The Truth About The Nazi Plot To Blow Up The Hoover Dam

In 1936, the United States completed an engineering feat so spectacular that the only reasonable course of action was to name it after the president who landed us in the Great Depression. Hoover Dam: 4.36 million cubic yards of concrete, molded into a patriotic middle finger to the natural order of things. Through its annual generation of hydroelectricity, measured unceasingly in whopping terawatts per annum, this monument to American industrialism and good old fashioned can-do spirit has provided power to the U.S. Southwest for generations. It's exactly the sort of thing that a Bond villain would want to blow up.

Enter the Nazis, the real-life Bond villains of the mid-20th century. Doing like Nazis do, they apparently had designs on the destruction of Hoover Dam as early as October of 1939. That, according to Prologue, was when "a ranger observed a German man accompanied by a woman taking large numbers of photographs in the vicinity of the dam."

Hoo-very dramatic of them

Hoover Dam was a juicy target for enemies of the U.S. during World War II. As Mental Floss points out, it provided the energy that fueled Southern California's aviation industry, a staple of the war effort. Word came from the American embassy in Mexico that two German agents planned to rent a boat, then use it to attach bombs to the dam's intake towers.

The government's response was layered. First off, officials put out a few pointed pieces of disinformation, informing the public that there was no way that anyone was trying to bomb Hoover Dam. The plot wasn't publicly known about until 2001, when historians at the Bureau of Reclamation stumbled onto some old records.

As far as protecting the dam went, the plans that were tossed around ranged from "Wile E. Coyote" to "even more Wile E. Coyote." Per Prologue, at least one engineer thought it would be a good idea to paint the dam in "bold, simple masses of color" to disguise it from planes flying overhead... somehow. Another recommended building a fake model dam downriver, utilizing what's known in the military community as "the third act of Blazing Saddles maneuver."