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The Germans Were Coming

December 23, 2006

Mary Forni, the Mainer who famously spotted two Nazi spies on Maine’s central coast during World War II, passed away last week at the age of 91.

On the night of November 29th, 1944, Forni was driving home when she saw two strange men on the side of a snowy Hancock Point road. They were wearing overcoats and carrying briefcases (with $60,000 in cash, as it turned out).

In fact, these mysterious men had just landed from a German U-boat (submarine) that had slipped into Frenchman Bay. The two spies, Erich Gimpel and American-born William Colepaugh, were planning to gather sensitive information on the U.S. war industry.

After Forni contacted a friend, the wife of a deputy sheriff, the FBI dragnet was set in motion. A month later, the two Nazi secret agents were captured in New York City. (At least, that’s how the popular version goes. As with any spy tale, there are different sides to the story.)

A plaque commemorating the landing is expected to go up in Bar Harbor in summer 2007.

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