The Fourth Horseman: One Man's Secret Campaign to Fight the Great War in America, Robert Koenig, Public Affairs Publisher, 376 pages, 2006, photographs, notes, index, $26.00.
Hugo Dilger, German immigrant and Federal artillery battery commander during the Civil War In 1915, after the war farmed near Front Royal, Virginia. A son, Anton Dilger, was born in America and became a surgeon and germ research specialist in Germany. He was recruited immediately before World War I by German intelligence, moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and set up a basement laboratory in order to produce anthrax and glanders bacteria. The target? Not people but horses and mules. America supplied a majority of the beasts to Allied armies in Europe. Dilger also traveled mission Mexico into war before the Zimmerman Telegram was discovered.
The author broadens the scope of his work by including German sabotage of American munitions plants and Pancho Villa's invasion of Texas from Mexico. The allegiance of German immigrants during the war is briefly discussed. Also presented is Dilger's lack of regard for his American citizenship and medical research ethics.
Readers are shown the care, feeding, and transport of horses to Europe. The Author provides descriptions of the dank, dim and depressing trans-Atlantic shipping of horses and mules, their starvation and death on the European battlefield, and the post-war slaughter or abandonment to French and Belgian farmers and butcher shops.
Dilger used aliases in Germany, the U.S., Mexico and Spain, he died of complications of influenza, which at the time was a world pandemic. Dying under an alias, there is no gravestone with Anton Dilger's name on it. Koenig's narrative moves at a slower pace than the reader's attention and some descriptions seem a bit more detailed than necessary. Though some readers may call the descriptions lavish. Overall the story is delivered well and keeps this reader's attention. The story's conclusion is disheartening: the German-American doctor is dying without medical attention in Spain, other German researchers continue their work into World War II, and no one is held accountable for infecting animals and killing munition workers. Koenig effectively quotes John LeCarre on the nature of those who practice espionage and it is a damning judgment on Dilger's life.