Operation Pastorious. German Saboteurs came by night in June of 1942

The German School of Sabotage, called Quentz Farm, lay some 40 miles west of Berlin, close to Brandenburg, having been set up by German Military Intelligence, headed up by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.

Adolf Hitler ordered the school to train agents whose task would be to infiltrate into the United States of America to destroy vital power plants, factories, and communications. Eight men were chosen, two naturalised citizens of the US, and six Germans who had at one time lived in the US. This group were given a crash course in the art of sabotage at Quentz Farm.

Operation Pastorious.
This proposed raid was given the code name of Operation Pastorious, so named after Francis Daniel Pastorious, the leader of the first German settlement in the United States in 1683.

The two four man teams were to be transported to the east coast of the US by U-Boat, U-202, under the command of Kptlt. Heinz Linder, carrying George J. Dasch, Heinrick H. Heinek, Richard Quirin, and Ernest P. Burger, destination south of New York.

U- 584 with Kptlt. Joachim Duker in command, would take Edward J. Kerling, Herbert Haupt, Werner Thiel, and Herman Neubauer to the Florida coast.

Bas-relief portrait of Francis Daniel Pastorius, c. 1897. Born September 26, 1651 Sommerhausen, Franconia Died c. 1719-1720 Pennsylvania Occupation lawyer, poet, abolitionist, founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania Spouse Ennecke Klostermanns (1658-1723)
Bas-relief portrait of Francis Daniel Pastorius, c. 1897.
born September 26, 1651 Sommerhausen, Franconia Died c. 1719-1720
Pennsylvania Occupation lawyer, poet, abolitionist, founder of Germantown,
Pennsylvania Spouse Ennecke Klostermanns (1658-1723)

The Plan.
The team from U-202 were to destroy hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls, belonging to the Aluminium Company of America, factories, and locks on the Ohio River, the targets for the U-584 group, blow up the Pennsylvania Station at Newark, then attack locks and canal installations at St Louis, and attempt to destroy the New York water supply.

Certainly ambitious plans for eight intrepid saboteurs.

Enter the United States Coast Guard Service.
The USCG service had its genesis in the Revenue Cutter Service as far back as August 4th. 1790, it merged with the US Lifesaving Service on June 28, 1915 to form the United States Coast Guard Service as an arm of the United States Navy.

In WW2, the Coast Guard instituted a beach patrol whereby both the eastern and western seaboards of the country were patrolled by their members.

June 13 1942.
Come the dawn of June 13, 1942, John Cullen, a 21 year old Seaman 2nd. Class from the Coast Guard was carrying out his 6 mile foot patrol along the beach some half a mile South from his station at Amagansett. He was not armed, but carried both a flashlight and a flare gun.

Seaman 2nd. Class, John Cullen
Seaman 2nd. Class, John Cullen

Out of the foggy gloom some one approached him, when challenged, the man, identified himself as George Davis, ( who with his three colleagues had just landed on the beach from U-202 ) said " We are fishermen from Southampton, and we ran aground."

More men could be seen close by in the fog, one came close speaking what Cullen took to be German, Davis told him to " Shut Up " making Cullen suspicious, and he suggested the group go with him to his Coast Guard Station.

Davis refused, and now threatened Cullen saying " I do not want to kill you."

Now Davis changed his tactics, offering Cullen money ( the team carried a wad of money for subsistence, and if necessary, bribes ) to forget he had ever run into the team of four. The unarmed Cullen deciding discretion was the better part of valour accepted the money, at least it was some tangible proof for his bizarre story.

John Cullen now took off apace for the sancity of his Amagansett Station, on arrival he blurted out his story to Boatswain's Mate Carl R. Jenette, who listened quite incredulously, but seeing the money as evidence of Cullen's veracity, he called the Station CO, Warrant Officer Warren Bains. He quickly organised an armed party of Jenette, Cullen and three Coast Guardsmen, who dashed off to the earlier scene of the encounter.

Legion of Merit awarded to John Cullen for his part involving the capture of 8 German saboteurs in the US in June 1942
Legion of Merit awarded to John Cullen for his part involving
the capture of 8 German saboteurs in the US in June 1942

No one there, in fact the team of four who had landed from U-202, had taken off by train for New York. The smell of Diesel oil hung heavily on the foggy morning air, looking seawards, the armed pary could dimly make out the silhouette of a Submarine, it was U-202 stuck fast in the sand, just off shore, and desperately trying to get herself afloat once more. Finally she made it, and slunk off to steam out of sight.

A beach search uncovered explosives and other incendinary devices.

Alarm Raised.
The FBI were notified, and the hunt was on in earnest.

U-Boat U-584 at Florida.
Meanwhile, the second U-Boat U-584, landed Kerling and his three fellow would be saboteurs at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida on June 16th. 1942. Off they went by train to Chicago and Cincinnati to start their mission of destruction. U- 584 sailed for home making it back to Brest on July 22.

Back to Team one from U-202.
Back in New York, unbeknown to their partners, two of the Germans, Dasch and Burgher had decided to back off from their mission of sabotage, Dasch high tailed it to Washington DC, and turned himself in to the FBI, and spelt out all the plans for the two teams.

Within two weeks it was all over, the FBI had the eight all in custody, a lucky break for the authorities indeed.

Trial by Military Commission.
All eight members of the two proposed sabotage teams were brought to trial before a seven member Military Commission, which sat on July 8, in the Assembly Hall No.1 on the 5th. floor of the Department of Justice Building in Washington.

The whole crew of eight were found guilty, the sentence DEATH!

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt commuted Burgher's sentence to life, and Dasch to 30 years imprisonment as they had assisted US authorities.

The other six all faced the Electric Chair on August 8th. to be buried in a Potter's Field called Blue Plains, close to the Capital. No delays here in 1942.

President Harry Truman in 1948, granted clemency to both Dasch and Burgher, providing they were deported to the US Occupied Zone in West Germany.

U-202 was sunk at 0030 ( 00.30 AM ) on June 2nd. 1943, South East of Cape Farewell Greenland, by depth charges and gunfire from the Royal Navy sloop, HMS Starling, 18 died, and 30 survived.

U-584, was also sunk, on October 31st. of the same year as her sister boat, a homing torpedo struck home, dropped from one of three Avenger Aircraft flown off from US aircraft carrier USS Card. All the 53 crew from the U-Boat perished.

Avenger torpedo carrying aircraft that were used to 
 sink U-584
Avenger torpedo carrying aircraft that were used to sink U-584

This closed the final page on the rather bizarre attempt by eight German saboteurs to perform mischief in the US. Their mission failing miserably after one of their number, Dascher reported to the FBI, who acted with alacrity.

USS Card, the home of torpedo carrying Avenger Aircraft.
USS Card, the home of torpedo carrying Avenger Aircraft.

Historic Marker.
On the East side of Ponte Verda Boulevard, in front of the Ponte Verda Inn and County Club sits an Historic Marker comprising a standard, carrying a Marker to denote the landing of four German saboteurs on June 16th, 1942 from U-584, 7 miles south of Jacksonville Beach.

Historic Marker at Ponte Verda
Historic Marker at Ponte Verda

See the FBI's "Famous Cases: George John Dasch and the Nazi Saboteurs" It includes photos of the German saboteurs. I thank Bob Meade for this information.

Secret memorandum to President Roosevelt regarding the disposal of the bodies after the saboteurs'  executions.The authorities went a long way to keep the details secret at the time in August 1943.


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