My rating: 5 of 5 stars
About the Author
Johnnie Alexander creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won’t forget in a variety of genres. An award-winning, best-selling novelist, she serves on the executive boards of Serious Writer, Inc. and the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, co-hosts Writers Chat, and interviews other inspirational authors for Novelists Unwind. Johnnie lives in Oklahoma with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her at www.johnnie-alexander.com and other social media sites via https://linktr.ee/johnniealexndr.
More from Johnnie
American Traitor in WWII
Not all secret messages involve substitution codes where random letters and numbers replace the original letters and numbers. Velvalee Dickinson, a doll collector who owned a doll shop on Madison Avenue in New York City, used jargon code to pass along information to the Japanese about the U.S. ships that had been damaged at Pearl Harbor.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the letters (as originally written):
The only new dolls I have are THREE LOVELY IRISH dolls. One of these three dolls is an old Fisherman with a Net over his back—another is an old woman with wood on her back and the third is a little boy….I can only think of our sick boy these days. You wrote me that you had sent a letter to Mr. Shaw, well I want to see MR. SHAW he distroyed Your letter, you know he has been Ill. His car was damaged but is being repaired now. I saw a few of his family about. They all say Mr. Shaw will be back to work soon.
Velvalee, who the FBI nicknamed The Doll Woman, wrote this letter on her Underwood typewriter. She used the return address and forged the signature of one of her regular customers, Mary Wallace of Springfield, Ohio. Then Velvalee mailed the letter to an address in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Unknown to Velvalee, the Japanese had abandoned the Buenos Aires address as a drop point. The letter was marked “return to sender.” When Mrs. Wallace received it, she turned it in to the Post Office Director in Springfield who passed it along to the FBI.
Cryptographers determined that the letter was written in jargon code. To the casual reader, the letter is about dolls. But the intended recipient would have understood it’s about much more than that.
In this example, only one of five letters given to the FBI between February and August of 1942,
cryptographers decoded the message as follows:
- Old Fisherman with a Net over his back ~ refers to an aircraft carrier which has anti-torpedo nettings on its sides.
- Old woman with wood on her back ~ refers to an older battleship, one made of wood.
- A little boy plus our sick boy ~ a damaged ship.
Cryptographers believed that the words Mr. Shaw and Your were purposely capitalized and that the word distroyed was purposely misspelled to draw attention to them. Mr. Shaw referred to the USS Shaw, a destroyer (distroy + your = destroyer).
The remainder of the letter says Mr. Shaw is ill but “will be back to work soon.”
The ship was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. As the heroine in The Cryptographer’s Dilemma explains, “About two weeks before this letter was written, it [the USS Shaw] was undergoing repairs in San Francisco.”
In the novel, Eloise Marshall is a naval cryptographer who teams up with FBI agent Phillip Clayton, to find the person responsible for forging the signatures on the letters. Their search takes them from Washington, DC to the Springfield, Ohio, to the west coast and back again. On their journey, Eloise will confront an unexpected specter from her past and Phillip will risk his life to save hers.
Life of Literature, August 25
Where Faith and Books Meet, August 25
Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 25
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 26
Reflections From my Bookshelves, August 26
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, August 27
Bizwings Blog, August 27
Daysong Reflections, August 27
Texas Book-aholic, August 28
A Baker’s Perspective, August 28
Inklings and notions, August 29
Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 29
For Him and My Family, August 30
Simple Harvest Reads, August 30 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Older & Smarter?, August 31
Mypreciousbitsandmusings, August 31
Aryn the Libraryan 📚, September 1
Rebecca Tews, September 1
Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, September 2
deb’s Book Review, September 2
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 3
Blossoms and Blessings, September 3
Mary Hake, September 3
Connie’s History Classroom, September 4
A Good Book and Cup of Tea, September 4
Sodbusterliving, September 4
A Modern Day Fairy Tale, September 5
Labor Not in Vain, September 5
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 6
Moments, September 6
Splashes of Joy, September 6
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 7
Pause for Tales, September 7
To celebrate her tour, Johnnie is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
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