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Operation Teardrop

Many of Hitler’s plans were absurdly ambitious. But when Hitler planned to attack New York and sent U-boats capable of carrying rockets to the East Coast, the US military responded. Rumors of rocket-armed submarines came late in the 1944, including one from Sweden's Supreme Headquarters. Philip K Lundeberg, Curator Emeritus of Naval History, Smithsonian Institution, wrote that "Operation TEARDROP, the last and most far reaching barrier undertaking in the Battle of the Atlantic. Mounted by CINCLANT in late March 1945, on the basis of numerous indicators of impending V-2 missile attacks launched from U-boats against New York... "

The danger of German ships equipped with catapults launching bombers against North American targets had been discussed in a 1938 article in Canadian Defence Quarterly. Written by Flight Lieutenant A. Carter, and titled “It Can Be Done,” the article suggested that “Ships laden with aircraft, equipment, fuel and bombs could enter the Hudson Bay ... and from this floating base assemble long range bombers which would necessarily have to be float plans or flying boats."

Operation Teardrop was the US Navy’s campaign to hunt down German boats in the North Atlantic. Under Operation Teardrop the US responded with four escort carrier groups to prevent U-boat penetration to American coasts. The operation was approved at the end of 1944 in response to intelligence reports that Germany was equipping its submarines with new missiles.

Since the beginning of November 1944, an intensive search for enemy submarines was conducted within a radius of 400 km from New York.

On 10 December 1944, the Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia publicly reported that Germany was considering the attack on New York. La Guardia's speech and the statements of the captured spies received considerable coverage in the media. Despite this, on 11 December 1944 the US War Department and the US Army reported to President Roosevelt that the probability of such an attack was so low that it did not justify diverting resources from other tasks.

This estimate was not supported by the US Navy. Initially given the code name "Operation Bumblebee", and later renamed Teardrop, the plan was finalized by January 6, 1945 and included participation in the US Navy, the US Air Force and some army units, which together had to guarantee the destruction of any attacking aircraft and missiles.

The commander of the Atlantic Fleet, Vice Admiral Jonas Ingram, at a press conference on 08 January 1945 warned the public about the threat of missile attacks and said that significant forces were gathered for the defense. As reported in the New York Times on 09 January 1945, the Navy admiral responsible for America’s East Coast defenses held an extraordinary briefing for members of the local press aboard a warship anchored in New York Harbor. The purpose was to prepare the public for what seemed a very real threat of an enemy attack:

"Gentlemen, I have reason to assume that the Nazis are getting ready to launch a strategic attack on New York and Washington by robot bombs. I am here to tell you these attacks are not only possible, but probable as well, and that the East Coast is likely to be buzz bombed within the next 30 or 60 days. The thing to do is not to get excited about it. [They] might knock out a high building or two, might create a fire hazard, and most certainly would cause casualties. But [they] cannot seriously affect the progress of the war. It may only be 10 or 12 buzz bombs, but they may come before we can stop them."

Bad weather conditions in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean significantly reduced the effectiveness of the actions of four escort carriers involved in the operation. Most German submarines were discovered and destroyed by patrol escort destroyers. Royal Air Force of Canada provided support from the air.

In March 1945, when a group of six Type IXC U-boats equipped with snorkels were detected sailing for American shores, they were promptly hunted with four of the six destroyed. Two got away. On April 24, 1945, the German U-boat U-546 sank the American USS Frederick C. Davis, killing 126 of its 192 crewmen, and causing several other American ships to give chase. After about ten hours, the USS Flaherty badly damaged U546 with their hedgehog mortar. The submarine immediately surfaced, but was sunk when the Flaherty and three or four other destroyers opened fire on them.

Captain Lieutenant Just and 32 other crew members survived the attack and were captured. To obtain information on the possible existence of carried rockets, some of the survivors of the U-546 were brutally interrogated. After brief interrogations aboard the Bogue, the survivors were transferred to a US base in Argentia.

On their arrival on April 27, eight specialists were separated from the other 25 survivors, who, unlike the separated eight, were sent to a POW camp. The specialists were in solitary confinementsubjected to "shock interrogation" techniques that included strenuous physical exercises and physical violence in the form of kicks and punches. Historian Philip K. Lundeberg wrote that the beatings and torture of U 546 survivors was a "one-time atrocity," motivated by acute pressure from interrogators to obtain information on possible missile attacks as quickly as possible.

After the Germans surrendered, the US Navy continued to investigate whether the submarines had missiles on board. The crews of U805 and U 858 were interrogated, confirming that their ships were not equipped with rocket launchers. Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Steinhoff, who command of U 511 had during the missile tests, was aboard when U 873 was captured. His interrogation resulted in mistreatment. Steinhoff’s defiance collapsed and he provided information. Nothing, however, was learned regarding a missile attack on New York. An official investigation by the US Navy was initiated after a short time later Steinhoff committed suicide at Charles Street Jail in Boston. It is not known if the Allies knew of Steinhoff's involvement in the missile tests.

The V-l threat to America never materialized. The Germans never attempted to launch the V-1 from a submarine, although the head of Hitler's navy, Admiral Karl Admiral Donitz, did attend a test firing of a V-1 in 1943. The Americans tested this idea with their version of the V-1, the Loon, in 1947. A short ramp and hanger was added to the back of the submarine USS Cusk and it successfully launched the V-1 clone, tracked it by radar and guided it by radio to a target.


The standard story is that at the end of 1944, the Anti-Hitler Coalition received intelligence reports confirming the fact that the German navy planned to use cruise missiles. It was claimed that in September 1944, a German spy captured by the US Navy in an attack on a submarine carrying it confirmed to the investigators of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that several submarines were preparing for such an operation. And it was claimed that in early December 1944, spies William Kolpag and Erich Gimpel, captured in New York after landing from the U-1230 in Maine, told investigators that Germany was preparing a group of submarines equipped with cruise missiles.

According to another story, their mission entailed installing a radio beacon on the Empire State Building, for for homing for guided missiles.

But the NSA report "Information Taken From the Record Of Trial of William C. Colepaugh And Erich Gimpel" [09 May 1945] goes of for 14 pages about the quaint tradecraft of the mid-20th Century - microdots, cyphers, short wave radios, and so forth. Bu there is no mention of missiles attacking America. And it is difficult to understand how these two individuals might have come into posession of such knowledge, which is totally unrelated to their mission in America.

FBI agent Robert J. Lamphere was directly involved in the most sensational spy cases of the era. Judith Coplon, Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are among those whose apprehension or conviction he had a hand in. Robert J. Lamphere's book starts with his interrogation of Colepaugh and Erich Gimpel, and ends without any mention of missile attacks on America. Gimpel stated that "part of his mission here had been to advance the idea of a separate peace between Germany's military men and the United States."

The book "AGENT 146: The True Story of a Nazi Spy in America" by Erich Gimpel, first published in 1956, makes many claims, but missile attacks on America are not among them.

Possibly there is much still to be learned. A CIA "Information Report" on "Guided Missile Development in the USSR" was distributed on 30 April 1952, and released under FOIA on 17 September 2009 [that is, 57 years later]. Despite the antiquity of this document, probably 90% was redacted, leaving little other than fragmentary mentions of the V-1, V-2, and A-9/A-10 project.

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Page last modified: 20-01-2018 18:15:03 ZULU