NOTICES:



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


AFIO DISCLAIMER:
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 www.afio.com.


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.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

SOMERTON MAN: HARRY GOLD, ATOM SPY MET THE SOMERTON MAN?


THE INTRIGUING STORY OF
HOW HARRY GOLD MET THE SOMERTON MAN?



DECEMBER 1946, THE EARL THEATER, THE BRONX NEW YORK

In the last post, we discussed how a Soviet Agent met Harry Gold, an Atom Spy at the Earl Theatre in the Bronx on that cold Thursday December 26th. 1946. 

The man Harry met was quite large, around 6'2", huge hands and he walked on the balls of his feet. He was a classic toe walker and toe walking as we know can lead to extremely well-developed calf muscles apart from contributing to wedge-shaped toes. The agent was also described as having 'very sharp features'. This description is a seriously close match to that of the Somerton Man but there is more to the comparisons than just his appearance.

There was another, most unusual aspect that the man shared with SM, he knew exactly how to confirm the identification of the person he was intended to meet. He had one part of a torn piece of paper that, in the Earl Theater instance, had written instructions scrawled across it. Initially, one piece of that same paper was given to Gold by Anatoli Yakovlev, Gold's handler, whilst the other was given to the man who would, in fact, meet Gold that day, the 'toe walker'. If both pieces matched then the identification was confirmed by both parties.  Yakovlev was to become known as the Russian's most successful spymaster during the early Cold War years.

At the prescribed time, Harry met up with the Soviet agent in the upstairs foyer of the Earl Theater. A question was asked by the agent, "Do you know how to get to Paul Street?" and Harry responded with his part, "Yes I am going there myself a little later". This short exchange was to be the initial identifier without which, nothing further would have happened. But in this instance, the two parts were spoken correctly and Harry dutifully produced his torn part of the scrawled message and so did the agent. Both parts matched and the identification routine was successfully completed. A short discussion followed in which the agent told Harry that his contact "John' would be going on a trip the next day but he was to immediately go to a location where he could meet John for the final time.

The purpose of the meeting between the Soviet agent and Harry was ostensibly to organise the handover of the handlers role from "John" ( Yakovlev) to the new toe walking, huge handed agent. In a later post we will show how things did not exactly go with Yakovlev's plan but for our purposes in this post, the meeting at least went ahead.

SOMERTON PARK. ADELAIDE, TUESDAY NOVEMBER 30th. 1948

Followers will recall that the Somerton Man had with him a small torn piece of paper that was found at the autopsy hidden deep inside a hard to find waistband 'fob' pocket. The paper had been rolled up tightly and pushed down to the seam of that pocket, presumably, this was done to fool any cursory searcher into thinking that, from the outside at leat, the paper was part of the seam.

You will also know that this paper was identified as having come from a small poetry book, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam a Fitzgerald 1st edition published by Whitcome & Tombs of New Zealand around 1942. The book was described by Gerry Feltus as being a 'pocket' sized version. This book was later handed into the SA Police by a man referred to as Mr Francis. He had apparently found it in the glove box of his car where it had been placed by his brother in law who had in turn originally found it behind the front seats of the car and moved it to the glove box believing it to belong to the owner of the car. The story is that the brother in law found the book around the time of the Parafield Air Show in late November 1948. The real name of Mr Francis has never been released publicly although I understand it is known by a small number of people.

How can we explain the purpose of this torn piece of paper found on the Somerton Man and which had been rolled up so tightly as to almost have been missed at the autopsy? Given the nature of spy meeting spy and their identification procedures, what was the scenario that played out at Somerton on November 30th. 1948? A fateful day for the Somerton Man, it was a warmish day with a low of 16 degrees and a high of 26. The overnight temperature fell just a little to 20 degrees.

Quite a stark contrast to the Bronx in December 1946 when layers of warm clothes would have been needed. Interestingly the Somerton Man was dressed for much cooler weather although wearing a 'jersey' beneath your coat was considered acceptable fashion at the time.

More to follow...


14 comments:

  1. There's certain aspects of this theory I like, however if it's the case, then I don't think he ever met whoever he was meant to - or at least wasn't killed by him (or if he was, hadn't properly identified himself - there's possibly a sidenote that the "code"* might be first letters of question/answers he has to remember akin to the "do you know how to get to Paul Street?").

    The reason I say he wasn't killed by the person he was supposed to meet (unless they didn't realise who he was) is that the Tamam Shud was still tightly rolled up in his pocket. This means either it was never removed, or it had been replaced (by SM) after being used. If it was the former, then it had never been used to identify himself. If it was the latter, then it's a careless spy who would kill him (and take his wallet/papers) but forget to grab the fragment - which he presumably would have seen SM replace in his pants.

    Of course, that still leaves open the possibilities that:
    1) SM didn't manage to properly initiate the exchange and was killed because the OP thought he was an imposter
    2) SM was killed by a spy/entity from "the other side"
    3) SM committed suicide totally independent of planned meetings which may or may not have happened
    4) probably a load of different scenarios


    *the "code" (for your scenario to work, the "code" belongs to the OP not SM - because it was found in the book, not on the fragment): What if the first two lines are possible questions that might be asked, and the last 2 lines are the answers. Originally, he (the OP, not SM) nearly wrote each question with the answer (hence the crossed out "MLIAO" which is the beginning of the first answer), and instead opted to separate the questions and answers (hence the line between the two pairs). It's equally possible the other way around - he was going to write both questions together, then both answers and changed his mind, but I like both questions on top for 2 reasons. Firstly, the first 2 lines begin with what could be a 'W' - and for a question that might suit What/Where/Who/Which/Will/When/Would (although I don't like the 2nd letter in the first line or the 3rd in the second to that end). Secondly, the discrepancy between the crossed out MLIAOI and MLIABO might indicate that OP was already remembering the answer slightly corrupted (so even if SM got the right answer (actually, that assumes SM was the answerer not the questioner) the OP got suspicious and the meeting was abandoned, though not without a bit of poisoning). It is sort of interesting that the variation begins at the O - the same word that has an 'X' above it in the non-crossed out line....

    But just a thought nonethteless
    That said, the first line has a fairly large space between the 'W' and the rest of the line, so perhaps 'W' means something else...and the rest of those lines would be hard to form into a casual every-day question....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good logical thoughts and thank you for a well thought out comment.
      Let's consider the spy scenario a little further.

      1. A meeting had been arranged and the necessary security arrangements of question and answer had been put in place plus the matching paperwork as in the torn piece and the book had been set up.

      2. The torn piece was found 'intact' in SM's fob pocket, for me that indicates that either the challenge question was incorrectly answered or that it was correctly answered and the OP produced a book that had a space in it that didn't match the shape of the torn piece.

      3. The next we here of the book is that it had been apparently throw into the back seat of a nearby parked car and abandoned. The technique for that was a well established method by agents of all persuasions, ditch the evidence and recover it later.

      We should also consider should we not, the number of people involved in our scenario? The Gold case tells us there were definitely three being Gold, Big Hands and Yakovlev.

      In the SM case we have two people involved as certain as we can be but there could have been a third. That person being the Yakovlev equivalent, the organiser.

      What concerns me and probably you and others is the apparent sloppiness of using a book as identifier and said book containing perhaps damning evidence and valuable information by way of indented writing.

      Echoes of WW1 and the words of a UK intelligence officer who spoke of one German agent as being 'Probably a spy but they will never be a good spy'. That may be a clue to the possible identity of one of the participants in the Somerton Man affair.

      I have a feeling that one of those involved was Tibor Kaldor. That feeling is not unsupported and I ask your patience whilst both Clive and I work though that information. Yu would be very welcome to add your thoughts to that.

      I think you may find that the subsequent discussions between Yakovlev and Gold that evening may reveal more very relevant details concerning the bitter in fighting between rival Soviet intelligence agencies.

      Thanks again for your very valuable input.

      Delete
    2. Thanks GC. Just regarding:
      2. The torn piece was found 'intact' in SM's fob pocket, for me that indicates that either the challenge question was incorrectly answered or that it was correctly answered and the OP produced a book that had a space in it that didn't match the shape of the torn piece.

      (ignoring some possible sloppiness as you point out a'la the scratchings in the dumped codebook) To me, the fact that the fragment was found found on SM suggests that either he never met (or at least properly identified himself) or that it wasn't the person he was meant to meet that killed him. If the person meeting via this hookup had successfully talked to him, then they should be able to find the fragment and remove it (they must have noticed where he put it - even if the pocket is concealed), so the idea that the fragment didn't match ws the problem that led to his demise doesn't really wash well with me. Someone had time to remove his wallet (and possibly other things), but they couldn't find a fragment which (they must have seen) had been carefully rolled up and replaced in the fob pocket.....
      I tke all of your points above (especially the sloppiness), but to me the paper being neatly rolled up on the body suggests the person who killed him was unaware of its existence.
      Of course, it's also possible that a spy meets foul pplay with people not directly invovled with the same espionage. Thats probably less likely, so for mine he was either knocked off by "the other side" (whichever side he was on) or he was knocked off by an ally who thought he wasn't who he said he was, but also though he knew enough to be a liability.

      Delete
    3. I agree that the torn piece was not found by whoever it was that SM was meeting, not sure they would have known where it was hidden though? If SM had been an Australian or US agent then that fact would have been revealed I would have thought except if he hd met his end at the hands of a 'friendly'. It is documented, and I will dig that out, that there was rivalry within Russian Intelligence agencies at the time. Whether that rivalry got to the point of murder is another thing. I thin both scenarios should be examined although my leanings are to a Soviet agent being killed by another such agent,
      The next post may shed some light on the matter. Thanks for the input, good quality stuff!

      Delete
    4. Perhaps it's not important, but....
      The "...not sure they would have known where it was hidden..." is sort of my point. If he had verified his identity, then the fragment of paper would have been used, and the OP would (should?) have seen where he slipped it away. Granted it was a well concealed fob pocket, but it seems careless to me that it was left - if it had been seen. So to me a more likely scenario is he didn't properly get past the first stage of the identification (the equivalent of "do you know the way to Paul St), and was knocked off in fear; or he was knocked off by someone entirely different.
      It's also possible that no attempt was made to do the ID, then he was knocked off, and then his wallet was taken with the assumption the fragment would be there. Having searched the wallet and not found the fragment, the OP panics, and realises it could still be on the body - and has to discard his Rubaiyat. A touch sloppy (IMO) to just chuck it in a car - especially when the salty waters at the beach could easily be used to destroy the book (relatively subtly, you would think). Perhaps the OP thought retribution was on its way - thought someone was already following him, and his only option was to dispose of the Rubaiyat through an open window in a car (wouldn't want to be caught with it because it might have meant the scrap was discovered soon - and would link him to SM)...

      So the way I look at it, is (at least) one of:
      1) SM was killed by "the other side" (it's probably easier for us to cover up work on our side - but then the finding of the fragment should have been suppressed)
      2) SM was killed by the person he was meeting, but because they thought he was someone else
      3) SM was killed by the person he was meeting who had always planned to do so
      4) SM died/was killed totally independent of any espionage he might have been involved with

      In any event, (IMO) the fragment was never removed from the fob pocket, so SM had never properly identified himself...

      Delete
  2. A couple of interesting things...There is an FBI file (on their website) "Anatoli Yakovlev Part 1 of 20). In that file, Harry Gold describes Anatoli's own walk as a "MINCY but not effeminate" walk. If you look it up...it means to walk as if wearing an invisible pair of high shoes. So, his own handler had an unusual walk as well...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Misca, My understanding is that Yakovlev was somewhat shorter than SM and had discounted him for that reason. I take your point that there are other causes for high set calf muscles and a different walk/gait.

      Delete
  3. Hi Gordon - the previous comment about the "mincing" walk is from me as well.
    Second interesting note Gold changed his story a lot about this meeting- somewhere between page 200-210 of the same FBI document I mentioned above there is this:
    "Gold has now identified the unknown Russian mentioned above as Pavel Ivanovich Fedosinov, who appears very likely identical with the KGB resident agent in New York and superior of Yakovlev".
    Misca

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we have a couple of names applied to the Soviet agent. There are a number of issues related to Russian names as you are probably aware, one major one is the fact that various English language translations can and were applied to the original Russian names. We are working on that and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on that subject. Getting reasonable photographs is yet another challenge :) Great input and much appreciated.

      Delete
  4. End of second-last paragraph on page 205.

    Misca

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would it be reasonable to ask why an intelligence agency would hire a man of such noticeable, physical attributes?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Even the "real" Fedosimov doesn't look much like SM...

    Have you checked out Jacov/Yakov/Jacob Lomakin yet? His is also a very interesting story and he was deported from the US in August 1948. He supposedly died in 1958 but I don't believe there is anyway to verify this date. Scanning through the available photographs of Russian diplomats throughout the period, he is the one that most resembles SM....Worth a look.

    Misca

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Misca, Yes, I had a look and what I am thinking is that I will put a separate 'page' on the blog and will add images of 'suspects' together with a short paragraph/description of who, where, what and why. It is interesting that, like Jacob, our friend Pavel's name turned up much later as in 1967, he was down as a delegate to an IAEA conference to be held in Cerne. Clive found it and we thought it was a little odd given that Pavel was a renowned/notorious Atom spy and here is apparently being invited to a high level IAEA conference on the subject of nuclear energy/power. Just maybe this was an example of Russian humour :) Clive has not been able to find whether or not Pavel actually attended the conference and for that reason I will be including him on the 'suspect' list at least until firm evidence to the contrary turns up.

    ReplyDelete