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Dark Invasion 1915: Germany's Secret War & the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  732 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
What happens when German spies collaborate to unleash a campaign of terror upon America at the start of World War I?

In the summer of 1914, New York Police Department captain Tom Tunney is preoccupied by Manhattan's raging gang rivalries and has little idea that, halfway around the world, a much more ominous threat to the city is brewing. As Germany teeters on the brink of
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Harper (first published September 10th 2013)
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Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read a non-fiction book, the more interesting facts I learn, the more I like it. This is especially true if the book covers a topic I arrogantly think I'm already familiar with. "Dark Invasion" did an excellent job of covering both of those areas for me.

Similarly, when I read fiction, such as a spy novel, the intrigue, the cleverness of the spies, and the obstacles they face all have to be believable and challenging for me to enjoy it. Once again, "Dark Invasion" did that job brilliantly
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Today's nonfiction book is Dark Invasion: 1915 Germany's secret war against America by Howard Blum. It is 512 pages long including notes and index. It is published by HarperCollins. The story is told from journals, interviews, and recent conversations with the people involved to the silent author; it is third person close. There is language, talk of sex, and violence in this book. Because of content 16 and up just to be safe. The cover has a newspaper on it with the title and author name overlai
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: wwi, vine
Although President Wilson was determined to remain neutral when the first World War broke out in Europe, the nation's "neutrality" was mostly one-sided. Even if America didn't officially take sides, huge amounts of munitions and weapons were sold to the Allies (Britain enforced a sea blockade, preventing any possibility of trade with Germany). And as German frustration mounted, they began a secret campaign of sabotage against American ships. Inventive cigar-shaped incendiaries and bombs attached ...more
Howard Blum’s book Dark Invasion covers the time from just before World War 1 though the conclusion of World War 1 and focuses on the efforts of Germany to seed disruption and terrorism in the United States. The book also follows a New York Police inspector who acted as a homeland security expert tracking down saboteurs and spy rings before groups like the FBI would be tasked with doing so. A German diplomat set up a ring of saboteurs and spies aimed at spreading anti-British propaganda, disrupt ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Have read many times about Germany's attempts to prevent the US from supplying the Britian and France in WW1. This book details the depths of the German efforts lead by the German ambassador to the US! Author Blum tells of the efforts of Captain Tom Tunney's of the New York City Police Department and his small squad of detectives to thwart the German sabatouge efforts and the German plans to wage chemical war on the US population and the animals being supplied to the Allies. The Federal governme ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating. I had never heard of or had any idea that German terror cells had infiltrated the United States during WWI. The parallels between then and now are stunning. I think the author put it best when he writes "in one large and affecting way, little has changed over the past one hundred years for the officers who are responsible for defending our sprawling republic." What an eye opener this book is. Wow!
Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Technically this book is "history," but I've labeled it historical fiction because the author was including so many details of his own invention - personal thoughts, emotions, etc. It reads more like history than fiction. But he is definitely walking on the line.

Blum tells the story of how German sabotage in the US from 1914-17. It isn't really terrorism. The agents worked for the German government and their goal was to operate in secret. They wanted the problems they caused to be dismissed as a
Marianne Wason
Apr 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
I so disliked this book that I had to force myself to finish it for two reasons: (1) I wanted the historical content; (2) it was for a nonfiction book club where I knew we'd discuss our opinions about this genre of fictionalized nonfiction, history as spy thriller, etc. Frankly, I understated my first sentence. I hated this book. To be fair to the author and those who like this style of nonfiction, I should say "I hate this genre" and because of that I hated the book. Blum did his research -- fo ...more
Bob H
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fast-paced, tautly-written story of German clandestine warfare in US territory during the period, 1914-1917, when the US had not yet declared war, formally, and yet was under secret attack. Anyone familiar with this dark period, as I am, will recognize the characters -- Ambassador Bernstorff, military attaches von Papen and Boy-Ed, spymasters Dr. Albert and von Rintelen, British intelligence agent Guy Gaunt. We see, 100 years ago, the frontline role the NYPD served even then. The work of Capta ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I have to start out by saying I am a bit biased in this review; I LOVE history. What I love even more is learning something new about something we think we know. The subject this time around? World War I.
The year is 1915 and America is not in the war. President Wilson is doing everything in his power to keep America out of the war. What he does not know is there are German spies on American soil; spies who are employing saboteurs to damage or destroy American ships that carry supplies to A
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Fictionalized account of the efforts by German secret agents to undermine US support for the Allies in World War I. The "first terrorist cell" of the subtitle seems like a stretch - this group was funded by Germany and there were covert terrorists and anarchists long before 1915.

Focuses mostly on three stories - fires on American ships delivering materials to the Allies; a murderer who planted a bomb in the capitol building and attacked JP Morgan Jr.; and a group trying to infect horses headed f
Jul 31, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark Invasion tells the story of German sabotage efforts in the US during the early (pre-US declaration of war) days of World War I, and the efforts to track down and neutralise these German efforts. Since one of the main German strategies was to place bombs on munition ships heading to the Allies, and there was apparently no US federal agency able or willing to lead, the hero on the US side was Tom Tunney, head of the New York City police bomb squad.

On the one hand, the book tells a story that
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, germany
Before the US entered WW-I, German agents conducted massive sabotage acts designed to prevent munitions from reaching Britain. The Germans planted delayed action fire bombs on ships, bombed munitions plants, and tried to start a Mexican war with the US. They even set off a bomb in the US Capitol building, and shot JP Morgan in a murder attempt.

Pres Wilson desperately tried to keep the US out of the war but finally had to concede there was no alternative other than to fight. He did not know that
Mar 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
I will be honest. I did not read this book. Here's the first sentence. "If Eric Muenter hadn't walked across the Harvard campus to Emerson Hall on that wet February day in 1906 to borrow a book, he would never have seen the student pull the short-barreled black revolver from his pocket, aim, and just as his arm was grabbed, fire. And then things might have been different."
Dum de dum dum.
I hate this kind of writing. I wish Blum would have gone to a different creative writing class, because this p
Blum's book Dark Invasion, a nonfiction account of German sabotage in the United States during WWI, reads more like a fiction thriller. If I didn't know the setting (and I definitely didn't know the story) I would think it was fiction after all.

I hemmed and hawed over the five stars, because Blum's background as a newspaper reporter almost makes the book too punchy. But, that is what makes it so readable. Makes me want to read up on the conundrum German-Americans faced during World War I, to und
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting book. Never really had the war from this perspective. Told from different POV - and from different countries - Germany, New York...police, medicos...good stuff.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The facts are interesting but the non-fiction novel format didn't work very well for me.
Bill F.

Howard Blum's exciting story of the German terrorist cell that operated in the United States in the aftermath of the start of World War I in Europe was inspired by an article Blum read in the CIA's in-house publication, Studies in Intelligence. The article, written by a CIA staff historian one year after 9/11, was subtitled "Protecting the Homeland The First Tome Around".

The story reads like fiction and is well-told by Blum. The hero of the piece is New York City Police Captain Thomas J. Tunney
George Gilbert
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
In his nonfiction spy tale, Howard Blum told the true story of how Germany launched a sophisticated, covert campaign of terror - bombs, germ warfare, and murder - against an unsuspecting America during World War I. Blum successfully weaved multiple plot lines together to create an intelligible arc, focusing on the establishment of the German terrorist cell, the execution of various German sabotage operations, and the eventual capture of the network through the work of the New York Police Departm ...more
Chris Miller
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
Everyone knows WWI started in April, 1917 for the United States. This book goes shows that Germany had declared war on the United States in late 1914. Much of the evidence comes from books wrtten by the participants and Blum explains them in clear, concise ways for the average layman. Sabotage was a main goal and the ability to use interned Germans to further their efforts was almost too simple. Munitions, food, almost any war material was subject to being interferred with or destroyed. The Germ ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The language can occasionally get a little too overwrought - it's a work of history, not a spy novel! - but the story is compelling enough to overcome that flaw, and the research is (well, as best I can tell) extremely thorough. Blum does a good job of keeping the narrative compelling and the momentum moving forward; really the only time it bogs down is towards the end, when we learn that one nest of spies (which we have been "following" in "real time," as it were) were not actually uncovered un ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, wwi
There are three disparate plot lines running through this book, meaning the author did a lot of jumping around between various people and places. It made for a confusing read at first. For about the first half of the book, I seriously doubted that any of these stories would link up with each other, but eventually they did. I did learn a bit about germ warfare and cigar bomb tactics used during the First World War, but the presentation of the overall story was choppy and disjointed. I enjoyed Blu ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm giving this four stars because the subject was so fascinating. The writing, not so much. It felt like it was written by several people, and was just generally unfocused. It could have benefited from a good editor. But...who knew German spies were active in the U.S. prior to her entry into WWI? Why didn't we learn THIS stuff in school?
Pam Sikorski
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Never knew how America got into ww1, now I know, wow, true story about the terrorist from Germany that sank and blew up hundreds of millions of dollars in ships and buildings in this country. I strongly recommend this book. A real eye opener.
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit hard to follow at times, but overall a good recounting of the efforts to discover German saboteurs prior to the entrance of U.S. in WWI.
Bret Kinghorn
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book on a largely unknown course of events. Blum gives the facts as they are, trying to avoid any type of political spin or blame for how it carried on for so long. He does a fantastic job and presents a well rounded, and well researched, view as the events unfolded. Must read for history buffs of both the Wars and the NYPD.
I also found that Blum kept the events consistent with the thoughts and feeling of the era, trying not to impart the benefit of hindsight. It was, after all, a dif
John Nevola
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing

1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America
Howard Blum
World War I Terrorist/Spy Story

While America purported to remain neutral at the outbreak of World War I, Germany was convinced American sympathies were on the side of England and France. The victuals of war necessary for victory were available to the Allies but were denied to Germany. This was more a function of the English fleet blockading the sea approaches to Germany than a political preference by the Un
Last Ranger
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Homeland Security:

In the shadowy world of espionage and counterespionage things are not always what they seem and the truth is often hidden behind a veil of lies. In the US, President Woodrow Wilson was determined to stay out of the "Great War" raging in Europe and remain neutral. But that didn't stop American businesses from selling arms and munitions to the Allied Powers. Germany and the Central Powers were also free to buy war supplies from the US but, due to the UK's Atlantic Blockade, Germ
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book looked incredibly interesting to me. I knew about the U boats, but I had no idea that Germany tried so much espionage during World War I. Throughout reading this book, I kept thinking "Why are they not talking about all this, with all the terrorism we are experiencing from other countries now?" I think more people should know about this. We of course, are very upset about any terrorism that touch our shores, but Al Quaeda and ISIS are not the first countries to pull stunts like this... ...more
The Irregular Reader
I won this book in a GoodReads first reads giveaway.

While this is a subject I had known next to nothing about prior to reading the book, I am always in the lookout for an engaging historical narrative, and Dark Invasion provided an entertaining read.

The book's focus is fairly narrow, focusing mainly on the German Spy/Saboteur ring operating in and around New York City in the year prior to the United States entering World War One. Howard Blum has put together a great spy story from a vast array o
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Howard Blum is the author of New York Times bestsellers including Dark Invasion, the Edgar Award–winner American Lightning, as well as Wanted!, The Gold Exodus, Gangland, and The Floor of Heaven. Blum is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While at the New York Times, he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. He is the father of three children, and lives in Connect ...more
More about Howard Blum...