This compelling new book traces the beginnings of modern germ warfare to a modest cottage six miles from the White House. "The Fourth Horseman" tells the startling story of Anton Dilger, a brilliant but conflicted American-German surgeon who became one of Germany's most daring spies and saboteurs during World War I. Dilger, (the son of a German emigre who had entered the US to fight for the Union at Gettysburg) trained as a doctor and was practicing in a Heidelberg hospital when war broke out in 1914. He stayed in Germany to treat the victims of the trenches, and it was during this time that he was approached to carry out a secret mission for the German Army. The mission, (carried out back in his native America in a rented house a short distance from the White House), involved cultivating deadly anthrax germs and using the disease to infect and kill horses which were bred in their hundreds of thousands for the British and French armies, and shipped across the Atlantic. The full story of this unlikely pioneer of biological warfare has never been told before in full, and Dilger offers a fascinating analogy 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 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 he worked for them.
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(236mm x 156mm x 26mm)
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
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US Kirkus Review »
Convoluted tale of an American-born doctor who attempted to sabotage the U.S. effort against Germany in World War I.Journalist Koenig's reconstruction of the Anton Dilger story ultimately feels like a series of ironies, coincidences, near- coincidences and rumored possibilities. Dilger (1884-1918, barring, as the author suggests, a slim possibility that he faked his death) was born on the family farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, son of a German immigrant who rose to the rank of general as a renowned Union cavalry officer in the Civil War. Having returned to Germany for an extensive education culminating in medical school, he got involved as an army surgeon at the outset of hostilities in the Balkans in 1915; family and friends were already noting that he showed little interest in reestablishing American residency. At some point, with America poised to enter the War after German U-boats sank the Lusitania, Dilger went to German intelligence operatives with the idea that he could return to the U.S. as a spy and, ultimately, "germ saboteur." The hero cavalryman's turncoat son then set up a secret lab in Chevy Chase, Md., outside Washington, where he produced blanders and anthrax bacilli that would be used to infect horses being shipped to Europe to support the military; stevedores in U.S. ports were paid by German agents to do the actual inoculations. But Dilger's germ warfare plan was hardly effective: Perhaps one percent of all Allied war animals died of the diseases, leaving the reader to ponder the point of its lengthy treatment here. He moved on to Mexico to foment anti-U.S. activity, also without significant consequence, before dying of Spanish flu in Madrid.German-American equestrians, full charge; all others may safely pass. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Robert Koenig
Robert L Koenig is an award-winning journalist and science writer. He has written about Germany for more than two decades, and his article about Nazi-era research abuses helped convince Germany's leading scientific institutions to offer their first formal apologies to Holocaust survivors in 2001. He has reported from two dozen countries for several major publications including The Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine and the International Herald Tribune.