The Case of the Treasonous Dolls


The facts of the case are odd.

Five letters were written in early 1942 and mailed by seemingly different people in different U.S. locations to the same person at a Buenos Aires, Argentina, address.


In early 1942, five letters were written and mailed by seemingly different people in different U.S. locations to the same person at an address in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Even more strangely, all of them bounced “Return to Sender”—and the “senders” on the return address (women in Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, and Washington state) knew nothing about the letters and had not sent them.

The FBI learned about all this when wartime censors intercepted one letter postmarked in Portland, Oregon, puzzled over its strange contents, and referred it to cryptographers at the FBI Laboratory. These experts concluded that the three “Old English dolls” left at “a wonderful doll hospital” for repairs might well mean three warships being repaired at a west coast naval shipyard; that “fish nets” meant submarine nets; and that “balloons” referred to defense installations.

One of the letters, supposedly sent by a Mary Wallace of Springfield, Ohio, did indicate her home address – 1808 E High Street – but had been postmarked in New York, a place she had never been. The letter, primarily discussing dolls, contained references to a “Mr. Shaw, who had been ill but would be back to work soon.” The letter corresponded to information that the destroyer USS Shaw, which had been damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack, completed repairs on the West Coast and was soon to rejoin the Pacific Fleet.

Another letter, given to the FBI in August of that year and said to have been written by a woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was postmarked from Oakland, California. That letter, written in February, made reference to seven small dolls which the writer stated would be altered to look as though they were “seven real Chinese dolls”, designed to mimic a family of parents, grandparents and three children. The FBI determined that the letter was written shortly after a convoy of ships had arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. The letter contained certain details about the ships, that if made public, would have been detrimental to the war effort.


The FBI immediately opened an investigation.

It was May 20, 1942, when a woman in Seattle turned over the crucial second letter. It said, “The wife of an important business associate gave her an old German bisque Doll dressed in a Hulu Grass skirt…I broke this awful doll…I walked all over Seattle to get someone to repair it….”


In short order, the FBI turned up the other letters. It determined that all five were using “doll code” to describe vital information about U.S. naval matters. All had forged signatures that had been made from authentic original signatures. All had typing characteristics that showed they were typed by the same person on different typewriters. How to put these clues together?

It was the woman in Colorado who provided the big break. She, like the other purported letter senders, was a doll collector, and she believed that a Madison Avenue doll shop owner, Mrs. Velvalee Dickinson, was responsible. She said Ms. Dickinson was angry with her because she’d been late paying for some dolls she’d ordered. That name was a match: the other women were also her customers.


Who was Velvalee Malvena Dickinson? Basically, a mystery. She was born in California and lived there until she moved with her husband to New York City in 1937. She opened a doll shop on Madison Avenue that same year, catering to wealthy doll collectors and hobbyists, but she struggled to keep it afloat. It also turned out that she had a long and close association with the Japanese diplomatic mission in the U.S.—and she had $13,000 in her safe deposit box traceable to Japanese sources.

Following her guilty plea on July 28, 1944, Ms. Dickinson detailed how she’d gathered intelligence at U.S. shipyards and how she’d used the code provided by Japanese Naval Attaché Ichiro Yokoyama to craft the letters. What we’ll never know is why the letters had been, thankfully, incorrectly addressed.



FBI Laboratory examination of all five letters confirmed that the signatures on the letters were not genuine, but were forgeries which the experts decided were prepared from original signatures in the possession of the forger. The examination also showed that the typewriter used in the preparation of the letters was different in each case, but that the typing characteristics indicated that the letters were prepared by the same person.

The conclusion reached by the FBI cryptographers was that an open code was used in the letters, which attempted to convey information on the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly the ships of the U.S. Navy, their location, condition, and repair, with special emphasis on the damage of such vessels at Pearl Harbo


On February 11, 1944, Velvalee Malvena Dickinson was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for violation of the censorship statutes, conviction of which could result in a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

She pleaded not guilty and was held in lieu of $25,000 bail. A continuing investigation by the FBI resulted in a second indictment on May 5, this time on charges of violating espionage statutes, the Trading with the Enemy Act, tradingwithenemy00natirichand the censorship statutes, conviction of which carried the death penalty. She pleaded not guilty and was released on the same bail.On July 28, 1944, a plea bargain was made between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Dickinson in which the espionage and Trade Act indictments were dismissed and she pleaded guilty to the censorship violation and agreed to furnish information in her possession concerning Japanese intelligence activities.

After pleading guilty, she admitted that she had typed the five forged letters addressed to Argentina, using correspondence with her customers to forge their signatures.

She claimed the information compiled in her letters was from asking innocent and unsuspecting citizens in Seattle and San Francisco near the location of the Navy yards there, as well as some details from personal observation. She stated that the letters transmitted information about ships damaged at Pearl Harbor and that the names of the dolls corresponded to a list that explained the type of ships involved. She furthermore stated that the code to be used in the letters, instructions for use of the code, and $25,000 in $100 bills had been passed to her husband by Yokoyama around November 26, 1941, in her doll store at 718 Madison Avenue for the purpose of supplying information to the Japanese. She repeated her claims that the money had been hidden in her husband’s bed until his death.

However, an investigation by the FBI refuted those claims, disclosing that while Dickinson had been a friend of Yokoyama, her husband had never met him. It was also learned that a physical examination done on him at the time indicated that his mental faculties were impaired at the time of the supposed payment. Both a nurse and a maid employed by the Dickinsons at the time emphatically stated that no money had ever been concealed there.

Velvalee Dickinson appeared in court for sentencing on August 14, 1944. Upon sentencing, the court commented:

It is hard to believe that some people do not realize that our country is engaged in a life and death struggle. Any help given to the enemy means the death of American boys who are fighting for our national security. You, as a natural-born citizen, having a University education, and selling out to the Japanese, were certainly engaged in espionage. I think that you have been given every consideration by the Government. The indictment to which you have pleaded guilty is a serious matter. It borders close to treason. I, therefore, sentence you to the maximum penalty provided by the law, which is ten years and $10,000 fine.

Still maintaining her innocence and claiming that her ,at that stage deceased. husband had been the Japanese spy, Dickinson was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution for Women (now the Alderson Federal Prison Camp) in Alderson, West Virginia. She was released with conditions on April 23, 1951.





I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks




Coco Chanel-Fascist designer


During the Second World War, many well-known fashion brands were accused of collaborating with the Nazis. However, Coco Chanel, the iconic founder of the luxury brand, is not only accused of fraternizing with high-level Nazi officials but that she capitalized on her powerful connections to oust Jewish business partners in her company. Her loyalty to the German party did not end there.

Recent French documents revealed that she also may have been Agent 7124 (Codename: “Westminster”) for the Nazi intelligence organization, the Abwehr.


In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops, maintaining her apartment situated above the couture house at 31 Rue de Cambon. She claimed that it was not a time for fashion; as a result of her action, 4,000 female employees lost their jobs.   Her dislike of Jews, reportedly inculcated by her convent years and sharpened by her association with society elites, had solidified her beliefs. She shared with many of her circle a conviction that Jews were a threat to Europe because of the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union.

During the German occupation, Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz. It was noteworthy as the preferred place of residence for upper-echelon German military staff. Her romantic liaison with Baron (Freiherr) Hans Günther von Dincklage  a German diplomat in Paris and former Prussian Army officer and Attorney General who had been an operative in military intelligence since 1920, the handsome von Dincklage would meet and become lovers with Coco Chanel. The two moved in together, residing for a period in Paris’ Ritz Hotel.


Chanel was enlisted as an Abwehr spy under the command of General Walter Schellenberg.


The stylish designer journeyed to Spain with Baron Louis de Vaufreland, whose responsibility was to identify who could be drafted into spying for the Third Reich. Chanel regularly rubbed shoulders with the British nobility, including the British ambassador to Spain, providing Vaufreland with an excellent cover.


World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business enterprises, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by Parfums Chanel and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of Parfums Chanel, the Wertheimers, were Jewish. Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalize her claim to sole ownership.


On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews” and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners.

“I have,” she wrote, “an indisputable right of priority … the profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate … [and] you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years.”

Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of Parfums Chanel over to Félix Amiot, a Christian French businessman and industrialist. At war’s end, Amiot returned “Parfums Chanel” to the hands of the Wertheimers.

During the period directly following the end of World War II, the business world watched with interest and some apprehension the ongoing legal wrestle for control of Parfums Chanel. Interested parties in the proceedings were cognizant that Chanel’s Nazi affiliations during wartime, if made public knowledge, would seriously threaten the reputation and status of the Chanel brand. Forbes magazine summarized the dilemma faced by the Wertheimers: [it is Pierre Wertheimer’s worry] how “a legal fight might illuminate Chanel’s wartime activities and wreck her image—and his business.”

After the war’s end, Chanel was never prosecuted for her active collaboration with the Germans. After Germany lost the war, the defeated couturier spent seven years in Switzerland with her lover, Baron von Dincklage. Eventually, in 1954, she managed to re-establish Chanel with the surprising aid of Pierre Wertheimer .


At the end of the war, Schellenberg was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for war crimes. He was released in 1951 owing to incurable liver disease and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses, financially supported his wife and family, and paid for Schellenberg’s funeral upon his death in 1952.

Next time you spray a bit of Chanel just think of it’s history.




I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks




Life and death of Mata Hari


Despite her exotic name Mata Hari was a Dutch woman. Her real name was Margaretha (Gretha)Zelle and was born in Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland in the North West of  the Netherlands..


Today marks the centenary of her execution.

At 18, Zelle answered an advertisement in a Dutch newspaper placed by Dutch Colonial Army Captain Rudolf MacLeod (1 March 1856 – 9 January 1928), who was living in what was then the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and was looking for a wife. Zelle married MacLeod in Amsterdam on 11 July 1895.2164


He was the son of Captain John Brienen MacLeod (a descendant of the Gesto branch of the MacLeods of Skye, hence his Scottish name) and Dina Louisa, Baroness Sweerts de Landas. The marriage enabled her to move into the Dutch upper class, and her finances were placed on a sound footing. They moved to Malang on the east side of the island of Java, traveling out on SS Prinses Amalia in May 1897, and had two children, Norman-John MacLeod (30 January 1897 – 27 June 1899) and Louise Jeanne MacLeod (2 May 1898 – 10 August 1919).


From the start, her marriage was troubled. After the birth of their son, Norman, in 1897, they sailed for the Dutch East Indies, where Gretha would spend four years living in military garrisons. After the birth of their daughter, Non, in 1898, tragedy struck. For reasons that remain a mystery, a nanny poisoned Norman and Non; he died, she barely survived. Although John was able to retire on a military pension in 1900, the couple were unhappy and returned to Holland.

Gretha and John separated in 1902 and she was granted custody. But when he refused to pay the legally agreed allowance, she wrote to his cousin, Edward, who acted as an intermediary. The correspondence reveals her desperation to keep her daughter but, without family connections and with most professions barred to women, she had few choices. She reluctantly returned Non to her father and left for Paris.

Where she reinvented herself as a performer of exotic Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling the story of how she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, meaning “eye of the day” in Malay.


She acquired her superficial knowledge of Indian and Javanese dances when she lived for several years in Malaysia with her former husband, who was a Scot in the Dutch colonial army. Regardless of her authenticity, she packed dance halls and opera houses from Russia to France, mostly because her show consisted of her slowly stripping nude.

She became a famous courtesan, and with the outbreak of World War I her catalog of lovers began to include high-ranking military officers of various nationalities. In February 1917, French authorities arrested her for espionage and imprisoned her at St. Lazare Prison in Paris. In a military trial conducted in July, she was accused of revealing details of the Allies’ new weapon, the tank, resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. She was convicted and sentenced to death, and on October 15 she refused a blindfold and was shot to death by a firing squad at Vincennes.


There is some evidence that Mata Hari acted as a German spy, and for a time as a double agent for the French, but the Germans had written her off as an ineffective agent whose pillow talk had produced little intelligence of value. Her military trial was riddled with bias and circumstantial evidence, and it is probable that French authorities trumped her up as “the greatest woman spy of the century” as a distraction for the huge losses the French army was suffering on the western front. Her only real crimes may have been an elaborate stage fallacy and a weakness for men in uniform.

Statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands



The Thing-not the movie.


The Thing, also known as The Great Seal Bug, was a passive covert listening device, developed in the Soviet Union and planted in the study of the US Ambassador in Moscow, hidden inside a wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States. It is called a passive device as it does not have its own power source. Instead it is acivated by a strong electromagnetic signal from outside. The device was code named LOSS by the US and RAINDEER by the Soviets.


On 4 August 1945, the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer organization 1 presented a hand-carved replica of the Great Seal of the United States to US Ambassador Averell Harriman, as a gesture of friendship to the USSR’s World War II ally. It hung in the library at the Residency Spaso House.


Unknown to the Americans however, the carving contained an HF radio bug of a novel design, in that it didn’t have its own power source and was not connected via wires. Instead, the device was illuminated by a strong radio signal from the outside, which powered and activated it. It gave the bug a virtually unlimited life and provided the Soviets with the best possible intelligence.


The bug was finally discovered by the US State Department in 1952, three ambassadors later, during the tenure of Amb. George F. Kennan.

In 1951, a British radio operator was monitoring Russian air force radio traffic, when he suddenly picked up the voice of the British Air Attaché loud and clear, but a survey of the embassy did not reveal any hidden microphones. A similar thing happened to an American interceptor in 1952, when he overheared a conversation that appeared to come from the ambassador’s residency at Spaso House. After a search by the Department of State, the bug was finally discovered by means of a so-called crystal-video receiver , whilst the Russians were actively illuminating the bug.


The device appeared to be hidden inside the wooden carving behind the ambassador’s desk, and resembled a cylindrical microphone with an antenne rod connected to it. Tiny holes in the wood under the eagle’s beak, guided the sound to the membrane of the bug that was mounted just behind it. When the Russians knew that an important meeting would take place, they parked an unmarked van in the vicinity of the residency 3 and illuminated the bug. A receiver, tuned to the bug’s resonant frequency, was then used to pick up the conversation in the ambassador’s office.

The discovery of the bug was kept secret for many years, until the 1960 U-2 incident . On 1 may 1960, the Soviets had shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Soviet airspace, as a result of which the Soviet Union convened a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, accusing the Americans of spying. On the 4th day of the meeting (26 May 1960), in an attempt to illustrate to the council that spying between the two nations was mutual, American Ambassador to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, revealed the Russian bugging device.


The Thing consisted of a tiny capacitive membrane connected to a small quarter-wavelength antenna; it had no power supply or active electronic components. The device, a passive cavity resonator, became active only when a radio signal of the correct frequency was sent to the device from an external transmitter. This is currently referred in NSA parlance as “illuminating” a passive device. Sound waves (from voices inside the ambassador’s office) passed through the thin wood case, striking the membrane and causing it to vibrate. The movement of the membrane varied the capacitance “seen” by the antenna, which in turn modulated the radio waves that struck and were re-transmitted by the Thing. A receiver demodulated the signal so that sound picked up by the microphone could be heard, just as an ordinary radio receiver demodulates radio signals and outputs sound.

Theremin’s design made the listening device very difficult to detect, because it was very small, had no power supply or active electronic components, and did not radiate any signal unless it was actively being irradiated remotely. These same design features, along with the overall simplicity of the device, made it very reliable and gave it a potentially unlimited operational life.



Josef Jakobs-German spy and the last person executed in the Tower of London.


On this day 76 years ago the last person was executed in the famous Tower of London, his name was Josef Jakobs.


Josef Jakobs (30 June 1898 – 15 August 1941) was a German spy and the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. He was captured shortly after parachuting into the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Convicted of espionage under the Treachery Act 1940, Jakobs was shot by a military firing squad. He was not hanged because he had broke his ankle and therefore couldn’t stand, he was therefore sat down to be shot.

Jakobs was an untrained, ill-equipped German spy who was parachuted into Britain in February 1941, apparently charged with sending details of London weather patterns back to the Fatherland. But he broke his ankle in a bungled leap from the plane.

The following morning, Jakobs attracted the attention of two farmers, Charles Baldock and Harry Coulson, by firing his pistol into the air. Baldock and Coulson notified members of the local Home Guard who quickly apprehended Jakobs.

When captured, writhing in agony, at the Huntingdonshire drop point, he was found to have nearly £500 of counterfeit currency, an empty ration book and identity papers that were obviously forged and a German sauasge.

Jakobs was taken to Ramsey Police Station before being transferred to Cannon Row Police Station in London, where he gave a voluntary statement to Major T.A. Robertson of MI5.


Due to the poor condition of his ankle, Jakobs was transferred to Brixton Prison Infirmary for the night. The following day he was briefly interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Stephens of MI5 at Camp 020 before being transferred to Dulwich Hospital where he remained for the next two months.


His war was over and so, effectively, was his life. The 43-year-old father of three was tried by a court martial, found guilty of treason and at 7.12am on 15 August 1941 was taken to the practice range at the Tower where, blindfolded and with a white marker over his heart, he was shot by eight soldiers from the Scots Guards.

Jakobs, who was a German citizen, was born in Luxembourg in 1898. During the First World War, he served in the German infantry, rising to the rank of Lieutenant, in the 4th Foot Guards. In June 1940, ten months after the outbreak of the Second World War, Jakobs was drafted into the Wehrmacht as a First lieutenant. However, when it was discovered that he had been imprisoned in Switzerland from 1934–37 for selling counterfeit gold, he was forced to resign his commission in the Wehrmacht.Jakobs was demoted to a noncommissioned officer and placed in the Meteorologischen Dienst (meteorological service) of the German Army. Shortly afterwards, he also began working for the Abwehr, the intelligence department of the German Army.

Jakobs’ court martial took place in front of a military tribunal at Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, London SW3, on 4–5 August 1941. The trial held was in camera because the German agent had been apprehended in a highly classified intelligence operation known as the Double Cross System. The British were aware that Jakobs was coming because his arrival information had been passed on to MI5 by the Welsh nationalist and Abwehr double agent Arthur Owens.


After a two-day trial which involved hearing the testimony of eight witnesses, Jakobs was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.

Jakobs’s execution took place at the miniature rifle range in the grounds of the Tower of London on 15 August 1941. He was seated blindfolded in a brown Windsor chair. Eight soldiers from the Holding battalion of the Scots Guards, armed with .303 Lee–Enfields, took aim at a white cotton target (the approximate size of a matchbook) pinned over Jakobs’ heart. The squad fired in unison at 7:12 a.m. after being given a silent signal from Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Gerard (Deputy Provost Marshal for London District). Jakobs died instantly. A postmortem examination found that one bullet had hit Jakobs in the head and the other seven had been on or around the marked target area.

Following the execution, Jakobs’ body was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London. The location used for Jakobs’ grave has since been re-used so the original grave site is difficult to find.

All other German spies condemned to death in the UK during the Second World War were executed by hanging at either Wandsworth or Pentonville prisons in London. Jakobs was the last person to be executed at the Tower of London.