Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spycraft and Strange Spy Gadgets, The Elderly Man Next Door

The old man who lives next door keeps strange hours and does not welcome visitors. The neighbor's boy was allowed in one time, but only because it was storming outside and the child was locked out of his house. No one else was at home to help the boy that day.

But other than one small child, no one else has ever set foot inside the old man's home.

Rumors swirl around him like falling leaves in the autumn. One tale bearer claims the hermit is all alone in the world. His family was killed in some tragic accident. Other gossipers weave gruesome tales of a serial killer who escaped from prison or was never brought to justice in the first place. Wild tales are concocted at dinner parties and spread around the table like jams and jellies.

Just the month before, the elderly gentleman bought a poodle at the mall and brought it home with him. Now he spends more time outside, walking his dog into the woods that border one side of his property.

Shortly after the dog moved in, and the old man began taking frequent walks, a strange car began prowling the streets at night.

The boy who spent an afternoon at the old man's house watches from his third-floor bedroom with fascination. The car comes late at night, headlights off, and parks in the dark. A bulky shape emerges, enters the woods and disappears from sight. Eventually, the mysterious visitor reemerges -- carrying a small package -- settles back into his car and slowly drives away into the night.

The boy keeps his observations to himself. He likes the old man with the houseful of computers, TV screens, and radio equipment. And he can keep a secret.

You have probably guessed by now that the old man is a spy, and the boy has witnessed something he was never meant to see.

Around 1970, as the conflict in Vietnam escalated, United States military intelligence (and no, that is not an oxymoron) developed a homing device camouflaged as dog or monkey droppings. It was actually a homing device officially known as a T-1151 radio transmitter, and unofficially it was known as a Doo radio transmitter.

This inconspicuous little spy gadget could send or receive radio messages, usually by Morse code. It was positioned throughout the jungles of Vietnam, relentlessly transmitting a radio signal that led aircraft to enemy ground sites for strikes or reconnaissance missions.

Because the device looked like -- well -- poop, it was usually left undisturbed. Therefore it could be planted well in advance of any mission.

It is still in use today, as our elderly neighbor could verify. If he were talking.

If you'd like to spend more time in the company of spies, let me recommend my novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. You can find out more information on that at my website. You might also like some of the additional posts that I've written below. Thanks!

Here's the link for my site:

Espionage, Shark Repellent, and Invisible Ink

In my first published novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, Margaret Garrison is recovering from the world of espionage. Women have long played an important role in the clandestine activities of groups of all sizes, from small factions to large super powers.

In the Bible, "Rahab the Harlot", hid twelve Jewish spies and has been forever memorialized in the best-selling book of all time.

Virginia Hall was a clerk with the Department of State. She was turned down for a position in foreign service, partly due to her gender, but also because she had a wooden leg and walked with a limp. But neither her sex nor her disability could hold back this lady. She traveled to Europe and joined the French underground, where she became a field officer. She became fluent in German and French and had knowledge of morse code and could work a wireless radio. Because of these skills, she became an invaluable asset to the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA.

During the D-Day invasion, Virginia Hall worked with the French underground to cut electrical lines to telegraph offices, disrupting German communications. She also worked as a milkmaid, delivering milk to German soldiers. That was a cover used to collect intelligence. During this time, she became known as the "limping lady of the OSS." Later, after the war, she became one of the CIA's first female operations officers. She received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest U.S. military award for bravery.

In my novel, one of my main character's aliases is in honor of this incredible woman.

Josephine Baker, an American expatriate, was a well-known entertainer and actress. She was a popular singer who became a French citizen in 1937. She was known as the "Bronze Venus" and the "Black Pearl", as well as the "Créole Goddess" and "La Baker". Josephine Baker was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, and she made significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. She was even offered the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement by Coretta Scott King following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Josephine Baker was also a spy.

She served in the French Resistance during World War II and was the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de Guerre. During the war, Josephine Baker smuggled secret information written in invisible ink on her sheet music. In spite of her fame, she was able to complete her missions unnoticed. Passport checkers were so enamored, they gave her free access to all of Europe, never suspecting that she was, in fact, a spy.

Perhaps one of the most unlikely spies of all time was the famous chef, Julia Child.

Long before she became a household name and famous TV personality, she worked for the OSS. She started her service in the OSS Headquarters shortly after the United States entered World War II. One of her most famous assignments was to solve a problem that faced the U.S. naval forces during World War II. Sharks were bumping into explosives placed underwater, setting them off before they could sink German U-boats as intended. Julia Child, along with several male associates, invented a shark repellent that was used to coat the explosives. They literally invented a recipe to stop the problem, saving an unknown number of lives.

She served in Ceylon and in China, where she was the head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. She was awarded the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service for her leadership in that post.

During America's Revolutionary War, General George Washington was aided by information provided by the mysterious "355," a female member of the Culper spy ring. The number "355" was code for "lady". This unknown woman helped expose Benedict Arnold as a traitor. To this day, no one knows who she was. Like so many brave women who have served, and continue to serve as spies, she simply did what had to be done and then faded into obscurity, taking her secrets with her to the grave.

If you would like to spend more time in the company of spies, I hope you will consider my romantic-suspense novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. For more information on that, please visit my website at:


Click on the tab that says "Skeletons."