Driven by a desire for world domination, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, drew up plans to send an amphibious force of 100,000 troops to attack New York and Boston at the end of the 19th century, according to a German military archive.
The documents detail how the Kaiser authorised the planning of an attack on east coast cites during the 1890s as he sought to advance Germany's geopolitical ambitions. One option, he believe, was to launch huge naval assaults on the United States, a new rival on the world stage, forcing it to recognise Germany's might.
The Kaiser rejected ideas of a naval blockade or a naval battle and made plans for an invasion of the northeastern US. As early as 1897, a young naval lieutenant, Eberhard von Mantey, was authorised to plot the dispatch of a huge fleet across the Atlantic. The main targets, under his first plan, were the American towns of Norfolk, Hampton Roads and Newport News. "That is where the United States can be hit at its most sensitive point and be forced into peace," he wrote.
The challenge from the US seemed even greater to the Kaiser after its victory in 1898 in the Spanish-American war allowed it to acquire Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in addtion to some of Samoa and Hawaii. The German response was a second plan from Lt von Mantey, which named New York as the main target. "The greatest panic would break out in New York over fears of a bombardment," he wrote.
John Rohl, a research professor in German history at the University of Sussex in Britain and author of many books on the Kaiser, says that though the outline of the plans has been known to scholars for sometime, the letters and other documents have helped to explain the Kaier's limitless ambition and lack of grasp on reality. "This is typical of the unpredictability of the Kaiser and shows his worldwide ambition to make Germany into a superpower. It was a crazy idea. All the European powers had thought they had the world to themselves. Then suddenly, alas, there are two new players on the scene: America and Japan."
As Germany expanded its navy and eyed its European rivals, more and more detailed plans for the American attacks were put together under the Kaiser's guidance. A naval attache at the German embassy in Washinton had already begun scouting for landing locations when a high-ranking officer cast doubt over whether the mission could succeed.
The final draft of the attack was abandoned in 1906, when the Germans began to realise the risks of tackling an ever-more powerful US.
The papers iluminate a little known chapter of German military history and support claims that the expansionist ambitions of the Nazis had roots in the Kaiser's drive for empire.
The newspaper Die Zeit says: "Once again this proves the continuity between the Kaiserreich and the Third Reich because the Nazis also wanted to risk a final fight for world domination with the US 40 years later."
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