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Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
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The Nazi Raid on America

A-SaboteursSecretive men infiltrating the United States? Plots of terror and destruction on American soil? A military tribunal? No, Dobbs’ latest book is not a contemporary look at our post-9/11 world, but rather an excavation of past horrors. Dobbs revisits the story of eight German agents who, armed with explosives and money, landed on the East Coast in June 1942. The plan—hatched by Hitler after America’s entry into the war—entailed the saboteurs spreading out into the country to blow up defense plants, bridges, and railroads. But the mission quickly derailed, and the saboteurs were tried, jailed, and some were executed. Although "Operation Pastorius" failed, it provides one of those chilling "what if" scenarios.
Knopf. 336 pages. $25.

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The title characters of Michael Dobbs’ Saboteurs were like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. … Their story has been told before, but never so fascinatingly as by Dobbs…" Roger K. Miller

Sacramento Bee 4 of 5 Stars
"… a narrative history that reads like a mystery novel and has relevance to the current and ongoing war on terrorism." William Endicott

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"The drama, action and intrigue of this dangerous but failed mission provide one of the greatest stories of our time. Michael Dobbs’ superb research and exceptional writing add to the drama." Jeanne Nicholson

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"…Dobbs skillfully tells the fascinating and timely story of that episode, Operation Pastorius." John Lehman

Winston-Salem Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Michael Dobbs not only knows his stuff but also has a deft touch at making history lively and page-turning. … His intricately crafted tale of would-be saboteurs is a first-rate thriller." Beth Woodard

San Jose Mercury News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dobbs seasons his story with just the right amount of wry, letting the farce play out and keeping the details tidy. … ‘With better luck, better planning and, above all, better leadership, Hitler might have pulled off his gamble,’ Dobbs declares, in a feeble conclusion to an otherwise entertaining and useful book." David L. Beck

Critical Summary

Well-researched, grippingly told, intriguing subject matter—the critics offered high marks for Dobbs, who also wrote Madeleine Albright: A Twentieth Century Odyssey and Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. It’s a "stunning, highly compelling read," notes the Providence Journal. The only slight grumble came from the San Jose Mercury News, which found fault with the ending. Otherwise, reviewers praised Dobbs for his masterly rendering of the story. He expertly analyzes its failure and aftermath as U.S. authorities pieced together the puzzle. The story itself is compelling on its own, but the contemporary parallels, which Dobbs discusses, means the book will likely find an audience beyond readers of World War II literature.

Supplemental Reading

A-BodyguardLiesBodyguard of Lies The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day | Anthony Cave Brown (1975): For a more successful—and Allied—intelligence operation, consider this 1975 classic. Brown looks at the efforts to prepare for the invasion of Europe.