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TThe Fourth Horseman

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The Fourth Horseman: One Man's Mission to Wage the Great War in America. By Robert Koenig. (PublicAffairs: 2006. Pg. 376.) ISBN: 1586483722.

Reviewed by Herbert White - April 13, 2007

Germ Warfare has a long and varied history from plage victims being catapulted over the walls of besieged cities to the release of biological weapons in subway systems. It was not, however, until the first World War that biological weapons (as well as chemical weapons) became an institutionalized military weapon and very useful in sabotage efforts. In this book, The Fourth Horseman, Robert Koenig chronicles the actions of Dr. Anton Dilger, an American citizen and German spy. In 1915, German intelligence sent Dilger, a trained microbiologist, to the United States to start up a secret weapon's lab to manufacture anthrax and glanders cultures with the intended purpose of using them to infect and kill, or disable, as many horses and mules as possible in order to keep them from being used by the United States and her allies in the fight against Germany. At the time, pack animals were still a crucial logistical and battlefield tool.

Koenig is a journalist who is currently a Contributing Correspondent for Science magazine. In this book he examines Dilger's motives for working for the Germans and how he carried out his assignments. In addition to setting up his secret lab Dilger was also assigned the task of trying to bring Mexico into the war on the side of Germany. At the same time, Koenig also takes a look at German-American's as a whole, and what their relationship, and feelings, were for their new homeland - as well as the old.

The Fourth Horseman is a fascinating book, especially in light of the current 'fears' about bioterrorism. This book also illustrates that 'racial' profiling doesn't work when it comes to terrorists and spies. Dilger was an all-American boy. He was the son of a decorated Civil War veteran, and he was raised and educated in the United States. For some reason, however, he never accepted the United States as his home, and when he went to Germany to receive his medical training, he was easily turned by German operatives.

Well-researched and authoritative, The Fourth Horseman is as entertaining as it is informative. This book will enthrall not only those seeking to read an outstanding espionage book, but also military and World War I historians, and those interested in germ warfare and biological terrorism.


Related Reviews:

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, By Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad.
An in-depth look at America's secret biological warfare research and the current efforts underway to thwart a biological attack, and the threat posed by biological weapons, and bioterroism.

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, By Gina Kolata.
In this book, Kolata offers the reader an in-depth look at the 1918 influenza pandemic; including what influenza is, the effects that the epidemic had both politically and culturally, and its long term aftereffects.

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