Operation Seeadler (i)

sea eagle

This was a German scheme, sometimes known as ‘Taube II’, devised by the foreign ministry from May 1941 after the collapse of the ‘Walfisch’ scheme, to use a seaplane to land on a lake in Éire (Irish Free State) with a radio transmitter and money for the Irish Republican Army (autumn 1941).

Planning for ‘Seeadler’ (i) took place while SS-Standartenführer Dr Edmund Vessenmayer, who worked for both the Abwehr and the foreign ministry, was concerned that neutral Éire (Irish Free State) would be overrun by US forces soon to be stationed in Northern Ireland. For ‘Seeadler’ (i) the Abwehr was to provide technical support while the foreign ministry retained operational control. This was largely because every mission to Ireland so far undertaken had been a complete failure, and on 23 June 1941 it was decided that future operations to Ireland would be carried out only with the approval of Vessenmayer.

The agents initially selected for the task were the Abwehr’s so-called Ireland expert, Helmut Clissmann, and Bruno Rieger. The expatriate IRA leader Frank Ryan was later added when the mission was enlarged in scope to include direct liaison with the IRA. It was hoped that with the availability of a long-range transmitter the IRA would be able to send reports for the Luftwaffe, the Irish government having objected to the use of the radio at the German legation in Dublin. This implies that there was no existing link between the IRA and Germany despite the fact that the agent Hermann Görtz was still at large.

The best time for the mission seemed to be 15/25 September 1941. Vessenmayer had consulted with Oberstleutnant Martin von Harlinghausen, the Fliegerführer 'Atlantik', and decided that a Heinkel He 59 floatplane would be used. The seaplane would cut its engine near the target area and glide in to alight on the lake, the personnel then using a rubber dinghy to reach the shore, where they would switch to folding bicycles which they would also take with them. The Brandon Bay area of County Kerry was decided as the optimum spot for the operation, whose military tasks comprised the establishment of links with the IRA and the reactivation of its sabotage operations in the UK (the failed IRA S-Plan campaign of 1939), the establishment of radio communications with Germany, the transmission of military information including weather reports, and the preparation of an underground resistance in the event of Éire’s occupation by British troops or invasion by US troops.

The operation also possessed a political dimension in the German desire to effect an ‘understanding’ between Eamon de Valera, the prime minister of Éire, and the IRA, to influence the attitudes and policies of Éire’s domestic and external situation through objective reporting and, in the event of Éire’s occupation by British or US forces to organise resistance thereby tying down the occupation forces to the maximum possible extent.

The plan was shown to Adolf Hitler with a recommendation from the foreign minister, Joachim Ribbentrop, on 6 September 1941, but Hitler decided that the operation should be postponed, possibly to October or even December of the same year. The plan was eventually abandoned.