Tuesday, November 4, 2008

James Bond with Nazis in Haiti

Jeff Morley, in Our Man in Mexico, (p19), writes:

“With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, America went to war. The FBI, with its network of offices throughout the Caribbean and South America, had the job of keeping track of Germans in Latin America as well. In February 1943 he was loaned out on ‘Special Confidential Assignment’ to the U.S. embassy in Cuba, an unusually rapid promotion. Win loved wartime Havana at first. He served as assistant to the embassy’s legal attaché, an FBI man named Raymond Leddy, and liked him immediately. Leddy was a trim, correct man, a native of New York City and a product of the finest Jesuit schools: Xavier High School, Holly Cross College, and Fordham Law School. Astute about FBI office politics, Leddy spoke fluent Spanish and moved with ease both in the world of the embassy and among the Cubans.”

“He took Win to the jai alai arena and introduced him to the famous writer Ernest Hemingway whose leftist political sympathies made Leddy suspicious. The bearded novelist’s alcohol-fueled reports of German submarines in Havana Bay had become the gag of the office. Win rented a room in Leddy’s tidy seaside house in the Miramar section of Havana, and their friendship grew. ‘He was well-educated, had good, even if accented, Spanish – and he had a car. He had proved to be one of my best friends, and we have kept in contact,’ Win wrote, though there was much, much more to the story than that.”

Indeed there was, as Ian Fleming, an officer in the Royal Navy, was soon to be posted as assistant to the Director of British Naval Intelligence, but was then responsible for the tracking of Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. And Hemingway was an agent of the United States Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) at the time, keeping track of Nazi subs while posing as a fisherman on his yacht the Pilar. Later Hemingway would go to Europe and cover the land war with OSS Col. David Bruce and write reports for Colliers and the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA).

NANA was owned by Ernest Cuneo and Ivor Bryce, two other OSS officers who hired Fleming after the war to run their European correspondents.

Early in the war, while on a conference on Nazi U Boat warfare in the Caribbean, Bryce took Fleming to visit his Jamaican estate, and Fleming decided to return and live there.

While Win Scott may have crossed paths with Ian Fleming when they were both keeping track of Germans in the Caribbean, Scott may have also received reports from James Bond Authenticus, the American ornithologist whose name Fleming acknowledged appropriating for his fictional secret agent 007.

Bond’s book Birds of the West Indies was a reference kept by Fleming’s breakfast table at Goldeneye, his Jamaican home where he wrote all of the Bond novels.

James Bond’s wife, Mary Wickham Bond, a journalist and publisher, wrote a non-fictional book, To James Bond With Love (Sutter House, 1980) in which she details some of her husband’s bird hunting adventures in the West Indies.

On one trip to Jamaica, James and Mary Bond rented a car and took a drive along the scenic North Shore, and stopped in to visit Ian Fleming. Fleming had them for lunch, and they joked about how the fictional 007 likes his meals cooked, and what he real James Bond preferred.

In her book To James Bond With Love (p. 56), Mary Bond reflects on some other experiences of the real James Bond, reports about which may have crossed the desk of Win Scott and Raymond Leddy in Havana, keeping track of Germans in the Caribbean.

“If Ian Fleming had lived longer, it’s a safe guess that he and Jim (Bond) would have met again,” Mrs. Bond wrote. “Fiction writers are scavengers when seeking material for their fabrications, and Fleming might have easily extracted from Jim his enigmatic experience in World War II in Haiti. He arrived in Port-au-Prince in May 1941 for the sole purpose of studying birds on Morne La Selle, a plateau over 6,000 feet high. He put up at the little Hotel de Reix at Kenscoff, a small settlement at about 4,000 feet and tried to obtain two porters to carry his camping material. No one would so. A German, he was told by the habitants, had built an airstrip high on the ridge and would not allow anyone to go up there. Jim asked where the German lived, and the natives pointed to the summit of nearby Morne Tranchant which is covered by low scrubby woods. Jim was doubtful of this, for he was used to near enough gestures from the islanders when asked the location of some rare bird, but decided to go up and see for himself.”

“He climbed to the top of the mountain and found on the edge of a small clearing a very neat cottage well hidden in the foliage. The German who came out was very pleasant, spoke excellent English, and although he did not say, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume,’ to Jim’s astonishment he knew who he was and told him to go ahead wherever he pleased on the La Selle ridge. Jim was so absorbed in his own objectives he forgot all about the alleged airstrip and went on his way without even asking about it.”

“When leaving Haiti for home, he was forced, owing to the war, to travel on a freighter from St. Marc to New York. Back in Philadelphia he told his friend Brandon Barringer about the encounter with the German, and Brandon took it up with the authorities in Washington. Jim was promptly visited at the Academy of Natural Sciences by Army, and then Navy, Intelligence officers. Fleming would have been intrigued with the final twist to the story. The Intelligence people asked a lot of foolish questions and seemed far more suspicious about Jim’s reasons for climbing Morne La Selle, than about the German’s activities.”

“Another episode Fleming might have adapted for his as yet unborn 007 was during Machado’s regime in Cuba.....”

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