History logo

Black Tom Explosion

The first attack on American Soil, that no one remembers learning about. Do You?

By Jesse BridgesPublished 5 months ago 3 min read
1

I recently learned about this from a youtube video about Mandela affects. This was a strange one for me. In school every year one thing was consistent and that was History class. How is it that myself and many other people don't recall learning about this Black Tom Explosion. After all it is the first attack on American soil and was such a large explosion that it blew off the torch on the Statue of Liberty. I will admit I was not the best student but I'm pretty sure I would of at least heard a mention of this in school. Apparently I am not the only one who can not recall learning about this in school either. Many have made posts asking this same question. If your as clueless as I was here is a sumary of the event that shook America in 1916. Please let me know if your remember this in your studies growing up.

It was still dark in Manhattan on a Sunday morning, July 30, 1916, when the sky suddenly exploded with an unnatural brilliance.

Two million tons of war materials packed into train cars had blown up in the Black Tom railroad yard on what is now a part of Liberty State Park.

Thousands of windows shattered in lower Manhattan and Jersey City. Shrapnel pock-marked the Statue of Liberty. Three men and a baby were killed by the explosive energy that erupted from this act of sabotage.

The culprits? German agents who were determined to prevent American munitions shippers from supplying its English enemy during the First World War. Never mind that the U.S. was officially neutral in the conflict at this point.

For the U.S., responding was difficult. With few national security laws and no real intelligence community to thwart German agents, America was vulnerable. The Secret Service, by presidential order, was able to investigate some German attacks and intrigues. The Bureau of Investigation—the FBI’s predecessor—likewise did what it could, but it was held back by its small size (260 employees in a handful of offices) and lack of jurisdiction. The most successful and experienced anti-sabotage investigators turned out to be the detectives of the New York Police Department’s Bomb Squad. Even so, the German agents who blew up Black Tom were not identified at the time.

The Black Tom explosion wasn’t the only provocation. When Germany proposed to Mexico that it ally itself with the Kaiser against America and when it resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on any enemy or neutral ship crossing the Atlantic, America declared war.

Congress immediately passed the Espionage Act, which outlawed a variety of crimes associated with German agents; passed several other wartime laws; then the following year passed the Sabotage Act. And the Bureau exercised primary jurisdiction over all of these laws as it pursued a wide variety of national security investigations. How successful were they? Very. German intrigues on American soil essentially evaporated.

Were the saboteurs ever identified? Yes, the Bureau and other agencies doggedly pursued the case after the war until the saboteurs were identified and, ultimately, reparations were paid for German attacks against our neutral country.

So there you have it, information I gathered from FBI.gov, Smithsonian.net, PBS, History channel. But I can't remember the last time I heard it mentioned, such as a holiday where we take time to remember the first time someone attacked on American soil. I don't recall ever hearing a single word about this day in school. Am I the only one? Did i develope a disorder that only blocks this American tragedy? Please comment and let me know what you think. In my opinion this has to be the craziest Mandela Affect I have ever heard of.

World History
1

About the Creator

Jesse Bridges

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.