That Time Imperial German Agents Bombed New York Harbor but It Was Blamed on Insects

    The explosion could be felt as far away as Philadelphia. 

    Typically, when there's a deadly terrorist attack, the tragic news spreads around the world almost instantly and hangs in the global consciousness for years to come. But history shows us that covering up one of these terrible events might be as easy as finding something to pin it on.

    In 1916, Imperial Germany was getting tired of the United States' double talk. The U.S. continuously stated its intent to remain a neutral party while supplying weapons to allied forces throughout World War I. So, the Germans wanted to send America a bloody message—they needed to showcase their anger.

    Related: This World War I Legionnaire Wrote "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" 

    German spies targeted Black Tom Island, a large, man-made island off the coast of Jersey City, New Jersey that housed ammunition for the government. They laid time-delayed glass bombs at the site, waited, and then ...

    germans bombed new york

    Black Tom Island, lying off a Jersey City pier, 1880

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    Boom! On July 30th, 1916, the delayed fuses set off 100,000 pounds of TNT.

    The explosion could be felt as far away as Philadelphia, and the blast was so powerful that it sent hot shrapnel more than 2,000 feet in all directions—flying far enough to damage the famous torch of the Statue of Liberty. Although it's estimated that the Statue gets nailed by lighting close to 600 times per year, this was the first time it was struck by metal fragments. As a result of the damage, the torch portion of the statue closed to tourists. It hasn't been opened since.

    Related: 10 Dramatic Battles in American History  

    After the smoke finally cleared, the damage was assessed. Hundreds of civilians were injured from the blast and five people were reported dead.

    germans bombed new york

    Black Tom Pier after the explosion

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    The next day, The New York Times covered the terrorist attack on the front page. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed the event wasn't an attack, but an accident.

    One of the early explanations pinned the the explosion on mosquitoes. Guards on the island lit smudge pots to get rid of the insects and that's what they believed caused the explosion.

    Related: 45 Historical Fiction Novels That Will Take You Around the World 

    Determined to remain neutral during the ongoing war, President Woodrow Wilson labeled the sad event as a "regrettable incident at a private railroad terminal."

    Check out American Heroes Channel's video below to watch the story of a massive terrorist cover-up.



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