Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Leon Turrou The most comprehensive and accurate Biography

Leon Turrou Biography

by Bertrand Vilain



Leon Turrou Biography in English

(Bio de Turrou en Français)

Leon Turrou in 1939 France new Biography

Leon Turrou in 1939

This chronology is based on documents originating from numerous sources. These archives include files from the FBI, various United States government archives,immigration and customs, transatlantic ship manifests, newspaper articles including the New York Times as well as French newspapers.

I consulted many books including "Big Show in Bololand" by Bertrand Patenaude, "Ring of Spies" by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, "Getty, the richest man in the world" by Robert Lenzner.

The biographies found on the internet sites are frequently false. For example, findagrave is notably erroneous on Turrou's first 25 years and more than a little biased after. The goal of the author was to give a smooth and clean image of Leon Turrou to the detriment of the truth.

The biographical information given by Turrou himself on different occasions are not always reliable especially regarding the first part of his life. One must, then, proceed with caution and not accept or reject everything. It is necessary to verify the information using other elements. We know that Turou has lied several times under oath, namely for obtaining American citizenship and for entering the FBI.

Concerning the period of 1923, in my book « Affaire Seznec : les archives du FBI ont parlé » published in 2020 and 2022, I demonstrated that Leon Turrou et Charly the American were one and the same. Nevertheless, in this chronology, I used the name Charly/Turrou. The book is only available in french but an english version is coming soon (or later).


Bertrand Vilain Les archives du FBI

Bertrand Vilain Affaire Seznec : Les Archives du FBI ont parlé

Concerning the period 1928-1938, Turrou working for the FBI, it is well known and well documented in several published works. I did not detail his exploits here.

I also used John Maragon's statements taken during the Disposition of war surplus, Hearings before a subcommittee of the committee on the expenditures in the executive departments, House of the Representatives, 82 Congress Washington 1951.  Maragon was friends with President Truman as well as his military aide, the Major General Harry Hawkins Vaughan.

It is worth noting that Maragon was condemned for lying under oath to Senate investigators in 1949 regarding another committee. Maragon omitted to declare that he possessed several bank accounts with important monetary movement. The rest of his declarations was considered as right.

I used the testimony of Turrou's old friend Davidowsky. He is described as honest and charitable. He was the manager of a bar / restaurant in New York that had a bad reputation due to the fact that the clientele was sometimes loud and boisterous. The FBI agent, Louis Loebl interviewed Davidowsky during lunch time inside the busy restaurant. He noted that Davidowsky drunk several glasses of wine but he didn't show any sign of intoxication at all. Davidowsky statements are accurate and most of the time confirmed with other sources.

This chronology of Turrou could evolve in case of discovery of new elements or documents.

If I had the time and energy, I would like to write a serious biography of Leon Turrou as he is such an interesting character. Not a hero and not a bad criminal. He has sailed his entire life in troubled waters, pathological liar and sometimes crook. He was also a brilliant FBI agent. He had first and foremost a disproportionate need for recognition throughout his life. The reasons for this are most likely tucked away in the sufferings of a difficult childhood.

I beg the forgiveness of Leon's descendants. He has living grandchildren and a great grandson. I do understand that this does not give pleasure to see the hidden dark side of their grandfather or great grandfather. One must also understand however, that a man, Guillaume Seznec was accused of a crime that he did not commit and was condemned in 1924 to the penal colony. After Seznec's wife, Marie-Jeanne, the daughter, Jeanne and his grandson, Denis Le Her Seznec continue his combat to rehabilitate the honor of his grandfather.

Leon Turrou knew perfectly well of the Seznec affair. When he spoke of calamity between May and July of 1923, it was not by hazard. One was responsible of the fate of the other even though they never met and lived on different continents. Destiny crossed their paths over a dark affair of Cadillac cars for the Russian Soviets.

Guillaume Seznec back from Cayenne

  Guillaume Seznec at the time of his return from the labor camp


September 14: birth of Leon Turovsky at Kobryn, Russia

Mother : Rebecca Turovsky née Skudin (or Tzilya Sirkin) or also called Rachel born in 1875.

Father : Morris (or Moishe or Moisei) Turovsky (?) also called Count Turovsky.

Brothers (probable) :

Yacob Turovsky (?) (1899-1942)

Rudolf Turovsky (1900-1935)

Mendel Turovsky (1906-1976)

Turrou indicated that he was adopted. He told the French press in 1939 that his father was a French chimneysweep from Auvergne and sometimes Alsace. According to Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, an ADN test showed that Leon Turrou was of 75% Jewish decent. According to Bob Turrou, his grandfather had 2 brothers, Rudolf et Joseph. Joseph having never gone to the US.


Octobre 15: birth of Teresa Turrou née Zakrzewski Zahacie,Poland future wife of Leon Turrou.

Mother : Anna E. Zakrzewski (1864-1956)

Father : Joseph Zakrzewski

Brother : Jozef Joseph Zakrzewski (25 oct 1897-20 sept 1990) Zahacie, Vilno, Poland. Arrived in New York on March 12, 1923.

December 25 : birth of Rudolf, brother of Leon in Alexandria Al Iskandariyah, Egypt.


1900-1903 : Turrou is at the Jesuit School in Cairo, Egypt. It could be the Holy Family School. I was unable to confirm his presence there. (FBI file 1 section 1 page 271).


1906-1908 : Turrou is living in Berlin, Germany (FBI file 1 section 1 page 271 Turrou)


Abandoned at the age of 13 according to Turrou (FBI file 1 section 1 page 271)


Turrou indicated having arrived in the US on the SS Kron Princessin Cecilia.(FBI Interview SAC Valjavec but information not confirmed).


Turrou lived in London, England (FBI file 1 section 1 page 271 Turrou)


March 12  : Arrival of Leon Turrou to the US on the SS Bremen from Germany.


October 28 : Leon Turrou was hospitalized at Kings county hospital under the name of Leon Petrov after a suicide attempt. Testimony from former roommate Mike Jacobehic (Jacobchik).

November 3: This report is confirmed by the register of the hospital stating Leon Petrov 22 years old hospitalized. The contact name was a Michael Yazoubitchion. Turrou had him call him Leon Petrov. He was a wall paperer.


Turrou leaves the US voyaging to Singapour, China and Russia. (Davidowsky)

July 27 : Leon Turrou's mother and brother, Rebecca and Rudolf Turovsky arrive to Seattle aboard the SS Sado Maru from Yokohama, Japon and Singapour.

On the immigration form :

Rebecca Turovsky : 41 years old born in Minsk (Bielorrusse) Russia. Hebrew.

Rudolf Turovsky 16 years old.

Rebecca's brother, (Turrou's uncle) : Skudin address listed as : 1016 Pitking Av Brooklyn NY

Turrou indicated that he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and that he fought on the Eastern front and was injured twice. He met his future wife Teresa Zakrzewski during his convalescence in Paris. He had been decorated with the War Cross (la croix de guerre)with palms. Research conducted by the American and French governments were unable to verify these statements. In addition, Teresa Zakrzewski never came to France before 1923. At the time, Turrou lived mostly in the far east in the area of the Russian / Chinese border.

However, Turrou was infact injured in a leg that he claimed was shrapnel. In 1938, Turrou asserts that he enlisted in the Russian Imperial Army.


Turrou works at the Chinese Eastern Railway as a translator.

(FBI file 1 section 1 page 271 Turrou)

October 19 : Marriage of Teresa Zakrzewski and Leon Turrou in Vladivostok, Russia. (Teresa's passport)


June 1918 : Taiga (Novossibrik zone reclaimed by the white army)

They live Taïga, Siberia (Teresa's passport)

November 10 : birth of Edward Turrou in Taiga, Siberia


Leon and Teresa Turrou live in China (Teresa's passport in 1919-1920)

Around September-October : Leon Turrou returns alone to the US from Shanghai by way of France.

November 8 : Turrou leaves from Le Havre on the SS Lafayette to New York.

November 17 : Arrival in New York SS La Fayette from Le Havre and Shanghai. He gave the name of the mother, Rebecca Turovsky, 381 Alabama Ave NY. He is in possession of $700. His occupation is translator for the US Red-Cross in Shanghai.

His wife lives in Taïga, Siberia.

Novembre : The Red Army has retaken control of Taïga.

December 9 : birth of Victor Turrou in Taïga, Siberia.

Concerning this time period, Turrou states in 1939 during a radio conference, that in 1918 Russia was in civil war. His wife stayed in Russia while he was in China. He states that he made an inquiry with the American Consulate and was informed that all of the inhabitants of the small village where his family lived had been massacred. He then decides to return to the US. (This version of events has been recounted many times. There are too many inaccuracies to be considered credible.)

December 13 : Marriage of Rebecca Turovsky (Turrou's mother) and David Marcus in New York.


April 20 : Declaration of intention of Naturalization. Turrou makes his declares his intention to become a US citizen. He states under oath that he is not married.

April 29 : Turrou enlists in the Marines in Washington.

May : Turrou is transferred to MB Quantico VA

May 21 : He leaves for France

June 8 : He arrives in Antwerp, Belgium.

July 1-31 : Turrou is assigned in France to the Map Detachement at Saint-Étienne-à-Arnes in the Ardennes.

September 30 : Turrou is assigned to Thiaucourt, Meurthe et Moselle France.

November 22 : He boards the Pocahontas at Antwerp, Bergium.

December 8 : He arrives to the US port of Hoboken, NJ



February 7 : Turrou signed his demand of naturalization. He states that he is not married. He request to change his name from Leon Turovsky to leon Turrou.

March 18 : He applies for employment at the FBI (FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280)

April 7 : He is hospitalized.

April 18 : An article in the Washington Times April 4, 1921 reporting on a supposed attemp on the life of former french minister René Viviani (1863-1925). Leon Turrou was a witness to the events and attempted to follow the criminals. These events were not confirmed by the police iinvestigation.

April 30 Avril : Turrou ill, was hospitalized at USN Hospital.

May 31 : Turrou is deemed disabled.

June 8 : Demand for passport to go to France for health reasons (#62758).

July 5 : Demand for passport to go to France aboard the SS La Savoie between New York and Le Havre.

September 25 : Hired by the ARA (American relief Administration) in New York

October : Departs for Moscow as part of the ARA.

Leon Turrou biography id photo




April : Conferences held between the head of the Tcheka Felix Dzerjinski (Dzerzhinskii) and Colonel Haskell concerning the halt of rail trafic. Leon Turrou is present as the colonel's translator

Around April-May 1922 : Turrou locates his wife and 2 children

May 6 Mai : Wife hold Russian identity card

3 Juillet : New York Times article signed Duranty about A.R.A. chiefs Rickard, Brown and herter visiting Moscow. Leon Turrou is mentionned as assistant chief.


New York Times july 3 1922 American Relief Administration

New York Times July 3,1922

Jul 13 : Emergency passport for Teresa Turrou at the US consulate in Warsaw, Poland.

December : Turrou is assistant to Major John J. Mangan in the administrative service of the A.R.A. with special assignment to voyages and visas for the members of the organization.


Early February : Turrou quits the A.R.A. and leaves Russia. He is in Warsaw and comes and goes frequently. He has a bank account at the Parisian branch of the Banker's Trust bank.

February 7-8 : An advertisement is pusblished in L'Auto newspaper looking to buy 10 Cadillac cars. The contact is O.I.R. 

French newspaper L'AUTO february 1922 10 Cadillac torpedo type 57 ww1
  Ad in the french newspaper L'AUTO Feb 7 and 9, 1923

February 20: Thank you note from Colonel Haskell, mission chief of the ARA in Moscow.

Between 1-7 March : First meeting between the American Charly/Turrou and Pierre Quemeneur in Paris.


Pierre Quemeneur Leon Turrou 1923
Pierre Quéméneur et Leon Turrou circa 1923


March 8: Letter from Quinn ARA Moscow indicating that he had received a letter from Turrou mailed from Warsaw.

March 17: Turrou departs Le Havre on the SS Paris going to New York with his wife and two children.

March 24 : The Turrou family arrives in New York. They are hosted by Davidowsky, 401 Union Avenue, Westbury, Long Island

March 31 : The ARA summons Turrou in regards to an affair of diamonds and a bad check for $2500 to the detriment of a Russian in Moscow.

April 20:Copy of thank you letter from Colonel Haskell for Turrou (Backdated by Turrou for unknown reason).

Between May 1 and 13 : interview between Turrou and Herbert Hoover . The exact date is unkown but definately before May 14 and most likely the first week in May.

May 4 : Hoover decides to end the ARA mission in Russia.

May 15 : Departure of the Berengaria from New York in the direction of Cherbourg and Southampton.

May 21 : 4pm, arrival of the Berengaria at Cherbourg. Turrou/Charly is suspected to be aboard. The passenger list of those descending in France has not been found. Between 16:00 and 17:30, disembarking of the 321 passengers : 155 1st class passengers, 127 2nd class passengers, 39 3rd class passengers and 1850 sacks of mail.

Chicago Tribune may 22 1923 Berengaria
The Chicago Tribune, May 22,1923

May 21: 8:30pm, Sezec calls Quemeneur. Beginning of the Cadillac affair.

May 22:Pierre Quemeneur and Guillaume Seznec have a meeting at the bank in Brest for finding financing for the Cadillac affair.

Moscow : Sale of the entirety of the vehicle fleet of the ARA. Totaling 149 vehicles, 24 of those are Cadillac.

The same day, by Soviet government decree, the purchase and importation of tourism vehicles became restricted.

Arrival of the Berengaria in Southampton. Turrou was not listed among the passengers entering the United Kingdom.

May 24 : Guillaume Seznec leaves Morlaix driving the Cadillac. He picks up Quemeneur in Rennes (west of France).

May 25 : Pierre Quéméneur and Guillaume Seznec drive the Cadillac towards Paris from Rennes. They have dinner around 9pm at the « Plat d'étain » restaurant in Houdan, then continue on their way towards the capital.


Guillaume seznec Cadillac type 57 surplus

 The Cadillac type 57 of the Seznec Affair


May 26 : Meeting in a brasserie at 8:30am Rue du Maine, near Montparnasse train station between Pierre Quemeneur and the American Charly/Turrou make a deal with the trade of Cadillac cars to the Soviets. Someone presented themselves at the counter of the post office on Boulevard Maleherbes withdraw a check for Quemeneur. The date was changed to July 2.

Bistrot restaurant avenue du Maine Paris France 1923

 Brasserie Avenue du Maine Paris


The notaire Master Danguy-des-Deserts believes to have seen Pierre Quéméneur at the Rennes train station.

Guillaume Seznec turns back towards Morlaix after several breakdowns in the car. He believes that the car is not sellable in this condition.

May 27 : According to the testimony of the son of Guillaume Seznec, called Petit-Guillaume, Pierre Quéméneur, was seen in the morning, dead in the dining room of the Seznec family home in Morlaix.

In the afternoon or evening, Seznec returns to Morlaix in the Cadillac.

June 13 : Discovery of Pierre Quemeneur's suitcase in Le Havre.

June 26 : Article in the New York Times about the Senec affair and the mysterious American : FRENCH SEEK AMERICAN TO CLEAR UP MYSTERY

New York Times June 26 1923 American
New York Times June 26,1923


June 28 : Guillaume Seznec arrest and indictment for murder.

Early July : Turrou is in Monaco. He lost everything at the casino and is in need of money to return to the US. Money is wired from his wife and his friend Davidowsky.

July 7 : Departure of the SS Berengaria from Cherbourg en route to New York. Turrou is on the list of passengers.

July 13 : The Beregaria arrives in New York.

Turrou declares that his commercial enterprise in the period of May to July 1923 was a calamity. Calamity was the term he used.

July : Russian governmental photo of Felix Dzerjinski (Dzerzhinskii)at the back of the Cadillac fomerly used by Colonel Haskell.

Dzerzhinskii at the back of A.R.a. colonel Haskell Cadillac Torpedo

Dzerzhinskii at the back of the former A.R.A. Colonel Haskell Cadillac

July 24 : Turrou applied to the Justice department. He includes the backdated letter from Colonel Haskell.

September 12 : Turrou hired as salesman at Macy & Co. New York.


July 1 : Interview with Turrou at his home by agent Valjavec (FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280)

October 21 : New passport for travel to France, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, and England for business affairs. There is a handwritten mention of L&M mushroom 1253 Boynton Bronx. (#484899)

November 1 : Turrou quit his job at Macy & co.

November 4 : Seznec barely escapes the death penalty. He is condemned to life at the penal colony.

December : Turrou travels in Europe. The exact date of his departure is unknown.


January : In a letter, Turrou states that he had passed 6 weeks in Russia.

February 11 : Departure Le Havre in the direction of New York on the SS Rochambeau.

February 21 : Arrival New York.

March 7 : Turrou returns to his sales position at Macy's.

April 16 : Turrou applies for the Civil Service Commission. ( FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280)

May 18 : Turrou writes to Hoover. It does not appear that he received a response.


March : Quit his job at Macy & co.

June 24 : Applies at the Justice Department (FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280)

September 12 : Writes a document entitled « An Unwritten Chapter" Turrou's memories regarding Dzerzhinsky

July 26 : Applies a second time at the FBI (FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280)

October : Turrou works for the US Postal Service NY(Until April 1929)


December 8 : The FBI agent McKean speaks with Turrou on the subject of a job offer.


April 1 : Turrou quits his job at the postal service of New York.

Turrou is employed by the FBI until June 20, 1938. Turrou dealt with multiple important cases including the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby or the Nazi spy affair.

April 23 : Turrou is listed as at the « Municipal Civil Commission » as a interpretor of Yiddish/Russian.


April 11 : Census of the Turrou family : Turrou Leon Teresa Edward Victor


October 27 Octobre : Fire in the building owned by Davidowsky where Turrou's apartment was located. Discord between Davidowsky and Turrou


October 19 : Death of Rudolf Turovsky, frère de Léon


June 15 : Demand passport for travel to Europe.

June 20 : Quit FBI

October 14 : Beginning od Nazi Spy cased

November 29 : Reapplies with the FBI - FBI file 1 section 3 page 40/280

December 2 : End of case.


June 5 : Arrival of Leon Turrou in Southampton from New York aboard the SS Normandie. Several articles in french newspapers about Turrou presented as the chief of US counterintelligence.

June 30 : investigation by the french police "Surete Generale" about alleged attack by foreigners against Turrou from an anonymous source. The police won't find anything.    

July 4 : Turrou view the Parisian premier of the film : "Les aveux d'un espion nazi", french version of the movie "Confessions of a nazi spy".

July 15 : Leon Turrou departs Le Havre to New York aboard the SS Ile De France


June 1 : Census


December 8 : Registered for the draft.

Teresa Turrou address : 15 Garden Turn Manbasset NY

Leon Turrou address : 28 East 92 nd St New York tel : Manhasset 2782

Business : 420 Lexington Ave New York City


May 1 : Sudden death of Turrou's wife, Teresa Turrou née Zakrzewski


April 2 : Enlisted as private. Military Police Cameron Texas

August 16 : Death of Turrou's son, Victor Turrou. Killed in combat in the crash of his plane over Italy.


May 24 : Leon Turrou marries Anna B. McLester in Tuscon, Arizona.


June 15 : Voyage by plane from Paris to the US.


Maj Leon Turrou Director, Compliance Division, Office of the Foreign liquidation Commissioner 41 rue du Faubourg St. Honoré Paris France

Turrou is implicated in a scheme of the illegal trafic of American surplus in France. Investigation done by  "Department of State"


April : Publication of the book : « Where my shadow falls »

June 13 : Turrou Leaves the army. He lives in Paris.

He is hired by billionnaire J. Paul Getty as secury consultant.

July 9: Leon Turrou flies Air France Paris to New York. His address 82 Boulevard Flandrin Paris.


Translation of « Where my shadow falls » in French « J’étais un G.Man »


Publication of the report from the US Congress concerning the liquidation of the surplus. The name of Leon Turrou is cited several times as being close with businessman and crook George Dawson.


October 14 : Affair Turrou and Billionaire Aristotle Onassis.


From 1960 to 1962, Lt. Col. Turrou is president of the The Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers.

February 2 : Leon Turrou decorates French Prime Minister George Pompidou with the Maltese Cross at the Hotel Matignon.

March : Turrou publishes a novel in french : « Bonheur en sursis » written with Nicole Le Lec (Baucilhon). The novel has never been publised in english.


Leon Turrou Bonheur en sursis novel

Leon Turrou Bonheur en sursis


January 28 : Turrou succeeded in convincing the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs that a building belonging to the American government located at 49 rue Pierre Charron in Paris, which housed « The American Legion », was frequented by prostitutes and homosexuals. In reality, this false allegation was a ruse for Turrou to try to obtain usage of the location for his own organization. (Letter from the Ambassador of the the United States of American from January 29, 1963).


March 12 : Turrou is invited to appear on the french TV program : "Les dossiers de l'écran" about Capone. INA archive.


Turrou maintains a cordial relationship with the Préfet de Police of Paris, Maurice Grimaud.


Benjamin Franklin Post 605 Veterans of Foreign Wars : Leon Turrou commander

October : Publication  « 1942-1972 30th Anniversary of Allied Troop Landing in North Africa" by Veterans Of Foreign Wars of United-States Benjamin Franklin post 605. Leon Turrou is promoting himself in this book. 


June 6 : Death of J. Paul Getty. Turrou goes to Sutton Place, Surrey, UK. He finds out that Getty left him nothing in his will, notably not even the $1 million promised to him.


December 10 : Death of Leon Turrou. He is buried at the cemetary of Neuilly/Seine in the American Legion Mausoleum.


Tomb of Leon Turrou cimetary of Neuilly sur Seine near Paris France

 Tomb of Leon Turrou at the Neuilly/Seine Cemetery

Tomb of guillaume and Jeanne seznec Plomodien Finistere France

Tomb of Guillaume Seznec and his daughter Jeanne in Plomodiern

©Bertrand Vilain/MonsieurBrocanteur