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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / April 15, 2001

Page 5 of 8

Continued from page 4

The information covers a three-year arc in which the tide of war turned decisively in favor of the United States. ''Jap propaganda has become less effective daily,'' Manila lawyer Myron Wiener, another Gripsholm passenger, said of the Philippines in May of 1943. He said the Japanese had managed to seize less than half the radios in Manila and that thousands of people were tuned in to Allied propaganda.

By then, in the French colony that comprised what is now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, anti-Japanese guerrillas were blowing up railroads and carrying out other acts of sabotage. Knowing the extent of resistance might have helped the Allies to concentrate their forces elsewhere.

Some of the Gripsholm passengers had come from Japan itself with news about the legendary spy Richard Sorge, who had posed as an American journalist in Shanghai and as a German reporter in Japan while convincing the Nazis he was their agent. Actually, he was a Soviet spy all along. Gripsholm passengers reported Sorge was sentenced to death [he was later executed] and some saw members of his ring in prison. Midway through the war neither Moscow nor Washington knew that for certain.

The Gripsholm repatriation also washed ashore experts to flesh out the OSS Asian operations, among them Allman, who due to his seat on Shanghai's international court, which governed the foreigners in town, earned the ''Judge'' sobriquet.

''The Judge was a very exciting man,'' says Dotti Allman of Carlisle, Pa., who was a widow in her forties when she married the wealthy, widowed, 79-year-old Allman, only because he kept asking her. ''I thought I was supposed to marry for love, but I thought, `What the heck.' Fourteen years later he died.''

Allman described himself in a 1943 memoir as ''a green hillbilly'' who had come down out of the Blue Ridge Mountains and scraped up enough cash for a single year at the University of Virginia. Desperate for an education, he foraged for opportunities and finally stumbled into a student interpreter training program run by the State Department.

He was sent to study Chinese at the University of Beijing and stayed long enough to earn a law degree. In the meantime, he worked as an assistant librarian with another young law student, Mao Zedong. They practiced their respective second languages on each other and kept in touch until Chairman Mao conquered the country in the chaos that followed World War II.

After school, Allman joined the US diplomatic staff in China, but he didn't like the job. ''My principal duty was that of tracking down baggage lost by Americans,'' he wrote later. After six years in the foreign service, he hung a shingle in Shanghai, where he helped Cornelius Starr turn his insurance company into an international brokerage house that did business in Asia for other companies worldwide.

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