A Picture from History: Jungles, Spies, & Princesses

As the world watched in horror, the facts seemed inevitable; America was going to be involved in World War II. It was only a matter of time.

U.S. Army Major General Walter Evans Prosser was one of these men. He had long ago put two and two together and was preparing his sphere of influence.

Walter E. Prosser when he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. He would later rise to the rank of Major General. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Germany had taken much of the mainland European continent, Norway, and parts of Africa. There was no reason to think they wouldn’t have their sights set on more.

As head of the Panama Mobile Force — a group of American soldiers charged with protecting American interests in the Caribbean — Prosser began to prepare his men for war.

The Precursor

In World War I, German agents set up an off-grid base in the jungles of Panama. This base was used to relay British ship positions. German naval vessels in the area would then prowl the west coast of South America and sink these ships.

Word came through the Caribbean Defense Command that two German agents were in Panama. General Prosser knew something had to be done.

A German radio transmitter that would have been similar to the one used by the German agents. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

After the events of Pearl Harbor, he had his excuse.

He ordered the Panama Mobile Force into the jungle to eliminate the Germans and hunt for others.

Armed with shortened Springfield Model 1903 rifles, an 18-inch machete, a single grenade, and two weeks’ worth of provisions, his men set off.

The shortened Springfield 1903 used in Panama were referred to as “bushmasters.” (Photo: Milsurps)

Into the Depths

The jungle was fierce. Even though the men were equipped with top-of-the-line equipment for surviving in the disease-ridden, swampy environment, only 10 of them were able to march the entire distance to the target.

The rest were overcome by extreme heat and fatigue.

A photo of the Darien Jungle, not far from where the German spies were located. (Photo: UrbanUnique)

The men reached Tatahoe, where the Germans were known to be operating. Once there, U.S. commander, Cresson Kearny, yelled out. “You are surrounded! Squad leaders sound off!”

Numerous men sounded off, giving the illusion of a much larger force than what was actually present.

A German and a Norwegian both clumsily stumbled out of the houses…But then a blonde woman came out, threatening to shoot the soldiers with her revolver.

The soldiers took the houses, and it was revealed that the lady was none other than Princess Ada de Bogaslowa, a Russian ballet dancer.

Kearny is often credited as the driving force behind the adoption and improvement of many pieces of US military jungle gear, including the Panama-soled jungle boot and the M1942 machete.

The two German agents responsible for the espionage were never found, as they had fled as soon as they had heard of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

However, Kearny discovered a small cache of arms and ammunition and bank record evidence of a mysterious $10,000+ deposit that suggested the Germans may have very well bribed the Princess.

Back Home

Kearny would return to the United States after the war, where he would spend the rest of his life studying how to survive a thermonuclear war.

He would also go on to author Nuclear War Survival Skills.

Soldiers of the 158th Infantry Regiment conducting warfare battle drills in Panama, 1942. (Photo: 1st Lt. Wes Parrell, courtesy of the Arizona State University Libraries Collection)

You can read more about his capture of Princess Ada, his role in World War II, and his inventions in his last book, Jungle Snafus…And Remedies.

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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