Feb. 2, 1915: Werner Horn, a German army lieutenant carrying out a sabotage mission on behalf of German officials in New York, plants a bomb on the Canadian side of an international railway bridge linking Vanceboro, Maine, and the village of St. Croix, New Brunswick.

Canada was fighting Germany in World War I at the time, but the United States was not involved in the war yet. Both nations, however, were providing war materiel to the European powers fighting Germany, and some of that was being shipped across the Vanceboro bridge to the port at Saint John, New Brunswick.

Horn arrived in Vanceboro by train on Jan. 30 and aroused suspicion when he was seen hiding a suitcase in a wood pile. When a local customs officer interrogated him, he said he was a Dutchman looking to buy farmland in the area. The agent let him go. Horn checked out of his hotel on Feb. 1 and hid in the woods until midnight, when the temperature was about 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and a strong wind was blowing. After midnight, he walked across the bridge, barely escaping being killed by oncoming trains from both directions.

Photo titled “Looking Across R.R. Bridge into Canada from Vanceboro, Me.,” taken between 1910 and 1915.

Planted with a three-minute fuse, the bomb explodes, shattering shop windows in Vanceboro and St. Croix but doing little damage to the bridge. Horn suffers frostbite while walking back to his hotel, where U.S. and Canadian officials detain him.

He is tried and convicted on a minor charge related to the window damage in Vanceboro. British and Canadian officials seek his extradition. After entering the war in 1917, the U.S. extradites Horn to Canada, where he is tried, convicted and sentenced in New Brunswick to 10 years in Dorchester Prison. However, prison officials deem him in July 1921 to be insane, and he is deported to Germany

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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