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Shadow Enemies

“Two groups of saboteurs, highly trained by direction of the German High Command at a special school for sabotage near Berlin, carrying cases of powerful explosives and nearly $150,000 in cash, were landed on the Long Island and the Florida coasts from submariner in the last fortnight with orders to blow up certain key plants and to cause panic in large cities.”
-The New York Times, June 28, 1942

“President Roosevelt today ordered a military trial for the right men accused of coming to this country in Nazi U-boats to sabotage the American war effort. at the same time Mr. Roosevelt issued a proclamation denying them and all persons who enter the country for the purpose of espionage or sabotage the right of access to the civil courts.”
-Los Angc1es Times, July 3, 1942

These newspaper accounts, appearing half a year after the United States’ entry into World War 11, open the incredible story of one of Hitler’s most diabolical plans: to wreak havoc and terror in America’s cities through the hands of carefully trained German agents whose goal was co sabotage manufacturing plants, cut off New York City’s water supply, and bomb train stations and Jewish-owned department stores. Shadow Enemies follows in absorbing detail the astonishing facts of this episode, from the recruitment and training of the agents to their landing on the shores of New York and Florida and their successful infiltration into American society, and from there to the desperate attempts of the FBI to apprehend them before they could put their plans into effect. Shadow Enemies not only follows the unfolding of the plot from the outside but also affords a fascinating glimpse of the internal motivations and fears of a key member of the Nazi cell.

Equally fascinating is the second part of the story: the capture and subsequent trial of the agents. Fearful that a civilian court would not hand down the death sentences he wished, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a military tribunal convened to try the defendants, without the civil rights common in jury trials. The tribunal led to the execution of sex of the eight conspirators only two months after their arrest.

Shadow Enemies not only provides a thrilling picture of an astonishing World War II story, but also affords a timely examination of pertinent questions relating to civil rights, justice, and how wartime necessity affects these central principles of American life.


From Publishers Weekly
In 1942, with Americans still on edge after Pearl Harbor, four German-American operatives disembarked from a U-boat and waded ashore, soon melting into the crowds of Manhattan, the first of several teams assigned to blow up manufacturing and transportation centers as well as Jewish-owned department stores in the United States. Novelist and journalist Abella (The Killing of the Saints) and Gordon, commissioner with the Los Angeles County Superior Court and a professor of law at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, depict a crew of would-be saboteurs with varying degrees of discipline, experience and dedication to the Nazi cause. Their leader, George Dasch, had lived in the U.S. as a boy, but had drifted from job to job without ever satisfying his grand ambitions. Returning to Germany, he joined the military and was eventually recruited for the terrorist mission in the U.S., despite his ambivalence toward Hitler’s National Socialism. Realizing that the Allies would most likely win the war, Dasch eventually turned himself and his co-conspirators in to the FBI, with the thought of making himself a war hero. While the exploits of Dasch, his partners and their sympathetic contacts are fascinating, also engrossing is the U.S. government’s handling of the ensuing court case. J. Edgar Hoover, closely involved, knew that his agency’s reputation was at stake. President Roosevelt, concerned about the lack of control in a civilian trial, ordered a military tribunal, which eventually ordered the execution of many of the conspirators and several of their sympathizers. Dasch was returned to Germany after the war, where he was greeted as a traitor. By painting these sometimes reluctant and occasionally bumbling terrorists in such vivid detail, the authors have re-created timely and compelling series of events with an immediacy that hits close to home.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
International terrorism aimed at American cities did not begin two Septembers ago. In 1942, a team of Nazi saboteurs emerged from a submarine near Amagansett, New York, bearing fake documents and crates of explosives. Chosen for their English language ability and their knowledge of American customs, they were to destroy factories and bomb public landmarks; a second team landed in Florida a few days later. Both might have succeeded had team leader George Dasch not defected and informed the FBI. Choosing secret military tribunals over public civil trials, J. Edgar Hoover & Co. saw most of the conspirators electrocuted, navigating the eerily familiar terrain of national security versus rights of the accused. Abella and Gordon do not press the relevant ethical questions as much as they might. Instead they detail the court proceedings with a Dragnet-like play-by-play; we are then reminded that one author is a lawyer. In spite of its spy-novel-turned-courtroom-drama sensationalism, however, this is a fascinating and timely look at terrorism and wartime justice, especially gripping because it’s true.
– Brendan Driscoll
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