The nefarious plot you (maybe) never heard about

I am not a history buff, so maybe all of you have already heard about what I’m going to talk about. But I hadn’t, so… Here it is.

The Hoover Dam powerhouse provided electricity to fuel aircraft manufacturing facilities in Los Angeles, so the Nazis decided they needed to blow up the dam during World War II. Did you know about that plot?

I didn’t until I came across a small post on the We Are the Mighty website.

Evidently the U.S. government learned of the 1939 plot and increased security at the site (a fact that did not go unnoticed by some), and this particular Nazi plan was foiled. But, the plot was kept secret for more than 60 years, only to be discovered in 2001 by a historian from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation who was doing research on the agency’s dams at the National Archives.

Accounts vary as to exactly what the plot entailed, but the goal was to “paralyze the aviation manufacturing industry.” Evidently the bombers were to rent a fishing boat and take it to the intake towers, where they would attach bombs. One of the two agents reportedly had made more than a dozen planning trips to the dam.

The State Department received word of the plot from the U.S. embassy in Mexico in November 1939.

As mentioned earlier, government agencies increased security patrols, locked off specific areas of the dam, and began more closely scrutinizing people, packages and vehicles entering the area around the dam. Floodlights were installed to illuminate the area around the intake towers, and a wire net was hung to make it impossible for boats (and, some speculate, planes) to get within 300 feet of the intake towers.

Supposedly the agents were discovered in Mexico City.

It is perhaps ironic that a few years later, in 1943, 19 bombers from Great Britain deployed “bouncing bombs” on three German dams -- Mohne, Eder and Sorpe -- in an effort to disrupt Nazi supply lines. As hydro group Associate Editor Gregory B. Poindexter explained in a February 2015 blog, that mission destroyed two hydroelectric power stations that supplied electricity to factories and mines.

Rumors abound on the Internet about a second take on the Hoover Dam attack, this time in 1944 and involving a submarine traveling upriver from Baja, Calif. However, this story cannot be verified.

How many dam owners out there are truly prepared for the dangers that may arise from such extraordinary circumstances as a world war? It’s amazing to think there was a time when precautions were necessary to protect dams against attack by boat, plane or submarine.

And yet you only have to remember 9/11 to realize that where there is a will, often a way is found…

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