“Doubtless you know that Turks Island, about three hundred miles from here through the Windward Passage, is the most important centre for testing the guided missiles of the United States?”
DR NO, Chapter 16
Dinner has just been completed between Doctor No, James Bond and Honeychile Rider. They have moved on to their “after-dinner entertainment.” Bond has asked what is next for Doctor No, and the reply is noted above.
The Grand Turk Auxiliary Air Force Base was a missile tracking station built as a joint agreement between the United States and Great Britain which went into operation in 1953. The purpose of the base, and other tracking sites, was to track the long-range missiles launched from the United States as well as the satellites and manned flights launched from Cape Canaveral.
The first missile tracked from the station was in November, 1955 when it tracked a SNARK missile. (more on that later!) The station was an early member of the Atlantic Missile Range and was operated by the Pan American Airways Guided Missile Range Division. It wasn’t quite the most important base, as Doctor No claimed, but it was an important installation during that time period.
Grand Turk, along with several other bases, was used to track all of the space launches from Explore 1 to the last of the Mercury flights and was the first place that John Glenn was taken to on Feb 20, 1962. It continued through the Gemini and Apollo as a “satellite” station of Cape Canaveral. The base was closed in 1984.
The Windward Passage refers to the strait between Cuba and Haiti.
Then I went to Milwaukee, where there are no Chinamen, and enrolled myself in the faculty of medicine. I hid myself in the academic world, the world of libraries and laboratories and classrooms and campuses. And there, Mister Bond, I lost myself in the study of the human body and the human mind.
DR NO. Chapter 15
Doctor No is continuing to tell his life story to his captive audience of James Bond and Honeychile Rider. He has just finished the talking about his escape with the funds of the Hip Sings (his New York Tong gang) and for his next move he heads to Milwaukee.
Well, he did say he wanted to lose himself. At the time that Doctor No would’ve been enrolled he likely went to the Marquette University School of Medicine, which is now Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW)
It was one of the top medical schools in the country at the time, while remaining out of the spotlight that Ivy League schools would’ve garnered. It was really the perfect spot for the young fugitive to hide himself for a few years.
The medical school gave Doctor No a few years to disappear from anyone who may have been hunting for him, before he was ready to begin the next phase of his life.
So, if you recall, there I was, in Milwaukee. In due course, I completed my studies and I left America and went by easy stages round the world. I called myself ‘doctor’ because doctors receive confidences and they can ask questions without arousing suspicion. I was looking for my headquarters.
When they let me out of the hospital I went to Silberstein, the greatest stamp dealer in New York. I bought an envelope, just one envelope, full of the rarest postage stamps in the world. I took weeks to get them together. But I didn’t mind what I paid–in New York, London, Paris, Zurich. I wanted my gold to be mobile. I invested it all in these stamps. I had foreseen the World War. I knew there would be inflation. I knew the best would appreciate, or at least hold its value.
Dr. No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining with Dr. No, listening to their host tell the story of his life. Having escaped death at the hands of the Tongs whom he betrayed, he recounts his next steps.
Nassau Street in Manhattan was the center of New York City’s “Stamp District” from around 1915 up until the 1970’s. Philately probably hit its peak during the 1950’s. Fleming, with his love of New York was likely aware of the Stamp District and perhaps even had been there during one of his trips through the city.
I was unable to find any reference to a Silberstein as a famous stamp collector. The most famous character of that time in New York Philately appears to have been a fellow named Herman (Pat) Herst Jr. Herst was ubiquitous in the stamp world, constantly making speaking appearances, publishing a newsletter Herst’s Outbursts, writing 18 books, including the best seller Nassau Street in 1960. He contributed to stamp columns in publications all over the country. His sister was Edith Herst Silverstein, which was as close as I could get to a connection.
In the course of writing this post, I came across the British Caribbean Philatelic Study Group, and in the April 2018 edition they have a bit on Ian Fleming – go to the section British Colonial post-World War II High Values (Part 2). I was drawn to this part:
Ian Lancaster Fleming has never been noted as a stamp collector or philatelist. As far as is known, he never had a collection — his interest was first editions — none of them philatelic (Figure 3). Valuable stamps never play a part in any of the James Bond adventures — they should!
Well, this is a minor part in a Bond novel. They must’ve overlooked this bit from Dr. No!
Then began the great Tong wars of the late ‘twenties. The two great New York Tongs, my own, the Hip Sings, and our rival, the On Lee Ongs, joined in combat. Over the weeks hundreds on both sides were killed and their houses and properties burned to the ground. It was a time of torture and murder and arson in which I joined with delight.
Dr No, Chapter 15
James Bond and Honey Rider are dining as guests of Dr No on Crab Key, listening to the Dr tell them the story of his life. He recalls his early years in China where he first became associated with the Hip Sings tong gang as a young man, and subsequently ran into some trouble which forced the gang to send him to New York.
Tong wars in the United States began in the 1880’s in San Francisco. Gangs spread to Chinatown communities across the United States. The Hip Sing tong was the first established on the east coast, and became the only bicoastal tong. Among their rivals in New York was the On Leong tong, with whom they battled from the early 1900’s to the 1920’s. The On Leong had the cops in their pockets; the Hip Sing won the district attorney’s office to its side.
The On Leong and Hip Sing organizations exist to this day.
Bond had left Scotland Yard with the feeling that he had achieved Clausewitz’s first principle. He had made his base secure.
Moonraker, Chapter 10.
Irritation flickered at the corner of the thin mouth. “Mister Bond, power is sovereignty. Clausewitz’s first principle was to have a secure base. From there one proceeds to freedom of action.
Dr No, Chapter 15
I. General Principles For Defense
1. To keep our troops covered as long as possible. Since we are always open to attack, except when we ourselves are attacking, we must at every instant be on the defensive and thus should place our forces as much under cover as possible.
Clausewitz, The Principles of War.
General Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) was a Prussian general and military theorist. his works included On Warand The Principles of War. He served as field soldier, with combat experience against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.
His ideas are noteworthy for among other things, the idea that war is a continuation of politics, and his approaches are even taught in business schools today.
Fleming twice using the secure base theory confirms the idea that Bond and his enemies are involved in a strategic war, which requires planning and forethought, which brings to mind another of Clausewitz’s quotes:
“No one starts a war–or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so–without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”
It’s a similar thought to making your base secure, in Moonraker Bond makes his base secure by gathering information and having his objectives clear in mind. Dr No, on the other hand has a physical base at his disposal from which he attacks the outside world.
The last iron truck of the day started off on the Decauville Track that snaked down the mountainside to the crusher and separator.
Dr No, Chapter 13
James Bond and Honey are sleeping as guests of Dr No inside their mink-lined prison on Crab Key. Outside, the workers of Dr No’s guanay colony are finishing up their day with one final load being sent down the Decauville track.
Paul Decauville innovated a movable railway system consisting of ready-made sections of light, narrow gauge track fastened to steel railway ties; this track was portable and could be disassembled and transported very easily. For an operation such Dr No’s, moving the track that transported the guano from the mountainside quarry up to the crusher and separator was needed as the location of the digging changed occasionally.
Having a hard rail was essential as much of the island was made up of soft swamp and marsh ground. This type of setup was fairly common in the Caribbean among the sugar plantations, distilleries and mining operations.
By the First World War, the Decauville system had become a military standard and the French and British eventually built thousands of miles of trench railways track.
There was everything in the bathroom–Floris Lime bath essence for men and Guerlain bathcubes for women. He crushed a cube into the water and at once the room smelled like an orchid house. The soap was Guerlain’s Sapoceti, Fleurs des Alpes.
Dr No, chapter 13
James Bond and Honey Rider are in the Mink-Lined Prison of Dr No, prior to their dinner date with the owner of the island of Crab Key.
Founded in Paris in 1828, Guerlain House is a manufacturer of fragrance, skin care and make up. All products are made in France to this day. There were also Floris products in the bathroom, as mentioned previously.
“Bryce, John Bryce.” She wrote busily. “Permanent address?” “Care of the Royal Zoological Society, Regent’s Park, London, England.” “Profession.” “Ornithologist.”
Dr No, Chapter 13
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of animals and their habitats. In 1829, King George IV gave the society a Royal Charter.
James Bond uses the ZSL as part of his cover story in Dr No, when he and Honey Rider arrive in the reception area of the Dr’s headquarters on Crab Key. Bond lists his next-of-kin as M (using his real name), describing him as his Uncle, and giving his address as Managing Director, Universal Export, Regent’s Park, London.
Thus, the Regent’s Park location of the Zoological Society and the London zoo, is conveniently located near Bond’s office in the secret service building in Regent’s park.
What was it? Half a mile away, coming across the lake, was a shapeless thing with two glaring orange eyes with black pupils. From between these, where the mouth might be, fluttered a yard of blue flame. The grey luminescence of the stars showed some kind of domed head above two short batlike wings. The thing was making a low moaning roar that overlaid another noise, a deep rhythmic thud. It was coming towards them at about ten miles an hour, throwing up a creamy wake.
Dr. No, chapter 12
The Dragon of Crab Key is one of the more terrifying creations of the mind of Ian Fleming. It had a fearsome reputation which traveled across the Carribean and kept visitors from the island.
What do we know about the dragon?
Diesel engine (“deep rhythmic thud“)
Some kind of domed cabin above two short batlike wings
Giant, solid rubber tires, at least two feet across, twice as tall as Bond. (“giant aeroplane tyres probably“
Single tire in rear width of motor
Iron fin painted black and gold
A long snout mocked-up with gaping jaws and gold paint to look like a dragon’s mouth.
Iron tractor seats
Bond still had no idea what this contraption was. Under the black and gold paint and the rest of the fancy dress it was some sort of a tractor, but of a kind he had never seen or heard of. The wheels, with their vast smooth rubber tyres, were nearly twice as tall as himself. He had seen no trade name on the tyres, it had been too dark, but they were certainly either solid or filled with porous rubber. At the rear there had been a small trailing wheel for stability. An iron fin, painted black and gold, had been added to help the dragon effect. The high mudguards had been extended into short backswept wings. A long metal dragon’s head had been added to the front of the radiator and the headlamps had been given black centres to make ‘eyes’. That was all there was to it, except that the cabin had been covered with an armoured dome and the flame-thrower added. It was, as Bond had thought, a tractor dressed up to frighten and burn–though why it had a flame-thrower instead of a machine gun he couldn’t imagine. It was clearly the only sort of vehicle that could travel the island. Its huge wide wheels would ride over mangrove and swamp and across the shallow lake. It would negotiate the rough coral uplands and, since its threat would be at night, the heat in the iron cabin would remain at least tolerable.
I’ve had a hard time figuring out this contraption as well. My best guess is that it was some sort of gulf marsh buggy:
Picturing this contraption has been a challenge, I first attempted to use the above marsh buggy as a starting point and tried to add in the rest of the details. My art skills, however, are non-existent. This was what I came up with:
I tried to incorporate the huge tires, the mudguards turned into short, backswept bat wings, the long metal dragon’s head added to the front, with the existing headlights turned into the dragon’s eyes, the armored dome on top and the fin. Definitely a crude sketch, but I think it at least gives us an idea.
I then went and looked at the 1960 comic strips for
No which appeared in Express Newspapers and examined the strips drawn by Martin Asbury which show the dragon. Here
a couple of them:
The tires are not quite the same as described by Fleming, but the other details check out. Interestingly the head of the dragon here is elongated, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me but makes sense. The lower picture shows the bat-like wings over the tires, which match up pretty well with my version.
I talked to the local schoolmaster, without telling him my secret of course, and he found out that there’s an American magazine called Nautilus for shell collectors. I had just enough money to subscribe to it and I began looking for the shells that people said they wanted in the advertisements.
Dr. No, chapter 11
James Bond is talking with Honey Rider about her life and how she began collecting shells for money.
The Nautilus started in Philadelphia in
1886, as The Conchologists’ Exchange (TCE). William D. Averell (1853–1928), a shell trader from Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, created TCE as a small publication aimed at “giving information of vital interest to the student of Mollusca” (Averell, 1886a).*
In 1889, the publication was renamed The Nautilus. It is a peer-reviewed quarterly magazine on the subject of malacology. Since 1999 it has been under the purview of the National Shell Museum. Archives of the publication are available online here.
It is fitting that Fleming would reference perhaps the most prestigious publication in the field in his book. While I don’t know if Fleming himself was a subscriber, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, given his interest in aquatic life.
As Honey stated, the publication would have sections where collectors would be asking for specific shells, or looking to exchange shells from a different area.