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  • Jim Costa

Jim’s Rant For The Day. The Doll Lady.

In her biography, Elizabeth Friedman tells of two particular codes she broke. The first was of a bootlegger prior to WWII she helped convict while working for the Treasury Dept. He was using a code to manage boat shipments into the US.

Friedman proceeded to tell how grueling code breaking actually is. One can spend months trying to break a code and have a 100% failure rate the entire time until one sees clearly the entire message. But to get to that point is nearly impossible. One code was deciphered only after an particular English dictionary of 1888 was located as the code used it as a key.

But the rum runner's code revealed it’s message after months of trying when she clearly read the sender’s opening sentence to the intended receiver. It said “It’s OK, this code is unbreakable”. I’ll bet the champagne cork popped that day.

The next part about the doll lady is a bit long so I will tell you why I reference it now. Our world is much more complex now that we have discovered that we are living in a “duel type world” and trying to figure out what is real for us and is not real but impacts us just the same. We need to keep this in mind in searching the news stories each day. What is real? What does it mean? Even if we translate the words correctly we don't know if we understand their true impact on our lives.

Friedman was given a letter that was suspected to be from a Japanese spy dubbed “The Doll Lady”. The letter was captured by the Post Office because of some unusual words in it. Below is the real letter and then the translation that convicted the Doll Lady of Treason.

Actual Letter

January 27, 1942 My Most Gracious Friend

Please forgive my delay in writing to thank you for your kindness in sending my family the beautiful Christmas gifts. The girls were especially pleased.

I have been so very busy these days, This is the first time I have been over to Seattle for weeks. I came over today to meet my son who is here from Portland on business and to get my little Grand-daughter’s doll repaired. I must tell you this amusing story, the wife of an important business associate gave her an old German bisque doll dressed in a Hula grass skirt. It is a cheap horrid thing I do not like and wish we did not have to have it about. Well I broke this doll last month and now the person that gave this doll is coming to visit us next month. I walked all over Seattle to find someone to repair it, no one at home could or would try the task. Now I expect the damages to be repaired by the first week in February. In the meanwhile I hope and pray the important Gentleman’s wife will not come to visit us before that date.

I do hope you can read my typing, I am trying to learn type so I can be able to type records for the Red Cross. Please accept love and remembrances sent to you from Elizabeth. Sincerely, Maude Bowman


This is a somewhat belated rejoicing of the victory at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Navy is to be much congratulated on their good work. We, their friends here, are elated over it.

(Please recognize your authorized correspondent. I am in Seattle and have the following report).

There is a battleship here, damaged at Pearl Harbor, being repaired. It is one of the older battleships; but is considered of sufficient value to be worthy of repair. It is expected that the repairs will be completed by the first week of February. I wish that the Japanese Navy could make a visit here soon before February and destroy it completely by that time.

(I hope that my reference to my poor typing, like the paragraph above referring to family will convince you that I am your authorized correspondent for this type of information).

(Another signal of authentication is personal greetings from “Elizabeth”).

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