Sunday, June 06, 2004

*Ø* D-Day crossword coincidence

June 6, 1944 D-Day: the biggest invasion in world history began – more than one million men from 4,000 ships landed on beaches in northern France, beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The day had been set for June 5, but was postponed due to impossible weather conditions.

It was a coincidence, officer ... honest!

Poor old Leonard Sidney Dawe. All the English schoolmaster wanted to do was produce a good crossword puzzle for London's Daily Telegraph as he did each day in 1944.

Little did he expect to be raided by secret agents of MI5, Britain’s spy agency. On May 2 of that year, one of the clues in the Telegraph's crossword was 'One of the U.S.' This gave the answer 'UTAH'. On May 12, one of the solutions was 'OMAHA'. On different days throughout May and early June, Dawe's puzzle solutions included the words 'OVERLORD', 'MULBERRY' (May 31), and 'NEPTUNE' (June 2).

So why were the British spooks interested in Mr Dawe? A remarkable coincidence had occurred in his innocent crossword. 'Overlord' was the Allies' codename for the entire Normandy invasion that was planned for June 6 – D-Day as we know it now. 'Utah' and 'Omaha' were ciphers for two of the beaches on which the Allies would be landing. 'Neptune' was code for the naval part of the operation, and 'Mulberry', the artificial harbour which would be put in place after the landing. Dawe had unwittingly stumbled into one of history's great coincidences, his pen being mistaken by MI5 as a likely tool of German espionage ...

This is just a snippet of today's stories. Read all about today in folklore, historical oddities, inspiration and alternatives, with more links, at the Wilson's Almanac Book of Days, every day. Click today's date when you're there.


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