Treason: 20 Acts of Treason in American History
20 Acts of Treason in American History

20 Acts of Treason in American History

Larry Holzwarth - January 7, 2019

20 Acts of Treason in American History
German shortwave radio broadcasts to the United States were often performed by Americans who were charged with treason in 1943. Youtube

17. Following the Second World War one broadcaster was charged with 69 counts of treason

During World War II, the FCC operated a site at Silver Hill, Maryland, which monitored and recorded broadcasts emanating from Germany and the rest of Europe, developing an invaluable record of the German propaganda effort. One of the broadcasters routinely monitored was Herbert J. Burgman, who used the stage name Joe Scanlon when broadcasting his program Voice of All Free America. Burgman broadcast directly to American homes, telling them of the widespread epidemics of syphilis and gonorrhea among the American troops in Europe. He also attempted to persuade the American people that the Jewish influence around Franklin Roosevelt (and Winston Churchill) was the true cause of the war, supported by the bolshevism of the Soviet Union.

He was indicted on not fewer than 69 charges of treason against the United States after the war and in a trial which began only after two separate evaluations of his mental state were completed he was convicted of thirteen acts of treason (the number of the indictments was reduced to twenty charges prior to the beginning of the trial). His attorneys argued that he was insane at the time of the broadcasts, driven to that state by fear of the Gestapo. During his trial, his health deteriorated rapidly, and he suffered at least one heart attack. In December 1949, he was sentenced to 6 – 20 years in prison, and he died less than four years later in custody in Springfield, Missouri, on the first anniversary of the death of his fellow traitor, Richard Best.

20 Acts of Treason in American History
German saboteur John Dasch never renounced his American citizenship, leading to a conviction for treason. FBI

18. John Dasch was a naturalized American citizen who had been born in Germany

John Dasch was born in Germany, journeyed to America in 1923 (entering illegally), worked at odd jobs and as a waiter in several American communities, served in the US Army Air Corps, and became an American citizen in 1933. In 1941, as relations between the United States and Germany deteriorated towards war, Dasch returned to Germany. There he received espionage training in preparation for his return to his adopted country. Dasch was part of a team which was delivered to the United States by U-boats in 1942, determined to attack various targets of sabotage. The Americans quickly learned of the presence of saboteurs, and a massive manhunt to locate them was undertaken, led by the FBI. By then Dasch was planning to surrender to American authorities to act as a double agent.

Dasch and his partner Ernst Burger contacted American authorities – Dasch tried to reach J. Edgar Hoover personally – and revealed the circumstances and participants of the plot, leading to the arrest of the six others involved and their conviction as spies. All six were executed. For his co-operation with the authorities, Dasch was tried for espionage and treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial was before a military tribunal established by President Roosevelt. In 1948 President Truman commuted the life sentences of Dasch and Burger, ordering them deported. In West Germany, both men were treated as what they were, traitors to their country. Neither man received the pardon which they claimed they had been promised by J. Edgar Hoover.

20 Acts of Treason in American History
Joseph Smith was charged with treason in two neighboring states and was killed awaiting trial in Illinois. Library of Congress

19. Joseph Smith was killed while in jail under a charge of treason

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was serving as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois when he ordered the destruction of the printing facilities of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper which lasted for a single issue. When it was released on June 7, 1844, among its reporting was an article which exposed Smith and his followers as polygamists. The non-Mormon public was shocked and the city council passed an ordinance, with Smith’s urging, to force the paper to cease publication. Smith then ordered the city marshal to seize the printing press and type. According to the marshal the seizure was accomplished peacefully; the paper’s publisher claimed that a mob had destroyed the press and seriously damaged the building in which it had been housed.

Smith then, in resistance to court orders from outside Nauvoo, called out the city militia and declared martial law. The governor of Illinois offered a trial in Carthage, before a non-Mormon jury, for Smith and his brother Hyrum, under the charge of treason against the state of Illinois, for the act of inciting riots across the state. The brothers and the rest of the city council surrendered to Illinois officials and were jailed in Carthage. It was while in jail awaiting trial for treason that Joseph Smith and his brother, armed with pistols smuggled into them by associates, and several other men being held were killed when a mob stormed the jail. Several differing accounts of the violent end of Joseph Smith emerged in the aftermath, many of which ignore the charges of treason against him. Smith had earlier been charged with treason in Missouri in 1838, which precipitated his flight to Illinois.

20 Acts of Treason in American History
Kaltenbach admired the Hitler Youth and created a similar organization in Iowa before returning to Germany. Bundesarchiv

20. Frederick Kaltenbach was indicted by the Americans for treason, but died in Soviet custody

Frederick Wilhelm Kaltenbach was an Iowa-born son of a naturalized German, raised in Waterloo (coincidentally the home of the five Sullivan brothers of World War II fame). In 1933 the graduate of Iowa State Teacher’s College and the University of Chicago won a scholarship at the University of Berlin, and became a devoted adherent of Nazism. When he returned to Iowa in 1935 he started a boy’s club modeled on the Hitler Youth, with similar uniforms. The support of Nazism led to him losing his teaching certificate in 1936 and he returned to Germany and in 1939 began broadcasting German propaganda to the United States via short-wave radio, long before the United States formally entered the war.

Kaltenbach harangued against Franklin Roosevelt and Lend-lease attempted to prevent FDR’s election to a third term, and referred to himself whimsically as Lord Hee-Haw. After the United States entered the war he attacked the morale of troops and citizens at home. As the war went on and it became evident how it would end, he shifted to covering his tracks as an ardent Nazi by attempting to align himself with anti-Nazi elements, though he continued to broadcast Nazi propaganda as late as the spring of 1945. He was indicted for treason in the United States in 1943 and was arrested at his home by the Soviets in Berlin in 1945. The Soviets sent him to their Special Camp Two in Buchenwald and when the American authorities requested he be surrendered for trial the Soviets refused. They later informed the State Department that he had died of natural causes, and in 1948 the indictment was dismissed.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising”. Leland D. Baldwin. 1968

“Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and the American Way of Treason”. Jonathan W. White, Smithsonian.com. March 17, 2017

“James Wilkinson: The Man Who Double-Crossed the Founders of America”. Robert Walsh, The Archive. August 14, 2018

“Those Dirty Rotten Taxes: The Tax Revolts that Built America”. Charles Adams. 1998

“The Trial of John Brown”. Thomas Fleming, American Heritage Magazine. August, 1967

“Thomas Wilson Dorr”. Biographic entry at the Dorr Rebellion Museum website. Online

“He Was Hanged For Helping Slaves Rebel. Now Norwich Officials Are Asking Virginia For A Pardon”. Alison Kuznitz, Hartford Courant. August 3, 2018

“Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant”. Ulysses S. Grant. 1885 (2006)

“Jefferson Davis: Unconquerable Heart”. Felicity Allen. 1999

“Mountaintop Rescue”. Samir S. Patel, Archaeology Magazine. January/February 2012

“Ex-Flier Confesses 21 Acts of Treason”. The New York Times, January 18, 1949

“‘Axis Sally’ Brought Hot Jazz to the Nazi Propaganda Machine”. Jackie Mansky, Smithsonian.com. September 25, 2018

“POW Camp Atrocities Led to Treason Trial”. David Rosenzweig, Los Angeles Times. September 20, 2002

“Best Sentenced to Life as Traitor In His War Broadcasts for Nazis”. The New York Times, July 1, 1948

“The Nazi Who Infiltrated National Geographic”. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic. April 27, 2017

“George John Dasch and the Nazi Saboteurs”. Naval History and Heritage Command

“Carthage Conspiracy Reconsidered: A Second Look at the Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith”. Marvin S. Hill, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Summer, 2004

“Goebbels’ Iowan: Frederick W. Kaltenbach and Nazi Short-Wave Radio Broadcasts to America, 1939-1945”. Clayton D. Laurie, Annals of Iowa. Summer, 1994

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