Skip to comments.The Spanish Link in Cracking the Enigma Code
Posted on 03/25/2012 12:05:24 PM PDT by nickcarraway
A pair of rare Enigma machines used in the Spanish Civil War have been given to the head of GCHQ, Britain's communications intelligence agency. The machines - only recently discovered in Spain - fill in a missing chapter in the history of British code-breaking, paving the way for crucial successes in World War II.
A row of senior Spanish military and intelligence officers stand upright in a line in front of a long elegant table in the country's Army Museum in Toledo. In front of them are two modest, slightly battered wooden boxes that are the subject of the day's unusual and high-powered gathering.
Inside they contain a key part of Britain's code-breaking history.
With their lids open, the distinctive black and white keypad and rotors of an Enigma machine used to encrypt communications can be seen.
Enigma machines, developed originally in Germany in the 1920s, were the first electromechanical encryption devices and would eventually carry the country's military communications during World War II. The cracking of that code at Bletchley Park would play a key role in shortening the war and saving countless lives.
The story of how these machines on the table in Spain helped pave the way for Britain's historic wartime achievement is largely unknown.
A non-commissioned officer found the machines almost by chance, only a few years ago, in a secret room at the Spanish Ministry of Defence in Madrid.
"Nobody entered there because it was very secret," says Felix Sanz, the director of Spain's intelligence service.
(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.co.uk ...
It was the Poles who played the key role in decrypting the Enigma.
Very interesting post. Thanks!
You must have missed in the article the line or two about the pre-war start the Poles got on cracking the code, and the French-brokered sharing with the British.
Absolutley true. The Spanish "contribution" was to send what essentially were training messages that gave the British confidence. According to Roger Kahn, the German military enigma was effectively unbreakable in principle, using 1940's technology, even with the Polish contribution. The British relied on German sloppiness and lack of disciple, in other words, poor COMSEC practices.
The problem for the Germans was that the operators did not believe that anyone would expend the kind of effort required to break the enigma machines. Other than poor COMSEC, the Germans gave the British lots of help. On Hitler's birthday, birthday greetings from the various Army commands gave the British a pretty reliable plaintext crib. On occassion, one command would complain that a message had been sent using the old key, the offending command would obligingly retransmit it in the NEW (!) key. The first transmission in the old key only risked the message sent in that key, by retransmitting in the new key, they divulged the new key to anyone who had the old key!
Read Kahn's book, it's fascinating.
Bump for later