A Jewish-Rumanian immigrant and German agent, James Manoil, became the front man in the management of the munitions contract for twelve million cartridges with the Western Cartridge Company. Manoil suddenly appeared in May 1915 as the contact for Franklin Olin for Villa's munitions orders. Manoil deposited call-off payments of between 35,000 and 50,000 Dollars (between 700,000 and 1 Million Dollars in today's value) throughout the summer with Sommerfeld's accounts in St. Louis, who then forwarded them to the Western Cartridge Company.
Who was this mysterious agent? Manoil was twenty-seven years old and worked with his brother Maurice (or Morris according to Census records) in a suite on 60 Wall Street, New York. James Manoil and Company produced a “manophone [phonograph] and other musical instruments.” Likely on a secret mission for Karl Boy-Ed, Manoil travelled to Argentina in January 1915. The trip coincided with the end of the remaining German fleet at the battle of Falkland, as a result of which hundreds of German sailors were stranded in Argentina. Not much more is known about Manoil, other than he did not possess significant wealth.
According to a statement by the Assistant Treasurer of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, “concerning Mr. James Manoil …we have known him for some time and have extended him accommodation in small amounts on notes …We have never had a statement of his financial affairs, but we are inclined to think his means are moderate.” This man purchased several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of munitions from the Western Cartridge Company in the next weeks. Manoil’s address also happened to be that of the office of the German military attaché, Franz von Papen.
Von Papen’s offices housed the management of the Bridgeport Projectile Company which German secret agents had purchased in the spring through a frontman. The manager behind the scenes was the German naval intelligence agent Carl Heynen, the former HAPAG representative in Mexico, former German consul in Tampico, and right hand of Heinrich Albert. Heynen moved to the U.S. in the spring of 1915 after his assignment to supply the remnants of the German fleet in the Atlantic had ended. The munitions plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, never produced anything. Heynen's main job was managing the purchase of smokeless powder, hydraulic presses, and other items that would create shortages in the American munitions industry. In addition, the German agent hired skilled workers away from the Remington plant next door. As a result, hourly wages rose dramatically and munitions' cost increased, further hurting the Allies.
Although the person behind Manoil's endeavor has never been identified, Carl Heynen was von Papen and Albert's ideal go-to person to help with the orders at Western Cartridge Company. Heynen was not only a well-honed manager, he knew Mexico and Mexican culture better than anyone, was an experienced logistics man, and a personal friend of Felix Sommerfeld. It is safe to assume that Manoil’s main purpose in 1915 was to lend his name and business as a cover for the Secret War Council and Carl Heynen in particular.
Authorities missed their greatest chance to uncover the machinations of the German secret service in the United States in the summer of 1915. There is no other conclusion than to call the failure of U.S. authorities to investigate James Manoil one of the greatest intelligence blunders in the World War. The German-Rumanian frontman would have been easy to investigate. There was only one person with that name in the United States. A quick visit to his office on 60 Wall Street would have revealed that this person neither had the funds nor the wherewithal to buy millions of cartridges in the United States. Shadowing the man would have revealed his work for Franz von Papen and the Secret War Council. The link between Villa and von Papen that the MID and B.I. records fully documented would have uncovered Sommerfeld’s responsibilities and would have likely led to his arrest long before the attack on Columbus, New Mexico in March 1916 occurred.
The Military Intelligence Division investigated Manoil in 1918 after he had moved to Mexico. The American military attaché interviewed him, found him to be “very shrewd, intelligent [,] not well educated… of a rather aggressive character.” Investigators never connected Manoil with Sommerfeld, De La Garza, or the German government despite the documentation they had on the fifteen and the twelve million cartridge contracts. Researchers, as well, failed to understand Manoil’s role as a cover for German secret agents. James Manoil and his brother started the very successful Manoil Manufacturing Company in the 1920s which produced toy soldiers, a valued collector's item to this day.
This blog series will trace the events that led to Villa's attack on Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916 in weekly segments. On March 12, I will speak at Columbus for the Centennial Commemoration of the raid and reveal how Villa was made to believe that attacking the United States was a good idea. If you get impatient and do not want to wait for eight months to learn the facts behind Columbus, buy Felix A. Sommerfeld and the Mexican Front in the Great War now.