Grover Cleveland Bergdoll

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll (October 18, 1893 – January 27, 1966) was an early aviator, and World War I draft dodger, who went to Germany to avoid service.

  • New York Times; January 8, 1920 "Take Draft Evader After 2-Year Chase; Grover Bergdoll, Wealthy Philadelphia German, Defended By Mother with Revolver. House Veritable Arsenal. Bergdoll Said To Have Offered His Services to Germany as an Aviator in 1918. Philadelphia, January 7, 1920 Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, wealthy son of a former brewer and charged with being a draft dodger and deserter from the army, was captured after a two-year chase today while hiding in the palatial residence of his mother on the outskirts of this city. Tonight he is a prisoner on Governors Island, New York, awaiting trial by court-martial.
  • Washington Post; January 8, 1920 " Grover Bergdoll, Alleged Draft Dodger, Taken in Raid. Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, wealthy son of a former brewer and charged with being a draft dodger and deserter from the army, was captured today while hiding in the palatial residence of his mother on the outskirts of this city."
  • Washington Post, July 22, 1920 " Wealthy Draft Dodger, Brother of Fugitive Grover, Surrenders at Governors Island. While Lieut. Col. John E. Hunt, retired, former commanding officer of the United States disciplinary barracks, Fort Jay, was facing court-martial today for alleged neglect of duty in connection with the escape of Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, wealthy draft dodger, the convicted deserter's half brother, Erwin R. Bergdoll, walked into headquarters at Governors Island and gave himself up after having been sought for more than two years on a similar charge." 
  • Washington Post, November 3, 1920 "Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, who escaped from his guards in Philadelphia last May, after having begun a five-year sentence for desertion from the United States army, has not been arrested in Coblenz, or elsewhere, In Germany, as reported, the American military authorities here declare."
  • Washington Post, July 14, 1923 "Mrs. Bergdoll Plans Visit to Son Grover. Mrs. Emma C. Bergdoll filed an application in the Federal district court today for a passport to Germany, to see her son. Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, fugitive draft evader. The application was sent to the State Department at Washington. and if granted Mrs. Bergdoll plans to sail from New York next Tuesday."
  • Time magazine; February 22, 1926 "For months and years, one Sachs, said to be a private detective, said to be a German-American, has been puttering about Germany, announcing now and then, "I'll get something on Grover Cleveland Bergdoll yet!" Last week Mr. Sachs achieved his ambition. He came forward with a girl who swore that famed Philadelphia draft-dodger Bergdoll committed an immoral act with her, in Heidelberg, some three years ago. Mr. Sachs openly and publicly exulted when slacker Bergdoll was clapped into jail at Mosbach, Germany, while the Mosbach police "investigated." At Philadelphia, Mr. Bergdoll's mother cautiously opened her door "by the width of a pencil" when visited by reporters. They poked an account of her son's arrest through the slit. After reading the despatch, Mrs. Bergdoll replied through the door: "I don't believe a word of it! When I was in Germany with him, he went around with a lot of young people but he never used to go with girls of the sort who would have him arrested. I don't even believe that he's in jail. He would have cabled me if he was." Further despatches from Mosbach asserted that the German police view with equanimity the possibility that Bergdoll can now be deported to the U. S. if the charge against him holds water. Since his sensational escape to Germany from the U.S. his escapades have put the German authorities to all sorts of trouble, notably on Aug. 11, 1923, when he shot and killed one member of a group of men who attempted to kidnap him at Eberbach with intent to bring him back within the reach of the U. S. courts.
  • Time magazine; April 26, 1926 " Some hundreds of curious-minded peasants streamed into the little town of Mosbach last week to attend the trial of Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, famed Philadelphia draft dodger, who was arrested (TIME, Feb. 22) on a charge of having seduced, three years ago, Fraulein Leisel Schmidt, Heidelberg schoolgirl, then 14.

    During his two months' imprisonment, Mr. Bergdoll has had the freedom of the prison garden, has dined exclusively upon meals supplied by a neighboring hotel, has grown a mustache. He appeared nervous and acutely conscious that a possible ten-year sentence might await him if convicted. Large drops of perspiration dampened his brow as he took the stand in a courtroom from which spectators were excluded "for the protection of public morals."

    He testified that he had been engaged to the girl, three years ago, but had broken off the engagement when he found she was more enamored of a certain Heidelberg student. Fraulein Schmidt testified that her seduction by Bergdoll had taken place before their engagement. She was not, however, able to recall clearly the circumstances which she alleged and contradicted the testimony of her mother upon several points. Finally Professor Hans Gruhle, head of the Psychoanalytical Clinic of the University of Heidelberg, testified that he had examined the girl and found her "of subnormal mentality and untrustworthy." It was also considered significant that one Robert P. Sachs, said to be a German-American private detective and the man on whose initiative the seduction charge was preferred, did not appear at the trial but has returned to the U. S. The Court, "consisting of a judge and two jurors," pondered well for ten minutes, declared Bergdoll not guilty. To pressmen he said: "It was the greatest scare of my life! "This is another dirty American frame-up which I have succeeded in squashing. "I am through with Americans. I have lost all respect for Americans, because they have hounded me and by underhanded methods, such as the employment of Sachs, have tried to throw me into jail. But the accounts are not closed. I will file a counter suit for damages and libel against Sachs." Striding to a nearby cafe, Mr. Bergdoll ordered a bottle of wine for every policeman and court official at Mosbach. Amid cheers, he departed by motor for Ebersbach, his usual centre of activities."

  • Time magazine; June 27, 1927 "Pilot Clarence Duncan Chamberlin and Passenger Charles A. Levine were last week enjoying the hospitality of Germans, resting in the watering place known as Baden-Baden, inspecting huge multi-motored airships at the Dornier and Zeppelin plants. Some of their doings: Fraulein Thea Rasche, Germany's only licensed woman pilot, was taken for a ride over Berlin by Pilot Chamberlin. Skillful, she also took Passenger Levine for a ride. Correspondents heralded the trips as strengthening to U. S.-German relations. Flyers Chamberlin and Levine hustled to Bremen to meet their respective wives, who arrived from the U. S. Said Mrs. Chamberlin on seeing her husband: 'Why, your knickers are awful. Didn't you even have them cleaned?' Then the two couples flew to Berlin in three hops. The two wives were reported to be feeling ill after the first hop. 'The Columbia is not on the market,' said Mr. Levine when Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, rich U. S. slacker now living in Germany, offered to buy the monoplane. Mr. Bergdoll let it be known that he desires to fly to the U. S. to show that he is no coward, that conscientious objection was his only reason for refusing to fight in the World War. A German bailiff, acting for 3r. Julius Puppe of Pittsburgh, attempted to serve a writ of attachment on the Columbia, because Dr Puppe claimed that Mr. Levine has owed him $11,000 since 1924. Lawyers suggested that both parties apologize, that Mr. Levine pay Dr. Puppe an unnamed sum. The German press politely tried to hush the incident."
  • Time magazine; January 1, 1934 "As a Christmas present to 1,500 War-time agitators and draft dodgers. President Roosevelt issued an amnesty proclamation restoring civil rights to all who, convicted under the Espionage and Selective Service Acts, had served their sentences. Unaffected was the case of notorious Slacker Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, who escaped to Germany before serving sentence."
  • Time magazine; May 20, 1935 "Richly illustrated with old photographs, the book contains one of a strikingly handsome youth seated at the controls of an early (1913) Wright pusher. The young man was Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, son of a wealthy Philadelphia brewer. Popular as an amateur automobile racer and pioneer sportsman pilot, Early Bird Bergdoll was to become notorious four years later as the No. 1 U. S. draft-dodger during the War. Grover Cleveland Loening says Grover Cleveland Bergdoll's reason for evading the draft was that he was refused a commission in the U. S. Air Service. Fortnight ago a beauteous young German woman arrived in the U. S. with two little girls in blonde pigtails, a flaxen-haired boy waving a U. S. flag, a babe-in-arms. They were Dodger Bergdoll's wife & children, come to visit his 76-year-old mother in Philadelphia and petition the Federal Government to pardon him, give back his confiscated $800,000 fortune, let him return to the U. S. a citizen. The Government promptly indicated it would do no such thing. In Germany this week Fugitive Bergdoll announced he would surrender to the U. S. and stand trial in Federal Court if the five-year court-martial sentence against him were annulled."
  • New York Times; May 26, 1939 "Bergdoll Returns, Is Seized By Army; Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Then And Now. Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, America's most notorious wartime draft dodger, arrived in this country yesterday. He was placed under arrest on a charge of desertion by officers of the United States Army. Bergdoll was seized in the lounge room of ..."
  • Time magazine; June 5, 1939 "Aboard the German liner Bremen when she reached quarantine last week was a fat, middle-aged man who was listed as Herr Bennett Nash. Herr Nash, a lonely fellow, had spent most of the crossing in the ship's bar drinking whiskey neat. Surrounded by reporters and photographers, he smiled nervously, praised the skyline in guttural English, tried to explain that he was in the U. S. to pay a debt. Before he could finish his explanation Army officers whisked him away to forbidding old Castle William on Governor's Island, where he was given a pair of olive-drab dungarees to replace his double-breasted suit. For the second time in his life Grover Cleveland Bergdoll (as Prisoner 289) wore a uniform—the prison uniform—of the U. S. Army. The first time was in 1920, when he spent two months of a five-year sentence on Governor's Island for skipping the Wartime draft. He escaped to Germany, where he remained for 19 years. There he wed a gardener's daughter, sired five children. Now living in Philadelphia with Grover Bergdoll's aging, militant mother, Mrs. Berta Bergdoll and five-year-old son Erwin (see cut) had to go to Governor's Island to greet him. Dodger Bergdoll said he had returned to pay up, be with his family and raise them as good Americans. He may not have that privilege. The Army may retry, resentence him for his escape. The U. S. Department of Labor contends that he has renounced his U. S. citizenship, is therefore deportable as an undesirable alien. The various agencies still interested in Grover Bergdoll could let him serve his time, then return him to Nazi Germany, where he no longer wants to live."
  • Time magazine; October 16, 1939 "The unhappy ending to a 20-year-old story was written when a 13-man military court found World War I's slickest draft-dodger, pudgy Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, guilty of wartime desertion, sent him back to his Army cell on Governor's Island in New York Bay. Vainly had Bergdoll tried to invoke the statute of limitations as a peacetime fugitive by testifying that, while everybody thought he was still in Germany, he had twice returned to U. S. jurisdiction, had twice hidden in his Philadelphia home (once for four years), since his escape in 1920. But the court pointed out that he had escaped while the U. S. was technically at war, and there is no statute of limitations on wartime deserters. The court gave him three years at hard labor, to be added to his old five-year sentence for draft evasion. If he behaves, with deductions for the six months he has already served, Prisoner 289 will be free by December 1944."
  • Time magazine; October 23, 1939 "Born. To Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, 46, serving an eight-year sentence for draft evasion and wartime desertion in an Army prison (Governor's Island in New York Bay); and Berta Frank Bergdoll, 32; their sixth child, a daughter; in Philadelphia, Pa. weight: 6 Ibs. 13 oz. Name: Berta."
  • Time magazine; October 10, 1960 "Divorce Revealed. Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, 66, Philadelphia playboy and World War I draft dodger, who fled to Germany in 1920, came home in 1939 and served almost five years in Army prisons during World War II; by German-born Berta Franck Bergdoll, 52; after 34 years of marriage, eight children (including Son Alfred, a Korean War draft dodger); in Charles City, Va., last April."
  • New York Times; January 29, 1966 "Grover Cleveland Bergdoll Dies; Notorious Draft Dodger Was 72; Playboy, Who Fled Fort Jay With Story of a Pot of Gold, Found Haven in Germany. Richmond, Virginia, January 28, 1966 Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, the most publicized draft dodger of World War I died of pneumonia yesterday in the Westbrook Psychiatric Hospital here. He was 72 years old."