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My Public Lands

Hunting the Hunter

During WWII, this peaceful-looking inlet was the home of American intelligence agents who were spying - and calling in air strikes - on German U-boats that sank American ships off the coast of Florida.

story by Bob GilLcash, BLM Eastern States
photo courtesy of Loxahatchee River Historical Society

Today this island of green stands as a peaceful waylay for tourists looking for tranquility away from spring breakers, motorcycles, and urban development. But don't be fooled. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse has a secret past few have ever known. .

Back in WWII, the lighthouse served as a U.S. intelligence spy station.

During those years, merchant ships departed from the Port of New Orleans carrying vital war supplies to U.S. troops in the European theater. These ships were forced to travel dangerously close to the Florida coastline to avoid being attacked by German submarines lying in wait for them. The first year of the war was particularly dangerous and costly. Ships such as the SS Republic and the SS W.D. Anderson were sunk off Jupiter Inlet killing 42 people.

In anticipation of the increasing threat from lurking German U-boats, the U.S. Navy established a secret intelligence listening post known to the intelligence community as "Station J" where the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area stands today.

The crew at Station J intercepted German radio messages to provide crucial information to help protect U.S. merchant vessels and allied ships and aircraft. Station J was even able to pinpoint the locations of hostile German submarines when they surfaced each night to charge their batteries and send reports back to Germany.

The American spies who intercepted this information relayed to U. S. tactical units. As a result, the U-boats were caught by surprise on the surface by U.S. aircraft whose swift air attacks significantly reduced the effectiveness of German patrols in that portion of the Atlantic.

In 2008, Congress passed an act designating this remarkable site as the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area to protect its unique scenic, scientific, educational, and recreational values. The lighthouse is part of the National Landscape Conservation System and is one of only three sites afforded the Outstanding Natural Area designation.

Today, this unlikely spy station welcomes 80,000 visitors each year - many of whom have no idea of the lighthouse's James Bond past.

Psst...Secret Agents! More top secret messages online!