The German Spy Story: Supplying Information to the Enemy

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When a German spy put ashore on Long Island by a U-boat was apprehended by the FBI, a copy of the Almanac was found in his pocket. Our government then decided that either the Almanac should be banned or the word “forecasts” should be eliminated.
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AP/Wide World Photos

When the Almanac almost had to stop printing!

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During World War II, the U.S. government speculated that the Germans were using The Old Farmer’s Almanac for weather forecasts, which meant that the book was indirectly supplying information to the enemy. It’s true. Here’s the story.

A German Spy Is Caught with the Almanac

In 1942, the FBI apprehended a German spy on a train going into New York City’s Penn Station. The spy had landed on Long Island, New York, from a U-boat the night before.

The impact of this event was felt all the way to Dublin, New Hampshire, because The Old Farmer’s Almanac was found in the German’s coat pocket. It was the 1942 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The U.S. government speculated that the Germans were using the Almanac for weather forecasts, which meant that the book was indirectly supplying information to the enemy!

Perhaps he just picked it up in the train station and liked the jokes? Robb Sagendorph, the eleventh editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, was always of the opinion that it was the tide tables the Germans had used. “Then again,” he’d usually add, “maybe it was the forecasts. After all, the Germans went on to lose the war.”

How Did We Save the Almanac?

In any event, Sagendorph managed to get the government to agree that there would be no violation of the “Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press” if the Almanac featured weather “indications” rather than forecasts.

It was a close call that almost ruined the Almanac’s perfect record of continuous publication.

Enjoy another “best of Almanac” story from the archives: Predicting Snow for the Summer of 1816.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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