A WARNING: Those site visitors of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Culture should be aware that there are photographs and images of the deceased.

The author of this blog is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and as such the views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the views and opinions of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, its staff or Directors.

Learn more about the Association including membership requirements at

The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

SOMERTON MAN: Venom or Venona? More Micro Writing From Code Page


Found between the S & A in the last line of the code page

If true, this find puts a whole new perspective on the nature of the Code page.

In a recent interview with the Advertiser down in Adelaide, I discussed various aspects of the Somerton Man Case with a particular focus on the Code page as you might expect.

We covered a lot of ground with the reporter, Lynton Grace being extremely interested so we delved a little further than would normaly have been the case.

I mentioned to him that apart from the micro writing found within the 'letters' of the code page, there were also reasonable examples to be found in the open space surrounding the letters.

One of those examples lay between the S and the A of the last line of the code and slightly beneath them.

The writing appears to spell out 2YRS  42 and then beneath that another word which is either VENOM or VENONA with the following alongside: X4561. I told Lynton that the options were Venom which was the name of a British Jet Fighter which at the time was a top secret project, still on the drawing boards in 1948 but tenders had been called to my understanding and I also understood that these tenders had a numbering system with an X prefix followed by 4 numbers.

The other option which was extremely secret at the time was that this find could relate to a project known as VENONA, what's very interesting about this project was that it also used a numbering system with an X prefix and importantly these numbers were allocated by US intelligence. That would mean that if the word was VENONA then there is only one source from which it could have come, a US intelligence officer. My words to Lynton were that I still had work to do on this option.

You can download a copy of the National Security Agency PDF, The Venona Story, here..

Of interest is the stylised nature of the letter X, it is quite unusual and I suspect it may yet be found elsewhere and associated with this case.

I have to say that the work done by the Advertiser and Channel 7 in Adelaide has added greatly to the level of public interest and awareness of the Somerton Man case, I think it a good possibility that someone may come forward with more information.

Coincidentally a keen eyed follower of this blog had asked the question as to whether it could be VENONA at around the same time as the interview.

There's another post in the next few days that dicusses the VENONA project and it's Australian links in more detail.

Note: All are welcome to view and download any material found on this blog including images and documents. All I ask that if you are going to quote any of the posts then please do so as much as possible in their entirety and please clearly acknowledge the source. There have been instances were part posts have been selectively quoted leaving the new reader with an entirely different view of the thrust of the original information.


Anonymous said...

GC: how long would it take you to write a 'Q' in the same fashion as the one you have unearthed, then we might be able to estimate how long an entire line might take to be written, then read and copied. Perhaps left in a row of books in a library ....

Lucas Mussarela said...

maybe he's from the venona project

Gordon332 said...

It is a little early to say, we have yet to prove what the microwriting actually says. There is a record of Venona cable intercepts and it is publicly available, I have a copy that I will post in the next day or so. Bear in mind that whilst they are available, they have been censored even now. Thanks for your comment, i hope you enjoy the blog, lots more to come.

Anonymous said...

In 1949, only a few people at the very top of the US Army knew about Project Venona: the CIA didn't know about it until 1952, and even Truman wasn't told about it.

I therefore think that any mention of it here would be extremely unlikely.

Gordon332 said...

Good Morning Nick, Well at least it is here. It's a good point that you raise, it deserves an answer and the answer describes an important and strong Australian connection.

First some quick background. The Russian, (NKVD) code book containing the original information which later became the key to commencement of the VENONA project, was originally found by Finnish intellience operatives following the invasion of FInland by the Soviets. To some accounts the book and other documents, 1500 pages in all, were not in great condition having been singed. The Finns offered to sell the material to OSS officers in 1943 and the deal was done.

The US secretary of State at the time, Edward R. Stettinius Jr., and whose aide was Alger Hiss (Soviet Agent), told Wild Bill Donovan, the OSS Director to hand the material back to the Soviets, he had to comply giving it all to Soviet Ambassador Andrei Gromyko.

To cut a long story short, the Amercians found another code book in a German Army office days before the Soviets took over the ground in Saxony.

The Army Security Agency's (forerunner to the NSA) General Clarke, briefed Truman on the VENONA project six weeks after he was sworn in as President in 1945
The meeting did not go well with Truman referring to the Notes as 'Like a fairy story'
The meeting was NDG according to Clarke. It would seem that Truman had similar views to the one you have of this post. Hmmm.

Nonetheless the project went ahead and in all more than 3000 VENONA messages were decrypted over the ensuing years.

Australian Connection 1.
Not only did high ranking officials have access to the material, so did M!5 and Australian Military Intelligence with a fair number of messages pertaining to Australia being discovered, one notable outcome being the finding of a code name 'KLOD' AKA Wally Clayton a senior official in the Australian Communist Party who was busy setting up an underground operation should the communist party be fored into hiding..

Australian Connection 2.
Australia had a secret 'listening' station, thought to be near Nurrungar, just South of Woomera, South Australia, where the job was to intercept VENONA traffic. This started in 1946 with some sources suggesting that it kicked off in 1943 immediately following the Finnish deal.

In summary, there is a strong link between Australia and VENONA and that link was quite likely to have been in South Australia during the relevant time.

Interestingly, it was in 1948, the year of SM's demise, that VENONA traffic ceased.

For these reasons, briefly described, I see that there is a possibility for the word VENONA being on the Somerton Man Code page and I wouldn't dismiss it nor do I think it 'extremely unlikely'. On the contrary, I think it's within the realms of possibility..

There are layers involved as you have read, not just senior US military figures but US politicians, a proven Soviet Spy, the Finns, the Germans, M!5 and last but not least the Australians. Needless to say here in Australia there would have been many cipher clerks and other intelligence officers working away at the messages day and night in those early Cold War years all of whom would have been aware of the top secret nature of the project. Who knows, maybe some of whom were not doing the right things?

Thanks for the comment Nick, it is good to get this stuff on the table and I am sure there will be more. Hope it's of use for you and if you would like to reprint it be my guest all I ask is that it abides by the fairly straightforward rules outlined at the base of the above post.