As this part of the story only contains three real characters, two German spies and a rouge stealing British military secrets for them, I don't suspect any of us connects with them really.
However, in this story, we get a month and year; the story takes place in August of 1914, just after the start of WWI. The fact that an American is working to aide the Germans is unsurprising, because America did not enter WWI for another 3 years, so Altamont is simply adding to a European war that has no connections to America.
This story is easy to relate to real life, as something similar was no doubt at least attempted. These German spies, Von Bork and Von Herling, had been planning for four years to gather British military secrets for Germany.
Claire, as to your comment about Altamont's name meaning something in another language, I found nothing. However, Altamont is the middle name of Arthur Conan Doyle's father.