At the start
of WWII and for most of the conflict the standard crypto system used by the
British for high level messages was the codebook enciphered with subtractor
tables. Both the Foreign Office and the military services relied on these
Cyphers for their most important traffic. The codebook
was basically a dictionary that assigned a 4-figure group to each word.
For example the word ‘division’ would have the code 5538, ‘attack’ 2090,
‘artillery’ 0231 etc etc. So the cipher clerk would first use the codebook in
order to find the code groups corresponding to the words of the message and
then he would have to use the subtractor tables in order to encipher them. This
means that each codegroup would be subtracted from the key groups (of the
subtractor table) without carrying over the numbers. The War
Office Cypher was the Army’s universal high-grade codebook (4-figure) and
carried traffic between Whitehall, Commands, Armies, Corps and, later,
divisions. There were different sets of enciphering tables for each geographic
area (Home Forces, Middle East, etc). The Germans
captured two copies of the WOC in 1940. One during the Norway campaign and the
other near Dunkirk. The compromise of the code allowed them to focus only on
stripping the cipher sequence. This was achieved by taking advantage of
‘depths’ (messages enciphered with the same numeric sequence).
TICOM report I-51 ‘Interrogation Report on Ufrz. Herzfeld, Heintz Worfgang and
Translation of a Paper He Wrote on the British War
Office Code’, p16-17 (available
from site TICOM Archive), in 1941 the German Army’s signal intelligence agency
OKH/Inspectorate 7/VI evaluated intercepted British traffic from the Middle
East, identified the use of the WOC and from the summer of 1941 was able to
solve messages. First back traffic was solved from the Cyrenaica offensive
of General Wavell and then messages from Rommel’s offensive in early 1941. In
the period September ‘41-January ‘42 current traffic could be read.
information can be confirmed in part from the War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI.
Unfortunately the reports of Referat 2-England are not available for the period
June-September ’41 but from October they show that WOC was read by the
department. The report of October ’41 says that WOC traffic in the period
November 1940 to March 1941 was enciphered with the same subtractor tables but
from April ’41 a new subtractor book was used for each month:
’41 the addresses from the solved messages (identifying specific units) were issued
in confidential reports:
the WOC decodes provided intelligence mainly on the order of battle and
movement of British units in the M.E. Theatre. It seems that some of the
decoded messages contained strength returns as an Enigma message decoded by
Bletchley Park in October ’41 gave a summary of the increase in British ground
strength in Egypt and the tank strength estimate was so accurate that the War
Office was ‘very concerned’.
German success with WOC came during the period November-December ’41, when they
could follow the British operation Crusader. The
official history ‘British intelligence in the Second World War’ vol2, p298
‘If under-estimation of the quality of
Rommel's equipment was one reason why British confidence was high when the
Crusader offensive began, another was the failure to allow for the efficiency
of his field intelligence. By August 1941 the Germans were regularly reading
the War Office high-grade hand cypher which carried a good deal of Eighth
Army's W/T traffic down to division level, and they continued to do so until
January 1942. Until then, when their success was progressively reduced by
British improvements to the recyphering system, whereas GC and CS's success
against the German Army Enigma continued to expand, this cypher provided them
with at least as much intelligence about Eighth Army's strengths and order of
battle as Eighth Army was obtaining about those of Rommel's forces.’
knew that the WOC was in enemy hands and could be exploited but they had no
alternative than to keep using it. Security was upgraded in late ’41 and from
early ’42 the Germans could not solve messages. The traffic continued to be
investigated during 1942 and back traffic was solved but not current messages.
This was not
the end of the German solution. According to Herzfeld, the WOC used by Home
Forces in Britain was solved in 1943. After investigating the intercepted
messages in late 1942 it was discovered that the Brits had added code groups in
the WOC for the most commonly used phrases.
these findings back traffic of 1942 up to end of January ’43 was read, as can
be seen from the War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI:
This would be
their last success with the WOC as in 1943 the subtractor tables were replaced
by the new stencil cipher which proved to be unbreakable.
intelligence and codebreaking played an important role in WWII. In the first
half of the war the German sigint agencies were able to exploit several high
level British cryptologic systems.
One of these
was the British Army’s War Office Cypher and the decoded messages from the M.E. Theatre in 1941 gave them valuable intelligence, especially during the Crusader
Sources: ‘Intelligence and strategy: selected
essays’, ‘British intelligence in the Second World War’ vol2,TICOM reports I-51, I-113, IF-107, CSDIC SIR
1704-‘The organization and history of the Cryptologic service within the German
Army’, CSDIC/CMF/Y 40-'First Detailed Interrogation Report on Barthel Thomas’, ‘European
Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ vol1 and 4, , Cryptologia article:
‘Brigadier John Tiltman: One of Britain’s finest cryptologists’, War Diary
In the 1930’s
the main goal of the communist regime in the Soviet Union was the rapid
industrialization of the country. New factories were built all over the country
and farmers were brought in to work in them. The need for specialized labor
also attracted some foreign engineers who were facing unemployment in their own
countries due to the Great Depression.
A small group
of foreigners who immigrated to the Soviet Union during that period were the
‘true believers’ in communism.
One of them
was John Scott, son of radical economist Scott Nearing. Scott left the United States,
that was at that time trapped in the Great Depression, and went to the
Magnitogorsk area of the Urals in 1932.
had huge metal deposits and factories were built to exploit those resources.
The communist regime was sparing no expense in importing the best foreign
machinery and in attracting experienced engineers from abroad. Scott was able
to participate in the industrialization of an agricultural society and in his
memoirs he gives the reader a very clear view of what it was like to live and
work in the Soviet Union of the 1930’s.
life was brutal. Accommodations were poor, fuel and food lacking and the work
was very dangerous with people being injured or killed every day. The main
problem was the lack of trained personnel. All the workers were peasants who
had left their villages in search of a better life as factory workers. Some
were hostile to the communist regime but the majority was happy to have left
the fields and they spent their limited free time learning to read and write. Those
who had already mastered the basics studied engineering.
hampered by the purges of the 1930’s and the search for imaginary spies and
interesting aspect of the book is the analysis of the industrial centers in the
Urals. According to Scott the decision to invest huge sums in the Ural
industries had primarily a military character since they would be safe from
invaders.He calls these centers in
Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, Magnitogorsk, Perm, Ufa, Zlatoust,
Berezniki, Solikamsk, Bashkortostan, Orsk and other areas‘Stalin’s Ural stronghold’.
is a unique book in the sense that the writer participated in one of the
greatest social and economic experiments of the 20th century. Since
the book was written in 1942, at a time when the Soviet Union was still in
danger of military defeat, one wonders if the analysis of the Ural stronghold
was meant to inform Anglo-American policy makers of the Soviet Union’s economic
power and resilience.
There is a
file at NARA called SOVIET UNION, SURVEY OF THE RECORDS OF THE BAND I (NR 3708
CBTM13 20293A 19420201).
It is a
German estimate of Soviet industrial production in 1942. I assume that some of
the information on this report comes from monitoring the internal radio and radio-teletype
traffic between industrial centers.
It would be
interesting to compare the data on this report (and others like it) with the
‘official’ numbers from Soviet/Russian sources. Unfortunately I could only copy
the first pages of this large report (~300 pages):
The wireless transmission of images
was used by WWII participants for military purposes and by their news agencies.
However radio-fax communications could be intercepted…
the Soviet Union had several radio-facsimile stations. Their transmissions were
intercepted by the German signal intelligence agencies OKH/GdNA Group VI and Wa
Pruef 7/IV. According to postwar
reports they contained ‘hand-written
communications, typewritten texts, drawings, and weather maps’ and ‘technical diagrams and charts’.
the last time that radio-fax communications of communist countries were
compromised. According to Matthew M. Aid’s ‘The secret sentry’, p142 after the
USS Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans in 1968 a USAF listening post in
Japan intercepted its top secret documents being transmitted on the
Pyongyang-Moscow radio-facsimile link.
mentioned before the internal Soviet radioteletype network was intercepted
during the 1930’s and 1940’s by
the Germans and postwar by
intercepted plaintext traffic concerned economic and military matters and was
of vital importance in finding out what was happening inside the Soviet Union.
Russian Fish intelligence was definitely a case of quantity over quality. This
is clearly mentioned in several TICOM reports and matches the American
assessment during the early cold war period.
Dettmann, head of cryptanalysis at the German Army’s cryptanalytic centre in
the East -Horchleitstelle Ost, says in TICOM DF-112:
‘The monitoring and deciphering of internal
radio traffic was not an assignment of army signal intelligence units but
necessarily messages of internal networks were solved and worked on. Special
offices in the former German army were occupied among other things with the
reception of messages of Baudot circuits, the value of the results however
belonged in a different sector. Even in the years 1938/39 a relatively simple
devise was constructed which made it possible to reproduce directly on
typewriters the Baudot messages which in part ware transmitted by high-speed
transmitters. The results from the point of view of content in no wise
corresponded to the expectations. Of the
entire traffic monitored at great expense at best 10% was useful for economic
leaders while military-political matters constituted hardly 1%.. The major
portion of these messages was like the content of the long distance telephone
messages and contained private or business affairs. It was learned that all
these circuits were not only monitored and controlled by the NKVD but in many
cases were directed by it, and that in all probability the GUP-NKVD was also responsible
in large measure for the issue of cryptographic material for internal radio
Buggisch, a member of the cipher machine department of the German army’s signal
intelligence agency, gives the same percentage in TICOM I-58:
‘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
lack of importance of each individual message was also recognized by the
Americans. According to NSA history ‘The
Invisible Cryptologists: African-Americans, WWII to 1956’:
‘The ASA. effort to exploit Russian
plaintext traffic began in 1946 with the part-time assignment of several
linguists to the target. At that time, however, the Agency's emphasis was on
the translation of encrypted messages, and the employment of scarce Russian
linguists on plain text was judged to be unwarranted. Later, in May 1947, the
effort was revised at the Pentagon. Individuals without security clearances or
with partial clearances would sift through volumes of messages and translate
all or parts of those determined to have intelligence value. Placed in charge
of this group was Jacob Gurin, an ASA Russian linguist who had immigrated to
the U.S. with his parents at the age of three.
From the Agency's inception under
William Friedman, its business was the breaking of codes and ciphers. Once the
underlying text was revealed, individual messages were translated, and, after a
reporting mission was established, selected ones were published on 3" x 5"
cards. While individual decrypted
messages could be extremely valuable, plaintext messages were most often
preformatted status reports that were insignificant when considered singly.
Jack Gurin was convinced that if these messages were assembled and analyzed in the
aggregate, they could yield valuable information on Soviet defense
For both the
Germans and Americans the limited value of single messages was leveraged by the
huge intercept volumes.
‘German Radio intelligence’ says: ‘At the
experimental station the volume of recordings, which were made available to the
cryptanalysis and evaluation sections of the Armed Forces Cryptographic Branch
and the Evaluation Control Center of OKH, averaged ten million transmissions a
Information on the Anglo-American interception is available in NSA history ‘On
Watch: Profiles from the National Security Agency’s past 40 years’:
‘In addition to manual Morse, the Soviets were using a
good deal of [redacted] among others. The Soviet plaintext problem was a SIGINT
success story from the beginning, from the design of electro-mechanical
processing equipment that could handle each new Soviet development to the
painstaking analysis of the intercepted communications. A joint
American-British effort against these communications in the nineteen-forties
led to high intercept volume and new engineering challenges in the face of
proliferating Soviet [redacted] techniques.
At one time the United States and
Britain together were processing as many
as two million plaintext messages a month, messages containing everything from
money orders to birthday greetings. The production task was awesome, with
analysts manually leafing through mountains of page copy, meticulously
screening millions of messages. [redacted] The investment paid off,
leading, to an encyclopedic knowledge of what was going on in the Soviet Union.
Over 95 percent of what the United States knew about Soviet weaponry in the
nineteen-forties came from analysis of plaintext radioprinter traffic. Almost
everything American policy makers learned about the Soviet nuclear energy and
nuclear weapons programs came from [redacted] radioprinter traffic, the result
of fitting together thousands of tiny, selected pieces of the jig saw puzzle.’
In 1943 the
Germans were apparently able to read his messages enciphered on the M-138-A
strip cipher. The question is whether this was an OSS strip set or the special
set used by the embassy in Berne for diplomatic traffic.
‘History of Army Strip Cipher devices’ says that the Army Signal Intelligence
agency provided M-138 strips for OSS use in 1944.
mean that the system exploited by the Germans in 1943 was probably the
During WWII the
radio traffic of Soviet units was one of the most reliable sources of
information for the German Command. Through traffic analysis and D/F the
numbers and location of units could be identified. In cases where the messages
themselves could be decoded the Germans could anticipate enemy attacks.
In the first
years of the war in the East the Germans could read practically all the Soviet
codes. In the period 1943-45 however the SU upgraded its cryptologic security.
The top level 5-figure code was enciphered almost exclusively with one time pad
and the insecure 4-figure codes of the OKK type were replaced with SUV tables.
that the work of the Germans codebreakers became much harder. However they were
helped in their work by a serious error in the Soviet Union’s radio security. Special
units controlled by the Soviet High Command (assault, engineers, artillery,
supply) did not follow the strict protocols of the standard military formations
nor did they use secure codes. These errors allowed the Germans to circumvent
the new Soviet procedures.
the traffic of the GHQ units assigned to large Soviet formations their concentrations
and movements could be followed.
Sweden was neutral but maintained close economic relations with Germany. The
German signal intelligence agencies were interested in Swedish communications
and they tried to solve their diplomatic and military systems.
diplomatic traffic was mainly enciphered with Hagelin cipher machines. The
Germans analyzed the traffic but according to postwar reports could not solve
it (although one message of 5.000 words may have been solved).
also targeted Swedish Hagelin traffic and had some success, mainly through
physical compromise, but according to a report dated August 1944 (Fish
notes report 102) ‘the keys have not
been broken since January 1942 and none of this traffic has been read since
June of that year’.
traffic was intercepted and decoded successfully by a unit in Halden, Norway.
This was outstation Halden (Aussenstelle Halden). This unit belonged to Feste 9
(Feste Nachrichten Aufklärungsstelle -Stationary Intercept Company) but was
attached to the Halden Police battalion for administrative purposes. It was
commanded by Lieutenant Thielcke.
2). SC3 -
3-letter field code without reciphering, read in April ’43.
3). SC4 -
3-letter alphabetical code without reciphering, read in June ’43.
4). SRA1 and
SRA5 - Grille/Stencil systems. First broken in the spring or summer of ’43.
(Schwedische Maschine 1) - version of the Hagelin C-38. This was solved on operator
mistakes and ‘depths’. Some details are given by Luzius, an expert on Hagelin
cipher machines at the German army’s signal intelligence agency:
‘7. He was then asked whether they had
achieved any other successes with this type of machine. He recalled that the
Hagelin had been used by the Swedes, in a form known as BC-38. This was similar
to the M-209, but with the additional security feature that, whereas with the
American machine in the zero position A = Z, B = Y, etc., In the Swedish machine
the relationship between these alphabets could be changed. He could not
remember whether it had changed daily or for each message. He himself had
worked on this machine and had solved a few messages. It had been an
unimportant sideline, and he could not remember details; he thought that it had
been done by the same method, when two messages occurred with the same
indicators. This had only happened very rarely.
E-Bericht 7/44 of Feste 9 has some information on Swedish systems:
The people of
Aussenstelle Halden were not successful with all the Swedish codes. According
to ‘European Axis signals intelligence’ vol4 the high level grille HCA and the
‘large’ Hagelin (probably a version of the Hagelin B-211) were not solved.
of the tactical codes and the C-38 allowed the Germans to build up the Swedish
army’s OOB. Why were the Germans so interested in the army’s dispositions? It
seems that in 1943 they contemplated an attack on Sweden.
but very interesting book covers the USAAF strategic bombing effort in WWII.
The author looks into the beginnings of strategic bombing in WWI, the interwar
theories and the history and performance of the US Army Airforce bombers in the
European and Pacific theatres.
separate chapters for the planes used, the bombs, the bombsights, the aircrews,
the campaigns and the postwar bombing surveys.
The author is
highly critical of the theory and practice of strategic bombing in WWII. The
interwar bombing theories of Douhet, Mitchell and Trenchard were superficially
attractive to politicians and military officers. Instead of sending hundreds of
thousands of young soldiers to fight in the trenches a country could invest in
a large bomber force that could quickly attack the enemy’s population and
industrial centers. According to the prophets of airpower these attacks would
lead to the collapse of the enemy’s economy and mass panic would force the
government to surrender. These theories were based on the principles that:
bombers would always get through to their targets.
bombers would have no difficulty in locating and bombing the targets.
civilian population would be predisposed to mass hysteria in the event of
In WWII these
preconceptions were proven false. The use of radar meant that the course of
bombers could be correctly estimated and fighters vectored to meet them, it
proved to be extremely difficult to locate ground targets and the civilians of
the Axis countries continued to work despite the bombing campaigns.
the promoters of airpower must have realized these problems but they were more
interested in ensuring that their airforces would rise to become a separate
branch of the armed forces.
part of the book deals with the USAAF effort and looks into the equipment and
personnel used. The strategic bombers were the B-17, B-24 and B-29.
The author is
not afraid to criticize icons of US airpower. The B-17 was developed in the
early ‘30’s and by the 1940’s was lacking in terms of performance. The RAF
found it ‘uneconomical in relation to the
crew and technical maintenance required’. It could not carry the bomb load
of newer models and its bomb bay could not carry large bombs used against
The B-24 was
a new aircraft but its ‘Davis wing’ was a source of problems. On the one hand
it provided low drag at cruising speed and did not compromise high speed
performance. However above 20.000 feet it was prone to high speed stalls and its
design made it practically impossible to successfully ditch the plane in case
of an emergency .
The B-29 was
the most expensive bomber produced by the US. However its problems in the field
were legendary. Eventually more were lost to accidents than by enemy action.
were supposed to be able to defend themselves through heavy defensive armament
and close formation flying. Over Europe the German fighter defenses inflicted
heavy casualties and thus fighter escort was required. This role was performed
by the P-47, P-38 and P-51 fighters. The P-47 was a very heavy plane, affecting
its acceleration and climb rate. However at high altitude it was a good
performer. The twin engined P-38 performed well in the Pacific but in Europe it
had serious engine problems at high altitude. Eventually the fighter that would
change the airwar would be the P-51 due to its unprecedented range and its
excellent flying performance.
targets from 20-30.000 feet using unguided bombs was, to put it mildly,
slightly inaccurate. The chances of the bombs dropping close to the target were
minuscule (according to a USAAF study ~1.2% for a single B-17 flying at 20.000
feet to hit a factory sized target). This reality was compounded in Western
Europe by the cloudy weather that made precision bombing impossible most days.
Highly developed bombsights like the US Norden proved to be
useless in W.Europe because of the clouds and smoke. In response to this
problem the British H2S radar
sight was used but its accuracy was even lower than the optical types.
conditions locating targets was very difficult and accurately bombing them
almost impossible. The USAAF compensated by using large numbers of bombers in
every mission so that some would hit the target. However the cost of building
and operating such forces was huge.
cost of the bombing campaign was also very expensive. Bomber crews had little
chances to survive their 25 missions (increased in 1944). In the first half of
1944 the casualty rate was 89%. Casualties finally went down in the second half
of ’44 when the Luftwaffe could not effectively attack the bomber groups due to
attrition and lack of fuel.
At the end of
the war the USAAF organized a detailed study of the German and Japanese
economies and the effects that strategic bombing had on them. Famous economists,
were part of the teams that did the analysis. The results showed that German
war production increased during the war despite the bomber offensive. In fact
the year that production peaked was 1944 despite the huge Anglo-American
effort. The separate RAF study came to similar conclusions.
critical of the US bombing survey and wrote in ‘A Life in Our Times’: ‘But
strategic bombing had not won the war. At most it had eased somewhat the task
of the ground troops who did. The aircraft, manpower and bombs used in the
campaign had cost the American economy far more in output than they had cost
Germany. However our economy being much larger we could afford it.’
is a very interesting and outspoken analysis of the USAAF strategic bombing effort
The US Armed
forces made extensive use of the strip ciphers M-94 and M-138 in the 1930’s and
during WWII. Although authors focus on the SIGABA machine initially only a handful
of these were available.In late 1941
there were around 10.000 M-94 devices, 1.500 M-138 strips and 120 SIGABA. It
would take years to build large numbers of cipher machines and during that time
it was the strip ciphers that had to hold the line.
10.000 M-94 cylinders and 17.000 M-138 strip ciphers were built from the 1920’s
ciphers have gotten little publicity but their use was vital for the US forces
in WWII, especially in the period 1941-43. The M-94 cylinder was used at
division level and was eventually replaced by the M-209 cipher machine. The
M-138 (and M-138-A) was used for high level messages by military units and
diplomatic attaches. During the war it was replaced by SIGABA but It continued
to be available as an emergency system till the 1960’s.
information in the Jellyfish
article. Specifically the reasons for changing the landing sites for the
airborne operation on D-day and the effect of the daily change of internal
settings for the SZ42 on Bletchley Park’s operations.
fall of France in the summer of 1940 the country had to endure four long years
of occupation under the German forces. During that period countless resistance
groups were organized both by the French and by foreign powers.
that organized resistance groups were the British SIS and SOE, the intelligence
service of the Free French and the Polish intelligence service. In addition
there were the homegrown resistance groups plus the intelligence service of the
between these groups were complicated. For example the Vichy intelligence
service helped the resistance but was at odds with the De Gaule movement, the
communists distrusted the right-wingers and there was little cooperation
between the British SOE and SIS.
agencies whose task it was to monitor and destroy the Resistance were also
numerous. There was the military police Geheime Feldpolizei, the military
intelligence service Abwehr, the Security Services Sicherheitsdienst/Gestapo and the Radio Defense departments of the
Armed Forces and the Police.
resistance was made up of a few isolated groups organized by patriotic
individuals. They did not take many security precautions and as a result their
groups were easily infiltrated by agents. As time went on the groups that took
their place were better organized and had regular contact with London via
radio. They also received weapons, money and explosives from airdrops. In some cases these weapons were used for acts
of sabotage but the majority were stored away for use on the day of the Allied
the anti-German attitude of the French population and the geographical proximity
of Britain one would expect that setting up resistance groups and organizing
them would not be hard. Unfortunately for the Allies this was not so. The
Germans were hampered by their separate security agencies but they were able to
identify, monitor and destroy countless resistance groups. In many cases they
managed to gain control of whole groups by maneuvering their agents into top
engaged in radio-games with the British. After capturing radio operators and
their cipher material they sent misleading reports to London and got the British
to reveal parts of their networks or drop supplies and agents into their hands.
their main successes were the liquidation of the INTERALLIÉ, AUTOGIRO, CARTE networks
and the arrest of key members of ALLIANCE. In August ’42 they carried out an
extensive radio finding operation in Vichy France called operation ‘Donar’. Depending
on the source they neutralized 6 or 12 enemy transmitters.
In 1943 the
Germans achieved their greatest successes against the Resistance. They compromised the SPINDLE group and
arrested Roger Frager, Peter Churchill andOdette Sansom. They captured the
leadership of the ORA-Organisation de
résistance de l'armée and many of their members. They also captured
general Delestraint, head of the Armée secrète. When Resistance leaders met in
order to unify their groups the house was raided by the Germans thus capturing
many top level people, including prefect Jean Moulin. In the summer of ‘43 the SOE’s
largest network in France PHYSICIAN/PROSPER was liquidated. Also in ’43 the ARCHDEACON
network was thoroughly compromised and many groups of the Gaullist MITHRIDATE
organization were destroyed.
Despite all their
efforts by 1944 the Resistance had grown exponentially. With Germany’s defeat
in sight everyone was willing to help the resistance groups and even German
agents crossed over and attacked their former masters, giving rise to the term
‘resistant du 44’.
successes against so many different organizations deserve to be recognized. Why
were the Germans so successful in counterintelligence work?
vs espionage operations
of an intelligence agency is to keep its existence secret and collect information.
For these operations only a small number of highly trained operatives are
needed. On the other hand an organization tasked with sabotage will need arms
shipments, arms depots and lots of agents to move arms and explosives around and
take part in attacks. Obviously such activity cannot remain in the dark as
attacks on infrastructure and personnel will attract the attention of enemy
this was the problem of SOE (Special
Operations Executive). Unlike SIS that always kept a low profile SOE was
created to attack the German occupation authorities and destroy critical infrastructure
in occupied countries. This meant that its networks quickly became a target for
between the Allies
between the different Allied agencies were antagonistic. SIS was an established
organization and had no reason to support the upstart SOE. The Free French
distrusted the British and were in turn distrusted by them. Vichy authorities
were willing to turn a blind eye to British operations but they hated De
of having many different organizations operating in France meant that the
Resistance was fragmented.
not a high priority in the resistance groups. The resistance people frequented
the same areas (bars/cafes/restaurants) thus making it easy for the Germans to
keep them under observation. Instead of trying to keep their identities secret some
people openly boasted of being resistance members or showed of their weapons in
night clubs. The size of the resistance groups was also a security problem.
With hundreds of members it was impossible to keep double agents out.
One of the
worst errors was the use of the same radio operator by several resistance
groups. Each group had one or more radio teams but these were often arrested and
when that happened there was no other means of communication with London. The
proper procedure would be to wait for a new operator to arrive but what
actually happened was that another network was asked to transmit their
messages. Since there were many networks but few radio operators this meant
that the ones under German control could compromise several resistance groups.
security errors were also committed by the British. Radio operators were given
a series of security checks to insert into their messages so they could inform
on whether they were under German control. In many cases these checks were
disregarded by SOE as mistakes of the operator. This is not as ridiculous as it
sounds. Messages from the field had many errors and in a lot of cases were either
completely unreadable or had to be solved cryptanalytically. Under these
circumstances it was not possible to determine if the security checks were
inserted correctly or were mistakes.
4). Psychological manipulation
security services have a reputation of torturing people but the reality is that
in most cases they relied on psychological manipulation and not physical
violence. Although prisoners were sometimes maltreated (especially by the SD)
usually confessions were gotten out of them by showing them how much was already
known about their networks.
were enticed to work for the Germans in exchange for protection for themselves
and their families.
level operatives a deal was proposed. If they gave up the names and addresses
of the members of their entire network the Germans would guarantee that their
people would not be executed but only imprisoned. Many resistance leaders took
Germans the existence of military and political security services was both a
hindrance and an asset.
On the one
hand the military intelligence service Abwehr often clashed with the political
Security services (Sicherheitsdienst/Gestapo).
There was undoubtedly duplication of effort and wasted manpower. In some cases
one agency would arrest people who worked for the other thus compromising
On the other hand each agency had a reputation that attracted specific
kinds of people. The Abwehr was lead by military officers who had a code of
honor and did not like torture. They tried to recruit agents by mutually
beneficial deals. For example a resistance member serving a long sentence would
be given the offer to be released in exchange for becoming a spy. In other
cases someone could save a family member who was sentenced to death by
revealing information about the resistance. These deals were honored by the
The Sicherheitsdienst did not have many moral scruples. What mattered for
them were results. For that reason they were prepared to use torture, extortion
and bribes. People who wanted to make money could offer their services and act
as provocateurs. Criminal elements like the notorious Bony-Lafont gang worked
for the SD.
interesting trick by the Abwehr was to use the SD as a boogeyman. Prisoners knew that the Abwehr usually treated
prisoners with respect. On the other hand the SD had a reputation for torture.
If a difficult prisoner refused to give any information then the Abwehr
interrogator would tell him ‘well there’s nothing more I can do for you, we’ll
have to send you to the SD’. This got many men talking.
use of double agents
successfully inserted double agents in the resistance groups. Some of their
most successful agents were:
Mathilde Carré alias ‘La Chatte’ was a founding member of INTERALLIÉ. It seems that she was
romantically attached to Roman Czerniawski. In November 1941 she was arrested and
revealed the secrets of INTERALLIÉ to the Germans. She became a double agent
for Bleicher and compromised many members of the resistance. She also
compromised Pierre de Vomécourt’s AUTOGIRO network when she convinced him to
use her radio operator for his messages.
suspected her of being a spy and when they travelled to London together in
February 1942 he had her arrested. She spent the rest of the war in jail.
Bardet was a
member of CARTE. In 1943 he was tricked by Bleicher to come to Paris with him
and visit his chief Marsac who was in prison. Bardet was then arrested and
after spending time in jail offered to work for the Germans. He eventually
became Henri Fragers second in command in the DONKEYMAN network. In 1944 he
betrayed Frager and provided Bleicher with the BBC’s pre-invasion ‘Action’
messages. With the German defeat in sight he changed sides once more and
attacked the Germans. He was arrested at the end of the war.
mystery of ‘Gilbert’
Dericourt alias ‘Gilbert’ was a civilian pilot who served with the French AF in
the Battle of France.In 1943 he was
approached by SOE and given the task to smuggle agents into France by plane.
Dericourt carried out this mission with great success but eventually came under
suspicion of passing information to the Germans and for that reason he was
recalled to London in February 1944. According to his postwar interrogation to
the French authorities he did give some information to the Germans. The truth
is that Dericourt cooperated with Sturmbahnfuehrer Boemelburg in exchange for
protection for himself, his family and his agents. That is probably the reason
for his excellent flying record (43 people flown in and 67 flown out of France
It seems that through him the
Germans were able to make copies of the documents being transported from France
to London. These documents were later shown to captured agents thus breaking
their confidence in the security of their organization.
Was ‘Gilbert’ a traitor? He did
give information to the Germans but in his trial in 1948 Boddington head of the
SOE France section came to his defense.
Dericourt took his secrets to
the grave as he died in a plane accident in 1962.
problem for the Allied spy networks were the limited means of communication
between them and London. Mail could be transported by plane or by ship across
the Channel. In addition there was a southern route into Spain. The Germans occasionally
captured couriers and their messages. They also had Dericourt as a source of
means of rapid communications were by radio but this was a double edged sword.
Radio transmissions could be also picked up by the Germans and if they could
solve the codes then they could identify the agents.
agencies have a reason to favor the use of unbreakable codes such as the one
time pad. A military message is usually not important on its own. A decrypted
message of a resistance group however could contain names and addresses which
were enough to allow the Germans to arrest people and unravel whole groups.
for the Allies the code systems used by SOE and the Poles for much of the war
were theoretically and practically vulnerable to cryptanalysis.
crypto-systems used by SOE were initially substitution systems employing a poem
as a ‘key’ or a passage from a book as a cipher. These were insecure and Leo
Marks head of the SOE cipher department had them changed to OTP.
secret service in France used in 1943/44 a stencil cipher that was much more secure
than the SOE substitution systems but it too succumbed to Germans analysis.
Defence Corps and Referat Vauck
agencies responsible for monitoring illicit radio transmissions were the Radio
Defence Corps of the Armed Forces High Command – OKW Funkabwehr and the similar
department of the regular police – Ordnungspolizei.
Both agencies operated in France but they were assigned different areas.
These agencies not only monitored the agents’ traffic but in many cases
they were able to locate the
site of transmissions through D/F (direction finding). In such cases the radio
center was raided and often the operator and his cipher material were captured.
postwar reports they usually had success with a system if it had been
physically compromised. However in some cases it was possible to solve enemy
systems cryptanalytically. Mettig, head of the Army’s signal intelligence
agency in 1941-43 says in TICOM I-115 that
‘a special weakness of Allied agents’ ciphers
was the use of books for enciphering. Usually only a minor inroad or other clue
was required to reproduce a piece of the cipher text and conclusions could
thence be drawn as to which book was used. In the case of one Allied
transmission in the summer of ’42, five or six French words of a text were
ascertained, leading to the conclusion that the cipher book dealt with the
Spanish civil war. In view of this assumption, all French books about the
Spanish civil war in the State libraries of Paris, Madrid and Lisbon were read
with the object of trying in these 5-6 words. The book was found. PW always
looked on a great research effort as worthwhile. The greatest weakness in using
books for enciphering lay in the fact that, once a book had been compromised,
an entire transmission could be broken automatically. The weakness existed even
if the book in question could not be secured in the same edition or impression.
It was still possible for Referat Vauck (though again only after considerable
research) to find the right place in the book and to secure a fluent
deciphering system by means of conversion tables.
Another weakness of Allied agent
ciphers was the use of poetry. Here the verse metre was an additional help in
solving the cipher text, as was done in the case of a Czech transmission in the
autumn of 42/43.’ The monthly reports of Referat 12, included in the War Diary of Inspectorate
7/VI, show that in the period 1942-44 messages from spy networks in France and
Belgium were continuously decoded and several ‘radiogames’ were carried out by
the security services.
agents’ radio and the cipher material were captured then the Germans could
start a radiogame. By impersonating the radio operator (or forcing him to take
part in the deception) they sent and received messages and were able to deceive
the British about the true state of their network. Through these operations the
Germans learned of the enemy agency’s organization, plans and personalities.
famous episode in this secret war was the radiogame in Holland called operation
‘Nordpol’. There the Germans were able to trick the British into believing that
the Dutch resistance was very effective while in reality the whole network was
under their control.
In France too
they had many similar successes. For example in 1941 they captured and used in
a radio game the operator of ALLIANCE and in 1943 did the same with the
operator of PHYSICIAN. In the same year they gained control of ARCHDEACON and
had the British parachute arms and agents into their hands.
According to TICOM I-115 before the Allied
invasion they had 12 radio links under their control passing disinformation to
of German ciphers was one of the greatest successes of the Allied side. The
intelligence gained from reading enemy messages played an important role in the
British were only able to intercept messages sent by radio. In Western Europe
the Germans relied on the landlines. Some messages of the Abwehr and the police
were sent by radio and decoded by Bletchley Park but the vast majority stayed
of the air.
intelligence in the Second World War vol5 says ‘Certain communications, of course, remained secure throughout the war.
All internal communications within the Reich that went by land-line, as did
those between the Asts and Abwehr HQ, and between Abwehr HQ and OKW, fell
within that category.
intelligence in the Second World War vol2 says about police ciphers: ‘In contrast to the wealth of information it
provided from eastern Europe, the police traffic revealed little about
conditions in France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Greece until late
in the war. This situation reflected the greater availability of land-lines and
the fact that the police played a smaller part in occupation duties than they
did in the east, the army taking the brunt, but it was also a consequence of
the absence of widespread partisan warfare in these areas before 1944.’
the Enigma key of the Sicherheitsdienst/Gestapo
– TGD was not broken during the war. The ‘History of Hut 6’, vol2
says‘It never cilied so far as we
know and no convincing re-encodement from any other key was ever produced’.
Germans occupied France in 1940 they were not ready to deal with underground
resistance movements. Their personnel lacked special training and they did not
have well organized intelligence networks in place. Their efforts were
amateurish and initially they were helped by elementary security errors of the
resistance people. In due time however members of the Abwehr and the Sicherheitsdienst were able to ‘learn on the
job’ and they became very efficient at uncovering enemy groups and turning
they had to operate in a country with an anti-German population they still
infiltrated and destroyed many large resistance networks. In many cases they
were able to gain control of their radio communications and trick the British
into sending them arms and agents.
their efforts the Resistance grew like a hydra. No matter how many networks the
Germans destroyed new ones grew to take their place. By 1944 everyone knew that
Germany would lose the war and even their own agents started abandoning them.
In the period
1941-44 however countless German lives and critical infrastructure were saved
thanks to the efficient work of the German counterintelligence agencies. Up
until 1944 the Resistance was kept at a tolerable level.
of the German security agencies versus French, British and Polish resistance
networks in occupied France are worthy of recognition.
Overview of important groups and
INTERALLIÉ network: Founded by Roman
Czerniawski/’Armand’, controlled by SIS. Most of the members were displaced
Poles. Compromised by Mathilde Carre.
CARTE network: Organized by André Girard. Compromised when Marsac lost the membership
list in late ’42.
ALLIANCE network: Organized by Georges
Loustaunau-Lacau, controlled by SIS. In
1941 their radio operator was captured by the Germans and used in a radiogame.
As a result Loustaunau-Lacau and
key members of the organization were arrested in 1941 and 4 of the group’s 6
radio transmitters were captured. Despite the setback the group continued to
PHYSICIAN/PROSPER network: Organized by Francis Alfred
Suttill, controlled by SOE. In 1943 was the largest SOE network in France.
Liquidated in summer ’43. Depending on the source 500-1.500 people were
DONKEYMAN, dirigé par Henri Frager «
Jean-Marie », dépendant du Special Operations Executive , section F.DONKEYMAN
network: Organized by Henri Frager - ‘Paul’, controlled by SOE. Compromised by
SCIENTIST: SOE network in Normandy. Compromised
by the Germans.
ARCHDEACON network: SOE network compromised from
the start by the Germans. Used by SFHQ-Special Forces HQ for infiltrating new
teams. Resulted in at least 18 agents lost.
ORA - Organisation de résistance de l'armée : Organized by Vichy officers in
early ’43, following the German occupation of Vichy France in November ’42. Leadership
captured in June ’43.
secrète- Gaullist resistance organization. United the groups
‘Combat’, ‘Libération’ and ‘Franc-Tireur’.
MITHRIDATE - Gaullist network. In 1943 several
hundred members were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst.
In late ’43 the group’s codes were compromised and the internal organization
revealed. The headquarters in Paris were raided and Colonel Pierre Herbinger, head of the organization arrested in May ‘44.
The group was also compromised through their collaboration with a Rote Kapelle
network controlled by the Germans.
General Delestraint: Head of Gaullist network Armée secrète. Arrested in June ’43.
General Frère: Head of ORA organization. Arrested
in June ’43.
Jean Moulin: Prefect of Eure-et-Loir and symbol
of the resistance. Organizer of Armée
secrète. Arrested in June 1943 when the Germans raided a meeting of
several Resistance leaders. Was tortured by Klaus Barbie and died en route to
Emile Bollaert: Replaced Jean Moulin as General
Delegate of the French Committee of National Liberation in September 1943. Was
arrested in February ’44.
Pierre Brossolette: One of the major leaders of the
resistance. Became a member of the Council of the Order of the Liberation. Was
arrested withEmile Bollaert in
Forest Yeo-Thomas - ‘White rabbit’: Deputy Head of SOE
RF (Free French) section. Captured in March ’44 while organizing the rescue of Brossolette
Roman Czerniawski - ‘Armand’: Polish officer, organizer of the INTERALLIÉ network. Arrested in November ’41. Agreed to
spy for the Germans and was allowed to escape. Once he reached London he informed
the British and was used to pass disinformation to the Germans.
Mathilde Carre - ‘La Chatte’: Member of INTERALLIÉ. Romantically attached to
Czerniawski. Arrested in November 1941 and subsequently betrayed him and worked
for the Germans. Compromised Raoul Kiffer. Convinced de Vomécourt to send
messages through her radio operator (controlled by the Germans). In February
’42 she went to London with de Vomécourt but her role had been uncovered and
she spent the rest of the war in jail.
Raoul Kiffer - ‘Kiki’: Member of INTERALLIÉ.
Betrayed by Mathilde Carre and later became a German spy. Organized a
resistance group in the Lisieux area in Normandy. The group was controlled by
the Abwehr but eventually became a security risk and was liquidated by the SD.
Georges Loustaunau-Lacau: Ex military officer and right-wing
political figure. Organizer of the ALLIANCE network. Arrested by the Vichy
police in 1941 and handed over to the Germans along with key members of his
Girard: organizer of the CARTE network located in the South of France. His
organization was fatally compromised when the Germans captured a membership
list in late ’42. Was able to escape to the UK.
Andre Marsac: member of CARTE. Lost the
organization’s membership roll during a train trip in November ’42. He was
arrested by the Abwehr in March ‘43. Hugo Bleicher managed to convince him that
he was opposed to the Nazi regime thus getting him to reveal details about the
SPINDLE group. Thanks to this deception Roger Bardet, Odette Sansom and Peter
Churchill were eventually arrested.
Roger Bardet: member of the CARTE group. Was lured
to Paris and arrested by Bleicher. Eventually became a German spy inside the
Resistance. Managed to become second in command for Henri Frager and thus compromised
the DONKEYMAN network. In 1944 changed sides once more and fought against the
Germans. At the end of the war arrested and tried for treason.
Peter Churchill - ‘Raoul’: SOE agent. Organizer of
SPINDLE group. Arrested in April 1943 by Bleicher.
Henri Frager - ‘Paul’: Second in command of the
CARTE group, then became head of the DONKEYMAN network. Suspected Dericourt of
being a German spy and informed the British thus getting him recalled to London.
Eventually betrayed by Bardet, he was arrested in August ’44 and executed in
Henri Dericourt - ‘Gilbert’: French pilot who became
the SOE’s air transport officer. Successfully transported agents in and out of France
but came under suspicion of working for the Germans. He was recalled to London
in February 1944 and interrogated. He admitted giving information to the enemy.
After the war was tried in France but acquitted thanks to the testimony of
Boddington head of SOE France section.
Pierre de Vomécourt: Organizer of the AUTOGIRO network. In
October and November ’41 his radio operators were arrested forcing him to use
the INTERALLIÉ radio link for contacting London. Since this was under German
control his own network was compromised. Visited London with Mathilde Carre in
February ’42 and had her arrested. Returned to France but was himself arrested
in April ’42.
Francis Alfred Suttill - ‘Prosper’: Organizer of the PHYSICIAN network (also called PROSPER) covering
Paris. The whole network was destroyed in summer ’43 and Suttill arrested in
June. Agreed to give information to the Germans in exchange for protection for
Gilbert Norman - ‘Archambaud’: Radio operator of the
PROSPER network. Arrested in June’43. Cooperated with the Germans.
John Starr - Organizer of the ACROBAT network,
controlled by SOE. Arrested July ’43. Cooperated with the Germans.
André Grandclément: Organizer of SCIENTIST. Became a German
Harold Cole: British national. Originally part of
the MI9 organization, helping Allied airmen escape from occupied Europe.
However after his arrest in 1941 he worked for the Germans thus compromising
many Allied escape routes.
Bony-Lafont gang: Ex police inspector Pierre Bony and
gangster Henri Lafont organized a group
that hunted down Resistance members and turned them over to the Germans. The
gang were infamous for their use of torture and extortion.
Oscar Reile -Head of Abwehr Counterintelligence in France. Operated from the luxurious
Hotel Lutetia in Paris.
Karl Boemelburg - SS Sturmbahnfuehrer. Gestapo
Hans Kieffer - SSSturmbahnfuehrer.
Klaus Barbie: Head of Gestapo
Lyons. Infamous for his use of torture.
Hugo Bleicher - Initially member of the Geheime
Feldpolizei. Was transferred to the Abwehr where he became an expert in recruiting
Goetz - Expert in radiogames.
Freyer - Headofthe Funkabwehr’s Aussenstelle
Paris in 1943/44.
Sources: ‘The German Penetration of SOE: France 1941-1944’, ‘Secret War: The Story of SOE,
Britain's Wartime Sabotage Organization’, ‘Colonel Henri's story: the war memoirs of Hugo Bleicher’,
CSDIC SIR 1719 - 'Notes on Leitstelle III West Fur Frontaufklarung', CSDIC/CMF/SD
80 - 'First Detailed Interrogation Report on LENTZ, Waldemar, and KURFESS,
Hans', HW 34/2 ‘The Funkabwehr’, TICOM I-115 'Further Interrogation of Oberstlt
METTIG of OKW/Chi on the German Wireless Security Service (Funkuberwachung),
‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ vol4, ‘War Secrets in the
Ether’, ‘History of Hut 6’ vol2, ‘British
intelligence in the Second World War’ vols 2 and 5, Wikipedia, ordredelaliberation.fr