In 1942, Seaman John Cullen was assigned to duty as a “sand-pounder,” one of the less glamorous jobs the United States Coast Guard offered. His job was to patrol beaches looking for signs of lurking German submarines or anything else suspicious along the shore. Stationed at the Coast Guard station at Amagansett, Long Island, the young seaman walked the shore three hours a day or night armed with only a flashlight and a flare gun.
|Amagansett Coast Guard Station, Long Island, NY, 1939|
|Seaman John Cullen|
At first his superiors didn’t believe him, but when they saw the money, they grabbed their weapons and hurried back to the beach. By then the men had disappeared, but through the fog, the Coast Guardsmen spotted a departing submarine. When they searched the beach, they found freshly dug holes in the sand that hid four wooden crates filled with explosives, as well as a duffel bag filled with German uniforms.
What Seaman Cullen had come across was one part of a two-prong mission called “Operation Pastorius,” a German spy invasion intended to create havoc in the United States by blowing up railroad stations and war-industry plants. The spies might have gotten away with their plans if two of them hadn’t decided to defect to the US and betray their colleagues by turning themselves in to the FBI. Within a month, all the spies were arrested and the details of the mission were revealed.
There were two teams of four men that were brought to the country on submarines, then off-loaded on rafts before landing on US soil – one at Long Island and one at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida ,near Jacksonville. Both groups carried $50,000 for living expenses, travel, supplies–and bribes, and each man carried $450 cash in genuine U.S. bills, as well as fake IDs. Both team leaders were also given a handkerchief that carried the names and addresses of mail drops and contacts in America, written in invisible ink.
Finally, each team was supplied with four waterproof wooden crates, each about twice the size of a shoebox. Three were filled with dynamite, some pieces disguised as lumps of coal. The fourth box carried fuses, timing devices, wire, incendiary pen and pencil sets and sulfuric acid.
These were only the first of many sabotage teams that would be slipped into America at the rate of one or two every six weeks. Once the network was fully operational, the leader of the plan was to join his men in America and direct their activities. All of the men were German residents who had lived in the United States. When the war started, they returned to Germany where they were recruited by the Abwehr military intelligence organization and given intensive sabotage training, instructed in the manufacture and use of explosives, incendiaries, primers, and various forms of mechanical, chemical, and electrical delayed timing devices. Considerable time was spent developing complete background "histories" they were to use in the United States, as well as learning to converse in English.
Most Americans at the time weren't aware of how close the country was to being invaded by our enemy, as the FBI and the president kept the information quiet, other than announcing their feat of capturing the spies. But if a lone Coastie hadn't seen them and two spies hadn't defected, what would have happened?
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|Marilyn Turk, www.pathwayheart.com.|