More on the Backstory of the Nazi Saboteurs in Ex Parte Quirin

April 4th, 2011

Gizmodo has a fascinating post about the various ways about the Nazis planned to spread the Third Reich around the world. In particular, there is some backstory about the facts of Ex Parte Quirin.

The third part of the Nazi strategy was to plant agents all around the world, so they could act during and after the war to enable the comeback of Hitler’s cronies.

In the US, two groups of agents landed on Long Island in the North Atlantic and near Ponte Vedra, in Florida. A third group, in charge of naval espionage, was suspected but apparently never found. It was called Operation Pastorius and, according to the captured agents, they came attack factories, destroy railways, and place incendiary bombs in Jewish-owned shops.

The Long Island group was caught by the coast guard just after burying their Nazi uniforms in the sand. They told the coast guards that they were stranded fishermen, and they let them go with no inquiries. The Florida group arrived to the coast wearing just bathing trunks and army caps.

For some reason, the leader of the operation, handed himself in to the FBI only one week after their arrival. His name was George Dasch, a German citizen who spent his young years in the US. He had $84,000 with him. All the saboteurs were then caught and sentenced to death except Dasch, who got a 30-year sentence and was later repatriated to Germany, in 1948.

Meanwhile, Olivier Mordrelle, a French collaborator caught in Italy, described how the Nazis had planted multitude of agents around the world, with a “great plan of promoting post-war unrest,” provoking popular protests and agitating the population against the Allies through different methods. These agents were going to use “ample funds” already transferred to accounts in South America. Additional agents were sent to Spain and Switzerland in order to administer and distribute the Nazi money.]

More from the Australian:

A second sabotage team landed in Florida, but in a scene no comedy film-maker would dare to invent, they “appeared to think that the caps alone would be sufficient to ensure prisoner of war treatment and therefore landed dressed only in bathing trunks and army forage caps”.

The New York saboteurs were burying their uniforms in the sand when they were interrupted by a coastguard. They claimed to be stranded fishermen, then caught a train to New York. The coastguard informed his superiors but the only action taken was “some trivial and amateurish inquiries”.

The plot ended a week later when Dasch phoned up the FBI in Washington””stating he was a saboteur and wished to tell his story to Mr Hoover”.

The assistant director, D.M. Ladd, remained sceptical. Only when Dasch dumped $84,000 on Ladd’s desk, the money he had been given to carry out the plan, did the FBI realise it had a bona fide unit of Nazi terrorists on its hands.

The two groups of saboteurs were swiftly rounded up. All were found guilty of spying and sentenced to death. Dasch’s sentence was commuted to 30 years but he was released in 1948 and returned to Germany.

MI5 was in no doubt that, clumsy as it was, the sabotage operation had posed a major threat. If Dasch had not chosen to scupper it, the outcome might have been anything but comical.