Treacherous Passage: Germany's Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I

Treacherous Passage: Germany's Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I

Treacherous Passage: Germany's Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I

Treacherous Passage: Germany's Secret Plot against the United States in Mexico during World War I

Synopsis

While the Great War raged across the trench-lined battlefields of Europe, a hidden conflict took place in the distant hinterlands of the turbulent Mexican Republic. German officials and secret-service operatives plotted to bring war to the United States through an array of schemes and strategies, from training a German-Mexican army for a cross-border invasion, to dispatching saboteurs to disrupt American industry, and planning for submarine bases on the western coast of Mexico.

Bill Mills tells the true story of the most audacious of these operations: the German plot to launch clandestine sea raiders from the Mexican port of Mazatlan to disrupt Allied merchant shipping in the Pacific. The scheme led to a desperate struggle between German and American secret agents in Mexico. German consul Fritz Unger, the director of a powerful trading house, plotted to obtain a salvaged Mexican gunboat to supply U-boats operating off Mexico and to seize a hapless tramp schooner to help hunt Allied merchantmen.

Unger's efforts were opposed by a colorful array of individuals, including a trusted member of the German secret service in Mexico who was also the top American spy, the U.S. State Department's senior officer in Mazatlan, the hard-charging commander of a navy gunboat, and a draft-dodging American informant in the enemy camp. Full of drama and intrigue, Treacherous Passage is the first complete account of the daring German attempts to raid Allied shipping from Mexico in 1918.

Excerpt

The mutiny on board the federal gunboat Tampico began over love for a woman. It was said that twenty-four-year-old Lieutenant Hilario Malpica, the ship’s executive officer, had fallen for a brown-eyed beauty whose family was devoted to the Constitutionalist cause. For weeks, Malpica had secretly plotted to take over the Mexican warship for the Constitutionalist rebel forces. His opportunity came on the night of February 22, 1914, when half the ship’s company had been granted shore leave to celebrate the Carnival at Guaymas. Aided by Rabatet, the paymaster, and engineering officers Estrada and Johnson, Malpica took charge of the remaining crew members, then boldly informed Captain Castellanos and Chief Engineer Smith that their ship was under mutiny, and invited them to join the rebel forces. the invitation was rejected out of hand.

“If you make no resistance you will not be harmed,” Malpica told them evenly, “and at the first opportunity you will be handed over to the federal government.”

His former superiors acquiesced, and the rebels gained their first naval gunboat without a struggle. Now fully in command, Malpica gave orders to set course for Topolobampo on the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico, a port that had recently been captured by the Constitutionalists.

As the Tampico steamed away from Guaymas, Malpica was presented with an incredible opportunity. the federal gunboat Guerrero, unaware of the mutiny on her sister ship, cruised directly across the Tampico’s bow. Standing at the helm, Malpica directed his crew to ram her at full speed. the Tampico was a modern steel-hulled gunboat equipped with a ram bow, and its impact on the unsuspecting Guerrero would have been . . .

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