The men were landed on the shores of America under the cover of darkness, four Nazi saboteurs specially trained to destroy civilian targets. Their task was to undertake a series of daring strikes on America’s infrastructure, paralysing industrial facilities vital to the war effort.
Hitler himself had dreamed up the plan to attack America from within. According to Albert Speer, he was obsessed with the idea of ‘the downfall of New York in towers of flames’.
But Operation Pastorius was to run into trouble from the very outset and would have an ending that no one expected, least of all Adolf Hitler.
The operation began in the small hours of June 13 1942, when the German submarine U-202 managed to land four Nazi agents at a village on Long Island. They were led by George Dasch, a thirty-nine-year-old saboteur equipped with enough explosives to conduct a two year campaign against the United States. His three accomplices were Ernst Burger, an American citizen, Richard Quirin and Heinrich Heinck.
The mission got off to an unfortunate start. George Dasch and his party almost drowned while struggling to get ashore in their inflatable raft. But they eventually made it to the beach, where they buried their stash of explosives amidst the sand dunes. Dasch got accidentally separated from the others and was spotted wandering among the dunes by an American coast- guard named John Cullen.
When Cullen approached him and started to ask questions, Dasch pretended to be a fisherman. But he realized that his interrogator was not fooled and shoved $260 into his hand, telling him not to breathe a word. Then he ran off down the beach.
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This post is roughly excerpted from When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank. You can order a copy of the book, which is now available,on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Books-a-Million, and Apple. Check here for more on other books by Giles Milton.