Spying on the Home Front

Wow, there are a lot of different kinds of spies! Spies in the movies, spies snooping in our neighborhoods, glamour-ized spies, traitor-ized spies, spies everywhere.


But what about spies here on the home front?


We don’t hear much about those stories, but there were actually a couple of real occasions during WWII when German soldiers landed on U.S. soil. One such spy was George John Dasch (you can google him and read more!) when he was recruited by the Nazis to land a team of spies on U.S. soil. The spies were given minimal training to set bombs, and they intended to sabotage factories, bridges, and some of the locks on the Ohio River. In June 1942 they landed in New York and Florida, having been set ashore by German submarines, but only 2 months later their plans fell apart when Dasch turned informant after seeing too many flaws in their preparations. He got 30 years in prison, one of his accomplices got life, and the others got the electric chair.


WWII was a time when ordinary citizens dared to commit outrageous acts of bravery, often beyond their training. It was a time when everyday folks became spies for a cause they put above their own personal safety. And many of them succeeded! Could we, in our comfy lives today, ever match such acts of derring-do? I wonder.


My interest in these tales began when I was a child, listening to the stories of my great-uncle. He used to be postmaster of a very small town in the hills of southern Ohio around the time of WWII. My uncle had a great sense of humor, and he loved pulling my leg. I never knew if he was teasing or telling the truth when he confessed about spying from the post office, tracking German spies who allegedly passed through town. In those days, on the home front in the early days of WWII, nobody knew what might happen. I suspect my uncle exaggerated his tales, but it doesn’t really matter if they were true or not. They were stories, and I loved hearing them.


They got me thinking and wondering. What might’ve happened on the home front in those early days after the U.S. entered WWII? Dasch’s story became a jumping off point for one of the subplots in a novel of mine under another pen name (The Jigsaw Window, by Cameron Kennedy). When I write, I like to throw in my own speculations, blend them all together, and end up with a story.


My story only speculates about an invasion plan, but I have to wonder: did my long-deceased uncle really have a hand in bringing down Dasch and his team of spies? Probably not, but it makes a nice story and turns my uncle into a hometown hero. My favorite kind of spy.


What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Spying on the Home Front”

  1. That is so cool, Sue. Sure, who’s to tell you different? For all you know, your uncle was a key player in the whole thing. 😉 Funny how we’re so insulated here in the US, thinking the kinds of things that go on in other countries (spying, terrorism) just doesn’t happen here.


  2. Sue, While Stephen was away in Egypt, I watched the first season of The Americans. Deep cover Soviet spies during the Cold War pretending to be a regular old American family. I love the interpersonal tensions of being a family, but not really being a family. Plus the old-fashioned technology. Nice to remember a world where nothing was instantaneously available.


  3. On of my favorite “spy” books is “Code Name Verity” … such a riveting book. It really brings war (and those acts of bravery by common people, as you say) to life.


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