Operation Pastorius
Operation Pastorius was a failed plan for sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 via a series of attacks by Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 agents inside the United States. The operation was staged in June 1942 and was to be directed against strategic U.S. economic targets. The operation was named by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

, chief of the German Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, for Francis Daniel Pastorius
Francis Daniel Pastorius
thumb|right|300px|Home of Francis Daniel Pastorius in Germantown, PA as it appeared circa 1919Francis Daniel Pastorius was the founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania, now part of Philadelphia, the first permanent German settlement and the gateway for subsequent emigrants from Germany. He was "the...

, the leader of the first organized settlement of Germans in America.


Recruited for the operation were eight Germans who had lived in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Two of them, Ernst Burger and Herbert Haupt
Herbert Hans Haupt
Herbert Hans Haupt was a German-American United States citizen with dual nationality who was executed as an enemy agent for Nazi Germany during World War II.-Early life:...

, were American citizens. The others, George John Dasch
George John Dasch
George John Dasch was a German spy and saboteur who landed on American soil during World War II. He helped to destroy Nazi Germany’s espionage program in the United States by defecting to the American cause, but was tried and convicted of treason and espionage.-Early life:Georg Johann Dasch was...

, Edward John Kerling, Richard Quirin
Richard Quirin
Richard Quirin was a German-American executed as an enemy agent for the Germans in World War II. He was one of eight agents involved in Operation Pastorius, and gave his name to the Supreme Court decision on the trial, Ex parte Quirin.-Early life:Born in Berlin, Germany in 1908, Quirin moved to...

, Heinrich Harm Heinck, Hermann Otto Neubauer, and Werner Thiel, had worked at various jobs in the U.S.


Their mission was to stage sabotage attacks on American economic targets: hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

; the Aluminum Company of America
Alcoa Inc. is the world's third largest producer of aluminum, behind Rio Tinto Alcan and Rusal. From its operational headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alcoa conducts operations in 31 countries...

's plants in Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

; locks on the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 near Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096...

; the Horseshoe Curve
Horseshoe Curve (Pennsylvania)
Horseshoe Curve is a famous railroad horseshoe curve in central Pennsylvania, near Altoona in the United States. Called an "engineering marvel", it was completed in 1854 by the Pennsylvania Railroad...

, a crucial railroad pass near Altoona, Pennsylvania
Altoona, Pennsylvania
-History:A major railroad town, Altoona was founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1849 as the site for a shop complex. Altoona was incorporated as a borough on February 6, 1854, and as a city under legislation approved on April 3, 1867, and February 8, 1868...

, as well as the Pennsylvania Railroad
Pennsylvania Railroad
The Pennsylvania Railroad was an American Class I railroad, founded in 1846. Commonly referred to as the "Pennsy", the PRR was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania....

's repair shops at Altoona; a cryolite
Cryolite is an uncommon mineral identified with the once large deposit at Ivigtût on the west coast of Greenland, depleted by 1987....

 plant in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

; Hell Gate Bridge
Hell Gate Bridge
The Hell Gate Bridge or Hell's Gate Bridge is a steel through arch railroad bridge between Astoria in the borough of Queens and Randall's and Wards Islands in New York City, over a portion of the East River known...

 in New York; and Pennsylvania Station
Pennsylvania Station (Newark)
Pennsylvania Station is a major transportation hub in Newark, New Jersey. Located at Raymond Plaza, between Market Street and Raymond Boulevard, Newark Penn Station is served by the Newark Light Rail, New Jersey Transit commuter rail, Amtrak long distance trains, the PATH rapid transit system, and...

 in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

. They were given a quick course in sabotage techniques, given nearly $175,000 in American money and put aboard two submarines
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 to land on the east coast of the U.S.
Before the mission launched, it was in danger of being compromised, as George Dasch, head of the team, left sensitive documents behind on a train, and one of the agents when drunk announced to patrons of a Paris bar that he was a secret agent.

On 13 June 1942, the first submarine (U-202 the Innsbruck) landed in Amagansett, New York
Amagansett, New York
Amagansett is a census-designated place that roughly corresponds to the hamlet by the same name in the town of East Hampton in Suffolk County, New York on the South Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2000 Census, the CDP population was 1,067. Amagansett hamlet was founded in 1680.The...

, which is about 115 miles east of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

, at what today is Atlantic Avenue beach. It was carrying Dasch and three other saboteurs (Burger, Quirin, and Henck). The team came ashore wearing military uniforms so that if they were captured they would be classified as prisoners of war rather than spies. They also brought ashore, and buried, enough explosives, primers, and incendiaries to support an expected two-year campaign in the sabotage of American defense-related production. When Dasch was discovered amongst the dunes by an unarmed Coast Guardsman
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

, John C. Cullen (d. 2011), Dasch seized Cullen by the collar, threatened him, and stuffed $260 into Cullen's hand. Cullen reported the encounter to his superiors after returning to his station. By the time the Coast Guardsmen had armed themselves and returned to the site, the Germans, weary from their trans-Atlantic trip, had taken a train into New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...


The other four-member German team headed by Kerling landed without incident at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Ponte Vedra Beach is an unincorporated seaside community in St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Located eighteen miles southeast of downtown Jacksonville and north of St. Augustine, it is part of the Jacksonville Beaches area. It is an upmarket tourist resort area best known for its...

, south of Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

 on June 16, 1942. They came on U-584, another submarine. This group started their mission by boarding trains to Chicago, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...


Arrest and trial

Two of the Germans in New York, Dasch and Burger, had decided to defect to the United States immediately. Dasch went to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, and turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

. He was dismissed as a crackpot by numerous agents until he dumped his mission's entire budget of $84,000 on the desk of Assistant Director D. M. Ladd. At this point he was taken seriously and interrogated for hours. None of the others knew of the betrayal. Over the next two weeks, Burger and the other six were arrested. All eight were put on trial before a seven-member military tribunal
Military tribunal
A military tribunal is a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during wartime, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil proceedings. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors...

 on specific instructions from President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

. They were charged with 1) violating the law of war; 2) violating Article 81 of the Articles of War, defining the offense of corresponding with or giving intelligence to the enemy; 3) violating Article 82 of the Articles of War, defining the offense of spying; and 4) conspiracy to commit the offenses alleged in the first three charges.

Lawyers for the accused, who included Lauson Stone
Lauson Stone
Lauson Harvey Stone , son of US Chief Justice Harlan Stone, was US a lawyer and civic leader....

 and Kenneth Royall, attempted to have the case tried in a civilian court but were rebuffed by the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 in Ex parte Quirin
Ex parte Quirin
Ex parte Quirin, , is a Supreme Court of the United States case that upheld the jurisdiction of a United States military tribunal over the trial of several Operation Pastorius German saboteurs in the United States...

, a case that was later cited as a precedent for the trial by military commission of any unlawful combatant
Unlawful combatant
An unlawful combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a civilian who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action.The Geneva Conventions apply in wars...

 against the United States. The trial was held in the Department of Justice
United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

 building in Washington. All eight defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Roosevelt commuted Burger's sentence to life and Dasch's to 30 years, because they had turned themselves in and provided information about the others. The others were executed on 8 August 1942 in the electric chair
Electric chair
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body...

 on the third floor of the District of Columbia jail and buried in a potter's field
Potter's field
A potter's field was an American term for a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people. The expression derives from the Bible, referring to a field used for the extraction of potter's clay, which was useless for agriculture but could be used as a burial site.-Origin:The term comes from...

 called Blue Plains in the Anacostia
Anacostia is a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Its historic downtown is located at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue It is the most famous neighborhood in the Southeast quadrant of Washington, located east of the Anacostia River, after which the...

 area of Washington. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 granted executive clemency to Dasch and Burger on the condition that they be deported to the American Zone of occupied Germany.

Photographs of targets

This publication has a photo of the grave marker the American Nazi Party
American Nazi Party
The American Nazi Party was an American political party founded by discharged U.S. Navy Commander George Lincoln Rockwell. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Rockwell initially called it the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists , but later renamed it the American Nazi Party in...

erected in Blue Plains.

Further information

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