On Jan. 25, 1942, World War II came home to the United States — just off the Jersey Shore.
The Norwegian oil tanker Varanger was just 28 miles off Wildwood when a German U-boat, the U-130, fired five torpedoes at it. The ship exploded in a roar heard as far away as Atlantic City and sank to the bottom in minutes. Amazingly, all crewmen survived.
By the time the great German sub blitz of 1942 was over, however, 19 vessels had been sunk and 360 people killed off the Jersey Shore. Most, like the Varanger, were easily spotted because they were silhouetted by brightly lit coastal towns, and easily targeted because they failed to sail in protective convoys.
That didn’t stop rumors from spreading about Nazi spies serving as spotters from the roofs of Asbury Park and Atlantic City hotels, or careless crewmen giving away their position by telling girlfriends of their destination. During this suspicious era, a new slogan came into vogue: “Loose lips sink ships.”