One very important thing when learning about history is ensuring that what you’re reading is accurate. As you dig through countless articles and blogs retelling the events of calamities like the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, you may come across mentions of a newspaper ad that allegedly served as a forewarning of the impending Japanese attack. The theory proved to be a popular one, attracting attention from reputable sources like Time magazine and finding itself alongside other Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories like that of FDR’s advance knowledge of the attack.
The Deadly Double Ad
An unfortunate name for a game indeed, especially one to be advertised just two weeks prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, but The Deadly Double was exactly that – a game. So how did a harmless ad get pegged as a secret sign for a devastating attack?
Several ads for “The Deadly Double” appeared in the November 22, 1941 issue of the New Yorker. The main ad depicted players hiding in an air raid shelter enjoying the game with the title “Achtung, Warning, Alerte!” Maybe not the best way to advertise a dice game, especially considering the overseas war, but it wasn’t even the main ad that drew attention. Scattered throughout the same issue were smaller ads that referred back to the main one. In them, dice were depicted with the numbers 12 and 7.
After the attack, American intelligence officers supposedly took notice of the ads and looked deeper, trying to find connections between the print and the attack that occurred 16 days later. As they say, if you look for a connection hard enough, chances are you’ll find one, and after an investigation into “The Deadly Double,” Lasislas Farago, a former US intelligence expert and military historian, was adamant there was a link.
According to Farago in a piece published by The New York Times in 1967, the use of 12 and 7 was clearly an indication of month and day while the numbers 5 and 0, which also appeared in the ads, may have coincided with the planned time for the bombing—despite the fact that the attack actually began just before 8 AM. Additionally, the Roman numeral for 20, XX, appeared on another die, possibly indicating the approximate latitude of Pearl Harbor.
The Truth Revealed
Despite the mystery of “The Deadly Double” advertisement that Farago perpetuated and plenty of people latched on to, according to the widow of the game’s creator, it was all a series of unfortunate coincidences.
The day after Farago’s article was published, The New York Times identified the creator of “The Deadly Double,” a real dice game that bore no link to World War II or the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roger Paul Craig’s wife had reached out to the paper to exonerate her husband’s creation.
Farago’s research into “The Deadly Double” apparently missed a May 1942 article published by the Los Angeles Times that included a comment from Roger Paul Craig mocking the absurdity of the theory.
The ads were indeed cryptic, but were done merely as teasers to promote “The Deadly Double.” Any link between the numbers and Pearl Harbor were mere flukes and thus, a Pearl Harbor mystery was solved.