enormous potential to the notice of international investors.”
His postwar activities have extended behind the iron curtain. A typical transaction of World Commerce took place last year in the Balkans. Yugoslavia and Bulgaria were short of dollars and short of medicine.
Each country, however. had about three hundred thousand dollars' worth of paprika on their farms.
World Commerce exchanged a year's supply of penicillin and sulfa for the paprika, which they then sold on other markets.
World Commerce works on a commission basis but sometimes it foregoes a profit if it feels it can help an impoverished or backward country by giving it the
f.,. :... 0f ¡(S international connec-
Occasionally Stephenson shows signs of nostalgia for the cloak-and-dagger past. A few weeks ago in New York he was visited on business by a man he had never met before. The conversation was interrupted by the telephone bell. Stephenson removed the receiver and grunted from time to time as he evidently listened to a long report. Suddenly he said, "Just a moment. I want you to read this over to someone I have with me here.”
With considerable surprise the visitor took the preferred receiver and then, in amazement, listened to a secretary’s voice reading him a detailed dossier on his own life from the moment he was born in a country overseas.
Because Stephenson was resident in a British colony when he was offered the title of Knight Bachelor he was able to accept without embarrassing the Canadian Government. Most of his Canadian friends were delighted and many thought he ought to have received a peerage.
Stephenson, however, is more proud of a comment written against his own name in green Churchillian ink. on a list of candidates for honors which was submitted to George VI. It read: “This one is dear to my heart.” ★