Book Review: Battleground New York City: Countering Spies, Saboteurs, and Terrorists since 1861


by Thomas A. Reppetto

Washington: Potomac Books, 2012. Pp. xvi, 286. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 1597976776

Battleground New York City deals with covert operations and espionage in the nation’s principal metropolis from the Civil War to the present.

Reppetto, a police veteran, author, and university instructor, gives us a tale populated with spies, conspirators, gangsters, assassins, bureaucrats, subversives, politicians, nationalists, terrorists, and more, as he recounts the complex nature of threats by both foreign and domestic agents,and the evolution the city’s, and the nation’s, security apparatus.  The first chapter looks at events from outbreak of the Civil War through the early Twentieth Century, when threats were largely domestic, Confederate saboteurs, anti-draft rioters, anarchists, labor struggles, and so forth.  Reppetto follows this with two chapters on events during World War I, when German agents and saboteurs operated in New York.  There follows a chapter covering the “Jazz Age” and the Thirties, during which there were attacks by anarchists and fascist agents, as well as considerable espionage activity, particularly after the rise of Nazism in Germany.  Two chapters are needed to cover the Second World War, due to actions by Axis saboteurs, generally underreported in most histories, as well complex espionage activity by the Axis, Communists, and British.  The Cold War and the “War on Terror” each rate a single chapter.  Although he fails to draw some general conclusions about the evolving problem of domestic security, Reppetto tells a lively tale, and reminds us of many now long-forgotten instances of terrorism in New York.

Useful for the specialist, Battleground New York City is a good survey for the non-specialist in security studies, being both entertaining and informative.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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