8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It
8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It

8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It

Larry Holzwarth - November 20, 2017

8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It
Found guilty of espionage and sabotage during the Battle of the Bulge, three German soldiers face execution in late 1944. Wikipedia

Operation Greif 1944

Operation Greif was conducted by units of the German Army to disrupt American command, control, and communication during the winter offensive which came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Eventually nearly 2,500 German troops were outfitted with American or British military equipment and uniforms, tasked with infiltrating American lines and operating behind them, conducting both overt and covert operations against the Americans.

It was hoped that their operations would both disrupt American military activities and severely damage morale. In the event, 44 German soldiers were sent behind American lines, conducting sabotage, espionage, and covert attacks on American communications as the German attack began.

Commanded by Otto Skorzeny, the Germans were highly successful in creating confusion, and in some cases outright panic, behind the Allied lines. Even after being captured by GIs, some of the Germans were successful in creating rumors which grew to attain such credence that they disrupted the personal plans of senior American officers. Dwight Eisenhower was forced into secure seclusion for Christmas of 1944 by rumors created by the Germans that a plan was underfoot to kidnap the allied commander.

This plan was given additional support due to the belief that it was headed by Skorzeny, who had previously successfully rescued Mussolini in a daring and well known raid. British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was temporarily held by US soldiers after he failed to properly identity himself, an act which enraged the haughty Montgomery and reportedly vastly amused Eisenhower.

German troops who destroyed communication facilities, bridges, and ammunition dumps performed these acts while wearing American uniforms, a violation of the rules of warfare, and when caught were tried as spies and saboteurs by military tribunals. Sixteen were shot as spies. The actual field commander for Operation Greif, Gunther Schulz, was executed by firing squad in June 1945 and Skorzeny was tried as a war criminal at Dachau for the crime of ordering his troops to fight while wearing American uniforms, as well as other crimes. He was acquitted. Operation Greif was only successful in the early phases of the Battle of the Bulge, the Americans were quickly aware of saboteurs and spies in their midst and once onto them, efficiently managed to root them out.

8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It
Motorized Vessel Krait, seized by the British and disguised as a Japanese fishing boat, near Darwin, Australia. Australian War Memorial

Operation Jaywick. 1943

Operation Jaywick was primarily developed by the British Special Operations Executive, using among the personnel responsible for its success British officers who had escaped from the Japanese when the latter occupied Singapore in 1942. Since that time Japanese shipping operated in and out of Singapore harbor with relative impunity. Jaywick was planned as an attack on the ships in the harbor, rather than on the port facilities themselves, as a means of maximizing shock to the Japanese.

The plan was conceived by British Captain Ivan Lyon, who envisioned using a captured Japanese fishing vessel to penetrate the harbor, after which small canoes would branch out to attack the ships in port with limpet mines. Limpet mines were small explosives which attached to the hull of vessels, detonated by a timer.

The raid was launched from Australia’s Exmouth Gulf in September 1943, with the British and Australian saboteurs disguising themselves as Japanese fishermen by staining their skin with dyes. To ensure that their presence wasn’t betrayed by the appearance of western products appearing as refuse in the water, they consumed only foods usual to the Japanese. By late September the raiders were in place in Singapore Harbor and on the night of the 26, after establishing a hiding place ashore they attached limpet mines to seven vessels, following which they returned to their lair. The mines sank or severely damaged the ships to which they had been attached and the attackers escaped in the confusion following the explosions, of which the Japanese were unable to determine the source. All 14 of the raiders returned safely to Australia.

The Japanese refused to accept the fact that a raiding party could approach the bastion of Singapore undetected by their fleet or air force. They concluded that the raid must have been the result of local Malay saboteurs allied with Chinese guerrillas and responded with an immediate purge. Numerous arrests were made and suspects were tortured and executed and when the Japanese reprisals failed to yield results, POWs were added to the list of suspects.

The British and Australian governments elected not to announce the resounding success of the raid in the hopes of conducting similar operations in the future, adding to the Japanese determination that the raid was of a local nature. In the end, 39,000 tons of shipping was destroyed by Operation Jaywick, and although none of the raiders were captured, uncounted Malay, Chinese, and other innocent suspects were killed by the enraged Japanese.

8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It
The US Military Tribunal weighs the fate of eight Nazi would-be saboteurs in the summer of 1942. US Army Signal Corps

Operation Pastorius, 1942

Operation Pastorius was conceived by the German High Command and Abwehr as a means of conducting coordinated sabotage operations against targets in the United States after American entry into World War II. Eight Germans were recruited for the operation, all of whom had lived in the United States or had traveled extensively there, and two of whom were United States citizens.

The Germans created deep and detailed backgrounds for each, trained them in the use of the tools of sabotage, and selected targets for them to destroy. All eight were subjected to the practice of immersion, in which they conversed only in English, read only English literature and periodicals, listened to English radio, and studied American mannerisms. Among the targets selected were railroad yards and critical sections of track which would be difficult to repair, locks crucial to navigation on the Ohio River, and several aluminum manufacturing plants.

The Germans were landed in the United States by U-boat in two groups, one on Long Island and the other in Florida. The two teams were scheduled to meet, after roundabout travel to dispel any possible trail, in Cincinnati Ohio on July 4. The plan was to coordinate the sabotage attacks at multiple points for greater effect.

When the Long Island team was detected shortly after landing by the US Coast Guard, one of the team members, George Dasch, convinced another member, Ernst Burger, to report the entire operation to the FBI. Initially the FBI was skeptical of the entire story, only the revelation of a large sum of US dollars in cash – provided by the Abwehr to fund the operations – were they convinced of the validity of the story. The remaining saboteurs were quickly rounded up.

By early August all eight of the German would be saboteurs were tried by a military tribunal – after President Roosevelt decided that a civilian court may not assign deep enough gravity to their potential crimes, none of which had been committed yet – and found guilty. All were sentenced to death as spies and six were executed by electrocution in the District of Columbia jail on August 8. FDR commuted the sentences of Dasch and Burger for revealing the plot, and President Truman released both in 1948 and deported them to Germany, where they were regarded as traitors.

8 Attempts of Sabotage that Tried to Change the World As We Know It
The terrain surrounding the Vemork Chemical Plant made bombing it from the air difficult. Wikipedia

Operation Grouse. 1942

In the early days of World War II, German scientists and engineers cast covetous eyes on Norwegian stocks of heavy water, produced by Norwegian industry and crucial to the development of both nuclear power and nuclear weapons. German seizure of Norway in 1940 gave the Germans access to this critical material and the British were aware of the need to disrupt the supply to the German atomic weapons research, helped by prodding from the Americans.

Most Norwegian heavy water was produced near the town of Rjukan by the Vemork Chemical Plant. Heavy bombers were ineffective in striking the plant due to prevailing weather conditions and the defenses of the German Luftwaffe. The only feasible means of crippling the Norwegian heavy water production was through sabotage of the plant.

Special Operations Executive (SOE) began training a team for insertion into Norway for the purpose of destroying the plant in 1942. The Norwegian team would land in Norway and prepare a landing strip for a glider delivering special equipment and British Commandos, who would then strike at the plant. Both the terrain and the toughness of the German mountain troops in place to defend the plant made the likelihood of success slim. A first strike by British commandos was defeated by bad luck, bad weather, and the Waffen SS, in November 1942. A second group, which was planned to coordinate with the first failed mission, was even less fortunate. Seven commandos were killed when their glider crash landed, the rest were captured by the Germans.

All of the captured commandos were tortured and eventually shot by either Gestapo or SS agents, but not until maps and other papers were obtained by the Germans, which revealed the identities of several Norwegian resistance fighters and others working with the British.

As an act of sabotage Operation Grouse was an abysmal failure, as an act of espionage it was a catastrophe. Still, the initial team of Norwegians the British had trained to pave the way for the commandos survived and in 1943 they contributed to the successful bombing by sabotage of the Vemork plant, which led to later targeted bombings by British fliers, and severely limited the company’s ability to provide heavy water to the German research program.