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Sea of Trouble: The World of 1940 at War

Sea of Trouble: The World of 1940 at War

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Sea of Trouble: The World of 1940 at War

170 pagine
2 ore
Jun 21, 2013


It's 1940, a world at war. President Roosevelt ordered America be neutral, though unofficially he knew the U.S. needed to prepare for war, especially for intelligence. He orders adviser Harry Hopkins, Treasury official Myles Finucane, unofficial FDR "fixer" and Wall St. lawyer Bill Donovan to survey the nation's needs. They meet with British and German intelligence heads with dangerous results.

Jun 21, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Edward C. Norton, author of more than 10 novels, was an award-winning reporter/editor in New Jersey and New York. He was named a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Norton left daily journalism to write about public affairs and business issues for Mobil Corporation in op-ed ads in Time, The New York Times and Reader’s Digest. He retired as communications manager from Hoechst Celanese Corporation. As a free lance, Norton has had articles published in various magazines, including New York. and the first daily internet newspaper on Cape Cod. His novel, Station Breaks , was published by Dell [1986] and The House: 1916, [1999] was also published by RavensYard. His novels have been published under pen names, such as Adrian Manning, Lane Carlson, West Straits and Ted Neachtain. Norton can be reached at

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Anteprima del libro

Sea of Trouble - Edward Norton


Chapter 1


So, how's your Nazi girlfriend?

Myles Fin Finucane lowered the latest Life magazine this March 1940 to his lap and looked up into the bright blue eyes of the husky man sitting across from him.

Colonel? Finucane asked, his eyes darting to and nodding at the two women seated nearby in the compartment. He saw that his questioner was serious. The fellow seldom if ever laughed, Finucane had found. Finucane made a show of closing the large weekly picture magazine. He knew he had to be careful in his reply. He looked toward the women; they looked like sisters. And one was a sister, a nun in full regalia. From overhearing their quiet conversation Finucane deduced they were returning to Eire, or just on vacation to visit the old folks.

Finucane leaned toward the other man. She's fine. We go dancing and we go to the movies.

Well, you won't be able to do that where we're going, the other man said.

Finucane grunted agreement. He hoped the noise from the four engines on the Boeing B-314 Flying Boat had garbled the question from William Donovan, his traveling partner. At least the question did not seem to interrupt the women's conversation.

Donovan did not smile at Finucane, rather he studied again the tall, thin, sandy-haired Treasury man with whom he had been asked to travel to England. Donovan had known Finucane for six months since the meeting with President Roosevelt. Donovan found Finucane all that FDR had told him—quiet, direct and above all, smart. Donovan knew that the last was important, otherwise Finucane would not be in the President's private circle.

Donovan stretched his legs, feeling his vest and belt tighten across his waist. He knew he would have to watch the meals in London. He turned to stare out the plane's small window at the gray Atlantic.

The Flying Boat operated by Pan-American Airways was in its sixth hour over the Atlantic, after a stop in St John, Newfoundland, for more fuel, and headed toward Iceland, and eventually Ireland after another twenty or so flying hours.

Finucane, a World War 1 Air Corps flyer, had never flown before in a plane as large as the B-314. After he and Donovan boarded at the seaplane dock at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, Finucane was surprised to see how spacious and comfortable the Flying Boat was. It had compartments, just as a ship might, for first-class and second-class passengers, a galley for meals, and aft, sleeping compartments. And sound muffling that allowed talk despite the constant roar of the four engines.

Is she good for much product? Donovan continued.

Finucane laughed at the question. Not much, colonel, she keeps telling me how great things are in Germany, and maybe I should go visit.

Maybe you should, Donovan replied. The Flying Boat bounced as it hit a side wind, causing the women in the compartment to clutch each other.

No need to worry, Donovan boomed to the women. Just a bit of turbulence.

Finucane did not like the turbulence. His stomach, upset by the rich sauce on the dinner steak, he had eaten an hour before, rumbled. Finucane knew he was prone to sea sickness, and this plane was beating its way through a sea of air over the cold Atlantic. It was spring but he knew from staring down at the waves that the ocean was not summer vacation warm. He was comforted by the knowledge that if there were mechanical failures, the B-314 could set down on those waves and wait for help.

How long the wait would be, he didn't want to guess.

Finucane picked up the Life to continue reading the article about the quiet war that had enveloped Europe after the German Blitzkrieg that had shocked Poland and the world in September 1939. After that, the Germans and Soviet Russians had carved up Poland. Then the Russians had tried unsuccessfully to invade neighbor, Finland, And since then the world , it seemed, settled down for a long winter nap.

The French and British expected brutal German assaults on the western front. The world, which had celebrated a peaceful world of tomorrow at the big New York World's Fair the year before, was now stunned by the coming carnage.

Finucane and Donovan were headed for meetings in Europe, first to London and a conference with British intelligence and other government officials. Then on to the Iberian peninsula, Portugal and Spain, to check with American diplomats on the likelihood both nations would remain neutral in the coming conflagration.

The pair was not an official delegation, but rather an ad hoc one ordered by President Roosevelt who could read the tea leaves even though American popular mood was against involvement in the new world war.

It was not Finucane's wish to spend days traveling with Donovan, even though they were of the same ethnic strain—Irish. He had been given marching orders, and as a Treasury assistant secretary, he had an obligation to follow the orders. Finucane had realized over the last six months that although he and Donovan had the same ethnic backgrounds—immigrant Irish—they could not be more different in outlook.

Bill Donovan, aka Wild Bill, was an authentic hero of the Great War, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and other medals for his leadership in combat of the famed 69th Irish New York regiment. Donovan, born in the first ward in Buffalo, New York, was an opposite of Finucane. Donovan was a combat hero. Finucane took pilot training during the war. Donovan had been a U.S. Attorney fighting Prohibition, a Republican Upstater who served in the Harding-Coolidge administrations, and a campaign critic of President Roosevelt.

Finucane was a former assistant D.A. In Tammany New York City in the 1920s. Finucane was divorced, with a checkered career before President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave him a post in the U.S. Treasury Department, and made him a personal troubleshooter whom he called Fin-the-fixer, a background player in the President's New Deal tool box.

Donovan was graduated from Columbia College and Law School. And after public service, Donovan became a wealthy Wall Street lawyer representing major companies. Finucane was graduated from New York's Fordham College and Law School and he barely escaped being tarnished by the late 1920s anti-Tammany investigation that had doomed the career of his friend Mayor James Walker.

Donovan wore tailored suits; Finucane bought his in a Washington department store.

Finucane's eyes went back to the Life article, but his mind on the odd situation he found himself. Normally, he thought, even as an assistant Secretary of the Treasury, he would not cross paths with Donovan.

And Donovan, a Republican who has lost his last campaign for New York's governor in 1932, now had the ear of FDR, of all people. The President, Finucane knew, was reaching out to Republicans, many of whom had been bitter enemies of his domestic New Deal. The reason was plain—the war that had ignited Europe was a threat to the North American continent, as the Great War had not been in the last war.

And FDR called in Republicans to run the War Department and other departments. And last November, he called in Finucane to join with Donovan and Presidential adviser Harry Hopkins as a sort of spy kitchen cabinet.

Finucane was not very surprised, as he was also – thanks to Roosevelt's son, James, --a reservist Lt. Commander in the Office of Naval Intelligence [ONI]. Finucane knew first hand how limited the American military services' intelligence capabilities were. They were based on officers posted as attaches in American embassies across the world who depended on scouting information from locals and other diplomats.

The United States, Finucane knew, had no systematic program of intelligence collection and analysis. The services guarded their weak bureaus and did not trade intelligence product. They acted as if they were the opposing Army-Navy teams that played football each fall.

FDR realized the problem and he gave the trio their marching orders—go find out what the U.S. needed to do to compete on the global war scape.

Finucane had been tapped first—to meet in 1939 in Canada with Menzies, the new head of the British Secret Intelligence Service [SIS] or MI-6. FDR then sent Finucane to Cuba to scout possible military air fields in that nation. On that trip Finucane found himself in a jackpot with German intelligence units, Abwehr and the SS-Gestapo. Finucane survived, but later found himself a target on a rainy Washington street when an assassin stalked him. Finucane knew his war had started.

Finucane wondered about Donovan's. In the interim months since FDR gave them their assignment, Finucane checked Donovan's background, and found that the Wall St. lawyer was more likely to be found in Berlin, or Rome, than his office in Manhattan, or his estate in Virginia, or townhouse in Washington, or with his wealthy wife and grown children.

Finucane decided the war hero was the kind of lawyer known in firms as the outside man. This type ginned up business by affable glad-handing, while the drones took care of the tedious details.

Finucane also found that Donovan was both a charmer with women, and tough when he had to be with men. People Finucane spoke to swore by and at the war hero, if they were New Dealers, or J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director. The former group vastly outnumbering the latter.

Finucane learned that Donovan as a brigade commander had been eligible for a rear-area trench command post, but he had led his troops from the front, and had been repeatedly wounded. And with his military laurels, Donovan was not content to sit out the present conflagration when he was in his mid 50s.

Donovan was twenty years older than Finucane and matched him for energy, and especially the ability to size up a person or situation.

Im going to turn in, Donovan said. Want to get a good rest for tomorrow. Don't make too much noise when you do."

Finucane nodded. He and the hero shared a compartment in the aft section, narrow bunk beds, with a tiny sink and toilet.

Finucane flipped the pages of Life to a picture spread of a Manhattan nightclub party and there staring at the camera were the bright eyes of socialite Brenda Frazier, whom he had met under peculiar circumstances in Cuba the year before. Miss Frazier, whose face in the prints never showed any emotion, wore the same kind of strapless evening gown she had in Cuba. Finucane again wondered how it stayed up and how she was able to move while wearing it and so not cause a public scandal? Another thought intruded.

Finucane dropped the magazine on his lap. How did Donovan know about Hilda Kroger? He had not told the older man his connection with the young blonde woman at the Washington German embassy. Only two other men in Washington knew of the connection.

Which one tipped Donovan?

Donovan knew that Fin would be puzzled by his remark about the German dame. The President had told him of the liaison, and how it had played out in Cuba. Frank was a movie fan and the story seemed to him like a screenplay for Clark Gable and Myna Loy, his favorite actress. Donovan thought that if Franklin had his legs, he would move to Hollywood and no actress would be safe. As it was, he made do with his secretaries. That was the word on Wall Street, among the knowing. Donovan decided, too, that Finucane was the type to be a skirt chaser, tall, thin, reddish blonde hair and the gift of gab. He and Fin were Micks from the either end of New York State, and the opposite political spectrum. From what Frank said, Fin was hurt by the Tammany collapse. And that Fin was a good fixer and didn't seek to use the background information he developed for his own advancement. I don't know, Donovan thought as he made his way to the sleep cabin, whether or not Fin would make a good number two or three in any new organization. He might suddenly decide to be ambitious, and that could lead to trouble.

Chapter 2

Big fellow

Finucane woke and saw by his

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