They drifted. Four would-be terrorist spies for the Germans, former inhabitants of the U.S., headed for East Hampton in a submarine (U Boat-202, The Innsbruck). They were shy of their course (East Hampton) and wound up ashore in their rubber boat on Atlantic Beach in Amagansett. The infamous Nazi saboteurs saga, known as Operation Pastorius, began way before an unarmed Coast Guard Seaman, John C. Cullen, walking his post along the dark Amagansett beach on June 13, 1942, met up with four men dressed as fishermen in the wee hours. Saboteurs George John Dasch (leader), Ernest Peter Burger, Heinrich Harm Heinck and Richard Quirin were armed with explosives; they planned to take a train to the city to wreak havoc with American civilian businesses and the railway systems. Intrigued? Know the story? Get ready for Nazi Invasion of the Hamptons – a staged reading based on a screenplay (based on actual events), by Peter Koper of Springs, Saturday, June 11 at Mulford Barn, courtesy of the East Hampton Historical Society.
Eleven actors, in a production overseen and cast by Teri Kennedy of Springs, will bring this event in our local – and the country’s – history to life. The reading will benefit the refurbishing of the old Life-Saving Station and Coast Guard Station at Atlantic Beach.
Koper “loves stories about the East End, from Goody Garlick to mysterious aliens landing at Camp Hero.” He loved the story of the Nazi saboteurs and through a grant from the Berlin-Brandenburg Film Board, he was able to bring the historic event to life (and perhaps a film in the future). He approached Richard Barons, East Hampton Historical Society’s Executive Director, with his play and “he loved the idea.” Ditto Dominick Stanzione, a member of the Amagansett Life Saving and Coast Guard Building Community Center Committee. Councilman Stanzione of the E.H. Town Board had coincidentally written his own play about the saboteurs, but he was enthusiastic about Koper’s play and the staged reading. He didn’t read it, but Hugh King did. Hugh is the curator East Hampton of Home Sweet Home Museum, our Town Crier and a member of the Committee to save the old Life Saving Station and Coast Guard Station. “It’s a real Keystone Kops affair,” says King.
Koper’s play “goes beyond the story,” he tells me.
By way of spoiler alert, the synopsis will end here, but Kennedy, who cast actors chosen locally, from New York and UpIsland says, “The story Peter wrote is both funny and poignant. It shows the tragedy of those four guys. Their naïveté and poor judgment…This play shows the little surprise of history that took place right in our town. The place it all began, the Amagansett Life Saving Station, and now the telling of the story is saving the building,” she says.
So many people are passionate about this event and the old building that sits on Atlantic Avenue, the sound of the ocean nearby, the sense of history connecting the past with the present. This is not lost on Kent Miller, of the Community Boat Shop on Bluff Road and Amagansett Concerned Citizens member. He is part of the effort and the Committee to save the old building for future use (a museum, a community room, art gallery, town lifeguard base) and posterity. “June 11th is close enough to the 69th Anniversary of the Nazi Invasion at Atlantic Beach,” Kent says. “ One of our goals is to connect the Marine Museum on Bluff Road with the old Life Saving Station.”
We walked around the old building and Kent explained how it was when it was the Life Saving Station. There was a wrap-around porch, a keeper’s room, a kitchen, mess room, and the men’s quarters faced the ocean; the large boat room in front had barn/garage type doors where the rescue boats were kept. The Tower Room has a view for miles. The Guard House, a small outbuilding sat nearby at one time, and is now on the ground of the Marine Museum, nearly dilapidated, but possibly able to be restored and returned to its former site on Atlantic Avenue, near the station.
There is a Resolution the Town Board adopted this year recognizing the historic value of the old Life Saving/Coast Guard Station. They have authorized the Committee that Kent Miller is part of to develop a plan, which is one of the reasons they are having a benefit reading of the screenplay.
USLSS # 10, Coast Guard Station #68, built in 1849, can be saved. Go see the staged reading of the Nazi Invasion of the Hamptons on Saturday, June 11, with performances at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 631-324-6850 or at the door at Mulford Barn, 10 James Lane East Hampton. The pre-show reception at 5:30 p.m. is sponsored by Amagansett Wines and Spirits, Amagansett Farmers Market and Stuart’s Fish Market.