March 04, 2014

Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America

Just finished reading the fascinating new book Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America by Howard Blum. I picked it up after listening to an interview with Mr. Blum on NPR's Fresh Air. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in World War I. It is a well-researched and exceedingly well-written account of a World War I series of terroristic attacks on the United States, in this case perpetrated by Germans. It is full of great stories and characters.

...This year is the centennial of the start of World War I, and there has been an outpouring of books assaying the conflict, particularly the carnage on the Western Front. Blum's riveting and perturbing "Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America" examines a less devastating but still ruthless campaign: the Germans' ingenious espionage operations in the United States.
When a “neutral” United States becomes a trading partner for the Allies early in World War I, the Germans implement a secret plan to strike back. A team of saboteurs—including an expert on germ warfare, a Harvard professor, and a brilliant, debonair spymaster—devise a series of “mysterious accidents” using explosives and biological weapons, to bring down vital targets such as ships, factories, livestock, and even captains of industry like J. P. Morgan.
Journalist Howard Blum says this was all part of an aggressive campaign of spying and sabotage the German government unleashed on the United States soon after war broke out in Europe. Dark Invasion follows the campaign and the effort of American law enforcement to crack what Blum calls "the first terrorist cell in America." It's filled with fascinating characters, from the duplicitous German ambassador who held the title of Count, to Capt. Franz von Rintelen, who plotted destruction while living at the Yacht Club in New York, to the NYPD bomb squad detective Inspector Tom Tunney, head of the department’s Bomb Squad, who is assigned the difficult mission of stopping them. Assembling a team of loyal operatives, the cunning Irish cop hunts for the conspirators among a population of more than eight million Germans. But the deeper he finds himself in this labyrinth of deception, the more Tunney realizes that the enemy’s plan is far more complex and more dangerous than he suspected.Tunney realizes that the enemy’s plan is far more complex and more dangerous than he suspected.
Hear the interview with Howard Blum on NPR's Fresh Air

Read a excellent review on the WSJ website

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