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Military and intelligence history mostly dealing with World War II.

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    During WWII the US State Department used several cryptosystems in order to protect its radio communications from the Axis powers. The main systems used were the unenciphered Gray and Brown codebooks along with the enciphered codes A1, B1, C1, D1 and the new M-138 strip cipher. 

    In the period 1940-1944 German, Japanese and Finnish codebreakers could solve State Department messages (both low and high level) from embassies around the world. The M-138-A strip cipher was the State Department’s high level system and it was used extensively during that period. Although we still don’t know the full story the information available points to a serious compromise both of the circular traffic (Washington to all embassies) and special traffic (Washington to specific embassy). In this area there was cooperation between Germany, Japan and Finland. The German success was made possible thanks to alphabet strips and key lists they received from the Japanese in 1941 and these were passed on by the Germans to their Finnish allies in 1942. The Finnish codebreakers solved several diplomatic links in that year and in 1943 started sharing their findings with the Japanese. German and Finnish codebreakers cooperated in the solution of the strips during the war, with visits of personnel to each country. The Axis codebreakers took advantage of mistakes in the use of the strip cipher by the State Department’s cipher unit.

    Apart from purely diplomatic traffic the Axis powers were also able to read some of the messages of other organizations that were occasionally enciphered with State Department systems, such as the Office of Strategic Services, the Office of War Information and the Military Intelligence Service.

    Postwar reports

    Obviously the compromise of State Department codes and ciphers was a significant defeat for the Allies and from the available information it’s clear that both the US military authorities and the State Department leadership were interested in finding out the full extent of the damage. At the end of the war enemy codebreakers were interrogated and their surviving archives were examined for information on US codes.

    Although most of the German and Japanese signal intelligence archives were lost at the end of WWII it was still possible to find important documents regarding their operations versus State Department cryptosystems. At the same time it was possible to locate and interrogate some of the people involved in the solution of US codes. The information obtained from these sources coupled with the information obtained during the war (solved Japanese telegrams, information from the Finnish codebreakers etc) means that by the end of 1945 the US authorities had a pretty good understanding of what systems had been solved by the Axis powers.

    One would expect that this information (or at least a detailed summary) would be included in postwar reviews of Allied cipher security. Surprisingly this is not the case. The ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ volumes (dated May 1946) give an overview of German efforts against US diplomatic codes but the information on the M-138-A strip cipher is limited to the circular alphabet strips 0-1 and 0-2.

    Volume 1 ‘Synopsis’, p6 says:

    The U. S. Army Converter M-134A lSIGMYC) and the U. S. Navy Cipher Machine (HCM), furnished by the Navy to the State Department, were not read by the Germans. The State Department Strip systems 0-1 and 0-2 were solved, the former probably through a compromise and the latter through cryptanalysis. Several State Department codes including the Brown code (unenciphered) and Code A-1 (enciphered) were compromised and read, probably from 1938 and 1939, respectively.


    The value of the intelligence which the Germans got from State Department codes and strip ciphers is not accurately known. The strip systems were probably read too late to be of any great value.


    Volumes 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 also have very limited information on the diplomatic strip cipher and some of the statements made contradict each other. Volume 2 ‘Notes on German High Level Cryptography and Cryptanalysis’, p82 says:

    Cryptanalytic successes against American strip' ciphers were obtained by at least three German agencies. Dr. Rohrbach, cryptanalyst of the Foreign Office Cryptanalytic Section (Pers ZS), who claimed that his group of six cryptanalysts solved the United states State Department strip cipher (0-2) in 1943, without any previous knowledge concerning the general system, required over a year for solution

    Volume 3, ‘The Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command, Armed Forces’, p59 says:

    The leading German success in the American diplomatic field was the reading of the American strip systems. We know that the American strip system (0-2) was read by the Foreign Office Cryptanalytic Section (Pers ZS). Whether this is the same system mentioned by Huettenhain as having been broken at OKW/Chi is not known.

    Volume 6 ‘The Foreign Office Cryptanalytic Section’, p24 says:

    The Germans considered their main-successes with American systems to have included the solution off the Gray Code (called B3 by the Germans), the Brown Code (B8) and the State Department strip systems. The Grey Code had been in use since June 1918, and the Brown Code since 1938. Both systems were readable, the Brown Code having been compromised in 1941. The Strip System 0-1 was partially read in 1941, and the Strip system 0-2 was solved early in 1943. The strip systems mentioned were not read currently, but only after a delay of months.

    Yet the same studies state that copies of the 0-1 strips and their keylist were found in the Pers Z archives. Why would the Germans have problems decoding messages when they had both the alphabet strips and the keylist?

    Volume 7 ‘Goering's "Research" Bureau’, p74 says:

    Paetzel stated that ‘we attempted a strip system and read  it here and there but not currently. We finally gave it up as it took too many personnel.’ He did not remember any of the originators. Traffic was America to Europe but whether Washington-London or Washington -Paris he did not recall. The system employed 30 out of a matrix of 50 strips in a setting.’

    Volume 8 ‘Miscellaneous’, p24 says about the Finnish effort:

    Other instances of Finnish successes were: Reading of the American strip system, which the Germans called AM 10

    Another document, Special Research History SRH-366 'History of Army Strip Cipher devices' (dated 1948) repeats the same story in page 121:

    There is also available now from TICOM studies information on German and Japanese cryptanalysis on Army and State Department strip systems. The most successful work was achieved by the Cryptanalytic Section (Pers ZS) of the German Foreign Office, which read our diplomatic strip traffic until sometime in 1944. During this period the State Department was using the ‘split generatrix’ procedure. After channel elimination was adopted, German cryptanalytic success appears to have ceased. From all available information, Japanese success on our diplomatic traffic appears to have been confined to physical compromise only.


    Criticism of EASI volumes

    From the information presented so far it is clear that despite having access to important Axis codebreakers and some of their archives the US authorities only had a very general idea of how the strip cipher was exploited during the war. The EASI volumes only mention circular strips 0-1 and 0-2 and they claim that ‘the strip systems were probably read too late to be of any great value’.

    This is strange since they knew both from TICOM interrogations and ULTRA intelligence that several sets of strips had been solved during the war. Each US embassy had a set of ‘special’ strips used for direct communications with Washington and a set of ‘circular’ strips for decoding messages sent from Washington to all embassies and for intercommunication between embassies. The German agencies had an arrangement whereby OKW/Chi would attack the special strips and Pers Z the circulars (1).

    Erich Huettenhain, chief cryptanalyst of OKW/Chi (Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) said in report I-145:

    In the course of time, as a result of compromises or partial compromises of the traffic on this key, or with the aid of other readable cypher traffic, other sets of strips were discovered by cryptanalysis. We can no longer state how many different sets of strips were reconstructed; probably 10 to 20’.

    Considering that each strip set was used by more than one embassy and most used the same keylist (2) this seems to have been a serious compromise of US diplomatic traffic. Yet there is no indication from the TICOM reports that the US authorities tried to find out which specific strips were solved, which embassies used them and how much traffic was decoded. EASI volume 1 just says ‘The value of the intelligence which the Germans got from State Department codes and strip ciphers is not accurately known’.

    Unfortunately important TICOM reports such as I-31Detailed interrogations of Dr. Hüttenhain, formerly head of research section of OKW/Chi, at Flensburg on 18-21 June 1945’, I-89Report by Prof Dr. H Rohrbach of Pers Z S on American strip cipher’ and DF-15Reports of group Athat were listed in the sources of the EASI volumes are still classified by the NSA. If these reports contain details about the German exploitation of the diplomatic strip cipher then this would raise questions as to why this information was not included in the EASI volumes.

    Information that contradicts the official version of events

    Even if the postwar TICOM interrogations did not have details on the strip cipher case this still doesn’t excuse the limited information found in the EASI volumes. During the war the US authorities solved Japanese military attaché messages that contained information on State Department codes and ciphers, including actual M-138-A strips and keylists. If that wasn’t enough they were also able to interrogate the Finnish codebreakers and learn of their work on US codes plus in 1945 they located the surviving archives of OKW/Chi, which included several boxes of decoded US diplomatic messages.

    Let’s have a look at each case:

    1). Throughout 1943 there was exchange of information on State Department codes and ciphers between the Finnish and Japanese signal intelligence agencies (3). The Finns had managed to solve several special strips in 1942 and in early 1943 they gave copies to the Japanese military attaché so he could transmit this information back to Tokyo.  These messages were in turn decoded by the Allied codebreakers and they clearly revealed the compromised M-138-A strips 10-3, 10-1, 18-1, 4-1, 7-1 (4).


    More messages were exchanged regarding US codes and telegram No 101 of March 1943 contained the 33-1 strips while No 102 had solved messages on the 0-1 and 0-2 strips.


    The exchange of information was not entirely one-sided since the Japanese shared the strips used by the US embassy in Vichy France (5).


    2). In 1944 the exchange of information on State Department systems resumed but this time it was the Germans that shared their results with the Japanese. Germany and Japan had exchanged information on Allied codes and ciphers in 1941 when a Japanese mission headed by Colonel Tahei Hayashi, former head of the Army’s cryptologic agency visited Germany and exchanged US and British codes with systems solved by the Germans.  This promising start did not lead to closer cooperation as communications between Japan and Germany were problematic and the Germans did not trust the Japanese with their most recent codebreaking successes. Things changed in summer ’44, when under Hitler’s orders both M-138-A strips and decoded US messages were given to the Japanese representatives.


    According to Wilhelm Fenner, head of the codebreaking department of OKW/Chi (Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces), despite receiving orders to give the Japanese everything they asked for he only shared with them material that would not damage German interests (6).


    In July ’44 the Japanese were given M-138-A strips 0-5, 38-1 and 22-1.


    In September ’44 the strips 0-2, 0-3, 0-4 were transmitted by the Japanese attaché in Budapest.


    The Germans also gave the Japanese decoded State Department messages from Calcutta, Bombay, Moscow and Madras:


    It seems that despite statements to the contrary some of them were enciphered with the strip cipher.


    The US response downplays the compromise and says that ‘This is of course the old Brown code…’ however a report (7) examining the codes recovered from the Japanese messages shows that a message from Bombay, dated 9 August ’44 was enciphered on the keylist No13 and either the No 20-3 or 20-4 alphabet strips and also mentions a message from Calcutta of August 10, 1944 enciphered on keylist No 19 and alphabet strip 25-4. These seem to be the messages mentioned in telegram 190.

    By decoding these messages sent in 1944 the US authorities had complete knowledge of the material sent from Germany to Japan (8).


    3). In September 1944 Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union. The people in charge of the Finnish signal intelligence service anticipated this move and fearing a Soviet takeover of the country had taken measures to relocate the radio service to Sweden. This operation was called Stella Polaris (Polar Star). In late September roughly 700 people, comprising members of the intelligence services and their families were transported by ship to Sweden. The Finns had come to an agreement with the Swedish intelligence service that their people would be allowed to stay and in return the Swedes would get the Finnish crypto archives and their radio equipment. At the same time colonel Hallamaa, head of the signals intelligence service, gathered funds for the Stella Polaris group by selling the solved codes in the Finnish archives to the Americans, British and Japanese.

    The Finns revealed to the American representatives that they had solved several State Department codes and could read the messages from a number of embassies including Bern, Switzerland. A summary of their work was included in the so-called Carlson-Goldsberry report of November 1944 (9). This report was prepared by cryptanalyst Paavo Carlson of the Army’s Signal Security Agency and Paul E. Goldsberry of the State Department’s cipher unit after interviewing Finnish codebreakers and receiving cipher material from them.


    This report is still classified by the NSA, however a message sent from Washington in November 1944 says that 18 US cipher systems had been solved by the Finns (10). 


    4). In 1945, after the war ended in Europe, the Anglo-Americans launched an operation called TICOM whose goal was to capture the archives of the German codebreaking agencies and interrogate their personnel. The surviving archives of OKW/Chi (Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) were located at the bottom of lake Schliersee and divers were sent to retrieve the sealed boxes (11). According to a message from William Friedman to Frank Rowlett, dated 13 August 1945 (12), a cursory examination of the messages found in one of the boxes revealed several important US telegrams from 1943 and 1944. When these were matched with the State Department’s original messages it was found that some had been sent on the M-138-A strip system. Friedman’s comments on the discrepancies in this case are revealing:

    It is largely a quote from a Note and maybe it was correct to send the message in Brown Code. But why mark it ‘Top Secret’?  If it was not in Brown Code then I am at a loss to account for this one and there would seem to be certainly something "very rotten in the State of Denmark". If, as I assume, the modified strip cipher was in use everywhere after 1 January 1944, and the statement of German cryptanalysts, to the effect that they could not handle the modified version of that cipher, are true then what shall we make of a case like this if the message was not in Brown but in strip? Or are these chaps lying? I am anxious to know as soon as possible what information SSA can dig up on the contents of the package



    5). During WWII the US embassy in Bern, Switzerland served as the center of US intelligence activities in occupied Europe. The local station of the Office of Strategic Services was headed by Allen Dulles. In 1943 Dulles received word from Admiral Canaris and General Schellenberg that his communications had been compromised and in addition the German officials Hans Bernd Gisevius and Fritz Kolbe showed him actual decoded US messages. In 1944 he again received German reports containing decoded State Department messages (13).


    In this case it’s not clear of which agencies (apart from the OSS) were given access to this material.


    In the course of WWII the US authorities received information from various sources on the compromise of their diplomatic communications. Numerous problems with State Department crypto security were also identified in surveys conducted in 1941, 1943 and 1944 (14).

    At the end of the war the Anglo-Americans initiated a program called TICOM (Target Intelligence Committee) whose goal was to capture the archives and personnel of the Axis signal intelligence agencies. This information would be then be used to ascertain the security of Allied codes and ciphers. The TICOM program proved to be a great success and tons of files were captured. In addition some of the most important enemy codebreakers were found and interrogated.

    The information gathered from the TICOM program was summarized in postwar reports such as the ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ volumes. These reports dealt with all US Army and Navy cryptosystems but when it came to the State Department they just said:

    The State Department Strip systems 0-1 and 0-2 were solved, the former probably through a compromise and the latter through cryptanalysis. Several State Department codes including the Brown code (unenciphered) and Code A-1 (enciphered) were compromised and read, probably from 1938 and 1939, respectively.


    The value of the intelligence which the Germans got from State Department codes and strip ciphers is not accurately known. The strip systems were probably read too late to be of any great value.

    Leaving aside the question of what intelligence was leaked to the Axis powers as a result of the compromise of State Department systems it’s strange that the only M-138-A strips mentioned are 0-1 and 0-2. As we have seen the US authorities knew from the decoded Japanese military attaché messages that the Finns, Germans and Japanese had solved the circular strips 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4, 0-5 and the specials 10-3, 10-1, 18-1, 4-1, 7-1, 33-1, Vichy, 38-1, 22-1, 20-3 (or 20-4) and 25-4. These were just the strips mentioned in the Japanese traffic and not necessarily the only strips solved by the Axis. Yet the EASI volumes do not mention them. Nor do they mention which systems were solved by the Finnish codebreakers even though they had a detailed report on the subject.

    There is also no mention of specific embassies such as Moscow and Bern, whose messages were known to have been read by the Germans through the material found in the OKW/Chi archives and the OSS reports.

    The EASI volumes are dated May 1946, so it is understandable that they only had general information on Axis codebreaking activities. Processing all the captured material would have taken years. Yet most of the information on the strip cipher was available since early 1945 (15). With the cooperation of the State Department it should have been easy to identify which embassies used these strips and for how long.

    It’s not clear why all the available information on the compromise of the State Department’s strip cipher was not included in the US reports. Hopefully we will learn more once the NSA declassifies the TICOM reports I-31, I-89, DF-15 and the Carlson-Goldsberry report.


    (1). TICOM D-60 ‘Miscellaneous Papers from a file of RR Dr. Huettenhain of OKW/Chi’, p6

    (2). State Department’s strip cipher – reuse of alphabet strips and key lists, Statement of cryptographic systems now in use by Department of State - 1943

    (3). British national archives HW 40/132 'Decrypts relating to enemy exploitation of US State Department cyphers, with related correspondence', NARA - RG 457 - Entry 9032 - box 1.018 - ‘JAT write up - selections from JMA traffic'

    (4). Note that strips 9-1, 10-1, 18-1 had been copied from a US consulate in Japan in 1939 and given to the Germans in summer 1941. The Germans then gave these to their Finnish allies in 1942.

    (5). NSA Friedman collection - telegram Tokyo-Helsinki No 719,  British national archives HW 40/132 'Decrypts relating to enemy exploitation of US State Department cyphers, with related correspondence'

    (6). TICOM DF-187F, p29-30

    (7). NARA - RG 457 - Entry 9032 - Box 214 - ‘M-138-A numerical keys/daily key table/alphabet strips

    (8). NARA - RG 457 - Entry 9032 - box 1.018 - ‘JAT write up - selections from JMA traffic'

    (9). Robert Louis Benson and Cecil J. Phillips, History of Venona, p52

    (10). NARA - RG 226 - Entry 210 - box 348 - Director’s Office records relating to developments in Sweden, ca. May 1944 – January 1945

    (12). NSA Friedman collection - Letter from William Friedman to Frank Rowlett: German decodes of five messages

    (13). NARA-RG 226-entry 123-Bern-SI-INT-29 -Box 3-File 34 ‘German intelligence, Hungary

    (14). NARA - RG 457- Entry 9032- box 1.384 - 'JCS Ad hoc committee report on cryptographic security of government communications'

    (15). ‘JAT write up - selections from JMA traffic' is dated March 1945, the Carlson-Goldsberry report was written in November 1944, the OSS Bern reports were sent in late 1944, Friedman’s ‘German decodes of five messages’ is dated August 1945.

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  • 06/12/15--02:05: Update
  • 1). In State Department’s strip cipher – reuse of alphabet strips and key lists i added the following US report of November 1943:

    (15). Dr Wolfgang Franz, who has in charge of OKW/Chi’s strip cipher program said in TICOM DF-176, p9 ‘All told, some 28 circuits were solved at the Bureau under my guidance, likewise six numerical keys-some of them only in part

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  • 06/17/15--01:35: Update
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    At the end of WWII the Anglo-American Allies initiated a program called TICOM - Target Intelligence Committee, whose goal was to capture the files and personnel of the Axis signal intelligence agencies.

    Signals intelligence and codebreaking played a big part in the war with the US and UK solving important enemy cipher systems such as the German Enigma machine, the Italian Navy’s C-38m and the Japanese Navy’s JN-25 enciphered codebook. Similarly the Axis forces also had their successes, since the Germans codebreakers could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone conversations of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they could decode the messages of the British and US Navies during their convoy operations in the Atlantic and together with the Japanese and Finns they could solve State Department messages (both low and high level)  from embassies around the world.

    Obviously the only way to identify the full extent of the Axis successes was to capture their archives and interrogate the most important people in their signal intelligence agencies. Several TICOM teams took part in these operations and they were able to capture material of great value. This material was then examined by the US and UK signal intelligence agencies, with a US report from 1952 saying:

    TICOM documents have since 1945 proved to be of invaluable help to a number of cryptanalytic sections working on countries in the Western Area and a resurvey of the documents available is currently bringing to light additional material which will considerably expand its usefulness

    Unfortunately the TICOM material was kept classified till the 2000’s with the result that WWII histories do not have accurate information on Axis codebreaking successes.

    Why did the NSA and GCHQ keep this material classified for so long? The NSA’s classification guide for SIGINT Material Dating from 16 August 1945 – 31 December 1967mentions the TICOM material:

    The guide says that the TICOM documents should be kept classified for 75 years and both the US and UK followed this rule almost to the end. Thankfully most of the reports have been released in the last five years (by the NSA) and since the mid 2000’s (by GCHQ). Still couldn’t they have released it sooner? Information on their own successes was released much earlier, either at the end of the war (US Navy successes) or in the 1970’s (Enigma story).

    The guide says:  Various levels of harm to national security can be expected if this material were to be declassified, depending on the particular information being revealed

    Come on! These reports deal with ‘ancient’ cipher systems. There is no way that they could damage US national security in any way. Both the NSA and GCHQ need to be reasonable and release the rest of the TICOM reports.  Then historians will finally have the information they need to write a balancedaccount of Axis and Allied signals intelligence operations in WWII.

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    The State of Israel and its Arab neighbors have fought regular wars several times, specifically in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. The 1973 conflict was called the Yom Kippur War and although it opened with a series of Arab victories in the end the Israelis managed to contain their opponents and then defeat them by counterattacking with their mobile forces.

    Prior to the 1973 War the Israeli armed forces were thought to be greatly superior to the Arabs both in training and equipment. The Israeli victories in the previous wars meant that their leadership tended to underestimate the Arab soldier. This led to a false sense of superiority and the belief that the Arab states would not risk going to war against Israel since they would surely lose. Unfortunately for the Israelis the Arabs were prepared to go to war to achieve their political objectives. The Yom Kippur War caught the Israelis by surprise and the Arab armies were able to win victories in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. However Israeli superiority in training and leadership, coupled with the dispatch of reinforcements led to the defeat of the Arabs. This was a costly victory and it led both sides to engage in peace talks that culminated in the 1978 Camp David Accords.

    The Yom Kippur War was of great interest to military observers since both sides used modern equipment and tactics. Israel had equipment used by NATO countries and the Arabs were equipped with Soviet weapons. If the Cold War turned hot these same weapon systems were going to be used in a future conflict in Europe between NATO and the Soviet Union. For this reason the US intelligence agencies carefully evaluated the weapons and tactics of both the Arabs and Israelis. The CIA report ‘The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: Overview and Analysis of the Conflict’ contains the lessons learned from this conflict.

    The report is dated September 1975 and says:

    This study examines the military operations of Egypt, Syria, and Israel during the 1973 Middle East war with a view to providing some indications of future force developments in the area. Key findings:

    Strategy. The Arabs had different goals and, consequently, different strategies. The Syrians wanted to liberate the Golan Heights and attempted to do so in one stroke. The Egyptians' main goal was to achieve a political effect, and they therefore planned for a limited offensive. The Israelis, because of overconfidence and because they failed to recognize that their occupation of the Suez Canal's east bank deprived them of advance warning of an Egyptian attack, did not react to mounting evidence of Arab intentions.

    Performance of Troops. The Arabs were tough on defense but ill trained and poorly led on offense. The Israelis showed a depth of training and flexibility that enabled small units to withstand the initial shock of the Arab attack without breaking, and to recover quickly.

    Antitank Weaponry. The most effective tank killer in this war was the tank - 90 percent of the Arab tanks and at least 75 percent of the Israeli tanks destroyed during the war were hit by enemy tanks. Antitank missiles such as the Sagger, RPG-7, LAW, and TOW could be countered by appropriate tactics, although they represented a new and dangerous presence on the battlefield.

    Air Defense. The Arab air defenses prevented the Israeli Air Force from damaging Arab ground forces on anything like the scale seen in 1967. They achieved their primary aim by disrupting Israeli attacks rather than by shooting down or damaging Israeli aircraft. Israeli loss rates were actually lower than they were in 1967, when the Arabs had only rudimentary air defense systems. The Syrians destroyed or damaged Israeli aircraft at a rate two to three times greater than the Egyptians because the tactical situation on the Golan front forced the Israelis to accept greater risks.

    Mobilization. The Israeli mobilization was untidy and revealed many flaws and shortages. The situation was saved by the training of the troops and by standardized procedures that allowed crews to be scrambled without degrading performance. Despite the problems, the Israelis delivered more combat power to the front line in less time than the plans called for.

    Naval Operations. Israel's talent for tailoring its strengths to Arab weaknesses was especially evident in naval operations during the 1973 conflict. The Israeli navy's excellent performance was a sharp contrast to the prewar complacency and overconfidence displayed by the ground and air forces.

    The report is thorough and it covers the political goals and military strategies of Israel, Egypt and Syria, the major battles and the performance of the main weapons systems. The parts I found particularly interesting were those dealing with the performance of the new Soviet anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and the comparison of Israeli quality versus Arab quantity.

    Soviet hand held anti-tank systems versus Israeli armor

    In the previous Arab-Israeli conflicts the superior performance of the Israeli tank corps was one of the main reasons for the swift defeat of the Arab forces. Israeli tankers were so confident in their ability to deal with enemy forces that they usually operated without proper support from infantry and artillery units.

    The Arab militaries tried to counter the Israeli advantage in tank warfare by equipping their infantry with Soviet hand held anti-tank weapons. In the 1970’s the introduction of new systems such as the AT-3 Sagger threatened the superiority of the main battle tank. Military analysts were skeptical of whether tanks could survive in the modern battlefield against an opponent equipped with large numbers of these weapons.

    In the opening stages of the Yom Kippur War the Sagger missile was able to live up to its reputation by destroying or damaging a large number of Israeli tanks.

    Israeli tank losses in the first 24 hours of the war are hard to establish. The Israelis began the war with 250 tanks in the Sinai. Within 24 hours, 150 to 160 of these were out of action, although many were repaired and returned to service within periods of several hours to several days. Some units were almost wiped out. The brigade in the Al Qantarah sector was reduced from 50 tanks to 11 by early morning of 7 October. The major cause of these losses probably was the Egyptian antitank missiles employed from ambush by troops who crossed early and moved five, to ten kilometers inland from the canal. Also effective were antitank missiles fired from the mounds the Egyptians had built along the west bank (see illustration on page 17). These mounds provided Egyptian Sagger and tank crews with a broad field of fire extending into the east bank area. Antitank missiles were the primary cause of Israeli losses in the first two or three days of the war. The Israelis' use of unsupported tanks made them vulnerable to Egyptian infantrymen armed with portable antitank weapons. The Israelis had simply failed to recognize that antitank missiles would require them to change their tank tactics.

    However after the initial shock the Israelis changed their tactics and were able to deal effectively with the Sagger.

    The Israelis realized quickly that events had made their tactics obsolete, and they adopted new ones designed to overcome the Sagger antitank missile. One tactic was to designate one tank in each formation to watch for the launch of these missiles and to warn the others. Often this would give them time to take cover. The Israelis also found that, if they fired at the point of launch, they could distract the missile controller and cause the missile to go astray, because the Sagger is wire guided and has to be controlled until it hits its target. Another technique was to fire at places likely to conceal missile launchers, but this wasted ammunition. In the end, the Israelis rediscovered that the best all-around results came from using a coordinated tank infantry-team: the infantry defended the tanks against missile-carrying enemy infantrymen, while the tanks defended the Israeli infantrymen against enemy tanks and provided fire support.

    Although the long range A/T missile was a dangerous weapon it did not render the main battle tank obsolete.

    In accounts immediately after the war, however, the effect of the antitank missiles was exaggerated. Detailed information now available indicates that in the whole war the Israelis lost approximately 500 tanks; among them 119 disabled units………. at least 6 percent but no more than 25 percent, were killed by Saggers.

    Soviet air-defense systems versus the IAF

    In the war of 1967 the Israeli Airforce played a key role in the Israeli victory by destroying the Arab airforces and by relentlessly attacking Arab units on the ground. In 1973 the Arabs made a huge effort to counter the IAF through the use of the most modern Soviet air-defense systems. Apart from the stationary SA-2 and SA-3 missile systems the new mobile SA-6 ‘Gainful’ was introduced.

    The report says: ‘The Arabs were so impressed that they concluded the IAF alone had caused their humiliating defeat in 1967. Hence, they believed, if they could but find the means to neutralize the IAF, Arab ground forces with some expansion and further training could deal with Israeli ground forces on acceptable terms’.


    The entire pattern of Arab training, equipment acquisitions, and deployments between 1967 and 1973 can be seen as the gradual implementation of a plan to overcome the two major assets of the Israeli armed forces--tactical air and armor. This plan was based on lessons the Arabs learned from the 1967 war, and the main lesson learned was that the IAF had to be stopped

    Both Syria and Egypt invested heavily in a multilayered A/A system.

    Diversity is an important feature of the air defense systems built in Egypt and Syria. The Arabs had weapons designed to provide overlapping coverage to altitudes over 60,000 feet (SA-2). This meant there was no airspace over the battlefield within which the IAF could operate free of threat

    During the Yom Kippur War their air defense systems were not able to inflict heavy losses on the IAF, however they were able to degrade its performance by forcing Israeli pilots to limit their loiter time over the battlefield. This means that IAF bombing missions were not as effective as they could have been due to the threat posed by Soviet A/A missile systems.

    In this and the following section the Egyptian and Syrian air defense systems are examined from two points of view--first, in the usual way, by counting the number of aircraft they shot down; second, in a much more general way, according to the amount of damage the systems were able to prevent the IAF from inflicting on the Arab ground forces. The first measure concentrates on the attrition factor while the second attempts to reflect the degradation in effectiveness a heavy air defense environment may cause in an attacking air force


    In terms of aircraft shot down, the performance of the Egyptian air defense system in October 1973 was dismal. Despite its enormous increase in size, despite its advance warning, despite its increased sophistication, and despite the fact that the IAF did not attack it in force for the first several days, the Egyptian defenders were barely able to match the performance of their 1967 predecessors

    On the other hand, aircraft shot down--in either absolute numbers or percentages--may not be the best or most instructive measure ofthe performance of the Egyptians. The effectiveness of air defense could also be measuredby the extent of damage a hostile air force is prevented from inflicting on the force the system is protecting. There is little direct information, but it seems clear that in preventing damage the 1973 Egyptian air defense system attained considerable success. Evidence includes the continued functioning of the bridges and changes in tactics and weapons that resulted in less accurate and effective Israeli air support

    The Israelis found that if they stayed above 10,000 feet they could cope with the Egyptian air defense weapons. At that height they were above the effective range of AAA, their ECM and tactics against the SA-2 and SA-3 were effective enough to make the risks of operating at that altitude acceptable, and their pilots had sufficient warning of an SA-6 launch to take evasive action. However, the combination of altitude and evasive maneuvering severely degraded the accuracy of IAF weapons delivery

    The Israelis lost the same number of aircraft (51) on each front, but the loss rate on the Syrian front was three times as high as on the Egyptian front, primarily because the situation facing Israeli ground forces on the Golan forced the IAF to take greater risks there…………………………….Two factors, however, do seem to have been very different on the Golan front and could account for the higher losses. First, the battlefield area defended by the Syrian SAM system was smaller—about 1,800 square nautical miles, as compared with 3,700 sq nm for the Egyptian system. Second, and more important, the tactical situation in the ground campaign was very different. Initially, the Syrians pushed harder and deeper into Israeli-occupied territory than Egypt did, and the Syrian attack was much closer to Israeli population centers. The Israeli command, therefore, decided it had to give priority to defeating the Syrians while the Egyptians were only to be contained until forces could be freed from the Golan front to deal with them. Air power was a major element in this strategy, and the role the IAF had to play forced it to accept greater casualties

    Quantity versus quality

    An important aspect of war has always been the question of quantity versus quality. History shows that small military forces can defeat much larger ones if they are superior in training, weapons and leadership. On the other hand it has been said that ‘quantity has a quality of its own’.

    In general Western societies have invested in quality and thus given emphasis to training, doctrine, leadership and initiative. On the other hand Eastern societies have tried to maximize the size of their armed forces without paying too much attention to the quality of the weapons, the training of their soldiers or the leadership capabilities of their officer corps.

    In the Middle East the Israelis have had to fight against Arab countries that had a much larger population. This means that the only way to win was to maximize the potential of the small Israeli Army by making sure it was well trained, equipped with quality weapons and capable of taking the initiative against the larger (but slower to respond) Arab armies.

    In the Yom Kippur War Israeli quality triumphed over Arab quantity.

    Both Egypt and Syria had apparently devoted considerable effort to planning and training for the initial stages of their attacks. After the opening phases of the war, however, both Arab armies exhibited the defects of command, control, training and maintenance which US intelligence had estimated were present. In the final analysis, the Egyptian and Syrian armies showed they could be trained to win a battle but had yet to master the skills needed to win a war against the Israelis.

    The greatest weakness of the Arab armies has always been the officer corps. Through the 1967 war, this flaw could be largely ascribed to class differences, deficient education and a consequent set of attitudes on the part of officers which denigrated the ordinary soldier………………. One of the major strengths of the Israeli Army, in contrast, has been the close relationship between men and officers—a relationship so close that, in the eyes of some foreign observers, it borders on the insubordinate. During the period between 1967 and 1973, both Egypt and Syria took steps to eliminate the worst officers of the old pattern and to recruit and keep younger, better educated officers and NCOs whose competence and more open attitudes enabled them to be more effective leaders…………………. Still, certain weaknesses of the Arab officer corps were evident in 1973. This was especially so after the carefully planned and rehearsed opening phases of the war ended. On both fronts, plans were rigidly adhered to long after it was clear that they were no longer profitable.

    The greatest mistake of the Arab armies in 1973, as in 1967, was their failure to train their troops adequately. The soldiers themselves seemed willing enough to do what they had been trained for, but often their training was rigid or poor.’

    'The Israeli Army once again showed that its superiority over the Arab armies was greatest in the quality of the training and initiative of the lower ranks--individual soldiers, NCOs, and platoon- and company-grade officers. In the first days of the war it was the tenacity and adaptability of small units and their immediate leaders that enabled the Israelis to stabilize the front and go over to the offensive so quickly. This was especially evident on the Golan, where Israeli forces, though outnumbered five or six to one in almost every category of equipment, were able to stop the Syrian advance within 24 hours and eliminate it within 72 hours.

    Note: The Israelis evaluated the performance of Western and Soviet tanks in the 1973 war. I’ve given an overview of their assessments in Recurring problems of Soviet tank design.

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    During WWII resistance movements in German occupied Europe were organized and supported by the British intelligence services SIS and SOE. Messages to their agents in Europe were sometimes transmitted through the radio program of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Agents were told to listen to the BBC at a specific time and wait for a prearranged message whose meaning would be known only to them.

    For example:

    The German intelligence agencies however knew of this arrangement and through their agents in the Resistance were able to learn of the meaning of some of these messages. In the run up to the Normandy invasion, the Germans were able to deduce from the BBC‘s messages that the Allied invasion was imminent and that the Resistance had been given orders to attack the German forces in France.

    Source: British national archives HW 40/76 ‘Enemy exploitation of SIS and SOE codes and cyphers: miscellaneous reports and correspondence

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  • 07/10/15--09:22: Update
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  • 07/18/15--06:04: Upcoming essay on Referat 12
  • Back in August 2014 I said:

    Referat 12

    Referat 12 (Agents section) of the German Army’s signal intelligence agency OKH-Inspectorate 7/VI dealt with the codes and ciphers of enemy agents. During the war they solved the cryptosystems of British, French, Belgian, Polish, Czech, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian and Norwegian spies and saboteurs. A summary of their work during the period May 1942- February 44 (last available reports) is in order. 

    What happened to that essay? Well I was more interested in researching other cases so I forgot about it. I’m working on it now so it should be up next month. My essay will have lots of information on the work of Referat 12 versus the agents of the Soviet Union (Rote Kapelle, Rote Drei), Czechoslovakia (mbm net), Poland (PS nets), Britain (in Western Europe and the Balkans),  Belgium (Belgian intelligence service), Denmark (Communist party), Bulgaria (Soviet agents), Greece (SOE net), Norway (resistance movement) etc

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  • 07/23/15--08:20: Update
  • I’ve added a scribd link to TICOM D-60 ‘Miscellaneous Papers from a file of RR Dr. Huettenhain of OKW/Chi’ and uploaded TICOM I-174 ‘Preliminary Interrogation Report on O.R.R. MUELLER of OKW/CHI’ in both my google drive and scribd accounts.

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    In the course of WWII both the Allies and the Axis powers were able to gain information of great value from reading their enemies secret communications. In Britain the codebreakers of Bletchley Park solved several enemy systems with the most important ones being the German Enigma and Tunny cipher machines and the Italian C-38m. Codebreaking played a role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy invasion. 

    In the United States the Army and Navy codebreakers solved many Japanese cryptosystems and used this advantage in battle. The great victory at Midway would probably not have been possible if the Americans had not solved the Japanese Navy’s JN25 code.

    On the other side of the hill the codebreakers of Germany, JapanItaly and Finland also solved many important enemy cryptosystems both military and diplomatic. The German codebreakers could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone conversations of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they could decode the messages of the British and US Navies during their convoy operations in the Atlantic and together with the Japanese and Finns they could solve State Department messages (both low and high level)  from embassies around the world.

    Radio intelligence and codebreaking played an important role not only in the military and diplomatic fields but also in the shadow war between the Allied intelligence agencies, the European Resistance movements and the German security services. In the period 1939-41 German troops conquered most of continental Europe and the occupied countries were forced to contribute to the Axis effort by sending raw materials, agricultural products and forced labor to Germany. Thanks to the blockade of German occupied Europe by the Royal Navy and the harsh demands of the German authorities life in the occupied areas was bleak. Discontent over German occupation led many people to join resistance movements and oppose the authorities, either by printing and distributing anti-Axis leaflets and books, by sabotaging war production or by directly attacking the German troops and their collaborators in the government and the civil service.

    The British intelligence services SIS - Secret Intelligence Service and SOE - Special Operations Executive helped organize and fund the resistance movements and they even supplied them with weapons through airdrops. Besides sending their own intelligence teams into occupied Europe and working together with the home grown resistance movements they also collaborated with the intelligence services of the European Governments in Exile, most of whom where based in London during the war.

    The British agencies SIS and SOE were not the only Allied organizations sending spies into Europe and supporting the growing resistance movements. The American OSS - Office of Strategic Services also conducted its own operations in occupied countries and so did the intelligence department of the Polish General Staff.

    The German security services and the Radio Defense Corps

    The German agencies tasked with securing the occupied territories and opposing the Allied intelligence agencies and resistance movements were the military intelligence service Abwehr, the political security service Sicherheitsdienst, the regular police Ordnungspolizei,the secret military police Geheime Feldpolizeiand the Radio Defense departments of the Armed Forces and the Police.

    The OKW Funkabwehr

    The High Command of the Armed Forces – OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) had a radio defense department tasked with signals security and the interception of illicit radio transmissions. The department was part of the OKW signals directorate and its designation was OKW/WFSt/WNV/FU III. WNV/FU III was a militarized organization and cooperated closely with the Army’s signal service. Apart from fixed intercept and direction finding stations they also had five mobile units, the 612, 615, 616 Intercept Companies and the 1st and 2nd (GAF) Special Intercept Companies (1).

    The OKW Funkabwehr was responsible for the monitoring of illicit radio transmissions in Northern France, Belgium, Southern Holland, Italy, the Balkans and parts of the Eastern Front. Regional branch offices (Aussenstellen) were established at Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Oslo, Vienna, Warsaw, Rome, Prague, Athens, Belgrade, Bratislava, Klagenfurt and Varna.

    An undercover Funkabwehr station operated in Madrid, Spain and cooperated with the Spanish intelligence services.

    The Order Police Funkabwehr

    The civilian police force Ordnungspolizei(Order Police) set up its own radio defense department in the late 1920’s and according to postwar reports there were fixed intercept stations (Beobachtungsstellen) at Berlin-Spandau, Cologne, Constance, Vienna, Nuremberg and Oldenburg plus mobile units called Polizei Funkaufklärungskompanien. During the war the organization was expanded in order to counter the rising numbers of Allied agents and Orpo Funkabwehr units were responsible for the monitoring of illicit radio transmissions in Southern France, Holland, Norway, Germany and parts of the Eastern Front (2).

    Both the OKW and the Ordnungspolizei Funkabwehr departments cooperated with the security services (3) and although there were rivalries and duplication of effort it seems that there was regular exchange of information, at the top level, on agents’ details and cipher systems (4). On the other hand cooperation between WNV/FU III and Orpo field stations depended on the local conditions (5).

    Breaking Allied agents codes

    The Radio Defense departments of the OKW and Ordnungspolizei monitored the airwaves for unidentified radio traffic and used direction finding equipment in order to locate the sites of agents transmissions. The technology of that era could not pinpoint the exact location so the fixed intercept stations were used to identify the general area and then mobile units were dispatched to find the exact building housing the agent. In some cases it was necessary to use even more advanced means such as the gürtel snifter, which was worn by German personnel over a coat (6).

    Allied agents kept in contact with their controlling stations abroad through the use of undercover radio stations. The information they gathered as well as their orders from HQ were transmitted over the airwaves. Messages were enciphered with a variety of systems in order to protect the contents from the Germans. According to information available from British and German reports the main system used by Allied agents in Western Europe was the double transposition, using a poem as a ‘key’ generator (7).

    The German security services tried to arrest enemy radio operators and capture their cipher material. Then it was possible to decipher past and current traffic and even attempt a ‘radiogame’. By having access to the agents radio procedures and cipher systems it was possible, at times, to continue their transmissions and thus learn of the plans and operations of the enemy intelligence services. The ‘radiogame’ could be conducted either by the captured agent (provided he/she was willing to cooperate with the Germans) or by experienced German radio operators who could mimic the agent’s radio ‘fingerprint’ (8).

    Apart from physical compromise agents systems could also be solved cryptanalytically, however analysis of agents ciphers was in some ways more difficult than with Allied military and diplomatic systems. Large organizations used specific cipher systems and followed certain rules. This made the work of enemy codebreakers easier in the sense that they already knew what they were up against (an enciphered codebook, or a transposition cipher or a strip cipher etc). Large organizations also generated lots of traffic that could be used to find errors, repetitions and ‘depths’. When it came to agents codes however these rules did not apply. There were few messages to analyze, the cipher systems were not fixed but underwent changes and each Allied agent used his cipher systems with slight modifications that made solution very difficult.

    Despite these conditions it was still possible for the Germans to solve a substantial amount of Allied agents traffic through cryptanalysis. Originally the OKW Funkabwehr relied on OKW/Chi - (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht/Chiffrier Abteilung) Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces for the analysis of agents ciphers but it seems that since OKW/Chi was primarily engaged with the solution of diplomatic and military attaché ciphers the agents messages received only scant attention (9).

    The Ordnungspolizei Funkabwehr cooperated with Goering’s Forschungsamt on Russian agents codes but this also seems to have been a limited effort on behalf of the FA (10).

    Things changed in early 1942 when the analysis and solution of agents traffic was taken over by a new department of the German Army’s codebreaking agency Inspectorate 7/VI. Department 12 (Referat 12) was created to work on agents systems and pass the results to the security services and the radio defense departments.

    Inspectorate 7/VI - Referat 12 (Agents Section)

    During WWII the German Army made extensive use of signals intelligence and codebreaking in its operations against the Allied powers. German commanders relied on signals intelligence in order to ascertain the Allied order of battle and track the movements of enemy units.

    The German Army’s signal intelligence agency operated a number of fixed intercept stations and also had mobile units assigned to Army Groups. These units were called KONA (Kommandeur der Nachrichtenaufklärung) - Signals Intelligence Regiment and each had an evaluation centre, a stationary intercept company, two long range signal intelligence companies and two close range signal intelligence companies (11).

    The Army’s KONA units were primarily engaged with the interception and analysis of Allied military traffic but in some areas they also covered agents/partisans traffic.

    The KONA units did not have the ability to solve complicated Allied cryptosystems. Instead they focused on exploiting low/mid level ciphers and even in this capacity they were assisted by material sent to them by the central cryptanalytic department. This was the German Army High Command’s Inspectorate 7/VI.

    Inspectorate 7/VI had separate departments for the main Allied countries, for cipher security, cipher research and for mechanical cryptanalysis (using punch card machines and more specialized equipment).

    The War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI shows that in the first half of 1942 the solution of agents traffic was officially taken up by the department, with a summary of work on Agents systems filed under the progress report of Referat 1 (12). In August the new Department 12 was created to deal exclusively with agents systems.

    Head of the department was 1st Lieutenant Dr Wilhelm Vauck, a mathematician of Dresden University (13). According to postwar TICOM reports dr Vauck was a talented cryptanalyst who got along well with his subordinates (14).  The strength of the unit rose from 26 people in August 1942 to 40 in December 1943. From late 1942 the unit also started sending two-man teams to regional Aussenstellen in Paris, Marseilles, Lyons, Prague, Oslo, Vienna, Brussels so that captured material could be exploited without delay. In November 1943 the entire department was moved close to the OKW Funkabwehr HQ at Dorf Zinna, Jüterbog and became subordinate to OKW/Chi as Referat X (15).


    Available sources on the work of Referat 12

    Information on the work of Referat 12 is available from its monthly reports, included in the War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI and from postwar interrogations of German personnel that either worked at Referat 12 or were acquainted with their operations.

    The reports of the period April 1942-February 1944 are available from the War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI but unfortunately the rest are missing (or are included in the files of OKW/Chi). Obviously the most reliable sources are the reports from the War Diary, however these are not always easy to interpret since they use codenames for the intercepted agents radio links. 

    Regarding the postwar interrogations of German personnel, the most useful are:

    1). TICOM report I-115 by Major Mettig (head of the army’s signal intelligence service in the period 1941-43).

    2). CSDIC (UK) SIR 1106 by Miersemann (a member of Referat 12).

    3). CSDIC/CMF/SD 80 by Lentz and Kurfess (members of Referat 12 detached to Aussenstelle Paris).

    4). TICOM report I-180 by Keller (a member of Referat 12).

    5). Chapter ‘Radio Counterintelligence’ of Foreign Military Studies P-038 'German Radio Intelligence', written by Lieutenant Colonel de Bary, head of the OKW Funkabwehr in the period 1942-45.

    6). Part 3 of ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ by Wilhelm Flicke (member of the OKW/Chi intercept department).

    Unfortunately the postwar interrogations of dr Vauck have not been released by either GCHQ or the NSA.

    Overview of important cases

    Using the monthly reports of Referat 12 it is possible to give an overview of its successes:

    Eastern networks

    Red Orchestra – Rote Kapelle

    From the 1920’s the Soviet Union financed and organized the creation of spy networks throughout Europe. These penetrated military, economic, political and diplomatic circles. Many of the agents were devoted communists who thought they were working for the creation of a better world. Germany was a major target of the Soviet spies, especially after power was seized by the NSDAP party. The Germans called these networks the ‘Red Orchestra’.

    Inside Germany there were three main spy networks in Berlin. The ‘SENIOR’ network under Luftwaffe officer Harro Schulze-Boysen, the ‘CORSICAN’ network under economist Arvid Harnack and the ‘OLD MAN’ network under writer Adam Kuckhoff.These groups were well placed to provide important intelligence to Moscow. Harnack had a high ranking position in the economics ministry and Schulze-Boysen was assigned to the liaison staff of the Luftwaffe Chiefs of Staff.

    From Harnack came information on the German economy such as investments abroad, foreign debt, secret trade agreements with other countries, currency deals etc. His network also controlled an Abwehr officer assigned at OKW headquarters and a lieutenant in German naval intelligence. Boysen’s position gave him access to classified reports prepared for the Luftwaffe high command.

    After the German attack on the Soviet Union, in summer 1941, the closure of the Soviet embassies meant that the intelligence networks could not communicate with Moscow through the embassy personnel but instead had to use their undercover radio facilities. Their overreliance on radio communications means that too many messages were sent from the same stations and thus they attracted the attention of the Radio Defense Corps.

    One such radio center was raided on 12 December 1941 in Brussels. With the aid of captured cipher material messages were decoded and names were identified. This was the beginning of the end for the Soviet spy networks in Western Europe. In June and July 1942 more cipher documents were retrieved by the Germans and the names of members of the Berlin Rote Kapelle decoded. Overall in 1942 130 members of the Berlin Rote Kapelle networks were arrested and 49 of them executed. The leaders of the organization Leopold Trepper and Anatoly Gurevich were arrested in December 1942 and November 1942 respectively. Henri Robinson, head of the French and UK networks, was also arrested in 1942.

    The reports of Referat 12 for May - September ‘42 show the investigation of messages of the ‘Kapelle Etterbeck’/’Kominternsender Brussels’ (Brussels radio station), their solution, the identification of individual agents and cooperation with Sicherheitsdienst officials on a ‘radiogame’.

    May 1942


    July 1942


    September 1942


    The solution of these messages showed that the Rote Kapelle even had two agents inside Referat 12!

    Operations Eiffel and Mars

    After dismantling the Rote Kapelle networks the Germans initiated a ‘radiogame’ whereby their own personnel would prepare reports and send them using the Russian cipher systems. Anatoly Gurevich, who was second in command of the Rote Kapelle network, cooperated with the Germans and thus messages and orders were exchanged between the Germans and Moscow.

    These operations were called ‘Eiffel’ (for the radio station in Paris) and ‘Mars’ (for the radio station in Marseilles) (16).


    Report of March 1943

    Red Three – Rote Drei

    In the period 1941-42 not all Rote Kapelle networks were dismantled by the Germans. In neutral Switzerland a spy group headed by Alexander Rado was able to gather intelligence on political, economic and military developments and transmit reports to Moscow via three radio stations. Two of the transmitters were in Geneva and one in Lausanne. The Germans called this network the Red Three (Rote Drei) and made attempts to penetrate the organization with their agents, since they couldn’t attack them directly due to Swiss neutrality.

    In the second half of 1943 the Germans were finally able to convince the Swiss authorities to take action against these unauthorized transmitters and the Swiss radio security service located two of them and captured members of Rado’s organization. Then they initiated a ‘radiogame’ using the captured radio stations and cipher material (17). 

    The Red Three group had access to valuable information and it is possible that they had sources inside the German High Command. It seems that from 1941 till late 1943-early 1944 around 4.000 -5.000 messages were sent to Moscow (18). The Germans investigated this traffic but solution came relatively late in April 1943.

    The reports of Referat 12 and the files of Erich Hüttenhain, chief cryptanalyst of OKW/Chi, show that in February 1943 both departments started investigating this traffic (Swiss WNA net with transmitters 3112, 3106 and 3116) and both were able to solve messages in April ’43 (19).

    TICOM D-60


    Referat 12- February 1943


    Referat 12- April 1943


    Messages continued to be solved in the following months with the report of February 1944 saying:

    65 messages of the Rote Drei were decrypted, so that now 382 broken messages are available. The order for a cipher change — transition to fixed mixed Caesars — was detected in mid-December. The change of the cipher key book happened already at the beginning of August 42. The key for the Sissy-messages resulted in the solution of a message from December 42.

    According to the Center for the Study of Intelligence article: ‘The Rote Drei: Getting Behind the 'Lucy' Myth’, there are 437 decrypted messages available from German sources.

    Czech mbm network

    The Czech resistance movement and the Czech intelligence service caused serious problems for the German authorities with their most audacious operation being the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, protector of Bohemia and Moravia and former head of the Reich Main Security Office. However after this episode the Germans took many security measures and were generally able to keep the resistance activities under control. Keeping the Czech areas pacified was particularly important since Czechoslovakia had a developed heavy industry sector which produced weapons for the German armed forces.

    In their counterintelligence operations the Germans benefitted from having the ability to read a substantial amount of the traffic exchanged between the Czech IS in Britain and the Czech resistance in the occupied territories. This case has been covered in detail in Svetova Revoluce and the codes of the Czech resistance.

    Polish PS networks

    In WWII Poland fought on the side of the Allies and suffered for it since it was the first country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the period 1940-45 the Polish Government in Exile and its military forces contributed to the Allied cause by taking part in multiple campaigns of war. Polish pilots fought for the RAF during the Battle of Britain, Polish troops fought in N.Africa, Italy and Western Europe and the Polish intelligence service operated in occupied Europe and even had agents inside the German High Command. 

    Although it is not widely known the Polish intelligence service had spy networks operating throughout Europe and the Middle East. The Poles established their own spy networks and also cooperated with foreign agencies such as Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and Special Operations Executive, the American Office of Strategic Services and even the Japanese intelligence service. During the war the Poles supplied roughly 80.000 reports to the British intelligence services (20), including information on the German V-weapons (V-1 cruise missile and V-2 rocket) and reports from the German High Command (though the agent ‘Knopf) (21).

    The communications of the Polish IS became a major target for the German codebreakers and messages of their military attaché service, intelligence department and resistance movement were read throughout WWII. The reports of Referat 12 show that the Polish networks were called PS nets by the Germans and  after investigation of their cipher procedures in July and August 1942 the first messages of line 22 (polnischer Agentenfunk) were solved in September ’42.


    In November ’42 the solved cipher material was sent to the Vienna ABP office (Ausland Brief Prüfstelle – Postal censor office) so that that spy case ‘olczyk’ could be solved and members of Referat 12 visited the Warsaw Abwehr office in order to teach their personnel how to decode messages of the line 22. According to the next report the Abwehr was only supposed to decode messages using the material provided by Referat 12, they did not have permission to do cryptanalysis on their own. In December changes in the additive procedure made solution difficult and there was cooperation with OKW/Chi. In 1943 the traffic continued to be solved despite changes in the cipher procedure. Messages of the line 22 network ‘Martha’ operating from Lyon, France were solved in February and in June the line 21 was also solved. In the second half of 1943 the reports show the solution of messages from the lines 6521, 6508 (Bucharest-Istanbul), 6003, 6008, 6509. In November the team processing the Polish material remained in Berlin and came under the control of OKW/Chi.


    According to Major Mettig, the solution of Polish systems (especially on the link London-Warsaw) was the outstanding achievement of Referat 12 (22).


    The Western LCA networks

    The efforts of Referat 12 were split between Eastern and Western spy networks. In the Western areas of Europe the traffic of the LCA networks (radio links from the UK to France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway) was intercepted, processed and decoded. These groups were controlled by the British intelligence services SIS and SOE or by the intelligence services of the European governments in Exile.

    The main cipher system used by Allied agents was the double transposition, using a poem or a book as a ‘key’ generator. This system offered adequate security, provided it was used properly but was vulnerable to mistakes in encipherment and transmission errors. According to Leo Marks, head of the SOE’s cipher department, in July 1942 a quarter of all incoming messages were indecipherable due to ‘careless coding or acute Morse mutilation’ (23). The German codebreakers also faced the same problems against these messages with the report of May 1942 mentioning transmission and encryption errors:

    Im westnetz wurden Agentensprache des Lca - netzes in französischer, englischer und holländischer sprüche entschlüsselt und übersetzt. Die schlüsselunterlagen lagen vollständig oder doch teilweise vor. Erschwert wurden die arbeiten einmal durch hörfehler, dann aber auch haufig durch  verschlüsselungsfehler seitens der Agenten, die sich bei dem Doppelwürfelverfahren besonders unangenehm aussichten. Im Monat Mai wurden 51 entzifferte sprüche von 7 verschiedenen sendern an WNV/FU abgeliefert.

    In the period July-August ’42 work continued on the call-sign system of the LCA nets and the output of messages increased substantially, with 158 messages solved in June, 146 in July and 136 in August. In September important documents of the Belgian intelligence service were captured and decoded.

    In November ’42 the unit examined cipher material captured during operation ‘Donar’ (Funkabwehr radio finding operation in Vichy France, that took place in September 1942) and messages from the cases ‘Oppidana’ and ‘Mark-Luc-Baumann’. The December ’42 report mentions spy cases ' Voltaire entrepreneur' and ‘Le Chene’, with the latter concerning an English officer.

    In early ’43 cipher material from operation Donar was processed with 262 messages solved in January and 350 in February. According to the February report the Funkabwehr operation ‘Donar’ uncovered 12 agents lines in Southern France. The same report mentions spy cases ‘Matrose’, ‘Marseille 2’, ‘Spitaels’ and the organization ‘Pilgerchor’.

    In April and May ’43 messages from Western agents were solved, including from Lyon and Toulouse and there is mention of an Italian radio game. The spy cases mentioned are ‘Jura’, ‘Mirakel’, ‘Bonamour’, ‘Baron-Styr’, ‘Grossfürst’, ‘Miranda’. It’s clear that the Funkabwehr was engaged in several radio games using captured agents and cipher material.

    In June the ciphers of the spy networks in Paris and Corsica were clarified and information was uncovered on the codebooks used by the Belgians IS. In July the large number of arrests of Resistance members in France required the participation of members of Referat 12 in the interrogations and the examination of the captured cipher material. These operations led to the solution of agents systems and the decryption of a large number of messages. The spy cases mentioned are ‘Vichy - Welle’, ‘Nilo’, ‘Copa’, ‘Johannes’, ‘Baron-Stir’.
    In August ’43 the continued expansion of the LCA networks led to an increase in the number of Referat 12 personnel detached to work in Southern France. The output of the Berlin office regarding the LCA-nets was 152 messages and the spy cases mentioned are ‘Nilo’, ‘Orleans’, ‘Hermes’, ‘Vichy-welle’.


    From September ’43 the reports do not have as much information on ongoing operations but instead give a short summary of the characteristics of the spy cases and lines of the LCA nets. Output of solved messages increased, with 166 decoded in September, 538 in October, 352 in November, 277 in December.

    The spy cases mentioned in the period September-December ’43 are ‘Alliance’, ‘Vichy welle’, ‘Sorbonne’, ‘Achse’, ‘Ortrud’, ‘Defense de la France’, ‘Diana’, ‘Walzer’, ‘Hades’, ‘Piccolo’, ‘Zeus’, ‘Bacchus’.

    There is no report for January ’44 but the one from February says:

    In the O.U. Zinna were processed the traffic of the LCA network with the agent callsigns QYZ, WOS, RCJ, SFY, PYM, ROY, SIA, OIN, REF, furthermore the lines 9171 (SAM), 9811 (VY, RQ), 175 (SPE), 9853 (RGE ) and 9815 (without Ag.Z.). Among the latter, cipher documents were received from the colleagues detached to the branch control centre in Paris (Aussenleitstelle Paris). Further, in the case "Normandy" address material that turned up was deciphered and the courier cipher (Playfair) was reconstructed. 8 courier letters of the Belgian ND (Nachrichtendienst — intelligence service) and further address material were deciphered (ez.mäßig — entziffungsmäßig gelöst).

    The department itself deciphered 372 messages from the LCA network. In the ongoing 8 Gv plays (Gv — Gegenverkehr, counter traffic, radiogame) in the region of Paris 101 messages were deciphered and enciphered.

    Unfortunately the use of codewords for the spy cases makes it impossible to know which Allied country’s networks and agents were compromised by Referat 12. Still some information is available from the interrogations of German intelligence officers who served in occupied France. The Abwehr officer Hugo Bleicher mentions the cases ‘Grossfürst’ and ‘Oppidana’ in his postwar interrogation (24). Regarding ‘Grossfürst’, in 1943 Bleicher was able to penetrate the French DONKEYMAN network, headed by Henri Frager and controlled by SOE. Since this case appears in the May ’43 report of Referat 12 it is possible that through his agents he was able to get access to the group’s cipher material.

    Case ‘Oppidana’ concerned the Belgian resistance movement. According to Bleicher the Germans learned that in November ’42 the leader of a resistance group would travel by train from Brussels to Liege to meet the local district commander. Both were arrested, the leader’s wireless radio set found and about 10 arrests were made in Brussels.


    In the period 1940-44 Belgium was occupied by German troops and ruled by a Military Administration. According to the reports of Referat 12 important documents of the Belgian intelligence service were captured in September 1942 and after solution of the cipher they revealed the addresses, activities, camouflage and means of communication of an organization (Ardennen Kapelle) operating throughout the country.


    In June 1943 more information was uncovered on the codebooks ‘Marius No. 4’, ‘Agua’, ‘Mort’, ‘Go’ of the Belgian IS.


    In July the Belgian IS codes ‘Jendel’ and ‘Vinci were solved analytically and in September and October more Belgian messages were decoded, revealing addresses. The report of February 1944 says: ‘8 courier letters of the Belgian ND and further address material were deciphered’.


    Danish agents traffic is mentioned in the reports of September and October 1942 which mention the transmitter gud:

    September ’42 says ‘Der dänische Agentensender g u d , der die Arbeit des vergrämten Senders o n b weiterführte, war ausgehoben worden; die von ihm vorliegenden Sprüche konnten beschleunigt entziffert werden’.

    The report of March ’43 mentions the clarification of the traffic of the Danish Communist Part: ‘Ein nach berlin gesandter, durch Schlüsselmängel entstellter Rest von Sprüchen des Senders der dänischen kommunistischen Partei wurde geklärt erledigt’.



    The solution of Norwegian agents traffic is mentioned in the reports of November-December 1942 and February 1943. In November the cipher of the transmitter nzyn was solved and due to difficulties with the Norwegian language assistance was received from a member of Referat 2 (UK ciphers) who was fluent in Norwegian.


    In December processing of the nzyn material was continued and in February 1943 the report says that the messages of the spy lines xq, zbr and gob were turned into plaintext.

    Balkan networks

    British liaison officers in the Balkans

    The British authorities kept in contact with the Resistance groups in the Balkans (Tito, Mihailovic, ELAS movements) through liaison officers sent by the intelligence services SIS and SOE. These small teams transmitted traffic by radio to their controlling stations in Cairo, Egypt and Bari, Italy. The cryptosystems used were double transposition and the War Office Cypher, enciphered with one time pads.

    Some of the encoded radio traffic of British officers in the Balkans was exploited by the Germans. They were able to read messages both through captured material and by cryptanalysis.

    The reports of Referat 12 for June and July ’43 mention the solution of British Balkan traffic to Cairo with indicator GESH.

    June 1943


    The solution of British liaison officers traffic seems to have been taken over by Referat 6 (Balkan department) since their reports of the period June ’43 – November ’44 mention the decoded British messages from Yugoslavia and Greece.


    Greece was occupied by the Axis powers in April 1941 and in the period 1941-44 many resistance and spy groups were formed to oppose the German, Italian and Bulgarian authorities. In April 1943 messages of the Greek spy lines 5303, 5324, 5329 were solved.


    In May 168 messages were solved and in June-July the lines 5300, 5364, 5337 were processed with 61 messages decrypted. The report of August 1943 says that 8 Greek messages were solved.

    It seems that some of the compromised traffic belonged to the SOE’s Prometheus network. According to British and German sources in 1943 the communications of captain Koutsogiannopoulos net (agent Prometheus II) were compromised and the Germans were able to set a trap for members of his group (25).


    This event is mentioned by Colonel de Bary in FMS P-038 'German Radio Intelligence', p206

    Here is an example of the procedures which had to be used in radio counterintelligence: A Greek officer landed surreptitiously from a submarine in the vicinity of Athens in order to obtain military information. He attempted but failed to establish radio contact with the British central control station in Cairo. German radio counterintelligence intercepted his calls, sent a fake reply pretending to originate from the British central control station, and instructed the officer to switch to an emergency frequency. The officer was assigned a new mission with the promise that a submarine would pick him up at a specific place. The officer and four companions unsuspectingly climbed aboard a motor boat of the German Navy which was disguised as a submarine!


    During WWII Bulgaria tried to remain neutral but the German conquest of the Balkans led to a shift towards a pro Axis policy. Still Bulgarian troops did not take part in the invasion of the Soviet Union and when in December 1941, under German pressure, the Bulgarian government declared war on the United Kingdom and the United States this was mostly a diplomatic gesture.

    Since Bulgaria and the Soviet Union were not at war there was a large Soviet embassy in Sofia that served as the centre for Soviet intelligence activities in the country. The German radio defense agencies monitored the traffic of Soviet agents and of the Soviet consulate in Varna.

    The reports of Referat 12 show that Bulgarian illicit radio traffic was investigated since October 1942 (including the traffic of the Soviet consulate in Varna) and messages of the spy lines 3136, 3135, 3111 were solved in April 1943.


    More messages were solved in the following months, with 27 decoded in May, 21 in June and 5 in August 1943.

    According to Wilhelm Flicke the Soviet intelligence service had several spy groups operating in the country, gathering intelligence from Bulgarian military and government sources. In 1943 the illicit Bulgarian traffic was decoded and through direction finding operations the station was tracked to the outskirts of Varna. Then with the cooperation of the Bulgarian police it was possible to arrest the spy group, whose leaders were the Bulgarian citizens Stoinoff and his wife Milka (26).


    In the course of WWII the German authorities had to combat countless resistance groups in occupied Europe. If that wasn’t enough the intelligence services of Britain, Soviet Union, USA, Poland and of the European Governments in Exile were also sending spy teams and supporting the resistance groups in every way possible. In this shadow war the German security services came to rely more and more on signals intelligence and codebreaking. In the period 1939-45 the radio defense departments of the Armed Forces and the Order Police were expanded and a new agents section was created in the Army’s codebreaking department Inspectorate 7/VI. Referat 12 was a small unit and had to use unorthodox methods in order to solve Allied agents codes and ciphers but from the available reports it’s clear that they were able to process a lot of material each month and thus played a big role in the German counterintelligence efforts. In May-December 1942 their monthly output averaged 159 messages and in 1943 this went up to 630. The only available report for 1944 says ‘Total output of the unit in the month of February 819 messages’.

    The department never had more than 30-40 people and some of them were always detached to the regional offices. Yet they were able to solve the ciphers of the Soviet networks Rote Kapelle and Rote Drei, they helped neutralize the Czech resistance by solving the messages of the mbm net, they read messages of the Polish resistance movement and intelligence service and in the West they decoded lots of traffic from several Allied groups in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway.

    These achievements are impressive, considering the small size of the department. In 1944 it is possible that they continued to solve a large volume of agents traffic since the OKW/Chi activity report for the period January-25 June 1944 says that 6.000 agents messages had been handed over to WNV/FU III (27).

    On the other hand our knowledge of OKW/Chi activities versus agents ciphers is limited and it is possible that these numbers refer to their own separate effort (28).

    More research is necessary in order to identify the cryptosystems used by Allied agents, the work of the German agencies OKW/Chi, Inspectorate 7/VI and Forschungsamt versus agents codes and the effect they had on German counterintelligence operations.


    (1). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, Seabourne Report IF-176 ‘Operations and Techniques of the Radio Defense Corps, German Wehrmacht’

    (3). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’ , p8 says: ‘The normal channels of contact for intelligence and executive operations were, in the case of WNV/FU III, Abwehr III and the GFP, and, in the case of the Orpo units, the SD and the Gestapo. This liaison appears to have worked sufficiently well for normal operational purposes.’

    (4). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, p7 says:During the year 1943 the Orpo established complete independence of the control of the OKW and this resulted in a fairly strict division of responsibility between the intercept services of the police and those of the OKW…….A distinct central discrimination and control centre was at the same time set up by the Orpo in Berlin-Spandau, the chief of which was responsible to the C.S.O., Orpo, and from then on the theoretical independence of the two organizations was complete. Coordination was maintained by a Joint Signals Board in Berlin, under the chairmanship of the chef WNV, which dealt with matters of general organization. It would appear that in practice, however, reasonably close liaison was maintained between the two headquarters; it was at least sufficiently close for a common block of numbers to be retained in referring to commitments, for, although such numbers were nominally issued by the Joint Signals Board, in practice they must have emanated from WNW FU III.’

    In pages 10-11: ‘The main reorganization of the Orpo Intercept service took place during 1943. The post office work of the Radio Control Centre at Berlin was expanded into an independent discrimination and control centre known as Funkmessleitstelle Berlin. This nevertheless continued to cooperate closely with the WNV/FU III and, through the latter, with the cryptographers of Referat Vauck.’

    (5). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, p6 says: ‘At the outbreak of war the police monitoring units, while separately administered, were controlled operationally by the central discrimination department of the WNV/FU III. This unity at the centre, the result of a specific order of the Fuehrer, was not, however, accompanied by cooperation at the outstations

    In page 10: ‘The part played by the Aussenstellen of WNV/FU III in the work of the Orpo companies varied considerably from place to place. In Norway the Oslo Aussenstelle played an active role; it received all reports of the Orpo company and arranged cooperation for it from the fighting services….On both the western and the eastern fronts however, the Orpo units operated quite independently of the Aussenstellen

    (6). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, article: ‘Some aspects of the German military “Abwehr” wireless service, during the course of World War Two’, FMS P-038 'German Radio Intelligence', p203,

    (7). SOE codes and Referat Vauck, War Diary In 7/VI - April 1942 mentions the double transposition cipher: ‘Agentenverfahren. Beim Westnetz waren die verfügbaren Kräfte auch weiterhin vorwiegend mit der Bearbeitung von verfahren beschäftigt, deren Schlüsselunterlagen bekannt sind (individuelle Doppelwürfel)……………Die analyse der kenngruppen führte bereits zu Erkenntnis über die unterteilung der Verkehre sowie über die Art der schlüsselunterlagen (Erstellung der würfellosung aus einem Buch oder einem gedicht).

    (8). Radio ‘fingerprint’ means the distinct way that each person taps the Morse code. For an example see ‘The German Penetration of SOE: France, 1941-44’, p51

    (9). British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, p7 (it is possible that this is not the whole truth)

    (11). ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol4, Overview of KONA units

    (12). War Diary In 7/VI – months of April-July 1942

    (13). Ph.D. Technische Universität Dresden 1924

    (14). For example CSDIC/CMF/SD 80, p37 , CSDIC (UK) SIR 1106, Supplement - Appendix 1  and TICOM I-115, p5

    (15). TICOM I-115, British national archives HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol3

    (16). CI preliminary interrogation report (CI-PIR) No120 – Richter, Rolf Werner, War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI, CSDIC/CMF/SD 80, p18

    (17). British national archives KV 3/349 ‘The case of the Rote Kapelle

    (18). Center for the Study of Intelligence article: ‘The Rote Drei: Getting Behind the 'Lucy' Myth

    (19). TICOM D-60 ‘Miscellaneous Papers from a file of RR Dr. Huettenhain of OKW/Chi’, War Diary In 7/VI – months of February - April 1943

    (20). Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies article: ‘England's Poles in the Game: WWII Intelligence Cooperation’

    (21). War in History article: ‘Penetrating Hitler's High Command: Anglo-Polish HUMINT, 1939-1945’

    (23). ‘Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945’, p192

    (25). British national archives HW 40/76 ‘Enemy exploitation of SIS and SOE codes and cyphers: miscellaneous reports and correspondence’, FMS P-038 'German Radio Intelligence'

    (26). ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ part 3, p215-229

    (27).  TICOM report DF-9 ‘Captured Wehrmacht Sigint Document: Translation of Activity Report of OKW/Chi for the Period 1st January, 1944 to 25th June, 1944

    (28). Helmuth Mueller, head of the French department of OKW/Chi said in TICOM report I-174 ‘Preliminary Interrogation Report on O.R.R. MUELLER of OKW/CHI’ that he worked on the traffic of underground movements in Europe. Also ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol3, p69 says about the OKW/Chi activity report: ‘It is not clear whether the 6.000 agents' messages, which, deciphered and translated, formed a portion of the production claimed for OKW/Chi in the Kettler report of June, 1944, were actually turned out by OKW/Chi or by Vauck. It is much more likely, however, that Vauck had nothing to do with these messages and that they were actually part of the work of Kettler's own organization’.

    Sources: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies article: ‘England's Poles in the Game: WWII Intelligence Cooperation’, ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ vo2, CSDIC SIR 1719 - 'Notes on Leitstelle III West Fur Frontaufklarung', HW 34/2 'The Funkabwehr’, Seabourne Report IF-176 ‘Operations and Techniques of the Radio Defense Corps, German Wehrmacht’, HW 40/76 ‘Enemy exploitation of SIS and SOE codes and cyphers: miscellaneous reports and correspondence’, TICOM I-91 'POW Interrogation Report - General Major Robert K.H. SCHLAKE, Chief of Communications in the Main Office of the Ordnungspolizei, Ministry of the Interior', CSDIC/CMF/SD 80 'First Detailed Interrogation Report on LENTZ, Waldemar, and KURFESS, Hans', CSDIC (UK) SIR 1106 'Report on information obtained from PW CS/495 Uffz MIERSEMANN', TICOM  I-115  'Further Interrogation of Oberstlt METTIG of OKW/Chi on the German Wireless Security Service (Funkuberwachung), TICOM I-174 - Preliminary Interrogation Report on O.R.R. MUELLER of OKW/CHI, TICOM I-180 ‘Homework by Uffz. Keller of In 7/VI and WNV/Chi’, TICOM DF-187B ‘The cryptanalytic successes of OKW/Chi after 1938’, War diary of OKH/Inspectorate 7/VI, ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ vol 8, FMS P-038 'German Radio Intelligence', article: ‘Some aspects of the German military “Abwehr” wireless service, during the course of World War Two’,, ‘The German Penetration of SOE: France, 1941-44’,  ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol3, ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol4, Center for the Study of Intelligence article: ‘The Rote Drei: Getting Behind the 'Lucy' Myth’, KV 3/349 ‘The case of the Rote Kapelle’, TICOM D-60 ‘Miscellaneous Papers from a file of RR Dr. Huettenhain of OKW/Chi’, War in History article: ‘Penetrating Hitler's High Command: Anglo-Polish HUMINT, 1939-1945’, TICOM report DF-9 ‘Captured Wehrmacht Sigint Document: Translation of Activity Report of OKW/Chi for the Period 1st January, 1944 to 25th June, 1944’

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  • 08/10/15--03:11: Update
  • 1). I’ve added links to Allied agents codes and Referat 12 in several essays dealing with agents codes.

    2). In The US AN/GSQ-1 (SIGJIP) speech scrambler I had written ‘The US authorities used up to mid 1943 the Bell Labs A-3 speech scrambler, a device that utilized speech inversion’. This was not correct, as the A-3 used band-splitting andinversion.

    3). In WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war I added a new link to the report Evaluation of tanks T-34 and KV by workers of the Aberdeen testing grounds of the US, as the old one was not working.

    4). In Enigma security measures I added information from the report ‘Änderungen beim Schlüsseln mit Maschinenschlüssel’ in paragraphs Random indicators and CY procedure.

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    The site foxtrotalpha has an interview with Lt. Col. Fred "Spanky" Clifton and one of the topics discussed was the Russian MiG-29 fighter, introduced in the early 1980’s by the Soviet Air Force. The Mig-29 had aerodynamic performance equal or better to comparable Western aircraft and its R-73 missile coupled with the helmet mounted targeting system were thought to be revolutionary in close combat. Was this evaluation correct or was the performance of this Soviet weapon system exaggerated? Let’s see what the colonel had to say:

    What was the MiG-29 Fulcrum like to fly? Did it live up to the fear and Cold War hype?

    The Fulcrum is a very simple jet that was designed to fit in the Soviet model of tactical aviation. That means the pilot was an extension of the ground controller. As many have read, innovative tactics and autonomous operations were not approved solutions in the Warsaw Pact countries. The cockpit switchology is not up to western standards and the sensors are not tools used to enhance pilot situation awareness, rather they are only used as tools to aid in the launch of weapons.

    The jet is very reliable and fairly simple to maintain. I could service the fuel, oil, hydraulics and pneumatics and had to demonstrate proficiency in these areas before I could take a jet off-station. Its handling qualities are mediocre at best. The flight control system is a little sloppy and not very responsive. This does not mean the jet isn't very maneuverable. It is. I put it between the F-15C and the F-16. The pilot just has to work harder to get the jet to respond the way he wants.

    The Fulcrum only carries a few hundred more pounds of fuel internally than an F-16. That fuel has to feed two fairly thirsty engines. The jet doesn't go very far on a tank of gas. We figured on a combat radius of about 150 nautical miles with a centerline fuel tank. 


    The radar was actually pretty good and enabled fairly long-range contacts. As already alluded to, the displays were very basic and didn't provide much to enhance the pilot's situational awareness. The radar switchology is also heinous. The Fulcrum's radar-guided BVR weapon, the AA-10A Alamo, has nowhere the same legs as an AMRAAM and is not launch-and-leave like the AMRAAM. Within its kinematic capability, the AA-10A is a very good missile but its maximum employment range was a real disappointment.

    One sensor that got a lot of discussion from Intel analysts was the infrared search-and-track system (IRSTS). Most postulated that the MiG-29 could use the passive IRSTS to run a silent intercept and not alert anyone to its presence by transmitting with its radar. The IRSTS turned out to be next to useless and could have been left off the MiG-29 with negligible impact on its combat capability. After a couple of attempts at playing around with the IRSTS I dropped it from my bag of tricks.

    Other things that were disappointing about the MiG-29 were the navigation system, which was unreliable, the attitude indicator and the heads-up display.

    Overall, the MiG-29 was/is not the 10 foot tall monster that was postulated during the Cold War. It's a good airplane, just not much of a fighter when compared to the West's 4th-generation fighters.

    During the mid 1990s the US still relied on the relatively narrow field of view AIM-9L/M Sidewinder as a short-range heat-seeking missile, what was it like being introduced to the MiG-29's Archer missile, with its high off bore-sight targeting capabilities and its helmet mounted sight?
    The Archer and the helmet-mounted sight (HMS) brought a real big stick to the playground. First, the HMS was really easy to use. Every pilot was issued his own HMS. It mounted via a spring-loaded clip to a modified HGU-55P helmet. The pilot then could connect the HMS to a tester and adjust the symbology so it was centered in the monocle. Once in the jet the simple act of plugging in the power cord meant it was ready to go. There was no alignment process as required with the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cuing System. It just worked.

    Being on the shooting end of the equation, I saw shot opportunities I would've never dreamed of with the AIM-9L/M. Those on the receiving end were equally less enthused about being 'shot' from angles they couldn't otherwise train to.

    How did a MiG-29 in skilled hands stack up against NATO fighters, especially the F-16 and the F-15?

    From BVR (beyond visual range), the MiG-29 is totally outclassed by western fighters. Lack of situation awareness and the short range of the AA-10A missile compared to the AMRAAM means the NATO fighter is going to have to be having a really bad day for the Fulcrum pilot to be successful.

    In the WVR (within visual range) arena, a skilled MiG-29 pilot can give and Eagle or Viper driver all he/she wants. 

    Overall this is a very interesting interview. On the one hand it is impressive that an undeveloped society like the Soviet Union could produce a weapon system that was equal or better than what the West had and also introduced first the revolutionary helmet mounted targeting system. On the other hand it is clear that all Soviet systems suffered from ‘soft’ flaws (poor ergonomics and lack of situation awareness)which limited their performance in the field.

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  • 03/11/15--04:00: Update
  • I’ve added links to the CIA FOIA, State Department FOIA and Japan Center for Asian Historical Records websites.

    Also added decoded US and British diplomatic messages from 1941 in Japanese codebreakers of WWII. The source was the online archive of the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records. For example:

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    A very interesting article on the T-34 has been published by ‘The Journal of Slavic Military Studies’. It is ‘Once Again About the T-34’ by Boris Kavalerchik and it’s basically a translation of chapter ‘ЕЩЕ РАЗ О Т -34’ from the book ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’ that I used in my essay ‘WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war’. If you don’t have a subscription to access the journal you’ll have to purchase the article. It’s expensive but worth it if you’re interested in the real performance of the T-34 tank.

    I also added ‘Once Again About the T-34’ in the sources of ‘WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war’.

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    In WWII Poland fought on the side of the Allies and suffered for it since it was the first country occupied by Nazi Germany. In the period 1940-45 the Polish Government in Exile and its military forces contributed to the Allied cause by taking part in multiple campaigns of war. Polish pilots fought for the RAF during the Battle of Britain, Polish troops fought in N.Africa, Italy and Western Europe and the Polish intelligence service operated in occupied Europe and even had agents inside the German High Command.

    Although it is not widely known the Polish intelligence service had spy networks operating throughout Europe and the Middle East. The Poles established their own spy networks and also cooperated with foreign agencies such as Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and Special Operations Executive, the American Office of Strategic Services and even the Japanese intelligence service. During the war the Poles supplied roughly 80.000 reports to the British intelligence services (1), including information on the German V-weapons (V-1 cruise missile and V-2 rocket) and reports from the German High Command (though the agent ‘Knopf) (2).

    In occupied France the intelligence department of the Polish Army’s General Staff organized several resistance/intelligence groups tasked not only with obtaining information on the German units but also  with evacuating Polish men so they could serve in the Armed Forces. These networks obviously attracted the attention of the German security services and in 1941 the large INTERALLIE network, controlled by Roman Czerniawski, was dismantled.

    Another large network was controlled by Zdzislaw Piatkiewicz aka Lubicz'. The book ‘Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949’, p529 says about this group: ‘Some of the Polish networks were very productive. One based in the south of France run by ‘Lubicz' (Zdzislaw Piatkiewicz) had 159 agents, helpers and couriers, who in August and September 1943 provided 481 reports, of which P.5 circulated 346. Dunderdale's other organizations were rather smaller’.

    From German and British reports it seems that the radio communications of the Polish spy groups in France (including the ‘Lubicz' net) were compromised in the period 1943-44. Wilhelm Flicke who worked in the intercept department of OKW/Chi (decryption department of the High Command of the Armed Forces) says in ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ (3):

    The Polish intelligence service in France had the following tasks:

    1. Spotting concentrations of the Germany army, air force and navy.

    2. Transport by land and sea and naval movements.

    3. Ammunition dumps; coastal fortifications, especially on the French coast after the occupation of Northern France.

    4. Selection of targets for air attack.

    5. Ascertaining and reporting everything which demanded immediate action by the military command.

    6. Details regarding the French armament industry working for Germany, with reports on new weapons and planes.

    The Poles carried on their work from southern France which had not been occupied by the Germans. Beginning in September 1942 it was certain that Polish agent stations were located in the immediate vicinity of the higher staffs of the French armistice army.

    In March 1943 German counterintelligence was able to deal the Polish organization a serious blow but after a few weeks it revived, following a reorganization. Beginning the summer of 1943 messages could be read. They contained military and economic information. The Poles in southern France worked as an independent group and received instructions from England, partly by courier, and partly by radio. They collaborated closely with the staff of General Giraud in North Africa and with American intelligence service in Lisbon. Official French couriers traveling between Vichy and Lisbon were used, with or without their knowledge, to carry reports (in the form of microfilm concealed in the covers of books).

    The Poles had a special organization to check on German rail traffic to France. It watched traffic at the following frontier points: Trier, Aachen, Saarbrucken, München-Gladbach, Strassburg-Mülhausen and Belfort. They also watched the Rhine crossings at Duisburg, Coblenz, Düsseldorf, Küln, Mannheim, Mainz, Ludwigshafen, and Wiesbaden. Ten transmitters were used for the purpose.

    All the Polish organizations in France were directed by General Julius Kleeberg. They worked primarily against Germany and in three fields:

    1. Espionage and intelligence;

    2. Smuggling (personnel);

    3. Courier service.

    Head of the "smuggling service" until 1.6.1944 was the celebrated Colonel Jaklicz, followed later by Lt. Colonel Goralski. Jaklicz tried to penetrate all Polish organizations and send all available man power via Spain to England for service in the Polish Army.  The "courier net" in France served the "Civil Delegation", the smuggling net, and the espionage service by forwarding reports. The function of the Civil Sector of the "Civil Delegation" in France was to prepare the Poles in France to fight for an independent Poland by setting up action groups, to combat Communism among the Poles, and to fight against the occupying Germans. The tasks of the military sector of the Delegation were to organize groups with military training to carry on sabotage, to take part in the invasion, and to recruit Poles for military service on "D-Day". The "Civil Delegation" was particularly concerned with Poles in the German O.T. (Organisation Todt) or in the armed forces. It sought to set up cells which would encourage desertion and to supply information.

    Early in 1944 this spy net shifted to Northern France and the Channel Coast. The Poles sought to camouflage this development by sending their messages from the Grenoble area and permitting transmitters in Northern France to send only occasional operational chatter. The center asked primarily for reports and figures on German troops, tanks and planes, the production of parts in France, strength at airfields, fuel deliveries from Germany, French police, constabulary, concentration camps and control offices, as well as rocket aircraft, rocket bombs and unmanned aircraft.

    In February 1944 the Germans found that Polish agents were getting very important information by tapping the army telephone cable in Avignon.

    In March 1944, the Germans made a successful raid and obtained important radio and cryptographic material. Quite a few agents were arrested and the structure of the organization was fully revealed.

    Beginning early in June, increased activity of Polish radio agents in France became noticeable. They covered German control points and tried to report currently all troop movements. German counterintelligence was able to clarify the organization, its members, and its activity, by reading some 3,000 intercepted messages in connection with traffic analysis. With the aid of the Security Police preparations were made for the action "Fichte" which was carried out on 13 July 1944 and netted over 300 prisoners in all parts of France.

    This, together with preliminary and simultaneous actions, affected:

    1. The intelligence service of the Polish II Section,

    2. The smuggling service,

    3. The courier service with its wide ramifications.

    The importance of the work of the Poles in France is indicated by the fact that in May 1944 Lubicz and two agents were commended by persons very high in the Allied command "because their work was beginning to surpass first class French sources." These agents had supplied the plans of all German defense installations in French territory and valuable details regarding weapons and special devices.

    Flicke’s statements on the solution of Polish intelligence codes in 1943 can be confirmed, in part, by the postwar interrogation of Oscar Reile, head of Abwehr counterintelligence in occupied France. In his report 'Notes on Leitstelle III West Fur Frontaufklarung' (4) he said about the Polish intelligence communications:


    107. Leitstelle III West also benefited from the work done by the code and cipher department of Funkabwehr, which studied all captured documents connected with codes and ciphers, with the object of decoding and deciphering the WT traffic of agents who were regarded as important and could not be captured. 

    108. Valuable results were often obtained by Funkabwehr. During the winter of 43/44, the above-mentioned code and cipher department succeeded in breaking codes used by one of the most important transmitters of the Polish Intelligence Service in FRANCE. For months thereafter WT reports from Polish agents to ENGLAND were intercepted and understood; the same applied to orders they received from ENGLAND. The Germans also learnt that important military plants were known to the Allies, and a considerable number of names and cover names of members of the Polish Intelligence Service were discovered.

    Flicke also said ‘Early in 1944 this spy net shifted to Northern France and the Channel Coast. The Poles sought to camouflage this development by sending their messages from the Grenoble area and permitting transmitters in Northern France to send only occasional operational chatter’. This statement can also be confirmed by other German and British reports.

    The monthly reports of Referat 12 (Agents section) of the German Army’s signal intelligence agency OKH/In 7/VI (5) mention spy messages from Grenoble in May and July 1943 as links top and 71c (9559, Grenoble), so it is possible that these are the Polish intelligence messages that Flicke says were solved in summer 1943. Unfortunately these reports are difficult to interpret since they use codewords for each spy case.

    More information is available from messages found in the captured archives of OKW/Chi (since Chi also worked on Polish military intelligence codes). The British report DS/24/1556 of October 1945 (6) shows that messages on the link London-Grenoble were solved and these were enciphered with the military attaché cipher POLDI 4.


    The same report mentions that in August 1944 the British authorities became aware that decoded Polish military intelligence messages from Grenoble were sent from Berlin to the Abwehr station in Madrid, Spain:

    In August 1944, a series of decoded Polish ‘Deuxieme Bureau’ messages between London and Grenoble were seen by us in ISK traffic being forwarded by Berlin to Abwehr authorities at Madrid. The time lags varied between 5 and 43 days. S.L.C. Section at headquarters informed us that this was a properly controlled leakage, and that no cypher security action was necessary or desirable.’

    Some of these messages can be found in the British national archives (7):


    It is interesting to note that the response of the higher authorities was ‘this was a properly controlled leakage, and that no cypher security action was necessary or desirable’, without however giving more details.


    During WWII the Polish intelligence service operated throughout Europe and was able to gather information of great value for the Western Allies. These activities were opposed by the security services of Nazi Germany and in this shadow war many Allied spy networks were destroyed and their operatives imprisoned or killed. In their operations against Allied agents the Germans relied not only on their own counterintelligence personnel but also signals intelligence and codebreaking. Fixed and mobile stations of the Radio Defense Corps (Funkabwehr) monitored unauthorized radio transmissions and through direction finding located their exact whereabouts.

    The Agents section of Inspectorate 7/VI and OKW/Chi analyzed and decoded enciphered agents messages, with the results passed to the security services Abwehr and Sicherheitsdienst. Both agencies solved Polish intelligence communications including traffic from Switzerland, France, Poland, the Middle East and other areas. The Polish intelligence networks in France were an important target for the Germans not only because they were a security risk but also because they would undoubtedly assist the Allied troops in their invasion of Western Europe in 1944. In that sense the compromise of the communications of the Polish military intelligence network was an important success since it allowed the Germans to dismantle parts of this group and also learn of what the Allied authorities wanted to know about German strengths and dispositions in France.

    According to Flicke the success started in summer 1943 and from the British reports we can see that they continued to solve the traffic till summer ’44 (when France was liberated). It is not clear of when the Brits first learned that the Polish communications had been compromised and what measures they took to prevent the leakage of sensitive information. It is also not clear of whether they chose to inform the Poles about all this…


    (1). Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies article: ‘England's Poles in the Game: WWII Intelligence Cooperation’

    (2). War in History article: ‘Penetrating Hitler's High Command: Anglo-Polish HUMINT, 1939-1945’

    (3). ‘War Secrets in the Ether’, p230-1

    (4). CSDIC SIR 1719 - 'Notes on Leitstelle III West Fur Frontaufklarung', p15

    (5). War Diary of OKH/In 7/VI - May and July 1943

    (6). British national archives HW 40/222

    (7). British national archives HW 40/221

    Sources: ‘Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949’, Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies article: ‘England's Poles in the Game: WWII Intelligence Cooperation’, ‘War Secrets in the Ether’, CSDIC SIR 1719 - 'Notes on Leitstelle III West Fur Frontaufklarung', HW 40/221 ‘Poland: reports and correspondence relating to the security of Polish communications’, HW 40/222 ‘Poland: reports and correspondence relating to the security of Polish communications’, War in History article: ‘Penetrating Hitler's High Command: Anglo-Polish HUMINT, 1939-1945’, War Diary of OKH/In 7/VI

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  • 08/23/15--00:29: Update
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    Even though most TICOM reportshave been released by the NSA and GCHQ, some are still classified. It seems that (finally…) this is beginning to change since I just received TICOM I-89 ‘Report by Prof Dr. H Rohrbach of Pers Z S on American strip cipher.

    This was a report prepared in August 1945 by the mathematician dr Hans Rohrbach. During WWII Rohrbach was one of the top cryptanalysts of the German Foreign Ministry’s decryption department Pers Z. His major success was the solution of the M-138-A strip cipher system used by the US State Department for its most important messages.

    The report details the mathematical method of solution and the use of a special device, called the ‘Automaton‘, that could quickly decode the messages once the alphabet strips and keylists had been reconstructed.

    When i requested this report in 2013 the NSA’s response was: ’We have completed our search for records responsive to your request. We located item 1 of your request. That document was reviewed in 2006 and was witheld in full. The document requires a new review to determine whether any of it can be released at this time.‘

    Based on this response i was expecting that I-89 would contain fascinating details about the work of the German codebreakers. Unfortunately after going through the report it’s clear that it is the same report submitted by Rohrbach to the FIAT Review of German Science in 1948 and also published in the journal Cryptologia in 1979.

    My other request to the NSA was for page 92 of the Special Research History SRH-366 'History of Army Strip Cipher devices'. Some of you may have noticed that it is missing a page. In any case here it is:


    Again it doesn’t seem to contain groundbreaking information. What can I say, you win some you lose some….

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    The solution of the German Enigma cipher machine by the codebreakers of Bletchley Park and the effect that this had on World War II became public knowledge in the 1970’s, with the publication of books like ‘The Ultra Secret’. Since then hardly a year goes by without a new book or movie coming out and claiming that the British codebreakers basically won WWII all on their own. Unfortunately the work of the Polish codebreakers has not received the same recognition, even though they were the first to solve Enigma messages in the 1930’s.

    In the interwar period Poland had to face the hostility of a weakened Germany and a rising Soviet Union. The Polish military authorities knew that they had to keep a close eye their dangerous neighbors, so they built up an efficient codebreaking service, called Biuro Szyfrów. The Polish codebreakers played an important role during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–21 by solving the ciphers used by the Red Army and learning of the enemy plans in advance.

    Against Germany the department faced a serious problem due to the introduction of the Enigma machine in the late 1920’s. The solution of this device required scientific research undertaken by mathematicians and for this reason the department hired Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki. Using material provided by the French intelligence service, the three of them were able to solve the Enigma in the early 1930’s.

    Enigma Press has published a new book on Henryk Zygalski, called ‘The triumph of Zygalski's sheets: the Polish Enigma in the early 1940’ by Zdzisław J. Kapera.

    The author has used Zygalski’s personal diary in order to reconstruct his work in Poland and then France plus he has included rare photographs from the archive of Anna Zygalska-Cannon.

    The book covers Zygalski’s work for the Polish cipher bureau in the 1930’s, their evacuation to France in 1939, the solution of current Enigma traffic in 1940 (together with the British codebreakers) and his work for the signal intelligence service of Vichy France at PC Cadix. The last two chapters cover his escape to the UK (due to the German occupation of Vichy in late 1942), his assignment to the Polish radio intelligence unit near Stanmore and his postwar academic career at the University of Surrey.

    The author has given particular attention to Zygalski’s cryptanalytic technique for the solution of Enigma traffic (Zygalski sheets) and he has also taken a look into why the intelligence gained from the Enigma did not play an important role during the fighting in Norway and France.

    Overall this is a valuable contribution to Enigma historiography.

    The author was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

    1). Can you give a summary of Enigma Press and the books you’ve published?

    The Enigma Press is a scholarly publisher from Cracow - Mogilany. The Enigma Bulletin is one of series/journals printed irregularly and in limited number of copies maximum 150. Contents of the Enigma Bulletin you can find at the end of my book. We have also a Polish series of pamphlets on the Enigma story, but only two issues appeared, one being an introduction to the machine and the second is a brief biography of Rejewski. 

    2). In the book you say that you consider Zygalski a personal hero. Can you expand on that and also explain what new information you were able to discover while researching this book?

    I have always been thinking that besides Rejewski Zygalski should be presented in the full light. His sheets saved possibility to read Enigma after changes in January 1939. The British were unable to use them despite producing the full set of sheets (60 necessary copies) in November and December 1939. In my book I reconstructed from all available sources the turn of events in autumn and winter 1939/1940. I used the Polish, French and British sources together and compared them for the first time. Turing learned from Zygalski in mid January 1940 and the British also had an opportunity to read more and more. Without the period January to May 15, 1940 the British would start reading regularly Enigma many months later. Even if Enigma did not save Norway and France in this crucial period the British were able to put foundations for ULTRA.  

    3). What is the current state of cryptologic historiography in Poland? Is there renewed interest in the accomplishments of the Polish codebreakers?

    Very few people are now interested in the Enigma story as sources are very scattered. We expect that young historian Lukasz Ulatowski will write a history of the Polish Cipher Bureau in the 1920 and 1930s. 

    4). What other topics do you plan to research for future books?

    I am now working on the dangerous moment, the spring of 1940, when the reading the Enigma would be nearly exposed. Stupidity of some military committee of the Polish Government in Exile because of useless political revenge would help the Germans to discover reading Enigma. I plan to publish a pamphlet on the escape of the Polish cryptanalysts from the Vichy Cadix radio intelligence center and on the efforts of the Germans to protect Enigma against the WICHER operation. 

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    The book ‘Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War IIhas in chapter 1 a table showing the results of a Soviet study regarding the performance of the T-34 tank’s armor versus enemy rounds. The table shows the probability of penetration if hit and it is very interesting to note that till early 1943 the percentages are roughly 50-50. However from summer ’43 till March ’45 the percentage goes up to 88-97%, thus any round that hits the tank is almost certainly going to penetrate.

    This is very interesting information, as it proves the vulnerability of the T-34 to the new German 75mm guns introduced in 1942-43, so I’ve included it in WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war and The German response against the Soviet T-34 and KV tanks.

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    In the 20th century the widespread use of radio for communications gave governments and military forces the ability to transmit information across vast distances almost instantaneously. This new invention however had a big drawback since anyone with a radio device could intercept this traffic. Thus the use of codes and ciphers was mandatory if the contents of these messages were to be kept secure from eavesdroppers.

    Countries that neglected to follow this rule, or used weak crypto systems, paid for it in blood.

    In the First World War the Western Allies were able to gain information of great value by solving several German Army and Navy codes and in the Eastern front the Germans were able to defeat the Tsarist Armies mainly by solving their ciphers, reading their messages and learning of their plans in advance.

    During WWII both sides had their successes. In Britain the codebreakers of Bletchley Park solved several enemy systems with the most important ones being the German Enigma and Tunny cipher machines and the Italian C-38m. Codebreaking played a role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy invasion. In the United States the Army and Navy codebreakers solved many Japanese cryptosystems and used this advantage in battle. The great victory at Midway would probably not have been possible if the Americans had not solved the Japanese Navy’s JN25 code.

    On the other side of the hill the codebreakers of Germany, JapanItaly and Finland also solved many important enemy cryptosystems both military and diplomatic. The German codebreakers could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone conversations of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they could decode the messages of the British and US Navies during their convoy operations in the Atlantic and together with the Japanese and Finns they could solve State Department messages (both low and high level)  from embassies around the world.

    Today there is a vast amount of information available on the cryptologic history of Western countries. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the history of cryptology in Russia, both during the Tsarist era and in the Soviet period. During the Soviet era historians avoided references to codes and ciphers and instead talked about ‘radio-electronic combat’ which dealt with direction finding, traffic analysis and jamming. After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian researchers have presented new information on the organization and work of the Tsarist codebreakers and of the Soviet cryptologic agencies but there are many unanswered questions and large gaps exist regarding our knowledge of their operations and achievements.  Information on the codes and ciphers used by the Tsarist and Soviet governments and Armed Forces is limited and scattered in various books, articles and internet sites.

    I have already covered books published recently that deal with Russian cryptologic history, such as ‘History of cryptology’ by Grebennkov Vadim Viktorovich and ‘The cryptographic front’ by Butirsky, Larin and Shankin.

    This time Anatoly Klepov, a professional in the field of communications security has published ‘Encryptors and Radio Intelligence. Shield and Sword of Information World’, which contains some of his articles published online at Moskovskij Komsomolets and writing.complus new research.

    Although the book was written for a Russian audience the author has published an interesting summary in English at

    By Anatoly Klepov

    Do we know a lot about radio intelligence activities? Very little. We get the knowledge mainly from Western books. How do Western countries assess the radio intelligence efficiency? Churchill, Great Britain Prime Minister, supposed that ““Ultra” (project on German Enigma encryptor decryption – A.K.) was the most important and most secret source of information.” He also stated that “”Ultra” is the tool that helped us to win the war.”

    John Slessor, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, shares the same opinion: “”Untra” is ultimately valuable source of intelligence data that had virtually fantastic effect on the strategy or even the tactics of the allies.” Dwight David Eisenhower- Supreme Commander of western allied forces – called the ‘Ultra’ operation as “the decisive factor of allies’ victory.”

    Have we ever read anything similar in our commanders’ memoirs? Definitely not. The God of War for us is artillery, tanks, planes, and missiles. This very strategic opinion is most probably still valid nowadays. Do we have efficient and concealed (secured) forces management? In 1941 we had none…

    Why have I named my book “Encryptors and Radio Intelligence. Shield and Sword of Information World”?

    Reason 1. War.

    I started my military service in radio intelligence back in 1972. In one year time, during Gulf of Suez crises, I first realized what real radio war also means that full armies may lose battles simple because the immediate information from commanders of military divisions did not arrive to subordinates on time. Yet the most dangerous outcome was the enemy decrypted or falsified the information.

    Without concealed (encrypted) communications hundreds of tanks and planes turned into scrap metal, whereas military divisions became unorganized people having no idea what way to go and where the enemy and allies are.

    In general terms, radio intelligence is not a simple radio channel wiretapping and decryption it also implies imposing false information on enemy as well as replacing his messages, etc. Information war determines the military campaign outcome. This is the reason the opposing forces pay special attention to information wars. They conduct the war not only on a battlefield but in mass media as well. Press, radio, and TV are the second front during any large scale conflicts.
    Military reporters often send real information from the conflict zones to discover quite a different event overview in the information space. Often press representatives striving to write the truth about war – truth incompatible with the view of world’s mass media agencies – died or perished.

    Fortunately, newspapers that send employees to hot spots start to realize that one has to equip military reporter the same way as solders on the battlefield – armored jackets and helmets. Why do paper and digital mass media editorials still do not provide their hot spot reporters with strong encryption equipment to secure the information they transmit?

    Years later after my military service and heading ANCORT Company I offered to equip the international hot spot media representatives with encryption equipment. Free of charge.

    However, not a single Mass Media agency used the unique opportunity to provide their reporters with a strong and reliable information security system. Why? Going through other wars I realized that that was no coincident. No one wants true information on military actions as it may have more disastrous consequences than the war itself. Even the “most independent” mass media agencies were afraid the messages from their reporters would contradict the official censorship that in addition had no opportunity to control the encrypted communications of reporters. Mass Media heads decided not to provide their reporters with encryption systems despite the fact they left their employees defenseless against the opposing forces on the other frontline side. They could not have been unaware the enemies monitored each and very message transmitted over public communication channels, including the correspondence of Mass Media representatives!

    It is interesting when I switched the research from military conflicts to hackers’ crimes against the society and state I discovered a surprising coincidence.

    Nowadays international hacker groups performing e-crime make annually over $400 billion. One of the reasons for this to be possible is the absence of strong hardware cryptographic security in global information exchange network, including the Internet and mobile communications. Another reason is virtually no responsibility for committing such crimes! It’s extremely uncommon for such criminals – stealing huge amounts over the Internet – to be caught or penalized. Global Net enables them to commit such actions from the comfort of their homes even being in the other part of the world.

    I get a feeling that individual hackers are in fact a complex international organized criminal network aiming at gaining revenue. Moreover, the sad inferiority of the information storage and transfer systems used today is not the only thing that makes it even easier for the criminals to act. Another one is negligence of system administrators who store system passwords and users’ financial information in the places hackers can easily get access to. Just ask the affected persons whether they protected their servers with hardware encryptors. I believe most of them will not even understand what you are talking about. Barack Obama – the US President – confirmed this by saying during an information security meeting that 70% of all US companies use no or extremely weak information security systems.

    Now we get a feeling that the officials and politicians prohibit the use of strong encryption because they are afraid to review the old laws and lose the actual ability to totally control the information of the citizens. Hackers worldwide use this bureaucratic paradox to hack into unprotected networks and cause huge financial damage. This is the very reason solders and media representatives die during military conflicts.

    However, incorrect use of cryptographic equipment – especially in large-scale wars – also surely leads to tragedy. In the book I provide multiple examples from the history and modern world when the violation of strong encryption equipment use, incorrect encryption key generation, and violation of rules on connecting to encryption equipment resulted in decryption of the top secret information therefore costing millions of military and civilians their lives.

    I will give a yet unknown example from the history of cryptography. Experts are aware that the generation strong cryptographic keys is fundamental to creation of strong cryptographic equipment. What was the way the USSR produced encryption keys before 1941?

    They used special devices to generate keys to encryption equipment and one-time pads. The devices resembled modern Bingo game machine. The machine featured two units running punch tape. Balls randomly touched the punch tapes generating balanced gamma – random number sequence that was used to generate encryption key. The strength of such encryption keys was miserable. In early 1950s that was confirmed by Vladimir Kozlov – one of the USSR leading cryptologists, associate member of USSR Academy of Sciences.

    It was not a big surprise to know the imperfect USSR encryption equipment was one of the reasons of tragedy at the beginning of World War II. The Germans could read even the top secret USSR telegrams up to 1941. I will go in more details in this book.

    Now I recall a case from my experience when in late 1970s I decrypted messages encrypted with the top secret USSR cryptographic equipment using simple undulator tape and mathematical compass.

    The reason is absolutely the same – incorrect use of encryption equipment. Radio space always demonstrates all defaults in encryption equipment production and usage. It acts as test paper showing all the drawbacks. Unfortunately, some experts are subject to stereotype that once the equipment passes all lab tests one should not control its operation when going life. As my experience shows this approach is totally wrong. Human and technology factors have always existed. These factors may lead to incorrect use of encryption equipment no matter how advanced it is.

    I would like to focus on another case to further discuss tragedy arising from unprofessional and improper use of such a powerful force as cryptography. The key conditions for any army to win over the enemy have always been the information exchange secrecy and speed between the commanders and various divisions. Moreover, countless number of lives often depends on encrypted message delivery speed. The ability to deliver secret information as prompt as possible has always been of great value.

    Even centuries ago people considered urgent information as valuable as gold. If a message courier’s pay was slightly higher that of a soldier, the pay for express mail was even higher than that a Paduan University professor would get for a year!

    That was the pay for information in the XVI century already! Now let’s come back to USSR in the XX century – the century full of wars and conflicts. The country developed encryption system primarily for politicians and top management of the country. However, before the war in 1941 top secret information was encrypted with paper encryption documents. It took a lot of effort and time to encrypt the information in such a way. It was even more challenging when the encrypted information was transmitted over poor communication lines.

    Unfortunately, the USSR leaders up to 1941 (war start date) failed to realize the importance of “concealed” (encrypted) armed forces management as the key tool for winning over the enemy. We may trace this fact in Zhukov, Rokossovsky, Vasilievsky and other commanders’ memoires of that period. No one of them mentioned a concealed management of armed forces, including divisions, troops, and so on. You may come across HF communication used by high command of the USSR army. However, NKVD after-war research demonstrated the encryption system was not strong and the encrypted messages probably had been decrypted! I believe this was known even before the research. That was the reason NKVD appointed its soldiers in every 100 meter intervals along the HF communication line. It may appear the most part of information in the war first years were communicated by NKVD couriers, same as back in the XVI century.

    The Paradox of Russia. The tragedy that repeats time after time, year after year, century after century and the tragedy that relates to information security should have encouraged the ones who make decisions on cryptography use to give a try and change the situation, to learn the lesson from the past mistakes, make modern information world safe. Ehen…

    There won’t be any miracle if we keep everything in our life unchanged. Modern “digital” civilization won’t change for the better on its own. Wars and crimes go on in the information world. Military dictators and criminal geniuses will continue to appear.

    This perfectly means world leaders should think not of expanding networks to collect unprotected information and not about the ways to control people’s thoughts but rather about a way to protect the citizens of their states from new threats of virtual world. It is clear that should the world society not take joint care on global information security the civilization will suffer from extremely devastating consequences. XXI century information war has absolutely different logic. The winner will be not the one who has the most powerful information theft means but the one who has the strongest security.

    You may wonder what radio intelligence and encryption devices have to do with it. These are the very shield and sword of information world that bring us victories as well as defeats. Strong cryptography nowadays is the only efficient shield capable of protecting the world against any information weapon.

    Reason 2. Historical Truth

    During my life I have visited 96 countries worldwide where I was lucky to meet and talk to countless people having unique knowledge on our society and the history of civilization. The people I know include heads of government and various government organizations, talented scientists and cultural and religious figures. They knew my main hobby and thanked me for my work and efforts with priceless and king-like gifts – permitting me to study archive documents on history of Russia and cryptography. During one of my multiple foreign business trips I got access to materials on cryptography works of Pushkin’s contemporary and his fried - a well-known Russian scientist Pavel L. Schilling von Cannstatt. By the way, Pavel Schilling’s work as cryptography service head (cipher room) of MFA of Russia has not been mentioned in Russian public sources before. This peculiar fact attracted my real interest. Leaping ahead I will say that the history documents review delivered a great deal of discoveries. Moreover, I was able to look at known things from a different angel. For instance when I studied Pushkin’s works I discovered that the Pushkin’s drawing of an unknown man was actually the picture of his best friend Pavel Schilling. And I am talking about this as well in my book.

    However, the more I wanted to learn about Schilling’s activities and work the more challenges I faced. I had to gain various permits and approvals to access historical documents. Even when I got the permit from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to review the historical documents stored in its archive it suddenly turned out that I need another permit from FSB.

    When I finally received this other permit as well I was informed that most part of archive of the room was under reconstruction and most materials were unavailable for review. Even those available documents missed multiple pages – excluded from review. Please note 200 years had passed from the events date!

    And now I have a question how did Alexander Pushkin himself access the archives when writing the Captain’s Daughter?! The history tells that he had to address the Tsar with request to work in the Cipher Room archive. During a ball evening Pushkin approached the Imperator with his request. Nicolas I favored the request. Still we do know that even with the highest permit MFA officials did not provide Pushkin with access to all archived documents!

    Probably Noblemen were afraid of critical analysis of the political elite relations with opposing citizens participating in agitations against the Court and state. The same is true in relation to Peasant’s War under Emelian Pugachev. However, unlike the Streletsky Uprising the Peasant’s War had external political aspect in it – battle of foreign states for influencing the Russian elite even through financing the elite.

    Emelian Pugachev’s links to French Kind Louis XIV and receipt of financial aid from him is a clear example.

    The described events took place 200 years ago. Why do modern officials keep the secrets of Tsar Russia? What are they afraid of?

    Most probably they are afraid of possible unveiling Pushkin’s life philosophy and his views of State and individual relations.

    Reason 3. True Freedom of Word and Democracy

    As a cryptographer I was shocked by Pushkin words: “It’s better to be on hard labor rather than being wiretapped.” Hundreds of years have pasted and Pushkin remains virtually the only one who publicly declared the state invaded our privacy!

    The reality of the threat is proved by letter from a different epoch. Dozens years past Pushkin’s death (in early September 1959) Alexandra – the Russian Impress – wrote to her husband Nikolas II: “My dear and darling... I wish we had a phone wired directly from your room to mine… This would be our private wire and we could talk without any worries of being tapped.” The Impress was concerned that even the Tsar family had no warranty of privacy!

    I learned about another interesting fact related to privacy effect on country fate from Russian noble writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I met him back in 1995 while helping to organize the prestigious literature award of Palermo Institute (Italy) for the “In the First Circle” that also told about the development of USSR first phone encryption device. Soon I discovered that apart from cryptography we shared interest in history on freedom of word and democracy in Russia. During our discussion on 1917 revolution and the reasons of Nikolas II’s abdication, Alexander told me: look for the three latest encrypted telegrams of the Empress to the Tsar and you will understand the real reasons of abdication.

    Note that the most powerful radio station was located in Tsarskoe Selo. It was mainly designed for Nicolas II to communicate with the army divisions. However, Alexandra – the Empress – sometimes used it to communicate with her husband with encrypted messages.

    I managed to discover the decrypted correspondence of the last Russian tsar in the most unexpected place. To my greatest surprise it was published in a book edited in… UK. I believe the publishers did not include many of the most valuable and important telegrams including the messages and letters Solzhenitsyn was talking about. This mystery will be part of my further history research. However, I managed to learn the way the correspondence of the tsar family got outside the country.

    Ernest Fetterlein – the head of Tsar Cryptography Service – developed encryptor for the Tsar and empress. After 1917 revolution he migrated to UK together with his colleagues and created a powerful information decryption service GC&CS in UK intelligence. The service up to late 1920th decrypted all messages of Soviet government. Moreover, my history research of tsar encrypted correspondence enabled me to glance at encrypted correspondence between Nicolas II and German Kaiser Wilhelm II and learn a lot of interesting details on the customs and situation of that time.

    Let’s return to Pushkin’s words on State role in family values privacy and privilege. I would like to note that not a single revolutionary (Herzen, Tolstoy, Gorky, Lenin) countering tsarism had ever clearly stated that “family privacy should be above all political freedoms.”

    We may say exactly the same about noble people of the Western civilization. In the history of Europe and USA I spotted only one person who shared the point of view of Pushkin.

    Almost Pushkin’s contemporary – Thomas Jefferson, one of the US first presidents, author of Declaration of Independence – believed that “only strong cryptography that cannot be read by the government” brought the US the real freedom and independence. The two grand persons on different continents thought the same way.

    And I asked myself why over the centuries have we started to forget the philosophy in Russia and the USA? Where may we get to with all the limitations and bans on strong cryptography use? Of course, I was first interested in Russia fate that experienced significant losses over the last two hundred years just for this very cause. After 1812 when the Russian army celebrated the victory over Napoleon in Paris we note the ignominious losses: Crimean War, 1905 events, 1914 War. Just take a look, over many years Russia had no large victories. The West gained control not only over Russian finances but the political life as well. Due to the cryptography ban the information on state officials and politicians was absolutely open and available to western special services. That means they had plenty of opportunities to compromise and recruit Russian officials.

    Reason 4. Cryptography Role in Modern World

    Once without the information shield, Russia lost the wars due to external control.

    Just think, World War I in 1914 – Russian army could have entered Berlin and finished the war. However it was defeated thus significantly changing the further world history. The true reason of catastrophe was the compromised encryption system of Russian army used to manage and operate the forces. The German army was able to intercept radio calls between the Russian divisions and had all information about every dislocation of the enemy. That led to destruction of Tsar Army. But for this fact the society would have not had any reasons for dissatisfaction that provoked the Russian 1917 Revolution.

    The next page of history is the year 1917. Nicolas II – Russian Imperator – loses access to encrypted communication with his army and Tsar Selo. This resulted in revolution.

    1941 – The very first days of World War II. The Nazi got hold of large quantity of encryption equipment, manual encryption documents, and – most important – encryption keys. The encryption system of the Soviet Army fighting with German intruders was compromised and virtually ceased to exist. This was the replay of 1914 events. From the very beginning of 1941 War the Soviet Army had to use plain communication or use courier delivery. That sadly led to deaths of some 6 million USSR defenders, huge material loses in the very beginning of the war!

    1979 – War in Afghanistan. I will tell you about the “correct” use of soviet encryption equipment and encryption documents and the results in the second volume of my book. Our soldiers and officers in squadrons, battalions, divisions, and even in larger formations had no strong communication encryption. This resulted in unreasonably high losses.

    USSR vanishing in 1991. The USSR president, similar to the Imperator in 1917, was shut out from encrypted communication. The wars in Chechnya. I often quote the words of General Troshev from his book “My War. Notes of Trench General”: “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. We paid in blood for lack of encryptors.” The very same thing happened during Georgia and Ossetia conflict in 2008. General Khrulev, commander of Russian 58th Army used satellite phone of a newspaper reporter to coordinate the troops in the very beginning of campaign. There was no other way of communication…

    It turns out to be that years and centuries of negligence to information security of the country have led to the deaths of the best men of Russia, financial and material devastation of the country. This is when Russia has always been considered as a cryptographic power.

    What does prevent us from constantly making the past mistakes? I have expressed my thoughts on this in articles that are now a part of the book. The thoughts about the cryptography role in modern world, information impact on person and the information value, changes it applies to our society is the common theme of my book.

    Reason 5. Future of Civilization

    We live today in an absolutely different world. The humanity has entered the information era where digital and virtual world is as real as the books, paintings, and pictures. Today the people are not the only ones who exchange the information. Nowadays robots do the same. Our real life is filled with more digital devices with every passing day. These devices include medical ones that can remotely monitor the health.

    The devices are more often get connected to the global information exchange computer networks. Just in a few years we will not be able to imagine our life without such devices. Well, who is going to control the ones who control the life of people, our thoughts, and our information?! Scientific and technology progress speeds up with every year. Experts already experiment with replacing real memory with imaginary one. This engages Internet technologies without strong cryptographic security. How much time do we have left until we get a technology to fully control the mind of any person – one, five, or ten years?

    Will be a person in the near future able to personally secure himself against hackers and criminals? Won’t someone decide to take up the opportunity to take under control crowds of people?

    Even today when we read Edward Snowden’s disclosures we note that there exists a global information interception system and information gets concentrated. Where does all the data flow to?

    If Snowden managed to get hold of a great deal of important data from the storage, won’t there be anyone else in the future who will rely on the system vulnerabilities and use the information for absolutely different purposes and serve evil?

    Won’t the outdated perception of cryptography role in our life lead to an Information Hitler smartly using the inability of our society to respond to new threats? Won’t we give birth to Information Anti-Christ with our negligence to personal information security of a person?

    All of us know the word is derivative of our thoughts. The First Epistle of John reads that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. The Words are the holy base of human society existence and development.

    Our words and our thoughts stolen from digital space are accumulated on countless servers worldwide. Who does control them and – more important – has the ability to change the stored information?

    That was the reason Baron Rothschild – who made fortune over a few days by amending political information – said: “He who owns the information – owns the world!”

    By securing our information against theft, securing our words against amendments we secure the world against tragedy.

    This is what my book all about. I want to deliver this very thought no only to the readers but to the power players who are able so far to make decisions without any influence from virtual space.


    Q&A with Anatoly Klepov

    The author was kind enough to answer some of my questions

    1).   Can you give an overview of your background in the field of communications security?

    In 1972 I started my military service in the Soviet Army, radio intelligence. I worked in various USSR organizations related to cryptographic equipment production. Since 1990 I’ve been the sole and continuous head of Ancort Company (25 years already). For more information on the Company history refer to:

    2). You’ve mentioned the Bank of Russia aviso scandal of the 1990’s. Can you give more details on this case?

    I produced and developed various cryptographic devices. You may read may article on Central Bank of Russia at

    3). How did you become interested in historical research, what archives have you researched for your book and articles and what topics interest you the most.

    History has been a hobby of mine since childhood. I even planned to enter a Historical Institute. However, my life had different plans. I have always been interested in the matters related to managing the country and armed forces. Frankly speaking, Alexander S. Pushkin’s researches have impressed me even more. In my book I have proven that he was a cryptographer. For more information refer to

    I referred to Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives as well as different archives of the state. My friends from different countries have supplied me with archive documents. I even purchased articles from foreign archive funds. At the moment I am interested in archive documents on cryptography at the Tsar age as well as creation of cryptographic equipment before 1941 war and equipment for calls wiretapping that was used during Tsar Russia and NKVD age.

    4). What is the current state of cryptologic historiography in Russia?  Do you expect that a history of Soviet signals intelligence will be released anytime soon? Is the Russian public interested in the history of cryptology?

    Unfortunately, the number of documents on USSR cryptography history is still limited. In most cases it’s the historians who have no experience in cryptographic equipment development or in radio intelligence. Therefore, they provide a lot of general conclusions (mostly testimonials) without shedding light on the real things. I am not surprised as cryptography was under control of NKVD and KGB. The said agencies also controlled Mass Media forbidding to publish anything about mistakes of theirs. Of course, the field was a top secret one.

    We do have numerous publications on World War II. Nonetheless, we fail to find objective data on the way the secured communication really functioned during the war. I also mean communications between the army, police, and squadrons. Secured – encrypted – communication is the core of Armed Forces management. Without the said communication Army turns into a group of people and pile of metal as it happened back in 1914, 1941, as well as during the wars in Chechnya.

    5). As I understand it this is the first book in a series. What topics will you cover in the next books you publish?

    I don’t think there is great interest to cryptography history in Russia. This also relates to other fields of knowledge. Everyone has plunged into social networks as Facebook and the like. Therefore, my "Encryptors and Radio Intelligence. Shield and Sword of Information World" book is actually the very first that shades some light on real situation of cryptography in the USSR. We may not write on Russia cryptographic systems as this information is still secret. I was surprised to know that one developed an encryptor for tanks that was too big to fit into a tank. However, it did comply with all security requirements. Of course, this encryptor has never been adopted.

    In my next publications I would like to get a better understanding of Tsar Russia cryptography system as of up to 1917 as well as the real reason Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, study the encrypted communication of Tsar and the Empress Alexandra, recover the encrypted communication of Nicholas II with Wilhelm II and encrypted communications of Nicholas II with the King of Great Britain and president of France. I am especially interested in encrypted communication between the Tsar Nicholas II and Minister Witte. I would also like to define the wiretapping system in Tsar Russia, the ones responsible and the way the system was organized. My further researches will tightly related to defining specific organizations responsible for radio intelligence in Germany, as well as for call and telex wiretapping, and the ones related to Holocaust organization. Vatican encryption system interests me strongly as well. I am also interested in the impact the encryption systems had on political events during inquisitions and Crusades.

    There are plenty of materials that need to be systematized and organized. I believe I will manage to have time to implement these plans.

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