Mare Island devasted by explosionDevastation is all that remains of the gunpowder magazine at the Mare Island Naval Ammunition Depot in California. Amid a rash of such stateside incidents attendant to the U.S. entry into World War I, it clearly appeared to be the work of a German sabotage network. Sometimes, however, the most obvious suspect is not the answer. . . .

Who Really Blew Up Mare Island in World War I? 

By Stephen C. Ruder
via the U.S. Naval Institute's Naval History magazine web site 

Early on 9 July 1917, the gunpowder magazine at the Naval Ammunition Depot on Mare Island, California, exploded, flattening several nearby buildings and killing six. Immediately, U.S. Navy officials blamed German sabotage, but the investigation proved inconclusive.

A century later, German responsibility, first assumed in 1918 and republicized in 1937, has become regarded as fact, with a dozen books and papers repeating the claim. A close examination of the historical record, however, reveals the claim to be false—and suggests an entirely different explanation.

German Agents Afoot in America

n early 1916, 34-year-old German-American private detective and former U.S. Marine Kurt Jahnke walked into the San Francisco office of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation and declared that a German-American was planning an attack on Mare Island.1 Allegations of German espionage at Mare Island had broken in the press earlier that day, and news stories about German sabotage in New York had been circulating for several months.

Read the entire article on the Naval History web site.

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