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This Day in Georgia History, WWII and Brunswick

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On this day in Georgia history-- the way we patrol our coast line changed forever.

More than 70 years ago, America was fighting the Second World War on foreign soil-- but in an instant, we were reminded just how close the War really was.

April 8th, 1942 started out just like any other day, but in the early morning hours, the city of Brunswick was shook to the core with a sound that could only mean one thing; an attack, right here in Georgia waters and it was something no one could have expected.

"These were honest to God, Nazi, German submariners who were here for the express mission of destroying American shipping," says Dr. Stan Deaton for the Georgia Historical Society.

Not only was Brunswick was a key piece in American trade and shipping, it was also an easy target.

"The Georgia coastline is fairly short, it's about 100 miles, but it was fairly unprotected. This was pretty good feeding ground for the Nazis. A lot of the cities, like Brunswick, were not obeying blackout orders. It was easy to see these ships silhouetted against the night sky."

German commander Reinhard Hardegen set his sights on two oil tankers and fired.

In all, they killed 23 men and sunk another ship the very next day—Deaton says the attacks sent shock and fear though the coastal region.

"This brought the war home because Pearl Harbor happened somewhere a long way away. Our men were fighting in Europe and North Africa and were fighting in Asia—or in the South Pacific, I should say. This was really close to home and made everyone aware that they could get to us if they wanted to."

And that is when Deaton says everything changed.

"They tightened up. It got everyone's attention, all the way up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They really tightened down on coastal defense, particularly here in Georgia, and that was sort of the end of the U-boat war here. But know one, on this day in 1942, knew that."

The man behind the attack, Commander Hardegen, is still alive---he is 100 years old. If you would like to learn more about this day in history, you can find an exhibit at the St. Simons Coast Guard Museum.

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