Monday, December 22, 2014

Overview of 2014

As the year comes to a close it’s time to look back at some of the top essays that I wrote in 2014, plus the ones that I extensively rewrote using new information.


Compromise of Soviet codes in WWII

British cryptologic security failures in WWII

Decoded US diplomatic messages from 1944

Compromise of US M-209 cipher machine prior to the invasion of Normandy

Naval Enigma compromise and the spy in the United States Department of the Navy

The US AN/GSQ-1 (SIGJIP) speech scrambler

Professor Wolfgang Franz and OKW/Chi’s mathematical research department

German special intelligence, the M-138 strip cipher and unrest in India

Typex cipher machines for the Polish Foreign Ministry

The German intercept stations in Spain

The codebreakers of the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the compromise of US codes prior to Pearl Harbor

The US TELWA code (added new information)

The British War Office Cypher (added new information)
The Soviet K-37 ‘Crystal’ cipher machine (added new information)

Soviet partisan codes and KONA 6 (added new information)
French Hagelin cipher machines (added new information)

The RAF Cypher (added new information)
The British Interdepartmental Cypher (added new information)

The American M-209 cipher machine (added new information)
US Military Strip Ciphers (added new information)

The British railways code (added new information)

Swedish Army codes and Aussenstelle Halden (added new information)

The secret messages of Marshall Tito and General Mihailović (added new information)

T-34 tank


Abwehr agent Marina Lee and the Norway campaign

Book reviews

New books on Soviet cryptology in WWII

Australian codebreakers of WWII

I was able to find lots of new information in the government archives of the USA, UK, Germany and Finland and I got lucky with some of my freedom of information act requests to the NSA. Again I have to thank the people who helped me by giving me files and information and/or collaborating with me in locating interesting reports. I wouldn’t have been able to find so much without your help! As we say in Greece ‘η ισχύς εν τη ενώσει’.

Is there anything left to cover in 2015? Actually there is. I’m waiting for several TICOM reports to be declassified by the NSA and there also some files from NARA and the UK national archives that I need to locate/copy. Regarding historical cases I need to cover:
1). Τhe compromise of the codes of the Resistance movements in occupied Europe by the Agents section of Inspectorate 7/VI (German Army signals intelligence).

2). The compromise of the DFC - Division Field Code of the US 29th Infantry Division, prior to the Normandy invasion in summer ’44.
3). Find more information on the Polish diplomatic and military attaché codes of WWII (indicator MILITPOLΟGNE)

4). Continue to investigate the compromise of the State Departments strip cipher.
5). The compromise of the communications of General Barnwell R. Legge, US military attaché in Switzerland during WWII.

6). Add new information regarding the compromise of the Bell Labs A-3 speech privacy system.
7). Find more information on Goering’s Forschungsamt.

With a bit of luck I should be able to uncover a great deal of interesting information.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I added SRH-349 ‘The Achievements of the Signal Security Agency (SSA) in World War II’ in the notes of French Hagelin cipher machines and information from SRH-361 ‘History of the Signal Security Agency volume two - The general cryptanalytic problems’ in The French War Ministry’s FLD code.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The British Typex cipher machine

In 1926, the British Government set up an Inter-Departmental Cypher Committee to investigate the possibility of replacing the book systems then used by the armed forces, the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office and the India Office with a cipher machine. It was understood that a cipher machine would be inherently more secure than the codebook system and much faster to use in encoding and decoding messages. Despite spending a considerable amount of money and evaluating various models by 1933 the committee had failed to find a suitable machine. Yet the need for such a device continued to exist and the Royal Air Force decided to independently fund such a project. The person in charge of their programme was Wing Commander Lywood, a member of their Signals Division. Lywood decided to focus on modifying an existing cipher machine and the one chosen was the commercially successful Enigma. Two more rotor positions were added in the scrambler unit and the machine was modified so that it could automatically print the enciphered text. This was done so these machines could be used in the DTN-Defence Teleprinter Network.

The new machine was called Typex (originally RAF Enigma with TypeX attachments). The first experimental model was delivered to the Air Ministry in 1934 and after a period of testing 30 more Mark I Typex machines were produced in 1937. The new model Typex Mark II, demonstrated in 1938, was equipped with two printers for printing the plaintext and ciphertext version of each message. It was this model that was built in large numbers and the first contract for 350 machines was signed in 1938. Typex production was slow during the war with 500 machines built by June 1940, 2,300 by the end of 1942, 4,078 by December 1943 and 5,016 by May 1944. By the summer of 1945 about 11.000 (8.200 Mk II and 3.000 Mk VI) had been built (1).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Compromise of US M-209 cipher machine prior to the invasion of Normandy

Sometimes the answer to an interesting question is right in front of us but we can’t see it because we’re not paying attention…

In my essay German intelligence on operation Overlord I said about the M-209 cipher machine:
The M-209 cipher machine was used extensively by the US armed forces in the period 1943-45. Army units in England sent training messages on the M-209 which the Germans decoded.

The USAAF used it in operational and administrative networks.
M-209 traffic together with D/F may have allowed the Germans to discover the concentration of US forces in the South.

After having a look at the report E-Bericht Nr. 3/44 der NAASt 5 (Berichtszeit 1.4-30.6.44) it is clear that the Germans were in fact able to get order of battle intelligence on the US forces in the UK. In pages 2-3 it says:



Activity report before the invasion

1). AM1:
Focused on decoding the AM1. Ten absolute settings were recovered, which brought the deciphering of 1,119 messages. This cipher-material, mostly composed by the U.S American Expeditionary Corps, gave valuable insights into the location of enemy groups.

AM1 (Amerikanische Maschine 1) was the German designation for the M-209.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

German special intelligence, the M-138 strip cipher and unrest in India

Signals intelligence and codebreaking played an important role in WWII. British and American codebreakers solved many important Axis crypto systems, such as the German Enigma machine and the Japanese Navy’s code JN25. Similarly the codebreakers of the Axis nations also had their own victories versus Allied codes.

One of the most important Allied cryptosystems compromised by the codebreakers of Germany, Finland and Japan was the State Department’s M-138-A strip cipher.  This cipher system was used for important messages by US embassies around the world and also by the Office of Strategic Services and the Office of War Information.
Unfortunately accurate information on the compromise of this system is limited and the statements made in some of the available TICOM reports are often contradictory. Still it is clear that from 1940 till late 1944 the Axis codebreakers were able to read a lot of the traffic sent on the ‘circular’ and ‘special’ strips.

In complicated cases like this one the only way to find more information is by checking all the available sources. During WWII there was an exchange of information between Germany, Finland and Japan on the State Department’s strip cipher. Some of these messages were intercepted and decoded by the Western Allies, so it is possible to track the progress of the Axis codebreakers through their decoded messages.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reich security service and OKW/Chi reports

Intelligence services collect information from various sources such as magazines, journals, newspapers, government reports, secret agents etc. However the most accurate source has always been the decoded traffic of a foreign state’s diplomatic and military networks. For this reason there has always been a close relationship between a country’s human intelligence and signal intelligence agencies.  

During WWII the British foreign intelligence service benefitted from the successes of Bletchley Park versus Axis military, diplomatic and agents codes. Similarly the German foreign intelligence services received summary reports from the Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces - OKW/Chi (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht/Chiffrier Abteilung).
The Sicherheitsdienst was the security service of the SS and its foreign intelligence department Amt VI (headed by General Walter Schellenberg) had some notable successes during the war. According to Schellenberg and two high-ranking SD officials their agency received daily reports from OKW/Chi, containing important diplomatic messages from Bern, Ankara, Algiers, Moscow and other areas.

Since it seems that most of the OKW/Chi archives were destroyed or lost at the end of WWII these statements are important in evaluating the successes or failures of that organization.

1). General Schellenberg was interrogated postwar by the Allies and in ‘Report on interrogation of Walter Schellenberg 27 June- 12 July 1945’, p30 he said:

The Germans broke the American code. Messages sent by HARRISON, U.S.A. minister in Berne, to Washington, lay daily deciphered on SCHELLENBERG's desk. These messages sometimes contained intelligence service material. SCHELLENBERG also received Turkish, Polish, French, Swiss, South American, Spanish and Portuguese messages which were all decoded.


2). SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Klaus Huegel was an important SD official with knowledge of German spy activities in Switzerland and Italy. In one of his postwar interrogations he mentioned that from April 1943 to March 1944 he had access to the daily reports sent from OKW/Chi to General Schellenberg. The reports often included US diplomatic messages from Bern, Switzerland, British messages from the Bern embassy, De Gaulle traffic from Algiers to Washington and messages from the Turkish ambassador in Moscow.

3). Giselher Wirsing was an accomplished author and journalist, who in 1944 joined the SD foreign intelligence department as an evaluator. Wirsing had come to the attention of General Schellenberg due to his clear headed analysis of the global political situation and of Germany’s poor outlook for the future. Under Schellenberg’s protection he wrote a series of objective reports (called Egmont berichte) showing that Germany was losing the war and thus a political solution would have to be found to avoid total defeat. While writing his reports Wirsing had access to the OKW/Chi summaries sent to the SD leadership. According to him the messages ‘did not reveal any startling news‘ but were useful in assessing  information from other sources. He remembered messages from the US, Japanese, Turkish and Bulgarian ambassadors in Moscow,  State Department messages to Paris, traffic from the US mission in the Balkans and messages from the Polish mission in Jerusalem to their London based goverment in exile.
Overall it is clear that OKW/Chi provided valuable information to the Sicherheitsdienst leadership, even though they served different masters (OKW/Chi was subordinated to the military while the Sicherheitsdienst came under the control of the Nazi party).

Sources: CIA FOIA reports HUEGEL, KLAUS No 22 and WIRSING, GISELHER No 16,
British national archives KV 2/95 ‘Walter Friedrich SCHELLENBERG: rose to be No. 2 in the S.D. and was close to Himmler’

Saturday, October 11, 2014


In my essay German intelligence on operation Overlord the paragraph

Another German agent in Lisbon said in May 1944: ‘the plan of attack favored by the Allies was an assault on La Manche (Cherbourg) peninsula.’ [Source: ‘British intelligence in the Second world war’ vol3 part 2, p61]
is replaced with:

From Lisbon the agent Paul Fidrmuc sent a report correctly identifying the endangered area ‘the plan of attack favored by the Allies was an assault on La Manche (Cherbourg) peninsula’. According to his postwar interrogation he got this information from his agent ‘TOR’ in the UK.

[Sources: ‘British intelligence in the Second world war’ vol3 part 2, p61 and KV 2/198 ‘Paul Georg FIDRMUC, alias FIDERMUTZ, RANTZAU, codename OSTRO’]

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I’ve added information from a report titled ‘Penetration and compromise of OSS in Switzerland and Western Europe’ in Allen Dulles and the compromise of OSS codes in WWII.

I’ve also located a very interesting report on tank warfare during the Korean War. There is information on the performance of the T-34 tank from US reports and N. Korean POW interrogations. It seems the T-34/85 had serious shortcomings in Korea…I’ll write more about this in the future.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Codebreaking software for classical ciphers

If you like playing around with codes and ciphers the CryptoCrack program created by Phil Pilcrow might be worth checking out. It’s free and can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More information on Office of Strategic Services and Office of War Information cryptosystems

In my essays Compromise of OWI - Office of War Information communications and Allen Dulles and the compromise of OSS codes in WWII i’ve looked into the compromise of OSS and OWI communications in WWII. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find detailed information on the cryptosystems used by these organizations in WWII but a report found in SRH-145 ‘Collection of memoranda on operations of SIS intercept activities and dissemination 1942-45’, dated 16 October 1943 says that they used cipher machines and hand systems (M-138 strip cipher and double transposition).

I’ve added this information in the aforementioned essays.
Acknowledgements: I have to thank Rene Stein of the National Cryptologic Museum for sending me SRH-145.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

For Victor from Burns

In the period 1942-45 the Office of Strategic Services station in Bern, Switzerland (headed by Allen Dulles) collected information from occupied Europe and transmitted intelligence reports back to Washington. Some of these reports were decoded by the German and the Finnish codebreakers.

The following message can be found in the Finnish national archives. The original was copied from NARA, collection RG 59.



‘Umberto’ may have been Crown Prince Umberto of the House of Savoy.

I have added this message in Allen Dulles and the compromise of OSS codes in WWII.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not quite true…

During WWII the top Allied officials in the US and the UK frequently communicated via a radio-telephone link protected by the Bell Labs A-3 speech scrambler. This device was not secure enough to be used at such a high level but since no other alternative was available it was used extensively by military personnel, diplomats and even Roosevelt and Churchill.

In order to secure these sensitive communications the Americans designed and built the Sigsaly device. The NSA website says about Sigsaly:
The SIGSALY system was inaugurated on 15 July 1943 in a conference between London and the Pentagon (the original plan had called for one of the terminals to be installed in the White House, but Roosevelt, aware of Churchill's penchant for calling at all hours of the night, had decided to have the Washington terminal moved to the Pentagon with extensions to the White House and the Navy Department building.) In London, the bulk of the SIGSALY equipment was stored in the basement of Selfridges Department Store, with an extension to Churchill's war room, approximately a mile away……….. With the coming of SIGSALY, the shortcomings of the less than effective A-3 were now a thing of the past’. 

This doesn’t appear to be the whole truth. While it is true that the system was installed in July 1943 it didn’t work properly till late 1943 and it only become fully operational in April 1944. Even after it was installed officials continued to use the A-3 for most of their communications since the only Sigsaly link was available at the Cabinet War Rooms and only a small number of officials had authorization to use it.
This information comes from the book ‘The woman who censored Churchill’, p112-3. I’ve added this information in Intercepted conversations - Bell Labs A-3 Speech scrambler and German codebreakers and German intelligence on operation Overlord.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Upcoming essays

I think that I’ve covered practically all the important cryptologic cases of WWII in my current essays. In order to write more I’ll need access to files that the NSA is in the process of declassifying and that may take a while. However there are two stories that I’m going to cover in the future. One concerns the German research on the British Typex cipher machine and the other will be a summary of the work of the Agents section of the German Army’s signal intelligence agency.

Many authors claim that the German codebreakers had a look at the British Typex cipher machine and then gave up because they considered the task hopeless. Apparently that was not true for the German army’s codebrealers:


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.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle and the radio network of the French Communist Party

The Soviet Union was a secretive state convinced that the capitalist world was plotting to invade and destroy it. In order to avert such a development the Soviet government 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 Red Orchestra was the name given by German intelligence to the Soviet spy networks operating in Europe during WWII. These networks had been set up in the 1920’s and had managed to infiltrate government departments and business circles of every country in Europe. Through their spying activity they kept Moscow informed of important events in Europe.
Their means of communication was the radio and it was this means that led to their downfall. The German Radio Defence agency (Funkabwehr) was able to locate one of the sites used for radio transmissions in 1941 and by apprehending the cipher clerks and their cipher material they were able to read this traffic. By decoding messages they uncovered the names of many Rote Kapelle members and of course these were arrested, interrogated and more people were incriminated. By late 1942 the main networks in Western Europe were destroyed.
However after exposing and dismantling these networks the Germans took measures to continue their transmissions to Moscow, so that they could pass false information to the Soviets and also receive information on new spies sent to the West.

The unit tasked with dismantling the Rote Kapelle networks and handling the radio deception (funkspiel) was the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle, headed in 1943-44 by Heinz Pannwitz.

Operations Eiffel and Mars
In the period 1943-44 the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle/ Sonderkommando Pannwitz was based in Paris and handled the radio-games between captured Soviet agents and Moscow. The Germans had managed to capture the leaders of the organization Leopold Trepper (Grand Chef) and Anatoly Gurevich (Petit Chef).

After a short period in captivity Trepper managed to escape but Gurevich was used by the Germans to report disinformation to Moscow and convince them that their spy networks were operating normally.
Radio messages were sent from Paris (operation Eiffel) and from Marseille (operation Mars).

The radio network of the French communist party
Another success of the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle concerned the undercover radio network of the French communist party. According to a recently declassified CIA report, written by Pannwitz, the French CP had prepared a network of undercover radio stations, ready to be used when the party leadership ordered it.

These stations had been located by the Germans and they were eliminated thus preventing direct communications with Moscow. However Pannwitz knew that eventually the communists would replace these stations with new ones and risk exposing his operations in France. In order to preempt such a move the Sonderkommando established a new French CP radio network that was in reality under its complete control.

Using the cover of the Rote Kapelle, the resistance leader Paul Victor Legendre was persuaded to set up this radio network. The Germans managed to build up this organization and inserted their own men as radio operators. By operating this network they got a large number of daily espionage reports and were able to keep track of the resistance and stop acts of sabotage.

According to Pannwitz an added benefit of running this network was that during the Normandy campaign some of the radio stations continued to transmit information, this time on the strength and operations of the Allied forces.
The operations of the network concluded in the summer of 1944 when the Germans had to evacuate Paris. Till that time however the German intelligence agencies got information of great value through the French CP radio network.