Remember when you were sitting in history class and you heard, for the first time, how Nazi’s invaded the United States? No? Well probably because it was only a minor incident that, in the scheme of the entire war, meant very little.
But here at Fun Fact, I like to dive into these little known stories and pass them along to you fine folks. I will make note now that I will be using the term “seamen” a few times in this article. So just in case your immaturity takes over and you feel the need to giggle at the term “German seamen”- go right ahead.
After declaring war on the U.S in 1942, Adolf Hitler wanted to gain intel (intelligence) from within America, but mainly wanted to prove that despite its relative isolation from the front lines of the war, the United States was still vulnerable to attack.
Lieutenant Walter Kappe was appointed to the mission. Kappe then selected twelve men who were to attack a number of targets including the hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls, Pennsylvania Railroad repair shops, and several bridges in an attempt to promote terror in the U.S.
On June 12th 1942, the first German submarine landed in Amagansett, New York (115 miles east of New York City) under cover of darkness. The seamen came on land wearing their German Navy Uniforms so, in case of capture, they would be treated as prisoners of war rather than spies; of which the punishment was much more severe.
U.S Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen stumbled upon the troop as they came ashore and was threatened by the Germans and given $260 dollars not to speak of what he saw. Taking the $260 and departing, Cullen promptly reported the incident to his superiors.
Upon their return to the site, however, the Germans were no longer there, but had left most of their equipment. The National Guard reported this to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the FBI.
While this was happening in New York, the second team landed in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This team came on land wearing swim suits, but also their German Naval hats (again, the spy thing). So picture with me, if you will, several German soldiers coming ashore in the dead of night wearing whatever swimsuits German men wore in the 1940’s, along with their naval hats. This image encapsulates the entire mission these German seamen were set upon- completely ridiculous!
One of the German seamen, George John Dasch, quickly realized that after the incident with the Coast Guard when they landed, the mission was bound to fail. Dasch called the FBI from a payphone on the Upper West Side of New York City (just across the street from the hotel the men were staying in) and reported all the details of the German’s plan.
Dasch, who had spent seventeen months in a Nazi concentration camp as a prisoner before joining the navy, had actually planned to sabotage the mission all along. For some reason Lieutenant Kappe thought it was a good idea to recruit a man on a top secret mission to engage an enemy country when said man had spent seventeen months being horribly victimized by the Germans. The full story of these bungling seamen’s bizarre mission has even more missteps that eventually led to their capture. But suffice it to say that it was Dasch’s treason that resulted in the mission’s failure before any target was able to be hit.
Thus ended the great Nazi invasion of the United States.