On, June 13, 1942 four Nazi agents disembarked from a submarine off Atlantic Beach in Amagansett and made their way to shore, laden with explosives, as the tide ebbed.
72 years later, on Friday June 13, 2014 two hundred visitors gathered at the lifesaving station in Amagansett on Atlantic Beach to watch a re-enactment of the historic event.
The weather on Friday added an extra element of drama to the story, as it had been raining all day and stopped just in time for the re-enactment, leaving the beach and lifesaving station shrouded in mist.
The evening, introduced by David Lys, was written and directed by Hugh King. Actors Sonny Sireci, Carl Irace, Evan Thomas, Ted Hults, and Samantha Ruddock donned costumes for this third annual re-enactment of the Nazi saboteur landing, conjuring up the drama of that long ago night
King, former East Hampton town historian and current town crier, narrated the drama and explained that the four Nazis had landed,unwittingly, in the backyard of the Atlantic Beach Coast Guard Station in Amagansett and that the guards regularly patrolled the beach.
On his patrol that night in 1942, during the routine course of his duties John C. Cullen, an unarmed coastguardsman, discovered the men and rushed back to the life saving station to alert his captain. The two men tried in vain to alert the FBI to their predicament, but the FBI thought their alarm a hoax and disconnected the call.
The four Germans on the beach meanwhile had panicked at having been discovered and buried their explosives in the sand. Determined to make their way to New York City where their mission was to disrupt the supply chain and cause unrest by attacking civilian targets, they consulted a map and made their way to the Amagansett train station.
They waited at the train station for the 6:59 into the city and boarded the train. Upon arriving In New York City they began to worry about retrieving the explosives for it seemed impossible to foresee a way to return to Amagansett and dig them up and transport them back to the city without being detected.
The men, who were part of an 8 man team of saboteurs—the other four landed in Florida and made their way north to meet with the four from Amagansett by train—began to despair of successfully completing their mission.
The Germans, upon realizing their predicament and the chances of success were greatly compromised, decided their best hope was to turn themselves in to the FBI and appeal for clemency. They tried in vain to do this and were rebuffed in much the same way John C. Cullen and the men at the coast guard station were.
Finally, the German agents boarded the train once again in hopes that if they could present themselves in Washington D.C. to the FBI they would be able to successfully avoid being executed for being spies and be able to divulge some of the details of their operation in return for clemency.
The men, along with their collaborators who had landed in Florida, at last, managed to reach a receptive ear at the FBI and their story was deemed credible. They were slapped in jail and six were executed. One was given a life sentence and the other a 30-year sentence. In 1948, President Truman commuted their sentences and they were returned to Germany.
At the conclusion of the re-enactment East Hampton Town Supervisor, Larry Cantwell, whose mother had lived through the Nazi landing in Amagansett, recounted listening fearfully to her tell the story that led to boyish nightmares of being pursued across the dunes by Nazi.
The German’s gave the operation the code name Operation Pastorius in recognition of the first German settler in the Americas.