29 March 2017Tompkinsville Spy

Companion book: “Normandy: A Father’s Ship and a Son’s Curiosity” coming out April 2017 

This week in 1943, the PC 552 docked in Tompkinsville, New York after completing a convoy run from Cuba to New York. What did you do this week?

High above Tompkinsville, the northern base of the PC 552, lived a man who had an excellent relationship with his neighbors. Ernest Frederick Lehmitz lived on Oxford Place at the top of the hill. He was known for his wonderful victory garden and served as the neighborhood air raid warden, where he performed flawlessly. He was the kind of neighbor anyone would want.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lehmitz was also a German spy. He prowled the waterfront, drinking with sailors and gathering information. He wrote typewritten letters to a friend in Spain which gushed about his progress with his victory garden. In between the lines, with invisible ink, he reported on the comings and goings of the navy ships. He probably reported on the PC 552 itself from the top of the hill.

He plea bargained for a thirty-year sentence instead of the electric chair his behavior warranted.

This week in 1943, we leave the crew of the PC 552 shaking its collective heads at the Tompkinsville spy.

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2 thoughts on “The Tompkinsville Spy

  1. Hi Dave!

    I happen to be studying the case of Ernest Lehmitz. Interesting that you mention him in your book. I would just like to share with you what I have found so far in my research. Ernest Lehmitz letters were intercepted by British Intelligence in 1942. When he sent his letters to his contacts in Europe he would number each one by hand. British Intelligence intercepted letters numbered 14 to 26 and no others. The last letter BI intercepted was in the Spring of 1942. When Lehmitz was arrested by the FBI in June 1943, he told the them that those were the last of his letters. I don’t know if he ever mentioned the PC 552 in any of his letters as it was docked on Staten Island in the Spring of 1943, which was over a year after he supposedly stopped writing letters to his contacts regarding U.S. ship and troop movement in the New York Harbor.

    How did you come across the Lehmitz case?

    Regards and Good Luck with your book.



    1. Such a small world! Thank you for reaching out. I found Lehmitz by googling for World War II events. The PC 552 was launched February 1942 and spent the spring being fitted out. Lehmitz could have seen this but the ship was a small one and may not have been mentioned. It started combat patrols September 1942 and was based at Thompkinsville until January 1944.

      Do you have PDF copies of the letters? What happened to Lehmitz? Did he serve his time. Often, these people were quietly deported after the war. My email address is USS.PC.552@gmail.com. I am so glad you cntacted me.


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