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Military and intelligence history mostly dealing with World War II.

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  • 09/22/15--04:17: Update
  • 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’.

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    The Intercept has investigated, together with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, the Vodafone wiretapping scandal of 2004. The article A DEATH IN ATHENS Did a Rogue NSA Operation Cause the Death of a Greek Telecom Employee?’ by James Bamford is very interesting.

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    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!

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  • 10/04/15--03:15: Seeing is Believing
  • 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!

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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

    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.

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  • 10/07/15--23:56: The OWI telegram from Bern
  • 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:

    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, 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:


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    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

    I have to thank Boris Kavalerchik for translating General Kotin’s speech.

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    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.

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    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.

    One of these systems was the SYKO hand operated device. This was used widely by the British Army and the RAF (including the planes of Coastal Command).

    A detailed description of SYKO is available from Google, as patent US 2270137 A.

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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.

    Traffic of other US government agencies

    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. I’ve covered the compromise of the communications of the Office of Strategic Services, the Office of War Information and the Military Intelligence Service but these were not the only agencies affected.

    According to US reports from 1943 and 1944 (1), separate M-138-A alphabet strips were used by the State Department for messages of the Foreign Economic Administration, War Shipping Administration, Office of Lend-Lease Administration and the War Refugee Board.

    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.


    (1). NSA Friedman collection: ‘Statement of cryptographic systems now in use by Department of State’ (dated November 1943) and NARA - RG 457- Entry 9032- box 1.384, file 'JCS Ad hoc committee report on cryptographic security of government communications' (report of June 1944)

    (3). ‘Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews’, p200-201 - p265-267 - 287-288 

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    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.

    Translation by Frode Weierud:

    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.

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    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.

    Q&A with Craig McKay:

    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. 

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    In WWII the Finnish codebreakers solved the codes and ciphers of several countries. In the diplomatic field their greatest success was achieved against the State Department’s M-138-A strip cipher. One of the people who played a key role in this operation was the cryptanalyst Karl Erik Henriksson.

    However there was another person working for Finnish signals intelligence named Henriksson. This was the radio operator Toivo Erik Henriksson. It seems that I mixed them up.

    Thus the passage ‘Other important people were Pentti Aalto (effective head of the US section) and the experts on the M-138 strip cipher Toivo Erik Henriksson and Kalevi Loimaranta’, in The Finnish cryptologic service in WWII turns into:

    Other important people were Pentti Aalto (effective head of the US section) and the experts on the M-138 strip cipher Karl Erik Henrikssonand Kalevi Loimaranta

    I have to thank Craig McKay for pointing out this mistake and my friends in Finland for clarifying that Toivo was a radio operator.

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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 (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

    Acknowledgments: The credit for locating the very interesting Piert/Pescatore report goes to Craig McKay, author of Major Choynacki’s Ace: the Solution to an Old Puzzle of Wartime Intelligence.

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  • 12/07/15--06:28: Update

  • 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……

    Considering the information presented in report KV 2/1329 ‘Willy PIERT / Hans Von PESCATORE’I rewrote that part:

    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'

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  • 12/17/15--11:25: Overview of 2015
  • 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.

    In January I wrote a review of ‘The imitation game’, received OSS telegram Bern-Washington No 2.181 from NARA’s FOIA office and corrected a mistake I had made in ‘German special intelligence, the M-138 strip cipher and unrest in India’.

    In February I rewrote Intercepted conversations - Bell Labs A-3 Speech scrambler and German codebreakers, adding information from several sources, including the Bell Labs report ‘History of speech privacy systems’ and also added information in Italian codebreakers of WWII, mainly from the US report ‘Italian Communications Intelligence Organization’.

    In March I completely rewrote Japanese codebreakers of WWII and even added decoded US diplomatic messages from 1941, found in the archive of the Diplomatic records Office, Tokyo (via JACAR-Japan Center for Asian Historical Records). I also linked to the ‘The Journal of Slavic Military Studies’ article ‘Once Again About the T-34’ by Boris Kavalerchik since it contained information that I had used in my essay WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war.

    During this period my researchers in the US and UK copied several files and managed to locate interesting documents.

    In June i wrote a detailed essay on the State Department cipher material transmitted to Japan from their military attaches in Germany and Finland. This pointed to a more serious compromise than has been acknowledged so far in US reports. I also added material from the Friedman collection in several of my essays.

    In July I wrote The CIA’s assessment of the Yom Kippur War and continued to add material from the Friedman collection in my essays.

    In August I wrote the very interesting essay Allied agents codes and Referat 12. This took a lot of work to get right!

    In September I uploaded the TICOM report I-89 ‘Report by Prof Dr. H Rohrbach of Pers Z S on American strip cipher’ and a missing page from Special Research History SRH-366 'History of Army Strip Cipher devices'. This was material that I had requested from the NSA’s FOIA office in 2013. I also wrote a review of The triumph of Zygalski's sheets: the Polish Enigma in the early 1940and a presentation of Encryptors and Radio Intelligence. Shield and Sword of Information World. After examining new sources I added material to WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war.

    In October I continued adding information in WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war, this time from a Russian source and after a yearlong search I was able to find some of the telegrams mentioned in the bookHitler, the Allies, and the Jews.

    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. 

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    In January 2015 I wrote a summary of the progress I had made in researching some very interesting cases of cryptologic history. What is the state of these cases now? Let’s see.

    1). US State Department strip cipher

    This case has been (by far) the most difficult of those I’ve had to research. Despite this I was able to make real progress in 2015. I located the report ‘JAT write up - selections from JMA traffic' and used it to write an essay on the material transmitted from Germany and Finland to Japan, I received the report  I-89 ‘Report by Prof Dr. H Rohrbach of Pers Z S on American strip cipher’ and wrote Compromise of the State Department’s M-138-A strip cipher and the traffic of other US agencies.

    Also during the year I managed to find a lot of material on the Finnish codebreakers and their work on the M-138-A strip cipher. Regarding the Carlson-Goldsberry report the NSA’s FOIA office has managed to locate it but releasing it will take time.

    2). NKVD 5th Department codebreakers

    No new information has been published on the work and achievements of the Soviet codebreakers except for some online articles in Russian websites. The article ‘О ВКЛАДЕ СОВЕТСКИХ КРИПТОГРАФОВ В ПОБЕДУ ПОД МОСКВОЙ’, referenced in the book ‘Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence’, says that in late 1942 the Soviet codebreakers analyzed the Enigma cipher machine and developed ways of solving it. However their efforts failed in January 1943 due to German security measures.

    3). Referat Vauck success

    After locating the reports of Referat 12 i was able to write the detailed essay Allied agents codes and Referat 12. I’ve also requested the postwar interrogation reports of Dr Wilhelm Vauck from the NSA. However locating and declassifying them will take some time.

    4). Forschungsamt information

    According to the NSA’s FOIA office the Forschungsamt files are coming up for review.

    5). German Enigma investigations

    The reports of the German Army’s codebreakers on the Enigma are available from government archives in the US and Germany. Unfortunately no one has read and commented on them.

    6). Japanese Purple and Coral cipher machines

    Regarding the possibility of the Germans solving the Japanese Purple cipher machine I haven’t found any new information but in 2013 I had a brief conversation with mr Otto Leiberich, who worked in the German cipher department during the Cold War period. He told me that he had spoken with mr Cort Rave about this case and he was able to give me some additional information. I’ll write about this soon.

    7). Soviet diplomatic code

    I’m satisfied with the material I’ve found but there is still the possibility that the Germans solved some OTP traffic during WWII. Even if they did it is possible that the files were destroyed during the war.

    8). M-209 decoding device

    In 2015 I said ‘I have to say I’m still surprised that this device has not received any attention from historians and/or the media!’ Since then nothing has changed.

    9). Unknown unknowns

    As Donald Rumsfeld said ‘….. there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know…’.

    Clearly there are cases that researchers have completely missed. I’ve been able to identify one such case and will be presenting it soon.

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    When the United States entered WWII several cryptosystems were in use by its armed forces and diplomatic service. The Army and Navy used a small number of SIGABA cipher machines for their high level traffic and had to rely on a large number of hand systems, such as the M-138-A and M-94 strip ciphers and the War Department Telegraph Code 1919, Military Intelligence Code, War Department Confidential Code codebooks, for the rest of the traffic. The State Department relied almost exclusively on hand systems, specifically the codebooks A1, B1, C1, D1, Gray, Brown and the M-138-A strip cipher.

    In the course of the war modern cipher machines were designed and built to replace the old systems and securely cover all types of traffic. In 1942 the M-209 devicewas used in the field and in 1943 the cipher teleprinters Converter M-228 - SIGCUM and SIGTOT were introduced in communications networks. In the summer of ’43 a new speech privacy device called SIGSALY became operational and the first system was used on the link Pentagon-London.  In late 1943 the CCM - Combined Cipher Machine was used in the Atlantic and in 1944-45 the British relied on the CCM as much as they did on their own Typex

    By the end of the war the Americans were using several types of cipher machines, all offering a high level of security. William Friedman, head of cipher research at the Army Security Agency, stated in his 1945 reports that the primary US cipher machines SIGABA and Converter M-228 had proven completely secure against enemy cryptanalysts.

    In the report ‘Security of our high-grade cryptographic systems’, dated March 1945 he said:

    We come now to what, in the circumstances, must be considered as the strongest and most reliable evidence—that which is inferential in and is based upon German cryptography itself. We know so much about their practices that we can deduce and assess their cryptographic theories and thus determine the stage of development they have reached not only in cryptography but also in cryptanalytics. The overwhelming evidence is that they are far behind us and have no appreciation of solution techniques which we now regard as commonplace’.

    To summarize: At the risk of sounding boastful, it will be stated that the Japanese are not as good as the Germans, and the latter are not as good as we are in cryptography and especially in cryptanalysis……the conclusion must therefore be clear: They cannot read and are not reading our high-grade cipher traffic’.

    We know now from Ticom reports that neither the Japanese nor the Germans had the slightest success in their efforts to solve messages in the Sigaba, though the Germans certainly tried hard enough. The absolute security of Army and Navy high command and high echelon communications throughout the war was made possible by the Sigaba’.

    Results of Ticom operations have established that neither the Germans nor the Japanese were successful in their efforts to solve our Sigcum traffic, despite its great volume, and it is my belief that had we used this machine for secret radio-teletype communications no serious harm to our security would have followed’.

    Was Friedman correct? Were all high grade US cipher machines secure during the war?

    The US cipher teleprinter – information from the war diary of Inspectorate 7/VI

    The war diary of the German Army’s signal intelligence service OKH/Inspectorate 7/VI, says that in 1944 they investigated US cipher teleprinter traffic (Baudot FF5). In October ’44 the report of Referat 1bsays:

    Amerikanische schlüsselfernschreibverkehre:

    Durch ziederholung des gleichen spruches bei gleicher maschineneinstellung, aber verschieden eingelegten Klarlochstreifen entstand ein Kompromiss, der gelöst werden konnte. Der spruch handelt im wesentlichen von der Tätigkeit der amerikanischen Luftwaffe in Italien’.

    Translation by Frode Weierud:

    American cipher teleprinter traffic:

    By repeating the same message with the same machine settings, but with the clairtext tape placed differently (offset in the tape reader), a compromise occurred that allowed the message to be solved. The message concerned mainly the activity of the American Air Force in Italy’.

    In November-December ’44 they continued to investigate the compromise. In January ’45 the report says that they analyzed the pure key and attempted to solve another pair of messages ‘in phase’:

    Referat 1b

    Amerikanische schlüsselfernschreibverkehre:

    Die bearbeitung des reinen Schlüssels wurde fortgesetzt, ausserdem wurde an der Lösung eines weiteren phasengleichen Spruchpaares gearbeitet’.

    In February ’45 they attempted to find the period of the cipher wheels:

    Referat 1b

    Amerikanische schlüsselfernschreibverkehre:

    Der reine Schlüssel des angefallenen kompromissfalles wurde besonders daraufhin untersucht, ob sich Radperioden erkennen lassen’.

    The final report of March ’45 says that 300 5-figure and 300 5-letter messages of US teleprinter traffic (USA-Führungsverkehr Baudot) would be examined by Referat 2a for deciphering opportunities. The actual report of Referat 2a says that Group VI asked for the complete interception of American radio telex traffic for 10 days, in order to decide which cipher procedures would be examined for solution.

    Referat 2a

    Gruppe VI wurde gebeten, die amerikanischen Funkfernschreibverkehre 10 Tage lang möglichst vollständing zu erfassen, damit entschieden werden kann, bei welchen Verkehren oder verfahren eine Bearbeitung Aussicht auf erfolg versprechen würde’.

    Speculation on the ‘Amerikanische schlüsselfernschreibverkehre

    Unfortunately the US cipher teleprinter cannot be identified from the German reports. However the list of possible US cipher machines is short. In 1944 the US Armed Forces used the teleprinters Sigtot and Sigcum plus there is a small chance of the Sigaba being used to send this traffic even though it was not a teleprinter.

    1). SIGABA: The Converter M-134-C/ECM MARK II was an offline cipher machine butthe report ‘Achievements of the Signal Security Agency in World War II’, p42 says that it had an ‘auto’ function which printed the ciphertext in a teleprinter tape which could then be sent via a teleprinter unit for rapid transmission.

    2). SIGTOT: The sigtot teleprinter was a one time tape system, meaning that each transmission used a tape of randomly generated output in order to ensure that no one could decrypt the contents of the message. If the same tape was used twice then it would be possible to solve that particular message but not additional ones.

    3). SIGCUM/SIGHUAD: The Converter M-228 SIGCUM and its modification SIGHUAD were used in large numbers in the period 1943-45. The report ‘important contributions to communications security, 1939-1945; summary of contributions made by mr. Friedman’, p6 says:

    By 5 June 1944 a total of 3.200 of these machines had been built and 1.488 issued for use, including 200 to the Navy. The machine was employed to encipher a tremendous volume of traffic, including raw material for cryptanalysis from all intercept stations. Under the special conditions and with some modification (Sighuad) the machine was also used in special circuits in Washington, between Arlington Hall Station, the Military Intelligence Service in The Pentagon, of the highest classification. This same modification (Sighuad) permitted the machine to be used by the Air Forces in the U. S. and in the Pacific, to transmit, by radio meteorological and weather data, thus greatly facilitating operations’.

    At this time we can only speculate but it seems reasonable to assume that the system the Germans called ‘Amerikanische schlüsselfernschreibverkehre’ was probably the Converter M-228.

    The expert on cipher teleprinters at Inspectorate 7/VI was the mathematician Heinrich Döring. It is again reasonable to assume that he was one of the people who examined and solved this traffic. 

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    At the end of WWII parts of the German state archives were captured by the Soviet forces and taken to the Soviet Union. There they were placed in various Soviet state archives and kept out of reach of researchers. With the fall of the Soviet Union these archives were opened to researchers but not many people have taken advantage of that. Thankfully some of these German documents have recently become available online. The website of The Russian-German project to digitize German documents in the archives of the Russian Federation has uploaded a large number of German documents from WWI and WWII.

    The site says:

    As a result of the anti-Hitler coalition victory in the Second World War, documents of Nazi Germany turned up in many countries, including Russia. Largest collections of German documents are kept in the Federal archives of the Russian Federation (State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA) and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI)), and in the Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense (TsAMO). The project to digitize German documents was initiated by the administration of the Russian President in 2011. It is executed by the Russian Historical Society, the Ministry of Defense and the Federal archival agency with support from the German Historical Institute in Moscow. Coordination committee, overseeing the digitization project, is headed by S.E. Naryshkin, the Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.’

    Regarding German sigint activities during WWII, the search terms ‘Nachrichten Aufklärung’ and ‘horchtruppen’ bring up many interesting documents. For example:

    Baudot traffic

    Reports of Kommandeur der Horchtruppen Ost

    Reports of Nachrichten Aufklärung Auswertestelle 2

    I will be adding some of this information in my essays.

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