Spy school: 'Camp X' author visiting Kingman
3/6/2013 5:59:00 AM
By Doug McMurdo
KINGMAN - The Central Intelligence Agency was born in Canada.
J. Edgar Hoover allowed friendly but foreign spies to operate within the U.S. in the months leading up to the nation's entrance into World War II.
President Franklin Roosevelt entered into a secret agreement with a desperate British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at a time when the U.S. was officially neutral - and Roosevelt could have been impeached if his involvement came to light.
These and other fascinating facts are spelled out in author Lynn Philip Hodgson's international bestseller, "Inside Camp X."
The Canadian and his wife, Marlene, are spending the winter in Kingman far from the shores of Lake Ontario and the mysterious Camp X, where the allies trained secret agents in the art of tradecraft.
The first revelation that strikes the reader is the date the camp opened: Dec. 6, 1941 - one day before Pearl Harbor was attacked.
While the governments of Canada, Great Britain and the U.S. never put a name to the training site, Camp X got its moniker from local farmers.
"The X stood for mystery," said Hodgson. "The only sign on the property was one warning people to stay out. There were 100 guards on the property and they had orders to shoot first and ask questions later."
In order to explain why Camp X was necessary, Hodgson said one has to understand the reality of life in Great Britain at the time.
"Churchill knew the Germans were going to invade Great Britain, and that Great Britain would be occupied just like France was," said Hodgson.
What Churchill decided, he said, was that Britain would have to abandon its centuries-old commitment to fighting "fair."
"He wanted the allies to engage in unconventional warfare," said Hodgson. "England always fought by the Queensbury rules that spelled out what you can and can't do. They went from Queensbury to anything goes, including assassination."
The leader of the camp in Whitby, Ontario, Canada was Sir William Stephenson, a wealthy Canadian industrialist whose story was told in the 1979 miniseries titled "A Man Called Intrepid."
Stephenson knew he had to have Hoover's support, and he got it once Hoover visited the camp. Not only did Hoover send some of his top agents to the camp, the controversial longtime leader of the FBI allowed Stephenson's spies to operate in the U.S. on the condition they provide him with information.
Roosevelt, said Hodgson, agreed to give Churchill "all the manpower he needed," but only if the Americans he sent to the camp carried Canadian identification and wore Canadian uniforms.
"Roosevelt was involved in the war in a big way," said Hodgson. "The U.S. was not supposed to be involved in the war in any way, and Roosevelt was. He could have been impeached."
The attack on Pearl Harbor removed that risk.
"Pearl Harbor was a game changer for Camp X," said Hodgson.
Three future directors of the CIA; William Colby, William Casey and Allen Dulles were all trained at Camp X.
Ian Fleming, the creator of super spy James Bond, supposedly received training at the camp, but his attendance is in dispute.
In all, more than 2,000 American, Canadian and British spies trained there during the war years. Hodgson said most were American.
"The camp is on the shores of Lake Ontario," he said. "Thirty miles from Rochester, New York. They could avoid customs, come in under cover of darkness, step off the boat and be in the camp," he said.
That Hodgson ever published the book in the first place is a story straight out of spy central.
The allies burned every document that had anything to do with the camp after the war. Armed with nothing more than rumors of what occurred there, Hodgson painstakingly researched Camp X, met with old-timers who were in the area at the time and even located a retired spy or two.
But he couldn't do anything with the information once the Royal Canadian Mounted Police got wind of what he was up to. One of those spies, Bill Hardcastle, had talked to Hodgson about the camp until one day the mounties knocked on his door and politely reminded him of the oath of secrecy he took years earlier. Hodgson would have a similarly cordial yet frightening encounter.
"Mr. Hodgson, you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act," said the corporal. "The penalty is a $10,000 fine and imprisonment."
"What can we do about this?" replied Hodgson.
Hodgson wasn't arrested, but he did have to agree to meet with the corporal to discuss his research.
"We met for over a year," he said, "and I showed him everything. That kept me out of jail, but if I had written the book back in the '70s it would have been an article. There were a number of things I couldn't use."
For 15 years Hodgson left his research material in a closet. In 1995, 50 years after the war ended, the secrets of Camp X were declassified and Hodgson was free to write and publish what he knew.
He and Marlene, his wife of 49 years, will spend the next couple of months in Kingman, a city he visited as a teenager more than 50 years ago.
"We're glad to be here," he said. "There's a blizzard back home."
For more information on "Inside Camp X," log on to Hodgson's website, www.insidecamp-x.com.