SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
The Office of Strategic Services had major stations in Washington D.C., London, Rome, and Berne. In other articles I have mentioned Rome and Berne in some depth. In this article we will talk about the printed products, counterfeit documents, and postage stamps and currency printed in Washington.
OSS Headquarters – Washington DC
In 2017, this building was placed on the National Park Service’s latest list of historic properties.
Donovan, whose office in room No. 109 is preserved as a memorial, built a team of cryptographers, analysts, and spy handlers.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Washington, D.C. was headquartered in a complex of buildings northwest of the Lincoln Memorial on what is known as “Navy Hill,” originally the site of the Old Navy Observatory, built in 1843. The official address was 2430 E Street, N.W. At the time the buildings overlooked a Brewery and a skating rink.
The secret orders he sent out were often simply signed “109.”
The Central Building at OSS Headquarters on Navy Hill
A Research and Development Department (Dirty Tricks) agent named Major Willis C. Reddick oversaw establishing the OSS printing office in a 100 x 100-foot former laboratory space at 25th and E Streets in Washington DC. His job was commanding the printers in charge of counterfeiting documents to be used by agents in the field. I once asked him if he ever counterfeited enemy documents? He told me:
Except for the operation I oversaw, printing large quantities of Japanese occupational banknotes, we counterfeited no additional currency. Our efforts were limited to documents for individual agents. This was no simple task. The British were doing the same thing. I feel that we were successful in besting our British friends. So far as I know the OSS never did any counterfeit currency in London, Rome, or Washington D.C. Some of the propaganda of that type that was printed was highly likely printed in the field. I was once asked to go through a great pile of papers taken from German prisoners of war. It was a tedious task of over a week. I found nothing of any merit for the Allies to use against the enemy. The only interesting thing I found out was that all German soldiers like pornography
I was interested in currency at the time and should note here that the United States counterfeited several currencies for the Pacific Theater of War, including four values of the Philippines, the 10 rupees Burmese banknote, at least three Chinese "puppet" banks, the Malayan 10 dollar note and three denominations of the banknotes of Thailand. Others were on order, such as Japanese military notes and French Indochina banknotes, but they were never delivered. Notice also that Reddick did not counterfeit German currency. Rumor has it that there was a WWII "gentleman's agreement" between Germany and the United States that they would not forge each other’s currency. Reddick made friends with employees of the Bureau of Engraving and was able to pick draftees with printing experience from basic training units in the Army. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel at the end of the war.
Willis Calhoun Reddick
Although WWII was over for 20 years, Reddick was still practicing operational security (OPSEC), or he was lying through his teeth. The OSS had produced hundreds, maybe thousands of documents, but usually not in their actual headquarters building. For instance, Switzerland was neutral and war propaganda was illegal, so they had a secret place to print their documents away from their headquarters in Berne.They wanted every piece of paper they could get because the Germans loved their documents but constantly changed them and the many rubber stamps and cancels, they used on them. Every piece of paper was valuable.
A brief description of the Washington D.C. printing shop is found in the OSS War Report:
An engraving shop was established in Washington to produce various types of European and Far Eastern documents. Identity cards, work permits, chauffeurs' licenses, etc., were meticulously prepared with appropriate regard for the enormous amount of detail necessary to provide the authenticity upon which the agent's life might depend. Through Operational Group’s, the French Maquis was supplied with all necessary documents for travel and activity in Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Censorships and Documents was, of course, responsible for securing the intelligence necessary to the production of agent documentation, but Research and Development also secured a great deal of information from other sources and from its own personnel in the field. In fact, Research and Development and Censorships and Documents personnel worked together in many theaters on questions of documentation and camouflage, e.g., in London, where a joint office was set up. Such details as the size of type, kind of paper and ink used, methods of watermarking, etc., were of vital importance.
A brief comment about the official government counterfeiting of an enemy’s currency. Few people have heard of Murrey Teigh Bloom, but he was an old friend of mine and the most knowledgeable American writer about counterfeiting. He wrote seven books on the subject and three are considered classics in the banking world. At one point he wrote an article called “Uncle Sam: Bashful Counterfeiter” for the Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. He mentioned several government counterfeiting schemes. He told me that Reddick knew a lot more than he was telling. Reddick was told by his boss Dr. Stanley P. Lovell, OSS Chief of Research and Development, to investigate counterfeiting German currency on a mass scale. As he studied the problem at the Bureau of Engraving, he was told that it would take so many counterfeits that it was virtually impossible. It would cost 10 million dollars, they would have to stop printing U.S. currency, and bombers would need to drop the banknotes day and night. And if the German simply changed their money, all the work would be for naught. You will notice that the Japanese occupation money we will mention next was never airdropped. It was secretly and cautiously used as needed.
Reddick even had a problem with the Japanese currency. He was told that the United States was a signatory to various anti-counterfeiting conventions and that it is an international crime. Although the Bureau of Engraving wanted no part of the project they casually mentioned where the equipment to do such a job might be found and mentioned a retired individual in Washington DC named Kelly who was familiar with the problems of printing currency and just happened to have a commission in the Reserves. Reddick called the American Banknote Company, and they were horrified. They told him that the banknote printers all knew each other and trusted each other. It was a fraternity and war or not, they would never counterfeit each other’s currency. Their concept was that they were not in the banknote business, they were in the trust business. Reddick finally found Frank Kelly and had him activated into the OSS as a Captain. Reddick next went through basic training camps looking for printers, photographers, and commercial artists. The ones he liked he told that after basic training they would be assigned to a secret mission. He recruited 30 enlisted men. OSS member Stuart Kimberly was a wealthy member of the Kimberly-Clark paper dynasty. That solved many of Reddick’s paper problems. A Bureau of Engraving employee named James Lowe joined the OSS to help with the project. The Bureau of Engraving gave them some needed machinery which they wrote off as being on a ship sunk in the Atlantic.
General MacArthur wanted aged notes they used black dye, dry siena powder and coffee. The notes were then placed on the floor and walked on.
A 15 October 1943 letter from MacArthur’s Headquarters to the Chief of Staff in Washington D.C. says in part:
It is requested that steps be taken to reproduce, for use in the Philippines, ten million pesos of Japanese occupation currency.
It is requested that one million Pesos, approximately the proportion indicated above, be dispatched to this theater by air as soon as possible and that the balance be dispatched by water transport.
The letter contained a selection of 41 Japanese occupation notes, both old and new types, in four denominations.
Document from MacArthur Memorial Archives – Norfolk, VA
Reddick produced five million Philippine 10-peso notes, three million 5-peso notes, one and a half million 1-peso notes, and half a million 50-centavo notes. The first million notes were sent by air on 21 December 1943 and the rest were sent by sea. It was suggested that the American counterfeits might disrupt the Japanese war economy there, but $10,000,000 was just a drop in the bucket compared to the tremendous number of Japanese banknotes they printed for the Philippines. Reddick’s notes were never spotted by the Japanese. In fact, some dead Japanese soldiers were found to have the counterfeits on their bodies.
An Accounting for Philippine Intelligence Funds document dated 6 May 1946 says that the total amount of cash sent to the Philippine guerrillas by submarine during the war was $3,382,568 Philippine dollars, equal to $1,692,284 in American dollars. The report contains charts that shows every Guerrilla leader in the Philippines and the amount of money sent to them, The Director on Intelligence complimented General Willoughby, MacArthur’s Chief of Staff on 29 uly 1946:
You are complimented on the careful and meticulous system of accounting for Intelligence funds under your supervision. Considering the difficulties of the operation, the small percentage of fund still unaccounted for is remarkable.
Reddick was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Kelly to Major. in April 1944, Reddick was sent to London to help produce documents for agents going behind the lines in Europe. Although Reddick once told me that they never did any counterfeiting in London, we find in OSS Against the Reich: the WWII Dairies of Colonel David K.E. Bruce: “A successful Illinois printer, Willis C. Reddick ran Bruce’s London counterfeit and forging operation.”
Note: Colonel David K.E. Bruce was the London branch chief of America's OSS in Great Britain.
We should add that on 24 October 1941 Donovan was authorized to send a small staff to London. A mission of some ten personnel arrived in London on 8 December. In May 1943, the Chief of Morale Operations left for London to set up the Branch there. By December 1942, OSS personnel had increased to more than 100. By the spring of 1944, the authorized personnel had increased to more than 2,000, and 14 branches were active. A brief history of Morale Operations from the War Report of the OSS
On 27 October 1943, MO was charged with the "execution of all forms of morale subversion by divers means including False rumors, 'freedom stations', false leaflets and false documents, the organization and support of fifth column activities by grants, trained personnel and supplies and the use of agents, all for the purpose of creating confusion, division and undermining the morale of the enemy. The Branch expanded rapidly in the last half of 1943. In May MO/ Washington had a staff of twelve. By August it had 75, and by January 1944 it had 150. It was decreed that the Office of War Information would be responsible for leaflets dropped by aircraft and traceable to their actual source. However, leaflets dropped in containers to a reception committee for dissemination and purporting to come from a subversive organization in enemy or enemy occupied territory would be within the province of MO. About radio, OSS agreed not to install or operate "black" stations outside enemy-controlled territory without the Office of War Information's concurrence. OWI, in turn, agreed not to operate agents or installations inside enemy territory. Provision was also made for close working relationships in the field.
Frederick “Bert” Johnston
Frederick “Bert” Johnston was born in Atlanta and at later the family moved to Tampa. His father was a photographer by trade and the family opened Johnston Lithograph and Engraving. After high school he went to the University of Florida and received his degree in chemical engineering. After college he moved to Rochester and worked for Eastman Kodak, which is where he met and married Jean Bonham. While at Kodak he worked with lithography, engraving, and photography and received several patents. He sold the rights to those patents to Kodak for $1 each.
Bert joined the army during WWII, and as because of his knowledge of printing and engineering was invited to join the OSS. He worked in the documents section on the OSS in Washington D.C. during WWII. He was a master engraver and printer by trade, so his skills were used for counterfeiting passports, watermarks, stamps, Japanese propaganda notes, etc. He spent the war in Washington DC. At one time there was a plan to send him to Europe, but he was probably too valuable to lose. While in Washington he did much, if not all the detailed work on many of the counterfeit printing plates that were made. At one point he claimed that he had difficulty telling the counterfeit from the genuine products because of their quality and the fact that the exact same paper and inks that were used to create the originals were used in his reproduction.
Unlike agent Riddick above, Bert Johnston was proud of his wartime work for the Office of Strategic Services. He told his grandson Chuck Wynn that he enjoyed visiting schools and organizations and telling them about his counterfeiting career. Because he often told his audience that he had counterfeited banknotes during the war, he was occasionally visited by the secret service at his printing shop. They kept a close eye on known counterfeiters, even if a government employee and they knew he had the ability and tools to counterfeit American money.
[Author’s Note] I often attended currency exhibitions in the 60s and 70s. It was quite common for the Secret Service to come around and check the exhibits. At one show a display depicted some German parodies of US currency. They were identical on the front but on the back was all propaganda text. They were rare propaganda documents and worth over $100 each. They were confiscated. The Secret Service had no interest in historical value, they simply saw a fake U.S. bill and took it. I wrote to the Secret Service, explained what those banknotes were and asked why they were confiscated. They were blunt and to the point. If it was a reproduction of American currency it was confiscated. Period. No debate.
In at least one case we know that he tried his hand at planning some field work. His main work was in forgery, but his degree was in Chemical Engineering. He put forward a plan that was never implemented. According to the story, about 90% of Tokyo's water supply at the time came from 3 lakes. He thought an incredibly powerful laxative that would be hard to detect could be dropped in those lakes by a few bombers. The Japanese government and military command would be highly inconvenienced for quite some time, therefore making the war (and probable invasion) easier for US forces. The plan was rejected on the grounds that this would be considered chemical warfare.
[Authors Note] During the war the OSS sent a foul fecal-smelling spray to China to be sprayed on the back of the pants of Japanese military officers. It was a foolish idea, but the concept was that they would be embarrassed, lose “face,” and perhaps commit hari kari.
Just before he left the OSS at the end of the war, he was ordered to systematically destroy everything he had worked on. He was a patriot but did not want to erase all evidence of years of hard work. He decided to bring home some of his products each day.
[Author’s Note] Years ago in an article called Conversation with a Forger I mentioned meeting with the head British counterfeiter of WWII. I said in part:
I answered the telephone one day and a mysterious voice said, "I am the man who was in charge of Britain's forgery operation during World War Two." It was Ellic Howe. He was in the USA on a brief research visit. He was about to write a book about his wartime activities, which was later published in 1982 by Michael Joseph, London, as The Black Game. He told me that just two days after the end of the war, he had been ordered to destroy all the files in his office. An incredible amount of irreplaceable material about wartime operations had gone up in smoke. Now, certain officials in Her Majesty's Government were unwilling to let him study his own archived official reports and memoranda, which were still classified. As a result, he was having a difficult time documenting all the work he had done. He was here to gather the information from me that I had hoped to obtain from him. I gave him about a dozen articles I wrote about British forgeries and parodies and nine photographs of his wartime work. Ellic Howe was kind enough to acknowledge my efforts by stating in his book, "I am grateful too, to Mr. Herbert A. Friedman for lending me copies of the American philatelic publications in which he so carefully described and analyzed some of our more exotic productions."
Johnston saved samples of many of the products that he had designed, photographed, and printed for the OSS but they were not kept in any order. It was never organized, and it was stored in different ways. Some items were loose, some taped down in scrap books, and some glued to poster board.
When the war ended, he continued to use the skills he had perfected in the OSS. He worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, where he helped develop color film. His formal education was as a research chemist, so he maintained a laboratory business on the side while operating the families printing shop. He later returned to Tampa and ran the families printing business until he retired. Over the years he also owed a laboratory where he did research on several items, including medicine, fertilizer, and arson investigation. He died in 1998 at the age of 80.
One of the OSS agents working in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Strategic Services Unit, OSS, Washington DC was Master Sergeant Francis Varacalli. His initial job in the Army was as a cook and a mess sergeant but after two years he was transferred to intelligence. That seems a strange change in military occupational specialty until you know that he had been employed by the Truart Reproduction Company of New York City where he engraved letters or designs on printing plates. He had the ability to engrave a printing plate and would be valuable in producing propaganda material. His discharge states that he served with the office of Strategic Services where he assisted in the preparation of propaganda to be disseminated to enemy territories.
Readers might wonder how all this printed material was delivered in time of war. We know a bit about how it was delivered over Europe from an article titled “The secret WWII mission that had US bombers flying at treetop height deep inside Nazi-occupied Europe,” published on the website INSIDER, 3 September 2020. Authors Katie Sanders and Mara Truslow say in part:
The B-24 Liberator Bomber
The B-24 Liberator was the most produced US aircraft of World War II and vital to the Allied victory. Designed for high-altitude precision bombing, the B-24s of the US Army's Eighth Air Force swarmed the skies over Fortress Europe to do just that. Yet not all B-24 outfits of the Mighty Eighth Air Force conducted daylight precision bombing. On a mission codenamed Operation Carpetbagger, the 801st/492nd Bomb Group predominantly flew solo, moonlit sorties to support Resistance fighters before and throughout Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
The Carpetbaggers were the de facto air arm of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. Their missions were so secret that the airmen themselves rarely knew where they were flying, what they were carrying, or to whom they were delivering agents and supplies. Starting in spring 1944, the Carpetbaggers flew from Harrington Airfield, a secret USAAF base in the English countryside previously used by the RAF. Both agents and supplies were over Europe. Supplies were loaded into the B-24's bomb bay racks and the fuselage. Each of the specially designed 300-pound containers and packages brimmed with material Allied resistance fighters needed to sabotage and survive, including bazookas, rifles, grenades, radios, cash, bicycles, messenger pigeons, and medical supplies. Operation Carpetbagger remained classified for decades after the war, its details a mystery even to aircrew and other personnel supporting the flights, who, over 3,000 missions, dropped some 536 agents and 4,511 metric tons of supplies to the European Underground.
On dropping Leaflets and other items:
"Leaflets in containers 6 feet long and 30 inches in circumference and had a barometric that would explode over 10,000 feet that'd spread the leaflets over miles. It was to help the European civilians know what was going on in the war because radio reception was shoddy."
"We dropped containers for the resistance and did some other things I didn't understand. Packages thrown out of the airplane and had the barometric fuse explode them at 500 feet. Some, I learned later, had diamonds and some had old jewelry so the patriots could barter."
This letter from Lieutenant Colonel Carl F. Eifler to the Office of Strategic Service in
Washington DC might be the first request for counterfeit Japanese invasion currency.
I think we should start with one of the most interesting type of counterfeits produced by Johnston and his unit. These are counterfeit banknotes for the enemy and the countries they were occupying. Officials needed to be bribes, Allied agents needed to buy favors, weapons and food, and money was needed. These are some of the productions I found in Johnston’s files.
Murray Teigh Bloom mentions a September 1940 meeting between Dr. Melvyn Knisely and Mr. John Steinbeck (known as an author but an OSS agent during WWII) with President Franklin Roosevelt. They had come up with the idea of counterfeiting the currency of Ital and Germany [Note, Pearl Harbor was months away and as a result there was no mention of counterfeiting Japanese currency]. Roosevelt is quoted as saying:
This is strictly illegal…and we can do it! Why, for the cost of one destroyer we could send Italy spinning. For the cost of a cruiser, we could have Hitler on as hot stove lid.
The President then called Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau:
I am sending you two men with an idea. Listen to them and tell me what you think.
The plan was turned down. At that point, the United States was fine with killing thousands of the enemy in war but messing with the world’s currency was out of the question. The best part of all this was at the same time this was all going on, Germany was busily counterfeiting British notes in the denomination of 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds. Money was not as untouchable to the Fascists as it was to the Capitalists. After Pearl Harbor the United States was willing to counterfeit all the various currencies of nations occupied by the Japanese, but still was unwilling to counterfeit German currency. Late in the war, the Germans did make an unsuccessful attempt at counterfeiting U.S. banknotes.
The OSS Printing of the Counterfeit Chinese Reserve Bank 10 Yuan banknote
I asked retired Colonel Joe Boling about this counterfeit Chinese banknote, wondering if he could add any specific data. He did. He said:
This is J12h, J12 with blue signatures in the plate. This note has not previously been identified as having been counterfeited by the Allies. An earlier one with black signatures was, but fielded in limited quantities because the face value was so low when they were finally ready to send to the field. I have a 5-yuan black signature note that is an Allied counterfeit; the black signature 10 yuan has eluded me, though I have been searching for one for about 20 years.
World War Two Remembered by Schwan and Boling adds:
The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) summary of May 1944 says that plates for the Central Reserve Bank 10 Yuan notes had been delivered to the OSS for their use in printing one million notes for each agency, and that numbering machines would follow shortly. There are also reports that the British airdropped counterfeits of the CRB notes.
A wartime OSS document dated 6 May 1943 says, send quickly 100 samples of Jap money used in China. Ten has dragon, five has birds, prefer with seven characters on face. In a second undated note, LTC Reddick requested 100 samples of the China merchandise in 10 and 5 units, no folds, or perforations.Whenever you see a request like this it means that the OSS printers need perfect copies of the genuine banknotes so that they can properly counterfeit the note without wrinkles or folds making the job impossible.
The OSS Forgery of the Malaya 10 Dollar Banknote
This Malaya banknote was extremely popular among the Allies. The British produced a propaganda parody of the Malayan 10-dollar Japanese invasion money that bears the code SMA/39 (South-East Asia Command, Malaya, 39th leaflet). It is believed that the note was printed by the British Army’s Psychological Warfare Division in Calcutta and dropped in late 1944 or early 1945 by aircraft of the 231st Wing of the Royal Air Force over Malaya and Singapore. The back of the leaflet bears a propaganda message written in High Malay, Union Malay (in Arabic (Jawi) script), and Chinese, using language that is highly insulting in its context and idiom:
British propaganda parody of the Malayan 10 dollar
Now in the country of Burma the Japanese currency is no longer valid; what is valid is the former British currency. When the British return to the country of the Malays, their currency, which has gone underground, will be valid as before. The currency of Japan will fall like Japan, but the currency of the British will last forever.
Since this was not an OSS product we will move on the counterfeit. There were at least two agencies counterfeiting Japanese occupation currency of Malaya. The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) printed 987,000 $10 notes and 200,000 $1 notes in 1944. They had the block letters MC, MD, MF, and MG. The American Office of Strategic Services printed 50,000 $10 counterfeit notes with the letter block MK at the request of Lieutenant Colonel Carl Eifler, Commander of Task Force 5405-A (OSS Detachment 101).
An OSS document dated 3 September 1943 states:
Shall we now proceed with the Malayan merchandise which you requested. If so, in what amounts?
An 18 August 1944 OSS document states:
Lt. Fisher has two packages of merchandise ready for shipment to the Malay states. The two packages weigh 70 pound each and are 15 x 15 x 18-inches in size.
An Unfinished OSS Burmese 10 Rupee Counterfeit Note
The 10-Rupee Burma proof - face only, wide margins, no tint, or blocks.
On 26 January 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Carl F. Eifler complained about not have available currency in a letter to the OSS in Washington DC titled “Request for Counterfeiting of Money:
I am enclosing some Japanese money, the Rupee being the money that has been issued for Burma and the currency in dollars and cents denomination being the money that has been printed for Malaya…I do have a very urgent need for Burma Japanese money at the present and I am getting along as best I can without it. It is requested that a substantial sum of this money be counterfeited and returned to me by the earliest possible date.
On 6 May 1943, a letter to Stanley Lovell calls the Burma banknotes “Merchandise” and mentions Reddick who we know was working in the printing plant in Washington DC. Some comments are:
You will recall the subject under discussion was merchandise desired for the Burmese theater. I am under the impression, after talking with Colonel Reddick, that there may be some hesitancy about these manufacturing plans…and urge that the manufacturing process on the Burma-Japanese merchandise be expedited as rapidly as possible.
A 5 July 1943 letter to Dr. Lovell states:
Handed to LTC Reddick on this date five-Rupees BB and 10-Rupees BA.
An OSS document dated 3 September 1943 states:
25,000 10-unit merchandise which was requested by you is to leave here by courier September 10. We can now produce more of this merchandise quickly. We believe that a very good job has been done on this.
A 14 December 1943 secret memorandum to Lovell states:
The latest dispatch from Detachment 101 states that a group sent out for introduction into Burma from China carried with them the following monies: 5,000 Rupees in 10-Rupee Burma notes and 7,000 rupees in 5-Rupee Burma notes…
We cannot say if those banknotes were genuine or counterfeit because the message does not specify it.
A 29 March 1944 letter from LTC Reddick says:
85,000 notes of the of the BA type 10-unit denomination were shipped to Colonel Carl A. Eifler, U.S, military headquarters, Calcutta, India on 29 January 1944.
I have written about the Burma notes for years, but I asked my pal retired Master Sergeant Howard Daniel to comment on these Burmese notes for this article. He said:
On December 11, 1941, Japanese bombers flew from Bangkok and Saigon to bomb the British Airdrome near Tavoy, Burma. The following day, several Japanese divisions started crossing the border from Thailand and Malaya into Burma. When Japanese soldiers began arriving up to Tavoy, they reportedly spent their Japanese, Chinese, Malaya, and Thai silver coins in the markets. The Japanese soldiers were also carrying the Malaya Japanese Military Certificates. As the British military and government officials evacuated Burma, they had orders to destroy all their paper currency or bring it to India with them. The Japanese created, printed, and supervised the use of their certificates by the Burmese, and they were of similar designs used in all the Southeast Asian countries which the Japanese conquered.
Both the British and the Americans counterfeited this note. It is estimated that the British Special Operations Executive counterfeited 1 million ten-rupee notes and 200,000 one-rupee notes. An additional 1,000,000 were requested. The American OSS counterfeited about 110,000 ten-rupee notes that were shipped to India and transported into Burma. The counterfeits are said to be a bit smaller and bear the serial letters BA.
This seems to be an early counterfeit. Note that the red color is more like red brown. There are no letters and the design at the left is yet to be added. I assume that these notes were forged stage-by-stage and they were only about halfway through this one.
Currency specialist Howard Daniel said after viewing this note:
The 10 Rupee image is of a Progressive Proof. It was a standard operating procedure to do a little bit at a time and thoroughly check it for any fixes before going to the next part of the note. This was from a very professional operation. The color of Proofs did not have to be in the final color and some colors show anything that needs fixing better than other colors.
I like this undated memo a lot. Clearly the OSS Chief of Research and Development is being asked continuously when the Burma Counterfeit banknotes will be completed and sent to the front and in a fit of temper he writes to his printers and demands an answer.
A Finished sheet of the Burmese 5 Rupee Counterfeit note
There is no record of the United States counterfeiting the Burma 5-Rupee note. The United States did produce two different 5-Rupee propaganda notes for Burma with a propaganda message in the Burmese or Kachin language.
The American Propaganda Parody in the Kachin Language
If the U.S. went to all the trouble of producing a reproduction of the front of the 5-Rupee note for a propaganda piece, why would they not print a counterfeit of the same note? Notice the code “BB” on both the parody and the counterfeit. The Japanese printed the 5-Rupee with both the BA and BB codes. The fact that this sheet was found in the files of an OSS printer could be quite an interesting discovery. The banknotes have the proper Japanese quatrefoils that look rather like flowers (2 cm in size) evenly spaced.
Japanese Banknote OSS Counterfeit Note
There is a clear diagnostic on the OSS 5-Rupee banknote all along the top edge. There are ribbons looping up to that edge. On the Japanese product each ribbon has three strong shading lines and one weak one (virtually absent on the first couple of ribbons from the left). The OSS note has four strong shading lines in every ribbon all the way across.
We have no documentation that any 5-Rupee notes were printed in quantity and shipped to the field. But now we know that they were at least prepared to the printing stage. The paper of this sheet has the correct watermark for Japanese Invasion Money.
We conclude with a comment about the whole Burma operation. A British SOE advisor by the name of Woods put the number of counterfeit notes made in the UK at one million ten-rupee Burmese notes supplied by July 1944 and 200,000 one-rupee Burmese notes supplied by July 1944 and another one million ordered. Woods also commented that the Office of Strategic Service printed Burmese notes in the United States and sent 112,000 ten-rupee notes to Burma in May 1944. Formerly classified British documents state that by 18 May 1944, the SOE has printed and dispatched 200,000 Burma 1-rupee notes, and 1 million 10-rupee notes to India. At the same time, the American OSS had sent 112,000 10-rupee notes to India. These numbers will differ sometimes because with all the different clandestine agencies printing and distributing the banknotes, certainly some would not be notified of what the other was doing.
The OSS printing of the Counterfeit Dutch East Indies 10 Guilder Note
There seems to have been a great demand for Netherlands East India Japanese banknotes. One cover letter from Dr. R. E. Smits, the Director of the Javasche Bank dated 5 October 1942 says:
Dear Governor, Commonwealth Bank of Australia:
I am enclosing herewith request from the Netherlands East Indies Government that you would be good enough to print for that government supplies of currency like that issued by Japan for circulation in the Netherland East Indies…
The original request letter says in part:
The need is urgent, and we must request you to arrange for you to supply us as soon as they can be printed the following quantities of notes…
12,800 1/2 gulden pieces.
30,000 10 cents pieces.
10,000 5 cents pieces.
10,000 1 cent pieces.
The forged currency was printed and forwarded and then we see another letter dated 20 January 1943 says in part:
We beg to inform you that our stock of special notes you printed for us is nearly exhausted. This paper has proved to be extremely useful, and we request you to print for us…
13,000 1/2 gulden pieces.
30,000 10 cents pieces.
10,000 5 cents pieces.
10,000 1 cent pieces.
Once again, I asked my friend retired Colonel Joe Boling for the latest information he had on these counterfeits. He said:
At one point the OSS agreed to print NEI 10-guilder notes at the request of the British. On 20 May 1944, the British sent the printing plates to the OSS for additional printing. It was believed that Team 101 had requested counterfeits, but the records we got from the CIA had no mention of any being produced. Several years ago, counterfeit NEI 10 gulden notes started to surface, first among Dutch collectors who had a lot more NEI JIM to look through. But I have found several pieces in dealer junk boxes and on eBay, and about 150 pieces were in one group in the Japanese collection sold at auction about 2015. I also bought that lot. These 10G pieces are on watermarked paper, so were assumed to be OSS products (the SOE, as far as we knew, never used watermarked paper).
The Japanese 10 Yen Note
The front of this banknote was in a frame on the wall of an OSS counterfeiter. Is it a counterfeit? I don’t know but I wonder why he would frame it if he was not proud of it as one of his products. We know that the OSS wanted to counterfeit this currency at one time, and we know that they had samples stored away in their “Treasure Vault.” Notes of this design were issued from 1930 to 1943; they were demonetized in 1946. This is the design that was copied for the four propaganda messages that were dropped by the Allies during the war. Although there was some discussion of OSS counterfeiting of homeland Japanese notes, we have no records indicating that any were made.
The OSS Treasure Vault – Where money to be forged was stored?
Undated document in OSS files. Six pieces of Imperial Japanese currency, RG 226, OSS Washington.
Originals and film negatives in the Military Treasure Vault. The notes are the 50-sen, 5-yen, and 10-yen.
On 30 March 1943, a request to Lovell from Halliwell for one-half ton of 10-unit merchandise and one ton of 5-unit merchandise. Other information from other dispatches implies this is Japanese Imperial yen. "We have referred this matter to Mary [Captain Milton "Mary" Miles, the US Navy's most senior military intelligence officer in Chungking] ordered 1.5 tons of Japanese currency." The designs were changed by the Japanese, so the order was changed to military yen of the bird and dragon designs.
This 14 December 1943 Memorandum for the OSS Chief of Research and Development points out that
American guerrillas have been given various notes including Japanese 5- and 10-Yen banknotes.
It does not say if they were counterfeit or genuine currency.
A 6 May 1943 OSS dispatch asks for: "Send as quick as possible about 100 copies Jap money used in China, 10 had dragon, five has birds. Also need perfect examples of Bank of Japan currency, five- and ten-unit currency. These must be as clean as possible and under no circumstances fold or perforate."
This chart, prepared by the OSS shows the weight of Each Japanese banknote
On 13 August 1943, a warning was received from Captain Miles in Chungking about counterfeiting Japanese yen; “Advise against more duplication Japanese Imperial yen since restrictions of use make it extremely hazardous.” The addition of the word “More” indicates to me that some had already been duplicated or was being duplicated at that time.
The Japanese Banknote as Framed when first Found.
Notice the other items in the frame. There are forged German workbooks, a forged membership card, Counterfeit Nazi Party stamps as shown elsewhere in this article, and items for France and even Japan. It would seem the banknote above must be counterfeit. And yet, experts have told me they believe the note is genuine. One adds:
It looks genuine to me. The main title and counter are supposed to look like they are brush-written, and they do. Every little irregularity in a genuine note is seen on this note, all in intaglio. All three tints are present in good form. The seal is perfect. Every tiny shading line in the chrysanthemum is present (not even visible with the naked eye on a genuine note, and many not visible with 4-5x magnification - you must go to 20x, but they are on this note when I blow up the image). I do not think it is a replica.
So, I must assume the expert is correct. That would seem to indicate that this note was one of the genuine notes used to study like those saved in the OSS treasure vault. I am so disappointed with this result, but we have done our due diligence and the result indicates the banknote is genuine. It does seem to indicate that the OSS was considering counterfeiting it though. Perhaps the warning from Captain Miles in China not to counterfeit the note was followed.
An American parody of the Japanese 10-Yen note
OWI Code Number 2034
From Numismatic News, 17 January 1966, an article by Alfred J. Swails entitled “United States Propaganda Notes for Japan.”
The Military Intelligence Hawaiian Department under Lt. Colonel Richardson was given the assignment to prepare four facsimile notes with different messages to the Japanese people on the back ... Our planes showered the notes over the countryside, knowing that 50 percent would fall and lay face or money side up and entice the greed of the finders.
There are four parodies of the Japanese 10-yen Bank of Japan convertible note of 1930. All the parodies bear the serial number 450941 and the block number 1124 on the front. On the back, the notes are found with four different propaganda messages and the code numbers 2009, 2016, 2017 and 2034. The classified "Confidential" booklet entitled United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare - CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-15, 15 August 1945 says that, “the purpose of the leaflets is to create resentment against the present government in Japan and create fear of inflation...The note conforms to the size of a Japanese banknote which is carefully reproduced on one side.”
The OWI fact sheet for banknote leaflet 2034 says:
To create resentment against the present government in Japan and create a fear of inflation. The illustration, reproducing a 10 yen note on one side, in calculated to attract attention. The text suited to the illustration, carries an economic message – namely, the rise in prices and the drop in quality brought about by the war.
The text on the back is:
In 1930, when the Gumbatsu had not yet started the war in China, you could buy the following items for 10 yen:
* 25 sho [about 20 Kg] of good rice.
* Or material for 8 summer kimonos.
* Or Four bags [50 Kg. Packages] of charcoal
In 1937, after the start of the China Incident, you could buy the following for about 10 yen.* 25 sho of low-grade rice.
* Or material for 5 summer kimonos.
* Or 2 bags of charcoal.
Today, after waging three years of hopeless warfare with the world’s greatest powers, you can buy the following with 10 yen:
* ½ sho of good rice on the black market.
* Or a small amount of charcoal if you can get it.
* Cotton material, nothing.
This is what your leaders call co-prosperity.
OSS Counterfeits of Philippine Currency
General Douglas MacArthur had been driven from the Philippine Island but had said repeatedly, “I shall return.” He had a great number of guerrillas on the islands, and he needed ways to pay them and keep them motivated for the fight. He needed counterfeit money. We know from Intelligence Activities in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation, Military Intelligence Section, Far East Command, Tokyo, Japan, 10 June 1948, that a shipment of gems and genuine banknotes were smuggled into the PI in December 1942. Major Jesús Antonio Villamor made the first Allied secret landing (code name “Planet Party” because each of the Philippine Islands was to be codenamed with planetary names) with 4,000 Pesos worth of gems and 350 Pesos in Philippine Commonwealth bills.
In January 1943, there was an urgent request for an additional 500,000 Pesos in artificially aged banknotes. That shipment arrived in Australia in February 1943. In August 1943, an additional 1,000,000 Pesos was requested from Washington D. C. These were likely the Japanese occupation notes for the Philippines counterfeited by Major Willis C. Reddick.
In July 1943, Colonel Peralta on Panay Island requested large denomination bills, even American, as they could be sold for small denomination Japanese military notes at a good discount. On 17 July 1943, a request for $500,000 in $100 bills was sent to Washington. The money was sent to Panay through Australia.
American Forgery of the Philippine One Peso Note
The United States first reprinted Philippines Commonwealth treasury certificates of 1936 and 1941 for use by Philippine guerillas. The 1, 5, and 10 pesos notes of 1941 were delivered to the United States War Department between January and September 1943. These notes were chemically aged to appear used, using a process developed by the Bureau of Standards in 1943; the process involved tumbling the notes in coffee grounds and floor sweepings. The 5, 10, 20, and 100 pesos notes of 1936 were not aged.
Notice that the Fourth and Fifth Leave Veins Touch (Inside Box)
The forgeries are so well done that it is hardly worthwhile showing both a genuine and forged banknote. The differences are very minor. For instance, in the case of the 1 Peso bill the fourth and fifth veins in a decorative leaf do not touch on the genuine but are connected about one-halfway down their length in the counterfeit. A collector stated in Banknote Reporter that his counterfeit 5-peso notes were 72 mm wide while the genuine Japanese occupation notes were 68 mm wide. It is unknown if this is a standard “error” that can be used to identify the counterfeits or just occurred in this case.
A second shipment was requested:
A Sheet of Philippine 5 centavo counterfeits – Note the “PD” on the bills
From the Johnston OSS Estate
The first million Japanese occupation pesos was counterfeited in Washington D. C. and flown to the Philippines on 21 December 1943. They were distributed to six different guerrilla groups. The known block letter codes known on the American forgeries are:
Fifty Centavo bills – PA, PB, PE, PF, PG, PH, and PI.
One Peso bills – PH
Five Peso bills – PD
Ten Peso bills – PA, PB, and PC.
There were some problems with finding the right paper for the counterfeits, but a supply of paper made from plants native to Japan was in the U.S. When that supply was exhausted, the counterfeiting operation was transferred to Australia.
The Japanese occupation banknotes may not be the only ones counterfeited by the U.S.
William B. Breuer mentions in MacArthur’s Undercover War, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1995, that there was a need for currency by the Guerillas as early as March 1943. He adds:
A hurried check with Washington disclosed that a huge shipment of Philippine pesos for the Mindanao operation had been shipped by special air transport. As a security measure to ward of sticky fingers, the small fortune’s container was labeled “Finance Forms.” At the Allied Intelligence Bureau’s headquarters, it required several men fifteen hours to count all the pesos, which totaled the equivalent of a million U.S. dollars.
Since the request for counterfeit Japanese occupation currency was sent late in 1943, we might assume that these were genuine banknotes. However, other declassified documents in my collection show that:
…In January 1943, when plans were being made to send other intelligence parties, an urgent request for $500,000, artificially aged, Philippine currency, was sent to Washington. The request, filled and dispatched by highest air priority, was received in Australia during February.
Since the type of currency is not clearly identified, it is possible that this early forging of Philippine currency was the regular banknotes, issued prior to the Japanese occupation.
Lieutenant Robert Stahl says in: You're No Good to Me Dead: Behind Japanese Lines in the Philippines, Naval Institute Special Warfare:
We also carried thousands of Philippine pesos-real monies newly printed in Washington, D.C…loosely packed with water and sand in sealed, five-gallon metal containers. The water - and sand mixture was intended to age the money, since Filipinos would be hard pressed to explain to the Japanese where they got crisp, new paper money. Aging the currency this way was a brilliant idea-until it came time to dry it so that it could be spent. If we had sunlight, we would spread it on the ground and hope it wouldn’t blow away while it dried. During the rainy season, which was all the time, we sat beside fires waving wads of currency over the heat to drive out the moisture. We also had counterfeit Japanese invasion currency (called APA in the islands), American made, to spend freely to inflate the Japanese currency.
Lucien V. Campeau says in an article entitled: My Air Force Weather Mission from April 1944 Through April 1945 With the American Guerrillas of Mindanao:
The sub was loaded and the next day we boarded the Narwhal. As I was boarding, Chick Parsons handed me a five gallon can with gunny sack sewed around it and soldered shut to waterproof it. This was 25,000 real pesos made in the U.S. and soaked in salt water to make them look old and used. I was to use the money as I saw fit for intelligence purposes in case the Filipinos would not accept our emergency money and I needed something done in an emergency…Smith and I each carried a pistol, rifle, machete, jungle hammock, backpack of food, and entrenching shovel…I moved off in another direction and dug a hole about two feet deep and large enough around to take a five-gallon can.This was difficult digging, for the ground was mucky humus threaded with a thick mat of twisted tree and plant roots. Into it went one of our three cans of pesos. I drove a stake close to its heart and marked it with a piece of cloth. Not far away I buried another can, and still another short distance away, a third can.I had just put sixty thousand pesos-thirty thousand American dollars-into an earthen safe-deposit box…We had taken thousands and thousands of pesos with us from Australia, all neatly packed in tin cans full of sand and water, cans like those I had buried on Palapag Mesa. When the Narwhal brought men and more supplies to us on Samar, there were more cans of money included in the cargo. And when airdrops were made to me on Luzon, even more money arrived….
The Aborted Plan to Counterfeit Siamese Money
The British Counterfeit of the Siam 5 Baht banknote
Courtesy of Joe Boling
There is much evidence that the OSS intended to counterfeit Siamese (Thai) currency during the War. Siam had collaborated with Japan and there was a need to get agents inside that country. Some of the OSS documents say in part:
Memo of 20 November 1943: Request for one-half ton of Siamese botts. Either the writer misspelled bahts, or he was using his own code for them. The U.S. did not recognize the collaborationist government of Siam, so the plan was approved. Letter of Special Operations 30 November 1943: 90,000 of the subject items will be available soon. On 1 December 1943, the OSS wonders why the bahts are needed: It will be necessary for us to have additional information before we can determine whether we can reply with this request. The subject heading was "BA," so it appears that the Burma codes had now become a codeword for all counterfeits. A request of 15 December 1943 says: Agents require Thai merchandise. Only small amounts available in proper channels, and that at high rates. LTC Reddick says on 28 March 1944: Thai merchandise of the Bangkok type is about ready for production. What are the units and amounts desired? The answer was: about 3 million units of 1, 5, and 10 bahts.
I want to stop here for a moment and talk about codes. Everything had a code name and I assume for security they were changed often. Some examples of the OSS codes are found in the OSS Society’s Newsletter Summer 2002:
An interesting wartime document turned up in the papers of Col. Richard Heppner, OSS China Theater head. It is a list of code names given to countries and people.
Examples for countries include China – Excelsior, U.S.A. – Stork Club; Ceylon – Manhasset; Thailand – Mohawk; and the people: French – Schizos; Burmese – Pyros: Japanese – Kleptos; Americans – Hepcats. Donovan was Sea Biscuit; Stalin, Unicorn; Churchill, Griffin; and Carl Eifler was Otter! These names were used in sending coded messages from the China Theater to other OSS outposts.
Genuine Siam Note Counterfeit Siam Note
Above we depict one of the places where changes were made to tell the genuine from the Counterfeit note. There are more such signs. The space between the 2nd and 3rd characters (reading from the right). That open bay dead center shows the genuine shading all the way to the end and stopping about two-thirds of the way in the Counterfeit. This is what is called a naked-eye diagnostic - no magnification needed. Anyone caught carrying one of these would be in jeopardy of beheading on the spot.
On 15 April 1944, the OSS Liaison with Great Britain had a meeting about the counterfeit bahts. They were already producing the fake currency and agreed to supply the Americans with their product: I have just been advised that we have been successful in obtaining the promise of a plentiful supply of the “London Type” Thai merchandise from our cousins who control the original source. They will be delivered soon to our New Delhi office. The last mention of this project in the OSS files is 8 June 1944: The London type Bahts will be shipped from there in the amount of 100,000 units
Joe Boling sent me a comment on this operation:
The Thai notes that OSS was working on were the “Bangkok bahts,” copies of the notes issued under Japanese influence. The agents in the field said that their Thai contacts wanted the “London bahts,” the De La Rue notes issued before the war. The British asked De la Rue Printers to reprint them with serials that matched issued serials, spread across many blocks and many serial ranges. De la Rue said “no,” - their customer was the Thai govt, not the British.
So, the British confiscated the plates, then handed them back and ordered De la Rue to print from them. Which they did - after making modifications that would allow the Thais to repudiate the reprints after the war if desired (some of these were naked-eye diagnostics, a gross security violation that never came back to bite the Allies). Those are now known as the “Free Thai” notes. There were 5- and 10-baht pieces, but the 1-bahts were apparently all used and eventually retired as worn-out notes. They are rare today. With the British sharing their counterfeits with the United States there was no reason for the OSS to produce their own.
WWII Remembered adds that the notes were reported to have been used by Indian units of the British Army and by anti-Japanese resistance fighters for bribing Thai officials. After the end of WWII, in 1946 and 1947, the Thai Ministry of Finance announced that the fake notes were not legally issued and could not be used for trade, but if someone received the notes by honest means they could be exchanged for real currency.
OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Dues Stamp
The OSS printed counterfeit Nazi Party stamps for use on Party membership cards. The Party stamps were prepared as part of Operation Sauerkraut, an OSS operation that occurred near the end of the war after the assassination attempt on Hitler's life. The documents, handstamps, Nazi Party dues stamps and identification papers that the agents carried behind the lines had to be perfect. They had to pass inspection by the German military police.
Photograph from the Official Sauerkraut Report
Note the vertical strip of five Nazi Party dues stamps at the upper right
I first discovered these stamps by carefully studying a photograph found in an official OSS wartime presentation booklet entitled The Story of the Sauerkrauts, which reports on Morale Operations Rome's Operation Sauerkraut. In this document is a photograph that shows, much reduced, numerous forged identity documents and a perforated vertical strip of 5 stamps with top, left, and bottom margins. For many years, the Sauerkraut document was the only hint that the OSS had forged Nazi party dues labels, until W. David Ripley discovered an entire imperforate sheet in the estate of a former OSS employee.
The United States OSS forgery of German Nazi Party dues labels was prepared for use on forged identity documents distributed to Germans Prisoners of War in Operation Sauerkraut. The label measures 20 x 17 mm and has a violet background with un-inked design and text featuring the Nazi spread-winged eagle atop an enclosed swastika. The text Partei Betrag ("Party contribution") is above the eagle's wings; "N.S.D.A.P." is at bottom. The denomination "1.-" is at left, and "-.30" is at right, representing 1.30 Reichsmarks. A thin, black overprint "1940" covers the wings of the eagle. Ripley's find is a sheet of 20 (4x5), measuring 123 mm square, imperforate. At a future point, holes will be placed between the counterfeits (perforations) so they can be easily separated.
The Johnston OSS Counterfeit 40-centimes French Fiscal Stamp
My friend and fellow researcher Wolfgang Baldus told me about these stamps being mentioned in a French catalog. The 2000 edition of the French specialized catalogue of fiscal stamps Catalogue des timbres fiscaux et Socio-posteaux de France contains the following paragraph (edited for brevity):
Forgeries for commercial use. During the Second World War forged fiscal stamps were used to provide false papers without alerting the collaborationist regime through the purchase of ostentatious quantities of such stamps. The following values have been noted: 40 centimes, 2 francs, 5 francs and 15 francs. These stamps, which appear to have been made one by one, all have the watermark ‘AT36’ and usually have irregular perforations at one or more corners.
The latter catalogue, which illustrates the forgeries, states that “these values enabled the franking of false identity cards (15f or 3 × 5f), a false birth certificate from prior to 1933 (5f + 40c), a false certificate of residence from before 1939 (2f + 2f + 2f), etc.” The stamps were said to have been produced individually within a tiny sheet.
The Johnston OSS Counterfeit 2-franc French Fiscal Stamp
The United States also prepared fake fiscal stamps for use in France on passports and other documents. I first wrote about this stamp in “The Rarest Forgery of WWII?” The SPA Journal, April 1977. The French fiscal stamp counterfeits had not previously been mentioned in the American philatelic press at that time. Twenty-four years later my friend W. David Ripley III discovered an entire imperforate sheet of the forgeries in the estate of a former OSS employee.
Major Reddick told me about his experience with the French stamps:
I am sure you are familiar with the O.S.S. in World War Two. Our missions were the gathering of intelligence as well as the infiltration of spies and saboteurs behind the enemy lines in France and Northern Italy, usually by drops from aircraft. I was an officer in the O.S.S. and early in 1944 I was sent on a mission to Bari, Italy, from our headquarters in Algiers. On my return I was forced to lay over in Naples and billeted with one of our group who was engaged in supplying all the necessary papers to the agents who were being dropped behind the lines. We produced everything needed, including identification cards and tax stamps for the documents that required them. The forgeries were a marvel of perfection and as far as I know, the Germans never caught on. On seeing the stamps, I asked for some as souvenirs. No dice - but after much wheedling and explaining that I was a collector, he grudgingly gave me just one specimen. I have kept it all these years.
The Johnston OSS Counterfeit 5-franc French Fiscal Stamp
Wolfgang Baldus has researched these stamps in some depth and says about this one:
The 5 Francs fiscal stamp has the same design but “Timbre fiscal” is replaced by “Taxes communales” (local taxes). Virtually nothing is known about the propaganda forgery of this stamp. One mint copy was allegedly in the possession of a former OSS officer who sold it to the American stamp dealer Herman Herst in 1975. The stamp is said to be now in a private collection of a former CIA member who bought it from Herst. Nothing was ever published on this stamp forgery and only a few personal letters referring to it exist. The forgery is perforated 13, fully gummed and printed faintly with a strong red “5 Francs” print making the stamp design look pale. It was allegedly prepared for use on marriage certificates.
The Ripley OSS Counterfeit 13-franc/15-franc French Fiscal Stamp
The United States OSS forgeries of French fiscal stamps were prepared for use by OSS agents and the French underground on various identity papers. The genuine stamps are 35 x 19 mm and depict the head of Ceres in a medallion on the left, and "TIMBRE / FISCAL" in two lines at the right above a denomination in another color. The forgeries are excellent reproductions, are perforated, and watermarked. The printing format is known for the 13 francs and 15 francs forgeries: twenty-eight stamps in a 4 x 7 arrangement, with the left-hand two columns being 13 francs and the right-hand two columns being 15 francs.
The German government seems to have been fueled by various stamps placed on documents to guarantee authenticity. But they also needed those documents to be stamped by official handstamps of the correct shape, wording, and ink. A perfect forged stamp would not pass on the best documents if the handstamps were incorrect. Because of this the OSS spent a great deal of time counterfeiting the handstamps to use on their counterfeit documents. Here is a small collection of them showing many different countries and uses. Among the hand stamps I see Germany, France, Danzig (was Poland, about to become Germany), Costa Rica, and Belgium. I also see a group of forged signatures certainly intended to go on documents. I believe all these signatures are of officers of the administrative authorities who signed identity cards and passports etc. before adding the official seals on the documents.
I want to thank Wolfgang Baldus the German researcher and author who helped with some of the more complex translations below
Some of the French items include Limoges City Hall - Haute-Vienne; City of Marseille Supply (Supplies); City of Boulogne -Central police station; Prefecture of Isère; French Republic - Police Commissioner -Vichy (Allier); Perigueux City Hall - (Dordogne); Prefecture of POLICE - Administrative Department of Traffic and Transport; 1st Police chief; Authorization to reside until...; The holder of the food card number .... issued by the City of Paris; French Consulate – Dantzig; and Office of Foreigners - Prefecture of Police. Some of the statements stamped on documents are: Permitted to stay up to the (date)....(Used on residence permits); Holder of the ration card No... issued on... by the mayor of Paris 9.
Some of the German hand stamps and statements to be placed on documents are: Military Commander Belgium – Safe Conduct Office IV; Police President of Danzig; Administrative Head of the City of Mannheim; Die deutsche Arbeitsfront / AuslandsOrganisation = German Labor Front Foreign Section (used on membership booklets and ID cards; NSDAP cancel (eagle´s beak to the right - used on Nazi party documents); Reich commissioner for the occupied Norwegian territories; “Ticket issued” by Bennett Trondheim (Bennett is the oldest advertising agency of Norway,
located in the city of Trondheim).
There is also a Norwegian railway stamp: To pay 100 Öre, and a Swiss embassy in Berlin, department “Schutzmachtangelegenheiten” which is, literally, “affairs of the Protecting Power”. Switzerland acted as diplomatic representative upon request. They were five sections of the “department for foreign interests” (Abteilung fremde Interessen). For Germany it was in Berlin.
OSS Agent Eddie Lindner prepares counterfeit documents for German infiltrators at the front lines
Notice the handstamp to be used on the German documents
This charcoal sketch was prepared by anti-Nazi German “Sauerkraut” agent Willy Haseneier. Haseneier was captured 4 June 1944. An artist and graduate of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, he was used by his OSS handlers to help forge identity papers, passes, credentials and signatures. At the end of the war, he worked for the Allies producing visual aids for the Nurnberg trials. He immigrated to Hollywood after the war and found fame as "Will Williams," illustrating book covers, comic books, movie posters, and portraits of actors. Ironically, some of his drawings were called "the secret agent series," a subject he was remarkably familiar with.
Forged OSS Identity Card
Veritas, the Journal of the Army Special Operations History, Volume 5, Number 1, 2009, depicts a forged ID card bearing the Fake 13-franc stamp. The card was used by Second Lieutenant Herbert R. Bruckner (code name Sacha) using the alias Albert Jean Brugnon.
The known forgeries are 40 centimes (Useful for birth certificates, which required a 5-francs and a 40 centimes stamp); 2 francs; 5 francs (Used on municipal certificates such as marriage licenses); 13 francs (Useful on identity cards issued between 1940 and 21 April 1943, when the rate was raised to 15 francs); and 15 francs (Useful on identity cards issued after 21 April 1943).
OSS Counterfeit Card that Allows a Person to Move from one Place to Another in France
This French Identity card says on the front:
French Citizen Identity Card
Change of Domicile of Visa
The back of the card has a box for a photograph at left and says in part: Last name; First name; Profession; Born; at; Department, Home. Below the photograph there is a place for a fiscal stamp, and of course that is the reason that so many fiscal stamps were counterfeited by the OSS. The bottom half of the card has a Report section and asks in part about the person’s hair; general facial form; Mustache; Complexion; and Special features. The final boxes at the bottom of the card ask for the person’s fingerprint; Signature of the owner; and date.
OSS Counterfeit of French Certificate of Residence
This French certificate was printed in both French and German. The French text is larger since it was for France, and the German text is beneath the French so any German Gestapo or police agent could read the certificate even if he could not read French. The document is formal and almost looks like a diploma of some kind. The Mayor of the Town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz signs and attests that the person holding the certificate is a resident of his town. And of course, the document is stamped although we cannot see it well enough to translate it. The text in the two languages is:
The Mayor, undersigned, of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, certifies that Mr., Mrs., Miss
Last name and first name
Profession – Born at – In
Since - his/her place of residence (his/her habitual residence)
Saint Jean-de-Luz - Street/Quarter
Signature and Date
OSS Counterfeit Identity Pass for Foreign Workers in France
Foreign workers in occupied France also needed to carry an ID. The OSS seems to have filed this one as 227. In Rome and Switzerland filed items had a large black or blue handstamp. In Washington they just hand-wrote the number. This one asks all the usual questions; Last name; First name; Date and place of birth; Nationality, Profession, Person to be notified in case of emergency.
Height; eyes; hair; nose; mustache; complexion.
Group Stamp - Signature of Group Leader
The foreigner must always carry this form. If he is called upon to travel alone, he will carry a movement order to be checked by the police on arrival.
Italian Social Republic Ministry of the Armed Forces Army Personnel Booklet
The Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana - RSI), was a German puppet state with limited recognition that was created during the latter part of World War II, existing from the beginning of German occupation of Italy in September 1943 until the surrender of German troops in Italy in May 1945. The Italian Social Republic was the second and last incarnation of the Italian Fascist state and was led by Duce Benito Mussolini and his reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party. The Italian Social Republic exercised nominal sovereignty in Northern and Central Italy but was largely dependent on German troops to maintain control.
This 63-page booklet has pages for all the information that a soldier could possibly need: his name, rank, ID number, unit, skills, and of course all his accomplishes and areas served in during the war. An American spy wanting to pass for an Italian soldier in Northern Italy would need such a counterfeit booklet to safely pass through the German and Italian lines. On page 4 the soldier finds his oath”
I swear to serve and defend the Italian Social Republic in his or her honor and territory, in peace and in war, up to the supreme sacrifice. I swear before God and the fallen, for unity, independence, and the future of the homeland.
Safe Conduct Pass from Spain to France
Spain was a Fascist country, friendly to Germany. Many of the documents in this archive are for Spain. Rather than parachute agents into France, it might be safer to just sneak them into Spain and then let them cross over into France. This document is titled General Directorate of Security. Special Safe Conduct in Favor of…The agent would write his name. birthdate, citizenship, current address, and profession. The pass then asks where he wants to go, and this has been pre-stamped: Circulate through the border area with France. A second identical pass (except the color is yellow) states: Circulate through the border area with Portugal. At the bottom of the form there is a statement: Valid for three months or for a single trip. This safe conduct has no value if the interested party is not provided with official identity documents. It seems the OSS would need more documents to get this agent across the border. I also have a blank sheet with no text that seems to be the base design to be printed on.
OSS Counterfeit Identification Card for Greece
The Battle of Greece (Unternehmen Marita) started with an Italian attack in April 1941. The Greeks fought the Italians to a standstill, and this forced Hitler to help his ally Mussolini and join the attack in October 1940. The Germans later staged an airborne attack on Crete in May 1941. Hitler later blamed the failure of his invasion of the Soviet Union, which was delayed, on Mussolini's failed conquest of Greece. the Greek OSS group was founded in 1943, comprised of volunteers for hazardous duty with the OSS. The men had trained together in the Greek Battalion in Camp Carson, Colorado, with a few more weeks of additional training in OSS camps in Maryland. In July 1944, the first OSS groups parachuted into Greece from two C-47 aircraft. They were met by British agents who were already leading Greek fighters.
A Photograph from the OSS files of a Completed Greek ID Card
In October 1944, the German Wehrmacht was forced to withdraw from Greece. As in every nation they conquered and occupied the German used ID cards to keep track of the Greeks. This identification card is in two languages, Greek and German. The card had to be filled out in both languages. At the left are two boxes for a photograph and a fiscal stamp. This card was to be used in the city of Pagason. Some of the text is:
Family name; First name; Father's or man's name; Mother; Birthday; Place of birth; Job; Place of residence; Street and number; nationality; Religion; Parishioner; Registration number; Date…..1944.
The Parteianwärterkarte - (an application form for an NSDAP party membership).
The NSDAP had an own organization for Nazi members living outside the Reich. This was the “NSDAP/AO”, the “Auslands-Organisation” (branch for members abroad) of the party. The card above is for German citizens living abroad who wanted to become party members. Note that is the photograph of OSS forged Nazi documents in this article this item is depicted.
A Genuine NSDAP Card
After Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933 there was an enormous rush for NSDAP party membership. Other parties lost many thousands of members within days. The NSDAP had 850,000 members in January 1933, rising to 2.5 million in January 1935. To meet the unexpected rush for membership and to avoid the participation of free loaders the NSDAP introduced an admission limit for new members on 19 April 1933. It was no longer possible to become an NSDAP party member by simply filling in an application for membership (of course there were exceptions). By decree 18/37 of 20 April 1937 all individuals who were members of one or several of the many national-socialist organizations in the past years (proving their “correct attitude and conviction”), and who wanted to become NSDAP party members received a Parteianwärterkarte indicating that the bearers were waiting for being accepted as regular party members (note the date of 1937 in the card above). After acceptance they got an ordinary NSDAP member card and the Parteianwärterkarte lost validity. The admission restriction was abolished by decree 34/39 of 10 May 1939.
The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, was a far-right political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of Nazism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, existed from 1919 to 1920. The Nazi Party emerged from the German nationalist, racist and populist Freikorps paramilitary culture, which fought against the communist uprisings in post-World War I Germany. The party was created to draw workers away from communism and into nationalism. Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although this was later downplayed to gain the support of business leaders, and in the 1930s the party's focus shifted to antisemitic and anti-Marxist themes. If the OSS needed to send a man behind the lines and give him some protection it was important that the agent be a Party Member. The produced an excellent forgery of the Membership card and had the stamps and hand stamps to make it look genuine.
Southeast Border Crossing Permit
Another document to allow the agents to cross borders. This one in the Southeast. As usual, there is a place for occupation; First and Last Name; where you are leaving from; why you are entitled to leave; etc. The individual can leave Via the approved transition points once and back. The document is signed by the Quartermaster General.
An Example of a Properly filled-out Card
Attached to the counterfeit is a photo of the card properly filled out by Doctor Ladislaus Richter, Director, leaving from Budapest on a trip to Serbia could cross the border from 22 February to 20 March 1944. Notice the “225” at the left. The OSS normally filed their products by number so this was apparently where it was placed in a file cabinet.
OSS Counterfeit Border Crossing (Transition) Permit
This Border Crossing Permit was valid on the Western Front. It permitted trips between Germany, France, and Belgium. You could not cross the border wherever you wanted. The transition points permitted for use had to be specified, as well as the period of validity and the fact if the bearer intended to cross the border once or several times within the permitted time. The passport number was entered because the document was valid when also the passport was presented. Much of the text is in both German and French. Some of the text is:
Passport Ticket West Number
German Empire - France – Belgium
First name, Surname, Occupation,
Permanent place of residence, Street, House number.
Is entitled to present this passport substitute – An official photo ID - An identification card.
This pass is to be given at the last border crossing.
Issued by ..... on the date of ….. 194_, from ….. 194_ to ..... 194_.
Out and back once, via the officially approved transition offices.
A Completed Border Crossing (Transition) Permit
As usual, The OSS filed a completed border crossing permit for their official files. In this case machinist Jan de Jong of Marseille (B.d.R. = Bouches-du-Rhone, the district), was visiting Rotterdam. He had from September 30 to October 2 to leave. Since the document was filled out on 29 September, he probably went onboard a ship leaving Marseille the next day destined to Rotterdam. The cancel is “Examining office III of …., branch 5.”
DEUTSCHES REICH ARBEITSBUCH FUR AUSLANDERS
This is a counterfeit German Employment book for foreigners, a record book and an official personal document recording the employment status of its owner over time. Since many OSS agents could not pass as Germans but could pass as Czech or French workers sent to Germany as laborers, the books were needed. The regulation for Arbeitsbuchs required the obligatory identification data required by regulation included: the full name of the owner; the date and location of his birth; the name and the last residence of the owner's father or guardian; and the owner's signature. Foreigners who worked in Germany carried an Arbeitsbuch fur Auslander which had a picture of the owner. All this data should be registered with a local police office, thus turning an Arbeitsbuch into an internal passport identity document.
Organization Todt Counterfeit Workbook
Organisation Todt was a civil and military engineering organization in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, named for its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi. The organization was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in Nazi Germany and in occupied territories from France to the Soviet Union during World War II. It became notorious for using forced labor. From 1943 until 1945 during the late phase of the Third Reich, Organisation Todt administered all constructions of concentration camps to supply forced labor to industry.
Two pages from the Counterfeit WorkbookThe image above depicts two pages of a workbook/service book of the Todt Organization. These are page numbers 8 and 33. The Todt organization was created as a construction organization for military facilities, which carried out construction projects that were important to the war effort both in Germany and in the areas occupied by German troops. Being a member of this organization might have been useful for an OSS agent by enabling him to plan and carry out sabotage missions. The left page of the spread (page 8) is for entries corresponding illness or stay in hospital of the bearer (address of hospital, time of stay in hospital, reason for being there) to be continued on page 9. The right page (page 33) is for entries as to the kind of leaves (family, special, ordinary leave) and the dates (from – to). The page is good for four leaves.
Booklets and Brochures
How to derail a locomotive
The above pages are certainly from a sabotage manual printed by the OSS for their agents or partisans in occupied countries and tells the agent how to derail a locomotive. In some cases, these pages were large and folded twice to make four pages. It could be carried innocently and just appear to be a blank piece of paper but when opened depicted sabotage instructions.
The 4.5 Rocket Launcher
This two-page description explains how to set up and aim a rocket launcher at the enemy. The Viet Cong used such devices against the stronger United States military because they could be set up ahead of time and the fighters could flee the area immediately after firing leaving everything behind and escaping retaliation. Here we see that in WWII the partisans were taught to do the same thing against the stronger German Wehrmacht or Japanese Army. The second page depicts a soldier carrying the system on his back.
The Limpet Mine
A limpet mine is a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets. It is so named because of its superficial similarity to the limpet, a type of sea snail that clings tightly to rocks or other hard surfaces. A swimmer or diver may attach the mine, which is usually designed with hollow compartments to give the mine just slight negative buoyancy, making it easier to handle underwater. Usually, limpet mines are set off by a time fuse. They may also have an anti-handling device.
Limpet mines were extensively used in naval warfare during World War II by special operations commandos. In 1943, the Royal Australian Navy conducted Operation Jaywick, which relied on the use of limpet mines. Using a confiscated motor sampan, a commando of fourteen Australians sailors disguised as local fisherman were able to enter the port of Singapore, which was then under Japanese control. Once in the port, the commandos were able to attach limpet mines to the ships by covertly sneaking up to the hull at night. The operation resulted in the damage or sinking of at least six Japanese ships.
This set of instructions was folded and opened to show four pages explaining the way to prepare and use the OSS limpet mine.
A Wesermünde Employment Agency Letterhead
You might wonder why the OSS would have a need for stationery. The OSS in Switzerland was making counterfeit envelopes with printed return addresses as well as fake airletters and stationery. What better way to send mail behind the lines that looked legitimate? This Washington counterfeit stationery is even more important for agents going behind the lines. We have seen the counterfeit workbooks, but suppose you are stopped before you get to your destination None of that would work. But suppose you had a nice letter in your pocket from an employment agency saying that you were offered a job and you were on your way to that job. Or maybe you were just looking for a job there. What a smart idea.
The letterhead above is the stationery of the employment agency in the town of Wesermünde. If you are looking for a job the agency will try to find one for you by writing a request to potential employers. The OSS could also have provided an “official” recommendation for an agent who intended to infiltrate a certain firm or office by pretending to look for a job.
San Koh Flour Mills
Best Bakers Flour
These are interesting forged labels, or perhaps decals to be placed on a flour bag. Why would the OSS make such a counterfeit? Perhaps they wanted to move weapons or cash behind enemy lines disguised in Flour bags. Or perhaps there were explosives that might sink the ship or blow up a train carrying the bag. The possibilities are endless.
On 21 February 1943, The OSS requested that agents in Chungking send them: "generous samples of textiles and flour bags." An undated memo asks: "Do you want standard 48-pound flour bags, if so, what brands?" On 2 March 1943, Chungking replied: "Expect to send clothes and bags next mail." On 25 May 1943 we find "Bags, clothes, rice, salt, sugar, flour, not received." Another undated message asks: "Your 10 July not any flour sacks received. Must trace. Who carried the pouch?" A 13 August 1943 note says: "The sacks arrived."
Unidentified papers and documents
During World War II, the Kingdom of Hungary was a member of the Axis powers. In the 1930s, the Kingdom of Hungary relied on increased trade with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to pull itself out of the Great Depression. Hungarian politics and foreign policy had become more stridently nationalistic by 1938, and Hungary adopted a policy like Germany's, attempting to incorporate ethnic Hungarian areas in neighboring countries into Hungary. Hungary benefited territorially from its relationship with the Axis. Settlements were negotiated regarding territorial disputes with the Czechoslovak Republic, the Slovak Republic, and the Kingdom of Romania. In 1940, Hungary joined the Axis powers. The following year, Hungarian forces participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of the Soviet Union. Their participation was noted by German observers for its cruelty, with occupied peoples subjected to arbitrary violence. Hungarian volunteers were sometimes referred to as engaging in "murder tourism.”
We do not know exactly what the item above was used for. It bears the heraldic symbol of Hungary. It appears to have a fold at the center so it could have been a booklet for working papers, identification or whatever. At present we do not know why the OSS counterfeited it, but we assume that Allied agents needed it to move around in Fascist Hungary.
A Kingdom of Hungary Forged Passport
It seems I might have put the cart before the horse on the Hungarian entry. As you can see above, I was guessing at how that strange page with the crown was used. As I obtained some more of the collection, I found a complete forged Hungarian passport. When I opened it, the first thing I saw was a page like the one above but with some minor changes, and much reduced since the passport is just 3.5 x 6.25-inches in size. There are then 9 pages with text for personal data and then pages 9 to 43 are blank with an image much like the one above where they can be stamped as you travel from place to place. So, although I am still guessing, this seems to be a blank page to be used in Hungarian official booklets and documents to separate different areas. The text is in both Hungarian and French, and I note on the last page at back the number "1939."
Special Envoy to India
Many of these items are a complete mystery and since the man who printed them is deceased, we will never know why they were counterfeited. This item is a small paper in Japanese. It might have been placed on another document, or there might be something important on the back like a safe conduct pass. Hopefully, we will see the back of the paper in the not-too-distant future. The text says on the front:
Japanese Army Special Envoy to India.
Attached to the Consulate.
14 December 1941
Elite and other combat units that are often in life-threatening situations seem to have songs and poems that either tell of their bravery or make fun of the possibility of death. For instance, the paratroopers like to sing, “Gory, Gory, what a Hell of a way to die,” telling of a young trooper whose chute did not open. During the Vietnam War at Christmas, some troopers sang, “Jingle bells, mortar shells, Charley’s in the grass. Take you Merry Christmas Cheer and shove it up your ass.” There are parody songs for the Green Berets and even the PSYOP troops. The OSS Society Newsletter of Summer 2004 mentions this unsigned OSS poem that turned up in 1944 in Cairo. Curiously, the author must have thought it was overly sexual because he only wanted men to see the poem. I find it to be rather mild.
Oh, the OSS, Oh yes, yes, yes.
They make all the Axis partners guess.
They disguise themselves in a beard or a dress.
They pal around with kings and popes,
and pay baksheesh in scented soaps.
This has been a short look at, and discussion of, the forgeries created by the OSS in Washington D.C. There were thousands more. Any reader having an interesting OSS story or comment is encouraged to write the author at firstname.lastname@example.org