With the American entry into World War II in late 1941, German authorities began planning to land agents in the United States to collect intelligence and carry out attacks against industrial targets. Organization of these activities was delegated to the Abwehr, Germany’s intelligence agency, which was headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. Direct control of the American operations was given to William Kappe, a long-time Nazi who had lived in the United States for twelve years. Canaris named the American effort Operation Pastorius after Francis Pastorius who led the first German settlement in North America.
Dasch was to lead Ernst Burger, Heinrich Heinck, and Richard Quirin in attacking the hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls, a cryolite plant in Philadelphia, canal locks on the Ohio River, as well as Aluminum Company of America factories in New York, Illinois, and Tennessee. Kerling’s team of Hermann Neubauer, Herbert Haupt, and Werner Thiel were designated to strike the water system in New York City, a railroad station in Newark, Horseshoe Bend near Altoona, PA, as well as canal locks at St. Louis and Cincinnati. The teams planned to rendezvous at Cincinnati on July 4, 1942.
Arriving first, Dasch’s team landed on the night of June 13. Coming ashore on a beach near Amagansett, NY, they wore German uniforms to avoid being shot as spies if captured during the landing. Reaching the beach, Dasch’s men began burying their explosives and other supplies.
Placed before a seven-member commission, the Germans were accused of:
* Violating the law of war
* Violating Article 81 of the Articles of War, defining the offense of corresponding with or giving intelligence to the enemy
* Violating Article 82 of the Articles of War, defining the offense of spying
* Conspiracy to commit the offenses alleged in the first three charges
Though their lawyers, including Lauson Stone and Kenneth Royall, attempted to have the case moved to a civilian court, their efforts were in vain. The trial moved forward in the Department of Justice Building in Washington that July. All eight were found guilty and sentenced to death. For their assistance in foiling the plot, Dasch and Burger had their sentences commuted by Roosevelt and were given 30 years and life in prison respectively. In 1948, President Harry Truman showed both men clemency and had them deported to the American Zone of occupied Germany. The remaining six were electrocuted at the District Jail in Washington on August 8, 1942.