Saboteurs Coming Ashore

The third annual re-enactment of the 1942 Nazi saboteur landing on Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett will take place tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. The action will begin and end at the former Life Saving Station, the 1902 structure on Atlantic Avenue that is undergoing extensive renovation as a museum and community center. Admission is free.

Like last year’s re-enactment, this year’s event will include costumed actors and props in telling the story of how a plot to destroy New York City’s transportation system and terrorize Americans at home as World War II raged overseas was thwarted. Hugh King, the director of Home, Sweet Home Museum and East Hampton Village historian, who leads tours as the “town crier,” will direct Sonny Sireci, Carl Irace, Evan Thomas, Ted Hults, and Samantha Ruddock as local residents, American coast guardsmen, and saboteurs.

Tomorrow’s re-enactment is exactly 72 years from the day that four Germans came ashore on the beach at Amagansett from a submarine. A 21-year-old coast guardsman stationed at the Amagansett Life Saving Station, John Cullen, was patrolling the beaches when he encountered the four men on the beach to the east of the station. The saboteurs offered him $400 to keep quiet. Mr. Cullen took the money, but ran back to the station and reported what had happened. The four made their way to the Amagansett railroad station and, from there, to New York City, where they were captured.

Three of the saboteurs were executed following a trial by a military tribunal; the fourth, who tipped off the F.B.I., received a 30-year prison term. Their story and that of four other would-be saboteurs, who came ashore near Jacksonville, Fla., at the same time, have been the subject of two books. 

In a letter to The Star in 2011, the late Capt. Milton Miller, who was in both the Coast Guard and the Navy before and during World War II, wrote that, “If John Cullen had been killed and his body buried behind a sand dune, or at sea, no one would have ever known what happened to him. New York City would have been destroyed, and it would have affected the whole nation.”