Spies hid messages in fabrics

In the world of espionage, the ability to hide secret information is one of the most important tools for any undercover agent. Throughout history, spies used various methods to hide their secret codes, but one of the most ingenious is the technique of hiding messages in fabrics. A technique that evolved over time.

Berlin, women weaving
They hid messages in fabrics at different times in history.

The idea of hiding messages in textiles dates back to ancient Rome, where it was used to send secret messages between military leaders. During the American Revolutionary War, Molly Rinker, a spy for George Washington, sent secret messages in her balls of wool.

During World War I, this technique was used by secret agents to send coded messages across the front line. Messages were written on handkerchiefs and other fabrics, which were then sent through regular correspondence. The codes were extremely difficult to detect, as the handkerchiefs appeared harmless and were very common at the time.

During World War II, spies employed this technique in an even more sophisticated way. Instead of writing messages on fabrics, needles and threads of different colors were used to sew the codes onto clothing or everyday objects. These codes could be very complex, and only the most highly trained spies could decipher them.

For example, a jacket with a red seam could mean that a bomb was about to explode, while a blue seam could mean that the enemy was preparing an attack.

Another way was to hide messages in Morse code in knitted and crocheted fabrics. A knot became a stitch or a loop a dash and so on, with a range of combinations. Many women who stayed at home sent socks, balaclavas or coats for their husbands on the front. Many of these fabrics carried secret messages that were virtually undetectable to the enemy.

Hiding messages in fabrics

Who was Phylis Latour Doyle?

She was a CIA agent who became famous for her role in Operation Aquarius during the Cold War. In 1952, Doyle was sent to Paris, France, as part of Operation Aquarius.

Phyllis Latour

The following year, Doyle was to transport an important message to London. Instead of using a secure method of communication, such as an encrypted cable, he used a more risky method: an invisible dye applied to a silk handkerchief. Doyle carried the handkerchief hidden in his bag and delivered it to a CIA agent in London. Although the mission was dangerous, Doyle accepted the challenge and succeeded in delivering the message.

Today, the technique of hiding messages in fabrics remains a valuable tool in the intelligence world. Spies use fabrics and clothing to hide electronic devices, such as cameras and microphones, as well as to send coded messages.

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