Right now, I think there is a ~35% chance that the Somerton Man was a Russian merchant seaman who had worked on a WWII Lend-Lease ship bringing goods from America to Vladivostok on the Pacific Route. We know his physical appearance, height, fingerprints, and his rough date of birth: and that he was found dead on a South Australian beach on 1st December 1948.
What struck me last night was that this might well be all we need to work with.
So at long last, I’ve finally formed a Somerton Man plan. Here’s what I’ll do (though it won’t happen in a day or even a week):-
(1) Find the Soviet crew lists for Lend-Lease ships landing on the West Coast of America during 1941-1945 (e.g. via Ancestry.com or elsewhere), and merge them into a single list.
Once this is filtered for merchant seamen of the right age (and I’ll happily take your suggestions as to what age range to filter against), my estimate is that I should have ~250 names to work with.
(2) Find out if any of these were alive in 1949 and beyond.
As I recall, there is a Maritime Cemetery in Vladivostok. My guess is that a fair few of these merchant seamen will be buried there: hopefully I’ll be able to find a nice administrative list or database to work with.
I estimate that this should reduce the list to something closer to 100 names. If other usable secondary databases exist, they might help get the list down to ~50 names.
Once I get to this point, it seems that there are four parallel strategies to follow, each of which might independently work:-
(3a) Trace these 50 names further using other Soviet databases. (Though because this was the era of Stalin’s Russia, there might well be rather less to go on than one would normally hope for).
(3b) Find crew-lists of Soviet ships arriving in or leaving from Australian ports 1943-1948 (and/or Australian alien seamen registration forms), and cross-reference against these.
(3c) Network through to retired Russian merchant seamen who worked on Lend-Lease ships and see what / who they remember. (There are, as I also recall, Homes for Retired Seamen in Vladivostok, which would seem to be a good place to start).
(3d) See if I can get a Vladivostok journalist interested enough in the story to try to run it in a paper. Who knows what might come out of it.
Perhaps one of these will work, perhaps it won’t. But it certainly beats sitting around trying to guess what “MLIABO” might conceivably stand for (“Making Love Is A Bad Option”, etc). 😉