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Profs and Pints DC presents: “When Nazis Prowled Our Coasts,” a look at how Hitler brought war to America, with Kevin Matthews, who teaches courses on World War II as an assistant professor of European history at George Mason University.
A German submarine surfaces in New York’s harbor. Nazi saboteurs armed with explosives land on a Florida beach with orders to blow up factories in Tennessee and dams on the Ohio River. American ships are sunk in broad daylight while vacationers look on from New Jersey to Virginia Beach, from the Outer Banks to Key West.
It wasn’t the plot of a bad movie. Such events actually happened during the early months of 1942, helping to explain why watch towers still stand near the beaches of Delaware and New Jersey today.
Come learn about this forgotten episode of our nation’s World War II past with Professor Kevin Matthews, who previously gave an excellent Profs and Pints talk on the history of the Irish Revolution.
He’ll describe how Nazi Germany sought to make the United States pay for siding with Britain and to defeat us at home before our forces could get to Europe by sending its forces places you now associate with boardwalks and bodysurfing. It ordered its U-boats to beat America like a “kettledrum” as part of a campaign known as Operation Paukenschlag (which translates as “drumbeat.”) And by the spring of 1942 its submarines also were prowling the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Aiding the success of Nazi Germany’s campaign were two unwitting allies: the U.S. Navy, which refused to change tactics in the face of Germany’s attacks; and the leaders of American cities, who refused to impose blackouts and thereby created a neon shooting gallery the length of the East Coast.
You’ll learn how Britain’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force helped defeat the U-boats at a time when they threatened our entire war effort, and how the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover helped establish himself as the nation’s top cop by doggedly tracking down Nazi agents.
It’s a talk that will give you plenty to think about on your next trip to the beach. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A watchtower on the Delaware shore. Photo by John Stanton / fortwiki