Super Cities №129 - American Agents, Nazi Spies, and Killing Momentum

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

We can learn a valuable lesson from the story of FBI agents and Nazi spies.


In June 1942, Nazi Germany launched Operation Pastorius, an on-the-ground effort to sabotage the war effort in America.

Operating out of New York City, the Nazi spies were tasked with infiltrating companies, blowing up bridges and rail-lines, and stealing industrial secrets. Their goal was to cause mass chaos from within the castle gates.

The mission was a disaster. Within weeks, Hoover’s FBI had rolled up the German spies. They were all sentenced to death.

The result was staggering: Hitler was so embarrassed by Pastorius that, for the remaining years of an expanding global war, the Nazis never again launched a spy campaign on America soil.

In the game of espionage in the United States, America beat Germany 1–0.

There’s an interesting lesson here: like Hoover’s FBI agents, if you strike early — with targeted, overwhelming force — you can crush competition before it grows into a real risk.

Many companies operate this way.

Take Facebook. It monitors the world for social applications with traction. At some point, Facebook decides whether to buy the company or kill it by cloning its features. It bought Instagram and is trying to kill Snap.

I’m sure FB has “1–0’d” many other nascent efforts.

In the world of brutal competition, sometimes a good defense is the best offense.

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