The CASSIA Spy Ring in World War II Austria

A History of the OSS’s Maier-Messner Group


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About the Book

After Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, the Gestapo began silencing critics. Many were shipped to concentration camps; those deemed most dangerous to the Reich were executed. Yet a few slipped through the Gestapo’s net and organized resistance cells. One group, codenamed CASSIA, became America’s most effective spy ring in Austria during World War II. This first full-length account of CASSIA describes its contributions to the Allied war effort—including reports on the V-2 missile, Nazi death camps and advanced combat aircraft and tanks—before a catastrophic intelligence failure sent key members to the guillotine, firing squad or gas chamber.

About the Author(s)

C. Turner’s 25-year career in foreign affairs included postings in the Far East, South Asia, and Europe. Before serving in the government, he conducted anthropological fieldwork in Asia, Oceania, and North America.

Bibliographic Details

C. Turner

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6969-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2991-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 2
Dramatis Personae 5
Comments on Terminology 7

Part One: The Communion of Nightfall
1. The Student 11
2. The Priest 16
3. The Communist 22
4. The Musician 27

Part Two: The Confession of Splinters
5. The Merchant 32
6. Intelligence Esoterica—A Brief Analysis of Intelligence Reporting on Peenemünde 39
7. The Forester 42
8. The Associate 46
9. The Middleman 50
10. The Handler 55
11. Intelligence Esoterica—A Closer Look at CASSIA’s Intelligence Reporting 61
12. The Snitch 68
13. The Policeman 71
14. The Soldiers 73

Part Three: The Eulogy of Triumph
15. The Professional 79
16. The Mole 83
17. The Arrests 88
18. Intelligence Esoterica—Analysis of the Order of Arrests 97
19. The Hotel and the Prison 99
20. The Interrogations 108
21. The Executions 114
22. The Opposition 127
23. The Survivors 133
24. The Actor and the Architect 137

Part Four: The Benediction of Tragedy
25. Operational Analysis—CASSIA 145
26. Operational Analysis—OSS 152
27. The Coda 164

Afterword 184
Appendix I: ­Gestapo-Vienna Final Report on the Interrogations of Heinrich Maier 187
Appendix II: Contact Between CASSIA and the British in Istanbul in 1943 193
Appendix III: Background on the Austrian Committee of Liberation and Memorandum of Agreement Between CASSIA and OSS 195
Chapter Notes 201
Bibliography 222
Index 229

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Fills a gap in OSS history.  It is well-documented and should be of interest to all those concerned with the OSS in WWII.”—Studies in Intelligence
  • “Well-researched…a riveting account of an OSS operation gone wrong…[Turner] gives us a scholarly work that reads like a spy novel rather than an academic study…a solid case study of an early intelligence operation”—Military Review
  • “A gripping story of forgotten heroes, and a must read for anyone interested in the early days of spies and espionage.”— Against the Grain
  • “Turner lifts the veil on [the Cassia] operation with research and deep analysis from an extensive array of never-before used primary sources…deftly recounts the multinational Cassia team’s heroic exploits… With panoramic descriptions of the infamous Gestapo headquarters and detention center, Turner tells this intriguing and inspiring narrative with the highest attention to detail. Turner transports the reader, making us feel we’re among the key Cassia operatives…. [Turner is] a substantive expert in the history and practice of intelligence…the lessons about agent handling and communications are valuable in their own right…eloquently recounts how OSS officers refined the art of spy craft by learning from their successes and failures…Turner has done a great service to the memories of the valiant men and women of Cassia, who made such an extraordinary contribution to the war effort of the U.S. and allied forces against Nazi Germany.”—The Cipher Brief
  • “With this volume, Turner proves himself to be not only an accomplished researcher and interpreter with an eye to detail and accuracy, but also a preeminent expert on the secret service milieu and on the craft of espionage.  …Increasing public awareness about these courageous people’s sacrifices…is another reason why Turner’s work is an important contribution to the history of the Austrian resistance—to be added to those by other foreign researchers such as Joseph E. Persico, Radomir V. Luza, Barry Rubin, and Charles Fenyvesi.  …In his smooth writing style, C. Turner painstakingly traces the resistance activities of each member of the [CASSIA] group.” —Dr. Siegfried Beer, Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies

Author Interview

The Spyscape Museum of New York released two episodes about CASSIA as part of its True Spies podcast. The podcast features extensive excerpts from an interview with the author.