Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seabourne reports available online

The Seabourne reports describe the organization and operations of the Luftwaffe’s signal intelligence agency in WWII. They were written in the postwar period by the US authorities.

Randy Rezabek of Ticom Archive has done us all a favor and uploaded some of the volumes. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Italian WWII signals intelligence reports in the US National Archives

Here is something for my Italian friends. There are some interesting files in the US National Archives and Records Administration, in collection RG 457, entry P-11. I don’t have the means to copy these documents by maybe someone else does. In that case here is what you need to know:

Box – number - title

23 - 5472N - lists of Captured Italian Documents -1943 -1945
51 - 7353N - PAl Instructions for the Use of the Italian Army Mnemonic Re-encipherment System "S" TICOM 755

51 - 7354N - PAJ Instructions for the Use of the Italian Army Grille Cipher System "K2" TICOM 756
51 - 7355N - PAJ Instructions for the Use of Secret System for Indicating Topographical Positions, TICOM 757

51 - 7356N - PAJ Explanation of the Italian System of Re-ciphering with Blocks of Subtractive Tables. Army. TICOM 758
51 - 7357N - PAJ Description of the Italian Army Cipher System ‘W’ TICOM 759

51 - 7358N - PAJ Additive Re-encipherment Systems -Italian, TICOM 760
114 - 10185 - 4 PAJ G-2 intelligence Report D-137: The Italian Republican Intelligence Service, TICOM

115 - 10767 - "Italian Communications Intelligence Organization". Report by Adm. Maugeri with U.S. Navy Introduction
140 - 42134N - PCH 99999 BB Cryptographic Codes and Ciphers: Italian Codes System Referred to As "E-2"

140 - 42135N - PCH 99999 Cryptographic Codes and Ciphers: Italian Code Referred to as "Cifrario Speciale"
142 - 45470 PCH CAMJ6 - Codes and Ciphers: Italy

167 - 47712A - Italian Cryptography
167 - 47709A - Interrogation Reports - Italian

If you do get these files please put them online so we can all read them!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NSA monitored the traffic of 35 world leaders

According to the Guardian new documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA spied on the private communications of 35 world leaders. Surprisingly it seems that the Americans did not get much out of this operation:

But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced "little reportable intelligence’’.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book review - Red Storm Rising

Since author Tom Clancy passed away this month it is only fitting that I review one of his books.

Red Storm Rising was his second published book, way back in 1986. At that time the Soviet Union ruled over a large part of the planet and its military forces were equipped with modern equipment.  Although the ‘evil empire’ was close to collapse nobody knew it at the time.

After the defeat of the USA in the Vietnam War, the late 1970’s –early 1980’s saw a resurgence of Soviet influence in global politics. US president Ronald Reagan countered the Soviets by starting an arms race and by supporting anti-Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and in Afghanistan.
In that sense Clancy’s book is a product of the Reagan militarism of the 1980’s. The roles are clearly defined with the Soviets being evil and trying to conquer the world while the Americans are the force of democracy and freedom. The Soviets have numbers on their side, while the Americans have to rely on technology and initiative. It sounds a bit simplistic but I think that in this book it works out.

The story starts in the Soviet Union when a group of Afghan ‘freedom fighters’ attacks an important Soviet oil facility and manages to blow it up. The shortfall in oil production has catastrophic consequences for the already faltering Soviet economy and thus the Soviet leadership decides to conquer the Middle Eastern oil fields. Since this action will lead to a global war the KGB carries out an attack against the Kremlin that leads to the death of schoolchildren and pins the blame on a West German national. This gives them an excuse to attack West Germany for supposedly organizing this attack.

Initially the NATO forces are caught by surprise and suffer serious reverses. Soviet naval troops manage to occupy Iceland and the fighting in Germany is going badly for the Western side.
The Soviet goal in the Atlantic is to shut down the transfer of troops and munitions from the US to Europe. In order to achieve that goal they rely on long range bombers equipped with cruise missiles. Their first attack against a US convoy leads to heavy losses for the US side and even carriers are sunk. The Americans then respond by attacking the bomber bases and retake Iceland.

In Germany the fighting is costly for both sides but the NATO countries use their superior airforces to stop the Soviet attack and a surprise counterattack by the new M1 Abrams tanks breaches the Soviet front and dismantles their rear positions.
With their conventional attack defeated the Soviet leadership is ready to authorize the use of nuclear weapons. This disastrous scenario forces General Alekseyev (commander of the Soviet forces in the West) to take matters into his own hands and using a loyal division he storms the Politburo and arrests the communist leadership.

The book ends with both sides coming to the negotiating table but with NATO having the upper hand militarily.

It should be noted that although the Soviets are the bad guys they are not all evil. The communist politicians and the KGB are shown to be duplicitous and amoral but the military officers are brave, honorable and willing to sacrifice themselves in order to achieve victory.

One thing that can be held against Clancy is that in order for the good guys to win some weapon systems do things that they were not designed to do in real life! For example the US forces use the stealth aircraft F-117 (called F-19 in the book) to take out Soviet long range radar planes. The problem is that this plane was not designed for aerial warfare but for ground attack missions. In another part of the book the naval F-14 fighters use their long range missiles in order to shoot down Soviet bombers. First of all long range missiles of that era had a very poor record. In this specific case things would be even worse since the F-14’s did not use their radar for guidance but instead relied on the onboard optical system…

Overall this is an enjoyable novel, although a bit dated. You will get most out of it if you are already interested in the military equipment of that era.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Interesting documentary on Yom Kippur war

The Al Jazeera media organization released an excellent documentary on the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the first episode at about 27:38, a Palestinian who took part in the conflict says something very interesting. On the first day of the war the Syrians captured an Israeli station on Mount Hermon. Once the facility was secured Soviet and East German personnel came and removed the equipment.

What kind of equipment could it be? Since it was a major Israeli signal intelligence outpost they were possibly cipher machines and specialized sigint equipment…
Well played comrades!

NKVD codes of WWII – part 2

I’ve given an overview of the cipher systems used by the Soviet NKVD organization and their exploitation by German codebreakers here.

Two of the most important systems were the ciphers used by the operational troops of the NKVD for communications from Regiment upwards.
From German reports it is possible to identify their original designation and the one given to them by the Germans. According to Alexis Dettmann, head of cryptanalysis at the German Army’s cryptanalytic centre in the East Intercept Control Station East - HLS Ost the high level systems were:


These enciphered codes were used on the links GUP NKVD-Front staff-Division-Brigade-Regiment.
A monthly report of Inspectorate 7/VI says that the main cipher system of the security and operational troops of the NKVD (Sicherungs u operative Truppen NKWD) had the original designation 039W and the German designation was R4 ZC 1100 (4 figure code with additive encipherment).

The replacement was 049W, introduced in September 1944 (with the exception of the 4th Ukrainian front). The German designation was R4 ZC 2750. This code was enciphered twice with numerical sequences. Despite this fact it was possible to solve messages due to mistakes in encipherment and stereotyped beginnings.

This information complements and supports the validity of TICOM report DF-112, written by Dettmann.

Friday, October 18, 2013

German report on solution of M-209 cipher machine

Some time ago I received this request by mr Mark Blair:

‘DF-120 (TICOM 2794) makes reference to another document, TICOM 2795 "Determination of the Absolute Setting of the AM-1 (M-209) by Using Two Messages with Different Indicators".

Do you know if that document has been declassified, and if it is available anywhere?’
I recently stumbled upon the answer:

This is TICOM report DF-105 ‘Determination of the absolute setting of the AM-1 (M-209) by using two messages with different indicators’.

I don’t have this file but anyone can request it from the NSA’s FOIA office. If you do get it please share!

Monday, October 14, 2013

SOE cryptosystems – The German view

I have already given an overview of the main cryptologic systems used by the British SOE organization in WWII here. The basic systems were double transposition using a poem as a ‘key’ generator, double transposition with prepared ‘keys’ and letter one-time pad.

A more detailed analysis of the SOE ciphers and their indicator system is available from report CSDIC (UK) S.I.R. 1106 ‘German wireless intercept and counterespionage activities’ (Nov ’44) by Miersemann, a member of Referat Vauck.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I added a paragraph from PWIS(H)/KP/694 - 'Report on Interrogation of PW Gefr WEIGEL, Fortunat - German Wireless Intercept and SD Activities' – May 1945 in Activity report of Referat Vauck – February 1944.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Combat report of Soviet 10th Tank division - August 1941

An interesting file is available from site marksrussianmilitaryhistory. It is a report of the Soviet 10th Tank division, detailing the operations of the unit during June and July ’41.

According to site at the start of the German invasion the 10th division had the following tanks: 181 BT-7, 30 T-26 and OT-26, 51 T-28, 38 T-34 and 63 KV for a total of 363.
The unit suffered heavy losses in the Ukraine, which according to table VI came to 100 BT-7, 24 T-26, 44 T-28, 32 T-34, 56 KV for a total of 256 vehicles. Basically the unit was demolished.

The report is useful because it gives information on the reliability and combat performance of Soviet tanks, especially the new KV and T-34 types.
Let’s have a look at parts of the report that I found especially interesting:

[The original Russian transcript came to me from Mr. Charles Sharp. It is a report signed by the commander of the 10th Tank Division, dated 2 August 1941.)

III. Equipment Performance
During the fighting every vehicle accrued at least 135 engine hours, and from 22 June through 9 July 1941 wheeled vehicles traveled approximately 300 km. From the beginning of combat operations until 2-3 July each combat vehicle was operating an average of 10 to 13 hours each day, and during this time the situation was such that there was no opportunity to carry out the appropriate mechanical inspections, which could not but affect vehicular performance. The operating conditions for the vehicles were unbelievably severe. The terrain itself where the tanks were operating was broken, marshy in some places and sandy in others. Most of the bridges were able to support light vehicles. Vehicular loads were excessive since missions, as a rule, were drawn up without considering the mechanical state of the machines. Movements were sometimes up to 200 km a day—for example, those to Volochissk, Proskurov, and the Ulanov area (Petrikovtsy).

IV. Characteristics of the KV and T-34 Tanks
KV and T-34 tanks basically possessed high combat qualities: strong armor and good armament. On the battlefield KV tanks smashed enemy armor and in every instance their tanks retreated.

The division’s soldiers and commanders spoke of their tanks as very reliable machines. But along with these qualities they had the following defects:
1) For the KV tanks:

a) Under the impact of shells and large-caliber bullets, the turret ring and armored cupolas can jam.
b) The diesel engine has little reserve power, resulting in it being overloaded and overheating.

c) The main and side clutches break down.
2. For the T-34:

a) Hull armor is penetrated at 300 to 400 meters by a 37-mm antitank round. Side armor is penetrated by a 20-mm antitank round. When crossing ditches the low set of the vehicle causes its nose to dig in, and traction with the ground is insufficient due to the relative smoothness of the tracks.
b) With a direct hit by a shell the driver’s front hatch collapses.

c) The vehicle’s treads are weak—any round takes them off.
d) The main and side clutches break down.

All defects of the KV and T-34 tanks, along with recommendations, were reported in detail to the chief of the Main Automotive-Armored-Tank Directorate [nachalnik Glavnago avtobronetankovogo upravleniya], Lieutenant General of Tank Troops Fedorenko, and the chief of the Automotive-Armored-Tank Directorate of the Southwest Front, Major General of Tank Troops Morgunov.

Comment: Despite saying that ‘The division’s soldiers and commanders spoke of their tanks as very reliable machines’ the report also mentions serious problems with the engine, clutches and tracks of the T-34 and KV. Considering the distances covered and the fact that, according to the report, only limited repairs were possible this is not unexpected.

However the performance of the armor under fire is not what one would expect. In theory both tanks should have been secure from the German 37mm A/T gun and even the 50mm gun of the Panzer III at most combat ranges. Yet the report says that simple hits rendered the KV non-operational by jamming the turret ring and the T-34 is stated to be vulnerable to the 37mm at 300-400 meters. Even the lowly 20mm seems to have been capable of disabling the mythical T-34 tank! These statements may be exaggerations/mistakes or alternatively they could be proof of problems in Soviet tank construction in 1941.


During combat operations the division’s repair resources accomplished the following:

Of these:
No in order
Vehicle type and model.
Number of
Armored cars

Comment: If we take the ratio of faults per vehicle then only the KV has a ratio of over 1, the rest of the vehicles are below 1. Alternatively one can say that 24% of the T-34’s and 35% of the KV’s needed serious (medium) repairs.


Of the 800 wheeled vehicles brought into the campaign there were lost: 210 in combat; 34 due to mechanical failures or lack of fuel and lubricants and then left behind with their drivers and surrounded by the enemy; 2 destroyed at a collection point for damaged machines when they could not be evacuated during the general retreat; 6 vehicles were stuck in bad terrain and impossible to evacuate; and 41 were abandoned during their units’ retreat due to mechanical failures and the impossibility of repairing them.
So from these figures, of 307 combat vehicles the division lost 153, or 50%, on the battlefield the; stuck in bad terrain—21, or 7%; destroyed at collection points for damaged vehicles—20, or 7%; and lost due to mechanical failures and the inability to repair or evacuate them—95, or 31%.

Thus, almost half of the combat vehicles were put out of service as a direct result of combat, but the greater part of the second half were lost due to mechanical failures during the division’s retreat or destroyed at collection points for damaged machines.

Comment: It was to be expected that during a retreat many damaged but salvageable vehicles would be lost when the enemy overruns them. This was a common occurrence in WWII.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Activity report of Referat Vauck – February 1944

In the course of WWII the Germans conquered and occupied most European countries. In order to get intelligence from the occupied areas and to form resistance groups the Allies sent spies equipped with radio sets.

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 the occupied countries 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.
Now I’ve tried to find more about the work of dr Vauck but I’ve hit a brick wall.

Still there’s more than one way to skin a cat…
Here is a report of Referat Vauck for February 1944:


Google translation with corrections by Frode Weierud:
Referat 12:

In the O.U. Zinna were processed the traffic of the LCA network with the agent callsigns QYZ, WOS, RCJ, SFY, PYM, ROY, SIA, OIN, REF, furthermore the lines 9171 (SAM), 9811 (VY, RQ), 175 (SPE), 9853 (RGE ) and 9815 (without Ag.Z.). Among the latter, cipher documents were received from the colleagues detached to the branch control centre in Paris (Aussenleitstelle Paris). Further, in the case "Normandy" address material that turned up was deciphered and the courier cipher (Playfair) was reconstructed. 8 courier letters of the Belgian ND (Nachrichtendienst — intelligence service) and further address material were deciphered (ez.mäßig — entziffungsmäßig gelöst).
The department itself deciphered 372 messages from the LCA network. In the ongoing 8 Gv plays (Gv — Gegenverkehr, counter traffic, radiogame) in the region of Paris 101 messages were deciphered and enciphered.

The processing of line 3014, Paris-Moscow, has been completed after decryption of the last 19 messages.
No report has yet been received from Brussels about the work of Uffz. Richter and Miersemann, who have been detached there. Also from Lyon and Marseille are there still no work reports.

During this month 262 messages from the Czech MBM network were broken (decrypted). By analyzing the solution it was possible to secure further parts from the presumed book used as a cipher key.
65 messages of the Rote Drei were decrypted, so that now 382 broken messages are available. The order for a cipher change — transition to fixed mixed Caesars — was detected in mid-December. The change of the cipher key book happened already at the beginning of August 42. The key for the Sissy-messages resulted in the solution of a message from December 42.

To understand the incoming but still unresolved traffic arriving at Ag WNV / Fu a cooperation was started with the responsible person there, Uffz. Kegel.
Total output of the unit in the month of February 819 messages.

Regarding the ‘Normandy’ case according to Wilhelm Flicke’s ‘War Secrets in the Ether’ vol2, p244

‘Normandy case’ (French Section) – When German radio defense picked up two agents in Montlucon on 1 May 1944, an Englishman, Major Southgate, fell into the net. Since January 1942 he had built up in France in the areas of Tours, Poitiers, Limoges and Toulouse special transmitting groups and had organized numerous parachute deliveries of arms and explosives. A study of the captured material enabled the Germans to identify 62 places used for parachute drops.
The LCA net refers to Western agents. What agencies were using the call signs mentioned in the German report? SOE? Free French? Poles? All of the above?

Some of the same agents callsigns appear in the report PWIS(H)/KP/694 - 'Report on Interrogation of PW Gefr WEIGEL, Fortunat - German Wireless Intercept and SD Activities' – May 1945

Weigel was a member of Aussenstelle Paris in 1944.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Internet throwdown - Fred Reed vs ‘the Fighter Mafia’

An interesting article with the title Pay Attention and Think Fast was posted recently at takimag by Fred Reed.

Mr Reed attacks the so called ‘Fighter Mafia’, a group of US officers and civilian analysts that gained fame in the 1970’s and 1980’s by arguing that the US military and its procurement program were in dire need of reforms.
Led by Colonel John Boyd the group promoted several scientific theories such as the Energy–maneuverability theory and the OODA (observe, orient, decide, and act) loop. In terms of weapon systems they were critical of overdependence on ‘magical’ technologic solutions and instead they wanted cheaper, more reliable and more numerous weapons.

At the time they had the facts on their side since overreliance on technology had led to poor performance of the US military in the Vietnam War. The USAF had invested in radar and long range missiles for its fighters expecting them to destroy enemy aircraft at long ranges. They even went so far as to remove the guns from their fighters as dead weight. Unfortunately the ‘miracle’ weapons did not work as expected in battle conditions and the USAF had to hastily reintroduce guns and the necessary training for its pilots.
Now to every point there is a counterpoint. Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

'Their song was, and is, that America needed simple, robust, reliable weaponry such as the Soviet Union was said to have, instead of the over-technologized equipment that the US favored. The M1 tank “wouldn’t work,” they said, because sand would destroy its turbine engine, because it would be helpless if its electronics failed, and because the driver’s compartment was so small that only a midget could fit in it. (So help me, they said this.) The F15 fighter was too big, too heavy, too lacking in maneuverability for air-to-air combat, and its use of radar and BVR missiles—Beyond Visual Range—was flatly unworkable. (I hear eyes glazing over, but military guys will be interested.) In particular, the AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missile “wouldn’t work.”

The Reformers were, except for Lind, con men. They were also spectacularly wrong, as the Gulf War was to prove. More of this shortly.’

Here is another quote that will probably anger fans of Russian tanks!
‘Covering them was fascinating if depressing. They said that Soviet armor was “simple and robust.” I went to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and talked to the enlisted men who worked with captured Soviet tanks. Yes, they said, the Russian tanks were simple, but robust? They broke down constantly and were exhausting to drive because of stiff manual transmissions.’

They regularly (and, I think, deliberately) confused complex with unreliable.

Long-range missiles were in their infancy and did not work terribly well. Ignoring the common experience that what works sort of today will work a lot better tomorrow and like gangbusters by next Thursday, Boyd and the Fighter Mafia wanted a philosophical Sopwith Camel.

Quoting from Air Force Magazine:
What really took the ginger out of the Reform movement was the Gulf War. In that war, high technology undeniably worked. Its star performers included the much-maligned F-15 and all of the other systems that had been attacked by the Reformers.

Of the 40 USAF aerial victories, 33 were by F-15s. As for weapons used, 23 of the victories were by AIM-7Ms, five were by AIM-9Ms, and only two were with guns.
These are interesting arguments and although I haven’t read extensively on the ‘Fighter Mafia’ I do understand some of the concepts they introduced.

For example their opposition to the F-15 was due to the cost of the aircraft and the fact that the USAF was constantly building heavy planes with a low ratio of power/weight. Such planes suffered in terms of maneuverability and acceleration compared to the more lightweight Soviet fighters.
As for the criticism on radar and long range missiles it is still valid today. A plane that has stealthy exterior but a powerful radar will be like a flashlight in a dark room. If it uses it will signal its position to the enemy. If it doesn’t then it will be flying in the dark. Also long range missiles like the AIM-7 had a poor record in combat. The AIM-120 is supposed to be lethal but it has only been used against opponents like Iraq and Serbia…

Moreover one should be careful in evaluating complex weapon systems based on their performance against a developing country. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not have the military equipment or the training to go head to head with the US. (However he did have equipment that was quite good for the time, including T-72 tanks and Mig-29 fighters. I am also skeptical of the counterargument that Iraqi forces had ‘monkey’ models of Soviet weapons. Those are Russian excuses for the poor performance of their weapon systems)
In any case I think both sides have valid arguments.

For those who want to read more on the Fighter Mafia’s arguments there is the ebook ‘America’s Defence Meltdown’, this interview of Winslow Wheeler at C-Span and an interview of Pierre Sprey at youtube.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

German report on traffic analysis in the Eastern Front

An interesting file is available from site numbersoddities.

This is the report:
German exploitation of Russian communications through Traffic Analysis during World War II, Prepared under the direction of the CHIEF, ARMY SECURITY AGENCY 1 May 1946 WDGAS-U, [Declassified and approved for release by NSA on 11-30-2009 pursuant to E.O. 12958, as amended. DECLAS 58017a]

This is the same file as volume 9 of ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’, already available from the NSA site. However this version is better for searching key words, as the text has been transcribed from the scanned pages.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tom Clancy passed away this week

Author Tom Clancy passed away on October 1st. Clancy had made a name for himself by writing novels which pitted US intelligence officers against Soviet, Chinese and Middle Eastern adversaries.

Clancy was no Shakespeare but his books were enjoyable although a bit simplistic since the USA was always a force of good and the enemies were usually the standard evil terrorists/Russians/Chinese/Iranians etc
I’ve read several of his books including ‘Red Storm Rising’ and ‘Red Rabbit’ and the movie ‘The Hunt for Red October’ (based on his book by the same name) is worth seeing.