Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nuke the world

Have you ever wondered what would happen to Moscow if it was hit with a Trident D5 nuclear missile? How about a Tsar Bomba exploding over Washington DC?

Fear not dear reader, you’re not the only one with weird unusual hobbies! The website nuclear secrecy allows you to choose a city and a nuclear bomb and then see the effects of the blast.
PS: I found this site through the War Nerd’s article ‘North Korea, Wish Mao Were Here’.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Axis History Forum mug

Today a coffee mug arrived in the mail. It’s a gift from my friends at Axis History Forum for contributing to their site. Thanks guys!

Monday, May 27, 2013

German vs Allied losses – Italian front

One of the books I reviewed recently was the single volume history of the Italian campaign ‘A Hard Way to Make a War: The Allied Campaign in Italy in the Second World War’. That book says in page 326 about casualties:

The casualty figures also are fairly balanced:
Allied killed, wounded, missing (September 1943 - May 1945) 312,000 (188,746 Fifth Army/ 123,254 approx in Eighth Army)

German killed, wounded, missing 434,646 (48,067 killed, 172,531 wounded, 214,048 missing)

That part has always bugged me! Wouldn’t the fact that the Germans were constantly on the defense be reflected in the loss ratios?  (that doesn’t necessarily mean that the attacking force will always incur higher losses than the defending force)
Luckily I found interesting data in ‘Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-45’. There is a table in page 314 with the monthly losses for the Italian front (killed, missing, wounded) for the period November ’43-April ’45. The numbers come to 36,362 killed, 126,474 wounded, 87,883 missing for a total of 250,719. Losses for September-October ’43 need to be added but these could not have been substantial.

Apparently the figures used by the author include troops that surrendered at the end of the war. That’s not the way combat losses are compared. If we look at combat losses during the period of actual fighting it is obvious that the casualty figures were not fairly balanced but the Germans had a slight advantage.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

WWII Myths – The German war economy was mismanaged

This is quite a difficult subject to fully analyze. The idea that the Germans mismanaged their war economy is one of the most enduring myths of WWII. This idea is strange considering that everyone acknowledges the ‘economic miracles’ of the period 1933-39 and of the postwar recovery. Why would the Germans do things right up to 1939 and after 1945 but mess things up in between?

Let’s start at the beginning. After taking emergency measures and restarting military production the German economy stabilized and in the mid thirties was running at full speed, meaning that the internal factors of production were fully exploited.
Before the war the main problem was how to finance the import of raw materials that were needed for the production of civilian and military goods. Here the Germans used several tricks including bilateral trade agreements and ‘stealth’ credit.  At the same time they invested in technologies that would allow them to substitute foreign raw materials with internal production (low grade German ores, synthetic rubber, synthetic fuel).

In the period 1939-41 Germany gained control of a large number of European countries BUT could not exploit their economies to the fullest because they were dependent on imports of raw materials. Since the British Royal Navy blockaded Europe those countries instead of adding to the German economy had to be supplied with scarce resources (for example coal for their energy needs and chemicals for their agriculture).
In the period 1942-44 military production increased significantly despite shortages of raw materials and a bombing campaign by the Anglo-Americans. It was this increase in production that led to the creation of the Speer myth.

According to the standard account prior to Speer’s appointment as Armaments minister in 1942 there was widespread wastage and underutilization of industry.
Speer in his memoir ‘Inside the Third Reich’ attributes the increase in production to his radical measures. In chapter 15 (aptly named ‘Organized improvisation’) he lists the main policies:

1). ‘industrial self-responsibility’ with civilian committees being responsible for each procurement program instead of Army personnel and bureaucrats who did not know how industry worked.
2). Standardization of weapons and emphasis on long term production vs the old policy of ‘frequently assigned contracts only for a limited time’.

3). Giving positions of responsibility to younger, energetic men (below 40).
According to him one of the main problems was excessive bureaucratization of the government agencies. Instead his policy was to promote personal initiative and improvisation. 

His policies seem to have been successful. For example two categories that are always mentioned are tracked fighting vehicles and combat aircraft:

Tanks and SPG
Combat aircraft

Such a rise in production must have been made possible by eliminating waste and mismanagement. What else could be the reason?

Debunking the Speer myth
Things become clearer if we look at the two largest production categories of the war economy, ammunition and aircraft.

Did the Germans produce more with less? Was mismanagement and misallocation of resources holding production back?

Ammunition production
From ‘The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy’, p575-6

The driving force of this spectacular increase, however, was anything but miraculous. To reiterate, in so far as Speer was responsible, the most important factor was ammunition. And the increased production of ammunition was not primarily an effect of rationalization or reorganization. It was a direct result of a hugely increased allocation of steel. From September 1939 to the end of 1943, there is a near-perfect correlation between the allocation of steel to ammunition production and the quantity of ammunition produced. When plenty of steel was allocated, ammunition production was buoyant. When the steel supply was restricted, so was the production of ammunition, and this relationship holds both before and after February 1942. To the extent that there was a major surge in labour productivity within the remit of the Speer Ministry, the indicator usually used to measure rationalization success, this in fact confirms the rate-limiting role of steel. Without enough raw material, neither labour nor the available industrial plant could be used efficiently.’

Hmm so when it comes to ammunition production the effects of Speer’s rationalization program seem to have been modest to nonexistent…

Aircraft production
After WWI Germany was prohibited from having a military aircraft industry. This meant that in the 1930’s, when rearmament started, the effort to rebuild this industry was constrained by the lack of industrial resources, trained manpower and aviation technology. It took years to build up factories, acquire modern aero engine technology and develop aircraft models for mass production. The Luftwaffe played a major role in the plans of the Nazi regime and thus huge resources were invested in the airforce. Did aircraft production rise as a result of Speer’s rationalization program?

The recent study ‘Demystifying the German “armament miracle” during World War II. New insights from the annual audits of German aircraft producers’ says

This paper uses the annual audit reports of the Deutsche Revisions- und Treuhand AG for seven firms which together represented about 50 % of the German aircraft producers. We question the received view by showing that in the German aircraft industry the crucial changes that triggered the upswing in aircraft production already occurred before World War II. The government decided in 1938 that aircraft producers had to concentrate on a few different types, and in 1937 that cost-plus contracts were replaced with fixed price contracts. What followed was not a sudden production miracle but a continuous development which was fuelled first by learning-by doing and then by the ongoing growth of the capital and labor endowment.
Aircraft manufacturers had already taken measures similar to those that Speer promoted so again there was no miracle in the increased production. The same study says in page 20:

‘The precise timing of the Ju88 program gives us some idea, why the concurrence of the German armament miracle and Albert Speer’s reign might just have been coincidental. It was in May 1938 when the aviation department finally decided that the Ju88 bomber would become one of the major weapons of the German air force. The firms which were chosen to participate in this program were instructed to end their established production and adapt their plants to the new design instead. Production of the Ju88 bombers started in 1939. The firms used the following two years to move down their learning curves and to realize the substantial increases in labor productivity that occurred in the early stage of a production run. Around the end of 1941 the production processes were finally broken in, and the Ju88 producers were ready to take off. In February 1942 Albert Speer became armament minister, in the middle of a seasonal downturn. This was exactly the right time to be credited with the considerable increase in the Ju88 production in the following two and a half years. This growth was not a sudden miracle made possible by Speer but the continuation of a development that started in 1938 and was fuelled by the ongoing learning effects shown by table 6 and the growth of the firms’ capital and labor endowment discussed in section 2.’

So why did the Germans produce more armaments in the period 1943-44?

The answer is simple. For the same reason they produced more in 1941-42 compared to 1939-40.
Production rose because more inputs of raw materials, capital and labor were invested. At the same time workers became better at producing weapon systems whose specifications had been fixed for a long time.

There were certainly benefits from cutting down on inefficiencies and bureaucracy but these were not the primary reasons.
The main cause for the 1943-44 ‘miracle’ was the diversion of resources from long term investment into production.

Major investments in infrastructure started in the 1930’s but took till mid war to become operational. These projects absorbed large quantities of capital and labor without contributing to the output of munitions. Once they were completed they helped boost production plus the resources that they kept occupied could be redirected to other projects.

For example tank production significantly increased thanks to the expansion of existing tank facilities and by building new factories, especially the gigantic Nibelungenwerk in Austria.

Aircraft production took advantage of investment in the expansion of aero engine capacity but also profited from the production of the same types throughout the war (Bf109, FW-190, JU-88, Ju-52, He-111 etc).
In both cases we also need to consider that production numbers were boosted by taking shortcuts. In the case of tanks there was an emphasis on vehicle production at the expense of spare parts (engines, transmissions, gearboxes etc). In the aircraft industry the impressive production numbers of 1943-44 were achieved by concentrating resources on the single engined fighters Bf109 and FW-190. These were much cheaper to build than the twin engined Ju-88 bomber. For example in terms of weight we have Bf109 - 2.250kg , FW-190 -  3.200kg compared to ~9.000kg for the Ju-88.

There are two more important issues that come up when discussing the German war economy.

Women in the workforce and butter over guns

1). German women stayed at home taking care of the kids instead of working in the factories
Actually the Germans used a larger percentage of women in their workforce than the US and UK. According to ‘The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy’, p358:

In 1939 a third of all married women in Germany were economically active and more than half of all women between the ages 15 and 60 were in work. As a result women made up more than a third of the German workforce before the war started compared to a female share of only a quarter in Britain.
And in page 515: ‘When the chief statistician of the Reich Labour Ministry investigated the issue in the autumn of 1943, using data that were very unfavorable to Germany, he arrived at the conclusion that the share of women in war work was 25.4 per cent in the United States, 33.1 per cent in Britain and 34 per cent in Germany.

2). The Germans continued to produce lots of civilian goods throughout the war because Hitler did not want to disadvantage the population
According to ‘Germany: guns, butter and economic miracles’ (chapter 4 of ‘The Economics of World War II’) ‘by late 1940 most of the consumer branches were already devoting between 40 and 50 percent of their output to the military, leaving very little for the civilian population’.

Civilian consumption was contained even by the mid 1930’s by cutting the steel allocation. According to ‘The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy’, p254:  Measured in terms of steel, the quantity of materials available for non-Wehrmacht purposes was cut by 25 per cent between March and July 1938, from a  high point of 1.345 million tons to 1.041 million tons.
The calorific content of food rations also fell after 1940-1. Although the regime tried to protect the civilian population there was never a policy of ‘butter over guns’.


The performance of the German war economy has always fascinated historians. However in order to evaluate the performance of the economy one needs to understand the major factors that limited production.
It was not wastage and bureaucratization but rather the lack of vital resources that affected production. The best way to describe the German war economy is scarcity management. The Germans responded to resource limitations by investing in new technologies (hydrogenation plants etc), in infrastructure and by shifting resources to important projects. They also substituted German workers (that were drafted by the armed forces) with forced and slave labour.

The belief that the German economy could have produced more armaments if it hadn’t been mismanaged is not supported by the evidence.

Monday, May 20, 2013

British report on military and diplomatic Polish codes

After checking my files for my essay on the reliability of TICOM reports i rediscovered a British report giving an overview of Polish codes. The British codebreakers obviously had some success with the codes of their close ally!

This report is important because it verifies the use of a stencil subtractor system on military attaché links, just as the Germans said.

The title is "Polish Cyphers 1942-1945", write-up by Jones-Williams (Berkeley St.) and it can be found in collection HW 47/2 of the British National Archives.

 You can download it from my Google docs or Scribd accounts.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

More information on the Japanese codebreakers of WWII

The book ‘Mathematics and War’ has a small chapter on the Japanese codebreakers of WWII by Setsuo Fukutomi. The author was one of these codebreakers and he mentions his work on the US strip ciphers and the M-209 machine.

This part can be downloaded as a sample at the Springer site.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Solution of Dutch Hagelin cipher machine by US codebreakers

An interesting report of the Signal Security Agency is available from the site. The title is ‘An Insecure Use of the Hagelin Cryptograph Leading to the Discovery of Messages in Depth and the Reconstruction of Base Settings - NEA’.

The site has a problem with Internet Explorer so use an alternative browser.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dienstelle Klatt – A case of Soviet deception

In their war against the Soviet Union the Germans were in need of reliable information on Soviet military capabilities and decisions. However before 1941 they were unable to organize an espionage network because the Soviet borders were hermetically sealed and the authorities kept a close eye on everyone.

After the objectives of the 1941 invasion were not realized the German intelligence agencies were ordered to work harder in order to recruit high level spies inside the SU. It was at this time that a great opportunity appeared.
A Viennese citizen named Richard Kauder (alias ‘Klatt’) who was half Jewish had agreed to spy for the Germans in order to protect himself and his family from persecution. Through his friend Joseph Schultz he met White Russian émigré General Anton Turkul who claimed that he could activate a network of spies inside the SU. This idea was presented to the head of the Vienna Abwehr station Count Marogna-Redwitz and he found it very interesting.

Kauder and his associates were allowed to organize a network and they were provided with funds and the necessary radio equipment. Their base was a villa in Sofia, Bulgaria and the group was called Dienstelle Klatt.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A spy in the Kremlin

After the fall of the Tsarist Empire and the rise of the Communist regime the British intelligence service tried to recruit spies inside the new Soviet state.

Most of the books I’ve read claim that all those efforts resulted in failure and no important sources of information were available. However I noticed that in the book ‘Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer’ by Peter Wright (former Assistant Director of MI5) there is mention of a spy in the Kremlin.
In Chapter 15, p220 we get:
I switched back, and began to press his conscience. "Have you ever thought about the people who died?" Blunt feigned ignorance. "There were no deaths," he said smoothly, "I never had access to that type of thing . . ." "What about Gibby's spy?" I flashed, referring to an agent run inside the Kremlin by an MI6 officer named Harold Gibson. "Gibby's spy" provided MI6 with Politburo documents before the war, until he was betrayed by Blunt and subsequently executed. "He was a spy," said Blunt harshly, momentarily dropping his guard to reveal the KGB professional. "He knew the game; he knew the risks."

Who was this spy? What information did he give his controller and how did Blunt compromise him? Gibson was a longtime MI6 officer who served in Turkey and Czechoslovakia but I haven’t been able to find more information on his agent.
This spy must have been the person mentioned by Walter Krivitsky when he was interrogated by the British. Krivitsky was head of the Red Army’s foreign military intelligence network in Europe in the 1930’s but he defected and managed to get to the US. There he publicly attacked Stalin in a series of articles and in 1940 visited the UK and was interrogated by the British authorities. These reports refer to him as ‘mr Walter Thomas’.

In one of these he mentions how his chief Slutsky called him sometime in 1937 and showed him information from one of their spies in Britain. This person gave the Soviets copies of the proceedings of the Committee of Imperial Defense . One of these documents had information from a Politburo meeting that clearly showed that the British had a high level agent.

 I assume that this person was ‘Gibby's spy’.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A look into the reliability of the TICOM reports

The reports I’ve used to write about Axis signals intelligence in WWII are mainly those prepared under the TICOM program.

A few days ago Frode Weierud pointed out that ‘A more serious problem is the lack of good, verifiable sources. Good scientific and historical research mandates that one try to use multiple sources, but with cryptology one is often happy to have just one single written source. The TICOM documents fall into this category. A single document does not always tell the full story and sometimes the information is incomplete and sometimes even wrong. The TICOM documents should be looked upon more as research notes than final research reports.

Now I agree with Frode that information from a single source cannot be thought to be 100% correct without further verification. However the TICOM reports seem to me to be both accurate and verifiable since different people, from different agencies, interrogated years apart give the same answers when asked about specific crypto systems. In many cases their reports can be crosschecked by using the captured German archives, decrypted German messages solved by Bletchley Park, Foreign Military Studies and/or various books and articles.

For example let’s have a look at some interesting cases:

1). Soviet 5-figure code. This was a codebook used at the highest level by the Soviet military. Its exploitation is mentioned by several people including Mettig, Huettenhain, Lingen, Dettman. All these people were high ranking officials and knew what they were talking about. Their reports range from 1945 to 1952, yet the details are the same.

TICOM reports DF-292 and DF-112 have a detailed overview of the operation and they give us the same story of significant success in 1941-42 but limited exploitation in 1943-45 due to the use of one time pad. The last two reports were written by Alexis Dettmann, head of cryptanalysis at the Army’s Intercept Control Station East and Edwin von Lingen, head of the Eastern cryptanalysis department of the Luftwaffe’s signal intelligence agency. These were the people in charge so I don’t see how their testimony could be discounted!

If someone is still not convinced there are statistics from the Finnish archives on their exploitation of the 5-figure code that show exactly the same picture (for example 36% success rate in June 1942 but roughly 1% in the period 1943-44). 

2). Soviet partisans. From summer 1943 the Germans were able to decode a part of the Soviet Partisan traffic. This was such an important task that an entire signals regiment (KONA 6) was assigned to handle this traffic.

The details we have come from reports written by several people such as Mettig (head of the Army’s signal intelligence agency in the period 1941-43), Schubert (head of the Russian section of the Army’s signal intelligence agency from 1943 onwards), Friedrichsohn (member of KONA 6). All three were part of this program and they give similar information even though their reports were written years apart (two in 1945 and one in 1947).

In addition we have a report by Abwehr personnel written in 1946 that points to considerable success by KONA 6: ‘Most successful in monitoring and decoding was Kdr der Nachrichten Aufklaerung 6, who furnished FAK III daily with decoded transcriptions of a major part of the W/T traffic between partisan and NKGB stations.’

3). Polish intelligence-Berne station. In 1943 the Germans were able to solve the traffic of the Polish military attaché in Berne that concerned intelligence operations in Europe. This is mentioned in EASI vol2 but the relevant TICOM reports (I-31 and I-118) are still classified. Still this incident is also mentioned in the book ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ by Wilhelm Flicke.

Flicke was a member of OKW/Chi (the agency that solved this traffic) and his book is based on the reports he wrote for the Americans after the end of the war (TICOM DF-116 to DF-116AL). He mentions the Polish attaché and the solution of his code in summer 1943 and in another page says that his name was Choynacki.

This information can be verified from two British sources. The recently published ‘MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949’ by Keith Jeffery mentions Major Szczesny Choynacki Polish deputy consul in Berne, whose radio traffic was compromised in summer 1943. This isn’t just another book on British intelligence but actually an authorized history, which means that the author had access to secret archives. The other document that fills the last piece of the puzzle is report DS/24/1556 which can be found in HW 40/222 ‘Poland: reports and correspondence relating to the security of Polish communications’. This report is a summary of the Polish decodes found in captured archives of OKW/Chi and reveals that some decodes were on the link London-Berne on a system identified as military attaché cypher Poldi 4. The report says ‘The Berne military attache traffic mostly dates back to June 1943..

So by all accounts Flicke and reports I-31 and I-118 seem to be very accurate!

The real culprit

The main problem, as I see it, isn’t with the actual reports but with summaries such as the ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ volumes. These suffer from a number of flaws:

1). They were written in 1945-46 with the material that was available at that time. This means that they did not have access to files and personnel that were located at a later date. For example important reports by people like Dettmann, Luzius, Marquart, Fenner, Flicke, de Bary, Kroeger, Praun, Lingen and others were not available.

2). The people who wrote them do not seem to have had a well rounded understanding of Allied, Axis and Neutral cryptologic systems and their evolution during the war.

3). There is no volume for the B-Dienst.

4). The information on the Forschungsamt is very limited.

5). The EASI volumes are not thorough. Important cases such as the compromise of the A-3 speech scrambler, the diplomatic M-138-A, the OSS strip and others are not examined in detail. If I had to guess I’d say that the authors considered that these systems were ‘civilian’ and thus the responsibility of their parent organization.

These problems can be circumvented by reading the original reports (those that are publicly available) but here the researcher faces the problem of time. There are probably close to 200 TICOM reports available online plus several other files that also deal with Axis sigint. Some of these files are quite large with hundreds of pages. Obviously if someone wants to read them all it will take some time!

Misunderstandings and confusion

Then there is the question of understanding the information. Just reading the reports doesn’t give all the details. For example if you learn that the Germans solved the US TELWA code what can you infer from that? What was TELWA? Was it an important system? In order to learn more you’ll need to check several reports that mention it and discover that it was the ‘US Telegraph code’.  With more digging you’ll finally identify it as the US War Department Telegraph Code 1942 edition. This was used in administrative traffic so it wasn’t top level but still it was an important system. There are similar problems in all the reports.

Many authors who have written about WWII signals intelligence do not have a solid understanding of what crypto systems were used by each country and at what level. Instead they just refer to the Enigma cipher machine and if there is a comparison with Allied equivalents it is with cipher machines such as SIGABA and Typex.

That is a grievous error. The Enigma was built in huge numbers and used by the German armed forces as their main cipher system. This was not true for the Allies.

The Americans used a small number of SIGABA machines in the period 1941-43. According to the official history ‘The Achievements of the Signal Security Agency (SSA) in World War II’, p41 in late 1941 75 M-134/M-134-A and 45 M-134-C had been distributed to the Army. Another report SRH-360 ‘History of Invention and Development of the Mark II ECM’ says that in October 1943 4.550 machines had been delivered (3.370 for the Navy and 1.180 for the Army).

The British used the Typex for top level communications but never had a large number of these. At the start of WWII less than 300 were in service and by May 1944 5.016 had been produced.

The Germans in comparison had more than 10.000 Enigmas at the start of WWII and built about 30.000 more. So if an author wants to compare apples to apples he’ll have to read up on the British book cyphers and the US Strip ciphers, not just their cipher machines!


My conclusion is that the TICOM reports are reliable provided that all of them are examined and especially the ones written by high ranking personnel. However in order for the information contained in them to be fully understood it is important that the reader is acquainted with the main cipher systems used by the major participants and their operational use and security.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

German AFV production 1939-45

Here are detailed production statistics for German armored vehicles. Source is ‘Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 – 1945’.

Mobelwagen 37mm
Wirbelwind 20mm
Ostwind 37mm
Kubelblitz 30mm
Stug III 75mm L/24
Stug III 75mm L/43
Stug III 75mm L/48
Stug III 105mm FH18
Stug III Gesch 33
Stu Flammwagen
Stug IV 75mm L/48
Jagd IV 75mm L/48
Sturm IV 150mm
Pz IV/70 (V) Pak42
Pz IV/70 (A) Pak42
Tiger I
Sturm Morser Tiger
Befehls Pz VI
Tiger II
Berge Panzer V
Pz IV 75mm L/24
Pz IV 75mm L/43
Pz IV 75mm L/48
Berge Panzer IV
Beobachtungs Pz IV
Befehls-Panzer IV
Pz III 37mm
Pz III 50mm L/42
Pz III 50mm L/60
Pz III 75mm L/24
Pz III flammenwefer
Berge-Pz III
Beobachtungs Pz III
Tauch-Pz III
Pz 38
Pz 38 76.2mm
Pz 38 Marder III
Pz 38 Grille
Pz 38 Aufklarer
Pz 38 20mm Flak
JagdPz Hetzer
Berge Pz 38
Pz II Luchs
Pz II Marder II
Pz II 76.2mm Pak
Pz II le.F.H Wespe
Pz I C
Pz I F
Pz I sJG 33
Pz 47mm Pak(t)