Operation Pastorius: Bringing the War to America
Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach
So on June 16, 1942, two groups of trained Nazi agents - two of them being American citizens - landed on the shores of Ponte Vedra Beach, just four miles south of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. These particular agents went through extensive training in the use of explosives and delayed timing devices.
Their mission was to destroy key economic targets, including bridges, railroads, defense factories, and water supplies.
Dropped off by the German submarine U-584 and coming to shore on a raft, "Both groups landed wearing complete or partial German uniforms to ensure treatment as prisoners of war rather than as spies if they were caught in the act of landing,” according to the FBI.
They buried their German uniforms and put on civilian clothes. They also buried boxes of explosives, cash, and other supplies in the dunes along the beach. They planned on retrieving these materials in the near future.
Little did these men know that Operation Pastorius was already falling apart.
The Long Island Snitch
Just three days earlier on June 13, a separate group of four Nazi agents landed on a beach in Long Island, New York just past midnight.
With the same objective as the group that landed in Florida, they too began burying their uniforms, incendiaries, and equipment when a Coast Guardsman on the beach suddenly spotted them.
Describing the brief interaction between the Coast Guardsman and the four Nazi agents, the FBI states:
He was unarmed and very suspicious of them, more so when they offered him a bribe to forget they had met. He ostensibly accepted the bribe to lull their fears and promptly reported the incident to his headquarters. However, by the time the search patrol located the spot, the saboteurs had reached a railroad station and had taken a train to New York City.
The equipment the men had buried in the sand was dug up, and the FBI was alerted. A search for the four Nazi agents began immediately.
Those four agents who landed in Ponte Vedra Beach were found and arrested, two in New York City and two in Chicago.