Monday, October 31, 2011

The Russian Fish that came from America?

Was the Russian multichannel equipment actually Russian or were some versions Lend Lease material?

According to Oliver Kirby NSA oral history : ...and they used a lot of US equipment .That's how we figured out which was which.

He's talking about the networks that were monitored.

Expect an update....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

German success with Purple - Part 2

Part 1 is here.Looking around I found a report that has an interesting response from a high ranking German official.



39.Japanese Machine.

FENNER was asked whether he could describe their work with the Japanese "Schiebe" . He appeared genuinely surprised and said that he had never heard of it; nor did he recognize the indicators CIFOL VEVAZ. When told that HUETTENHAIN had spoken of the solution of this machine, he said that surely there must have been a misunderstanding, and HUETTENHAIN must have been speaking of the diplomatic transposition cypher. He firmly denied all knowledge of the existence of such a machine, let alone the solution.

Wilhelm Fenner was a Principal Specialist , Chief at Division B of OKW/Chi (Cryptanalysis)

Fenner’s response is strange to say the least.In 1938 OKW/Chi had cooperated with Pers Z in the solution of the Japanese RED cipher machine.This was solved and the traffic from Sept ’38 to Febr ’39 was read currently.Then the Japanese replaced that machine with PURPLE.So why would he keep this a secret from the Allies? Surely the solution of that cipher was important back in 1939 but in 1945 there was no reason to deny it.Or is there ?

Was Fenner surprised because he thought the interrogators were referring to the Purple machine ? Why would he want to mislead them if the Germans had no success with it ?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Clarification for Soviet Baudot article

In my article on Soviet multichannel radio teletype I attributed the following statement to  Roeder ,head of Group VI (interception) of the Army Signals Intelligence Agency : ‘’that interception of Soviet Baudot started in the Summer of 1943 with only three sets and gradually increased.In the summer of 1944 a new type of receiver was introduced.’’

This statement gives the impression that interception of Baudot traffic by the German Army started in Summer 1943.That however is not correct.

During 1942 Feste 7 (Fixed Intercept Station) located in Kiev was responsible for intercepting Soviet teleprinter traffic.

Source : ‘’European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’’  vol4 ,p44

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Polish diplomatic code

I’ve written about the German success with the Polish resistance movement code here.

The codebreakers of the Foreign Ministry – Pers Z succeeded in solving the main Polish diplomatic code in 1940 so messages in 1941-42 were read almost 100%.This is the relevant part from TICOM I-63  ‘’ Interrogation report on ORR Hermann Scherschmidt of Pers Z S Auswaertiges Amt’’ p2

5.Polish Systems:
Scherschmidt worked entirely on diplomatic traffic and was not familiar with military or agent systems or with any successes achieved  on them. He had dabbled in Polish throughout his Pers Z S  career and early in 1939 he was assigned to the main diplomatic code of the Polish Foreign Office. This had been in force since 1934, and some unsuccessful research had been done in an effort to ascertain the encipherment used. The problem was given a very high priority in 1939 and Scherschmidt had first class assistance. With the aid of a captured specimen of encipherment and a captured description of the indicator system, the first message was read early in 1940. The code was recovered gradually, and in 1941 and 1942 all messages was read, most of them currently. The code went out of use in October 1942 and was replaced by a letter code. Scherschmidt did a little work on this at first but did not come back to the problem later. He said the code was never solved, and he did not know details of the attacks made on it by KUNZE and others.

The new version was not solved by the Germans.However that was not their last success with Polish systems.Huettenhain ,chief cryptanalyst of  OKW/Chi, solved a system used in diplomatic links by the Polish Ministry of Interior and for military attaché traffic.I’ll write about that case in a future post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Abwehr success via Moscow

The Abwehr is usually the butt of jokes on WWII intelligence .lt is claimed that all their agents were caught and turned, they had no good sources etc. etc. 

Victors get to write history, always have always will but occasionally some embarrassing details slip out.

This case concerns a Russian émigré named Von Petrov who worked at the same time for two intelligence agencies. The Soviet GRU and  the German Abwehr. In reality he was only loyal to the Russians but he did provide the Germans with very valuable information.

Vladimir Von Petrov was a White Russian émigré based in Paris.He was an agent of the GRU with good sources in Britain and Germany.

The Germans ran Petrov without knowing of his connection to the Russians. His spy in MI6 was a Captain Ellis (Charles Howard ‘Dick’ Ellis).Thanks to him, Petrov provided the Abwehr with the MI6 order of battle plus details of important operations such as the tapping of the telephone link between Hitler and the German Ambassador (and later Foreign Minister) von Ribbentrop.

Elli’s last contact with the Russian émigrés was in December 1939.

Source for all the above information: Spycatcher ,p325-330

Also from ‘Encyclopedia of Cold War espionage, spies, and secret operations’ by R. C. S. Trahai, p71

Early in 1966 the FLUENCY Committee, a joint MIS-M16 high-level investigating group, sought reliable knowledge of Soviet penetration in Britain's security service and SIS. It investigated Ellis to discover if he might have been a Soviet spy. The committee concluded Ellis had been a paid agent of the Germans up to 1940, and that he might have served the Soviets from as early as 1920. To test their conclusions, the committee need a confession from him. Aged 71, Ellis was brought in for interrogation. He denied spying for Germans and Russia; later he admitted he had helped the Germans in the 1939 Venlo Incident, and had given information to the Russians in 1939.

Finally from ‘Historical Dictionary of British Intelligence’ by Nigel West , p49

It was only much later that SIS learned that another SIS officer, Dick Ellis, had spilled secrets to the Abwehr before the war, and this was the information that was presented to Best and Stevens separately for corroboration during their incarceration. Each assumed the other had been responsible for supplying the information, little realizing that it had been neither. Ellis confessed to his treachery, citing financial hardship as a motive, only in 1966.

This case shows the long reach of Soviet intelligence. So the question is why did the Russians allow von Petrov to compromise MI6 so badly?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

French high level code

In my post on the Battle of France there was mention of a high level code used between the War Ministry and the Army Groups.In ‘’Decrypted Secrets’’ it’s called  a ‘’transposition for superencryption’’.

I found more info on this code in Ticom I-128 and I-58.
According to I-128 ‘’Deciphering Achievements of In 7 /VI and OKW/Chi’’  the network radiating from Paris was called FLD by the Germans.I don’t know if the code had the same designation.
I-58  ‘’Interrogation of Otto Buggisch of OKW/Chi ‘’ p2 mentions a French diagonal write-out transposition.I assume that it’s the system mentioned by Bauer in ‘’Decrypted Secrets’’.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

German exploitation of Soviet multichannel radio-teletype networks 1936-1945

The story so far :

I’ve written about the TICOM team that found a German army intercept unit in Rosenheim in May 1945.That unit belonged to the Signal Intelligence Agency of the Army High Command – OKH/GdNA Group VI. The German team plus the equipment they used to intercept Soviet communications , were sent to Bletchley Park and put to use by the Allies.

Based on the information at hand I speculated that the German unit was made up of the Karrenberg team (Karrenberg,Erdmann,Grubler,Hempel,Schmitz,Suschhowk).This turned out to be correct .

I also speculated that some of the traffic that they intercepted would be plaintext or encoded with hand ciphers .If it was only machine cipher then they would not be able to read it and it didn’t make sense to waste manpower on simply intercepting traffic that could not be exploited. That’s simply not the way the Germans did things.Again I was proven correct.

This time I’ve been lucky enough to uncover some recently declassified files that shed more light into this affair.

What was this equipment called ? What agencies used it? Who built it? What kind of traffic was intercepted and what information did it yield? Let’s take a look.

According to TICOM I-58  p7  ‘’ Interrogation of Dr. Otto Buggisch of OKW/Chi’’  the Army Ordnance, Development and Testing Group, Signal Branch – Wa Pruef 7  had a section Group IV (Wa Pruef 7/IV) that developed radio Intercept, direction finding and ciphony deciphering equipment.

His own work dealt with ciphony and he was assigned to Group IV E but he had some knowledge of the other departments.

The unit that dealt with Soviet Baudot traffic was Group IV C  under Bau Rat Kierkhoff.The name for the Soviet 3 and 9 channel transmissions and the devices to intercept them were A3 and A9 respectively. One of the machines captured at Rosenheim was the nine channel version.

Buggisch in TICOM I-64 ‘’Answers by WM Buggisch of OKW/Chi to questions sent by TICOM’’ p4 gives more information on Group IV C : ‘’ there were about 5-6 engineers , 7-8 other men  and 60 odd Nachrichtenhelferinnen in the section.The bulk of the work was on Russian Baudot.’’

How was this traffic handled? Unfortunately the only information that B. has is the following from I-58 p8 :

’Further on Russian Baudot – B. says that one Dipl. Ing. Gramberg came to group IV with him from In 7/VI (Army Signal Intelligence) and was used to translate the intercepted clear text  in Russian Baudot.   ’’ 90% of it was unimportant’’.

More information concerning  Army Signal Branch  is available from ’’German Radio Intelligence’’ specifically these parts :

For intercepting enemy messages sent over radioteletype and multiplex circuits the Germans established in 1944 a special recording center which consisted of eleven special radiotelegraph intercept devices which were tied in with sixty teletypewriters. This installation was a synthesis of recent technical developments in the field of radio and of experience with high-speed telegraphy. The average daily performance varied between ten and fifteen million characters, which could be raised to fifty million by around-the-clock operation.

This special recording center furnished cryptanalysis with a large volume of reliable texts and provided complete coverage of the widely-differing types of foreign high-speed CW and multiplex traffic. These messages were solved without actually possessing enemy transmitting and receiving sets and in spite of the fact that the Russians, Americans, British, and French had highly-developed teletype systems.


Strategic radio intelligence directed against the Russian war production effort provided a wealth of information for the evaluation of Russia's military potential. Owing to the general dearth of long-distance telephone and teletype land circuits, radio communication assumed an especially important role in Russia not only as an instrument of military leadership but also as the medium of civilian communication in a widely decentralized economy. In keeping with its large volume, most of this Russian radio traffic was transmitted by automatic means, as explained in Appendix 7. The German Army intercepted this traffic with corresponding automatic equipment and evaluated it at the communication intelligence control center. Multiplex radioteletype links connected Moscow not only with the so-called fronts or army groups in the field, but also with the military district headquarters in Leningrad, Tiflis, Baku, Vladivostock, and in many other cities. In addition, the radio nets used for inland navigation provided an abundance of information. Although this mechanically transmitted traffic offered a higher degree of security against interception, the Russians used the same cryptosystems as in the field for sending important military messages over these circuits. The large volume of intercepted material offered better opportunities for German cryptanalysis. Strategic radio intelligence furnished information about the activation of new units in the zone of interior, industrial production reports, requests for materiel and replacements, complaints originating from and problems arising at the production centers and administrative agencies in control of the war economy. All this information was indexed at the communication intelligence control center where reports were drawn up at regular intervals on the following aspects of the Russian war production effort:

Planning and construction of new factories;
Relocation of armament plants;
Coal and iron ore production figures;
Raw material and fuel requirements for industrial plants;
Tank and gun production figures;
Transportation facilities and problems;
Railway, inland shipping, and air communications;
Agricultural production;
Food distribution and rationing measures;
Manpower, labor allocation, and other relevant matters

Strategic radio intelligence thus made a slight dent in the Iron Curtain, which during the war was drawn even more tightly than at present, and offered some insight into the operation of the most distant Siberian production centers and the tremendous war potential of that seemingly endless expanse of land.

The experimental facility was also mentioned by Buggisch but he did not know anything more about it.

The Signal Intelligence Agency of the Army High Command – OKH/GdNA (previously In 7/IV) also intercepted and read Soviet radio-teletype traffic.Apart from the information presented in the ‘’European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II  ‘’  reports there are many details in the following documents :

CSDIC 1717 ‘’ Consolidated report on information obtained from the following: Erdmann, Grubler, Hempel, Karrenberg, Schmitz, Suschowk ‘’ 

TICOM I-99  "Interrogation Report of Hptm. Herbert Roeder (Head of Gruppe VI, Gen.d.NA, OKH, 1944-45) ‘’

SI-32 Special Intelligence Report : ‘’German Signal Intelligence for Intercepting and Evaluating Internal Communications (Baudot and W/T) of Russia , Particularly Communications Concerning Economic and Industrial Management.’’ (Information supplied by Alex Dettman ,chief army cryptologist on Russian systems)

This is the first page :

According to these reports during the 1930’s the Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces – OKW/Chi  was engaged in research and testing of equipment that intercepted Soviet T/P traffic.The Lorenz company was given the assignment to build a machine that would receive the electrical impulses and translate them into clear text.This machine was successfully built in 1936.

In 1942 the Army High Command Signal Intelligence Agency established a branch for Baudot traffic which operated in the East in Loetzen,East Prussia.That station had at its disposal 20-25 soldiers plus 80 women helpers (Nachrichtenhelferinnen).Equipment consisted of army receiving sets of ‘’Bertha’’ and ‘’Dora’’ type plus the following specialized machines :

Two nine-lined Baudot sets
Two six-lined Baudot sets

Five two-lined  sets

According to Roeder interception of Soviet Baudot started in the Summer of 1943 with only three sets and gradually increased.In the summer of 1944 an new type of receiver was introduced.

From SI-32 : Links monitored were : Baku-Moscow , Kharkov – Moscow , Leningrad – Moscow , Kuybyshev- Moscow ,  Kemerovo-Baku-Moscow , Alma Ata-Baku-Moscow , Irkutsk- Kuybyshev- Moscow   ,Sverdlovsk –Moscow

 Baku and Kuybyshev were separate Baudot stations as well as control stations.

Local W/T traffic covered the following agencies :

1).NKRF – Peoples Commissariat on Inland Shipping matters (mostly clear text)

2).Aeroflot , (clear text and coded)

3).Railroad shipments , (machine-senders coded material)

According to Dettman Signal Intelligence HQ was able to decode most of the intercepts. In another part of report SI-32 he gives the following details :  50% of the material could not be made intelligible due to bad reception ,30-35% was of value , 10-15% consisted of private messages dealing with family matters.

Messages suitable for evaluating consisted of the following information:

1.     Announcements of various economical and industrial requirements                                     

2.     Announcements concerning completed plans expressed in percentages

3.     Manufacturing requirements, orders and plans.

4.     Training of personnel and specialists

5.     Administrative matters

6.     Special announcements from the high military command

7.     Coded messages on the General staff and Front staff level


Report CSDIC 1717 says that on the basis of this information the Wehrwirtschaftsnachr were compiled.These bulletins gave a detailed summary of the Russian economic situation, particularly in the areas of Moscow, Baku , Rostov and included production figures and details of supply and labour situations.About 30 copies of this report were issued. Detailed card indexes of an economic nature were kept, they included names and locations of factories and personalities therein.

The reports do not necessarily agree on all the details.For example according to Dettman (chief cryptologist on Russian systems) the reception at the Loetzen facility was poor but Roeder (chief of the branch) claimed it was excellent.Roeder said that most of the traffic was Soviet 5-figure and some 5-letter traffic (plus a lot of clear text on economic matters) which was not solved but Dettman says 50% was read.Maybe they are referring to different time periods as indeed after November 1944 Soviet Army 5-figure traffic could not be solved.

Since Roeder was  considered to be unintelligent by  his interrogator (‘’it is apparent that Roeder was given responsibility because of his rank alone…’’ , ‘’he gives an impression of very mediocre ability’’)  maybe he is the one in error.

So to recap :

The Soviet Union during the 1930’s built up a modern radio teletype network for government communications. The  Supreme Command of the Armed Forces Signal Intelligence Agency - OKW/Chi had the Lorenz company build a device that reconstructed the multichannel traffic and printed the plaintext.This device was operational in 1936.

Over the years similar equipment was built to intercept the different types of multichannel traffic.During WWII  there seems to have been two distinct teletype networks divided along geographical and military-civilian lines.

West of Moscow I believe that the Russians used mostly cipher teletypes for communications between the High Command and the Army groups.East of Moscow a lot/most? of the traffic went by regular radio-teletype with security resting on the scrambling of the channels.These links carried mostly economic traffic.

The agencies involved in interception were :

1). Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces – OKW/Chi ,from 1936-39?

2). Army Ordnance, Development and Testing Group, Signal Branch Group IV C  -  Wa Pruef 7/IV C

3). Army High Command Signal Intelligence Agency Group VI  -  OKH/GdNA Group VI , from 1942-45

4).Probably  Goering's Forschungsamt .Their greatest success was against Soviet economic traffic.That would explain why in 1943 the FA attacked and solved a Soviet cipher teleprinter.

The information gathered from all these agencies allowed for an up to date picture of the Soviet war economy.

The American connection :

It’s interesting to note the date on the SI-32 report is 18 May 1948 .The ‘’German Radio Intelligence ‘’ document which also refers to the German intercept and descrambling equipment was written in 1949-50 .Why was there such an interest on the American side for these German operations? Was it simply a historical survey? Probably not.

Although the Anglo-Americans were very successful with Soviet codes  in the period 1945-48  (partly thanks to captured German material ) that success ended in October of ’48 when the Russians changed all their codesystems.

Most authors blame AFSA traitor William Weisband.However I’ve also read that security measures had began to cause problems since late 1947 .Whatever the reason for these sudden changes they had far reaching consequences for the Western codebreaking agencies. Finding themselves unable to solve Soviet codes they had to look for easier targets.The most tempting one was the internal Soviet radio-teletype network since it seems that the civilian part of it did not  use automatic encryption.

I’ve written about that effort here and here.Taking into account all the information presented so far plus the cryptic statements in the official NSA history it’s possible to assume that the Western effort was a continuation of the earlier German operation ,even using the same equipment (A9 nine-channel machine).

There are a set of postwar studies on ‘’German Intelligence on Soviet Russia called ‘’Apple Pie’’ .Apart from the one giving information on the Forschungsamt’s efforts vs Soviet economic traffic I haven’t been able to find anything else.I’m sure that those files have more details on the agencies involved and the information they gathered.I’d be grateful to anyone who can find out more.

Update: Ticom archive has information on the technical details of the German equipment plus the tests carried out in Britain.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Typex Investigation – A WWII mystery

Shortly before the start of WWII the British government began using a machine cipher for high level communications.This equipment called Typex was a modification of the commercial Enigma but with one more rotor ( five instead of four in the Enigma) plus the rotors had  several notches that ensured irregular stepping of the wheels. 
It’s main advantage was that it was an ‘’online’’ machine and thus could be used in the DTN – Defence Teleprinter Network.Initially it was used mainly by the RAF but as the war went on more and more were built and used by the services.
 After the fall of Tynisia to the Allies in May ’43 two German prisoners of war made a startling statement to their interrogators.During the N.African campaign an officer named Wagner had in his possession a functioning Typex machine and with the use of a book containing indicator and real settings he decoded 8th Army messages.

Here is the actual report :
TOP SECRET U                                                                                             ZIP/SAC/G.34

 The following is a summary of information so far received on German attempts to break into the British Typex machine, based on P/W interrogations carried out during and subsequent to the war. It is divided into (a) the North African interrogations, (b) information gathered after the end of the war, and (c) an attempt to sum up the evidence for and against the possibility of German successes.
Apart from an unconfirmed report from an agent in France on 19/7/42 to the effect that the' GAF were using two British machines captured at DUNKIRK for passing their own traffic between BERLIN and  GOLDAP, our evidence during the war was based on reports that OKH was exploiting Typex material left behind. in TOBRUK in 1942.
On 14/7/42, a special German mission consisting of Inspektor HARMS and Dr. VOEGELE was proceeding to Africa to inspect captured British material, "with a view to obtaining cypher documents one equipment such as keys, encoding machines and the like".
On 21/6/43, Lt. BODE of 3/N/26 (later NFAK 621) claimed that he had been engaged on translating and emending British machine messages from 1937 until 4/6/1940. The machine was "a sort of typewriter; a man just typed the nonsense stuff, and the English came out on a tape". He said that messages were of all types, army, air force and navy. "We were, officially congratulated  after the DUNKIRK business; we had told them some things that materially accelerated the campaign". Messages which did not decode were sent to BERLIN for special treatment. BODE stated that the man who knew most about it was a certain Sgt. WAGNER of NFAK 621 who used to work the machine. Later, however, he retracted his statement somewhat, and said that he wasn't so very sure about the machine. As this P/W seemed generally unreliable, no great importance was attibuted to his statements at the time.
On 23/8/43, however, the interrogations of Lt. HAUNHORST and Oberlt. POSSEL confirmed some of BODE's less wild statements. HAUNHORST was a divisional intelligence officer and POSSEL was O.C. of He Fu 7, the senior fixed army wireless station in Africa. Both stated that they wore on friendly terms with the officers of NFAK 621, and they received information from the latter in the form of BJs.
"All high grade traffic was handled by a certain ,warrant Officer WAGNER. This man had at his disposal one or more British Typex machines captured at TOBRUK, a machine resembling a German Enigma. machine, and a special type of typewriter which had an adjustable keyboard. In addition a number of reference books were employed, from which the Typex settings were taken. The messages were examined and the discriminant looked up in a book. This gave a reference to another reference book where the actual setting of the machine was found. In certain cases this procedure did not work, and in this case certain information was sent to OKH, BERLIN who were able to supply the necessary information for the , decyphering of the traffic. All high-grade traffic is passed to BERLIN for detailed  examination, and such traffic as cannot be read by any of the above means appears to be subjected  to an analyzing machine, which, providing some evidence regarding the traffic is available, gives  results in many cases".
In a later interrogation (20/9/43)  HAUNHORST said  "There  were several machines about the size of a typewriter …. It was from OKH that those funny type-written sheets came. They got some keys out themselves, somehow. I don't how they did it, and some things they got from OKH or OKW.
He had previously described the machines as having "a central typewriter keyboard flanked on either side by complicated hollow pots …A paper strip was fed out , from the inside of the two pots. The machine had  five drums.
The bulk of the traffic was either addressed to or signed by 8th Army. "Very little traffic of the 1st Army was read’’. The average time-lag between TOI  and  receipt of the BJs was 12 – 24 hours. Great secrecy was maintained, documents were always kept locked  away and it was almost impossible to obtain permission to visit the office. BJs were almsot invariably sent to Berlin by courier.
Asked when the Company had its first success, P/W replied "Some high-grade success was obtained early in 1941, but this was sporadic". He had heard from the 0.C. that high-grade traffic was being read from the first days of the war. It was only after the capture of TOBRUK that the Company started to produce high-grade British BJs on any scale.
The interrogation of various officers of NFAK 621 mentioned by HAUNHORST yielded no results at all, HABEL  and BREMER refused to give any information, and Sgt. SEVENHECK  at first thought to be Sgt Wagner , appeared to know nothing. The identity of Wagner  remained  a mystery, and further formation on this subject was discovered during the war.
That was a summary i decided to post the actual interrogation because it gives more details :

First interrogation report on two German Army officers captured in Tynisia


4. Cryptographic methods employed

All high grade traffic was handled by a certain Warrant Officer WAGNER. This man has at his disposal one or more British Type-X machines captured at Tobruch, a machine resembling a German enigma machine, and a special type of typewriter which had an adjustable keyboard. In addition a number of reference books were employed from which the Type-X settings were taken. The procedure appears to have been as follows:

The message was examined and the "Kennsgruppe" (discriminant) looked up in a book. This gave a reference to another reference book where the actual setting of the machine was found. The machine (Type-X) was then set and the message decoded.  In certain cases this procedure did not work, and in this case, certain information was sent to O.K.H. Berlin who were able to supply the necessary information for the deciphering of the traffic.
The documents used appear to have been of two varieties - Captured British Cipher documents giving message settings and machine settings, which the interrogator has not yet been able to identify, and documents compiled by the "Haupt Chiffrier Stolle OKH", -which appear to be reconstructions of message settings and drum settings based on a detailed analysis of high grade traffic during the past 3-4 years. From these documents it would appear to be possible, once the message setting has been deciphered to determine the drum setting's and tyre positions by reference to the previous occurrences of the message setting.

All High-Grade traffic is passed to Berlin for detailed examination, and such traffic as cannot be read by any of the above means appears to be subjected to an analysing machine which, providing some evidence regarding the traffic in available, giving results in many cases.

M.I.8(a) 23rd August 1943

Answers to GCCS questionnaire

1) What did Wagner's Type X machines look like? Obtain as full a description as possible to ensure Type X and not American Ciphering machines involved.,

Three different types of machines were in use in the decoding section -a) What appeared to be the large German Enigma Machine, i.e. the automatic machine as opposed to the usual small manual field type.

b) An American machine dimensions, 25 cm. by 35 cm. by 15 cm. No details are available concerning this machine.
c) Two  English machines having the following description:- Central typewriter keyboard flanked on either side by two complicated, hollow pots, having the appearance of the outside housing of a small electric generator. A paper strip was fed out from the inside of the two pots. The lefthand ane appeared to be the one mostly in use. At the back of the keyboard was the main mechanism of the machine, P.O.W, only once saw the inside of this 'box", which he said contained 5 drums. In addition to the machine itself there were several very attractive brown polished boxes about 15 cm. long and. with square section of about 5 - 8 cm.


4) What did the catalogues prepared by Berlin look like? How were the ones set out  which determined drum fittings and tyre positions? Were they in manuscript, typed. or printed?

The Documents prepared by Berlin were foolscap sheets covered with typing. Each sheet had a complicated reference number at the top and they were all kept in a large indexed folder. The ‘’Kenngruppe’’ of the message was looked up in several "Books’’ and after a rather complicated system of cross reference, one typescript sheet was selected and given to the operator. The latter took this sheet and with its aid, "fiddled" about with the machine and then began to decipher the message. The contents of the typescript were incomprehensible to P.O.W. and appeared to consist of a maze of letters and figures.

These typescript documents arrive by courier from O.B.S Rome who in turn received it from Berlin. They do not appear to arrive regularly, but at intervals and in packets of several sheets. Very considerable security measures are taken to assure the secrecy of the document.

7) What were the most common Allied addresses in the more secret BJ’s? Did American authorities appear frequently in the addresses?

The bulk of the traffic was either addressed to or signed by 8th Army. The traffic was almost entirely concerning the "G" brandies of A.F.H.Q., 8th Army and the Corps subordinate to 8th Army. The links were those between 8th Army and A.F.H.Q, and 8th Army and subordinate Formations. This traffic accounted for 80%  of the B.J. material.

The remainder was for the most part "Q" traffic of the American 7th Army and A,F.H.Q. Very little traffic of the 1st Army was read.Unfortunately  P.O.W cannot recall any verbatim addresses, and in any case, these had been translated into German equivalent, to, I (a), 0 (qu), I(b), etc.


12). How often were the BJ’s sent to Berlin by wireless teleprinter ?

B.J.’s were hardly ever sent to Berlin by wireless T.P. . POW has only heard of two instances. As a general rule they went by courier every day. The intercept Coy NEVER  sent any themselves this was the duty of I(c) at Heeresgruppe.


15) When did  they get into their stride?

It was only after the capture of Tobruk that the Coy. started to produce High Grade B.Js an any scale. It was at Tobruk that the two British machines together with documents wore captured.

1st September 1943

The Brits were obviously alarmed by those reports.Typex was their highest level cipher machine. Immediately they started an investigation on the fate of the Typex machine used in Tobruk.However since the personnel there had been taken prisoner when the city fell to the Germans in ’42 it was only possible to interview the persons responsible after the war.The testimony said that they had thoroughly destroyed the only Typex machine used there.

A high level meeting was also called to discuss appropriate measures.One of the people involved was the famous cryptologist Gordon Welchman of ''Hut 6''  fame.Some of his comments in the reports are interesting :

As regards breaking I have always felt that the Germans could not be breaking any of our Type X traffic because if they were they would take steps to prevent us breaking their enigma traffic.But this may be overestimating the efficiency of the Germans; after all we ourselves have made no serious attempt to use the experience of the experts on breaking the German enigma  to improve the security of our Type X. Alternatively  the Germans may have been breaking Type X before the introduction of pluggable heads by catalogue methods which would be knocked out by their stecker.


On the whole I feel a thorough investigation would be a good thing but I don’t see who could do it.However it may be possible to shoot down the Wagner story after further discussion here and further interviews with POW’s .It is quite possible that Haunhorst was merely shown how the Typex machine worked and it would be interesting to know whether he actually saw an  English message decoded.


Despite their efforts the Brits were not able to identify the mysterious ‘’Wagner’’ during the war or after.Their inquiries however concentrated on the Signal Intelligence Agency of the Army High Command - OKH/GdnA .After the war they interrogated Mettig who was in charge of the  Army Agency from Nov '41 to Jun '43 :

Statements by PW Obstlt Mettig on Typex   
1. In homework completed about 24 Jul 45, he wrote (exact translation): ‘’The Referat Zilmann, despite great efforts, was unable, to break the English cipher machine. It is true that during the campaign in 1940 several English cipher machines were captured but in all cases the wheels were missing." It should be noted  that PW never mentioned TYPEX by name.

2. On Sunday, 29 Jul 45,  in consultation with major  Morgan, asked PW directly whether the Germans had worked on Typex. The reply was in the affirmative.PW  was then asked had the Germans been successful. He replied without any hesitation that they had been. Asked to a date for this success, he stated  spring 1942. The success had not been maintained owing to the capture of the Seebohm company in 1942 near ALEXANDRIA, which led to a tightening up of British signals security. No further inroad after that date is known to PW. IO then asked PW whether he was sure he was referring to TYPEX and not to War Office Cipher, which the Germans had cracked; PW replied categorically that he was referring to Typex. In reply to further questions he added that the breaking of Typex was done partly in BERLIN and partly in AFRICA; he assumed that the success was achieved, cryptoanallytically and not through compromise. Had the latter been the case, he would have known, as all compromised material secured from Abwehr or other special sources was passed to him as head of in 7/VI for distribution to particular sections .PW, was told to write a detailed memo on this subjects in particular he was told to name  all individuals concerned in breaking  Typex.

3. On 31 Jul 45 IO, after 'phone conversation with Cmdr DUDLEY-SMITH, visited PW to collect memorandum. PW declared that all his statements re Typex in para 2 were rubbish and that the machine was unbreakable. Although he noted the astonished expressions of the visiting officers (Major Morgan  and Lt Col Lewis) it only dawned on him when he returned to his room what was the  significance of what he had said. IO then asked why he had been so precise in his statements about the breaking and had given  dates etc.PW  replied that he did not know what he was saying and that he must have been thinking, of some minor procedure as double transposition or syllabic cipher. IO informed Cmdr Dudley-Smith immediately; it was agreed to postpone action in this matter until it had been exhaustively discussed.

Sept ‘45

So instead of resolving the Typex affair Mettig made things worse.Now the British had three people claiming Typex was read ,one of whom was the man in charge of the Army Signals Intelligence Agency.Further investigations singled out the top mathematicians of OKH/GdNA Doering and Pietsch plus Menzer of OKW/Chi:

From the information so far obtained it seems probable that if Typex was ever broken it was done exclusively at OKH and the information was not passed on to other departments .The men most likely to know about this subject are Pietsch , Doering and Menzer .Meanwhile it would be of the greatest interest to see how Haunhorst reacted to further interrogation.
G.C.C.S. (S.A.C.)
15th October  1945


‘’Strong efforts should be made to apprehend the men who were chiefly responsible for Typex work in OKH – Pietsch ,Doering ,Menzer , Luzius ,Schulz , Zillmann. Fregattenkapitaen Singer should be placed on the Brown list.’’

 G.C.C.S. (S.A.C.)
20th October  1945

I have been unable to find any proof that Pietsch and Doering were interrogated by the Allies after the war.It’s highly probable that they slipped the net.Inspector Menzer also disappeared after the war.According to an NSA article he lived for a time in East Germany but after being thrown in prison for 6 months by the Russians he surrendered to the American authorities in West Berlin in May 1949.No other information is available on that group.

So what are my thoughts on the possibility that the German actually exploited Typex ?

Possible explanations :

1).The Germans one way or another managed to get their hands on the ‘’black’’ typex rotors.Using them with their captured machines and figuring out the indicator process they decoded messages sent by 8th Army.The problem they had with 9th Army can be explained by the fact that a plugboard was used with their Typex machines.A fact not known to the Germans.

Of course this hypothesis would generate another question : If Typex was insecure that would mean that  so was   Enigma ,so why did they continue using it? Since they continued to use it it means that they never managed to read the Typex…
Again this question can’t be answered conclusively .

First of all for the Germans the Typex was not directly comparable to the Enigma I because it lacked a plugboard.Without this modification it was a simple commercial Enigma with one more rotor.So breaking the Typex would not mean that Enigma was compromised ,just that the commercial version could be solved.A fact that was not new to them since they themselves attacked and read the Swiss diplomatic Enigma (no plugboard).
The Enigma machine was also constantly upgraded in terms of security.For example in 1942 the Germans split their traffic in many different ‘’keys’’ and the U-boats got the 4-rotor Enigma.In late ’43 early ’44  they introduced  the Uhr device and the UKW-D rewirable reflector in Luftwaffe links and the Army Home administration network ( Source:UMKEHRWALZE D ,Cryptologia article ).Operators in ’44 had to change the plugboard settings thrice daily.From late ’44 each U boat used a separate Enigma ‘’key’’.Those are a lots of measures for a device that was considered secure…

Another problem if they had success is that  high level personnel all claimed Typex was secure. For example Huettenhain and Voegele ,the chief cryptanalysts of the OKW and OKL respectively ,stated several times that Typex was never read.Wouldn’t they know of such an accomplishment ? Considering that the people of OKH didn’t tell Huettenhain about their success with War Office Cypher it could be argued  that they’d also keep the Typex affair secret.

2). Mettig was probably confused by the similar names that the Brits gave their codes (Typex,Codex,Slidex, Morsex ,Sheetex).The code mentioned by Mettig was probably the War Office Cypher which the Germans read in N.Africa from March or August ’41 till January ’42.According to a POW assigned to KONA 4(signals regiment) in Athens from that time on it was not solved.This may be true for forward units but Mettig in a detailed report mentions reading it in summer ’42.So the main agency in Berlin had success with that code.

This solves one part of the equation but what of the Typex machine used by Wagner? It could be that ‘’Wagner’’ used a teleprinter and the POW’s mistook it for a Typex.However how could the Tynisia POW's know that the British machine had five rotors and a drum on each side? This was not the layout of German equipment.The only explanation that I can come up with is that the machine they saw was a captured Typex modified to work with German rotors.

The Luftwaffe actually used captured Typex machines with three German rotors for it’s communications.Those machines were modified by  Inspector Menzer of OKW/Chi .Still 3≠5 rotors….

All the information presented comes from two reports in the British archives :

HW 40/88 : Investigation into POW reports that German Sigint authorities (NFAK 621) were exploiting TYPEX (British cypher machine) in North Africa

HW 40/89: Investigation into POW reports that German Sigint authorities exploited TYPEX (British cypher machine)

Both files are available from my Google docs and Scribd account.

I suspect that there is a third part for the Typex investigation.Unless it’s released questions will remain.A small piece of information regarding the efforts of OKH codebreakers versus Typex is available however from Ticom D-83 which based on captured documents says :

  ‘’However , by about May ,1941, OKH were in full possession of all the theory necessary for solving the problem and there can be little doubt that ,had they been lucky enough to capture a set of drums at Dunkirk as well as the three machines the bulk of the Typex traffic up to July 1940 would have been read’’.
So IF the Germans had the rotors they would be able to decode Typex….

Monday, October 3, 2011

Normandy 1944 - Allied estimates of German power

While reading books on the Normandy campaign I get the feeling that Allied planners knew every detail about the German formations opposing them.They read every message, knew their strength and their orders,could plan the invasion with 100% success.

I know it’s not nice to make fun of authors who don’t understand signals intelligence but presenting such a distorted version of events really makes me sad for the people who rely on popular books instead of more serious works ( like the official history ‘’British Intelligence in the second world War’’).

Since I always like to get to the bottom of things I decided to check ‘’scientifically’’ if the Allies were correct in their pre-invasion estimates.

I got the Allied estimates of German strength from ‘’British intelligence in the Second World War vol3 part2’’ p814-824  and the true  numbers from Zetterling’s , ‘’Normandy 1944:German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness’’ p28 ( very ,very ,very good book! ).

This is the result:

The estimate of   35.500 men is for  the two unidentified infantry div and the Pz Lehr using the minimum strengths possible in the eyes of Allied intelligence(10,000 for infantry and 15.500 for Pz).

It’s obvious that the Allies correctly estimated the strength of the Armored Divisions.However they seriously erred when it came to infantry formations.German infantry units were much weaker than expected.

This analysis has only covered manpower.A more comprehensive analysis would also look into AFV and trucks for the formations in the West .That would require additional posts but I can give the reader a quick overview:

Regarding tanks the Allies did not know how many were in the West.Their estimates ranged up to 3,000 !  The real number was 1,891 on 10 June.

Regarding supply trucks ( the bloodline of mobile warfare) the Germans were in a pathetic state.Best source on the subject is : Russell A. Hart , Feeding Mars: The Role of Logistics in the German Defeat in Normandy1944 ,War In History 1996 3: 418.

According to that article the main reason is that logistic priority was not assigned to the West .So while new formations and tanks were brought in to counter the expected Allied invasion there was no similar increase in supply trucks.New construction was sent East and the formations in the West had to depend on the French rail network.Thanks to Allied airpower this arrangement didn’t work out so well for the Germans!

The role of intelligence during the planning of Overlord is supposed to be a great success. I think considering the information presented so far the results are mixed.

The Allied disinformation plan  Fortitude is also supposed to be a huge success.I don’t agree with that assessment .By May ’44 the Germans expected the Normandy landings.That’s why out of the four operational armored divisions in the West ( 2nd Pz , 21 Pz , 12 SS ,Lehr)  three are close to Normandy and only 2nd Pz close to Calais.

Of course that discussion will require a separate post.