Hitler was fed up! Since the beginning of World War II, the USA had been supplying food and munitions to Britain and he was itching to take revenge. Now, after Pearl Harbor, he finally had his chance.
The Nazis had spent years on an “Amerika Bomber” program, designing giant bombers that could carry enough fuel to fly from Europeand bomb New York. However, the pro-gram was a dismal failure. Only a few prototypes were ever built.
A more practical ambition was to bring the war into American factories and businesses through a series of daring sabotage raids. English-speaking recruits were plentiful since, at the out-break of World War II, hundreds of Germans residents in Americahad streamed back to help the Fatherland in its monumental struggle to take over Europe. Their names were meticulously filed in the records of the “Ausland (Abroad) Institute,” an organization that attempted to Nazify German nationals in America and elsewhere.
The German Abwer (military intelligence) was given the job of rounding up likely candidates, training them, supplying them with explosives and shipping them off toAmerica. The operation was named “Operation Pastorius” after Francis Daniel Pastorius, who leftGermanyto foundGerman-town,Pennsylvania, in 5443/1683.
Two teams of men were chosen for the task, one led by 39-year-old John Dasch, who had lived inAmericafor twelve years and served in theU.S.army for almost a year. The leader of the second group was 32- year-old Edward Kerling. They were given a hefty “shopping list” that included blowing up hydroelectric plants atNia-garaFalls, railroad stations, canals and factories as well as bombing a few Jewish-owned stores for good mea-sure.
Two German U-boats set off fromLorient,France, at the end of May 5702/1942, loaded with the men, their explosives, and $59,000 in cash for bribes and expenses. Fifteen days later, a rowboat set out from the submarine to the beach near Amagansett,Long Island, with Dasch’s group. This was the most risky part of the venture, when the saboteurs were most likely to be spotted. To avoid being caught as spies the moment they set foot on American soil, the men wore complete or partial German Navy uniforms. After landing, they stripped off their uniforms and buried their boxes of explosives in the sand. Meanwhile, Dasch walked down the beach to reconnoiter. The first person he came across was an American coastguard officer, John Cullen.
“What are you doing here?” Cullen asked him.
“We’re a group of Scandinavian sailors who’ve been washed up on the beach,” Dasch claimed.
“It’s freezing cold,” said Cullen. “Come and warm up in the coastguard shelter.”
Dasch rejected the offer.
“We were fishing illegally and might get arrested,” he explained.
Cullen’s suspicions were heightened when Dasch offered him $300 and remarked, “Take this and keep your mouth shut!”
Cullen was unarmed and had little inclination to debate the point. He departed and promptly reported to his colleagues what he had seen. By the time the coastguards rushed back to the beach, the saboteurs were gone – they had set off, by train, toNew York. But the coastguards had arrived in time to notice the enemy U-boat disappearing into the mist. This sparked off the largest manhunt in American history until that time. However, the would-be saboteurs seemed to have been swallowed up by the earth. Not that they could do very much, all their explosives had been discovered and dug up.
The first solid piece of information was handed to the authorities when an FBI agent inNew Yorkpicked up a ringing phone.
“Hallo,” said a voice at the other end. “I am the head of the saboteurs you are searching for. I will provide you with more information next week.”
The four saboteurs had split into two groups, and Dasch had informed his partner, Ernest Peter Burger, that he wanted to turn himself in. There is speculation as to why Dasch gave up so fast. Some historians theorize that he realized that things were hopeless and may as well cooperate to save his own skin. Others argue that the men intended to betray the operation all along, pointing out that Burger had good cause to hate the Nazi regime, having been tortured by the S.S., after criticizing the German attack againstPoland, back in 5699/1939.
The following week, Dasch arrived
inWashington, contacted the local FBI headquarters, and was promptly arrest-ed.
With the information Dasch provided, the missing members of his team were swiftly rounded up, and the sec-ond team that had landed near on Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, Florida, was apprehended a few days later.
The men received a secret military trial and were all sentenced to death. President Roosevelt commuted Dasch’s and Burger’s sentences to thirty years and life imprisonment respectively and, after the war, both of them were deported back toGermany.
Meanwhile, after receiving no report from the men, the Abwer figured that sending saboteurs toAmericawas a waste of time and resources, and that was the last Nazi attempt to attack the American mainland.
THE JAPANESE EFFORT
AfterPearl Harbor, the Japanese made four attacks on the American mainland. Three of these were local and minor.
Their most ambitious attempt was an imitation of a tactic used by the British in the early days of World War II after some of their barrage balloons (blimps tied near ships and as protection against low-flying aircraft) broke loose and caused damage in Europe. This gave the British the idea of floating thousands of balloons towardsGermany, some with incendiary devices attached to them to start fires, and others with nothing but trailing wires to short-circuit German high-voltage wires. The project was a huge success. Within days, reports came in of forest fires inGermanyand, during a later attempt, one balloon burned down a power-station.
At the end of 5704/1944, the Japanese decided to send giant “fire bal-loons” toAmericavia the jet-stream, a high altitude wind that whips from east to west. Thousands of hungry Japanese teenagers spent days and nights patching together huge mulberry paper sheets with edible “dragon glue” which they secretly nibbled on as they worked. Attached to each ten-meter balloon were bombs or incendiary devices.
The first balloons were floated late in 5704/1944 andAmericainitially imposed a news blackout so that the Japanese should not be encouraged to send more. Unlike the earlier British efforts overGermany, almost no harm was caused because it was fall and too damp for forest fires. The most worrying incident of all was when a balloon shorted out the power needed to cool down a nuclear reactor ofAmerica’s Manhattan Project. Production of theNagasakiatom bomb was delayed for three days.
Another balloon caused the only mainland deaths of World War II. Minister Archie Mitchell, his wife, Elsie and some children were taking a stroll in Oregon when they came across one of the balloons and tried dragging it along with them. The bomb promptly exploded killing everyone except Minister Mitchell who was lagging behind. The “Mitchell Monument” was erected in their memory.
The most major result of the few hundred balloons that reached America, was the sparking off of some of the first UFO reports in the USA and Canada.