German Invasion of the U.S.?

From German Kaiser Planned Attacks on Boston, New York a Century Ago to Further Imperial Ambitions:

Interesting, if true. Has anybody heard anything of this before?

I’ve read that same thing in a German newspaper today. I can’t believe it; I’m not a military analyst, but I’m pretty sure it would never have succeeded. Germany didn’t have a single naval base in the region at that time, and supply over the Atlantic using the technical possibilities of the time would have been hard while America - a world power already - would have been capable of unlimited supply within very short time.

Seems to me it was (if those reports are true, which is possible) just another case of German megalomania and self-overestimation under Kaiser Bill, who was very fond of making Germany a superpower but didn’t really understand what he was doing.

Interesting. It looks like one of those contingency plans that general staffs crank out with alarming regularity.

It’s probably a real “plan,” but not to be confused with the actual intention of carrying it out.

For example, prior to America’s entry in WWII, they created the “color plans”, strategic plans to be used in the eventuality of a war with various nations. America actually relied on ORANGE as the basis for their strategy against the Japanese (however, it was quickly changed to meet the realities), but they also had plan RED tucked away, which laid out how a war against Great Britain should be fought.

Germany, of course, also had the Schleiffen Plan, to which they stuck closely (but, some would argue, not closely enough) in actual practice in 1914.

The article is unclear whether or not the plans are of the strategic contingency variety or if they were part of an actual consideration of such a course of action.

German invasion of the U.S. was a common thought during both World Wars. Hitler actually did invade the U.S. in an operation called “Operation Pastorius.” Two German sabotage teams landed on the East Coast (one in NY, the other in Miami.) They were both caught relatively quickly, and did very little to accomplish their mission.


Sofa King wrote:

Dunno about that. The Kaiser did say, “If I had had ships enough, I would have taken the Americans by the scruff of the neck.”

The US and Germany butted heads a number of times prior to WWI.

Besides the incidents mentioned in the article in the Philippines and Samoa - both of which came close to a naval confrontations - the US and Germany came close to war in 1903 over Venezuela. Only a hasty behind-the-scenes climb-down by the Kaiser avoided a showdown between the US and German fleets off the coast of Venezuela.

Schnitte wrote:

The US wasn’t an actual world power at that time - having just managed to beat Spain, a third rate military power - only a potential world power. I don’t see anything inherently wrong in the military plan. The diplomatic dimension of it is, of course, delusional.

Distance is not an insuperable obstacle. The Russian Baltic fleet sailed 18,000 miles to Port Arthur in the Pacific. Of course they were promptly sunk by the Japanese but this was not so much a function of the distance as Japanese battle fighting competance and Russian lack thereof.

Assessing naval strength in that time period is extremely tricky. Naval technology was changing at a furious pace. Even if the US had taken on Germany prior to completion of German Dreadnought-type warships, Germany commisioned five battleships between 1898 and 1901 that would have outclassed anything the US had. The US Navy was split between two oceans and would not have been able to concentrate against a German fleet.

The supply aspect is not necessarily an obstacle. Remember, this is before submarines; the US Navy wasn’t built on the doctrine of commerce raiding and lines of communication warfare and didn’t have the ships to carry an interdiction strategy out. The German plan was more in the nature of a raid - including seizing a base - rather than the conquest of the US.

Setting aside the naval aspects, the regular US Army was miniscule. The Spanish-American War had largely been an amateur affair. Internal lines of supply don’t do you much good when there isn’t much of an army to supply them to.


No German Invasion of the USA was successful until Nena and Falco in 1983. Of course, Kraftwerk softened up the beachhead, but a behind-the-lines action by Trio was doomed to failure.

And if George Bush had a Palantir, Osama Bin Laden would have been captured by now.

Or like my pappy used to say, “If we had some bacon, we could have some bacon and eggs, if we had some eggs.”

thus spake warriner

I think history would disagree with you. The Kreigsmarine had a very effective submarine campaign in WWI:
Losses of all classes of vessels in Gross Tonnage.
12,543,392 tons are recorded.

I think Warriner’s comment regarding submarines referred to the local time era of Kaiser Billy’s efforts, i.e., turn of the century as opposed to WW I.

The German navy didn’t even have the strength to isolate Great Britain, let alone invade the US. They would have been chopped to ribbons. Most likely by the British Navy, long before they reached America.

Had they WON the war, and not had England and France to be concerned about, they would have been chopped to ribbons after they landed.

Navy, Schmavy! They didn’t have enough transport ships to support a succesful invasion, even without resistance at sea. They hadn’t developed Blitzkrieg tactics yet, and had no motorized infantry transport, so their soldiers would have been on foot. If America lacked a powerful army at the time, it certainly had a huge and efficient rail system.

I think the Germans would have deposed Kaiser Bill themselves before going along with a nutty scheme like this.

Oh, Cervaise, I am going to use that one.

Sorry, nope. But I tell ya, if it wasn’t for us you’d all be talking German now…

They might have been able to take New York with 100,000 men, but that’s not nearly enough to take over the whole Eastern seaboard, even given the paltry US ground forces at the time. There are just too many people there, and reinforcements would be enroute from the West soon enough.

I’m sorry, but eight bumbling spies who practically turned themselves into the authorities mere days after their arrival hardly counts as an invasion. If you’re considering mere (attempted) espionage and sabotage, then practically every country on earth is probably at this moment under invasion by every other country.

There’s an alternate-history novel called “1901” that relies on this idea. The name of the author escapes me, but a quick search ought to provide it. Basically, the Kaiser orders an invasion of New York City with the intent of blackmailing McKinley into surrendering the US’ oversea territories gained in the Spanish-American War.

I ran a Google search and found this of German and this list of American battleships. According to those lists, the difference in warship capacities between the two powers weren’t that large. Of course, the Americans had their fleet split up between Atlantic and Pacific, but Germany OTOH would probably not draw everything it had that far away from the homeland.

The unbelievable thing is that Wilhelm rejected several British alliance offers around the turn of the century; but with Britain as a possible adversary that could intercept German ships on way to America (the German fleet program provided for a buildup of the fleet to 2/3 of Britain’s), the plan couldn’t have succeeded.

Remember–there was a trans-Atlantic telegraph system, under British control, at that time.
Assuming a US/German only war, with no other allies on either side, this telegraph line would have provided swift warning to the US Navy of the German armada’s departure from Europe.
Relocation of at least part of the Pacific fleet via the Panama canal might have been possible.

Nope, they would have had to take the long way home around Cape Horn. The Canal was only open in 1914.

As a practical example, in 1898 the USS Oregon was ordered 'round the Horn from its Pacific Station to the Atlantic. She departed San Francisco on March 19 and arrived at Jupiter Inlet, FL, on May 24. She was delayed both by bad weather and reports of Spanish torpedo boats in South American waters.

A war with Germany would probably have closely paralled the Spanish-American War. Most of the American “heavies” would probably have been transferred to the Atlantic, while German and American cruiser fleets would have duked it out in the Pacific. Pacific fighting no doubt would have centered around the Marianas, where the Germans controlled the northern part of the chain while the Americans had Guam and to the west, the Philippines.

This might be one way to establish whether or not the Germans were serious about their plan. The Germans moved into the Northern Marianas in 1899, after Spanish dominance was extinguished. Was the German move into that strategically important area an intentional move on the part of the Germans in order to bisect the American territories? I haven’t been able to find much on that myself.

paperbackwriter wrote:

Of course, but as the plan was formulated in 1896 and the first modern submarine was not commissioned until 1900 - and then only as a training vessel - I think I’m safe in saying that 1896 is before submarines.

Of course, even while the first submarines were being built in the early 1900s, there wasn’t an effective torpedoe until around 1910, depending on the definition of effective. The first classes of German submarines used in WWI weren’t designed until 1912. Like I said, naval technology was changing at a furious pace in that era.

And then again, the question was could the US Navy have resisted a German raid or beachhead on the Atlantic coast, so it would seem to be more pertinent to discuss US submarine capabilities rather than German.