Kenvil, NJ Hercules Powder Company Explosion, Sept 1940

Kenvil Memorial Plaque Kenvil NJ Powder plant blast 1940.jpg

FBI Hunts Bund Link To Explosion

Nazi Sympathizers Are Sought on Hercules Powder Plant Rolls

Kenvil, N. J., Sept. 14 (UP) -- Federal Bureau of Investigation agents hunted today for Nazi sympathizers among the surviving employes of the Hercules powder plant, scene of an explosion that killed at least 42 workmen.
Sheriff Denton Quick of adjoining Sussex County turned over to F.B.I. Men a list of the licenses of automobiles seen going into the German-American Bund's Camp Nordland, 15 miles from here, in the last four months. Quick had circulated the list among other sheriffs of the New Jersey arsenal belt early this week asking that they investigate whether the owners of any of the cars were associated with un-American groups or were employed in any defense industries. He said a hurried check-up had revealed that about 40 men on his list belonged to un-American groups and that "we already have succeeded in eliminating them from jobs in defense industries."
W. C. Hunt, operating manager of the Hercules plant, said he could not recall discharging any of his employes for belonging to the Bund recently, and that "we have no reason to suspect anything of that kind." Quick, however, said, "I feel in my heart that the blast was set off by some Bundist."
None of the Federal, State or industrial investigators at the scene had disclosed any evidence indicating sabotage, but Representatives J. Parnell Thomas and Frank Osmers, the two congressmen from Bergen County who visited the ruins, said the possibility of sabotage existed. Thomas is a member of the Dies Committee investigating un-American activities. Osmers said he would demand a Congressional investigation of the disaster. He said, "I don't know if we'll ever be able to prove it, but my guess is sabotage."

The suspicions appeared to center on the fact that the Bund has a camp in the vicinity. Sheriff Quick raided the camp last July 4 and arrested G. Wilhelm Kunze, national Bund leader in the absence of Fritz Kuhn, who is serving a term in Sing Sing Prison for theft, along with Augustus Klapprott, the Bund camp director, and Mathias Kohler, head of the Bund's youth movement.
They were charged with violating a statute forbidding drills in uniform. A grand jury, to be impaneled next week, will act on the cases. The three are under $1,000 bonds.