German Sabotage in WW I: Vanceboro railway bridge bombing

January 3, 2018

L. railway bridge at time, R. Werner Horn and Deputy Ross (on right)

At 1:10 am on the morning of February 2, 1915 a bomb exploded on the Vanceboro railway bridge between the United States and Canada. It shattered most of the windows in structures in the Town of Vanceboro, Maine and St. Croix, New Brunswick.

Where is Vanceboro you may ask and what was its importance? The Town of Vanceboro is located at the headwaters of the St. Croix River which forms the boundary between the State of Maine, USA and the Province of New Brunswick, Canada. It is 111 miles northeast of Bangor, Maine. Originally a logging camp and trading post established in 1871, Vanceboro incorporated as a town on March 4, 1874. Today it’s at the eastern end of Maine Route 6 and has 24 hour customs stations (Canadian and American) to manage the international border crossing. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the town was quite prosperous with railway, lumbering, hunting and fishing being prime employers. There were also industries, a tannery, a wooden ware company. The railway was key as it provided the link to the outside world. The population of 147 as of the 2000 census is small compared to those glory days.

The railway bridge crosses the St. Croix River, the boundary between Canada and the United States. This was an iron railway bridge measuring about 100 feet in length. The opening ceremony in 1871 of the railway line and bridge between Canada and the United States was attended by Governer-General of Canada Lord Lisgar and the President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant.

At the time the Canadian Pacific Railway operated the main link between Saint John, New Brunswick (an ice free port) on the Atlantic Ocean and Montreal and Quebec City. This link was the shortest route connecting the Atlantic port of Saint John to Montreal or Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River. During the winter months it was especially important as the St. Lawrence was usually frozen and didn’t allow shipping access to Montreal or Quebec City.

The United States was neutral during the First World War from 1914 until they entered the war in late 1917. Under the Neutrality Act it was illegal for the railroad to carry war materials or troops through the United States and across this bridge. However, the Maine Central Railroad operator of the line allowed Canadian Pacific to do this. The German embassy in Washington, DC became aware of this practice and protested loudly to no avail. For this reason they wanted the bridge destroyed to cut the link.

When war broke out in 1914 the Germans had staffed the embassy with several spies. The goal was to disrupt port shipments from the US to Britain and its allies. The military attaché at the embassy was Captain Franz von Papen who was in effect the chief spymaster. He directed propaganda and acts of sabotage on American soil during the war.

Werner Horn, a German reserve lieutenant, was not in Germany when war broke out in 1914. He managed a coffee plantation in Moka, Guatemala. He tried twice to return to Germany but both times could get no further than New York City. The British blockade of North Sea ports prevented sailings to Germany. While Horn was in New York City Captain von Papen recruited him to destroy the Vanceboro bridge and thereby stop the trains. He paid Horn $700 US to carry out the attack and provided the explosives.

Horn arrived in Vanceboro December 31, 1914 and stayed at the Exchange Hotel. He was seen hiding the suitcase of explosives in a wood pile outdoors and also scouting out the bridge. At least three Vanceboro residents reported Horn’s suspicious behaviour to the American immigration inspector. He then interviewed Horn at the hotel.  Horn assured him he was a Danish farmer looking to buy land in the area. Horn spent the next few days keeping a low profile and watching the rail line to try to determine the schedule of trains.

February 1, 1915 Horn checked out of the hotel saying he had a train to catch that evening. He went to the bridge sometime after midnight. Horn positioned the suitcase full of explosives on the Canadian side of the bridge. Interrupted by an approaching train he had to reposition the suitcase but again was interrupted. Finally after he was sure the trains had passed he positioned the explosives on a girder. Horn shortened the fuse from 50 minutes to about 3 minutes. Lighting the fuse with a cigar he worked his way back to the hotel through gale force winds and -30 F temperatures. At 1:10 am on the morning of February 2, 1915 the bomb exploded shattering windows in Vanceboro and St. Croix. This woke all the residents who were also now exposed to the frigid winter air.

Horn’s hands were frostbitten. The hotel owner helped him and allowed him to check back in for the night. After the explosion the owner became suspicious and informed the CPR. They closed the bridge and rerouted trains. Inspection was done the next morning. Some beams on the bridge were twisted or bent but otherwise damage was minor. The bridge was out of service for only a few days.

Vanceboro Deputy Sheriff George Ross and two Canadian police officers from McAdam, who crossed the border to help, detained Horn at the hotel.  Horn had changed into is German army uniform to avoid being arrested as a spy. He then surrendered to American authorities. The explosion took place on the Canadian side of the bridge so the Americans could only charge him with mischief at first for breaking windows in Vanceboro.

He was moved to jail in Machias, Maine. Canadian authorities began extradition proceedings. At Machias he was interrogated and signed a confession with a statement-of-facts detailing his act of sabotage.

A federal grand jury in Boston indicted him on March 2, 1915 for transporting explosives on a common carrier (passenger train). This was the most serious charge the US could try him on since the explosion was on the Canadian side of the border. Horn received a sentence of 18 months at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Georgia.

After he served his sentence he was extradited to Canada in October 1919. Canada tried him for the sabotage and bombing in Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick at Fredericton. Horn was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. Canadian prison authorities assessed Horn to be insane in July 1921. He was then released and deported to Germany.

Author’s note:
I’ve visited Vanceboro on a couple of occasions. My grandfather operated a taxidermy shop there during the 1920s and 30s in the old tannery. Vanceboro is a quaint little town with a fascinating history and great location. The railroad is not the mainline anymore and it’s not on the main highway. Vanceboro’s website claims it’s “not quite the end of the earth, but occasionally the end can be seen from town.”


Vanceboro today looking north. Railroad bridge is in foreground. Original bridge replaced with new one many years ago. Border crossing is where road crosses river at top. USA on left of river and Canada to the right.

Further reading
Wikipedia, Vanceboro Railway Bombing


Canada-US Relations: One Canadian`s view.

January 31, 2016

US-Canada border Vanceboro, Maine and St. Croix, New Brunswick. US to left.

God here we go again Americans are worried about Canada allowing so many Syrian refugees into our country right next door to them. My American friends Canada is an independent country capable of managing our own affairs. We are concerned about terrorism and security the same as you are.

Let me make one thing crystal clear to my American friends and neighbours. Contrary to what the fearmongers in your country preach the 9/11 terrorists did NOT enter the United States of American via Canada. They arrived via Boston’s Logan International Airport right under the noses of your security. Read that again okay just so you get it.

Canada has been America’s steadfast ally through World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and Afghanistan. Our servicemen and women have died fighting alongside your forces. Our Canadian embassy in Iran rescued Americans during the Iranian crisis or the 1970s. Watch the movie Argo we saved your asses.

Sure we have our differences, but we have too many common beliefs and interests. Americans should be thankful they have us as next door neighbours. I haven’t seen pictures of hordes of Canadians trying to sneak across the US-Canadian boundary to seek a better life like along your southern border with Mexico.

I am proud of the fact that my country Canada is a compassionate and caring country toward it own citizens and to others. Refugees and others immigrating legally to Canada are becoming valuable citizens who are contributing to the building of our country. Multi-Culturalism in Canada is one of our key beliefs and Canada is better for it.

As for the current Syrian refugee situation we are bringing a large number to our country subject to extensive vetting and security screening. First we are only allowing families at this time, no single persons. The refugees are vetted via the United Nations agencies initially and then our own security screening overseas before they are approved. Once approved they are screened further upon arrival in Canada before being released within Canada. Once here they are monitored and supported by government and individuals. Canadians have embraced these families. They are already contributing to our society.  Remember these are people who have lived under constant threat of death and torture in their home country. They are not terrorists, they are fleeing terrorism. They are incredibly thankful to be able to live normal lives safe from war.

Canadians are concerned with the apparent rise of fascism and the lack of compassion that seems to be on the rise in your great country. It is unbelievable to me and most Canadians that the United States seems to not care. This is not the America that I know. I have many friends in the US and for my entire life have enjoyed visiting and interacting with them.

Canada and the United States share a continent and the longest common border in the world. Undefended yes, but not unmonitored. I believe and hope our close friendship will continue. I believe the majority of Americans value our friendship. Maybe I’m naive, but we are brothers and sisters. Together we are stronger if we lose this unique relationship both of us will be the poorer for it.

9/11 Never Forget

September 11, 2010

New York Times

Face of evil

May 4, 2010

Face of Evil/

Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani born, naturalized U.S. citizen is the Times Square would-be bomber. Thank goodness he failed in the attempt. Experts on CNN last evening using the details of the explosives found in the Pathfinder SUV and the location the vehicle in Times Square, estimated that between 300 and 500 innocent persons would likely have been killed if the bomb material had detonated.

The FBI and NYPD did an excellent job of tracking him down and arresting him. The van was discovered and reported by pedestrians in Times Square. An excellent example of awareness by citizens at large.

Execution chamber

Apparently up to five individuals were involved in planning this terrorist act. Islamic extremists like this need to be captured and executed. If there is an Allah, surely he would find this unacceptable.

Faisal and others like him are evil, misguided, and cowardly. The execution chamber is waiting for them.

Election Charisma: Barack Obama

January 15, 2008


He adds excitement and charisma to politics. His name is Barack Obama the Democratic Senator from Illinois. The dynamics of the presidential election of 2008 have been changed for the better with his presence. Barack stands for change in everyway.

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His parents were Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Duham. The senior Obama was born and raised in a small village in Kenya, where he grew up herding goats. Ann Duham grew in up small town Kansas. Her father worked oil rigs in the depression and served in Europe with Patton’s Third Army in World War II. Ann herself worked on a bomber assembly line during the war. His parents met at the University of Hawaii after the war. His parents later divorced and Ann remarried.

Barack has a B.A from Columbia University (1983) and a law degree from Harvard University (1991). He practiced civil rights law and taught law at the University of Chicago in the 1990s. His political career began when he was elected and served as an Illinois State Senator from 1997-2005. Barack rose to national prominence when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. In November 2004 he won the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois defeating Alan Keyes. This was the first time that a Senate election race was between two African-American candidates.

Senator Obama has written several books and also received a Grammy Award in 2006 for best spoken word album for his reading of his book, “Dreams From My Father”. In his autobiography he confessed to experimenting with marijuana and cocaine as a teenager. He married Michelle Robinson in 1992 and they have two daughters, 9 and 6. Barack is Christian and attends church in Chicago, Illinois.

Barack believes in uniting people regardless of political party to accomplish goals. In Congress he has been leading reform and making government spending more open to the public. He recognizes the threat from terrorism, especially from weapons of mass destruction. He wants to break America’s addiction to foreign oil by promoting conservation and the greater use of alternative fuels.

Most of all he seems to bring a whole new way of approaching issues to the campaign. He is indeed a contender to hold the highest office in the United States. The primaries and caucuses of the couple of months should be interesting indeed with Barack as one of the leading candidates seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Mike Huckabee: Rising Star

December 19, 2007

mike_huckabee.jpgA candidate seems to be emerging as a dark horse contender in the 2008 American Presidential Race. He is Mike Huckabee a former governor of Arkansas. He was elected to that job in 1996 and served until January 2007. Mike is running as a Republican candidate.

Mike was born in 1955 in Hope, Arkansas and is now 52 years of age. He has been married to Janet for over 35 years. They are Christians of the Baptist faith. The Huckabee’s have three grown children. Mike and Janet live in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

He is university educated and the author of several books. In 2003 he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Subsequently he proceeded to lose 110 pounds over the next year. One of his books, “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork” relates to his battle with the disease. It was published in 2005.

Mike is recognized as a national leader. He was honored in 2005 by Time Magazine as one of the five best governors in America. Governing Magazine named him on of its “Public Officials of the Year” for 2005. Also in 2005 he received the American Association of Retired Person’s “Impact Award”. The National Association of Music Merchants presented him with the “Music for Life Award” in 2007 for his commitment to music education.

On a personal level he is an avid runner having completed four marathons including the New York Marathon. Huckabee enjoys playing bass guitar in his rock band, Capitol Offense. They have opened for major acts such as Willie Nelson and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Here is what Mike has to say about some key personal issues, as well as issues facing the United States.

“My faith is my life – it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don’t separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.”

“The first thing I will do as President is send Congress my comprehensive plan for energy independence. We will achieve energy independence by the end of my second term.”
“Achieving energy independence is vital to achieving success both in the war on terror and in globalization. Energy independence will help guarantee both our safety and our prosperity. We have to explore, we have to conserve, and we have to pursue all avenues of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass.”

“I believe that every child should have the opportunity for a quality education that teaches the fundamental skills needed to compete in a global economy. As I traveled the country and the world over the last decade bringing jobs to Arkansas, the business leaders I met weren’t worried about creating jobs, they were worried about finding skilled and professional workers to fill those jobs.”

War on Terror:
“I believe that we are currently engaged in a world war. Radical Islamic fascists have declared war on our country and our way of life. They have sworn to annihilate each of us who believe in a free society, all in the name of a perversion of religion and an impersonal god. We go to great extremes to save lives, they go to great extremes to take them. This war is not a conventional war, and these terrorists are not a conventional enemy. I will fight the war on terror with the intensity and single-mindedness that it deserves.”

“I support and have always supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My personal belief is that marriage is between one man and one woman, for life.”

“My wife Janet and I celebrated our thirty-third wedding anniversary this past May. For us, every anniversary is a miracle. When we were both twenty and married just over a year, when I was in my last semester of college, Janet was diagnosed with cancer of the spine. I can’t tell you what a stunning blow it was – two kids just starting out, you don’t think something like that can happen when you’re so young. Yet there we were, staring death in the face. At first, they told us that even if she lived, she might be paralyzed from the waist down, so I’d be a young man with an invalid wife. After I learned she wouldn’t be paralyzed, I was told that because of the radiation she had to receive following surgery, we’d probably never have children. I wanted children very much, I couldn’t imagine never being a father. During that time, a lot of things went through my mind. But one thing never did – the thought of leaving her. If Janet were in a wheelchair today, if we’d never had children, I can tell you this – she would still be my wife.”

More information on Mr. Huckabee and his stand on issues can be found on his official website:

Finally I want to state for the record that I am impartial in this election. You see I am Canadian and obviously can’t vote, but as a citizen of Canada, ally, friend, and next-door neighbor of America, I am keenly interested in who will be the next President of the United States.

The U.S Does Not Torture. Right!

October 12, 2007

President Bush recently made a public statement that the United States does not torture captive terrorists. Forgive me for being just a little bit sceptical.

Think about this scenario for a second. The CIA captures a terrorist. They have reliable information that he has just planted a 20 megaton nuclear warhead in downtown Manhattan. Now obviously this person is not going to voluntarily devulge the location of the bomb. Hell he’s planning on going to his “paradise” along with the other 5 or 6 million Americans he will kill.

Do we resort to any means necessary to get the info out of him? I say morals be damned in this case. Millions of innocent lives are at stake. You bet we torture him and with all means possible to extract the location of that bomb. I bet President Bush would not want to answer later that “yes we had the ability to get the info, but gee we were afraid to hurt the poor guy by torturing him, and yes some bleeding-heart liberals might not have approved.”

I leave it to you the reader to think about that scenario. Hopefully we will never have to face it. Never say never. Torture is not something we like to see as a democratic society, but the greater good must come first.

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