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May 31, 2011 4:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Nazi Invaders Land At Mulford

May 31, 2011 5:51 PM

Sixty-nine years ago, four Nazi saboteurs landed on an Amagansett beach hoping to wreak havoc in the United States. A young Coast Guardsman stumbled on them in the fog, then sped back to the Amagansett Life-Saving Station to alert his superiors.

The story doesn’t end or begin there—not by a long shot. For those who’d like to hear how it unfolds, there will be two staged readings on Saturday, June 11, nearly the anniversary of the Nazi U-boat’s landing, to raise money for the historic lifesaving station. They will take place at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Mulford Barn in East Hampton Village, with a 5:30 reception for the 7 p.m. performance.

“I’ve written it as a darkly humorous piece,” said Peter Koper of Springs, a movie and TV writer and producer whose screenplay will be adapted for the reading of “Nazi Invasion of the Hamptons.”

As sinister as their intentions were—and they were part of a two-pronged attack, with another submarine landing in Florida—what unfolded was “a comedy of errors,” he said, “like Keystone Kops.”

“They were really bit players in history,” he said. “History just chewed them up.”

The saboteurs formed the initial wave of an effort intended to “grind the war effort in the U.S. to a halt,” Mr. Koper said. But in the dark, the U-boat accidentally beached in the sand of Amagansett rather than proceeding to East Hampton. The saboteurs frantically tried to bury explosives and change from uniforms to civilian clothes, but the guardsman discovered them first. George Dasche, the group’s leader and ultimate betrayer, offered him $200 to keep quiet.

So, Mr. Koper said, he “disappears into the fog and bursts into the building”—the old lifesaving station and yells out, “The Nazis have landed!”

That’s just one chapter of the saga, which continues with the Nazis boarding a train out of the Amagansett station.

Now, about that lifesaving station: In the mid-19th to early-20th centuries, the U.S. Life-Saving Service had stations strung along the coast, only a few miles apart, to rescue shipwrecked mariners. At the very eastern end of Long Island there were stations not only in Amagansett but at Georgica, Napeague, Hither Plain and 
Ditch Plain. Built in 1902, 
the one on Amagansett’s Atlantic Avenue had a wraparound porch, a lookout tower, space for two rescue boats, living quarters, a kitchen and a mess room.

The Life-Saving Service was folded into the U.S. Coast Guard, which eventually closed all its lifesaving stations on Long Island. East Hampton Town put the Amagansett building up for sale for $1, and in 1966 it was purchased by the Carmichael family, who moved it to Bluff Road to use as a private residence.

Some 40 years later, when Isabel Carmichael and her siblings were selling the property on Bluff Road, she happened to run into Robert Hefner, the town’s historic preservation consultant, on a ferry. They discussed the possibility of returning the building to the town and perhaps moving it back to its original spot. Ms. Carmichael’s family decided to give it, with certain provisions, to the town, which in 2007 moved it back to its original roost near the ocean.

“Moving it back was very funny,” Ms. Carmichael said. Guy Davis used a hydraulic truck, she said, that his 7-year-old was able to control by remote control.

The goal now is to restore and renovate the building to include a museum dedicated to the history of the Life-Saving Service, including its brush with the Nazis, an office for town lifeguards, and a public meeting space. To that end, the Town Board in March appointed a committee whose members include Ms. Carmichael and 
Hugh King of the East Hampton Historical Society, among others.

Mr. Koper showed his screenplay to Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who is the board’s representative on the Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Building Community Center Committee. It turns out that Mr. Stanzione had been writing his own version of the same saboteur story, so he passed it on to Richard Barons, the East Hampton Historical Society’s director.

“Richard Barons loved it,” said Kent Miller, a member of the new committee as well as of ACAC, “but had no need for it.”

Mr. Barons attended the committee’s first meeting, Mr. Miller said, to offer not only the screenplay, but also the use of Mulford Farm to raise money for the restoration project.

“It was incredibly generous,” Mr. Miller said. “The whole idea is lovely.”

To be staged by about eight local and New York City actors with Teri Kennedy as producer, the readings will raise money specifically to commission a historic report on the building. That, in turn, will be used to raise money for renovations, according to Mr. Stanzione.

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