Thursday, December 27, 2012


Added more information in WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war. Specifically in paragraphs ‘problematic gearbox’, ‘reliability problems ’ and ‘T-34vs Pz IV’.

Most of this information comes from Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’.

This is becoming the definitive version on the T-34 myth!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Discussion on WWII Tanks

Interesting round table discussion on WWII tanks.

Participants: Steve Zaloga, Harry Yeide, Hilary Doyle, David Fletcher, Rob Griffin, Kenneth Estes.

Part 1 of12:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The British War Office Cypher

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).

According to 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.
This 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:

In November-December ’41 the addresses from the solved messages (identifying specific units) were issued in confidential reports:

During 1941 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’.

The main 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 says:
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.

The British 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.

Based on 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.

Signals 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 offensive.
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 Inspectorate 7/VI

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Typex operational procedures

A file in HW 40/89 ‘Investigation into POW reports that German Sigint authorities exploited TYPEX (British cypher machine)’ has details on the use of the Typex cipher machine.

Specifically the introduction of new rotors, detachable rotor cores (called inserts) and the rewirable reflector (called plugboard in the report):

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Time for some new TICOM reports:

I-54 ‘Second interrogation of five members of the RLM/Forschungsamt’ - 1945

I-82 ‘POW Interrogation report Dr Werner Liebknecht of Wa Pruef 7 of the Heereswaffenamt’ - 1945

I-100 ‘Report by Uffz. Herzfeld of NAAST 5 (Gen. d. NA) on the Work of the Italian Referat of In 7/VI’ - 1945

I-212 ‘Interrogation of George Ruckheim’ - 1949

Available from my Google docs and Scribd accounts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book review- Behind the Urals: An American Worker in Russia's City of Steel

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.

Magnitogorsk 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.

The everyday 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.

Progress was hampered by the purges of the 1930’s and the search for imaginary spies and counterrevolutionaries.

An 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’.

Overall this 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.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Report on the war industry of the Soviet Union

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):

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Don’t trust the fax comrade!

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…

During WWII 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’.

This wasn’t 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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Russian Fish intelligence – A case of quantity over quality

As I’ve mentioned before the internal Soviet radioteletype network was intercepted during the 1930’s and 1940’s by the Germans and postwar by the Americans.

The intercepted plaintext traffic concerned economic and military matters and was of vital importance in finding out what was happening inside the Soviet Union.

However the 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.

Alexis 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 traffic.’

Otto 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 unimportant’’.

The relative 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 capabilities.

For both the Germans and Americans the limited value of single messages was leveraged by the huge intercept volumes.

FMS P-038 ‘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 day.

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.’

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Compromise of OSS codes in WWII – Part 2

In my piece on the compromise of OSS codes during WWII it was stated that Allen Dulles occasionally used diplomatic ciphers when his own systems where overloaded.

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.

Report SRH-366 ‘History of Army Strip Cipher devices’ says that the Army Signal Intelligence agency provided M-138 strips for OSS use in 1944.
This would mean that the system exploited by the Germans in 1943 was probably the diplomatic strip.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insecure traffic of Soviet GHQ units

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.

This meant 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.

By monitoring the traffic of the GHQ units assigned to large Soviet formations their concentrations and movements could be followed.


Source: FMS P-038 ‘German radio Intelligence’

Friday, November 2, 2012

Swedish Army codes and Aussenstelle Halden

During WWII 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 systems

The Swedish 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).

The Allies 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’.

Military systems

The military 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.

The systems solved by the Germans were:
1). SC2 - Slidex type system, read in May ’43.

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.

5). SM-1 (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.

The report 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.
The solution 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.

Sources: European Axis signals intelligence’ vol4, CSDIC/CMF/Y 40 - 'First Detailed Interrogation Report on Barthel Thomas’, TICOM reports I-55, I-64, I-211, ‘Hitler’s war’, E-Bericht Feste 9 - 7/44

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Master of Homeland Security award

The site Master of Homeland Security has posted the 100 best sites on national security. This weblog is included in the list as number 15. Not bad for an amateur historian like myself!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book review - Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts

This short 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.

There are 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:

1). The bombers would always get through to their targets.

2). The bombers would have no difficulty in locating and bombing the targets.

3). The civilian population would be predisposed to mass hysteria in the event of bombing.

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.

Undoubtedly 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.

The greatest 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 hardened targets.

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.

These planes 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.

Bombing 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.

Under these 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.

The human 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, like Galbraith, 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.

Galbraith was 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.’

Overall this is a very interesting and outspoken analysis of the USAAF strategic bombing effort in WWII.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

US Military Strip Ciphers

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.

Overall about 10.000 M-94 cylinders and 17.000 M-138 strip ciphers were built from the 1920’s till 1944.
The strip 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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Correction for Jellyfish article

I added 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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

German counterintelligence operations in occupied France

After the 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.

The agencies 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 Vichy regime.
Relations 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.

The German 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.
Initially the 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 invasion.

Considering 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 positions.
They also 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.

In 1941-42 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 and Odette 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’.
Still their successes against so many different organizations deserve to be recognized. Why were the Germans so successful in counterintelligence work?

1). Sabotage vs espionage operations
The mission 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 security services.

In essence 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 the Germans.
2). Antagonism between the Allies

Relations 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 Gaulle’s people.
The effects of having many different organizations operating in France meant that the Resistance was fragmented.

3). Poor security procedures
Security was 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.
Serious 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
The German 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.

Many people were enticed to work for the Germans in exchange for protection for themselves and their families.
For high 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 this deal.

5). Abwehr vs Sicherheitsdienst
For the 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 secret operations.
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 Abwehr.

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.
An 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.

6). Skillful use of double agents
The Germans successfully inserted double agents in the resistance groups. Some of their most successful agents were:

The Cat
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.

Vomécourt 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.

Roger Bardet
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.

The mystery of ‘Gilbert’
Henry 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 without problems).

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.
7). Insecure communications

A serious 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 mail.
The only 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.

Intelligence 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.
Unfortunately for the Allies the code systems used by SOE and the Poles for much of the war were theoretically and practically vulnerable to cryptanalysis.

The 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.
The Polish 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.

Radio Defence Corps and Referat Vauck
The German 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.
This cipher material was then used by Dr Vaucks agents section to identify the crypto-systems, solve them and decode the traffic. This section, headed by Dr Wilhelm Vauck, was originally part of the Army’s signal intelligence agency OKH/In 7/VI but worked closely with the Radio Defense Corps. It was established in 1942 and by the end of the year two-man teams were detached to regional Aussenstellen in Paris, Marseilles, Lyons, Prague, Oslo, Vienna, Brussels. In late 1943 the entire department was moved to the OKW Funkabwehr.

According to 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.

When the 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.

The most 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 London.

In addition the Sonderkommando Rote Kapelle (Special Detachment Red Orchestra) was able to dismantle the illicit radio network of the French Communist party and replace it with a new network under its control. The members of the resistance and the communist party working for this organization became unwitting pawns of the Germans.
8). Limits of ULTRA

The solution 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 war.
However 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.

British 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.
British 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.

In addition 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’.

When the 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 around agents.
Even though 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.

Despite all 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.

The successes of the German security agencies versus French, British and Polish resistance networks in occupied France are worthy of recognition.

Overview of important groups and personalities

INTERALLIÉ network: Founded by Roman Czerniawski/’Armand’, controlled by SIS. Most of the members were displaced Poles. Compromised by Mathilde Carre.

le réseau AUTOGIRO, dirigé par Pierre de Vomécourt « Lucas », dépendant du Special Operations Executive , section F.AUTOGIRO network: Organized by Peter Vomécourt ‘Lucas’, controlled by SOE. 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 operate.

le réseau SPINDLE, dirigé par Peter Churchill « Raoul », dépendant du Special Operations Executive , section F.SPINDLE network: Organized by Peter Churchill - ‘Raoul’, controlled by SOE. Compromised by Marsac.

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 arrested.

le réseau 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 Roger Bardet.

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.

Armée 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 Paris.

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 with Emile Bollaert in February ’44.

Forest Yeo-Thomas - ‘White rabbit’: Deputy Head of SOE RF (Free French) section. Captured in March ’44 while organizing the rescue of Brossolette and Bollaert.

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 organization.

André 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 October.

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 his agents.

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 agent.

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.

German personnel

Oscar Reile - Head of Abwehr Counterintelligence in France. Operated from the luxurious Hotel Lutetia in Paris.

Karl Boemelburg - SS Sturmbahnfuehrer. Gestapo commander.

Hans Kieffer - SS Sturmbahnfuehrer. Sicherheitsdienst commander.

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 double agents.

Goetz - Expert in radiogames.

Freyer - Head of the 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,