CRACK THE CODE
“Every safe has its own personality, its own rules. Learn those rules, you can defeat any lock in the world. Forget what you’ve seen in the movies. You can’t hear clicks and stethoscopes are just a sight gag. You gotta feel it.”
--The Georgia Cracker (Code Name: Cynthia)
A con of indeterminate age and dubious background, the Georgia Cracker remains one of the most elusive bit players in the Allies’ fight against Hitler. Having no connection to Georgia whatsoever (he hailed from Canada), he was lucky enough to catch the eye of William Stephenson, master spy and right hand man to Winston Churchill’s British Security Coordination efforts in the United States. The Cracker had no birth records, no verified name, no paper trail of any kind, yet his encyclopedic knowledge of safes and reputation as a peerless safecracker earned him a get out jail free card from Sing Sing prison in the spring of 1941.
Churchill had set up his covert organization in New York City with one single-minded purpose; to gather any and all intelligence that would lead to the crushing defeat of Hitler. Part of that intelligence included secret naval codes that were being held in the Vichy French embassy in Washington D.C. Locked away at all times and kept under the watchful eye of the code master, the code books were contained in an 1887 Mosler safe with four wheels and a click-click-com lock. It would take an excruciatingly detailed plan to get into the embassy, get past the guard and dog, get into the physical code room, crack the safe, steal the codes, copy them, and finally replace the originals without the Vichy officials ever discovering the theft. It would take an expert peterman like the Georgia Cracker.
4 left 5, 3 right 20, 2 left 95, 1 right 2, stop. That was the actual combination to the safe and although the Cracker believed it would only take him about 55 minutes to discover the sequence, instead it took him 3 hours. The safe was old and rusty and the tumblers didn’t drop the way were supposed to.
“When you rotate the dial, the spindle moves the drive cam. The pins on each cam connect with the wheel fly. Don’t rush! Wait for the tumblers to drop. You’ll pick up the wheels one by one. When they line up, the fence disengages. Then slide the bolt and you’re home free.”
The naval codes were successfully obtained which directly led to Operation Torch and the Allied landings in north Africa. Next would come the landings at Normandy and the world could breathe again. The Georgia Cracker’s role in the war goes down as just another footnote in the history books, yet without his contribution, WW2 would have lasted even longer with greater loss of life and treasure. Authorities never discovered his true identity and many documents relating to this highly dangerous caper still remain classified today. It’s possible he was working for multiple masters. Maybe he was a double agent himself. Whatever the case, after participating in one of the greatest intelligence thefts of all time, the Georgia Cracker disappeared and was never heard from again.