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(Otto) Kuehn, Bernard

The British Government Code and Cipher School opened an office in Hong Kong in 1934 called the Far East Combined Bureau (FECB). The Australian code-breaker Eric Nave (Nave, Eric) was posted there and, in 1936, found that messages between Berlin and Tokyo indicated the existence of a German person whom the Japanese had acquired as a spy for them in Hawaii. The detailed information on his salary, expenses, travel plans and so on made his identification easy. He was Otto Kuehn, a 41-year-old former naval officer who had been a British prisoner-of-war in World War I. His cover was as a businessman in the furniture trade. He arrived in Honolulu on 29 October 1936 on the Tatuta Maru from Yokahama with his family. His Japanese code name was "Jimmy" and he used the name Bernard in Hawaii. The information was passed to the FBI but they undertook no further investigation until 1939. As the Japanese had a spy in place at the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu, Takeo Yoshikawa (Yoshikawa. Takeo), it seems likely that Kuehn was a "sleeper", a person kept inactive until required. However, Kuehn was anything but discreet, visiting the consulate frequently. He was arrested immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, tried in secret on 19 February 1942, found guilty and sentenced to death. This was commuted to 30 years' imprisonment for political reasons. His family were interned for the duration. Kuehn returned to Germany in 1948 and died in 1956.

See also:espionage; FECB; Nave, Eric; Yoshikawa, Takeo