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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy but compelling read of covert warfare circa 1915
Howard Blum's "Dark Invasion" brings to light a long lost series of attacks by Imperial Germany on the US during World War I, most notably a series of bombings and an anthrax poisoning. A half star off for slightly breezy writing and another half star off for skipping a proper conclusion leaves this at 4 stars.

While there's a plethora of books coming out to...
Published 12 months ago by Indy Reviewer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite interesting, but only so-so as responsible history and the writing is little better than schlock
DARK INVASION is a breezy, popular history of the multi-faceted German campaign of terror and sabotage visited on the United States in 1915 and 1916. Germany's objective was to disrupt the flow of munitions and other war supplies to its British, French, and Russian enemies. Towards that end, many ships were set afire with timed incendiaries; bombs were detonated on...
Published 2 months ago by R. M. Peterson


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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy but compelling read of covert warfare circa 1915, December 19, 2013
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This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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Howard Blum's "Dark Invasion" brings to light a long lost series of attacks by Imperial Germany on the US during World War I, most notably a series of bombings and an anthrax poisoning. A half star off for slightly breezy writing and another half star off for skipping a proper conclusion leaves this at 4 stars.

While there's a plethora of books coming out to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, "Dark Invasion" covers a niche that has largely been lost to history's dustbin: the covert operations of Germany against the United States prior to 1917. Remarkably, despite having the largest spy network in the world, in 1914 Germany had all of one agent in the United States. Through a crash course of recruiting, Germany's patched-together network proved remarkably able to create havoc well beyond their weight over the next two years.

Blum's focus is on the men who conducted these operations along with Tom Tunney, the head of the NYPD bomb squad, whose agency was responsible for the vast majority of captures. Of note are a Harvard professor who murdered his wife, escaped to find a new identity, and then bombed the US Capitol and nearly killed JP Morgan (whose financiering saved the Allies), a devilishly clever chemical cigar fire bomb that, thanks to non German allies, sunk innumerable transport ships, and a largely unknown anthrax attack designed to kill horses that appears to have killed quite a few people. Tunney's work is remarkable, especially given the jurisdictional limitations that faced him through working for the NYPD versus the federal government; an interesting point is that Wilson was made well aware of the intelligence on the German spy network but that it did not appear to factor into his decisions.

Three quibbles. First, Blum uses on a breezy writing style that seems more appropriate for the movie to come. Second, there is almost no original research here as Blum is reliant on the numerous literature about covert German activities that appeared at the end of World War I and were promptly forgotten. (One of the greatest financial disasters in movie history at the time, for instance, was the 10 hour "The Eagle's Eye" which covers much of the material in Dark Invasion.) Finally, and most frustrating of all, Blum concludes the book without a chapter on the fates of the various players here.

Still, a decent read on the first terrorist attacks on the United States. 4 stars.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting true tale of German espionage in WW I America, January 16, 2014
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Q. Publius (Annandale, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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Howard Blum, a New York Times bestselling author, has written a real true-life thriller about German espionage on American soil during World War I. This fast-paced thriller reads like fiction but it is all true. Before America's entry into World War I, it was a neutral country and became a trading partner with its European allies. The Germans decided to strike back at the US by devising a plan to create a series of "accidents" using biological weapons and explosives at targets such as ships, factories and farms. Enter in NYPD Inspector Tom Tunney, the Department's Bomb Squad head. He is helped by some loyal operatives. Their task--to stop the saboteurs who include an expert on biological warfare, a former Harvard professor, and a spymaster. There is a lot of drama in this very readable and exciting book. This tale of terrorism in America rings as true today as it did 100 years ago. Can a small group of cops stop ruthless German terrorists? Was this mostly unknown story the first threat to the national security of our nation? Read the book and find out! Many black and white photographs included in the volume add interest to the story. HIghly recommended!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable Overlooked History, November 7, 2013
By 
Alan D. Cranford (Salt Lake City, Utah USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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Howard Blum's "Dark Invasion" is a readable bit of overlooked history--Imperial Germany's secret war against America. The Kaiser regarded America's declaration of neutrality as a sick joke because American-made war material was flowing to Germany's enemies: bullets, artillery shells, horses, trucks, medical supplies, boots, canned rations.
This secret war ranged from propaganda to labor strikes to sabotage and assassination. On Sunday, July 30, 1916 at 12:24 AM the Black Tom munitions facility began burning--more than fifty people died and the explosions were heard as far away as Maryland. A German sympathizer named Holt gunned down J. P. Morgan on the Glen Cove estate. Perhaps most chilling were the two germ warfare attacks - the attacks were intended to kill as many horses as possible, but any human deaths were merely collateral damage.
The focus of "Dark Invasion" is Captain Tom Tunney's NYPD Bomb Squad. Formed in 1903, NYPD's Bomb Squad dealt with anarchists, but was never intended to function as a national homeland security office.
I have a few quibbles with the book, but I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one long session. The sixty chapters are short enough for a quick gulp of history--I just kept wanting more and more. Period photos of people, places and things enhance the lively text.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is easily read history, well written and riveting, February 24, 2014
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Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
A common complaint about many works of fiction is how their unusual plot twists often defy common sense and logic. Those unexpected occurrences on the pages of a thrilling novel require readers to engage in what has been called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” There is no similar action required for reading a work of history because facts are facts. DARK INVASION couples details of a little-known moment in American history with the best features of a fictional spy novel or investigative procedural to create a narrative that is informative, entertaining and thoughtful. In a post-9/11 world where debates over combating terrorism are ever present, Howard Blum reminds the nation that we have confronted this before, and there are lessons to be learned from that struggle.

As World War I engulfed Europe, President Woodrow Wilson sought to steer the United States on a path of neutrality. It was a difficult task for the country because the antagonists viewed America as a source of valuable resources necessary to wage the war. But American neutrality benefited England and France far more than Germany. England controlled the sea lanes and was able to obtain necessary supplies from across the Atlantic. German ability to obtain goods from America was limited. The German government embarked upon a policy to destroy the ability of England and France to obtain American supplies. German spies and terrorists were dispatched to American soil to wreak havoc on factories and shipping.

German ambassador Count Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff was the point man for a vast intelligence organization known as Abteilung IIIB. The organization recruited and trained agents, male and female, across Europe. Now the operation would be expanded to America. It was critical that America be kept out of the war and that the Allies be prevented from receiving shipments of American munitions, arms and food. Von Bernstorff was directed to recruit and develop a network of intelligence agents in America. He was authorized to use any means necessary to accomplish this sabotage objective.

In 1915, the United States lacked any federal law enforcement organization. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was more than a decade from creation. The duty to investigate and combat the German clandestine activity fell upon local law enforcement agencies. Since most of the illegal activities focused on the port area of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Police Department became the law enforcement organization destined to battle the German spy network. Fortunately, at least the NYPD had some experience in combating terrorist-like activity in its city. The New York City Bomb and Neutrality Squad under the leadership of Captain Tom Tunney had been a small undercover group in the police department assigned to infiltrate terrorist organizations. In cooperation with federal agencies, they battled the German spy network.

This was a multi-front battle. There was a devastating list of plots to destroy American commerce with the allies. Cigar bombs with delayed fuses were placed in ships bound for Europe. A rudder bomb was designed, also with a delayed fuse to destroy shipping. Germany plotted with Mexican nationals to open a front against the United States. Horses, a valuable commodity in the war, were poisoned by German agents. Eventually the totality of these actions would lead Wilson to abandon neutrality and bring America into the war.

Blum has written a remarkable account of the battle between terrorists and law enforcement as they battled over the fate of their respective nations. This is easily read history, well written and riveting. It also reminds readers of the similarities between our present war against terrorism and the war fought a century ago. Then as now, the battle was fought against government buildings and American commerce. Then as presently, anthrax and bio-terrorism were a weapon used against America. Then as now, hardworking investigators often solved cases through a combination of sweat and luck.

DARK INVASION captures a moment in time when America was emerging as a world power and learning to live with her expanded role on the world stage. Blum reminds us that such power comes at a price and that 100 years after the first terrorist attacks on our soil, the issues raised by those attacks are still confronting our nation.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories my grandmother told me, January 26, 2014
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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This is a marvelous book for anyone interested in history, New York City or WWI. Many do not know the history of the espionage activity that occurred in New York City in both WWI and WWII. My grandparents lived in the city most of their lives and owned a small luncheonette that was filled with nearby factory, dock workers and policemen who walked the beats around the area. She would tell me stories she heard and read in the newspapers of Tom Tunney, explosions and the activities that occurred when she was younger.

This book was like a trip home, with more detail. If one did not know it was factual research it would sound like an action-suspense novel. The information given in the book tells the reasons behind the espionage activities of not only the Germans in WWI, but the Americans trying to prevent it, and their striving for neutrality - moral and economic. The author helps out in a way that many do not in this type of book. There is a list explaining the characters in the beginning.

We can see, as information is gradually gathered and brought to President Wilson, his obdurate measures to keep Americas out of the war, finally no longer able to ignore Germany's actions. There is some mention of espionage in other cities even the description of a building still standing in Baltimore built in typical Germanic architectural style.

There are many black and white photos throughout the book, enabling the reader to picture the people who inhabit this account, including the wolf of Wall Street.
This is indeed a book that anyone who enjoys adventure and intrigue would find fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Invasion: When Hollywood Super-Thriller Meets History, January 10, 2014
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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Howard Blum's Dark Invasion 1915 Germany's Secret War Against America tells the story of Germany's attempt to sabotage the United States whose various industries where providing material aid to the Allied war effort despite the supposed neutrality. Rather than give a plot synopsis that obliterates any desire to read the actual book, I'm going to talk about the writing style and what his particular style adds to the book.

From page one, this very old school spy vs. detective feel settles over the book. Blum's descriptions of World War I New York and the various seedy locales where the German plot takes hold transport the reader back in time. The story is told in approx. seventy chapters most of which only extend a few pages, which gives the story kind of an episodic television quality. The point of view character often changes section by section, which is something that the reader needs to remain cognoscente of. The great advantage of this approach is that the reader gets into the head of multiple characters from US law enforcement to German conspirators.

Blum combines a detailed recreation of WW1 New York, with a historians eye for detail and blends the two together to create a book that feels like it would smoothly adapt to the Hollywood screen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dangerous time, January 5, 2014
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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I had some inkling about Germany's effort at sabotage during America's period of neutrality (such that it was) during the first years of World War I - but I didn't know the fairly professional scope of the operation or the US efforts to stop it.

Frankly, this narrative showed me that while spies/saboteurs were caught, it was more America's size and numbers that saved the day. The sabotage was fairly effective, and destroyed quite a lot of overseas shipments - but there were always more coming. Even the destruction of the Black Tom munitions depot (which I wished got more attention) seemed to barely slow down the US effort.

I can't even blame the Germans - these aren't evil Nazi fascists, but men loyal to their own country (although some men would reappear in the years before WWII). They were facing a British navy that blockaded their ability to resupply and had to respond any way they could. But, I'm certainly glad NYPD officers like Tom Tunney captured them.

The attempt at chemical warfare - using anthrax to poison horses - is especially interesting. To the war commanders, horses were more important than men.

The entire subject is topical. German immigrants were a huge US population, but despite this there never seemed to be public passion against this entire group. It's certainly different against Muslims in this era of internet media and sensationalism.

It is a bit of a breezy read, and because it collects so many stories and anecdotes it all comes at a big rush. But the writing ties it all together and it's a strong use of storytelling to capture a forgotten period of US history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite interesting, but only so-so as responsible history and the writing is little better than schlock, October 17, 2014
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
DARK INVASION is a breezy, popular history of the multi-faceted German campaign of terror and sabotage visited on the United States in 1915 and 1916. Germany's objective was to disrupt the flow of munitions and other war supplies to its British, French, and Russian enemies. Towards that end, many ships were set afire with timed incendiaries; bombs were detonated on other ships; munitions plants were blown up; horses, mules, and cattle being transported to Europe were infected with bacilli of glanders and anthrax; Mexican revolutionaries were encouraged to attack the United States across the Rio Grande; and a German agent shot (but failed to kill) J.P. Morgan, who led the consortium of American banks that financed the Triple Entente.

DARK INVASION covers these and other efforts in a fast-paced 420 pages. Blum organizes his book around Tom Tunney, a New York City cop who was the head of the Bomb and Neutrality Squad. (Supposedly, a movie is to be made of the book in which Bradley Cooper plays Tom Tunney.) To be sure, New York City was the center of Germany's "anti-American" operations and Tunney and his men became involved in trying to ferret out and foil many of the German plots, but the German sabotage campaign extended all across eastern United States and Baum exaggerates Tunney's role when he presents Tunney as "for all practical purposes the first head of Homeland Security".

Beyond that, I have other problems with the book, although I admit that I learned a lot in rather painless fashion. First and foremost, there is the prose. It takes breezy, melodramatic journalism to the extreme. It often lapses into a staccato succession of one-and-two-sentence paragraphs. Clichés abound, such that the book borders on being historical kitsch, worthy of The History Channel. Here's an illustrative paragraph in which Franz von Rintelin, the mastermind behind much of the German sabotage and self-styled "dark invader", watches bribed stevedores placing combustible devices on a cargo ship destined for Britain:

"As they went about their surreptitious work, von Rintelen strolled along the dock where the steamer was berthed. He glanced at the British sailors on deck, carbines slung over their shoulders, ready to prevent saboteurs from interfering with their valuable cargo. Didn't the fools realize it was too late? he gloated. Didn't they know they couldn't stop Franz von Rintelen? That he was invincible? But of course he said nothing. He simply continued on along the waterfront, his mind near to bursting with its secret, joyful pride."

Aside from the schlocky writing, how does Blum know what was going through von Rintelen's mind? On countless other occasions Blum gives us the internal thoughts and feelings of various characters. In a note at the end of the book he assures us that in every such instance his account is supported by a memoir, a letter, or a published interview, but it would be very difficult to check his sources because of the lack of precise citations. Granted, there are four pages of bibliography and for each chapter Blum includes a list of "the primary sources" for that chapter. But individual episodes, dialogue, and internal thoughts are never supported with any sort of footnote citation. The result is a book of purported history that falls to meet the standards of responsible history.

To me the most interesting figure in DARK INVASION is Erich Muenter, a/k/a Frank Holt, or C. Hendricks, or Thomas Lester, or R. Pierce. Muenter had been a professor at Harvard when, in 1906, he killed his wife by poison; he disappeared to Mexico, resurfaced years later as Frank Holt, re-married, and became a professor at Cornell. In the course of two days in July 1915 Muenter set off a powerful bomb in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (fortuitously causing no deaths or injuries) and then shot J.P. Morgan at his estate on Matanicock Point, Long Island. Two days later, Muenter died in his jail cell in Mineola, Long Island. First reports were that he had been shot -- most likely by someone who entered from outside the jail (a German who wanted to silence him?) -- but the official version was soon changed to suicide, and reporters were discouraged from further investigation. More mystery surrounds the death of Erich Muenter in police custody than the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald nearly fifty years later. (I wish Blum had done more to address that mystery.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting True Story, January 1, 2014
This review is from: Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (Hardcover)
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I've always been a fan of history told in novel format, like In the Garden of Beasts or Issac's Storm. This book is definitely in this genre and it does not dissappoint.
Dark Invasion introduces us to a part of WWI history that isn't well known. The US has taken a position of neutrality in the conflict, but the Allies have effectively blockaded the Atlantic shipping lanes, shutting down German shipping traffic. As a result, German erects an extensive network of spies and saboteurs in the US to try and damage Allied supply ships from reaching Europe, and they are willing to do whatever it takes: blowing up munitions plants and ships, attempted murder of J P Morgan, bombing the Capitol building, and bioterrorism. Nothing is off limits.
We like to think that terrorism is a new concept, but this book clearly illustrates that it is something our country has faced before. The story of Tom Tunney, head of the NYPD Bomb Squad and original terrorist hunter, tasked with ferreting out the saboteurs is riveting.
The book is researched in great detail and includes many pictures of the people and places in the story as they were at the time. It is a complicated tale and the cast of characters provided in the front of the book is a necessity. Because of this complexity, it takes about 100 pgs for the book to really get-going, but then it's a real page turner. I had a hard time putting it down long enough to get through my finals. This book is definitely worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hugely thrilling and well written page turner, July 30, 2014
Howard Blum has crafted an incredibly exciting and well crafted nonfiction narrative work. I am a history buff and WWI is my favorite time period to study; additionally, I love reading about untold stories of famous conflicts, so once I saw this on the shelf picking it up was a no brainer. Blum writes a very compelling story here, detailing Germany's efforts to sabotage American relief efforts to war-torn Britain and France, and it reads like a page turning, nail biting thriller. Blum constructs rich characters who fit perfectly into the time period, and offers an even handed portrayal of both the German saboteur officers and the dutiful Americans trying to stop then. My only complaint is that I think Blum's comparison of the German tactics to the present day War on Terror is unfounded; we never get a sense of that in the book. I understand that the German tactics certainly constituted an act of war, but calling it terrorism is a bit dubious. Regardless, Blum has constructed a thoroughly exciting, well-written, and well-researched page turner that any history buff will love. Highly recommended.
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Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America
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