Monday, January 08, 2024

My Enemy's Enemy, a guest post by Alan Bardos, author of the spy thriller Rising Tide

Historical novelist Alan Bardos is here today with a guest post about some little-known WWII history, related to wartime intelligence... the backdrop for his new spy thriller Rising Tide (Sharpe Books).


My Enemy's Enemy
Alan Bardos

The years leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour saw a strengthening of diplomatic relations between Japan and Germany, and growing cooperation between their intelligence services. This is where I found inspiration for my new novel, Rising Tide.

Hitler’s long-term foreign policy goal had been to create living space in Eastern Europe. The Abwehr, German Intelligence, had therefore largely focused on the Soviet Union. They had not planned to fight Britain in 1939 and had not developed networks in Britain. This is demonstrated by the poor quality of the agents they sent to Britain, who were all caught.

By 1941, Japan and Germany knew they would have to fight America and hoped to split its resources between the Pacific and Europe, in a two-front war. The Third Bureau of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s General Staff had been gathering detailed intelligence on the British and American navies, which posed the major threat to Japan’s expansion in the Far East. In return for radio and microdot technology, they traded this information with Germany.

This relationship developed when the Germans began to run their own spy rings in America. As Westerners, their operatives could enter places which the Japanese could not, without drawing attention. One of these spy rings, the ‘Joe K’, gathered information on Hawaii’s defences for their Japanese allies. However, their reports were intercepted by British censors as they were sent from New York to Europe via Bermuda and the spy ring was broken up.
Dusko Popov
Dusko Popov, 1941
(Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

To help rebuild their American networks, the Abwehr sent one of their best agents, Dusko Popov, to the States. He was given a list of questions about America to answer. A third of the questionnaire concerned Pearl Harbour and Hawaii. It included questions about the layout of its airfields, naval defences, ammunition dumps and anti-torpedo nets. Popov’s German handler instructed him to travel to Hawaii, and some writers have suggested that he was to replace a sleeper agent called Kuehn. Kuehn was the manager of a sugar plantation, and his wife owned a beauty parlour which she used to befriend army and navy wives, who the couple grandly entertained at their home to pick up gossip.

Yoshikawa, a Third Bureau agent on Hawaii, paid Kuehn to be Japan’s eyes and ears in Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbour. They even worked out an elaborate system for the German to signal information to Japanese submarines off the coast of Hawaii. Yoshikawa gives a less than flattering account of his meeting with Kuehn in his book Japan's Spy at Pearl Harbour: Memoir of an Imperial Navy Secret Agent and held reservations about Kuehn’s ability to do the job.

Suspicions that rang true since Kuehn’s extravagant lifestyle attracted the attention of the FBI, and he was arrested after the Pearl Harbour attack and executed in 1942, leaving the Japanese blind to American activities in Hawaii.

J. Edgar Hoover at His Desk
J. Edgar Hoover at his desk
(Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Dusko Popov was also unable to carry on Kuehn’s role. Popov was actually a British double agent, who tried to warn the FBI about Japan’s interest in Hawaii. However, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI Director, did not believe Popov’s warning and prevented him from travelling on to Hawaii to link up with the German agent and gather more evidence. This is where my novel Rising Tide picks up the story. The central character, Daniel Nichols, travels to Hawaii and becomes caught up in a conspiracy that would keep America embroiled in a Far Eastern stalemate and split between the Pacific and Europe.



Writing historical fiction combines the first great love of Alan Bardos’ life, making up stories, with the second, researching historical events and characters. He currently lives in Oxfordshire with his wife… the other great love of his life.

His new World War 2 series follows Daniel Nichols, a former pacifist turned crusader, as he moves from the Fleet Air Arm to Intelligence and Special Operations. The first book Rising Tide is set against the backdrop of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as Nichols is embroiled in a conspiracy to keep the USA bogged down in the Pacific and out of the war in Europe.

Blurb for Rising Tide:

November 1940.  Lieutenant Daniel Nichols, a former pacifist turned crusader, is wounded taking part in the Royal Navy’s carrier born air raid on the Italian Battle Fleet in Taranto. Six months later S├índor Braun, a British double agent, escorts a Japanese delegation around Taranto and discovers that they are planning a similar attack. But what will the target be?

Nichols, now unable to fly, joins the Naval Intelligence Division, despite growing rumours that his nerve has gone. He debriefs Braun in London and sees the implications of his discovery. Britain cannot afford to suffer further setbacks in the far East. Nichols convinces his superior officer, Ian Fleming, to allow him to travel to Lisbon in a bid to identify the target before it’s too late. The former airman uses the rumours about his lack of moral fibre as cover and poses as a deserter, with information to sell about the Taranto raid.

Braun helps Nichols to gain the confidence of German and Japanese Intelligence officers - and he is recruited to fly to Hawaii and spy on the US Navy. Convinced that the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbour, Nichols travels to America to inform the FBI, but his warnings fall on deaf ears. Nichols takes matters into his own hands and ventures to Hawaii, with the intention of preventing a catastrophe. But will the Englishman's intervention prove too little, too late?

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