Thursday, May 31

A Puzzling Coincidence

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By Art Cashin

On this day 68 years ago, one group of very bright people was preparing a surprise for another group of very bright people.  The surprise that the first group was planning would later become known as the Normandy Invasion or "D-Day."  But you probably already have guessed that if you have turned on a TV or a radio or picked up a paper in the last few days.

Anyway, the Surprisors (under "A" for Allies) were trying very hard to keep the Surprisees (under "B" for Bad Guys) from guessing the surprise.  They (the "A" team) were afraid that Hitler (designated Captain of the "B" team) would claim it was "Tuna SoufflĂ© Night" at mom's and thus muck up the surprise if he guessed ahead.

So, the Allies spent lots of time creating diversions or as they call it today "misinformation" an imaginary outfit called "The U.S. Army Group".  (Inflatable tanks and trucks our specialty.  We appear and disappear at the press of an air compressor. We can make your enemies think you're headed anywhere you want.) Post War - Captured code indicates even a genius like Rommel may have bought into that bit.

But, in London, much of the planning group for this greatest amphibian assault in history were so worried that they rushed out each day to buy the paper.  No, it was not the weather over the Channel they rushed out to learn.  Rather it was the crossword puzzle in the London Daily Telegraph.

"Aha!" You say.  Even the bureaucrats and government types cared more for crosswords than co-workers  and conscripts. may be correct -- but this week the rush to get the paper and its crossword was inspired by the fear that the clue to 5 down or 6 across was not just a hint to cruci-verbalists but a clue to Hitler and " the B team." In the preceding three weeks many of the crossword clues of Len Dawe (puzzle editor of the Telegraph) had an eerie hint of the surprise invasion.  One answer was Omaha, another was Utah, another was Pluto, another was Neptune - all were code names for beaches or movements in the Invasion.

But today, May 31, 1944, the cynical code busters were ready to pack it in.  Although that day’s puzzle and the next day's puzzle seemed to clear Dawe...the puzzle of June 2nd nearly got Dawe hung (and it nearly canceled D-Day).  Scotland Yard and MI-5 dragged Dawe in, wondering why so many proposed beach landings were clues...only to have the key clue of June 2nd....Overlord...the super secret code name of the
Invasion itself.

Luckily, Dawe was able to prove it was all a coincidence thus allowing the war to be waged and won on schedule.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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