Cramer v. United States 325 U.S. 1 (1945)

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CRAMER v. UNITED STATES 325 U.S. 1 (1945)

On the night of June 12, 1942, several specially trained saboteurs were put ashore from a German submarine near Amagansett, New York, with orders to disperse throughout the United States and to sabotage the American war effort. Anthony Cramer, a naturalized American citizen of German background, befriended two of the saboteurs, met with them, and was suspected of assisting them in their mission. However, the only overt acts to which two witnesses could testify were two meetings between Cramer and one of the saboteurs, who was an old friend of Cramer's. The prosecution was unable to produce the testimony of two witnesses concerning what took place at the meetings or to establish that Cramer gave information, encouragement, shelter, or supplies to the saboteurs. Cramer was tried for and convicted of treason, and he appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court.

The Cramer case marked the first time that the Supreme Court passed on the meaning of the treason clause of Article III, section 2, of the Constitution. Justice robert h. jackson, for a 5–4 Court, held that the overt acts testified to by two witnesses must be sufficient, in their setting, to sustain a finding that actual aid and comfort was given to an enemy of the United States. Although there was other evidence of Cramer's Nazi sympathies and of his assistance to the saboteur, the overt acts—the meetings—were not in themselves treasonable, and the conviction could not stand.

Dennis J. Mahoney

(see also: Haupt v. United States; Quirin, Ex Parte.)


Belknap, Michal R. 1980 The Supreme Court Goes to War: The Meaning and Implications of the Nazi Saboteur Case. Military Law Review 89:59–95.