Monday, February 23, 2009

9-11 and Pearl Harbor Were Not the Only Attacks on US Soil

I was doing research on the Austro-Hungarian Empire when I came across the following information: the United States was attacked on its own soil by German saboteurs long before the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the World Trade Center or the multiple attacks on 9-11. During World War I, there were three attacks on American soil by German saboteurs.

The first was at the Black Tom munitions plant on Black Tom Island, part of Jersey City, NJ on July 30, 1916. German agents sabotaged ammunition supplies to prevent the Allies, especially the British, from using the American-made materials to continue their blockade of German troops during WWI. The first and largest ammunition explosion would have registered between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter scale, was felt as far away as Philadelphia, and was heard in Maryland and Connecticut. Fragments from the explosion tore into the Statue of Liberty (after which the arm was permanently closed to the public), and the concussion broke windows as far away as as Times Square in NYC. The explosion killed 4 people.

The successful attack at Black Tom emboldened German agents to stage a second attack on US soil at the Montreal-based Canadian Car and Foundry Company at Kingsland (now known as Lyndhurst), New Jersey. The Foundry had large munitions contracts with Britain and Russia. The Kingsland Explosion occurred in what is now known as the New Jersey Meadowlands on January 11, 1917 and leveled the entire munitions plant, which had been supplying arms to the Allies. Although Germany never admitted guilt in the Kingsland Explosion, the government paid reparations to the United States in the 1950's.

In March, 1917, the third sabotage attack was at the US Naval Shipyard at Mare Island, CA, 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, during which explosive-filled munitions barges exploded, killing 6 and injuring 31.

All three sabotage attacks were not publicized at the time, although President Woodrow Wilson, who had campaigned for re-election in 1916 on an anti-war platform, was well aware of them. He won re-election by a narrow margin. Had news of the first attack been widely publicized to American citizens, the results of this close election may have been different. Nevertheless, these escalating sabotage attacks by German agents on US munitions sites contributed to the decision made by the United States to join forces with the Allies and enter WWI on April 16, 1917.

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