06 March 2010

Mmmm....Mutton


From the Spokane Daily Chronicle on this day in 1957:

GROCERY ORDER HAD DEADLY ERROR

Security is a big word in today's language, peacetime or wartime. Wherever there are big military installations, secret manufacturing projects and hush-hush testing grounds, mum has to be the word on certain things.

That's because a military secret can spring a leak so easily and so many different ways. Capt. Harry Grattidge, former master of the liner Queen Mary, gave an example here last night of the way a leak may develop. The one that almost did could have cost the allies one of the world's biggest liners - loaded with 15,000 American troops.

The Queen Mary was sailing as an anonymous craft from New York to Australia. The course cut through submarine-infested waters of the South Atlantic. The 15,000 troops aboard needed huge supplies of food. A message to Rio ordered 200,000 pounds of mutton, among other things, without identifying the ship.

A young American naval officer spotted that one quickly. Mutton couldn't mean a United States vessel. It had to be a British ship. And 200,000 pounds? The ship had to be an enormous one. Answer: One of the Queen liners.

How unbelievably lucky, said  Captain Grattidge, that the message hadn't been picked up and interpreted that same way by somebody telling submarines where to strike.

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