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The Fourth Horseman: One Man's Secret Mission to Wage the Great War in Americaby Robert Koenig
Synopses & Reviews
The story of Anton Dilger brings to life a missing chapter in U.S. history and shows, dramatically, that the Great European War was in fact being fought on the home front years before we formally joined it. The doctor who grew anthrax and other bacteria in that rented house was an American—the son of a Medal of Honor winner who fought at Gettysburg—on a secret mission, for the German Army in 1915. The Fourth Horseman tells the startling story of that mission led by a brilliant but conflicted surgeon who became one of Germany's most daring spies and saboteurs during World War I and who not only pioneered biowarfare in his native land but also lead a last-ditch German effort to goad Mexico into invading the United States. It is a story of mysterious missions, divided loyalties, and a new and terrible kind of warfare that emerged as America—in spite of fierce dissention at home—was making the decision to send its Doughboys to the Great War in Europe.
This story has never been told before in full. And Dilger is a fascinating analog for our own troubled times. Having thrown off the tethers of obligation to family and country, he became a very dangerous man indeed: A spy, a saboteur, and a zealot to a degree that may have so embarrassed the German High Command that, after the war, they ordered his death rather than admit that he worked for them.
"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, if any, equines died because of the plot, but the author allows that the numbers weren't significant. Equally ineffectual was Dilger's subsequent mission to draw Mexico into war with the U.S. Indeed, aside from some bombings of munitions installations that Dilger had little to do with, the German covert operations detailed here seem half-baked and 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 (weak) irony of a healer trying his hand at destruction (of animals, that is). 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The story of Anton Dilger brings to life a missing chapter in U.S. history and shows, dramatically, that the Great European War was in fact being fought on the home front years before we formally joined it. The doctor who grew anthrax and other bacteria in that rented house was an American--"the son of a Medal of Honor winner who fought at Gettysburg--"on a secret mission, for the German Army in 1915.
Modern germ warfare began in 1915 in the basement of a modest cottage six miles from the White House
The story of Anton Dilger brings to life a terrible new kind of warfare: biological terrorism. The doctor who grew anthrax and other bacteria in a rented house was an American--the son of a Medal of Honor winner who fought at Gettysburg--on a secret mission for the German Army in 1915.
About the Author
Robert L. Koenig, a Contributing Correspondent for Science magazine, has written about German topics for more than two decades, covering stories ranging from the fall of the Berlin Wall to revelations of atrocities in Nazi-era scientific research. He also conducted archival research into the history of germ warfare during his three years as publications director of a leading microbiology research laboratory near Washington. D.C.
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