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Declassified MI5 Documents Reveal Bumbling Nazi Saboteurs In The U.S.

New documents released by England's National Archives reveal a story of a bungled Nazi mission to the U.S. at the height of World War II. As the papers describe it, two teams of German saboteurs were deployed off the Atlantic coast.

A bomb camouflaged as a lump of coal. i i

hide captionA bomb camouflaged as a lump of coal.

British National Archives
A bomb camouflaged as a lump of coal.

A bomb camouflaged as a lump of coal.

British National Archives

The teams were well trained in making bombs and were supposed to interrupt the American war machine by blowing up trains and destroying transportation links.

But, as the AP reports, the plan — codenamed Pastorius after an early German settler in the U.S. — ran into trouble from the beginning.

First one of the teams met up for drinks before departing from Paris. One of the agents got drunk and screamed to the whole bar that they were spies. Then one of the submarines dropping off one of the groups ran aground near Long Island. The Australian reports:

As Victor Rothschild, MI5's head of counter-sabotage, wrote, it was "only due to the laziness and stupidity of the American coastguards that this submarine was not attacked by US forces". The sabotage team rowed ashore in a rubber dinghy, each man wearing a Nazi uniform to ensure that if they were caught they would not be shot as spies.

That team made it ashore and were found burying their uniforms on the beach. A coastguard asked questions. The spies claimed to be stranded fishermen and gave the coastguard $300 to convince him to leave them alone.

The second group, came on shore south of Jacksonville, Fla. wearing swim trunks and "army forage caps."

The mission came to an end two weeks later, but not because of the of the clumsiness of the spies or the investigative power of the U.S. The mission's leader, George Dasch, spent his early life in the U.S. and even before the mission started he had decided he would stop it.

AFP reports:

George Dasch, rang up the FBI, announced he was a saboteur and demanded to speak to the bureau's then director, J. Edgar Hoover.

His confession was initially dismissed but after a lengthy interview he was arrested and his fellow agents were rounded up, the files showed.

The AP reports that, within months, all of the saboteurs were tried and sentenced to death. Dasch and one other, who had changed his mind about the mission, were deported to Germany after the end of World War II.

The full 93-page document has been posted by the National Archives and can be downloaded for free during the next 28 days.

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