“It was a surprise to me, for no matter what may be said about my organization, it can never be charged that any of us ever played politics, either for promotions or for honors. In fact, we were happy to remain unknown, hidden behind curtains, as long as our work was useful to the United States Government.” (Herbert O. Yardley in, The American Black Chamber, p.322)
Imposter Revealed: Hopeless Men Lack Integrity
At the time the American Black Chamber was destroyed, U.S economy was at it worse. A week prior to the Chamber's destruction, the Great Depression had started on Black Thursday. Now without a paycheck and a job, Hebert O. Yardley and his wife moved back to his hometown in Worthington, Ohio.
When the Great Depression appeared to have no end in sight, Yardley started toying with the idea of his book . In a letter to a friend, Yardley expresses his thoughts on writing such a book, “Ever since the war I have consistently fought against disclosing anything about codes and ciphers. My reason is obvious: It warns other governments of our skill and makes our work more difficult.”
However, the combination of his quickly deteriorating financial situation, his poor opinion for the State Department and U. S state codes, soon changed his opinion on writing the novel. With the outweighing reasons for publishing the novel, Yardley set out to find an agent to help him publish the novel.
Yardley selected George T. Bye & Company of New York, a renowned publishing agency with an office at 535 Fifth Avenue. Reading Yardley's manuscript, Bye immediately recognized the potential of Yardley’s book, yet advised for magazine publication for a test run.
After the immediate success of Yardley's articles in the Saturday Evening Post, his book was agreed for publishing. On June 1st, three months after his dismissal from U.S employed and the destruction of the American Black Chamber, Yardley published the "American Black Chamber". The book soon became a best seller in Japan and America, with both countries having the same reaction, outrage. While Japan was outraged that America would be so callous as to do such a thing, America was outraged that they were being made a fool of. Nevertheless, the book was a hit. Critics described it as, “the most sensational contribution to secure history of the war, as well as the immediate post-war period, which has yet been written by an American.”
Consequently, after experiencing the roaring success of his first novel, which had sold 18,000 copies in America and 33,119 copies in Japan, Yardley sought to write another, this time revealing the Japanese role in the arms limitation conference of 1921-1922. However, unsure of how to write such a historical novel, Yardley hires Marie Stuart Klooz, a thirty-year-old Sweet Briar graduate. In two months, she produced a 970 page manuscript, and with the help of Yardley, settled on titling this novel, “Japanese Diplomatic Secrets: 1921-22.”
The finished manuscript was quietly placed in seven brown manila envelopes, for fear Washington would confiscate it, and delivered to the Bobbs-Merill Company. However, the danger of this book was too much for the company, and D. L Chambers, the president of the publishing house, turned down the manuscript. After turning down Yardley's manuscript, Chambers secretly notified Nugent Dodds, the assistant attorney general, about Yardley’s new book, noting that it made heavy use of the intercepted messages. In taking such actions, Chamber's maintained amicable relations with Washington all the while putting an end to any future writing endeavors Yardley had planned.
After receiving this news, Dodds immediately notified the State Department’s Division of Far Eastern Affairs, and a day later, an Adjutant General, and two fellow officers, proceeded to Yardley’s home in Worthington, Ohio.
On the evening of September 16th, 1932, Infantry Colonel Oliver P. Robinson, a professor of military science at Indiana University, Captain Frank E. Barber and Ernest C. Adkins, called on Yardley at his home. The following is the prepared order Colonel Robinson was tasked to read to Yardley:
Meanwhile in Washington, government officials dealt with severe damage control after the release of the “American Black Chamber” in 1931. The State Department, denied that it had been reading the Japanese messages during the Washington Conference, and even declared that Secretary of State Stimson had never heard of the American Black Chamber.
Fast-forward to 1933, the public uproar over Herbert O. Yardley’s novel had officially died down, and his second novel was taken into possession for the government. Still, the government sought to ensure that nothing like this ever happened again and therefore, set out to revise the espionage act through H. R 420. After months of revisions, the government eventually finally the act, and H.R 420.