Book Review: “Dark Invasion”

Dark Invasion” by Howard Blum

Review by WW!HA President Sal Compagno

What reads like a novel, but  clearly rooted in historical research, is Howard Blum’s
study of German sabotage in the U.S. in 1914-15.  Germany, a prisoner of geography,
found itself cut off from access to America’s resources due to the British naval blockade.
With the war becoming clearly a war of attrition, access to resources would determine
victory or defeat.  America, as a neutral  nation, gifted with vast resources, found itself
supplying the voracious appetite for war essentials largely to the Entente (France-Britain
etc)  with Germany and her allies cut off.  Neutrality was making America rich!!

Germany was keenly aware of America’s notsoconvincing neutrality and set up a
clandestine sabotage system, financed and promoted through its consulates but
largely leaving their embassy untouched.  The east coast ports became the focus
of their actions.  Cleverly developing a vast spy network on the east coast with
assistance from disgruntled Irish stevedores, delayed bombs were placed on
allied ships with devastating results.  Their successes were crippling the Entente’s
war.

Tom Tunney, a New York policeman, trained in dealing with gang warfare, set up a
team of experts who would infiltrate some of the collateral members of the German
plan, eventually closing down their objectives. When the press divulged the role these
saboteurs were attempting, the nation was outraged and demanded government
action.  It too another two years before an Espionage Act was created.  Luck and
chance opportunities with British intelligence finally ended the first phase of German
espionage in the U.S.  Dark Invasion is a fascinating and highly engaging historical
study of desperate acts and an insight into America of the early 20th century.

Hush-hush reading

I can recommend the new book “The League: The True Story of Average Americans on the Hunt for WWI Spies,” by Bill Mills. It’s a bit dry, but I just finished “Waiting for Sunrise,” novelist William Boyd’s thriller about spies during World War I (the hero is manipulated into spying for the British and at one point has to crawl around No Man’s Land, trying to go missing without actually getting lost). So my perspective might be a little off in that regard.

Certainly I had never heard of the American Protective League — volunteers willing to work for free, skulking around after their fellow citizens, sneaking into their homes, trying to grab them off the street. All you had to say was, I heard him talking trash about President Wilson, and you could get the guy who was flirting with your wife hauled off to jail.

It’s appalling. Americans have a fundamental right to be obnoxious loudmouths.

But I also was not aware of the terrible toll on American industry from saboteurs, and I now take a very dim view of the Wobblies.

Read “The League” — or “Waiting for Sunrise” — and tell me what you think.