‘National Airlines, “Airline of the Stars”, announces the departure of their flight NA 106 to La Guardia Field, New York. Will all passengers please proceed to gate number seven. All aboard, please.’
Goldfinger, Chapter one
James Bond is in Miami Airport awaiting his Transamerica flight to New York, when he hears the above announcement of a flight from a competing airline.
National Airlines was a major passenger airline which operated from 1934 until 1980 when it was taken over by Pan Am. The slogan “Airline of the Stars” appeared on the planes and was used throughout the 1950’s in reference to Hollywood movie stars flying on the airline. In 1964 they changed the slogan to “Coast to Coast to Coast.”
In 1958, National became the first Airline to fly jets domestically in the United States, first going from New York to Florida, using a Boeing 707.
We’re not told the time that Bond is in the airport, but a look at a 1958 National Airlines flight table tells us that NA Flight 106 left Miami at 10:00PM and arrived in New York at 2:55AM. But as you see, the flight did not go to La Guardia Field, but rather to Idlewild (now JFK).
And yet there had been something curiously impressive about the death of the Mexican. It wasn’t that he hadn’t deserved to die. He was an evil man, a man they call in Mexico a capungo. A capungo is a bandit who will kill for as little as forty pesos, which is about twenty-five shillings—though probably he had been paid more to attempt the killing of Bond—and, from the look of him, he had been an instrument of pain and misery all his life.
Goldfinger, Chapter One
Easy entry here, as Ian Fleming defines the term for us. In the context here, it simply means a cheap hitman or assassin.
FInding the actual term in use was a bit more difficult. I didn’t think Fleming just made it up, but I couldn’t find any references to it, other than it being the name given to a minor villain in a motion picture.
Searching Kapiangu brought me to the Portuguese term “Capiango” which is defined as “pessoa que rouba com destreza” – literally translated means “bad person who steals with dexterity.” In Spanish, it can be translated to “clever thief”, or simply thief.
“Bad person” fits with Fleming’s description that this was an “evil man.”
Could Ian Fleming have meant Capiango instead of Capungo? Or had he heard Capungo used in the context in which he uses it here in Goldfinger?
If anyone has further information, I’d love to hear from you.
As for the price of 40 pesos or 25 shillings, the current value of that would be 1.43 GBP or $2.03 USD. Adjusting for inflation from 1958 to to 2021, that would about 13.35 GBP or $18.91 USD.
An aged tanker of around ten thousand tons deadweight was secured alongside the top of the T. It stood well out of the water, its deck perhaps twelve feet above the quay. The tanker was called Blanche, and the Ant of Antwerp showed at her stern.
DR. NO Chapter 19
The men from the SS Blanche would have dug him out.
DR. NO Chapter 20
Throughout his writings, Ian Fleming would include the names of his friends (and sometimes enemies) in his books.
This one makes me laugh. Blanche is a reference to Blanche Blackwell his (intimate) friend in Jamaica. Describing the fictional ship as An aged tanker of around ten thousand tons deadweight was, as Mathew Parker notes, “a sign that their relationship had reached the point of affectionate teasing”.
And if I may say so, sir, I submit that we should take steps to clear up Crab Key without waiting for approval from London. I can provide a platoon ready to embark by this evening. HMS Narvik came in yesterday. If the programme of receptions and cocktail parties for her could possibly be deferred for forty-eight hours or so…” The Brigadier let his sarcasm hang in the air.
DR. NO Chapter 20
DR. No has met his demise and James Bond is back in Jamaica where an emergency meeting is underway in King’s House. The Brigadier in command of the Caribbean Defence Force suggests a plan of action.
There appears that there was a ship by the name of H.M.S. Narvik. There isn’t a whole lot of information that is readily available. The real ship was a submarine support ship, which apparently supplied and supported a fleet of submarines.
There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that the vessel ever came to Jamaica, it appears most of its time during that period was in the South Pacific. I’d be interested to know how Fleming came to choose this ship to be the cited for this adventure.
The long garage was empty. Under the neon lights the black and gold painted dragon on wheels looked like a float waiting for the Lord Mayor’s Show. It was pointing towards the sliding doors and the hatch of the armoured cabin stood open.
DR. NO Chapter 19
James Bond has just finished Dr. No’s obstacle course and disposed of the Dr, and is now, along with Honeychile Rider looking for a means to get away from the compound, which is in pure chaos at the moment. He spots Dr. No’s “dragon” and it reminds him of a float for the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the oldest annual events in London, being 802 years old as of 2020. In 1215, King John attempted to win over the city of London to his side by appointing a mayor who would be loyal to him. According to the event’s website:
The King added a careful condition: every year the newly elected Mayor must leave the safety of the City, travel upriver to Westminster and swear loyalty to him. The Mayor has now made that journey nearly 700 times, despite plagues and fires and countless wars, and pledged his or her loyalty to 34 kings and queens of England.
As the procession went up to Westminster by river, this is why to this day, vehicles used in processions are referred to as “floats.” In 1757 a magnificent State Coach was commissioned. The coach had “gilded coachwork and painted panels depicting London’s majesty, piety and global reach.” The Black and Gold dragon of Dr No brought the State Coach to Bond’s mind.
There is a million dollars’ worth of equipment up above us in the rock galleries, Mister Bond, sending fingers up into the Heavyside Layer, waiting for the signals, jamming them, countering beams with other beams.
DR. NO, Chapter 16
Doctor No is continuing to brag to James Bond about his installation on Crab Key, having just named a bunch of armed missiles that he has interfered with on behalf of the Russians.
Fleming tosses in a reference to the Heavyside Layer, referring to the Heaviside layer, sometimes called the Kennelly–Heaviside layer. This is a region of the Earth’s ionosphere, between roughly 90 and 150 km above the ground.
This region was predicted separately and at almost the same time by Arthur E. Kennelly and Oliver Heaviside. At the time the use of radio waves was in its infancy, and scientists didn’t understand why radio waves followed the curve of the earth rather than shooting directly out into space.
Heaviside, a self-taught British engineer, hypothesized in 1902 that there was a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that forced radio waves to skim around the planet.
This led to great advances in radio technology so that by the time of Doctor No, it was possible not only to guide missiles by radio but also to intercept them.
Doctor No states that “And we track it, as accurately as they are tracking it in the Operations Room on Turks Island.”
The ninth was the top floor of the building. Most of it was occupied by Communications, the hand-picked inter-services team of operators whose only interest was the world of microwaves, sunspots, and the ‘heaviside layer’. Above them, on the flat roof, were the three squat masts of one of the most powerful transmitters in England, explained on the bold bronze list of occupants in the entrance hall of the building by the words ‘Radio Tests Ltd.’
Moonraker, Chapter 2
The term (with the correct spelling) also appears in Moonraker in a description of MI6 headquarters building.
“Perhaps you have read of the rockets that have been going astray recently? The multi-stage SNARK, for instance, that ended its flight in the forests of Brazil instead of the depths of the South Atlantic?”
DR NO Chapter 16
“There have been other failures, decisive failures, from the long list of prototypes–the ZUNI, MATADOR, PETREL, REGULUS, BOMARC–so many names, so many changes, I can’t even remember them all. Well, Mister Bond,”
DR NO Chapter 16
“You do not believe me? No matter. Others do. Others who have seen the complete abandonment of one series, the MASTODON, because of its recurring navigational errors, its failure to obey the radio directions from Turks Island.
DR NO Chapter 16
Doctor No is feeling pretty good about things and is showing off a little to his guests James Bond and Honeychile Rider. He reveals that all these recent failed missile tests are a result of a million dollars worth of equipment on his installation there on Crab Key.
As usual, Ian Fleming is mixing in real events with the story, giving it a stronger feel of plausibility. All but one of the named missiles were real.
SNARK: (Northrop SM-62 Snark) An intercontinental cruise missile used by the USAF from 1958 through 1961. It was meant to be able to carry a nuclear warhead as a deterrent to the U.S.S.R. It had landing skids, making it able to be re-used. In a 1956 test, a Snark flew too far and refused its destruct command, and disappeared over Brazil, just as Doctor No said. (“You recall that it refused to obey the telemetred instructions to change its course, even to destroy itself. It developed a will of its own?“)
ZUNI: A 5 inch air-to-air and air-to-ground missile developed in the early 1950’s by the U.S. Navy and approved for production in 1957. Designed to carry a variety of warheads, this missile was used extensively in the Vietnam war and continues in use to this day.
MATADOR: (Martin MGM-1 Matador) The first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile developed by the U.S. Deployed in 1953, these were made to carry a nuclear payload. A total of about 1200 were produced before being taken out of service in 1962. The missile was guided via radio link which made it vulnerable to radio jamming by Doctor No’s team.
PETREL: (AUM-N-2 Petrel, or Kingfisher C) An air-to-surface missile intended for use against ships or surfaced submarines. It carried a torpedo as its payload. It came into operation in 1956, but was cancelled in 1959.
REGULUS: (SSM-N-8 Regulus) Developed by the U.S. Navy this was a turbojet cruise missile launched from ships and surfaced submarines, carrying a nuclear warhead. It was in service between 1955 and 1964.
BOMARC: (Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc IM-99 Weapon System) The world’s first long-range anti-aircraft missile. It was in service from 1959 to 1972. Produced by Boeing in collaboration with the Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (MARC) gave the missile its name.
MASTODON: Unless Fleming knew about a secret program by this name which was abandoned, it seems like this is the only fictional missile named in this group.
“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!