Nazis in the USA 1942 – WIF Forgotten History

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Operation Pastorius:

Germany’s Failed

WWII American

Sabotage Scheme

When Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, his hatred for America was visceral. So when his chief of military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris of the Abwehr, proposed a means of striking in America’s heartland, crippling its industry and terrorizing its people, he approved immediately. The plan was to recruit German men, former residents of the United States, to conduct a campaign of terror bombings targeting America’s infrastructure including transportation facilities, manufacturing plants, electrical distribution grids, and other targets of opportunity. It was called Operation Pastorius, named for the founder of America’s first German settlement, Germantown, Pennsylvania.

The first team of bombers would be followed by a second, then a third, and support for the bombers would be drawn from Nazi sympathizers in America, according to the plan developed by Canaris and run by a deputy, Walter Kappe. Its agents were trained to identify and target Jewish owned businesses in American cities, which Hitler believed carried undue influence with the American government. Operation Pastorius was not a single wave of terror bombings, but a series of them calculated to cripple America’s ability to make war through the flexing of industrial muscle. It was betrayed by at least one of the agents involved, and J. Edgar Hoover took advantage of the betrayal.

10. The Germans planned a wave of terror in the Northeast and Midwest

German military planners of the Abwehr selected the primary targets for the first wave of Operation Pastorius. They included the hydroelectric plant at Niagara, which provided electrical power for much of the northeastern United States. The Hell Gate Bridge complex, a critical railroad link connecting New York to New England was to be bombed, disrupting freight and passenger traffic. America’s aluminum industry figured heavily in the target lists, which included a cryolite processing plant in Philadelphia (cryolite being essential in the smelting of the metal), and several aluminum plants in Tennessee, Illinois, and New York.

Railroad repair facilities and stations were targeted, as were locks crucial to the navigation of barges on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. During their preparation, the agents selected for Pastorius were trained in identifying and bombing targets of opportunity. They were to be selected for their economic value as well as terror effect, and included department stores and restaurants, railway depots, airports, subways, and places of public gathering. Abwehr planners envisioned the operation in effect for two years in the United States, with minimal communication between the agents and planners in Germany. The agents were trained to recognize emerging targets and act accordingly.

9. Eight agents were recruited and trained by the Abwehr

Originally, 12 men were recruited by the Abwehr, selected by Walter Kappe from lists of men who had been repatriated from the United States. Four quickly dropped out of the program, and eight were sent to complete three weeks of training at an Abwehr facility in April 1942. They were trained in the handling of demolition charges and timers, the manufacturing of bombs and munitions, and their placement for maximum effect. They also received training in target selection, small arms, and other aspects of espionage. The training was conducted at an Abwehr facility about 50 miles from Berlin, with some of the instruction provided by operatives of the Irish Republican Army working in concert with the Abwehr.

All of the men selected had lived in the United States for some time, and at least two were American citizens. Another two had served in the United States Army or National Guard. As they were trained, the Abwehr created life histories for each, giving them fictional backgrounds based on their American experiences, and the documents necessary to sustain the charade. Drivers licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, and letters from friends and family were prepared for the men to carry during their mission in the United States. When the training was complete the men traveled to L’Orient in France, from whence the Kriegsmarine carried them to the America.

8. They were landed in the United States by two separate U-boats

Divided into two teams of four — one led by George John Dasch, the other by Edward Kerling — the agents were carried by U-Boats to the United States. The first to arrive reached Long Island near Montauk in the early morning of June 13, 1942. The team led by Dasch went ashore wearing German uniforms. The uniforms and the explosives which they brought ashore were buried near their landing point, to be retrieved later, and the four men walked to nearby Amagansett, where they boarded a Long Island Railroad train to New York, inconspicuous amongst the early morning commuters. By the time they arrived in New York their presence in America was known to the authorities.

The second team, led by Kerling, was deposited on Ponte Vedra beach near Jacksonville, Florida, going ashore in the darkness wearing swim trunks and German uniform caps. They arrived on June 16. They dressed on the beach, buried their explosives, and walked to a Greyhound bus station, where they caught a bus to Jacksonville. From there they traveled by train to Cincinnati, where they split into pairs, with two moving on to Chicago and the other two, including Kerling, traveling to New York. All eight agents were to reconnoiter their targets, and rendezvous in Cincinnati on July 4, 1942, to coordinate the bombings to ensure maximum terror effect.

7. The teams planned a campaign of sabotage to last two years

The teams went ashore carrying explosives for their first wave of bombings on targets assigned by the Abwehr. In Germany, Walter Kappe was already planning for additional teams to be sent to America, including himself. He planned to establish a headquarters for sabotage and espionage in the United States following the success of the first wave. Supported by Canaris, he sent the first teams of agents to America well-equipped to support themselves and their operations for two years. Each team leader – Dasch and Kerling – carried with them a list of contacts, Germans known to be sympathetic to the Nazis. The lists were written in invisible ink on a handkerchief.

The team leaders were to contact Nazi sympathizers known to the Abwehr and Gestapo, establishing and utilizing a network of mail drops and contacts through which additional teams could communicate with one another. Substantial German communities in cities were to be plumbed for support for the German operations. The support of the German communities was considered to be necessary for the long-term maintenance of the teams. The United States was not yet on a full war footing when the teams arrived in America, and security was still relatively lax, which the Abwehr believed would allow their agents to assimilate in the German areas with little difficulty.

6. The sabotage teams had false documents and American money

The teams carried $50,000 dollars, in denominations of $50 or less, under control of the team leader, to be used for expenses including travel, purchases of additional explosives and, if necessary, bribes of officials or supporters. Each man was also allotted $9,000 — about half of which was controlled by the team leader, with the rest carried in money belts by the agents. An additional $400 was held by each member for immediate use. All of the money was genuine to avoid the unnecessary risks inherent with using counterfeit funds.

Kerling’s team was tasked with bombing the Newark station of the Pennsylvania Railroad, repair facilities near Altoona, Pennsylvania, the Hell Gate Bridge, and Ohio River dams and locks between Cincinnati and Louisville. Dasch was to target the electrodynamic plants at Niagara, Alcoa plants in several states, and the cryolite processing plant in Philadelphia. Both teams were to target department stores and large train stations wherever possible, with the aim of creating terror among the populace. The agents all carried false documentation which supported their carefully crafted backstories as they moved freely to accomplish their missions.

5. The New York team was accosted by the Coast Guard, escaped, and a manhunt began

As Dasch and his team buried their explosives on the beach in the dark at about 2:30 in the morning of June 13, he noticed someone on the beach staring at him. It was US Coast Guardsman John Cullen. Dasch told Cullen that he and his party were fishing, though they lacked fishing equipment. When Cullen appeared suspicious, Dasch threatened him, then attempted to bribe him with $260. Cullen promised to forget what he had seen and returned to his station at Amagansett, where he informed his superiors of what he had seen, and more importantly, heard. While Dasch was speaking to him Cullen heard the others talking – in German

By the time the Coast Guard returned to the site the Germans were gone, but they discovered evidence of digging and when they went back to their station it was with the information that explosives and German uniforms were buried on the beach. Before Dasch’s team arrived at Penn Station in New York, the FBI in Washington knew of the discovery on Long Island. Dasch and his team split up in New York, registering in pairs at two hotels, safely hidden in the throngs of the city. In Washington, the information was filed accordingly. Kerling’s team had not yet landed when Dasch arrived in New York.

4. The teams planned to meet in Cincinnati to begin their attacks on the 4th of July, 1942

The following day Dasch told the agent he was traveling with, Ernst Burger, that he had no intention of carrying out the attacks as planned, and was instead going to inform the FBI of the entire operation. Burger was given the choice of either cooperating or being thrown out of their upper story hotel room window. Dasch called the FBI on June 15 and was disregarded as a crackpot. The next day he traveled to Washington, checked in at the Mayflower Hotel, and went to the FBI with his information. After he presented the large sum of American cash he was carrying he got the Bureau’s attention. The fact that his story confirmed the findings on Long Island was also noted. Within a few hours, using his information, the FBI had the rest of his team in custody. Kerling’s team landed in Florida the same day.

Dasch could not give the FBI much information regarding the whereabouts of the second team, only that the teams were to meet in Cincinnati on July 4. He did tell the FBI about the invisible ink on the handkerchief. He could not recall the means of revealing the ink. The FBI allowed Dasch to remain in his Mayflower Hotel room, where he was closely watched, while it rapidly solved the mystery of the invisible ink, which was reactive to ammonia. The listed contacts in several cities were placed under 24-hour surveillance. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered the arrest of Dasch’s team kept secret, so as not to alert the remaining four German saboteurs.

3. The remaining Germans were rounded up in New York and Chicago

Kerling and his associate, Werner Thiel, traveled from Cincinnati to New York, where Kerling contacted Helmut Leiner, whom he knew from his earlier life in America. Leiner’s name was on the list provided to the FBI and he was under surveillance. The FBI followed Kerling from that point on, and when he met with Thiel in a bar a few days later they promptly arrested the pair, leaving just two of the German agents still free. Though the FBI did not know it, they were in Chicago, where one of them, Herbert Laupt, had also decided to forego his mission.

Laupt had been raised from the age of five in Chicago, and in 1940 failed to register for the draft, as the law then required. Desirous of marrying his girlfriend, he went to the FBI office in Chicago and told them that he had contacted his draft board. The FBI recognized his name and let him go, hoping he would lead them to the sole remaining German agent. After three days of following him, they arrested Laupt for espionage. Laupt, hoping for leniency, told them they could find the last agent of Operation Pastorius, Hermann Neubauer, at the Sheridan Plaza Hotel. He was taken into custody by the FBI that same evening when he returned from watching a movie. As soon as news of the arrests in Chicago reached Washington, Dasch was arrested.

2. The Germans were tried as spies by a military tribunal

Hoover proudly announced the arrests of the team of German saboteurs as the result of an FBI operation, failing to mention the role played by Dasch when he approached the Bureau with the story. He preferred the public and the Germans believe in the efficiency of the American security effort. For the same reason, he urged the Germans be tried by military tribunal, in secret, telling President Roosevelt that a public trial would reveal too much of the FBI’s methods. Roosevelt agreed, and the eight were tried together by a tribunal of seven Army generals, with the Attorney General of the United States, Francis Biddle, serving as the prosecutor.

The Germans were provided with legal representation, but the outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion. All of the Germans were tried under the penalty of death if found guilty, which they were on July 27. The court recommended the death penalty, though Biddle recommended clemency for Dasch and Burger. The entire court transcript, which ran over 3,000 pages, was sent to Roosevelt, who held the authority to implement the court’s recommendation or grant lesser sentences. Roosevelt’s review of the documents revealed to him that Hoover’s reports of the FBI’s role in the unraveling of the German plan had been somewhat exaggerated. Dasch’s role in exposing the plot remained hidden from the public.

1. All were sentenced to death by the tribunal, but FDR extended clemency

Roosevelt accepted the recommendation from Biddle, supported by Hoover, and granted clemency for Burger, who was sentenced to life at hard labor, and Dasch, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His decision was announced on August 7, 1942. The following day the remaining six German agents were executed in the District of Columbia Jail, using the electric chair. They had been back in the United States less than two months. An enraged Hitler forbade Canaris from conducting further sabotage operations in the United States when he learned that all eight of the agents had denounced Nazism to the FBI. Truman later commuted the sentences of Burger and Dasch, ordering them deported to occupied Germany

Neither were welcomed in Germany, where they were generally reviled as traitors. Dasch tried several times over the remainder of his life to return to the United States, but Hoover blocked his efforts each time. Dasch reported that Hoover had offered him immunity from prosecution in exchange for his giving the story to the FBI; Hoover steadfastly denied he had. In 1959 Dasch published a book entitled Eight Spies Against America, which related his side of the story. It did not sell well, nor did it generate support for his quest for a Presidential pardon, as he had hoped. Dasch died in Germany in 1992, still condemned there as a traitor.


Nazis in the USA 1942 –

WIF Forgotten History

United States Invaded! – WIF Almanac

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10 Times

the United States

Was Almost Invaded

The Red Scare of the 1950s. The Japanese invasion panic of WWII. Fears of ISIS troops running amuck in our major cities… the US has long been a country worried that someone’s gonna invade it. Aliens, Commies, North Korea, you name it. Someone, somewhere, has fantasized about America being dominated by it.

 The most ironic part of all this is how unlikely it actually is. A massive nation bordered by allies to the north and south, the US is almost comically difficult to attack. In WWII the Nazis didn’t even try. The Imperial Japanese occupied a measly handful of Alaskan islands. The last time an enemy nation directly carried out a successful invasion was when the British burned down the White House in the war of 1812, and even they were eventually repulsed.

But that hasn’t stopped other powers from dreaming of marching troops over American soil. Some of the following plans were deadly serious. Some were mere fleeting ideas. One or two even actually succeeded. Terrified at the thought of the US being invaded? The following suggest you needn’t worry.

10. The Kaiser’s Crazy Pre-WWI Invasion Plan

What do you picture when you hear the words “Kaiser”, “America”, and “war” in a sentence? We’re betting it’s 1917 and images of US troops poring onto the battlefields of France as Woodrow Wilson sits in the White House. If the Kaiser had had his way, you’d be imagining something very different: the dawn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt as president, and Germany launching an insane invasion of the eastern seaboard.

Nearly a decade and a half before WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II was already planning a gigantic cross-Atlantic war. At the time, the US was backing the construction of the Panama Canal, leading Berlin to worry Germany would be excluded from Pacific trade. The Kaiser had already been toying with an invasion of America since 1897. The new canal seemed the ideal pretext to order the bombardment of Manhattan.

The plan itself was audacious. As German ships shelled Manhattan, sixty troop carriers would land on the Atlantic seaboard with orders to attack. Roosevelt would be forced to sign away the Panama Canal, or watch Washington and Boston burn. Incredibly, the invasion nearly went ahead. The order was about to be given to attack when German chief of staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen, vetoed the plans for being completely insane.

9. Canada’s Crazy Post-WWI Invasion Plan

Yep, you read that right. Canada, the country so nice even Denmark thinks it’s soft, once planned to invade the USA. And not at some sane point, like in the aftermath of the War of 1812. This plan was mooted only three years after the countries had fought side-by-side in WWI. Known as Defense Plan No. 1, it was borderline insane.

The rationale for making a plan was, incredibly, Canadian fears the US would invade first if they didn’t. Rather than sitting around waiting to be annexed, Ottawa figured they should attack first. The problem was the US army was clearly better trained, better equipped, and much bigger than the Canadian one. So Lt.-Col. James “Buster” Sutherland Brown drew up an attack plan that avoided having the Canadian army fight at all costs.

Instead, Canadian troops would launch lightning strikes on northern American cities, occupying Maine, destroying Detroit and the Twin Cities, and burning Seattle and Portland. They’d then retreat as the US army mobilized, pausing only to blow up bridges. Once safely back in Canada, they’d scream “look you guys, America is attacking!” and sit back while Britain mobilized the Empire’s troops to save them.

Not surprisingly, everyone thought this was the dumbest thing they’d ever heard. Buster’s successor ordered all copies of the crazy plan burned.

8. The Nazi Plan to Bomb New York

For about half a century, successive German regimes were fixated on bombing New York City. After the Kaiser’s wacko plan above was shelved, Adolf Hitler took up the mantle. And, boy, was he serious about it. According to Albert Speer, Hitler was obsessed by the idea of New York in flames. From 1937 onwards, at least part of the Nazi war machine was consistently looking for ways of attacking the Empire State.

Their first plan was to develop a long-range bomber that could fly to America and back from occupied France without having to refuel. Known as the “Amerika” aircraft, it would do to NYC what the Blitz did to London. While the Nazis eventually managed to develop planes that could nearly fly 10,000 kilometers on a single tank, they didn’t quite hit the 11,800 kilometers needed to make bombing NYC viable. So they switched to rockets. As V2 rockets crashed down on London, the Nazis began construction of an “Amerika rocket” that would’ve crashed into New York at supersonic speeds, killing hundreds.

The scariest part is how close some of these projects got to completion. The Amerika rocket was almost ready at the war’s end. Had the Nazi state held out just a few months longer, it seems likely that Hitler would’ve realized his dream of seeing Manhattan on fire.

7. Japan’s Plan to Annex Hawaii

The bombing of Pearl Harbor remains one of the biggest losses of American life in a single action. So imagine how much worse it could have been if Japan had followed it up with an invasion of Hawaii. Back in 1941 it was a terrifying possibility. Had one faction of the Japanese Imperial army had their way, it might even have become reality.

The idea came from Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese naval strategist who orchestrated the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto was convinced the US was significantly stronger than Japan and that a massive, early propaganda victory would be needed to shake American morale. With an invasion of the US mainland out of the question, it stood to reason that Hawaii was the only sensible target. Yamamoto’s plan called for the Japanese to follow up Pearl Harbor with an invasion of the island, securing a quick Japanese victory.

Given the way the US public freaked when Japan occupied a few lumps of rock off the coast of Alaska, it’s fair to say Hawaii being annexed would probably have sent the county nuts. In the end, though, Yamamoto’s superiors disagreed. Pearl Harbor was bombed, but Hawaii itself spared.

6. Pancho Villa’s Successful “Mexican Invasion”

There are very few people who aren’t dead, 19th century Brits who can say they successfully invaded the US and burned an entire town. Pancho Villa is one of those people. A Mexican Revolutionary leader, he started life as America’s golden boy in the huge unrest happening south of the border. But then the government of Woodrow Wilson switched support to his rival, Venustiano Carranza, and threw Villa under the bus. Villa responded by unleashing hell on any American who crossed his path.

First, he managed to kidnap 18 Americans inside Mexico and had them all slaughtered. But his crowning achievement came on March 9, 1916. Followed by a band of 1,500 guerillas, Villa crossed the border onto US soil. His troops surrounded the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. A few hours later, the citizens were dead, and Columbus itself was in flames.

It marked the last time in US history that a town on American soil was laid siege to and destroyed by foreign attackers. The US responded by invading Mexico, supported by Carranza’s government. Although the carnage they caused was enough to dissuade Villa from ever attacking America again, they were unable to capture the rebel leader. Villa wouldn’t be assassinated until 1923.

5. Japan Partially-Occupies Alaska

Although Pancho Villa’s ‘invasion’ of New Mexico would be more dramatic, it was the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska that really scared the public. That’s because both are part of the island chain that makes up the far-western fringe of Alaska. And while Alaska wasn’t yet a state in 1942, it was an American territory. In the same way that we’d freak out about a hostile force occupying Puerto Rico today, Americans of the time went loopy at Attu and Kiska’s annexation.

After Pearl Harbor, it was probably the biggest psychological blow of the entire war. The public fretted the Japanese army would proceed along the Aleutian chain until they conquered Alaska proper. Only a few months before, the Battle of Los Angeles had seen antiaircraft guns pepper the LA sky when someone thought they saw a Japanese plane, and now the Imperial army was making a real move on America.

Yet nothing like what the press and public feared ever came to pass. Japan had neither the resources or the inclination to occupy the whole of Alaska. In fact, some historians think they only grabbed Attu and Kiska to distract US attention from their attack on Midway Island. Whatever the truth, the occupation only lasted 14 months before the US retook the islands.

4. The Kaiser’s Plan to Have Mexico Invade Texas

Despite his reputation as a fearsome warmonger, Kaiser Wilhelm sometimes seems more like a supervillain from a cruddy Saturday morning kids’ show. He even had a knack for coming up with the sort of easily-defeated plans Skeletor would be embarrassed by. Chief among those was the time he tried to convince Mexico to launch an unprovoked invasion on Texas.

It was January 1917, and the US was a mere four months away from joining WWI. Rather than do everything in his power to keep the Americans out, the Kaiser had foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann telegram the German ambassador to Mexico, instructing him to make Mexico an offer they could almost certainly refuse. With German financial and military backing, the Mexicans would invade America, while also trying to convince the Japanese to join in the war. In return, Mexico would be able to reclaim territory recently taken by Texas.

For a plan that relied a whole lot on Mexico taking arms against the US, it failed to recognize that there were literally no scenarios where Mexico could defeat the American military. On top of this, the British managed to intercept and decode the Zimmerman Telegram and make its contents public. Mexico wisely decided to keep out of the war. The US, meanwhile, decided to join in, achieving the exact opposite of what the Kaiser had hoped for.

3. Britain and France Almost Join the Civil War

In the early days of the Civil War, the Confederacy really believed it could get the European powers on its side. The South was the main exporter of cotton to the continent. European countries, it was believed, would all rather recognize the Confederacy than face a cotton shortage. In the end, Britain and France nearly did join in the war… but not due to any cleverness on the South’s part. Instead, they almost attacked the Union over a badly-bungled Yankee mission to arrest two Confederate diplomats.

At the time, the diplomats were traveling on the British ship Trent to drum up European support for their cause. The North seized the ship, arrested the two Confederate men, and then let the Trent continue on her way. Unfortunately, holding a neutral ship up was in violation of international law. When the British found out, they hit the roof.

London immediately began drawing up plans for war, including an attack from Canada and a bombardment of the Union ships blockading Confederate ports. At the same time, France announced it would back Britain in any conflict with America, raising the insane possibility of the US Civil War spilling over into WWI’s unnecessary prequel.

Ultimately, the Union apologized to Britain and let the arrested men free. The UK and France backed off, and the prospect of a Confederacy with powerful friends never materialized.

2. Japan Successfully Occupies Guam

A small island in the Pacific, Guam was taken from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War and has been classified as an unincorporated US territory ever since. In WWII, it was also the site of Japan’s most successful invasion of American territory. Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Army seized the island. What followed was a thirty month horror show of rape, forced labor, murder and torture.

The occupation of Guam was the closest the Japanese got to interring American citizens en masse and it shows just how lucky we are that they never got any closer. Chamorros (Guam natives) were beheaded, worked to death, and forced into concentration camps in the heart of the jungle. They were beaten, their women raped, and their children mutilated. Then the American navy attacked to retake the territory, and the shelling killed even more Chamorros.

Eventually, on August 8 1944, US forces succeeded in liberating Guam. It marked the end of Imperial Japan’s hopes of invading and occupying America.

1. The Confederacy Nearly Takes Washington, DC

We mentioned earlier that no enemy nation has successfully invaded the American mainland since the British burned the White House. Depending on how you define a nation, the Brits might have almost had some company. In 1864, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, Confederate troops under Jubal Early nearly pulled off an impossible trick. They came within a hair’s width of successfully invading and destroying Washington, DC.

It’s impossible now to imagine how this could’ve affected our perceptions of the war. The destruction of the Federal capital at the hands of Southern rebels would’ve thrown the entire Yankee force into disarray. And it nearly happened by accident. Early just happened to march near Washington at a time when Union defenses were stretched so thin his army could break through. So he rallied his troops, and nearly pulled off the impossible.

We say ‘nearly’ because one factor stood in his way: his men were just too dang tired. After relentless days of marching in the middle of a suffocating heatwave, they simply couldn’t move fast enough. To Early’s dismay, his men weren’t up to the job. Washington was saved.


United States Invaded!

– WIF Almanac