Review – Target: America, Hitler’s Plan to Attack the United States by James P. Duffy

What a great idea for a book: a review of the all the German plans, some completely bonkers, some plausible, to strike back at the United States during the Second World War. One of the striking things about that war (and the First World War as well) is that at no point was the security of the American homeland in any real danger. No other major power had that experience in the war, and most suffered terrible and ongoing attacks.

The German plans (and some Italian ones thrown in as well) included long range bombers that could be refuelled over the Atlantic by U-boats, early versions of intercontinental ballistic missiles, midget submarines and even a “space plane” that would bomb U.S. cities from the upper stratosphere. Most of the ideas generated some memos and little more. The author has found some lovely “artists impressions” of weapons that were never — thankfully — built.

So, yes, a great idea for a book. But sadly, not a very good book. The author seems to rely entirely on popular secondary sources, many quoted so often that one wonders how much research actually went into the book. And there are loads of glaring errors (there is no such country as “Columbia” nor a people called “Columbians”; the Germans had not yet invaded the USSR in 1940, and so on).

The constant references to “us” (meaning Americans) is strange, in particular when jumping forward decades. To write that Osama Bin Laden “underestimated the American people and then paid severely for it” in a book published in 2004 when the terrorist leader had not even be caught yet is, well, odd.

Perhaps if the author had focussed on one or two of the plans and done serious research on them, this would have been a more interesting book.