Sunday, January 14, 2018

Joint Chiefs of Staff evaluation of Office of Strategic Services ciphers

In 1943 and 1944 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff evaluated the cryptosystems used by the various US government agencies.

For example the report on State Department codes and ciphers for 1943 can be found in the NSA website and the report of 1944 is in the US national archives, in collection RG 457- Entry 9032- box 1384 - 'JCS Ad hoc committee report on cryptographic security of government communications'.

The ciphers of the Office of Strategic Services were also evaluated and there is some information on this topic in the US national archives, specifically Record Group 226 - Series: Correspondence Files, 1942 – 1946 - File Unit: 17) Cryptographic Security:

Unfortunately there are no detailed reports on the subject but from the information presented above it seems that even as late as 1944 OSS communications were sent on vulnerable cryptosystems (double transposition and M-138-A cipher).

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mission accomplished?

As I said in a previous essay I started this site because I wanted to move away from history forums and create my own space in the internet.

Since then I think that I have written many essays of real historical value, especially in the field of cryptology. I am satisfied that I’ve covered in detail all the cases that interested me, whether they dealt with general military history, performance of weapon systems, wartime economic history or spies and cryptology.

I did this on my own without support from a university, think tank or government organization.

The remaining cases that I am going to pursue in 2018 are the following:

1). Carlson-Goldsberry report: I am waiting for the NSA to declassify this document. Once they do I’ll add the information in my essays on State department codes and the Finnish codebreakers.

2). Remaining freedom of information act cases: I have to wait for the declassification of TICOM reports I-40 and DF-196. Once I received them I will upload them to my Google drive and Scribd accounts but I doubt they will have any new information not already mentioned in the other TICOM reports.

3). Files in the US National archives: During the year I will check again with NARA’s research department regarding the NSA files that I was unable to locate in 2017. Specifically the TICOM report ‘Interrogation of mr Hayashi’ and the two German reports E-Bericht der NAAst 5’ for second half 1944. Unfortunately there are no guarantees that these files will be located.

Apart from that I’ll also keep an eye out for anything interesting like academic articles, release of new material to the archives, new books etc. I am especially interested in the following topics:

1). Office of Strategic Services codes and ciphers, especially any postwar evaluation of their cipher security.

2). The wartime achievements of the Soviet codebreakers and the codes and ciphers of the Red Army.

3). The Soviet cryptosystems solved by the Anglo-Americans in the period 1945-48. Unfortunately the NSA history BOURBON to Black Friday: The Allied Collaborative COMINT Effort against the Soviet Union, 1945-1948 has many chapters deleted. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Overview of 2017

2017 turned out to be a very productive year. During 2017 I copied material from government archives in Germany, US and UK, I received a lot of material from the NSA’s freedom of information act office and I also benefitted from the release of interesting files that were uploaded to the NSA and CIA FOIA websites.

Some of my friends also shared important reports with me and I did my best to repay them by giving them some of my material.

1). Regarding original essays, I wrote the following:

2). I also added new information and pics in various older essays:

The American M-209 cipher machine (I added notes and information from various sources)

Wartime exploitation of Turkish codes by Axis and Allied powers (I added decoded Turkish diplomatic messages)

Soviet partisan codes and KONA 6 (I added information from the TICOM report I-26)

The Japanese FUJI diplomatic cipher 1941-43 (I rewrote parts and added information from TICOM I-181)

Japanese codebreakers of WWII (I added new links and uploaded a PDF file with the decoded US diplomatic messages)

Svetova Revoluce and the codes of the Czechoslovak resistance (I added information from the report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’ and the essay ‘STP cipher of the Czechoslovak in-exile Ministry of Defence in London during WWII’)

Decoding Prime Minister Chamberlain’s messages (I added information from TICOM DF-241 and from ‘British Intelligence in the Second World War- volume 2’)

Soviet cipher teleprinters of WWII (I added information from the TICOM reports DF-240 and DF-241)

Compromise of Soviet codes in WWII (I rewrote parts and added information from various sources)

The Slidex code (I added the British Air Support Signals Unit card No. 1)

3). I uploaded the following files and links:

American Cryptology During the Cold War 1945-1989, Book I (NSA website)

4). I posted the following book presentations:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Criticism by Nigel Askey of the ‘Myth of German superiority on the WW2 Eastern Front’

My opinion on this matter is given in the following comparisons:

Also note the following statements by Christopher Lawrence in ‘War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat‘, p48:

We conclude from the Kursk comparison that the Germans had a clear advantage in combat capability that showed itself in both offensive and defensive casualty effectiveness and mission accomplishment. The difference appears to be a factor of 3. This difference appears in the middle of 1943, after the Soviet Army had two years of wartime experience, was using experienced units, and had time to rest, train, and rebuild before the German offensive. Yet there was still a very clear performance difference between these armies’.

and in page 50:

One cannot help but note that the relative combat performance of the Israelis and the Arabs in 1956-73 was similar in disparity to that between the Germans and the Soviets in 1943’.

Understandably the truth hurts…

Additional information: Comments on “Deutsche Militärische Verluste” by Rüdiger Overmans

Friday, December 1, 2017

Compromise of State Department communications in WWII

In the course of WWII both the Allies and the Axis powers were able to gain information of great value from reading their enemies secret communications. In Britain the codebreakers of Bletchley Park solved several enemy systems with the most important ones being the German Enigma and Tunny cipher machines and the Italian C-38m. Codebreaking played a role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy invasion. 

In the United States the Army and Navy codebreakers solved many Japanese cryptosystems and used this advantage in battle. The great victory at Midway would probably not have been possible if the Americans had not solved the Japanese Navy’s JN25 code.

On the other side of the hill the codebreakers of Germany, JapanItaly and Finland also solved many important enemy cryptosystems both military and diplomatic. The German codebreakers could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone conversations of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they could decode the messages of the British and US Navies during their convoy operations in the Atlantic and together with the Japanese and Finns they could solve State Department messages (both low and high level)  from embassies around the world.

Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States did not have impenetrable codes. In the course of WWII all three suffered setbacks from their compromised communications. One of the worst failures of US crypto security was the extensive compromise of State Department communications in the period 1940-44.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Progress of my FOIA cases

So far in 2017 my following NSA FOIA cases have been processed:

1). TICOM report DF-229 ‘Three reports on the work of OKW/Chi’:

2). Request for any postwar interrogation reports on Georg Schroeder, head of the Forschungsamt’s cryptanalysis department:

I received a reference to files transferred to NARA in 2016. The NARA research department checked the reference and they could not locate any file on Schroeder.

3). Special Research History SRH-361 ‘History of the Signal Security Agency Volume Two: The General Cryptanalytic Problems’:

4). Request for two Japanese TICOM reports – ‘Report on Saburo Nomura’ and ‘Interrogation of mr Hayashi’:

I copied the first one from NARA. The second has also been sent to NARA but the reference points to 36 boxes that have not been indexed, so the file could not be located by my researcher. 

5). TICOM report I-170 ‘Report on French and Greek Systems by Oberwachtmeister Dr. Otto Karl Winkler of OKH/FNAST 4’:

6). TICOM report I-40:

I requested this file in 2015 and now it has been placed in the review queue.

7). Request for TICOM report DF-196 ‘Report on Russian decryption in the former German Army’ and TICOM document 2765 ‘Die Entwicklung des russ. Geheimschriftenwesens’:

DF-196 has been placed in the review queue. TICOM document 2765 cannot be located. 

However pages 31-37 of that report are available as TICOM DF-94 ‘The development of Russian cryptographic systems’.

8). Reports ‘E-Bericht der NAAst 5’ for second half 1944:

9). Report ‘Polish cipher systems - January 1945’ (S-007.253):

The NSA FOIA office gave me a reference which the NARA research department checked without success.

10). TICOM reports I-26, I-31, I-84, I-116, I-118, I-120, I-137, I-160, I-176, I-181:

11). TICOM report DF-240 ‘Characteristics, analysis and security of cryptographic systems’ and DF-241 ‘The Forschungsamt’:

12). Carlson-Goldsberry report:

It is still in the review queue.

Overall it’s been a very good year so far as I’ve received a lot of material. Let’s hope the rest of the reports are released soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

War Over the Steppes - The Air Campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941-45

The war between Nazi German and the Soviet Union was the largest land campaign of WWII and it involved millions of troops and tens of thousands of tanks and warplanes.

In the East the Luftwaffe played a vital role by establishing air superiority, supporting the ground troops at the front, bombing important targets deep behind enemy lines and keeping the enemy under constant observation with its recon planes.

The Red Air force suffered great losses in 1941-42 but in the period 1943-45 it was rebuilt and it managed to play an important role in the actual fighting.

Until recently studies of the air war in the Eastern front were hampered by the lack of adequate sources for both participants. Authors either had to rely on the surviving Luftwaffe records, which meant they would have to use German estimates of Soviet strength and losses instead of the actual data, or they were forced to use the official Soviet post war histories, which downplayed Soviet defeats and exaggerated German strength and losses.

Hooton’s books are different from other similar works due to their emphasis on statistical analysis of the Luftwaffe operations.

His new book ‘War over the Steppes: The air campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941–45’ covers the air war in the Eastern front and the main battles between the Luftwaffe and the Red Air force.

The book has the following chapters:

1. From friends to foes: Russian and German air power 1924 to 1941.

2. Invasion and retreat: June 1941 to April 1942.

3. The tide turns: May 1942 to February 1943.

4. The Russian advance: March 1943 to April 1944.

5. Red Star triumphant: May 1944 to May 1945.

The main strength of the book is the addition of detailed tables on the strength, loss and sortie statistics for both sides. After the fall of the Soviet Union the government archives were opened to researchers and new material on WWII has became widely available. Hooton was able to take this data and incorporate it into his book, thus offering detailed and most of all reliable information for both air forces.  

I consider this book to be on the same level as ‘Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943’, meaning it is essential reading for anyone interested in military aviation history.