(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘spies

“He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession”*…


The Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies, used by British spies sent to the Continent to track Nazi movements and aid resistance fighters during World War II, has been recently reprinted by the Imperial War Museum. These pages from the back of the two-volume catalogue, which was published in 1944 and 1945, show a few of the ways that the Special Operations Executive (the name for the secret British agency charged with training and deploying these agents) managed to sneak arms and ammunition to its operatives.

As historian-author Sinclair McKay writes in the introduction to the new volume, the Special Operations Executive trained many volunteers and recruits with no previous experience in the field. The recruits underwent crash courses, with SOE personnel bringing them quickly up to speed on the use of weapons and explosives, the maintenance of communications equipment, and the cultures of the places they were to infiltrate.

The two volumes of the manual are packed full of explanations of the many devices SOE operatives might encounter, or choose to use, in their operations…

* Ian Fleming, Casino Royale


As we dawdle at the dead drop, we might recall that it was on this date in 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, that Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the “Infamy Speech”–the name deriving from the first line of the speech, in which Roosevelt describes the previous day as “a date which will live in infamy”– to a Joint Session of Congress.

Read Roosevelt’s original typescript here; and hear an except here.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

“You don’t have to be a mathematician to have a feel for numbers”*…


For more than 45 years, the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the world’s intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of “Numbers Stations.”

Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a “one time pad” is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.

These stations use very rigid schedules, and transmit in many different languages, employing male and female voices repeating strings of numbers or phonetic letters day and night, all year round. The voices are of varying pitches and intonation; there is even a German station ‘The Swedish Rhapsody’ that transmitted a female child’s voice!

One might think that these espionage activities should have wound down considerably since the official “end of the Cold War”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers Stations, and by inference, spies, are as busy as ever, with many new and bizarre stations appearing since the fall of the Berlin wall…

Read more at The Conet Project— and listen to samples (including the Swedish Rhapsody girl) at Internet Archive.

* John Forbes Nash, Jr.


As we put away our one-time pads, we might recall that it was on this date in 1892 that Jesse Reno was awarded U. S. Patent 47091815 for “Endless Conveyer or Elevator.”  It was built and opened in September, 1895 as a Coney Island amusement ride, a conveyor belt that moved people up a 25 degree slope.  (An earlier escalator-type patent was issued in the U.S. in August, 1859 to Nathan Ames. [No. 25,076], for an apparatus with steps mounted on an inclined endless belt or chain, but it was never built.)  The Otis Elevator Company manufactured their first escalator in 1900;  they exhibited it at the Paris Exposition in that year, and then installed it at the Gimbal Brothers store in Philadelphia in 1901. Otis registered the U.S. trademark Escalator in May, 1901, and later bought Reno’s company.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 15, 2014 at 1:01 am