This Day In History: America Executed Six German Saboteurs (1942)

This day in history, the United States executed six German saboteurs in Washington D.C. During the second world war, six German agents entered America secretly in order to cause mayhem and destruction in the country.

In 1942, under Hitler’s orders, the intelligence service launched a plan to infiltrate the US and destroy key sites, that were essential for the American war machine. The Germans had very ambitious plans and wanted to disrupt the American war effort and they also hoped to enlist German-American sympathizers. This plan was known in Berlin as Operation Pistorius.

One night in June, a Nazi submarine landed a team of German agents on the coast near New York. They had explosives and other equipment. As the team was on the beach they were spotted by a coastguard he approached them and asked them what they were doing. The leader of the team bribed the man to stay silent and not to report them to the authorities.  However, as he left the coastguard informed his superiors. In the meantime, the German agents had made their way into New York.  The FBI started to look for the men at this stage and a huge manhunt was underway.

It soon became apparent to two of the team that they could not complete their mission and  they gave themselves up to the authorities. They cooperated with the FBI and they helped the FBI to capture the other six agents. The rest of the German saboteurs were soon captured in the New York area.

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Nazi submarine

President Roosevelt ordered a military tribunal to try the men. The two men who  surrendered to the FBI received lengthy prison sentences.  The rest of the team were all sentenced to death. On this day in history, the six captured saboteurs  all were put to death in the electric  chair.

Two more saboteurs were later arrested in Maine. These were the last German saboteurs to land in America and the threat of Nazi terrorism passed. Hitler had hoped to launch dozens of teams into America who would have disrupted the country and its war efforts. Several teams had been formed in occupied France and it was planned that they would arrive in America on German submarines. However, he failed to recognize that America had tightended security after it entered the war.  The Germans efforts to disrupt the American war efforts were not successful.

In 1948, the two Germans who gave themselves up were freed by order of President Harry Truman, and they both returned to Germany.