Seventy years ago, the Japanese Navy launched an attack on Pearl Harbor. The vicious assault killed over 2,000 people, damaged some 300 planes, and crippled 18 vessels. In the aftermath, FBI Agents conducted a secret raid on the New Yorker magazine’s offices. They were searching for clues related to a code…a code which may have been used to alert Japanese spies to the attack. What was the Pearl Harbor Code?
The Deadly Double & Pearl Harbor?
Sixteen days before the Pearl Harbor attack, a “teaser advertisement” appeared in the New Yorker. The text read “Achtung! Warning! Alerte!” Underneath, readers were encouraged to “See Advertisement Page 86.” The ad also contained two dice and was apparently placed by a company named Monarch Publishing Co. A second advertisement ran on page 86. It contained a strange picture of people playing dice in an air-raid shelter, repeated the “Achtung! Warning! Alerte!” text, and referred to a game called “The Deadly Double.”
After Pearl Harbor, American civilians became extra-vigilant about foreign spies and saboteurs. Thousands of rumors and tips flooded into FBI Headquarters. One of the most prominent tips was in regard to “The Deadly Double” advertisement. Hundreds of readers suspected it was a coded message, designed to alert Japanese and Nazi spies about the upcoming attack.
Was the Deadly Double a Coded Message about the Pearl Harbor Attack?
According to John Costello’s The Pacific War: 1941-1945, the numbers on the dice might have meant “0” hour for a “double cross” on “12”/”7″ at “5” out of “24” hours. Another interpretation comes from the 1982 Reader’s Digest book, Mysteries of the Unexplained. That work concluded that the numbers 12 and 7 refer to December 7. 5 and 0 were suspected to be the planned time of the attack. XX, or 20 in Roman Numerals, was the approximate latitude for Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the number 24 was unknown (although possibly some sort of code designation).
On the Page 86 ad, the top part of the drawing was viewed as a depiction of three airplanes flying over Pearl Harbor, complete with searchlight beams, antiaircraft shells, and even an exploding bomb on the surface of the water. “The Deadly Double” was believed to stand for two of the Axis Powers, namely Germany and Japan. And finally, the double-headed eagle at the bottom of the ad appeared to be a combination of the two versions of the Nazi’s Iron Eagles.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
So, was the Pearl Harbor Code a real attempt to warn Japanese and Nazi spies about Pearl Harbor? Or was it just a coincidence? According to Reader’s Digest, the advertisement turned out to be legitimate. The ads were supposedly placed by a Mr. and Mrs. Roger Craig. The investigation of the Craig family was kept under wraps until 1967 when Ladislas Farago broke the story prior to the release of his book, The Broken Seal. At the time, Craig’s widow was said to have stated that any connection between the ad and the attack was nothing more than a coincidence.
However, that’s just one side of the story. According to William F. Breuer’s book Unexplained Mysteries of World War II…
“FBI agents discovered that the advertisement had been placed by the Monarch Trading Company (a dummy corporation). A white male, who had not given his name, had brought the plates for the ad to the New Yorker offices and had paid in cash. He had not given his address. Curiously, the man the FBI would identify as the suspect apparently met a sudden, violent death a few weeks later.”
Which story is correct? Did the FBI truly get to the bottom of the incident? If so, was the Code just a big coincidence? Or was it something more? Unfortunately, the available evidence is contradictory. So, until more information comes to light, the Pearl Harbor Code will remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of World War II.