FBI Special Agent Harold Haberfeld, a 1934 graduate of Geneva College, died when his plane exploded over South America during a highly-classified 1943 mission. Details of his 69-year-old sacrifice are known by few, but a dedication has been constructed in his memory this month at his old FBI office in Buffalo, NY.
“There's nobody left to remember him," said Earl Gould, Supervisory Special Agent for the Buffalo FBI. "I think it is important for us to take a step back and actually do something.” Gould’s efforts to recognize past agents recently brought Haberfeld’s work to light.
After only six months in the Buffalo office, 30-year-old Harold Haberfeld was picked by J. Edgar Hoover for a mission to North Africa to interrogate a French-American with ties to the Nazis. Haberfeld’s fluency in French and German, along with his past position as an accountant in Algiers, made him the man for the job. But on January 15, 1943, the plane crashed in a jungle in the country of Surinam, near the northern coast of South America, while en route to North Africa. It was, at the time, the worst American aviation disaster. The remains were not discovered until five years later.
Although sabotage was originally suspected, the crash was decided to be the result of mechanical failure. Hoover was present at Haberfeld’s funeral.
The main conference room of the FBI’s Buffalo office was dedicated to Haberfeld in a ceremony attended by Tom Stein, Director of Alumni Relations at Geneva College. At Geneva in the early ’30s, Haberfeld was in leadership positions in both the French and Spanish clubs and played intramural football and basketball.
Because of his mission’s secrecy, details of the special agent’s final goals are not known, but he will be remembered for his service to his country. “Every day somebody will walk by that plaque that we dedicate and they will say ‘Harold Haberfeld,’” Gould said. “So there is a whole generation of agents that is going to know that story. It's worth doing.”
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Geneva College is a comprehensive Christian college of the arts, sciences and professional studies. Founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith, Geneva prepares students to serve Christ in all areas of society: work, family and the church. Geneva College’s philosophy of education is based on the Foundational Concepts of Christian Higher Education. Geneva is a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).
For over 50 years, Geneva’s chemistry department has been approved by the American Chemical Society (ACS)—a distinction achieved by only six other colleges in the CCCU.