LONDON — The four men wading ashore on a Florida beach wearing nothing but bathing trunks and German army hats looked like an unlikely invading force.
Declassified British intelligence files describe how the men were part of Nazi sabotage teams sent to the U.S. in June 1942 to undermine the American war effort.
They were trained in bomb-making, supplied with explosives and instructed in how to make timers from “easily obtainable commodities such as dried peas, lumps of sugar and razor blades.”
Fortunately for the U.S., they were also spectacularly unsuccessful.
“It was not brilliantly planned,” said Edward Hampshire, a historian at Britain’s National Archives, which released the wartime intelligence documents Monday. “The Germans picked the leader for this very, very poorly. He immediately wanted to give himself up.”
A detailed new account of the mission – code-named Pastorius after an early German settler in the U.S. – is provided in a report written in 1943 by MI5 intelligence officer Victor Rothschild. It is one of a trove of previously secret documents which shed light on the Nazis’ desire to use sabotage, subterfuge and even poisoned sausages to fight the war.