Eric Erickson (spy)

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For other people of the same name, see Eric Erickson (disambiguation).

Eric "Red" Erickson (1890 – January 1983) was a Swedish oil executive.


Erickson was born in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Swedish immigrants. He claimed to have fought in the U.S. Army in World War I, although this was not true,[1] and graduated from Cornell University in 1921. He attended Cornell at the suggestion of oil magnate Walter C. Teagle. Erickson moved to Sweden in 1924 and became a Swedish citizen in the mid-1930s.


Erickson spied on German synthetic oil plants for the American OSS in World War II. At the outbreak of war, Erickson offered his services to the United States. Pretending that he was a Nazi, Erickson visited Germany more than 30 times between 1939 and 1945.[2][3]

Alexander Klein wrote a 1958 book about Erickson's World War II exploits, The Counterfeit Traitor, which was made into a 1962 movie of the same name, starring William Holden in the role of Red Erickson.[3]


In the beginning of World War II, Erickson began to publicly express feelings of devotion to Hitler and his cause. Ultimately, he was disowned by his family in America, and shunned by everyone else. In the past, Erickson worked for numerous oil fields in Texas and Europe. In Sweden, Erickson set up an oil exporting business. Sooner or later the security division of Gestapo contacted Erickson, and easily influenced him to help out Germany. Erickson swiftly brought great improvements to Germany's synthetic oil industry. At the time, every oil refinery in Germany was built underground, and were filling every oil need for Germany. Soon enough, in 1942, Erickson managed a meeting with Himmler himself. Here, Erickson proposed the construction of a massive synthetic oil industry in Sweden, large enough to be able to support all of Germany in the event that the underground refineries were destroyed. Erickson also proposed the personal investment of Himmler himself as to benefit him if things went downhill. Both ideas were fully embraced by Himmler, and Hitler himself; so the project was taken into action immediately. In order for Erickson to reproduce a refinery in Sweden, he had to become familiar with all the refineries in Germany. So he was given a pass signed by Himmler that gave him unlimited access into anywhere in Germany, and into all data he needed. If that wasn't enough, Erickson also received an order signed by Hitler, providing all vehicles he needed and unlimited petrol coupons.

After a time, Erickson had visited every refinery in Germany and mapped out in complete detail of their location. In the weeks to come, every refinery was persistently bombed during the precise times that return raids came, and bombed again when more return raids came after the refineries had been repaired. In 1944, synthetic oil production in Germany had dried up completely. What was considered most surprising and shocking was that the synthetic plant in Merseburg-Leuna happened to be next to a building in which experiments, which were highly advanced much further than anywhere else, were being conducted for the atomic bomb. Therefore, when the Merseburg-Leuna synthetic plant was bombed, Germany's atomic bomb project was diminished in an instant.

Soon after the end of World War II, what Erickson did was cited by General Dwight D. Eisenhower as an integral part of the Allies' victory in Europe, and he was later also honored by President Harry S. Truman for such.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Eric Erickson, Wartime Spy (abstract of obituary)". New York Times. January 25, 1983. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  3. ^ a b "Alexander Klein, 83; Wrote Spy Thriller (obituary)". New York Times. August 24, 2002. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 

3. "Details"/"Place of Birth": The Final Summit by. Andy Andrews