June 2021: Desk Used at Nazi Saboteur Trial

The FBI's June Artifact of the Month is a desk used during the trial of Nazi saboteurs in the 1940s.

The FBI's June Artifact of the Month is a desk used during the trial of Nazi saboteurs in the 1940s. (Select image to view high-res.)

Shortly after midnight on June 13, 1942, a Nazi submarine carrying four men landed on a beach in New York. Four days later, another submarine carrying four more men landed in Florida.  

Both groups brought explosive materials primers with them. Their mission: Sabotage American wartime production. 

The men who landed in Florida buried their supplies (which they planned to retrieve later) and left, but the men who landed in New York were not as stealthy. As they finished burying their supplies, a U.S. Coast Guardsman spotted them. 

The saboteurs offered the Coast Guardsman a bribe to forget he had seen them. The Coast Guardsman accepted the bribe to lull the men’s fears, but he promptly reported the meeting. 

Perhaps shook by the confrontation with the Coast Guardsman or skeptical of the mission itself, George Dasch, one of the saboteurs, decided to confess. 

On June 14, 1942, Dasch called the FBI and said he had traveled from Germany. He promised to call again when he reached Washington, D.C., the following week. 

Dasch kept his word. On Friday, June 19, he divulged his location to the FBI, and law enforcement personnel took him into custody. 

During questioning, Dasch revealed the names of the other saboteurs. Law enforcement personnel arrested all eight men within two weeks of their arrival—preventing them from causing destruction. 

The FBI's June Artifact of the Month is a desk used during the trial of the saboteurs. It was in the Justice Department at the time but now resides at FBI Headquarters. 

A military commission found the saboteurs guilty. The German naval high command never again risked a valuable submarine for a sabotage mission.