|The Story Behind Germany's World War II Invasion of Frenchman Bay
Captain D Interview of Richard Gay appearing in Discover Downeast Maine With Captain D, Summer Edition, 2004
IT IS A WELL-KNOWN bit of local lore that in the waning days of World War II two Germans spies were dispatched from a submarine in Frenchman Bay to the shore of Hancock, Maine. Legend has had it that they were apprehended almost immediately. But there is much more to this story. Former CIA agent Richard Gay of Blue Hill has worked tirelessly nailing down the details. Now he is working to organize the 60th anniversary of this event. [Update, Dec.2006: Gay was guest speaker at the official 60th Anniversary observance held at the Hancock Maine Community Center. His presentation included more declassified Secret documents, photographs, and new information from Gimpel and other primary source interviews, including Hans Hilbig the skipper of U-1230, and one of the FBI special agents who took Gimpel into custody in NYC].
CD: How did you become interested in the WW2 spies?
RG: I belong to an association of former intelligence officers. You can find them at www.AFIO.com. They had a project to commemorate historic espionage sites in New England with an information plaque. I proposed a Maine plaque for the Nazi agents who landed here by submarine in November 1944.
CD: Where will they put the plaque?
RG: The actual landing beach is on private property at the head of Frenchman Bay with no public access. My proposal was for an all-weather information panel to be placed at a scenic turnout above Bar Harbor on the Park Loop Road. The site overlooks all of Frenchman Bay including Crabtree Neck where the landing took place. [Update, Dec2006: the national park site fell through, but suitable Bar Harbor sites have been located for the plaque and wall panel of photos, letters, and documents. These will be in place early in the year].
CD: How is that going?
RG: Getting permits for plaques in parks is not a walk on the beachno pun intended. Professional spies have been called "masters of deceit" and their working environment a "hall of mirrors." Our picturesque coast of Maine is no exception. Ask six local people from around Frenchman Bay about the "German spies" and you can have six different stories. I checked the history books, the U.S. Navy and FBI accounts, and press reports. The common story was that the German spies were caught after they came ashore, because they stood out walking along the road wearing city clothes, but I discovered that how they got caught had nothing to do with how they were dressed. The historic facts had to be accurate on our application to the National Park Service for a permit, and it soon became apparent that I must find better sources.
CD: So where did you look?
RG: What better original source than the spies themselves? One of the spies, named Colepaugh, had long since been reported dead, and the other, named Gimpel, had long since disappeared. In November 2001 I found the dead one, alive, and interviewed him over the phone. In 2002 I found Erich Gimpel living in South America. He had spent ten years in U.S. prisons before being repatriated to Germany. William Colepaugh, who had reportedly died in prison, was released after fifteen years. He served more time because he was an American defector.
CD: I understand you wrote a book on the subject of German Spies in America?
RG: Yes. The local papers had followed my research, with headlines like "Former Maine Spy Affair Revisited by Former Maine Spy." In 2002 the story made the Associated Press, and I was interviewed on radio and TV from Bangor to Portland. This resulted in the landing site, officially called Crabtree Neck, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and I was invited to co-author a book. A 166 page pictorial history, it came out in May 2003 and sells for $16.96. Not bad for a coffee table size 8 1/2 x11 book with over 200 photographs, many seen for the first time.
CD: Didnt I recently see you and the book on the "Bill Greenes Maine" show?
RG: Yes but that show is a year old. It is being rerun, because this year is the 60th anniversary of the Frenchman Bay spies, 1944-2004. [Update, Dec.2006: the TV show is still being rerun.]
CD: Tell us how they got to Crabtree Neck?
RG: They were infiltrated by submarine, much as U.S. special operations teams are today. The place they landed is 14 miles up into the bay from open water. The brazen submarine skipper was a former Luftwaffe pilot. May I share with your readers a little about German U-boats?
CD: By all means. The more the merrier.
RG: A submarine in German is an "Under-sea-boat" which got shortened to U-boat. Each one had a number on its coning tower. The sub that brought the two spies was number 1230, or U-1230. It normally carried a crew of 56. These submarines navigated the coast by taking bearings from our radio stations. They entered bays and harbors using our lighthouses and buoys, just like a surface ship. Using islands as screens to avoid radar detection, they would surface at night or in the fog, and run their engines to recharge their batteries. Coastal inhabitants still remember the muffled sound of heavy diesels running out in the bay at night. U-boats had depth finders, and U-1230 had excellent nautical charts of Frenchman Bay.
CD: How did they get charts of our bay?
RG: Cruise ships used to come into Bar Harbor way back before WW1. The German cruise ship "Crown Princess Cecilia" was one of them. Their charts of Frenchman Bay were probably more detailed than ours. By the way, that cruise ship, known by its name "Kronprinzessin Cecilie" was impounded here at Bar Harbor at the start of WW1 with its passengers and crew, and a cargo of over $10 million in gold. Can I give you more collateral WW2 information?
CD: As much as you like.
RG: The top secret German Enigma cipher machine had been broken, and U.S. Naval Intelligence was tracking U-boat positions from their enciphered radio communications. In spite of this extraordinary tactical advantage, anti-submarine defenses were greatly inadequate along the eastern seaboard. Cargo ships and tankers were sitting ducks for German torpedoes from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Two years ago my Civil Air Patrol squadron at Bar Harbor Airport, observed the 60th anniversary of CAP. Civilian pilots and private yacht owners risked their planes and boats to patrol for the Navy. From Bar Harbor they patrolled the coastline, 20 miles out into the Gulf of Maine, looking for enemy submarines. During daylight hours our coastal waters were a dangerous place for enemy U-boats, but during the night U-1230 entered Frenchman Bay east of Egg Rock Light, almost in hailing distance of the Navys radio and direction finding station on Schoodic Point.
CD: That was the radio station originally located on Mount Desert Island?
RG: Yes, it was moved away from the Ocean Drive scenery at Otter Cliffs at the urging of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who actually financed construction of the new Navy facility across the bay on Schoodic Point. The first building was very fancy, built on the style of the Rockefeller mansion on MDI. When U-1230 first arrived in the Gulf of Maine, they were warned by their control in Germany that radio communications had been penetrated and the U.S. Navy was aware of their presence. Frenchman Bay was the designated landing site, but U-1230s skipper was advised to use his best judgment on an alternative. He laid offshore behind Bakers Island for several days, and when the tide was right he decided to go into Frenchman Bay. Do you want some more history?
CD: Lay it on. Im a history buff.
RG: It seems that this bay served as cover not only for German U-boats in the 20th century, but also for French war ships centuries before, fighting the British over the French territory here, known as the Province of Acadia. It is my belief that Frenchman Bay was not named for the 17th century French explorers, as is commonly held, but for French ships! The French ships of war, aka Frenchmen, used the high islands in this bay as a hideout, to ambush passing British ships. The theory can be substantiated by the absence of any historic record of the name in French, La Baie des Français. The explorer Champlain named the island, île des Monts Deserts, but he did not name the bay, and it is unlikely that the English would have recognized the French by naming a bay after them. Since the beginning of the 17th century our large bay to the east was named by the French la Baie Françoise, French Bay, but the name was changed by the English to "Bay of Fundy." I believe the name Frenchman Bay served as a warning to passing English ships, just as the name Machias was a warning to passing Native American canoes. The later meaning "bad little falls," a blind 20-foot drop into ledges, from flat water upstream, in the Machias River.
CD: There are conflicting schools as to how the name Mount Desert Island is pronounced. Is the accent on the first syllable of Desert or on the second?
RG: The natives of the island, myself included, place the accent on the second syllable, Mount Desért Island. The Bar Harbor street that we came in on is Mount Desért Street, and one of the towns on the island is called Mount Desért. Many of us put an "s" on the end of Frenchman Bay, as Mainers often do on place names. As you know, Samuel Champlain and Sieur du Monts, named a number of our Downeast Maine landmarks 400 years ago.
CD: Isle au Haut?
RG: Right, and another island 65 nautical miles east of MDI, called St. Croix Island. The island is in the United States, but both sides of the border are celebrating its 400th anniversary as the first French settlement in North America, 1604-2004. The Passamaquoddy Tribe from Maine is participating. My great grandmother, Olouisa Gay, was a Passamaquoddy. The Abbe Museum here in Bar Harbor features Passamaquoddy heritage and lots of Native American cultural items, including baskets for sale.
CD: We seem to have drifted away from the German U-boats.
RG: Not entirely. There was a POW camp with over 300 prisoners concealed by the U.S. Army on Passamaquoddy tribal land. In a second book which I am putting together for publication this year, I have chapters on other U-boats and other spies, including a spy mission to free some German POWs.
CD: Amazing how so much is still buried in secrecy after six decades.
RG: People were warned not to talk, and they didnt. "Loose-lips-sink-ships" posters were everywhere. Even now it is not easy to get old-timers to talk. In my upcoming book are chapters on German "fifth column" activities, individuals or cells operating behind the lines, in this case in North America.
CD: What about South America?
RG: I am not including South America. Too far to research, and too many agents!
Actually there was a South America connection with our Frenchman Bay spies. But Im getting ahead of the story. Let me back up to November 1944.
CD: Can you tell our readers exactly what took place?
RG: To tell it all would fill your entire paper, but Ill give you the highlights as I have pieced it together from original sources. At about 10 pm the coning tower of U-1230 broke water off the west side of Crabtree Neck near a spot known as Sunset Ledge. It was snowing lightly on Frenchman Bay as the submarine surfaced just enough to expose the machinegun platforms aft of the coning tower. A rubber boat was pulled through the hatch and inflated on the bridge.
CD: Machinegun platforms?
RG: The subs 20mm and 37mm guns were ready to cover the landing. The next day, November 30, being the last day of Maine deer-hunting season, rifles were cleaned and oiled, and local hunters were early to bed. Were any illegal night-hunters out prowling? Imagine the racket, with ack-ack fire echoing across the bay, if there had been a deer rifle gunshot on the beach. The plan was to have the spies row ashore and haul the boat back with a pull line, but it was too choppy for them to handle the boat. Two uniformed crewmen manned the oars and made for the beach carrying the spies in street clothes. The snow provided good cover and dampened sounds, but as they approached shore a dog began to bark. They went quickly back to the submarine and returned with sausages from the galley. One can only imagine sausage links hanging from their pockets as two German spies made their way off the beach and through the woods to a rural road leading to Route 1.
CD: Is that where they were spotted?
RG: Yes, but first here is an historic moment that may outlast the whole spy affair. The two sailors who rowed the boat ashore, I believe are the only enemy in uniform to set foot on U.S. soil in the 20th century. Exclude Alaska, which was not yet a state, and Poncho Villas raiders, who were irregulars not in uniform. The two German sailors, named Fritz and Konrad, jumped onto the beach and flashed a salute before rowing back to the sub to brag to their crewmen.
CD: When were the spies spotted?
RG: At about 11:15pm a 17 year old high school senior, named Harvard Hodgkins, was driving home from a dance he had just left with a girlfriend. A short distance below an intersection called Lounders Corner, he spotted two men walking up the road. They were dressed in topcoats and carried suitcases. A short distance down the road he saw that their tracks in the snow disappeared into the woods. Hodgkins was a Boy Scout and a rabbit hunter familiar with the woods and trails on Grabtree Neck. The two strangers tracks went down an old woods road that led to the shore by Sunset Ledge. Meanwhile, the two walked a mile further up the road when a second car came along heading south. By now it was snowing harder, and the driver, a housewife named Mary Forni, thought of stopping to offer a ride, but the two men did not look up or wave, so she keep on driving. This is probably a good thing, because they were armed with Colt .32 pistols. After weeks in a cramped U-boat, followed by a forced march with luggage in a snowstorm, Marys car might have been a convenience difficult to resist. Mr. Forni, a local school teacher, did not share his wifes concern about the late-night strangers. Little could anyone imagine that a 250 foot submarine was in town with a crew of over fifty German sailors.
CD: So they were noticed wearing city duds and carrying suitcases.
RG: If a tenet, no pun intended, of spy tradecraft is language-area expertise, the two spoke English okay, of course Colepaugh was an American, but suit clothes were not in fashion in rural Maine during hunting season. Mary Forni told me that if they had been carrying hunting rifles she might not have given a second thought. Topcoats and German Mausers might have worked, but topcoats and German sausages was definitely not the Downeast look.
CD: So what happened next?
RG: What happened next raises an interesting point, one that journalists and historians have missed completely. They continued walking another three miles until they reached Route 1 shortly after midnight, and they caught a ride to Bangor. The point that was missed has to do with their cover story. Every spy must have a cover story, a "legend" to use a word we borrowed from the KGB. A question nagging the FBI in 1944 must have been, how did two enemy agents get a ride on a deserted road in the middle of the night to meet a train fifty miles away?
CD: And how did they?
RG: They took a cab! After Billy and Erich waved good-by to Fritz and Konrad, they hiked some four miles. It was around 12:30am EST on November 30 when they reached U.S. Route 1 in Hancock. Sausage links hanging from their pocket, two Colt .32s tucked into an overnight bag with $60,000 U.S. cash and a bag of diamonds, they were resting by the old village watering trough when along comes a taxi. Real world espionage and covert ops do not always follow a James Bond script. But the point missed all these years is that their city clothes were part of their cover story. The plan was to pass as stranded motorists, and it worked. They flag down a taxi and jump in. Paradoxically, the taxi was coming from the Navy radio station at Schoodic Point, where it had just taken a group of sailors back to base. U.S. military out, German agents in! Stopping at the taxi stand on Main Street in Ellsworth for a phone call, the driver got the ok from the taxi owner to take the stranded pair to Bangor for a $6.00 fare. Waiting at a taxi stand in Bangor, for a ride to the U.S. Coast Guard station at Southwest Harbor were more sailors. Spies out, sailors in!
CD: Where did all the sailors come from?
RG: The local bases were on alert, and being wartime all military personnel were in uniform, some armed with 45s. When the alert whistle blows all personnel have to report back to base ASAP. Why were the bases on alert? Ask Billy and Erich. Ironically, the only taxi within 50 miles was busy ferrying military personnel back to base, and enemy agents to catch a train! The two agents walked across the street with their luggage and caught the 2AM Portland train with 20 minutes to spare. Disinformation has a long shelf life. For decades the media and historians steadfastly reported that these two German agents were caught because of their city clothes in rural Maine.
RG: Another word we borrowed from the KGB. But first let me explain about their cover and their city clothes. Imagine two strangers dressed in red-and-black checkered jackets, fluorescent orange was not yet in, and claiming to be deer hunters. What do they say if asked to produce a hunting license? Where are they staying locally? What the heck are they doing out at 11pm? Jacking deer maybe? The truth is, their cover was perfect, and it worked without a hitch. They were visitors from the city whose car had broken down. They made a successful penetration of U.S. Army, Navy, and Coast Guard defenses, and advanced from the coast to a train station fifty miles away with time to spare.
CD: And it only cost six dollars...
RG: They took the train to Portland, had breakfast at the station, caught a train to Boston, spent the night, and next day caught a train to New York.
CD: Shades of 9/11.
RG: Indeed. Substitute plane for train and you have two of the 9/11 terrorist saboteurs. Although there has been controversy on who spotted the spies, the local deputy sheriff, who happened to be Harvard Hodgkins father, was notified on his return from a hunting trip the following day, December 1st. The FBI office in Bangor was duly informed, and the two men spotted on the road were assumed to be spies who came ashore from a submarine. Now Ill explain the disinformation, which is a handy tool in the tradecraft of counter-intelligence. On January 1, 1945, FBI director Hoover announced the "capture" of Gimpel and Colepaugh. The young Boy Scout who saw them on the road was flown to New York and feted by the national media. This announced to Germany that their spies would be caught coming to America, and it focused their attention on a clever Boy Scout and away from anything else, especially Enigma machines. While it was not the U-boats radio traffic that led to the spies capture, Germany did not know this.
CD: Im beginning to see what they mean by "wilderness of mirrors."
RG: News headlines of the day read: "Boys keen eyes, womans intuition led to capture of two German spies." The truth is, Forni and Hodgkins were not in any way responsible for the agents arrest. Gimpel and Colepaugh were footloose and fancy-free in New York City for a month, until Colepaugh ratted out the operation. The fact is that Colepaugh tried to abscond with the $60,000 operating funds, and when this failed he went to the FBI with a phony double-agent story, and gave up Gimpels identity and whereabouts in the city. More important than who saw the spies, was the FBIs wartime disinformation ploy that convinced everyone it was a sharp-eyed Boy Scout, and not U-Boat radio traffic, that alerted the U.S. Navy to their arrival. Harvard Hodgkins received a scholarship to the Maine Maritime Academy, became a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Marine, and a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. The housewife, Mrs. Mary Forni, who had a husband and three young children at home, also made headlines in the newspapers, and was honored at a reception given by the town of Hancock and presented with a $100 war bond for her part in the historic event.
CD: What about the local military bases that were on alert?
RG: It was known from Enigma decrypts that U-1230 was in the area on a special operation mission like that of her sister-sub U-1229 which had been spotted and sunk before it reached the Gulf of Maine. The Enigma intel source was so tightly controlled by the Office of Naval Intelligence that local defenses could not be informed the reason they were on alert. Yet the fact is that the Enigma decrypts were no more responsible for Gimpel and Colepaughs roll-up than was the Boy Scout and housewife. Espionage is a tricky business, and nowhere is this more manifest than in counterintelligence, spying on them trying to catch us spying on them, indeed! The commander of the Winter Harbor Navy Base was told to be on alert for suspicious activities but was not told the source or any details why. After the landing it was rumored in the village that "three spies" had been seen on Crabtree Neck, and three is what he reported to Washington. There was no "third man" on board U-1230. However, that is not the end of the Frenchman Bay spy story. This and other U-boat special operations missions are revealed in depth in my upcoming book on the subject of agents ashore.
CD: What about the Enigma machine?
RG: A lot has been written about how the British crypto-center Bletchley Park broke the Enigma. The truth is BP tried but was unable to break the German cipher machine. The Enigma was cracked by three Polish intel officers, cryptanalysts. One in particular, a brilliant mathematician named Marian Rejewski. He also invented the so-called "bombe" an actual analog computer designed to recover Enigma rotor key settings. Yup, a 1930s "Polish Computer," but BP seems to have gotten credit for this too.
The invention was expanded and modernized for faster operating speed and mass-produced both at BP and US Arny and Navy, particularly the Navy. More than a hundred were built by the National Cash Register company and operated round the clock at a Navy installation in DC. In my opinion, and this is shared by many others, the Enigma intelligence produced, won the war.
CD: Won the war?
RG: It's a long story. There are those who believe, and maybe I am among them, that without the Enigma the war might even have been, God forbid, lost. I believe Marian Rejewski deserves to be on a U.S. postage stamp!
CD: What is your Polish connection?
RG: Well, in the 1950s I was taught Russian by an expatriate Polish Count. But whoa, we are getting off the subject.
CD: What about the real mission of the Frenchman Bay spies?
RG: ELSTER is German for magpie, the noisy bird. Had this mission not been blown by Colepaugh, there would have been much noise. The two agents were not here as ordinary spies, as was reported by the FBI and echoed ever since by the press and historians. They were here as saboteurs.
CD: Theres a difference?
RG: The métier of a spy is espionage, collecting and reporting foreign intelligence, but the job of a saboteur is to destroy things, bridges, tunnels, power lines, buildings, etc. A spy collects info and reports it, and a saboteur makes things go boom. Spies are often assigned covert operations missions such as industrial sabotage.
CD: Which American industries were they after?
RG: Earlier sabotage agents landed by submarine on Long Island and Florida beaches were here to blow up key factories and railroad stations. Another target was the Niagara Falls hydroelectric power complex which could have knocked out the eastern power grid. Another target was the New York City water supply system. The book published last May (see Photo Gallery) describes how this sabotage operation, codenamed PASTORIUS, was blown in a similar manner to operation Elster.
CD: What were the operation Elster targets?
RG: What was the most strategic U.S. industrial target in 1944? It was no secret to intelligence services both sides of the Atlantic, that the side with atomic weapons wins the war. Dating from 1938 Germany had an atomic fission lab at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, and in 1939 the German army took it over. In 1940 Germany seized a heavy-water production plant, located in Norway, and by 1942 they had a working atomic reactor, using uranium with heavy-water as a moderator.
CD: The Elster target was our Manhattan Project!
RG: Exactly. The British commando raids on Germanys heavy water supply in Norway had demonstrated that heavy-water was the weak link. No heavy-water, no bomb. In addition to the Oak Ridge complex, and other Manhattan Project facilities, a first sabotage target may have been an MIT radiation lab working on heavy-water for the uranium bomb developed at Oak Ridge, the one dropped over Hiroshima.
CD: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
RG: It was a premise I was exploring months before I found Gimpel and Colepaugh. Back when I was a student in college, a physicist from Bangor, Maine told me that he had worked on the spectrum of heavy-water at a secret MIT laboratory, and that his work was a prerequisite for the first atomic bomb. I knew from my own research that Colepaugh, before he defected to Germany, had been a student at MIT. A secret radiation lab, that developed advanced U.S. radar technology at MIT, eventually became public knowledge, but information on an MIT radiation lab working on heavy-water at Cambridge or Waltham may be so calcified under decades of secrecy, it will require a team of archaeologists to identify.
CD: So the mission of the Frenchman Bay spies proves to be more exciting.
RG: In 1945 the FBI advised the press, and it was written into history books, that Gimpel and Colepaugh were sent here to spy on the U.S. military and political strategy toward Germany.
CD: Did anyone not know where our troops were after D-day in 1944?
RG: Exactly. And carpet bombing of cities like Dresden, Germanys strategic dishware center, left little doubt about the Churchill-Roosevelt political strategy toward Germany. So I presumed that the Frenchman Bay spies were here on a critical mission, a last ditch operation, and I began to collect and connect random "dots of data."
CD: What were some of the data that you connected?
RG: A) That prior agents landed by submarine were saboteurs not spies. B) That they had specific U.S. targets to destroy. C) That Gimpel and Colepaugh were trained in the use of explosive materials before they left Germany. D) That Gimpel had been on a counter-intelligence mission in Norway against the British operation that sabotaged German heavy-water production. E) That there was a heavy-water research lab at MIT. F) That it had a connection with the Oak Ridge uranium bomb. G) That Colepaugh had been a student at MIT. These separate pieces of information were decades old, but I saw it as current intel.
CD: Then what did you do?
RG: I presumed the Frenchman Bay spies were not spies but saboteurs. There is also a crime-and-punishment difference between a spy and a saboteur. Saboteurs may be considered combatants, and held as POWs, but once in custody a spys options are few. I call the choices the 3Ds, disinformation, defection, or death.
CD: How could their mission to sabotage the atom bomb be hidden so long?
RG: Would Gimpel have revealed his true mission to his FBI interrogators in January 1945? Even if he had, it would not have been recorded.
CD: Why is that?
RG: The Manhattan Project was a special compartmented top secret in 1945. Gimpels interrogators would not have been privy to such high level national intelligence. I doubt if they had ever heard of an atomic bomb. After the crime-and-punishment oriented FBI questioned him, Gimpel was visited on death row by kinder-gentler OSS officers, the forerunner of the CIA. He refused their offers. Current events notwithstanding, the intelligence business is supposed to be based not on politics but on facts. As did his bosses in the German intelligence service, Adm. Canaris and Gen. Schellenberg, Gimpel viewed Hitler as a dangerous lunatic. Yet like most of us in wartime, he was loyal to his country.
CD: What about the South America connection you mentioned earlier?
RG: Gimpel was in New York City to rendez-vous with agents from South America. There was a newsstand in midtown Manhattan that sold foreign newspapers and periodicals, a perfect spot to meet foreign agents. Do you know what a "brush contact" is in the jargon of espionage tradecraft?
CD: I can guess.
RG: Lets say you are an agent arriving from South America. You have a copy of Life magazine under your arm. I am your contact person and have just bought a Time magazine at the newsstand. As I walk away we brush in passing, and I walk off with Life under my arm, and you walk off with Time.
CD: How do I know it is you?
RG: Perhaps by my physical description, plus the Time magazine, but the standard method is a "recognition signal." I might carefully drop my change with my left hand into the lapel pocket of my suit coat. This is similar to what Gimpel was doing on December 30th when a special agent whom I know named Allan and his partner, staked him out at the news stand in Manhattan after Colepaugh gave him up to the FBI.
CD: Where are the two spies today?
RG: I found Colepaugh in Pennsylvania, but he has since moved. He is not well, and I am reluctant to disclose his location. Gimpel moved back to South America where he had once served prior to his visit to our shores. He was not a war criminal, and he and I have become sort of pen-pals. Let me finish telling you about the plaque project.
CD: What are the plans? What happens next?
RG: Unfortunately the National Park Service denied permission for a plaque in the park. While the spy landing was deemed an important event in U.S. history, it was not considered to be part of the national parks history. Another suitable location is being sought, either for an all-weather information panel, or perhaps a larger interior display. Bar Harbor will hopefully be the venue. November 29th will mark the 60th anniversary. Erich Gimpel is 94 and has recently undergone eye surgery. If transportation can be arranged he may be able to make the trip, accompanied by family members, to revisit Frenchman Bay after 60 years. For him it would have to be during warmer weather before November. Announcements will be made if and when a date is firm. [Update, Dec.2006: the plaque will be in place but Erich Gimpel, now nearly 97 years old, is unable to make the trip].
Postscript: Richard Gay, a native of Bar Harbor, currently lives in Blue Hill where he runs a B&B, a veritable spy museum from his postings overseas as a covert operative. www.inn-guide-tenneyhill.com. He is a former NSA operations officer and CIA covert operative. You can find him in Blue Hill at www.inn-guide-tenneyhill.com, Tel. 207/374-2169. He is an alumnus of Lafayette College, lUniversité Laval (Quebec), University of Maine, and University of Maryland graduate school. He speaks European, East European, and Asian languages, and has instructed foreign languages at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, and Husson College in Bangor. He is a member of the University of Maine recruiting ambassador and Maine mentor programs for Orono campus. He is a solo pilot and member of the Bar Harbor Squadron, Civil Air Patrol.
UPDATE: The official 60th anniversary of the WW-II landing at Hancock Point was observed by the town of Hancock on November 12th 2004 followed by a reception sponsored by the Hancock Historical Society. As guest speaker Richard Gay gave a 1-hour presentation, with display panels of photos, letters, charts and declassified documents, to a standing-room audience at the Hancock Community Center. [Update, Dec.2006: The historic plaque and information panels will be in place early in the year, and will be on view for the 2007 summer season in Bar Harbor.]