1). I’ve added a link to “The historical truth” of Beria and Suvorov about cryptography and radio intelligence in Compromise of Soviet codes in WWII.
3). I’ve added information in WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war. Specifically:
In paragraph Problematic gearbox: ‘However it seems that even vehicles built late in the war were not guaranteed to have the new 5-speed gearbox. The tanks given to the Polish People's Army in late 1944/early 1945 and those used by the North Korean Army in 1950 had the old 4-speed setup (6).’
In paragraph Reliability problems: ‘Soviet tests on newly built T-34’s (14) showed that in April 1943 only 10.1% could complete a 330km trial and in June ’43 this went down to 7.7%. The percentage stayed below 50% till October 1943 when it rose to 78%, in the next month it dropped to 57% and in the period December ’43 - February ’44 the average was 82%.’ In paragraph T-34 vs M4 Sherman: ‘The Sherman proved its superiority in the Korean war, when US M4 tanks demolished the North Korean armored units equipped with the T-34/85.’
In paragraph Conclusion: ‘In the Korean conflict of 1950-53 the T-34/85 again suffered disproportionate losses against Allied vehicles with comparable capabilities. The opinion of a Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps tanker is worth reading (28): ‘And now, Sir, a few words for your private ear on the T 34. I assume that the tks given by Joe to Mr. Wu are old models. Even so they were grossly overrated in press reports in the early days of the KOREAN Camaign. (A well placed HE shell from a 20 pr will lift the turret off). Only about 4 per Sqn have wrls and their armour is of poor quality. The whole tk is of the crudest workmanship, and breaks down with the greatest ease. (In fairness I must add that this may be due to inexperienced CHINESE crew). They would have to be used in mass, RUSSIAN fashion, to be any treat to a well trained, well equipped Army, as they have been proved somewhat inferior to the SHERMAN. A CENTURION will do to them what a TIGER did to the SHERMAN. They got their initial build up as a scapegoat to cover the natural and understandable, fact that the first American tps over here were raw, frightened boys who were also soft from occupational duties in JAPAN. The T 34, I am convinced, should be de-bunked. It is a workable tk, but NOT a wonder tk’.
In WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war I made a correction. I had written that:
‘Still there are examples of T-34’s breaking down during assaults even late in the war (17). For instance the 5th Guards Tank army in 1943 lost as much as 15% of its tanks during its march to Prokhorovka. In August ’43 the 1st Tank army lost 50% of its tanks due to malfunction. As late as the second half of 1944 tank units tried to replace engines with more than 30 hours of operation before a major attack.’
It seems the 15% figure was not correct. The 5th Guards Tank army actually lost 31.5% of its tanks during its march to Prokhorovka. Superior Soviet engineering FTW!
In WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war I added the following pics under the paragraph:
‘The transmission had by American standards already failed, although with extreme care it could have been used further. Teeth ends on all gears were battered as the result of clash shifting. Many pieces of gear teeth had been broken off and were in the transmission oil. The failure is due to inadequate design, since excellent steel was used through the transmission.’
I’m also going to add more information on T-34 reliability from an interesting Russian source. Stay tuned!
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.
Although books and films usually like to focus on Alan Turing, there were also other people who made vital contributions towards the solution of the German Enigma device. The mathematician Gordon Welchman worked on German Army and Airforce traffic and became head of Hut 6. Welchman came up with the idea of the diagonal board, a modification of the bombes that made them much more efficient in their operation.
Welchman became assistant director of mechanization at Bletchley Park in 1943, in 1948 immigrated to the US and from 1962 worked as an analyst of the MITRE Corporation.
An amusing incident is described in Welchman’s book The Hut Six Story, pages 190-192. It concerns the problems caused by the Army bureaucracy and the fact that despite their work at Bletchley the codebreakers were liable to be called into military service!
The passage reads:
‘In my own case exemption from military service involved a curious sequence of events. At the beginning of the war, when I became a temporary civil servant in a branch of the British Foreign Office I was thirty-three years old. In due course my age group was called and I received a notice telling me to report to a unit of the Royal Artillery somewhere in the north of England. I took the notice to the Foreign Office administrative people. They assured me that would handle the matter, and that I was to do nothing. A little later I received a polite letter from the Colonel of my artillery unit, saying that there was no doubt a good reason for my nonappearance, but would I please report at once. I took this letter also to the administrative office. Again I was told that the Foreign Office would handle the matter. The next development was a phone call to my mother-in-law, from her brother, Ned, who as chance would have it was Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire, the county in which I was living. He had a warrant for my arrest. This raised an intriguing point. Bletchley Park was enclosed by a high fence and was under military guard. Its cafeteria was open night and day, and sleeping accommodation was available. Suppose I had kept on living and working there and never emerged? I suspect the police might have had some difficulty in arresting me. As it turned out, however, I did not need to resort to any such dramatic delaying action. The Foreign Office and Army Administrators finally resolved the matter. One problem remained. Army regulations included no means of simply letting go of a man who had been called up but had not enlisted. The regular discharge procedure applied only to those who had gone through the enlistment process. It developed that, in order to sever my relationship with the Gunners, I would first have to enlist. I had to report at a Royal Artillery establishment, and it was arranged that I should go to the nearest one, which was a few miles south of Bletchley Park. I was given a gasoline allowance and drove my own car. The "establishment" turned out to be a small office presided over by a sergeant. The sergeant had received detailed instructions, and after filling a few forms, he shook me by the hand, congratulated me on being a Gunner, and said that he would arrange for me to be discharged some other day. When I explained that my office did not want me to take time off for a second trip, he said that he could not discharge me at once because a medical examination was needed and the doctor would be at lunch. I had to get back to Bletchley as soon as possible, so I discovered where the doctor lived, dashed round and just caught him before he went to lunch. A few minutes later I had whatever medical certificates were necessary for my discharge, only to find that the sergeant had gone to lunch. I found him in the nearest pub and persuaded him to come back to his office. After filling out a few more forms, he told me that I was now a civilian again. My length of military service was almost exactly twenty minutes. Then, having arranged my discharge, the sergeant gave me a few appropriate papers, one of which I treasured for many years. It urged me to join the Home Guard, where my experience in the Army would be extremely valuable.’
In Compromise of OWI - Office of War Information communications I had written that:
The book ‘Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews’, p265 says about Mayer:
‘Gerald Mayer was officially OWI’s man in Bern but in fact he was Allen Dulles’s cover and right hand man’ The same book mentions an OWI message from Mayer to Elmer Davis from May 1944, decoded by the German codebreakers. The Germans were not the only ones reading OWI communications from Bern.
Since I was able to track down this telegram that part is changed to:
‘Gerald Mayer was officially OWI’s man in Bern but in fact he was Allen Dulles’s cover and right hand man’
The same book mentions an OWI message from Mayer to Elmer Davis, dated 25 May 1944, decoded by the German codebreakers on June 6. The telegram ‘described the holocaust in Carpatho-Russia and the Mamaros areas of Hungary on the basis of ‘’reliable sources and even on the basis of Hungarian newspapers’’. From the contents of the decode it is clear that it was OWI telegram Bern-Washington No 3.346:
I said previously that I was going to add information in WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war from a new source. The book ‘Неизвестный T-34’ (Unknown T-34) has information in pages 52-54 on T-34 reliability. Thus I’ve added the following in my T-34 essay:
1). In paragraph Reliability problems:
‘The constant complaints from the front forced the authorities to investigate the problems with T-34 production. In September 1942 a conference was held at the Ural tank factory by the Commissariat of tank industry (12). The conference was headed by Major General Kotin, People’s commissar of the tank industry of the USSR and chief designer of heavy tank ‘Kliment Voroshilov’. In his speech he said: ''Now ... there are a lot of complains about the T-34. You all know the reasons for flaws in the tanks. The first reason –inadequate visibility from the tank; the second reason, and this is the weak link that always accompanies our vehicle in the Army – final drive. And third, the main issue that we have today – insufficient strength of the idler wheel's crank. These issues are the major defects of the T-34 today. Having considered these issues from engineering and technological points of view I would like to discuss another issue, the one that directly resulted solely from our production deficiencies. They are: negligence during production of combat vehicles in the factories, carelessness of assembly and quality control of vehicles. As a result during combat employment our tanks sometimes cannot reach the front lines, or after getting to the territory occupied by the enemy for conducting combat operations, sometimes they are forced to remain on enemy's territory because of some little things... We have to make sure that as a result of this conference all shortcoming will be uncovered and following this conference all corrections in the tank will be implemented in the shortest possible time...
Recently comrade Morozov and I visited comrade Stalin. Comrade Stalin drew our attention to the fact that enemy tanks cover a lot of ground freely, and our machines although are better, but have a disadvantage: after 50 or 80 kilometers march they require repair. What are we talking about? It is because of control gear; also, as comrade Stalin said, because of drive gear, and he compared it with the Pz.III, which is in service with the German army, and which is inferior in armor protection, and in other features, and in crew's layout, and does not have such a fine engine, which the T-34 got, moreover its engine is gasoline, not diesel. But the question аrises – why its drive gear is developed better?
Comrade Stalin gave directives to engineers, to the People's Commissar comrade Zaltsman, to factory's CEOs and ordered them to fix all defects in the shortest time. A special order of the State Defense Committee has been issued on the subject as well as directives of the People's Commissariat of the Tank Industry. Despite all these resolutions have been made by Government and orders of the People's Commissar of the Tank Industry, despite repeated instructions from army units and from Main Directorate of the Armored Forces, which is in charge of combat vehicles operation, nevertheless all of these defects on vehicles are going on... We have to reveal all these flaws, and suggestions have to be made on at this conference how to modify machine component better and faster in order to make the T-34 tank, which is recognized in the army as a good tank, even better fighting machine.''
‘Preliminary inspection of tanks built at the Ural tank factory No 183 (largest producer of the T-34) showed that in 1942 only 7% were free of defects, in 1943 14% and in 1944 29.4%. In 1943 the main problem was damage to the gear teeth (16)’
2). In paragraph T-34 vs PzIII:
‘Its main advantage versus the T-34 was its superior reliability’
How is NSA breaking so much crypto? is a summary of how the NSA might be able to exploit a large part of encrypted internet traffic and link to scientific paper here.
During WWII the British Armed Forces used several cipher systems for their low/mid level traffic, such as the Syllabic cipher, Slidex, Syko/Rekoh cards, Bomber code etc. Unfortunately it is difficult to find detailed information on these systems and how they were used during the war.
A detailed description of SYKO is available from Google, as patent US 2270137 A.
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.
Traffic of other US government agencies
Was the traffic of these organizations also compromised? It seems so, as some German decodes of State Department traffic contain information on economic matters and Lend Lease shipments (2) and the book ‘Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews’ mentions several War Refugee Board telegrams that were decoded by the Germans (3).
Unfortunately we will have to wait for the release of more classified reports, from the NSA and the State Department, in order to assess the full extent of this compromise.
(3). ‘Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews’, p200-201 - p265-267 - 287-288
The use of signals intelligence and codebreaking by the Germans and Soviets in the Eastern front is a subject that has received very little attention by historians so far. The main reason was the lack of adequate sources. The archives of the Soviet codebreaking organizations remain closed to researchers but in the last decade many important documents on German signals intelligence operations have been released to the public archives.
From these documents it is clear that the Germans invested significant resources in their signal intelligence agencies and relied on their output during the fighting in the East. Against an opponent that outnumbered them in men and war materiel (tanks, planes, artillery) signals intelligence gave them the opportunity to monitor enemy movements and make efficient use of their limited resources.
The cryptologic systems used by the Soviet Union at low and mid level were extensively compromised during the war and in 1941-42 even their high level 5-figure code could be read.
It seems that in 1942 a detailed report was prepared on the German exploitation of the Soviet army’s 5-figure code. The report of Area X - (Gebiet X) of April 1942, from the war diary of Inspectorate 7/VI, says:
Über die lösung, entwicklung und Bearbeitung des 5Z Materials wird demnächst ein Sonderbericht herausgegeben werden der die arbeit der Ez.- Gruppe der In 7/VI auf diesem Gebiete eingehend schildert. Dieser Sonderbericht wird den Zeitraum vom 22.6.41 (Beginn des Osteinsatzes) bis zum 22 April 1942 (Abgabe der EZ Bearbeitung an die Ez. - Gruppe des Herrn Prof. N) umfassen.
A special report will soon be issued that will describe in detail the work of the deciphering group of In 7/IV in solving, developing and processing the Russian 5-figure code. This special report will cover the period from 22.6.41 (the start of the eastern campaign) until 22 April 1942 (handing over the processing to the deciphering group of Professor N.).
Unfortunately I have not been able to locate this file and it is not mentioned in TICOM report IF-272 which lists the files of Inspectorate 7/VI recovered in 1947 from a camp in Austria.
Craig McKay, author of ‘From Information to Intrigue’, ‘Swedish Signal Intelligence’ and contributor to journals such as Intelligence and National Security, Journal of Intelligence History and Cryptologia has started a new website dealing with intelligence history. He has already added several essays on interesting cases plus he has uncovered the identity of the mysterious Polish agent 594.
If you’re interested in intelligence history you should check out his site Intelligence Past.
Craig was kind enough to answer some of my questions.
1). How did you become interested in WWII intelligence history and what was the process that led to the publication of two books on the subject?
Part of the reason, I gave on my site, namely growing up at a time when the two great wars of the twentieth century were very much part of living memory. But why, you may still ask, study intelligence, rather than say the history of weapon development, another interesting and perhaps more important subject? I suppose the answer lies somewhere in our psyche. A clue might be the following anecdote. As an insufferable sixteen-year-old, I acquired the atrocious habit of writing down various observations in aphoristic form. One of them was: “But surely, in some sense, the perfect actor is still undiscovered.” Anybody who says something like that, is more or less fated to become interested in the
world of secret intelligence! With regard to my books, these merely reflected my own location in Sweden. I was there, I was interested in the history of intelligence and discovered that apart from journalistic accounts, not much serious work had been done. My interest in SIGINT, cyphers and such things, however, had another origin. I had worked in the field of mathematical logic under Professor R.L.Goodstein. At that time, logic and the foundations of mathematics were peripheral subjects in the British mathematical curriculum. Computing was mainly still numerical analysis. I recall giving a lecture on Turing machines about 1964 when few professional mathematicians in Britain had heard of his work, far less took an active interest in the subject. It sounds quite extraordinary now but so it was. Of course, no one spoke about his war work. Turing was only one of the mathematical logicians involved in wartime cypher work. There were others such as Turing 's pupil Robin Gandy, Hasenjaeger in Germany, Quine and Rosser in the US.
2). Why did you decide to start the ‘Intelligence Past’ website and what are your goals for it?
My motivation was, I confess, entirely egotistical: to get my various bits and pieces on the history of secret intelligence out on the web rather than let them perish instantaneously with me. What other people do with them is entirely up to them. It would be nice when I am still around, if some braver souls were encouraged to post their own pieces on the site. Let’s see what happens.
3). What areas of intelligence history do you find most interesting and what are you currently researching?
Because of my own history- virtually a lifetime in Sweden to which I remain greatly attached, I have tended to limit my own interests in two ways (i) geostrategically I focus on Northern Europe and (ii) thematically I am also very interested in the interaction between neutrality and intelligence. About the latter, I say a bit in the first few pages of my book ‘From Information to Intrigue’. At the moment, I have been looking at old puzzles connected with Polish intelligence such as Major Choynacki`s wartime agent network. The Poles are most extraordinary people. Their troubled history, sandwiched between Germany and Russia, has made them masters of the dark conspiratorial arts. There are naturally many other things which I think about as diligent readers of my site will discover.
4). Which unsolved cases from WWII do you think researchers should try to investigate further?
There is no shortage of questions, that’s for sure! Here’s a few straight from the top of my head.
(1) Why were the Russian organs so concerned with Raoul Wallenberg? Lots has been written (some by me) but we are still in the dark.
(2) Why did the Soviet authorities expel the Swedish Minister and his Military Attache during the war? Was it mere tit-for-tat for Swedish action against Soviet espionage in Sweden? I would be interested to know if it was partly due to certain statements about these Swedish diplomats in Japanese diplomatic traffic that the Soviet Union is known to have read. The Swedish Minister (Assarsson) was a garrulous fellow who occasionally spoke to his Japanese colleague about the war situation.
(3) How far was the Abwehr involved in the Hess flight to Scotland? I have written a short paper on this but so far without being able to interest anyone else to investigate further.
(4) The MAX network in the Balkans: how one longs for a detailed Russian account of this case by a Russian historian using their own archives. Were Kauders, Hatz and Enomoto all long term Soviet assets? Did Nahum Eitington make a special journey for a conspiratorial treff with Enomoto and Kauders in Greece in October 1940?
(5) How closely did German intelligence follow the telegram traffic of the Jewish Agency during the war?
(6) Who was the spy NERO in Spain/Portugal reporting on the UK and run by the Hungarians in the last year of the war? His name crops up in Schellenberg and Höttl testimonies.
(7) Why is there not more about the use made of COMINT in Economic Warfare during the war?
(8) What was the greatest triumph of Soviet wartime SIGINT?
A last comment: never forget that in any significant spy case there will always be loose ends.Paradoxically that is both a limitation and an opportunity.
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 (3).
Compromise of Polish codes
Poland’s role in WWII is well known, especially the success of Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki during the 1930’s in solving the Enigma cipher machine, used by the German Armed forces. It is important to note that countries with large cryptologic staffs such as France and Britain had not managed to solve this device, in that time period.
Although the Poles were successful in the offence they neglected their defense. Their diplomatic, military attaché, resistance movement and intelligence service codes were read by the Germans during the war. Especially important for the Germans was the solution of the cipher used by Major Szczesny Choynacki, Polish deputy consul in Bern, Switzerland.
The telegrams of Major Choynacki
Choynacki regularly communicated with the Polish intelligence service in London and transmitted valuable reports from his agents/contacts in Switzerland and throughout occupied Europe.
His cryptosystem consisted of an enciphered codebook. The codebook contained 4-figure groups and was enciphered with a version of the British Stencil Subtractor Frame. The codebreakers of the Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces - OKW/Chi (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht/Chiffrier Abteilung) were able to solve this system in late 1942-early 1943 and from then on his voluminous traffic to London was continuously decoded (4).
Details about the content of these messages are available from the postwar interrogations of German intelligence officers, specifically Willy Piert and Hans Von Pescatore (5). They were both members of the German Legation in Bern and they conducted intelligence operations against the Allied agencies and even the Swiss IS.
The decoded messages revealed that Choynacki had well placed agents numbered in the 500 series.
According to the Germans the most damaging agent was No 594, Isidore Koppelmann, a Jewish banker living in Basel. One of Choynacki’s decoded messages was used to uncover his identity.
It is up to historians to research this case further and identify the full extent of the damage caused to the Polish networks from the compromise of their communications.
The German spy in the US embassy and the messages of General Legge
Another interesting German operation, mentioned in the interrogations of Piert and Pescatore, was one directed against the US embassy in Bern, Switzerland. In 1941 the Germans were able to recruit a Swiss national who worked in the US embassy. This person, named Fuerst, had access to the office of the US military attaché General Barnwell R. Legge and he was able to take documents plus the used carbon paper and give it to the Germans. These documents revealed some of Legge’s sources:
Although Fuerst was apprehended in March 1942 the information he provided, coupled with decodes of US traffic (6), gave the Germans an insight into the sources and operations of the US intelligence agencies.
(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
‘From the information available at this time it seems that, with one exception, messages enciphered with his systems were not read by the Axis powers……’
‘According to the postwar interrogations of German intelligence officers operating in Switzerland (2) in 1941 they were able to recruit a spy inside the US embassy in Bern. This person, named Fuerst, had access to the office of the US military attaché General Legge and he was able to take documents plus the used carbon paper and give it to the Germans.
The stolen reports revealed some of Legge’s sources and showed that he got information from his British, Polish and French counterparts. The used carbon paper also contained valuable information but it had to be examined by experts in Germany. The information uncovered from these sources was also used to decipher some of his messages.
The German spy was arrested in March 1942 but this doesn’t seem to have ended the compromise of General Legge’s communications. In the Finnish national archives, in collection T-21810/4, there are a few messages signed Legge from March and April ’43. The originals are from NARA, collection RG 319 'Records of the Army Staff'’
In 2014 I was able to copy a lot of material from government archives in the US, UK, Finland and Germany. At the end of the year I was thinking that i had covered all of the important cases so there wouldn’t be much left to write about in 2015. However it seems I was wrong since I continued to find interesting information on various cases and I wrote some very interesting essays on WWII cryptology.
During this period my researchers in the US and UK copied several files and managed to locate interesting documents.
Looking back I’m impressed with the essays I’ve written and all the material that I was able to collect. Apart from the files I got from my researchers, I benefited from the NSA’s release of the Friedman collection and of course I have to thank the people who gave me valuable information and/or files. I said it last year and I’ll say it again ‘ηισχύςεντηενώσει’.
Hopefully in 2016 more information on these cases will become available, as my freedom of information act requests are processed by the NSA.