- Historic Sites
The Spies Who Came In From The Sea
Wartime America’s nerves were jumpy. One foggy night on a deserted Long Island beach a young coastguardsman heard the muffled engines of a submarine offshore, and suddenly eight shadowy figures loomed up out of the mist
April 1970 | Volume 21, Issue 3
Herbert Hans Haupt was brought to America by his parents from Stettin as a five-year-old, grew up in Chicago, and became an optical worker there. He had little recollection of Germany, but his father, although naturalized, was such a loyal Nazi that he might as well have been in Prussia. Young Haupt drilled with the Bund in an Illinois cornfield. Still, his return to Germany was motivated by prudence as well as national feeling. Discovering that his Chicago girl friend was pregnant, he fled to Mexico in June of 1941. The German consul in Mexico City, regarding him as useful timber, gave him money and arranged his passage to Germany by way of Japan. Haupt, born in 1919, was the youngest member of the student body and a lady-killer.
During April and part of May, 1942, these eight men were hurry-up classmates at Quentz Farm, where their teachers were experts—two of them doctors of philosophy—in explosives, chemistry, electricity, and allied arts useful in destruction. In the surrounding fields small bridges and lengths of railroad track had been built, and here the students could lay practice demolition charges under the supervision of their instructors. They were expected to study the American newspapers and magazines passed around among them and to be posted on current American news, slang, and song hits. Finally they were taken to factories in Berlin, Bitterfeld, and Aachen and shown how the destruction of one vital production process could knock out a whole plant. They were saluted with a “graduation” dinner complete with wines, and their mission was designated Operation Pastorius, after Franz Pastorius, the first German immigrant to America, who landed in 1683.
Each man (except for the two American citizens, Burger and Haupt, who could safely use their own names) was given a fictitious identity and forged papers to support it—passport, draft card, ration coupons, and driver’s license. Each of the fraudulent six memorized a fake past history.
On May 22, 1942, Lieutenant Kappe and the eight took the express train to Nazi-occupied Paris, where they had a two-day binge—theatres, night clubs, women—courtesy of the Third Reich. Thence they travelled to the submarine base at Lorient, the take-off point. Dasch, the leader of one four-man team, had with him Burger, Quirin, and Heinck. Kerling, the other leader, had under him Neubauer, Thiel, and Haupt. To each team Kappe gave about ninety thousand dollars in United States currency, the leader carrying the bulk of it—a sum intended to cover possible bribes as well as expenses. Each team leader was also given an ordinary white handkerchief on which was written, in invisible ink that could be brought out by ammonia fumes, the names and addresses of a Lisbon mail drop that would reach the Abwehr , and two dependable sources of help in the United States. On the night of May 26 Kerling and his men boarded the U-584 , under Lieutenant Commander Deeke, and soon were plowing westward in the Atlantic, bound for Florida. Two nights later Dasch and his group were off in the U-202 for Long Island.
The landing of the saboteurs near Amagansett was made in an inflated rubber boat with the aid of sailors from the U-202 . The four were clad in German marine fatigue uniforms on the theory that if captured at once they would be treated as prisoners of war (that is, interned) rather than being shot as spies. They quickly changed into mufti, buried their cache, and after the brush with coastguardsman Cullen, went on to New York, where Dasch and Burger took rooms at the Governor Clinton Hotel across from Pennsylvania Station. Heinck and Quirin registered at the Hotel Martinique.
Now the men and their mission took on a complexion of opéra bouffe . They lacked the close acquaintance and implicit trust that was essential for the success of an assignment of such high risk and long duration. The morale of three of them had sagged during the sixteen-day submarine voyage—a Spartan journey made fearful when the U-boat had to hit bottom to escape American destroyers and was shaken, though not damaged, by depth charges. They actually disliked each other. Burger, the solid one of the group, had ice in his veins and was equal to any risk; but he was not forgetting what the Gestapo had done to him, and besides, he had lost all faith in Dasch. Quirin tended to be moody and quarrelsome. Heinck had already exhibited a weakness for liquor and loose talk that was potentially fatal. Dasch himself was undergoing the cold shivers. Their narrow escape from the Coast Guard had been a vivid reminder of the dangers they faced. The psychological pressures peculiar to those most isolated of all creatures, secret agents, were oppressive.
They had too much time to think, for their orders were to spend about ninety days in preparation before launching any sabotage. They were loaded with more money than any of them had ever seen before; and they spent it on snappy American summer clothes and on food that seemed Lucullan after the leaner German war rations. Dasch, the knowing ex-waiter, escorted his crew to restaurants he liked—the Swiss Chalet, the Kungsholm, Dinty Moore’s, and an Automat near Macy’s.