German code breaking during WW2, Part Two

Signals Intelligence, SIGINT

Signals Intelligence consists of several areas

Interception of signals ; they can be wireless , telephone lines or even public broadcasts.
Deciding what the Signals are , diplomatic , military attache , Army , Air Force or Navy.
Routing the intercept to the relevant department for analysis
Analysis can be traffic analysis , decrypting or just not a lot for plain text.
Routing the final result to the interested parties.

In the case of the germans , they were also into Cryptography. This could be producing codes and ciphers , producing guidelines on how enciphered messages should be created and handled and even analysing how safe any equipment , such as Enigma , might be. All this , especially the “how to use” bit with varying degrees of success , in all cases , not a lot was the influence they managed to exert.

The plugboard Enigma was a case in point. It was known to have weaknesses but the solution was to change the rotors. By the time this had been realised and a solution forthcoming , it was too late and they did not have the capacity to produce enough rotors. The germans still didn’t think anybody could have the resources to mount an attack on it.

There were six German organisations doing Signals Intelligence during WW2 and their “interests” were.

The Foreign Office.

Enemy , neutral or friendly diplomatic traffic

The Armed Forces High Command.

Enemy , neutral or friendly diplomatic , commercial traffic and news broadcasts.

The Army.

Enemy Army traffic

The Navy.

Enemy Naval traffic

The Air Force.

Enemy Air Force traffic

Goering’s own Research Bureau.

Enemy , neutral or friendly diplomatic traffic , news releases and broadcasts , telephone
bugging and various other types of communications.
It was considered as the Nazi Party’s own creature.

Although each of these had their own allotted areas , there was considerable overlap and varying amounts of cooperation with passing on intercepts , sharing knowledge of cryptanalysis , sharing the end result and contact between their experts.

One of the more obvious things about the TICOM reports is that the Germans could have been a lot better had it not been for inter department rivalry , conflicts of ego and sometimes , downright hatred.

None of these organisations had any inkling that the Allies were routinely breaking their Enigma traffic. There were a couple of close calls but teutonic logic told them it was impossible.

At the lower level , relationships between the six agencies were pretty good and there was a lot of cooperation. At the higher level , personal rivalries could cause problems especially in who could tell whom what to do. The sharing of intercepted material was exceptionally good and code breaking was sometimes done by more than one agency collaborating with another.

The Army , Navy and Air Force had Intelligence Regiments in the field. These , apart from the Navy , moved around with the advances , and later with the retreats and often shared locations. Their cooperation with each other was often close and they would inform the others of any successes they had.

The Armed Forces High Command was more problematic. It saw itself as the one best suited to guiding the others especially in the area of equipment and procedures but with scant reward for their efforts. They had no authority to force anyone else to follow their guidance and the usual bureaucratic inertia , clash of egos and past history ensured nothing much happened.

In the case of intercepts there were two other organisations

The Radio Defence Force (of the Armed Forces High Command)

This unit was used to monitor clandestine transmissions.

The normal police

They were often used to intercept agent’s reports back to say Moscow or London.

The Armed Forces High Command had some of the top cryptanalysts and spent some time looking at the machine created Allied codes with zero success at the highest level but with some considerable success at the lower level machines and significant success with the hand generated encryption. They were sometimes called in to assist the Army High Command people with codes they couldn’t crack themselves. They also had the people who could design the machines to encrypt the germans’ own traffic and the rules for using them but without any authority to force the rules on others.

The Army was more concerned with their immediate opposition , on the Eastern Front there were 3 regiments of Signals Intelligence , corresponding to the Northern , Central and Southern Fronts. They eventually created an extra one for the Caucasus Front. Again , their successes were similar to the Armed Forces High Command. Lower level transmissions cracked but not the higher level. They however had great success with traffic analysis such as who was transmitting to whom , when and how often.

The AirForce used traffic analysis , radiotelephone monitoring and radar monitoring plus several Allied systems had been cracked. According to a German Air Force Officer , no heavy Bomber raid came as a surprise and their penetration of the Russian Air Force was even greater.

The Navy remained somewhat aloof from the others. As mentioned before they could read Naval Cypher 3 and knew all about the Atlantic convoys before they even set out. They also knew about our attempted invasion of Norway assisted by the French before it happened and the German invasion was directly caused by knowing our plans and reacting to them.

well_chuffed, Going Postal
The last German message intercepted by the British during World War II, signaling Germany’s unconditional surrender

Goering’s Forschungsamt or Research Bureau , was the result of two members of the Abwehr Cipher Section approaching Hermann and proposing a new Intelligence Organisation. They said that the Abwehr Cipher Section was inefficient and heavily involved in departmental politics. The Abwehr was part of the Foreign Ministry. It seems that Goering did in fact , create his FA to be devoid of all the evils so prevalent in the older organisations. For example , they supplied up to one third of the intercepts used by the Armed Forces High Command even though they were looked upon with some disdain by the more academic mathematician types who worked there. There could have been some disruption with the Foreign Office , the two originators of the FA were seen as ship jumpers , but there was much cooperation between the two.

The Axis consisted of several nations. Germany , Italy , Japan , Hungary , Finland and Rumania at various times. Surprisingly , the Germans listened to all of these and tried to break their codes. In one case , they were unsure about the loyalty of the Hungarians and tested it. The results showed the Magyars could be trusted,

On the other hand , the Croats were as duplicitious as anyone would expect of the Balkans. They were supplied with Enigma machines and promptly sold the codes to the Abwehr. A salutary lesson for today , the Balkans remain the Balkans.

As far as the Italians were concerned , what could one expect. The Germans were horrified at the way the Italians worked. Generally not following procedures and compromising their systems. I’m sure everyone knows the case of the German Enigma operator who sent out a massively long message and then decide to send it out again without changing the settings. A veritable goldmine for Bletchley Park and the Italians were not much different to that one operator.

The Germans invited one of the Italians to see for himself their setup and the IBM machines they were using. The Italian was suitably impressed and returned home with a lengthy report having had a practical demonstration of how the germans could read their codes. The end result of this was that precisely nothing changed.

The Finns were taken seriously and even supplied the Germans with captured Russian codebooks. There was significant cooperation between the two sides.

The Spanish were not officially allies and as such the Germans set up some intercept stations in Spain on the quiet. When the Spanish got wind of this , the Germans had to up sticks pretty sharpish. In one case they came to an agreement whereby their Spanish equivalents would install some equipment for them , the Spanish got the equipment but never installed it , at least not for the Germans.

Although Vichy France was technically an ally , they did not share anything with the Germans and were subjected to interception and code breaking just like any other country.

In all the Germans were listening to dozens of countries each with varying levels of encoding and encipherment.

We are all aware of Ultra and breaking the Enigma codes but in 1940 the Government Code and Cypher School was working on the codes and ciphers of 26 countries involving over 150 different crypto systems. There has to be a lot more to come out on our side yet , it will probably be at least 100 years old , if not more , before any extra is released.

© well_chuffed 2018