Authors: Robert Conroy
Tags: #Fiction / Historical
I am very grateful for the support given me by my wife Diane, my daughter Maura, my mother, and other family and friends who always encouraged my writing efforts.
I would also like to thank Bob Kane and Dale Wilson of Presidio Press for their willingness to take a chance on a new writer, along with Bob Tate, who edited and shepherded both the novel and the author.
two separate occasions prior to 1901, the United States and Imperial Germany almost fought each other. The first was over Samoa in 1889, and the second was in the Philippines shortly after we took them from Spain. Why? Because Kaiser Wilhelm wanted an empire worthy of the name, and that required coaling stations for his new navy and colonies that his navy could protect.
The results were very real plans to attack the northeastern United States and hold areas hostage to her goals, which were, among other things, to take over much of what we had just taken from Spain. This was to be a limited war, not an attempted conquest of the United States, and would involve limited German forces against what Germany felt was a weak American army and a fragmented navy. The only question is whether they were serious plans or simply war-gaming, called
. Since the attacks never happened, we’ll never be certain.
However, some tantalizing clues indicate that the plans went far beyond the theoretical. Germany did send spies to check out the beaches of New England for landing sites—after earlier determining that an attack on Washington would not be sufficiently disruptive, since, in their words, “neither trade nor industry are of any significance there.” Apparently, politicians were deemed unimportant. The resulting report to Germany further said the attacks should be “unsparing, merciless assaults against northeastern trade and industrial centers.”
The German spies were sent by Admiral Otto von Diedrichs, chief of the Admiralty Staff, and a man who often dealt directly with the kaiser. Additionally, a letter written by Count Alfred von Schlieffen was recently discovered. At the time it was written, he was chief of the German General Staff, where he authored the infamous Schlieffen Plan for World War I. In his letter, General von Schlieffen complained that the attacks would cause a significant drain on the German army’s manpower.
The plans were important enough to be reviewed by those in highest authority in Germany’s army and navy and, quite likely, by Kaiser Wilhelm himself, which indicates that they were more than war-gaming. However serious Kaiser Wilhelm might have been, the crises passed without incident as events in Europe began to take on greater importance. And, as time went on and the U.S. Navy grew stronger, the plans became less and less feasible.
is an attempt to show what might have happened had the kaiser’s Imperial German army landed on American soil.
AR, THOUGHT THE
kaiser, was the natural order of the world, and only fools thought otherwise. It mattered not whether one was referring to animals, as Darwin had, or nations, as he now was. War was the lubricant that drove the successful to greatness and condemned the weak to a deserved obscurity. A nation that did not grow was doomed to shrivel and die. A nation that did not take from the weak was forever doomed to be weak herself. With so much of the world already under the jurisdiction of other powers, it was obvious that the essential growth that would spur Imperial Germany into the twentieth century could come only at the expense of others. Bismarck had understood that, but only to a point. To Kaiser Wilhelm II, it was a picture seen with utter clarity. For Germany’s sake, he thanked God it was he who ruled the empire for the past twelve years. He was the grandson of the man who had, with Bismarck’s help, formed the state of Germany. He was the descendant of Prussian kings whose military skills were feared; nevertheless, he had not yet fought a war. Worse, he knew that his English relatives thought him inadequate and had mocked him since his childhood. They would learn, he seethed; the world would learn.
The kaiser squinted and tried to see out the rain-streaked window of the small office on the second floor of the chancellery. On the street below, a handful of people out on the ugly night scurried for cover from the cold wet rain that had originated in the North Sea. They had, the kaiser smiled to himself, just lost a minor war with the elements. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the window ledge. He was always impatient of late. If he hadn’t been so impatient, he would have convened this meeting in the more convivial atmosphere of one of his residences and resolved matters over brandy and cigars. But no, he was in this dismal and sparsely furnished little room that would have better served as the office of a postal clerk than an emperor.
Yet perhaps this way was more advantageous. The pomp of a formal meeting would have attracted the noses of the swinish liberal press, or, worse, the Socialist creatures who inhabit the Reichstag.
Behind him, he heard the door open and close and the last of his invitees take one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs. He turned and confronted the handful of men. In the poor light of the small office, they looked nothing like the powers who ran the empire in his name and at his call. All of them, however, had “von” preceding their surname. This indicated their stature as Junker nobility who came from that bleak Prussia their forebears had conquered from the Slavs so many centuries ago. Prussia was the military soul of the new German Empire.
Of the four men, the kaiser controlled three. They were all older than he by at least a decade. That fact made him slightly uncomfortable, and he often had to fight to control his insecurities.
Alfred von Tirpitz was the architect of the expanding navy they both wanted to be second to none, not even England’s. Bald, burly, and grim, his face obscured by a long and full forked beard, he burned with an ambition for an overseas empire the kaiser shared with a passion. Their navy was now the second largest in the world, although still dwarfed by England’s.
Count Alfred von Schlieffen, a slight, gray-haired man who looked more like a scholar than a soldier, was chief of the Imperial General Staff and led the Imperial Army, which was already second to none in quality and fighting ability, and second only to the Russian army in size. Since the Germans considered the Russians to be little more than barbarians, the difference in the size of their armies was not considered important. It was significant, however, that the mighty Imperial Army, with the exceptions of the short war against Denmark and the punitive expedition against China, had been underoccupied for almost thirty years. That was far too long. An army that does not wage war can soon forget how to fight.
For that matter, he reminded himself, his navy had never fought in all its existence.
Mustachioed Bernhard von Bulow was the kaiser’s choice for chancellor. Although some considered him a sycophant and a toady, the kaiser thought him loyal and cooperative. Replacing other chancellors, particularly Bismarck, who had balked at implementing the Imperial ideas, Bulow was ideal for Kaiser Wilhelm.
The fourth person was the heavyset, enigmatic, and mysterious Friedrich von Holstein. Nicknamed the Jesuit because of his secretive ways and a preference for manipulation rather than confrontation, he had run the foreign affairs of the German Empire from his office in his home on the Wilhelmstrasse for more than a decade. The oldest of the four men, Holstein was both feared and respected, even by the kaiser. Holstein’s favored way of deterring the will of the kaiser was to avoid receiving orders. Thus it was rumored that the two had met face to face only a handful of times over the last dozen years, and it was only the veiled threat of a level of force that saw the angry and uncomfortable Holstein present at this meeting. Even so, Holstein was a loyal German. If the kaiser commanded, Holstein would obey. In his younger days, he had been the protégé of the subsequently dismissed Bismarck. This, too, caused the kaiser to deal with Holstein cautiously.
The kaiser cleared his throat and began his prepared comments. “Gentlemen, the empire is at a critical point in its young history, and direct action is needed in order to ensure that the German nation continues its inexorable journey to its destiny.”
The two military men appeared interested, Bulow looked enraptured, and Holstein seemed puzzled.
“The recent war between the United States and Spain has left the United States with an oceanic empire and a position on the world stage as a major player. The United States is neither ready nor worthy of such honor. It is my firm belief that what the United States has taken from the stupid, corrupt, and incompetent Spaniards rightfully belongs to Germany.”
Now he had them, Wilhelm exulted; even Holstein looked intrigued.
“Consider the German Empire. Unlike England’s, ours is landlocked and confined to continental Europe. Of course, we have a few square miles of useless desert or jungle in Africa and a rock or two in the Pacific, but hardly an empire when compared with the overseas possessions of England, Portugal, Holland, Spain, Belgium, and, now, the United States.
“Yet we have the greatest army in the world.” He bowed to Schlieffen, who smiled. “And the fastest-growing navy in the world that is now second only to England’s.” He nodded to Tirpitz, a man of powerful build who hid a stern visage behind his beard. He never smiled in front of his kaiser. Tirpitz was also aware that second to England was an extremely distant second, and that the German navy was only slightly larger than those of France, Italy, or the damned United States.
The kaiser continued. “The great Bismarck did not understand this. He cared nothing for overseas colonies and let many opportunities slip through his fingers. Fortunately, it is not too late. We are building a great navy to protect our overseas interests. But we do not yet have many overseas interests to protect. It is even more appalling that our warships must refuel and resupply in British-controlled ports. We do not have enough coaling stations to permit our fleet to sail without begging permission to dock from some other European power. If the time ever came that Britain decided to deny us entry to their colonial ports, we would be unable to leave Germany. That, gentlemen, is intolerable!”