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A Picture from History: The German Saboteurs

In WWII, two German U-boats were sent to America with the intent of sabotage. Who were the German saboteurs and were they successful?

    World War II encompassed the globe, and both Europe and the Pacific were the backdrop for the fighting.

    But the Germans knew that if they had a chance of winning the war, they would have to first stop the Americans. 

    Damage to London during the Blitz
    Damage to London during the Blitz

    But how do you stop an awakened giant? The Germans’ answer…invade America. 

    If they could cause mysterious fires and explosions at key points of American infrastructure, they thought they might have a chance. 

    Training the Invaders

    Sabotage was deemed to be the answer to the German’s problems.

    Thus, the German Military Intelligence Corps quickly began to assemble teams of saboteurs who would be silently inserted into America with the express intent of hampering the American capacity for war. 

    No overtly military targets were chosen, but instead, areas of infrastructure that played a vital role in a military capacity.

    American factories could not produce munitions if they didn’t have electricity, so the hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls were one of the intended targets.

    Niagara Falls power plant
    Niagara Falls power plant, though photographed around 1918

    Likewise, it’s hard to produce planes and a wide range of other military equipment without aluminum, so aluminum factories were targeted.

    A host of other important factories were targeted, as well, all with the same goal… crippling the American military in Europe. 

    Shipping Out

    After receiving training at a special saboteur’s school in Berlin, Germany began the invasion. Two U-boats (that we know of) were sent to America filled with Germans.

    One surfaced near Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, while another popped up by Long Island, New York.

    U-175 breaks the surface in 1943
    U-175 breaks the surface in 1943

    Aboard U-202, the U-boat that went to New York were eight German saboteurs. They quickly used an inflatable raft to paddle to shore, successfully landing without any hiccups.

    With them, they carried massive amounts of cash, munitions, and other gear necessary to complete their missions. 

    Inflatable rafts on a U-537 in Martin Bay, Labrador
    Inflatable rafts on a U-537 in Martin Bay, Labrador

    It was while they were burying their munitions for later retrieval that the team was compromised. For there, patrolling amongst the dunes was Seaman 2nd class, John Cullen

    The leader of the Germans, George Dasch, walked up to Cullen and told him that they were a collection of stranded fishermen. 

    John Cullen (left)
    John Cullen (left)

    Cullen didn’t think anything of it, but when another of the Germans came forward speaking German, he became suspicious. 

    Dasch attempted to bribe Cullen, and Cullen took the money…but then ran off to get his buddies. 


    The Disintegration

    Dasch and the rest of the Germans split into two teams and infiltrated New York City.

    Not long afterward, Dasch and another of his men, Ernest Burger, who both previously held American citizenship, confided in one another that they didn’t feel that the mission was going to be a success.

    Ernest Burger
    Ernest Burger

    Dasch even went so far as to say that he was going to turn the men in. 

    Burger might have sensed that his only means of survival was to go along with Dasch. Regardless of the reason, though, that’s just what he did. 

    George Dasch
    George Dasch

    Almost immediately after landing, Dasch turned the entire operation’s secrets over to the FBI. Within a matter of days, every single Nazi (that we know of) had been rounded up. 

    A secret military tribunal was established, with six of the Germans sentenced to death in the electric chair. Dasch was given 30 years and Burger was sentenced to hard labor for life.

    Nazi Saboteur Trial
    Nazi Saboteur Trial

    Neither Dasch nor Burger had to serve out these sentences, though, as President Truman pardoned both of them in 1948, after which they quickly moved back to Germany. 

    This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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    5 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Michelle A.

      I like the article. I enjoy most of your articles. I'm sharing it with my sons. I think it does a nice job of highlighting the importance of manufacturing here, reliable electrical power here and
      all the required natural resources also here. A+ Pew Pew Thanks!

      December 12, 2022 7:06 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Josh C.

      Stories like these need to be told. Ongoing education on our history allow us all to honor America and it’s war heroes. Otherwise, the genius of our free nation will continue to be taken for granted.

      December 11, 2022 6:45 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Aden's choice of subjects is always interesting and informative.
      And- it's not that we've forgotten our history. It's intentionally not being taught. That way the young don't know that socialism murdered 100 million people in the 20th century. So the oligarchs can preach it as new when they repeat it.

      December 10, 2022 3:30 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Thanks for the history lesson. This doesn't surprise me but never had the details. What's interesting is that today, the CCP runs rampant all over our government and institutions, like it is welcomed without any consequences. Our culture has lost a few brain cells in the last 75 years.

      December 9, 2022 12:26 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Jack Toffmore

        True statement for sure. Our forebearers woukd be shocked at much of the modern American way

        December 9, 2022 7:15 pm
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