Manfred and Anne Lehmann Foundation

How the U.S. Government Treated Enemy Terrorists in 1942

Enemies of Israel from time to time criticize Israel's handling of terrorists it captures. Entire leftist organizations exist only to jump into action when Israeli-captured terrorists are interrogated, sentenced to prison and, sometimes, deported. Not one of these terrorists has been executed, no matter how murderous his activities have been. Extreme care has been taken to protect their civil rights. Because of Israeli leniency, such enemies of Israel as Feisal Husseini have been released from jail and now pose a grave threat to Israel's existence.

It is therefore timely to examine America's record when it comes to terrorists who have fallen into American hands. This happened in the midst of World War II. Hitler had declared war on the United States in December 1941. His huge war machine was poised to fight us on every front. Fortunately, German airplanes did not yet have the range to reach the United States. But their submarines reached the East Coast and sank many cargo ships off American ports. These submarines were a serious threat to our lifeline: our commerce with South America and Europe. It was at this time that German submarines were close to destroying Great Britain, by way of destroying huge quantities of vital cargo trying to reach the British Isles. But nobody expected another kind of assault on the United States from the sea.

In the June of 1942, a German submarine landed eight German terrorists, who had volunteered for the job of creating maximum damage to the United States and the war effort. They had been trained in Germany for months to familiarize them with American customs and mores. They had to read American newspapers and magazines. At the same time, they were trained in industrial sabotage. Their main aim was to destroy strategic bridges, railways and factories. A major target was to be the aluminum plants that supplied the American aircraft industry.

Six of the terrorists landed on Long Island, near Amagansett, while two landed in Florida. Together they carried nearly $200,000 and enough fuses and explosives to keep them busy for two years.

The public had never expected that enemy terrorists could reach their shores. Fortunately the terrorists were quickly apprehended by a lone Coast Guard on Long Island. The significance of this incident was the court case that followed and the law that was applied to the German spies.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as commander in chief, took the incident extremely seriously. On July I the president constituted a military commission consisting of seven top generals to try the Nazis. In a declaration the president stated: "All persons who are objects, citizens or residents of any nation at war with the United

States, who during time of war enter or attempt to enter the United States or any territory or possession thereof, through coastal or boundary defenses, and are charged with committing or attempting or preparing to commit sabotage, espionage, hostile or warlike acts, shall be subject to the law of war and to the jurisdiction of military tribunals, and such persons shall not be privileged to seek remedy or maintain any proceeding in the courts of the United States."

In short, saboteurs or terrorists had no right to civil trials. This point was challenged by the court-appointed defense attorneys of the Nazis. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the president's declarations and thus denied the terrorists the right to a civil trial. Here are excerpts from the government's arguments:

Those whom the enemy sends to destroy our industries and lives and the very existence of the nation can hardly be in a position to claim constitutional rights, privileges or immunities from the nation that they seek to destroy. One privilege they seek is the freedom to ask our courts to help them now that they are caught.

Traditionally all states in time of war have denied belligerent enemies access to their courts. That is one of the earliest and most rudimentary forms of political and economic warfare. It is an integral part of modern total warfare. And today the nation that does not wage total warfare, usually meets total defeat [my emphasis].

Rights and privileges accorded to our residents—including those who disagree with us—should not be granted to belligerent enemies who, in time of war, enter this country in order to destroy it by acts of war.

These petitioners, as enemies who crossed our borders after the declaration of war, have no legal right to ask this court by habeas corpus or otherwise, to inquire into the lawfulness of their detention [my emphasis].

In a desperate move to free themselves, the Nazi terrorists put up this unbelievable defense (from The New York Times of July 29, 1942): "While they were sent here by the German High Command to sabotage war industries, they actually made the submarine trip to escape from the German Reich and never intended to carry out their orders."

The death penalty, in a unanimous verdict, was imposed on six of the terrorists while two were given prison terms because they had cooperated with the United States. President Roosevelt approved the sentences, and on August 7 the six were executed in the electric chair.

Israel is facing a much graver danger from Arab terrorists than the United States faced from a group of six inept saboteurs who never managed to damage a single installation or hurt any human beings. Yet Israel is exercising immense restraint and tolerance. It has not executed a single terrorist.

The main points demonstrated by the Roosevelt verdict are that 1) terrorists must be tried before a military, not civilian court; 2) the court does not have to give the reason for the terrorists' arrest; 3) the death penalty is obligatory, except under mitigating circumstances.

Israel should be highly praised by "human rights" advocates, not faulted!

U.S. authorities are holding Islamic terrorists for such terror acts as the bombing of the World Trade Center. According to journalist Steve Emerson's reports, the fundamentalists consider themselves at war with the United States. There are also other cases of possible Islamic terrorism, such as the Oklahoma bombing; its connection with an Islamic group in the Philippines has never been brought to the open.

Have our authorities forgotten the law as applied by President Roosevelt in 1942? Instead of applying those lessons, months and years are spent wrangling with defense attorneys of the terrorists, even risking, as in the Meir Kahane murder case, that the terrorists go free because of technicalities.

In the light of the horrendous terror attack on TWA Flight 800 and the bomb attack in Saudi Arabia, the time has come to announce to the world Roosevelt's message as a warning to would-be Moslem terrorists.

 

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