George John Dasch

George John Dasch (7 February 1903–1992) was a German agent who landed on American soil during World War II. He helped to destroy Nazi Germany's espionage program in the United States by defecting to the American cause, but was tried and convicted of treason and espionage.

George John Dasch
George John Dasch.jpg
Born(1903-02-07)7 February 1903
Died1992 (aged 88–89)
Spouse(s)Charlotte Holliday Aldasch
Conviction(s)Violating the laws of war with the intent to commit hostile acts
Criminal penaltyDeath; commuted to 30 years imprisonment; later granted clemency with conditional deportation to American-occupied Germany
Military career
AllegianceNazi Germany Nazi Germany
United States United States
Service/branchGerman Army
United States Army
Years of service
  • German Army
  • U.S. Army
    1927–28, 1936–38
  • German Army – Private
  • U.S. Army – Private
Battles/warsWorld War I

Early lifeEdit

George John Dasch was born as Georg Johann Dasch in Speyer in the German Empire. He entered a Catholic seminary at the age of 13 to study for the priesthood, but was expelled the following year for unknown reasons. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the Imperial German Army and served in Belgium during the final months of World War I.

In 1923, he entered the United States illegally through the Port of Philadelphia as a stowaway, then stayed in New York City. For four years, he drifted among several restaurants, and spent one season at a hotel in Miami Beach. In 1927, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was assigned to the 5th Composite Group of Newton field in Honolulu, and served with the 72nd Bombardment Squadron, but after a year he bought himself out and received an honorable discharge. He then worked as a waiter in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and back in New York City. In 1930, he married Rose Marie Guille, an American citizen.[1]

Dasch re-enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1936 and was stationed at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. He served with the 1st Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Regiment, L Company, and married Charlotte Holliday in the parsonage of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Oswego in March 1936. He used the alias George Henry Aldasch to hide his bigamy. He and Charlotte lived at the home of her father Jay Holliday in Oswego while he served at Fort Ontario. In 1937 the couple had a son named Howard Elliot Aldasch. Some time in 1938 George Dasch left the Army, abandoned his "wife" and their son, and returned to Germany. Charlotte Aldasch learned his real identity only in 1942, when he turned himself in to the FBI. She then sent their son Howard Aldasch to live anonymously with distant relatives in Madison, New York. Dasch's last communication with Charlotte and Howard was via a lawyer and military officer in 1955. At that time Dasch was trying to gain entry back into the United States, but it was denied by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI.

Operation PastoriusEdit

Preparation for espionageEdit

Dasch and the others were trained for espionage activities in a school run by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the German High Command, on an estate at Quenz Lake, near Berlin. They received three weeks of intensive sabotage training, and were instructed in the manufacture and use of explosives, incendiary material and various forms of mechanical, chemical, and electrical delayed timing devices. Considerable time was spent developing the false background histories they were to use in the United States. They were encouraged to converse in English, and to read American newspapers and magazines.

Espionage activitiesEdit

On 26 May 1942, Dasch and his team (Ernest Peter Burger, Heinrich Harm Heink, and Richard Quirin) left by submarine from Lorient, France. They landed on Long Island, New York, shortly after midnight on 12 June. They were wearing German Navy uniforms to avoid being shot as spies if they were captured during the landing. Once they were ashore, they changed into civilian clothes, and buried their uniforms and other equipment.

Early that morning, John C. Cullen, a Coast Guardsman from the station in Amagansett, New York, spotted Dasch and the three others posing as fisherman on a raft off the coast of Long Island. He saw that they were armed and also noticed a submerged submarine. The men offered him 260 dollars to keep quiet. He took the bribe, but alerted his superiors. By the time an armed patrol reached the site, the four Germans had taken the Long Island Rail Road train from the Amagansett station into Manhattan, where they checked in to a hotel. A search of the beach revealed concealed explosives, timers, blasting caps, incendiary devices, cigarettes, and the naval uniforms.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the FBI were immediately alerted, and the FBI conducted a massive manhunt. All information was kept secret to avoid public panic and to prevent the spies from knowing that they had been discovered. However, the FBI did not know exactly where the Germans were going.

Defection to the United StatesEdit

Dasch was unhappy with the Nazi regime. He eventually talked to one of his compatriots, a naturalized American citizen named Ernst Peter Burger, about defecting to the United States. Their plan was to surrender immediately to the FBI. Dasch ordered Burger to stay and keep an eye on the other German agents. On 15 June, Dasch called the FBI office in New York from a pay phone on the Upper West Side. The FBI agent did not believe his story, so Dasch hung up and took a train to Washington D.C. four days later and booked in at the Mayflower Hotel.[2] He then went to the FBI headquarters asking to speak to Hoover. Dasch tried to tell the truth to the FBI officials, but they did not believe his story. While Dasch was at FBI headquarters, the FBI sent agents to his hotel room, where they found $82,500 in cash (worth more than $1 million in 2017 U.S. dollars).[3] Dasch was arrested and interrogated for eight days. He disclosed the locations of the other men in the sabotage operation including Burger. He revealed that the goals of the sabotage program had been to disrupt war industries and launch a wave of terror by planting explosives in railway stations, department stores, and public places. Armed with the information Dasch provided, the FBI arrested Burger and six other German agents within the following week. The FBI withheld the true circumstances of their arrest prior to the trial of the eight men, including the fact that they did not actually consummate their plans of sabotage.[4]


Dasch, Ernst Peter Burger, and six others – Edward John Kerling, Heinrich Harm Heinck, Richard Quirin, Werner Thiel, Hermann Otto Neubauer, and Herbert Hans Haupt (who had landed in Florida to meet with Dasch and Burger) – were tried by a military commission appointed by President Roosevelt on 8 July 1942 and convicted of sabotage and sentenced to death. FBI Director Hoover and Attorney General Biddle appealed to President Roosevelt, who commuted the sentence to life imprisonment for Burger, and thirty years for Dasch.[5] The others were executed in the electric chair in Washington D.C Jail on 8 August 1942.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman had both Burger and Dasch released and deported to Germany. They were not welcomed back because they were regarded as traitors who had caused the death of their comrades.[6] Although they had been promised pardons by Hoover in exchange for their cooperation,[7] both men died without ever receiving them. Dasch wrote an account of his involvement with Operation Pastorius ("Eight Spies Against America," Publisher: R.M. McBride Co., 1959. Library of Congress catalog # 59-13612). He died in 1992 at the age of 89 in Ludwigshafen.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Alex Abella, Scott Gordon (January 2003). Shadow Enemies: Hitler's Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States. The Lyons Press. p. 24. ISBN 1-58574-722-X.
  2. ^ Lardner, George (13 January 2002). "Nazi Saboteurs Captured! FDR Orders Secret Tribunal". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  3. ^ Cox, John Woodrow (23 June 2017). "Six Nazi spies were executed in D.C. White supremacists gave them a memorial — on federal land". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  4. ^ Sullivan and Feldman's Constitutional Law, 18th, 2013 Supplement (University Casebook Series)
  5. ^ "George John Dasch and the Nazi Saboteurs". FBI Online : Famous Cases. Archived from the original on 16 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Shoot or hang themselves?". Der Spiegel (in German) (15). 6 April 1998.
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Kenneth (31 October 2020). Enemies: A War Story. Kenneth Rosenberg. ISBN 978-1-981004-97-3.
  • Billy Hutter: Doppelkopp. Llux Agentur & Verlag, Ludwigshafen 2013, ISBN 978-3-938031-44-5 (book about George Dasch in palatinate Language)
  1. City of Oswego New York Marriage. license.
  2. St Paul's Lutheran Church Oswego NY Marriage register
  3. Service Photos of George John Dasch provided by Ft. Ontario historic site manager Paul Lear.
  4. Family records and photos provided by George John Dasch's grandson Mark Aldasch aka Marc Holliday

External linksEdit