Skip to comments.WWII Espionage Secrets Revealed
Posted on 01/16/2009 10:04:12 AM PST by nickcarraway
ESPIONAGE secrets which changed the course of World War II will be uncovered at a talk in Inverness next week.
The Enigma code machine was used by German forces to transmit confidential information before and after the war and the Allies attempts to capture Enigma machines and break their codes have featured in films and books such as "Enigma" and "U-571", but former policeman John Alexander will reveal some of the facts behind the fiction at a lecture organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) at the Kingsmills Hotel on Wednesday.
"The Enigma machine was taken on by the German military, starting in 1926," Alexander explained.
"The system meant that no-one could or should have been able to read those messages, only the German forces with the correct machine and settings. For much of the time that's fine, but when war does really come along Bletchley Park comes on the scene and they effectively become a factory designed to break into those messages. This is really important because it talks about their operations, what they are going to attack and when and what they know about our strength. To have an inside track on what your enemy is thinking and planning is most important.
"The Germans were no slouches themselves, but they never created anything like Bletchley Park."
It is the Bletchley Park cypher-breaking complex in Buckinghamshire which is credited as being the birthplace of the computer age. Among the tools used by the Allied code-breakers was Colossus, the world's first programmable, digital, electronic computer created to break the code carried by the big brother of the Enigma system, Lorenz, which used 12 coded rotor wheels rather than the four to eight of Enigma machines and was used by Hitler to communicate with his generals.
Important as Enigma and Lorenz were to the history of Bletchley Park and the outcome of the war, Alexander points out these were only some of the similar code machines in use during the period.
"I tell some of the history of Enigma, but put it into the context of some of these other systems as well," he explained.
"It's interesting to know the Norwegians were using this machine, the Italians were using a similar machine and the Americans used essentially the same machine as well, so there's a lot of movement in cypher systems prior to World War II and much of them are just not known to the general public."
Alexander now has a collection of around 14 museum quality code machines, including genuine Enigma machines, similar contemporary machines from other countries and their post-war derivatives.
"It really has become a little bit of an addiction," he admitted. "I don't change my car very often. The car is less important than getting the machines in."
His interest in the Enigma machine began with a general interest in World War II history.
An Enigma machine.
"Like so many people I tend to get a little bit fascinated with spying and espionage," he explained.
"I became a radio ham and then, as more information came out about Bletchley Park and the Enigma machine, I had a terrible urge to go out and collect a cypher machine for my own interest."
Enigma was too expensive for his pocket at the time, so he began his collection with a more affordable machine, but eventually saved up and bought his own Enigma. He is also a regular visitor to the museum at Bletchley Park where: "If I'm not allowed to take the machines out, I'm still allowed to play with the post-war models."
While he reckons there are only a dozen main collectors in the world, Alexander says it is relatively easy to amass a collection if the money is available.
"Pretty much 90 per cent of my collection will appear on eBay over two or three years," he said.
"An Enigma like mine good enough to get into a museum you can get for £20,000, but you can get lesser versions, something suitable for the doorstop for £8000.
"The Germans made a commercial model which everybody could buy.
"It's not as hard to break as the military version, but it's a very different kettle of fish."
The free talk, to which non-IET members are welcome, begins at 7pm. There will be a display of Alexander's collection of code-breaking machines and a power-point lecture, followed by refreshments.
America Newspapers and Media are all part of the propaganda machine. If you watch the tv media closely, all they do is read from the teleprotor machine. Its all controlled; even the voting machines. Hitler couldnt do a better job with the technology they have today.
“The Enigma machine was taken on by the German military, starting in 1926,” Alexander explained.’
Most don’t realize just how effective the Enigma Machine actually was. Nor do they know it was the primary system, then the primary back up, for the US Submarine Force up through the early 1980’s.
The US Navy version had twelve rotors, as opposed to the German’s original Enigma, which I think had only three.
I know, I rewired em every month for three years between 1978 and 1981.
Way way ahead of its time, which makes the ‘breaking’ of it even more impressive looking back.
Hogan’s Heroes was based in fact.
I think the Germany Navy machines had four rotors, and the Wehrmacht/SS machines had three.
Thanks. It took several hours to rewire during ‘end of month’ prep for the Navy’s version. Pretty sure it was discontinued shortly after 1981.
I’m not familiar with it. I just know what I did as a crypto supervisor ‘back in the day’.
Indeed. Goebbels, were he not too busy dealing with the fires of hell, would be extremely jealous, I have no doubt.
I never had the secret decoder ring, but I had the Secret Squadron jacket patch from Captain Midnight.
Said Ambrose: He did.
This same ww2 espionage secret has been “revealed” by the media every month for like the last 30 years.
As usual the press has it all wrong.
I became a history student, in 1976 after reading Anthony Brown’s “Body Guard of Lies”. It was possible to write about it then, because of the Freedom of Information Act.
For the next 9 years I studied WWII sig/intel. Cryptography is an interesting field. It’s impact on the War was huge.
Lots of good literature in the open for years.
Of course the press does not have a clue.
I started with Paper Tape Punches at Digital. What a mess.
Wow...I was a ‘tape cutter’ out of RM A school at Comsublant back in early 1979. Must be nice today not having to deal with THAT system.
Our version used 10 out of 20 rotor set and fir set switched coupled with a mechanical rotor stepping scheme. By 1950’s we used the KLB-47 which used 10 out of 20 rotors and attachable stepping rings. In fact these were commercially sold by Teletype Corp. But they were far more complex in that they included not only the aphabet but also number as several special characters.
The CSp-2900 unit with a skilled person could accommodate a badly garbled message and decode it. That was impossible with the KLB-47.
Everything is digital now and far more complex then the DES standard.
for the military history ping list
I’ve found Enigma to be fascinating since Winterbotham’s book, “The Ultra Secret”. It’s a huge part of how we won the war — we were reading their codes and they weren’t reading ours.
oops, meant you...
for the military history ping list
Ive found Enigma to be fascinating since Winterbothams book, The Ultra Secret. Its a huge part of how we won the war we were reading their codes and they werent reading ours.
I knew a guy who worked intelligence in the Pacific; he actually did some work on the IJN codes. I once asked him two questions that he did not answer:
1. How much were the Axis able to penetrate our codes?
2. Did we read British and Russian traffic, and vice versa?
There are some things we just aren’t supposed to know, I guess.
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