German code breaking during WW2, Part Six

well_chuffed, Going Postal

Failure , such a negative word but there are degrees.

The Germans’ biggest failure was to not find out about the Allies cracking their military Enigma machines as well as two types of teletype. They got tantalisingly close in Poland but shrugged off what seemed to be a breach as luck.

One of their other big failures was not cracking the Japanese “purple” code. This had been done by an American in the 1930s , this was later passed to the British so they could read Japanese messages that were using “purple”. The Japanese had “red” and “purple” codes , both created by machines. Everybody , including the Germans cracked “red” but only the Americans cracked “purple”. Everything passed to the Japanese in Berlin was immediately sent back to Tokyo using “purple”. The Americans and eventually the British , having been presented with the solution by the Americans , were able to read these messages unbeknown to the Germans.

The Foreign Office was rather civil service like in its ways ; jealously guarding its secrets and territory. There was little cooperation between it and other organisations other than the fact that Goering’s Research Bureau and the Post Office did a lot of intercept work for it. The Armed Forces Signals Intelligence people tried to take over all control of the codes , ciphers and machines used but the Foreign Office resisted to the bitter end. They had remarkable success with diplomatic codes and some military attache codes , which logically belonged to the Armed Forces people but with better cooperation , things would have been better.

The Armed Forces Signals Intelligence people were probably the cream of the bunch. They tried to take over cryptography for all branches but failed. They did analysis on their cipher machines but their advice was usually ignored. They found theoretical weaknesses in codes , ciphers and machines but had no power to enforce any changes. They did theorise that the military Enigma had weaknesses but could not believe anyone could put in the massive effort required to crack it. They knew the commercial Enigma (minus plugboard) could be cracked and put forward propositions for further modifications on top of the plugboard. None were ever acted on.

When one of the three other military branches had difficulty with a code and/or cipher , they would ask for help from the Armed Forces branch. When the solution was available , an analyst went with the solution and tended to stay there. There was a steady dilution of talent.

The Naval Signals Intelligence was also aloof and at the higher levels wanted nothing to do with the others. At a lower level there was cooperation but when they were at the same locations as Army and Luftwaffe people then there may have been little other choice.

There was little real cooperation with their allies other than the Finns (at war with the Russians) , who they found were just about up to German standards in cryptanalysis – they exchanged solved Russian code and ciphers. The German opinion of the Italians was not fit to print and they had much the same opinion about the others, The Japanese gave little away and likewise the Germans in their case. The Austrian Signals people were absorbed into the German military. The Hungarians sold back code solutions to the Germans that had been given to them by another part of the German Signals people , good business if you can manage it.

Although there were German successes , there would surely have been more had it not been for the top cryptanalyst at the Armed Forces section whose motto seems to have been “If I don’t know about it then it isn’t possible”. A rather teutonic attitude if I may suggest , having worked among them for several years.

Bletchley Park had one advantage , they had a limited number of German codes and ciphers to attack whereas the Germans had many. There were five military branches , the Foreign Office and Goering’s Research Bureau all trying to crack codes. Had they pooled resources and set up a central branch to handle the difficult stuff , it would have been better. It never happened because of arrogance , mutual dislikes , jealousy and distrust. Luckily *cough* we had none of those things on our side.

On the Allied side there were also failures ….

They did not know the German Foreign Office had a Signals Intelligence section
They did not know about Goering’s Research Bureau
They surely did not know how many of their codes/ciphers had been compromised

And the weirdest “success” that has ever come to my notice when it seems the RAF pilots flying over Burma were listened to by the Japanese until they started speaking French to each other (presumably with an exaggerated english accent) and this “code” was never broken.

© well_chuffed 2018