Karl Boy-Ed

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Karl Boy-Ed
Tombstone in Lübeck

Karl Boy-Ed (1872 – September 14, 1930) was naval attaché to German Ambassador to the United States Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff during World War I.

Biography[edit]

Karl Boy-Ed saw the light of day on September 14, 1872 in Luebeck on the German Baltic seacoast as the oldest of three children.[1] Karl’s father, Karl Johann Boy, was a merchant in Luebeck. In 1878 Carl Johann Boy and his wife Ida Boy-Ed separated. Ida Ed, the daughter of member of the German parliament, publisher, and newspaper editor Christoph Marquard Ed moved to Berlin with her son Karl. She worked as a journalist and began writing novels. In 1880 Ida’s estranged husband forced her and Karl to move back to Luebeck. She continued on her career as a writer and published an amazing volume of seventy novels and essays. She supported the career of young Thomas Mann and corresponded with his brother Heinrich. As a major influence in the art and music scene in Luebeck, Ida supported the early careers of conductors Wilhelm Furtwaengler and Hermann Abendroth. Thomas Mann regularly stayed overnight in the Boy-Ed household.

Karl joined the German navy at the age of nineteen. Rising through the ranks to become lieutenant commander Boy-Ed served on dozens of naval assignments. In 1898 Boy-Ed witnessed the American occupation of the Philippines.[2] Shortly before the Boxer war, Kaiser Wilhelm’s brother, Prince Heinrich von Preußen sent the navy lieutenant on a secret mission to assess the “value of the Chinese navy.”[3] Boy-Ed considered his report as a major accomplishment as a writer. In view of the hostilities that broke out with China a year later, Boy-Ed’s “research” certainly was timely. Between 1906 and 1909 Boy-Ed served on the staff of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. In this period Boy-Ed took over the “Nachrichtenabteilung N” (office of naval intelligence) from Paul von Hintze.[4] Department "N" was the precursor of the German Naval Intelligence agency. The Nachrichtenbuero collected intelligence on naval affairs and disseminated German propaganda on her own navy. After three years in Berlin, Boy-Ed served as first officer on the “SMS Deutschland” and commander of the naval tender “Hela.” In 1911, promoted to lieutenant commander, he sailed on the “SMS Preussen,” the flagship of the second squadron. In the beginning of 1912, his career took Boy-Ed to the United States as naval attaché under the German ambassador to the US, Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff. However, he traveled to Jamaica, the Panama Canal Zone and Mexico before he took over the office in Washington D.C. in 1913. Funny, smart, cosmopolitan, extremely well read, and intellectual he enjoyed a great deal of popularity and respect among American naval officials before the war.

His area of responsibility also included Mexico, where the ambassadorship had just turned over to Paul von Hintze, Boy-Ed's former boss. As Naval Attache he was responsible for naval matters in North America, mainly intelligence gathering and supply of the German cruiser fleet. Well liked in the US he regularly was invited to observe American and Canadian naval maneuvers and established a thorough social network. He worked closely with Franz von Papen (later Chancellor of Germany) who took over the job of Military Attache in the United States and Mexico in 1914. Boy-Ed and von Papen established an effective a spy and sabotage ring in World War I to prevent the U.S. from sending aid to the Allies. Some of the more notorious members of this network included Franz von Rintelen, Felix A. Sommerfeld, Horst von der Goltz, Paul Koenig, and many more.

Together with von Papen he was expelled from the U.S. in December 1915 after several clandestine operations had been reported on in American papers. Back in Germany, Boy-Ed took charge of the "Nachrichtenabteilung N." However, not all was well with the German navy officer. Boy-Ed suffered from phagomania, a constant desire to eat. The disorder required tremendous self-discipline in social circumstances. The other more severe disorder was insomnia. Boy-Ed could not sleep at night, which on the one hand increased his productivity by leaps and bounds but weighed heavily on his health. The stresses of his New York assignment had taken a heavy toll on him physically and mentally. He admitted in his autobiographic sketch that as a result of his wartime assignment his nerves suffered a permanent “crack.”[5] In 1921, he married Virginia G. MacKay Smith, daughter of an episcopal bishop in Pennsylvania.[6] After trying to move to the United States in 1926 but being denied a visa by the State Department, Boy-Ed settled in Hamburg, Germany.[7]

He died as the result of a horse-riding accident on his 58th Birthday.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marine Crew Chronik, Marineschule Mürwik, Flensburg, Deutschland, MIM620/CREW, 1891, pp. 159-160, autobiographic article by Karl Boy-Ed
  2. ^ Marine Crew Chronik, Marineschule Mürwik, Flensburg, Deutschland, MIM620/CREW, 1891, pp. 159-160, autobiographic article by Karl Boy-Ed
  3. ^ Marine Crew Chronik, Marineschule Mürwik, Flensburg, Deutschland, MIM620/CREW, 1891, pp. 159-160, autobiographic article by Karl Boy-Ed
  4. ^ Marine Crew Chronik, Marineschule Mürwik, Flensburg, Deutschland, MIM620/CREW, 1891, pp. 159-160, autobiographic article by Karl Boy-Ed
  5. ^ Marine Crew Chronik, Marineschule Mürwik, Flensburg, Deutschland, MIM620/CREW, 1891, pp. 159-160, autobiographic article by Karl Boy-Ed
  6. ^ Quebec Telegraph, February 9, 1921
  7. ^ Time Magazine, May 31, 1926 "Is Boy-Ed Coming?

Sources[edit]

  • Boy-Ed, Karl (1920). Verschwoerer?. Berlin, Germany: August Scherl GmbH. 
  • Jones and Hollister (1918). The German Secret Service in America, 1914 to 1918. Boston, Massachusetts: Small, Maynard and Company. 
  • von Feilitzsch, Heribert (2012). Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914. Amissville, Virginia: Henselstone Verlag.