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Nazis Land on the Beach

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 13:04

History will come alive tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station Museum with the annual observance of the June 1942 landing of Nazi saboteurs near Atlantic Avenue Beach.

Unlike the re-enactments that have taken place on the beach in years past, tomorrow’s commemoration of the small but important incident in World War II will take the form of a radio program. It will be held in the boat room of the historical 1902 structure.

Actors will deliver a staged reading of firsthand accounts by the young Coast Guardsmen on duty that night, when Seaman John Cullen came across the saboteurs, who had brought explosives ashore along with a plot to terrorize citizens. The quick-thinking 21-year-old discovered the Germans shortly after they landed on the beach just east of the station, leading to their apprehension.

Hugh King, East Hampton Town’s historian, told the town board last Thursday that “Kate Smith” will sing “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” and “Jeannette Edwards Rattray,” a former publisher of The Star, will “tell you what’s happening in June 1942 in the Town of East Hampton.” Barbara Borsack and Isabel Carmichael, respectively, will portray the women. Mr. King will also participate, in the role of the radio broadcaster Graham McNamee, and four eyewitness accounts, which have not been heard previously, will be read.

Shortly after midnight on June 13, 1942, the German saboteurs landed in fog on the beach near the Coast Guard station. Their U-boat stuck on a sandbar, they rowed ashore in a collapsible rubber boat filled with explosives, clothing, several thousand dollars in cash, and a two-year plan to blow up aluminum and magnesium plants, canals, bridges, waterways, and locks, according to the Eastern Sea Frontier War Diary, a document held at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Seaman John Cullen had just begun a beach patrol from the station when he encountered the Nazi agents. They tried to bribe him, but he returned to the station and reported the incident. Later in the morning, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Warren Barnes took four boxes of explosives, which his men had found buried in the sand, into the boat room. After two of the would-be saboteurs turned themselves in to the F.B.I., the others were apprehended and tried.

The station was abandoned after the war and in 1966 was auctioned by the Coast Guard. Joel Carmichael, Ms. Carmichael’s father, bought the building — for $1 — and had it moved to Bluff Road, where it began a new life as a residence. In 2007, the Carmichael family donated the Amagansett Life-Saving Station to the town and it was moved back to its original location on Atlantic Avenue. An extensive restoration-renovation was completed in 2016. Today, the station is a near-perfect replica of the 1902 original.

Tomorrow’s event is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 4:45, with seating on a first-come-first-served basis.

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