Ancient history

The crossword puzzle that almost broke the Normandy landings

From the beginning of 1943 the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill , and the US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt They met to plan the invasion of the continent, then occupied by the Germans. But it was not until 1944 that the right circumstances arose:the Germans had lost Africa and the allies, under the guise of the corpse found in Huelva, made the leap to Sicily and from there to the rest of Italy; In addition, the Red Army was pushing very hard from the Eastern Front. It was decided that the best option was Normandy, in northwestern France, and the date, according to British mathematician Arthur Thomas Doodson's tide prediction machine, was June 6. Logically, that invasion had to be carried out in secret and was given the code name of Operation Overlord .

But a simple crossword puzzle, published by The Daily Telegraph He was about to throw everything to the ground. Members of MI5 (intelligence service that deals with espionage within the United Kingdom) who were in the habit of doing the crossword every day, were stunned when they found that for some time keywords around Operation Overlord had been appearing when solving the crossword:

  • On May 22, 1944, Omaha appeared (code name of one of the landing beaches)
  • On May 27, 1944, Overlord appeared (codename of the entire operation)
  • On May 30, 1944, Mulberry (codename for floating ports) appeared
  • On June 1, 1944, Neptune appeared (naval support codename)

After these surprises, and with only 5 days to go before the Normandy landings, the crosswords from previous days were revised and the code names of the rest of the landing beaches appeared:Utah , Gold , Sword and Juno . That situation triggered all the alarms and MI5 questioned Leonard Dawe , creator of crossword puzzles and headmaster of the Strand School in South London, thinking he was a German spy. After a rigorous interrogation, search of his house and his office, control of accounts and other things that are done in these cases... it was determined that they were simple coincidences .

It seems that these simple coincidences were not such, but they did not contain any mystery, much less espionage work. In 1984, Roland French , a former Strand student, who was 14 years old at the time, recounted how, as a mental exercise, they helped Professor Dawe do the crossword puzzles by proposing words with a certain number of letters so that Dawe would then look up the appropriate definitions. Although everything surrounding Operation Overlord was secret, it seems that the children had heard many of these code words in the camp of the allied soldiers near the school and that they proposed them because they were funny. The fact is that it had nothing to do with the final outcome of Operation Overlord.

Source:The Telegraph