In 1942, a group of Nazi agents landed in Florida in bathing trunks and Wehrmacht caps. Another one landed in Long Island. Meanwhile, in Europe, a secret band of blondes spread all over armed with microbes hidden in handbag mirrors, poison disguised as Bayer aspirins and cigarette lighters that released deadly vapours.
Their mission: To spread terror and start the turmoil needed to establish the Fourth Reich. It seems like a Marx Brothers movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, but it's very real, as newly declassified MI5 documents have revealed today.
The Nazi agents were instructed to kill high ranks in the military, while other strategies were put in place for spreading terror among troops and civilian populations over Europe, America and Northern Africa. The list of devices used by agents may seem silly now but, back then, it really worried the Allies - starting with Lord Rothschild, the head of the MI5:
• Handbag mirrors loaded with bacteriological weapons, to be used "by female agents against highly-placed persons in Allied occupied territory."
• Poison disguised as Bayer aspirins, capable of killing within 10 minutes.
• Cigarettes that caused headaches, so the infiltrated agent could first offer a smoke and, after the headache kicked in, offer the killing aspirin. "The agent was also to smoke one of the cigarettes and would take one of the real aspirins from the tube," said the MI5 report.
• Poisonous glass powder that would be sprayed over door handles and desks. It was designed to cause death if swallowed but not by inhalation.
• A special cigarette lighter that had a special place to insert a 1mm spherical brown pellet that would spread deadly gas when ignited, killing everyone around it.
• The pellets could be placed on ashtrays too, where they would be ignited by the burning cigarettes.
The Americans also caught agents carrying strange devices, like a belt with a Swastika emblem on it - not very secret, that one - which could act as a two-barrelled .32 pistol triggered by two buttons.
Getting the troops high
For the troops, the Nazis had to use other methods. According to the agents interrogated by the MI5, they had poisoned chocolate - a German brand called Sarotti - sugar and Nescafe instant coffee. The Allies' intelligence service considered the threat very real thanks to the detailed accounts and equipment captured to some of the Nazi agents. While the MI5 investigated the possibility of this being a large scale operation, soldiers in the European front were instructed not to consume any kind German products - from food to drinks to cigarettes - under severe penalties.
But the most impressive and weirdest stratagem was devised by the Abwehr, the German military intelligence: In June 1943 they wanted to disable the Allies' troops in North Africa using widespread distribution of narcotics. I guess that meant free Moroccan hashish joints for every GI Joe.
Nazis in South America and Spain
The third part of the Nazi strategy was to plant agents all around the world, so they could act during and after the war to enable the comeback of Hitler's cronies.
In the US, two groups of agents landed on Long Island in the North Atlantic and near Ponte Vedra, in Florida. A third group, in charge of naval espionage, was suspected but apparently never found. It was called Operation Pastorius and, according to the captured agents, they came attack factories, destroy railways, and place incendiary bombs in Jewish-owned shops.
The Long Island group was caught by the coast guard just after burying their Nazi uniforms in the sand. They told the coast guards that they were stranded fishermen, and they let them go with no inquiries. The Florida group arrived to the coast wearing just bathing trunks and army caps.
For some reason, the leader of the operation, handed himself in to the FBI only one week after their arrival. His name was George Dasch, a German citizen who spent his young years in the US. He had $US84,000 with him. All the saboteurs were then caught and sentenced to death except Dasch, who got a 30-year sentence and was later repatriated to Germany, in 1948.
Meanwhile, Olivier Mordrelle, a French collaborator caught in Italy, described how the Nazis had planted multitude of agents around the world, with a "great plan of promoting post-war unrest", provoking popular protests and agitating the population against the Allies through different methods. These agents were going to use "ample funds" already transferred to accounts in South America. Additional agents were sent to Spain and Switzerland in order to administer and distribute the Nazi money.
Original photo by Toni Kaarttinen/Flickr