The Prussian Junker cut quite a dashing figure. Tall, handsome, and thin, the officer made a splash in New York’s social scene. When von Papen was assigned to become Military Attache in the United States and Mexico during World War I, his wife remained in Germany,

Franz von Papen around 1914

Franz von Papen around 1914

Franz von Papen remains a highly controversial figure to this day, despised by some as a ruthless war criminal, considered a man of limited intelligence by others, and a statesman by few. The son of Friedrich von Papen zu Koeningen and Anna Laura von Steffens grew up on a large estate in Werl in the province of Westphalia. Keeping with tradition among noble families, the first son inherited the estate, the second joined the military. At the tender age of twelve, the Papens sent their son to several boarding military academies. After graduation from Gymnasium, the young aristocrat joined the Düsseldorf Cavalry School as a lieutenant in the elite 5th Uhlan Regiment. An expert horseman, the cavalry sent him to the Hanover Cavalry Riding School in 1902 through which he represented the German army in international competitions.

Von Papen acquired a good knowledge of the English language during this time period, since he spent considerable time competing in Great Britain. He married Martha von Boch-Gelbau in 1905 with whom he fathered five children. Professionally, the ambitious young cavalry officer advanced his career when the army admitted him to the General Staff School in Berlin in 1908. The now thirty-four year-old Papen completed his training in March of 1913, and briefly joined the Great General Staff of the Army as a captain. The army assigned the staff officer to the embassies of Mexico and Washington as military attaché in December of that year. He arrived in the United States in the spring of 1914. Subsequently, he spent several months in Mexico and witnessed the American occupation of Veracruz in April 1914. World War I broke out while von Papen was still in Mexico. In order to take charge of his wartime assignment he rushed back to Washington in the beginning of August.

A progress report dated March 17th 1915 proves that von Papen did become active immediately after the sabotage order arrived in the United States...

Read more in The Secret War on the United States in 1915