One hundred years ago, in July 1916, an act of terrorism in New York Harbor changed the world.
"A gripping account of conspiracy."--New York Times
"A ready-made suspense thriller."--Boston Globe
"Exhaustively researched... fascinating."--Entertainment Weekly, 50 Hot Summer Books
The attack in New York Harbor was so explosive that people as far away as Maryland felt the ground shake. Windows were blown out uptown at the New York Public Library; the main building at Ellis Island was nearly destroyed; Statue of Liberty was torn into by shrapnel from the explosion, which would have measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. Chaos overtook Manhattan as the midnight sky turned to fire, lit up with exploding ammunition.
The year was 1916. And it had been shockingly easy.
While war raged in Europe, Americans watched from afar, unthreatened by the danger overseas. Yet the United States was riddled with networks of German spies hiding in plain sight. The attack on New York Harbor was only one part of their plans: secret anthrax facilities were located just ten miles from the White House; bombs were planted on ships, hidden in buildings, and mailed to the country's civic and business leaders; and an underground syndicate helped potential terrorists obtain fake IDs, housing, and money. President Woodrow Wilson knew an attack of this magnitude was possible, and yet nothing was done to stop it. Americans, feeling buffered by miles of ocean and burgeoning prosperity, had ignored the mounting threat.
That all changed on a warm summer evening in late July, when the island in New York Harbor called Black Tom exploded, setting alight a vast store of munitions destined for the front.
Three American lawyers--John McCloy, Amos Peaslee, and Harold Martin--made it their mission to solve the Black Tom mystery. Their hunt for justice would take them undercover to Europe, deep into the shadowy world of secret agents and double-crosses, through the halls of Washington and the capitals of Europe. It would challenge their beliefs in right and wrong. And they would discover a sinister plot so vast it could hardly have been imagined--a conspiracy that stretched from downtown Manhattan to the very heart of Berlin.
The Detonators is the first full accounting of a crime and a cover-up that resonate strongly in a post-9/11 America. And much of the atmosphere and rhetoric in play 100 years ago remains eerily similar to discussions surrounding national security and immigration today. As Millman deftly illustrates in THE DETONATORS, an island may have disappeared, but the resulting lessons have only grown stronger and more urgent, and history has a persistent way of stirring up its ghosts.
This is their story.
Millman (The Odds; Pickup Artists), best known for his sports writing, tackles a fascinating but little-known episode in World War I history: the extensive plot by a network of German spies to wreak havoc in the U.S. Their one big success, he observes, was the massive explosion that blew up a spit of land in New York Harbor next to Liberty Island known as Black Tom, including an ammunition depot, and caused extensive damage throughout Manhattan and Jersey City, with reverberations felt as far south as Philadelphia. Millman has delved into the story deeply and with verve, basing much of this fast-paced, thrillerlike tale on affidavits, briefs, memos and letters from those involved in the plot and the long postwar effort to get to the bottom of it. Although the American government had plenty of clues about who was responsible, nothing of substance was done to solve the mystery until the early 1930s when three American lawyers John McCloy, Amos Peaslee and Harold Martin set out in earnest to investigate it. Millman's emphasis on the personal stories of the main characters involved in hatching the Black Tom plot and those who solved it makes for gripping reading. 8 b&w photos.