Horst von der Goltz, a colorful German secret service agent became known in the United States in 1916 as a saboteur. Von der Goltz alias Franz Wachendorf went to Buffalo, New York with three other sabotage agents in the fall of 1914. The German agents were armed with two suitcases of dynamite and had orders to blow up the Welland Canal linking Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. The destruction of the locks in this canal would have created havoc for the downstream communities but might have delayed the deployment of Canadian expeditionary forces to Europe. The plot fell apart mainly because the Canadian military had thoroughly secured the locks since they had been earlier targets of sabotage. Von der Goltz in particular chickened out and returned to New York. He asked his superior, German military attaché and future German chancellor Franz von Papen, to provide funds for returning to Europe. Von Papen complied. After that the story becomes slightly murky. Von der Goltz wrote in his memoirs that he went to Germany, received new orders and on his way back to the US was picked up by the British. It is far more likely that he never made it to Germany, but gave himself up to British authorities at Falmouth. In any case, von der Goltz returned to the United States in 1916 as a star witness of the prosecution against Franz von Papen and other sabotage agents. Despite his admission of being a German sabotage agent, he never went to prison and, according to historian Barbara Tuchman, spent the rest of his life in New York.
As with so many German secret agents in the northern hemisphere in World War I, von der Goltz' career also was closely linked to Felix A. Sommerfeld. As a matter of fact, Sommerfeld directed his activities in 1913 and likely was instrumental in bringing the agent to New York once the war began. Von der Goltz was not the agent's real name but an alias that to this day provokes an angry rebuke from the famous military family of the same name in Germany. Born in Koblenz, Germany in 1884, Franz R. Wachendorf had a German middle class upbringing. It does not seem that he ever studied or acquired a profession. Rather, just like so many of his generation including Sommerfeld, he went to the US to seek his fortune. Just like Sommerfeld he ended up in the US military, from which he, just like Sommerfeld, deserted. In March 1913, as the Mexican Revolution ravaged Northern Mexico, the German consul of Chihuahua, Otto Kueck (on the run from Pancho Villa in El Paso) sent Wachendorf to Sommerfeld who assigned him on missions for the Mexican secret service. What exactly Wachendorf did is unknown other than the highly inflated claims of exploding locomotives, haranguing stories of enemy capture and flight in his memoirs. As soon as the war broke out in August 1914, Sommerfeld moved to New York for his wartime assignments. There he reported to Karl Boy-Ed, the German naval attache, and worked closely with the German agent and arms dealer Captain Hans Tauscher. At the same time, Wachendorf also showed up in New York. Tauscher, clearly in touch with Wachendorf, organized the explosives for the Welland Canal mission and the rest is history.
Well, almost. There is one unanswered question: When did Wachendorf switch loyalties to England, or did he? An intriguing theory that has not been verified through English archival documents is that Wachendorf indeed was a British secret agent from the get go who infiltrated the German naval intelligence as early as 1913. Just a theory. All the known puzzle pieces, the approach of Sommerfeld in 1913, the abandoned Welland Canal plot, the subsequent ratting out of the entire German secret service in the US, and his staying out of prison after the US joined Great Britain in the war make perfect sense if Wachendorf indeed worked for British naval intelligence.