THE ESCAPE FACTORY: The Story of MIS-X by Lloyd R. Shoemaker
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An insider's fascinating and revelatory report on a hush-hush agency whose WW II contributions had been all but lost in a mysterious security shuffle. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Pentagon officials ordered the Army's Military Intelligence Service to establish a branch that could (like the UK prototype, MI-9) help US and Allied troops taken prisoner escape their Axis captors. Based at Fort Hunt, near Alexandria, the clandestine outfit performed yeoman labor on behalf of POWs. Working through such front organizations as Servicemen's Relief, for example, MIS-X (which forswore tampering with Red Cross packages) smuggled maps, forged documents, counterfeit currency, radios, compasses, cameras, and other useful times into stalags throughout Eastern Europe, facilitating some of the war's boldest breakouts. Its field personnel also briefed fliers and ground forces on cryptographic techniques that could, if need be, make letters apparently directed to loved ones at home sources of vital messages. Wounded in the Pacific theater, Shoemaker was assigned upon recovery to MIS-X, where he remained through war's end. His principal responsibilities involved buying innocuous goods (e.g., playing cards or shoe brushes) that could be fashioned into carriers of contraband. He also participated in the mail schemes that ensured bootleg bundles would pass muster with Nazi censors and reach the right hands behind the wire. A splendidly informative job of shedding light on a hitherto undisclosed chapter in American military history. The text has appendices that, among other things, show how to decode seemingly innocent letters, and eight pages of photographs, including X-rays of pipes concealing compasses and baseballs housing radio parts.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's