One Of Those (Perhaps) Unexplainable Things
|The New Yorker, 22 November 1941, featuring a child wearing a Hitler mask.|
World War II certainly had plenty of odd occurrences, but one of the oddest occurred far from any battlefield. It is the so-called" Deadly Double mystery. about Pearl Harbor. This is not a tale of alleged space aliens such as Foo Fighters or anything like that. It may be pure coincidence and just shows that, even when the odds are impossibly stacked against a certain thing happening - sometimes it happens anyway. Fortunately, there is a solution that shows this indeed was all coincidence - maybe.
|A warning to CINCPAC dated 1 February 1941 warning of a contemplated Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.|
First, a brief background on the state of affairs in November 1941. Hitler's Germany was at war with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, but the United States was at peace. The Germans were pounding on the gates of Moscow, having launched Operation Typhoon, their pincer attack on Moscow, on 2 October 1941. Relations between the United States and the Axis powers were correct, but strained due to what Adolf Hitler viewed as unwarranted and illegal US favoritism toward the UK and, more recently, the USSR. President Roosevelt and his Joint Chiefs of Staff anticipated a coming conflict in the Pacific, even having gone as far as engaging in joint planning with the British and Dutch concerning combined operations after a declaration of war. Things were tense, and everyone was waiting for something to happen, something big.
One day in November 1941, a nondescript white male walked into the offices of the New Yorker. In accordance with the fashions of the day, he no doubt was wearing a business suit, fedora and perhaps a raincoat. The man carried with him ad plates that had been set somewhere else - perhaps by himself. He handed over the ad matrix to the receptionist with a request that they be included in the upcoming issue of the magazine, paid, and left. The incident was not at all unusual, and little note was taken of it. Upon review, the ads - for there were several of them, to be placed on different pages of the magazine in a set sequence , with most referring to one main ad - were found to be acceptable. They found their way into the Saturday, 22 November 1941 issue.
|The first "Deadly Double" ad.|
In accordance with the tenor of the times, the ads made a clear reference to the European conflict. The teaser ads were cryptic, with the text "Achtung Warning Alerte! See Advertisement Page 86." Below that were two dice, portrayed as being in mid-roll. Below them was the name of the organization that had placed the ad, a certain "Monarch Publishing Co., New York."
So far, so good. Military-themed ads were certainly not unusual at the time. One then flipped to page 86 for the main advertisement.
|The main "Deadly Double" ad on page 86 of the 22 November 1941 New Yorker.|
The main ad was also a bit cryptic, but at least referenced the purpose of the ad:
We hope you’ll never have to spend a long winter’s night in an air-raid shelter, but we were just thinking…it’s only common sense to be prepared. If you’re not too busy between now and Christmas, why not sit down and plan a list of the things you’ll want to have on hand…Canned goods, of course, and candles, Sterno, bottled water, sugar, coffee or tea, brandy, and plenty of cigarettes, sweaters and blankets, books or magazines, vitamin capsules…And though it’s no time, really, to be thinking of what’s fashionable, we bet that most of your friends will remember to include those intriguing dice and chips which make Chicago’s favorite game: THE DEADLY DOUBLE.So, it was all just an advertisement for a board game. Fair enough. What "Chicago" had to do with it was a bit unclear, but it's always nice that a game is particularly liked somewhere.
|A typical ad in the 22 November 1941 New Yorker.|
There, our "mystery" well could have ended. The ad was a bit odd, but one could attribute that to the board game's theme. Perhaps the oddest thing about the ad was that there apparently was no such board game - it didn't seem to be in any stores, and one would think that an advertisement for a product would at least tell you where to buy it. You know "On sale at Macy's!" or something like that. But, if there was no product to buy, there could be no such information. If there were no product, though, why place the ad? So, the whole thing was a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped inside ... ok, you've heard that one.
|German raider Atlantis, sunk on 22 November 1941.|
The date of that edition of The New Yorker, 22 November 1941, was fairly ordinary, but the day did have its moments. In the South Atlantic, midway between Brazil and Africa, Royal Navy cruiser HMS Devonshire, after a long search, finally found and sank German raider Atlantis. In the Reich, air ace Werner Moelders perished in a plane crash while flying back to his post from another funeral. Overall, it was a good day for the Allies, though the Wehrmacht under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock remained on the march on the outskirts of Moscow and appeared destined to take the city.
|One of the advertisements in The New Yorker, on left middle.|
There things lay into December 1941. The cryptic ad was good - people remembered it - but the enigma of what it was supposed to achieve remained in the back of people's minds.
|The New York Times, 8 December 1941.|
Then, the "big thing" that people had been waiting for happened. The Japanese Kidō Butai (also known as the Carrier Striking Task Force) set sail from Hittokapu Bay, Japan under Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo on 26 November 1941. The carrier force arrived in Hawaiian waters on Sunday December 7, 1941 (Hawaiian time, the fleet itself remained on Tokyo time throughout). On that day, 7 December 1941, sixteen days after the date of The New Yorker carrying the Deadly Double ad, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. This surprise raid took the country by surprise, sent hordes of young men to the recruiting stations, and for some reason made some people remember the strange little ads in The New Yorker.
|Close-up of the dice in the Deadly Double ad.|
Upon the outbreak of war, there was great concern about "Fifth Columnists" and Axis spies. The FBI went into action, rounding up Axis nationals, interning ethnic Japanese, and pursuing leads that might lead to spies. Some readers alerted the FBI, and they began investigating. The G-men deemed the ad suspicious for several reasons. First, the numbers on the dice include "12" and then "7," which could be interpreted as code for 12/7, or December 7th - the date of the Pearl Harbor attack. The meaning of the other two numbers were less certain, but the "24" could have referred to the latitude of Pearl Harbor, which actually is at 21°21'11.21"N but, well, close enough. Various interpretations of the "5" and the "0" were offered, such as the number of spies, the "Fifth Columnists," and so forth. The "XX" on one of the die - obviously not something that normally appears on dice - could be interpreted to mean "Double Cross."
The main ad featured searchlights and people in a shelter, obviously suggesting an air raid, with planes flying above what could be water. The ad repeated the "Double Cross" logo, this time on a German double eagle. People pored over the ad, and the more they did, the more various alternative interpretations for the numbers were offered.
|Does the way that lamp and its light are drawn resemble... a rising sun?|
For instance, the "5" and "24" were interpreted as signifying that the attack would occur on the 5th hour of the 24-hour day (it actually took place in the seventh and eighth hours), and the "XX" could be an alternative indication of the latitude of the attack in Roman Numerals, XX meaning 20 (which at least is closer to 21 than 24 is). In an overarching sense, the "Deadly Double" could mean Japan and Germany.
The FBI did not turn up much. The address given by the man who had placed the ad, 500 Fifth Avenue in New York City, was found to be a normal office building that just so happened to house the Japanese Consulate, but that was just one of many tenants. "Monarch Publishing Co." could not be located, or the game being advertised. The FBI did not find anything to implicate anyone - the purpose of any FBI investigation - and eventually dropped the case. The LA Times also decided to investigate - apparently this was good cocktail-party chatter - and in May 1942 veteran journalist Chapin Hall tracked down a man named Roger Paul Craig. Craig claimed to the associated with Monarch Publishing Company - about which nothing else could be learned, and which today is widely assumed to be a dummy corporation. He told Hall that he had placed the ad and that there was nothing untoward about it - he simply had placed an ad for a board game he was developing. Hall quoted Craig:
Nothing travels as far and fast as a grossly inaccurate and malicious rumor.Well, this one travelled further than most, because the story does not end here. The Hall piece went on:
If these seem farfetched,” Roger Paul Craig, an officer of the company, tells us, “you should see the complicated evidence that was marshaled to show that the numbers on the dice which the game (the Deadly Double) is played clearly announced the date of the forthcoming attack, 12-7. In other acrostic arrangements of the visible numerals, together with incongruous calculations based on the number of advertisements and the page numbers in the magazine, an additional code message to alleged Axis agents was read into the copy.Craig died in 1946, apparently in an auto accident.
|A memorandum of the Sixth Naval District, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, dated 14 August 1942.|
There the matter again could have rested, as it at least now had a name to back it up. However, the ad remained a topic of conversation, and eventually even the Intelligence service of the US Navy decided it was time to investigate. However, nothing came of that investigation, either.
|Japanese diplomats leaving the USS Missouri, 2 September 1945.|
The war continued on to its conclusion, with the Japanese capitulating in August 1945 and signing terms of surrender on 2 September 1945 aboard the USS Missouri. That would seem to end our story - but it doesn't.
|Erich von Däniken's 1968 "Chariots of the Gods," an example of the creative historical sleuthing of the 1960s.|
The decades flew by, and society moved on from World War II as best it could. However, in the 1960s there was a surge in interest in conspiracy theories and "alternative history." Perhaps the former was generated by the November 22, 1963 (there's that date again) assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the latter by a rejection of authority and the establishment by Baby Boomers. Whatever the cause, on 12 March 1967, the New York Times published an interview that reopened the whole "Deadly Double" issue. A novelist pushing his book "The Broken Seal: "Operation Magic" and the Secret Road to Pearl Harbor" (Doubleday, 1967), Hungarian Lasislas Farago, gave an interview in which he claimed outright that the "Deadly Double" ad had been a coded message to Axis agents warning them about the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor. This, he said, was their cue to leave the country so they would not be rounded up. However, Farago at least did not pretend to have all the answers, admitting he had no idea what the "24" on the die meant, for instance.
|"The Broken Seal" (1967) by Lasislas Farago.|
Farago did not himself add much to the story. His tale of "The Deadly Double" was just part of his attempt to generate interest in his conspiracy theory that President Roosevelt and his administration had plenty of warning about Pearl Harbor.
Farago is a known quantity, and he was a well-known author. His 1963 book "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" eventually was adapted into the George C. Scott film "Patton" (1970). He claimed to have been a U.S. intelligence officer during World War II, but that part is a little less certain. In any event, his interview reached a lot of readers, and one of them was a certain Mrs. E. Shaw Cole in Montclair, New Jersey. She immediately contacted the New York Times on the same day that the Farago interview ran. As published in the 13 March 1967 edition of the New York Times, she claimed to have helped her husband, Craig, prepare the advertisements, which were intended to promote their board game. As stated in the Times' follow-up:
Mrs. Cole said that she and her late husband were visited by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Pearl Harbor but that the relationship of the ads to the attack was just “one big coincidence.So, apparently it was all a big rumor, as Craig had claimed in 1942.
|The OSS symbol.|
Mrs. Cole added one tidbit of information to the story. She claimed that Roger Paul Craig, who she had divorced at some later point, had joined the Office of Strategic Services — the military progenitor of the CIA — during World War II. In any event, Farago told the New York Times "What can I say?" and called Mrs. Cole to apologize. Doubleday took the "Deadly Double" story out of his book. So, we're done with the story, right? Well, maybe. And, maybe not.
|Deadly Double game and rule book.|
The story has not died. In fact, it remains a perennial of conspiracy theorists. Extensive sleuthing has turned up that there indeed was a game called "The Deadly Double," and it included the type of dice shown in the advertisement.
It always had been a bit mysterious whether such a game actually existed - both Cole and Craig hedged around that issue. We can definitely verify that there is such a game, exactly as described in the advertisements and using the same imagery and typeface - now. Whether it existed in 1941 is a little harder to determine.
Cole's offhand "admission" that Craig was a member of the precursor of the CIA set off alarm bells. Many choose to believe that both Craig and Cole were CIA agents planted to end speculation about the cryptic ads. The conspiracy theorists also claim that the game - of which there is no record until fairly recently, and apparently only a few copies and pictures exist of it - is a carefully crafted forgery. While a Roger Paul Craig living in Mamaroneck Bay, New York during the time had a wife named Vivien, note that her name does not begin with "E" as with the woman later claiming to be his wife. Perhaps the New York Times simply wrote the name of the 1967 caller down wrong, who knows, it happens. There remains no evidence of Monarch Publishing Co. aside from the ads themselves and the unverified statements of Craig and Cole. Basically, there is no evidence of anything, aside from the statements of two long-gone people and the pictures you see before you in this article and what they purport to represent.
I can well imagine that you believe that we are pushing a conspiracy theory here because, well, there's the game itself! How dumb must you be to not believe your own eyes! Well, no. This is just a recitation of facts, and you are invited to draw your own conclusions. If you hate conspiracy theories and those who contribute to them, consider this a debunking. If you believe there remain unexplained aspects to all this - and this tale of purported espionage has been peddled as recently as Craig Nelson’s "Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016) - maybe the truth really is out there.