From Publishers Weekly
The specter of germ warfare lends an overblown touch of drama to this tepid tale of espionage and sabotage in WWI. In 1915, Anton Dilger, an American citizen who became a surgeon in Germany and was recruited by German intelligence, arrived in Baltimore to set up a secret lab to mass-produce the bacteria that cause anthrax and glanders. His intended target was not people but horses and mules procured for the Allied armies in Europe. It's not clear HOW MANY equines died because of the plot, but the author estimates it was in the thousands. Dilger's subsequent mission to draw Mexico into war with the U.S. was not successful. Indeed, aside from some bombings of munitions installations that Dilger had little to do with, the German covert operations detailed here seem mired in incompetence and squabbling. Journalist Koenig also uses Dilger's life to probe the conflicted loyalties of German-Americans during the war and the irony of a healer trying his hand at destruction . The author's efforts to associate Dilger with latter-day anxieties about anthrax and other much-hyped bio-menaces don't make this story more compelling. Photos. (Jan.)
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Students of both World War I and the War on Terror may profit from this study of attempted German bioterrorism in the older conflict. Amon Dilger was a U.S. citizen from birth, whose immigrant father was a Civil War veteran. Amon's loyalties lay, however, with the German branch of the family and theVaterland
. Armed with a medical degree and, of course, an American passport, he was able to set up a basement laboratory in Washington, D.C., during WWI and culture anthrax germs in it. He also worked along the Mexican border with German, Spanish, and Mexican nationals to foment trouble, before dying (probably) in the great influenza epidemic in 1918. He was a prototype of the kind of agent who can plausibly move across the globe to do his dirty work. Koenig has researched with great thoroughness and written with great clarity, and his account of Dilger's career increases readily available knowledge of German covert operations in the U.S. during WWI. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved