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Sabotage at Home
When war engulfed Europe in August 1914 President Wilson committed the United States to a strict course of neutrality. American manufacturers could trade with any of the belligerents, and as the war dragged on, America became an important source of supply, especially for munitions. By 1916, she was Britain's largest supplier of arms.
America's status as Britain's largest source of arms did not reflect an unwillingness on her part to sell arms to Germany. Rather, Britain's blockade of Germany prevented shipment. Unable to benefit from the American source of weapons, Germany developed a two-pronged policy: to maintain America's neutrality and deny as much as possible the shipment of munitions to the allies. At first, the Germans sought to buy up existing supplies but this proved ineffective and more direct means were employed. Black Tom, New Jersey, a staging area for the shipment of munitions across the Atlantic, provided a tempting target.
Railroad cars, freighters and warehouses filled to capacity with explosives crammed the facility. Fire broke out in the early morning hours of July 30, 1916. An ear-splitting explosion filled the quiet night air shattering thousands of Manhattan windows across the Hudson. Drivers on the Brooklyn Bridge felt the structure sway from the shock wave. In the middle of the city the concussion burst a water main flooding a four-block area. Some suspected sabotage but many more felt the disaster due to accident,
After the war, evidence revealed that the destruction of Black Tom was a deliberate act by German saboteurs. Black Tom was only one of approximately 200 acts of German sabotage during the war years.
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