pril 27, 2001, is the 20th anniversary of a little known day in modern Canadian history. It is a day that has not been sufficiently addressed in an academic text, nor is it a day that the average Canadian can even remember, which is surprising considering it involves neo-Nazi mercenaries, the Mafia, spies, and an attempted invasion of Dominica. It is a tale so bizarre that newspapers called it a "comic book escapade" and local police named it the "Bayou of Pigs." What makes the story so incredible is that, although it read like a Hollywood plot, the invasion, according to FBI anti-terrorism specialists, had a very high rate of success. Commenting at the time, Eugenia Charles, the Prime Minister of Dominica, stated that the island's police force was unprepared for the planned invasion and that "a lot of people would have died."
On April 27, 1981, two Canadians, Wolfgang Walter Droege and Larry Lloyd Jacklin, along with eight Americans, were arrested in New Orleans by ATF, FBI, and US Customs agents in an early morning raid. Later, four more Canadians would be arrested, including Marion McGuire, James McQuirter, Charles Yanover, and Harold Woods. All of the Canadians and Americans arrested were members of the far right with the exception of Yanover and Woods. Yanover was a well-known Mafia crime figure from Toronto while Woods was a psychiatric patient in love with McQuire. Woods was arrested in Dominica after trying to break McQuire out of prison.
On Dominica, Patrick John, the former Prime Minister, Major Fred Newton, the commander of the army, three additional army officers, and two civilians (including Dennis Joseph, the former manager of the Dominican broadcasting service) were arrested. In total, more than 20 people were tried and convicted of conspiracy charges in Canada, the US, and Dominica.
The invasion, named Operation Red Dog by the mercenaries, was simple. The group of neo-Nazis planned to travel from New Orleans to Dominica on a chartered boat, land at night in rubber boats, meet up with John and his guerrilla force of disgruntled army veterans and Rastafarian rebels, and then lay waste to Dominica's police force and political leaders. Contrary to Stanley Barrett's analysis (1987), the primary purpose of the invasion was not to establish a base of operations for white supremacists, but rather to set-up a series of lucrative businesses including cocaine manufacturing plants, casinos, hotels, brothels, and a gun running operation. Considering the size of Dominica, which is only 300 square miles, and its military and police force, the coup was achievable.
One of the central figures of the failed invasion was Wolfgang Droege. Born in 1949 in Germany, Droege moved to Canada in 1963 and shortly thereafter became a citizen. In 1974, Droege met Don Andrews in Toronto. Andrews, who was the leader of the violent Western Guard from 1972-1977, had been involved in the far right since 1967 when he teamed up with Paul Fromm and Leigh Smith to form the Edmund Burke Society. Within a matter of weeks, Droege joined the Western Guard and was well on his way to becoming a force in the racialist movement.
In September 1976, Droege attended the International Patriotic Congress in Metairie, Louisiana. The event was sponsored by David Duke, leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and was attended by leading racists from around the world. At the conference, Droege met up with prominent Canadian racists James McQuirter and John Ross Taylor and started to network with a number of American racist leaders including David Duke, (Stephen) Don Black, and Louis Beam. It was at the congress that Droege decided to join the Duke's Klan. It would also be Droege who officially imported and started the KKK in Toronto. McQuirter joined a few months later. While McQuirter became the Grand Wizard of the Canadian KKK, the actual leader of the group was Droege. A source reported that McQuirter was given the role of leader simply due to his "boyish good looks" and his charming personality. "He looked good in the robes and he had media savvy," said the source. "But Wolfgang was McQuirter's intellectual superior, and it was Droege who came up with all of the plans."
In the spring of 1977, Droege and Ann Ladas, another member of the Western Guard, drove to Buffalo, NY, to attend a Klan rally at which Duke was speaking. After the rally, Droege convinced Duke and Don Black to visit Toronto to stir-up some media attention. Both men, who were legally in Canada, stayed as Andrews' houseguests and, within a day of their arrival, had organized a visit to Queen's Park to present a letter of protest against new hate crime legislation to the Attorney General. Duke also made the most of his visit by appearing on CITY-TV. For the Canadian far right, the visit was an absolute success as the media attention served to provide national exposure, encouraging several people to join the group.
With the Klan firmly established in Toronto, Droege and McQuirter decided to open a new chapter in Vancouver. At Droege's request, Duke returned to Canada in April of 1978 to officially open the Klan's West-coast chapter. During his visit, Duke spoke to new members and did several interviews, once again, provided the Klan with national media exposure. The Canadian KKK appeared to be on a roll, and media reports indicated that it was getting larger.
With the success of the Klan, it did not take long for Droege and McQuirter to make the decision to break free of Andrews' stagnating Western Guard. By the spring of 1979, the Klan opened a public office in the Riverdale neighbourhood of Toronto. Although McQuirter declared the Klan to have over 2,000 members across Canada, police sources reported that membership was only about 70 and that newsletter subscribers peaked at approximately 200.
In the summer of 1979, Duke handed control of the Knights of the KKK over to Don Black, deciding that a less radical approach was the best way forward. Droege returned to Louisiana that September to assist Duke in his bid for state senator. Although Droege remained a Klan member, he was nonetheless committed to Duke's new approach and offered his assistance in developing a more conservative political image under the banner of the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP), which Duke tried to market as a civil liberties organization for Caucasian-Americans. Sources indicate that Droege was integral in the planning and development of Duke's new group.
It was during this period that Duke introduced Droege to long-time Klan member Mike Purdue. Purdue, a member of the Klan since high school and a self-proclaimed mercenary, outlined his plan to overthrow the government of Grenada and to set-up several lucrative businesses. By the end of the meeting, Droege had committed to the operation and offered his assistance in finding money and resources.
After the meeting, Duke called Don Andrews and requested his help. Andrews, always looking to be involved in a grand scheme, called Purdue later that night and arranged a meeting. Purdue immediately flew to Toronto. While discussing the feasibility of the operation with Droege and Andrews, Purdue decided to change the target from Grenada to Dominica. As a result, Andrews withdrew from direct involvement in the coup, citing several complications. However, Andrews did arrange a meeting between Purdue and Martin Weiche, a long-time rightwing leader from London. Sources indicate that Weiche invested approximately $10,000 in the invasion, but this has never been substantiated. Although Weiche publicly denied involvement in the invasion, a source revealed that, soon after meeting Purdue, he took an extended vacation on the island.
Following the meeting with Weiche, Andrews contacted Arnie Polli, a member of the Western Guard and, unknown to the invasion organizers, an OPP informant. Polli was given $3,000 US to go down to the island and perform preliminary reconnaissance with Roger Dermee, also a member of the Western Guard. Andrews also put Purdue in contact with Charles Yanover, who was a well-known organized crime figure. Yanover who was ecstatic with the idea, provided Purdue with a $10,000 advance. In return for the investment, Yanover was given the right to set-up a gunrunning operation to smuggle weapons into South Africa and Central America.
Although Andrews denies any direct involvement in the mission, it has been reported that he, too, visited Dominica on several occasions and had met with various business partners.
In the summer of 1980 Droege traveled to Dominica and spent nearly two weeks on the island meeting with several investors from Las Vegas. The investors, who were connected to the Mafia, invited Droege to Las Vegas to further discuss the invasion.
Droege and Purdue returned to Las Vegas in January 1981 to finalize the plans with their new business associates. At the meeting, it was decided that Droege would remain in Nevada while Purdue would travel to Dominica to get Patrick John to sign a contract that secured the participation of the military in the coup as well as assurances that all natural resources and development projects on the island would be handed over to the mercenaries and the investors. In return, Purdue promised John that he would be reinstated as Prime Minister. Under the agreement with the business group from Las Vegas, the mercenaries would receive more than $8 million. By winter 1981, Droege Purdue secured more than $100,000 in capital for the invasion.
But things would turn bad for white-supremacist mercenaries. Just two months before the invasion, the boat captain David Duke had arranged to ferry the mercenaries to Dominica suddenly backed-out. Purdue, dismayed at the loss, walked into a nearby marina and approached Mike Howell, a local boat captain and Vietnam veteran, and spun a story of the CIA needing his boat for a covert operation. Unconvinced, Howell informed the ATF of the supposed secret mission.
To matters worse, Mcquirter contacted a reporter from CFTR radio (Toronto) in March 1981 and informed him of the coup. McQuirter's intention was to capitalize on the ensuing media coverage, thus building his public image. Suffering an ethical dilemma between an exclusive-story or allowing many people to die, the reporter, apparently against the direction of his superior at CFTR, eventually contacted the OPP.
In April 1981, Charles Yanover and an associate returned from a reconnaissance trip of the island to attend the final operational planning meeting. At the meeting it was decided that Marion McGuire and Yanover would return to Dominica, just days prior to the coup to meet with the invasion team after they landed on the beach. McQuirter would also travel to Dominica a few days in advance to organize local resistance with the help of John and his military leaders. The invasion force, which included Droege, Purdue, Don Black and seven other Americans, would leave from New Orleans on Howell's boat with all of the weapons and explosives onboard.
What defies logic is the fact that Droege, Purdue, and McQuirter were all made aware of John Patrick's arrest just prior to the invasion. The reporter from CFTR, on behalf of the mercenaries, called Prime Minister Charles in Dominica to confirm that Patrick was arrested and that knowledge of the coup was, indeed, publicly known. Purdue, unfazed by the news, simply told his associates that is was "too late to turn back." "Too much time and money has been invested in this mission to call it off now," he said to his associates.
On April 26, Droege and Purdue met with three suppliers in New Orleans. Unknown to the mercenaries, the three men were undercover ATF agents. Purdue told the undercover agents that the invasion would go ahead the next night and for them to meet the mercenaries at a predetermined location.
On the night of April 27, the 10 mercenaries, accompanied by three government agents, met at the park, put the weapons in a van, and departed for the marina. When they arrived, an emergency task force team from the FBI was waiting. With spotlights in their faces and surrounded by swat team members with automatic weapons, the mercenaries were in absolute shock. Purdue and Droege never thought that they would get caught. The agents confiscated a number of automatic weapons, shotguns, rifles, handguns, dynamite, over 5000 rounds of ammunition, and a black and white Nazi flag.
The legal system was not kind to the mercenaries. Droege, Purdue, and McQuire each received a three-year prison term while Yanover was sentenced to 6 months. The other mercenaries received anywhere from a year to three years. McQuirter, however, was not charged until a year after the failed coup. Apparently, McQuirter, thinking he was not culpable of a criminal offence, openly bragged about his involvement in the coup to the media. McQuirter was eventually charged with conspiracy to overthrow a foreign government, fraud, and conspiracy to commit murder (a charge related to McQuirter planning to kill his girlfriend's former common-law husband) and received two years for his involvement in the coup and five more for conspiracy to commit murder. John Patrick would eventually be sentenced to 12 years in prison. Arnie Polli, the police informant, and the CFTR reporter both escaped criminal prosecution.
For the far right in Canada, the coup was devastating. With both Droege and McQuirter in prison, Ann Farmer, Droege's girlfriend from British Columbia, was made interim caretaker of the Klan. Farmer remained in control of the group until Droege's release in 1983, but by the then it was too late, membership dwindled and protests by community groups all but ran the group out of Canada.
In the end, McQuirter would disappear from the right wing, leaving Andrews' Nationalist Party of Canada as the only remaining active racialist group in Canada. Droege, although dejected by the state of the right in Canada, was a committed racialist and secretly returned to the US in early 1984 to join the Silent Brotherhood, a terrorist cell of the Aryan Nations led by Robert Matthews.
Nearly 20 years after the failed coup, Droege is equally committed to the racialist cause. Recalling the invasion plan, Droege argued that the objectives were completely achievable. "We had the men and the resources," he said, "It was just unfortunate that we got caught." Putting a positive spin on the experience, Droege asserted "But jail wasn't that bad. It really put American society and the racial issue into perspective. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to network with other racialist leaders, which really helped me after I got out."