Thomas J. Tunney_
Nineteen and Nineteen_
The Uncovering of a Bomb Plot_
>> _ Evidently a toast to the brotherhood for which it was prepared. It was a pamphlet of some sixty pages, measuring about four by eight inches, and cleanly printed in Italian. It was nothing less than a text-book on how to go about making bombs—a sort of guide to anarchist etiquette. It would be unwise to reproduce its instructions here in detail, as they were too accurate for the general peace, but the index which follows will give a conception of the thoroughness with which the anonymous writers in far-off Italy covered their subject.
Inspector Tunney’s Squad was formed early in August, 1914, to specialize in organized crimes of violence. It did some radically effective work against Black Handers, and handled several cases against domestic enemies of law and order, but as time wore on and war developed, the Squad’s energies became directed solely against the nefarious activities of Germans among us.
Inspector Tunney is a most skilful detective, resourceful, persistent, understanding human nature, a good leader. He picked a squad of fearless, tireless men, who not only worked long and hard, but showed marked skill and tact. They proved themselves to be Americans all the way through, aggressive, loyal, bound to put the job through, no matter what the difficulties might be. They were occupied in hunting out Germans who were outraging our neutrality; and then—after we finally started to make war against those who had so long been warring against us, on the high seas and in our very midst—they set to work to thwart and capture active German enemies. The results they got went far toward making it possible to maintain order in New York during those months and years which were full of such menace to the safety of the city, when the national danger seemed so plain—so increasingly plain—and the national military strength was so woefully weak. In many cases the Inspector worked in coöperation with one or more of the Federal Secret Service forces. The Federal work was seriously hampered, however, at first by hopelessly inadequate organization, and, later, by the existence of several entirely distinct forces, instead of one powerful, unified body.
Inspector Tunney has written a most interesting book. Much of what he tells I knew about at the time, from conference with him, or with Major Scull, Colonel Biddle, or Major Potter, and some of the events described I had intimate knowledge of because of personal attention to the cases. Some, however, I personally know nothing about, as they have taken place since I left the Department on January 1, 1918. And a vast amount of good work, of real public service, was done by Inspector Tunney and his men that is not touched upon in this book, that probably will never be written, since, though of great value to the public peace, it lacks some of the dramatic features which characterize the tales that are told.
No one can read the book without seeing how brutally active our enemies were here in this country, even while we were at peace with them, how they flouted our neutrality brazenly and contemptuously, how they busied themselves through their accredited officials and their many secret agents in trying to paralyze our industrial life. Their deliberate effort was to prevent the shipment of all vital supplies to the Allies, and they sought this end by fomenting labor troubles, by burning factories, by blowing up ships. It mattered not the slightest to them that in this kind of activity they destroyed the property of a people at peace with them, nor did they give a deterring thought to the fact that they were maiming and killing human beings with their burnings and blastings. It did concern them, however, to keep things dark, to work under cover, so that they might continue this underhanded war against us without being found out. It was the warfare of the savage, who knows not fair play, who is guided by no rules or customs, who strikes down his enemy in the dark, from behind.
The lessons to America are clear as day. We must not again be caught napping with no adequate national Intelligence organization. The several Federal bureaus should be welded into one, and that one should be eternally and comprehensively vigilant. We must be wary of strange doctrine, steady in judgment, instinctively repelling those who seek to poison public opinion. And our laws should be amended so that while they give free scope to Americans for untrammeled expression of differences of opinion and theory and belief, they forbid and prevent the enemy plotter and propagandist.
There was another part of the Squad’s work, which had to do not with foreign, but with domestic, enemies. The industrial condition of unemployment, which was so sharp in 1914 and 1915, was exploited by those who believed in propaganda by violence, hoping to find eager and bitter listeners in the thousands who could not get work. To ameliorate the hardships of the situation the police in New York tried several plans which were at that time rather new as police methods. They found jobs for people; they afforded relief in cases of distress from funds, more than half of which were subscribed by policemen. When street meetings were held and excitement ran high, they held unswervingly to the line of conduct mapped out for them. They not merely permitted free assemblage but protected meetings so long as they kept the laws; and the law was kept if the meeting did not incite to violence or obstruct the highways. In case of threatened violence, action, prompt and strong, was taken to prevent it. Order must be maintained. Inspector Tunney’s Squad were actively engaged here, not in trying to bottle up the preachers of any particular doctrine, but simply in finding out who were the plotters of violent deeds and bringing them to justice.
I believe the police methods in these times were wholesome and effective, and are the right ones to follow in times of public excitement and industrial disturbances. They make it clear in practice that leeway will be given to all for the full exercise of their lawful rights; and equally clear that adequate means will be taken to prevent recourse to unlawful measures. In many places in this country where serious disorder and bloodshed have come to pass, the trouble seems to have been fostered, at least, by the denial to groups of people of some of their lawful rights.
I hope this book will help to teach another lesson also: the need in our police forces of brains and high morale; the need of cultivating the professional spirit in them, that shall dignify the work, shall banish political influence and all other influences that go to break the heart of the policeman who tries to do his plain duty; the need of having the public take an intelligent interest in police methods and results, doing away with the smoke-screens of mystery and concealment which are traditionally employed to cover dishonesty or incompetency.
Arthur Woods_ February, 1919_
The First of Chapters_
The Bomb Squad_
For the past twenty-three years I have been a member of the police department of the City of New York. It is a long time, in any single job. The department is comparable in size to a manufacturing establishment of the first magnitude—it employs more than ten thousand men—and its occupations are varied enough to suit the inclinations and ambitions of any man. And so I went through the mill, graduating from one duty to another until in 1914 I was an acting captain, and had been in charge of various branches of the Detective Bureau in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
My duty was the detection of crime, my specialty, meaning by that the special branch of crime with which I had been most often thrown into contact, was bomb-explosions. As far back as 1904 there were a number of mysterious explosions in New York which caused considerable property2damage, and there I made the acquaintance of the bomb itself. It was an interesting subject for study, and a wicked weapon in use. I managed to pick up information of bomb-manufacture in several ways: Black-Handers, in prison, told me how they had made their missiles; at the New York office of the Du Pont explosives company I had an opportunity to study blasting; the publications of the Bureau of Mines furnished more information, the practice of the Bureau of Combustibles of our own department proved interesting and instructive, and I found myself before long forced to become something of a student of chemistry.
The difference between our work and the work of the laboratory chemist, however, was that in our case there was no time to make an explosive mixture and test it—some criminal usually had done that for us, and we were called to the scene to find out, from such clues as the wreckage afforded, the name and address of the criminal. The laboratory chemist mixes ingredients and counts his work done at the moment of explosion; the detective begins at that moment a stern chase, and a long one, back to the ingredients and the man who mixed them.
By the early part of 1914 I had seen a good deal of experience in tracing bomb outrages to certain of the anarchistic and Black Hand elements in the population of the city. As the year wore on these occurrences became so numerous as to warrant special attention, and on August 1, the approximate date of the outbreak of war in Europe, Police Commissioner Arthur Woods created in the police department the Bomb Squad. I was in command, and reported direct to the Commissioner. As the volume of work increased, and more men were taken on, the Commissioner delegated his supervision of the Bomb Squad to Guy Scull, who was then Fifth Deputy Police Commissioner, and who is now a major in the United States Army. That supervision was later passed on to Nicholas Biddle, a Special Deputy Commissioner, who, as I write this, is lieutenant-colonel in the United States Army, in charge of the Military Intelligence Bureau in New York; and following Mr. Biddle, Fuller Potter, another special Deputy Commissioner, and now a major in the Military Intelligence, directed the policies of the Squad.
Within a few months the personnel of the Bomb Squad included the following picked men: George D. Barnitz, Amedeo Polignani, Henry Barth, George P. Gilbert, Edward Caddell, Patrick J. Walsh, Jerome Murphy, James J.4Coy, Valentine Corell, James Sterett, Henry Senff, Michael Santaniello, Joseph Fenelly, Joseph Kiley, Charles Wallace, William Randolph, Thomas Jenkins, and Anthony Terra—all detective sergeants, and George Busby, a lieutenant. To this list were added the names of James Murphy, Robert Morris, Thomas J. Ford, Walter Culhane, Vincent E. Hastings, Thomas J. Cavanagh, Louis B. Snowden, Thomas M. Goss, Daniel F. Collins, Frederick Mazer, Edward J. Maher, Walter Price, William McCahill, and Cornelius J. Sullivan. It made a list of fine material for the work which we were called upon to do, and no one will begrudge me here a word of tribute to their aptitude, their courage—to all of the qualities which made them such able and vigilant guardians of the neutrality of our country during the years preceding our entrance into the war. Many of the Bomb Squad went to war later: Barnitz became a junior lieutenant in the United States Navy, in intelligence work of a high order. Barth, Caddell, Corell, Fenelly, Jenkins, Walsh, Sterett, Santaniello, Randolph, James Murphy, Morris, Ford, Culhane, Hastings, Cavanagh, Snowden, Goss, Collins, Price, Mazer, Maher, McCahill and Sullivan became sergeants in the Corps of Intelligence5Police of the National Army. And after I became connected with the Military Intelligence Branch of the War Department, I had frequent occasion to deal during the war in coöperation with the men whom I have mentioned in service.
My first desire in taking charge of the Squad was to suppress the activities of persons using explosives to destroy life and property. What knowledge of the physics and chemistry of explosives my experience had accumulated I passed on to the men. These periods of instruction went into considerable detail. We discussed the kinds of explosives used, their relative strength, their ingredients, the methods of detonating them, the containers into which they were loaded, and the use of clockwork, fuses, acids and gas-pressure to explode them. Special and explicit instruction was given for the handling of unexploded bombs—a bomb bearing an electrical attachment should not be placed in water, for example, as water is a conductor of electricity; it is wise never to smoke in the presence of explosives, even if you think you know that certain kinds of explosives “never explode by fire.” The only thing you can depend on explosives to do one hundred times out of one hundred, is what you don’t expect them to do. The Bomb Squad was told never to—and6why never to—carry bombs on passenger trains, cars or ferries, or anywhere near where metals were being shipped. The Bomb Squad was instructed not to remove a bomb found in a position where its explosion would not endanger life and property, but to send for an expert and wait until he arrived on the scene, and was told which positions were dangerous and which were not. Altogether we conducted a rather thorough course in explosives.
As the war grew in proportions, and the interest of America in the conflict became more and more intimate, the activities of the Bomb Squad became somewhat diverted from the object for which it had been primarily organized, and its title was changed to the “Bomb and Neutrality Squad.” We had not expected in August that the German would try to tip over our neutrality with bombs, but that is what he did, and that is what kept us grimly busy for three years, until our own nation had gone to war with those who had so long been waging war upon her. And that is how the stories which follow come to be told.
Not that the entrance of the United States into the war put a stop to the activities of the Squad. I have already cited those who entered the national7service. Their presence in the Naval and Military Intelligence, their close relations with those whom they left behind in headquarters, with such men as Commander Spencer Eddy and Lieutenant Albert Fish of the Navy, Colonel Biddle and Major Potter of the Army, and with the Corps of Intelligence Police, made possible a degree of coöperation in spy-hunting in New York which would have been impossible to develop within a short time with any other set of men, and which went far towards preserving our domestic security.
We are not dealing here with possibilities but with facts, yet I cannot sometimes help speculating on the extent to which German atrocities might have been carried in New York and Canada, if we had not found a bartender with a good memory in that saloon.
Mere possession of this wicked treatise would suggest that the owner was up to no good, especially if the owner, as in this case, was known to be a volatile member of an anarchistic circle who had already declared his intentions of wrecking something.