26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Breezy but compelling read of covert warfare circa 1915,
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.