Sunday, December 17, 2017

Criticism by Nigel Askey of the ‘Myth of German superiority on the WW2 Eastern Front’


My opinion on this matter is given in the following comparisons:






Also note the following statements by Christopher Lawrence in ‘War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat‘, p48:

We conclude from the Kursk comparison that the Germans had a clear advantage in combat capability that showed itself in both offensive and defensive casualty effectiveness and mission accomplishment. The difference appears to be a factor of 3. This difference appears in the middle of 1943, after the Soviet Army had two years of wartime experience, was using experienced units, and had time to rest, train, and rebuild before the German offensive. Yet there was still a very clear performance difference between these armies’.

and in page 50:

One cannot help but note that the relative combat performance of the Israelis and the Arabs in 1956-73 was similar in disparity to that between the Germans and the Soviets in 1943’.

Understandably the truth hurts…

Additional information: Comments on “Deutsche Militärische Verluste” by Rüdiger Overmans

Friday, December 1, 2017

Compromise of State Department communications in WWII

In the course of WWII both the Allies and the Axis powers were able to gain information of great value from reading their enemies secret communications. In Britain the codebreakers of Bletchley Park solved several enemy systems with the most important ones being the German Enigma and Tunny cipher machines and the Italian C-38m. Codebreaking played a role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa Campaign and the Normandy invasion. 

In the United States the Army and Navy codebreakers solved many Japanese cryptosystems and used this advantage in battle. The great victory at Midway would probably not have been possible if the Americans had not solved the Japanese Navy’s JN25 code.

On the other side of the hill the codebreakers of Germany, JapanItaly and Finland also solved many important enemy cryptosystems both military and diplomatic. The German codebreakers could eavesdrop on the radio-telephone conversations of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they could decode the messages of the British and US Navies during their convoy operations in the Atlantic and together with the Japanese and Finns they could solve State Department messages (both low and high level)  from embassies around the world.

Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States did not have impenetrable codes. In the course of WWII all three suffered setbacks from their compromised communications. One of the worst failures of US crypto security was the extensive compromise of State Department communications in the period 1940-44.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Progress of my FOIA cases

So far in 2017 my following NSA FOIA cases have been processed:

1). TICOM report DF-229 ‘Three reports on the work of OKW/Chi’:


2). Request for any postwar interrogation reports on Georg Schroeder, head of the Forschungsamt’s cryptanalysis department:

I received a reference to files transferred to NARA in 2016. The NARA research department checked the reference and they could not locate any file on Schroeder.

3). Special Research History SRH-361 ‘History of the Signal Security Agency Volume Two: The General Cryptanalytic Problems’:


4). Request for two Japanese TICOM reports – ‘Report on Saburo Nomura’ and ‘Interrogation of mr Hayashi’:

I copied the first one from NARA. The second has also been sent to NARA but the reference points to 36 boxes that have not been indexed, so the file could not be located by my researcher. 

5). TICOM report I-170 ‘Report on French and Greek Systems by Oberwachtmeister Dr. Otto Karl Winkler of OKH/FNAST 4’:


6). TICOM report I-40:

I requested this file in 2015 and now it has been placed in the review queue.

7). Request for TICOM report DF-196 ‘Report on Russian decryption in the former German Army’ and TICOM document 2765 ‘Die Entwicklung des russ. Geheimschriftenwesens’:

DF-196 has been placed in the review queue. TICOM document 2765 cannot be located. 

However pages 31-37 of that report are available as TICOM DF-94 ‘The development of Russian cryptographic systems’.

8). Reports ‘E-Bericht der NAAst 5’ for second half 1944:


9). Report ‘Polish cipher systems - January 1945’ (S-007.253):

The NSA FOIA office gave me a reference which the NARA research department checked without success.

10). TICOM reports I-26, I-31, I-84, I-116, I-118, I-120, I-137, I-160, I-176, I-181:


11). TICOM report DF-240 ‘Characteristics, analysis and security of cryptographic systems’ and DF-241 ‘The Forschungsamt’:


12). Carlson-Goldsberry report:

It is still in the review queue.

Overall it’s been a very good year so far as I’ve received a lot of material. Let’s hope the rest of the reports are released soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

War Over the Steppes - The Air Campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941-45

The war between Nazi German and the Soviet Union was the largest land campaign of WWII and it involved millions of troops and tens of thousands of tanks and warplanes.

In the East the Luftwaffe played a vital role by establishing air superiority, supporting the ground troops at the front, bombing important targets deep behind enemy lines and keeping the enemy under constant observation with its recon planes.

The Red Air force suffered great losses in 1941-42 but in the period 1943-45 it was rebuilt and it managed to play an important role in the actual fighting.

Until recently studies of the air war in the Eastern front were hampered by the lack of adequate sources for both participants. Authors either had to rely on the surviving Luftwaffe records, which meant they would have to use German estimates of Soviet strength and losses instead of the actual data, or they were forced to use the official Soviet post war histories, which downplayed Soviet defeats and exaggerated German strength and losses.


Hooton’s books are different from other similar works due to their emphasis on statistical analysis of the Luftwaffe operations.

His new book ‘War over the Steppes: The air campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941–45’ covers the air war in the Eastern front and the main battles between the Luftwaffe and the Red Air force.


The book has the following chapters:

1. From friends to foes: Russian and German air power 1924 to 1941.

2. Invasion and retreat: June 1941 to April 1942.

3. The tide turns: May 1942 to February 1943.

4. The Russian advance: March 1943 to April 1944.

5. Red Star triumphant: May 1944 to May 1945.

The main strength of the book is the addition of detailed tables on the strength, loss and sortie statistics for both sides. After the fall of the Soviet Union the government archives were opened to researchers and new material on WWII has became widely available. Hooton was able to take this data and incorporate it into his book, thus offering detailed and most of all reliable information for both air forces.  

I consider this book to be on the same level as ‘Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943’, meaning it is essential reading for anyone interested in military aviation history. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

British Tank Production and the War Economy, 1934-1945

All the major powers of WWII used tanks and especially in North Africa and in Europe they played an important role in the actual combat operations. Some of these tanks like the German Tiger were famous for their combat record, while others like the Soviet T-34 and American M4 Sherman were produced in huge numbers.

However both during the war and afterwards British tanks were criticized for being inferior. The design and combat performance of British WWII tanks is a subject that has received attention by historians and several authors like Correlli Barnett, David Fletcher and Peter Beale are critical of British tanks.

The new book ‘British Tank Production and the War Economy, 1934-1945’ by Benjamin Coombs covers the administrative and production history of the British tank program in WWII and its greatest strength is that it tries to explain why certain decisions were made and what effects they had regarding production numbers, tank quality and combat performance.


The book has the following chapters:

Introduction

1. Government and Industry during Disarmament and Rearmament

2. Government and Industry during Wartime

3. General Staff Requirements and Industrial Capabilities

4. The Tank Workforce and Industrial Output

5. Overcoming Production Problems and Delays

6. Influence of North America upon the British Tank Industry

Conclusion

A great review is available at amazon.co.uk by user ‘VinceReeves’ so I’ll repeat it here:

‘This is a long-needed objective view of British tank production during World War II that finally manages to eschew the hysteria and nonsense that generally attends this subject. Coombs chronicles the evolution of tank design, and the shifting priorities of production with authority and objectivity, and demonstrates how much misunderstanding has attended the controversies over real and perceived quality issues and inefficient tank production. 

Basically, British tank production underwent three stages during the war; an early stage in which tank production was downgraded in favour of more vital air defence work, a second stage in which quality was sacrificed to boost quantity production to rectify numerical deficiencies, and finally a mature third stage in which quality was emphasised, and British tanks became more effective and reliable.

Coombs makes sense of what appear to be irrational decisions to continue the manufacture of obsolete tanks long after they were required - more often than not this was undertaken to keep production facilities and skilled labour within the tank programme so that they would be available when newer tanks were ready for introduction.’

If you are interested in military history and you want to learn more about the British tank program then this book is a valuable resource.

For me the value of the book is that it helps explain German victories in N.Africa in 1941-42. The Germans benefited by fighting against an opponent whose tanks constantly broke down. In the period 1943-45 the British tanks became more reliable because a determined effort was made to thoroughly check and fix flaws and a high priority was assigned to spare parts production.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Waiting for the Carlson-Goldsberry report...

I have one more essay that I’m going to upload and it covers, in some detail, the compromise of State Department communications in WWII.

Ideally I would like to get a copy of the Carlson-Goldsberry report from the NSA’s FOIA office but if that doesn’t happen soon I’ll just go ahead and post it anyway. If I need to update it I’ll do so in 2018.

Let’s hope I get lucky and the file is released soon.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The code of mr Seymour Parker Gilbert - Agent General for Reparations to Germany

After the Allied victory in WWI, the leaders of the US, UK and France imposed harsh peace terms on the defeated Germans. Germany (and the other defeated Central Powers) had to make reparations to the Allied countries.

The problem was that the payments that the German government was supposed to make were so great that they would bankrupt the country. Due to German unwillingness and inability to service the payments the Allies resorted to military measures such as the occupation in 1923 of the Ruhr industrial area.

In order to defuse the situation and find a realistic solution to the reparations problem the Dawes Plan was implemented. Allied troops would leave the Ruhr area and the German government would resume payments, after receiving a US loan that would revitalize the German economy.

In Germany the Allied representative responsible for monitoring the German compliance with the Dawes plan was mr Seymour Parker Gilbert and his official title was Agent General for Reparations by the Allied Reparations Commission.

It seems that the German government closely monitored Gilbert’s communications and was able to solve some of his encrypted traffic to New York (Federal Reserve bank), Paris and Rome.

Documents of the German Foreign Ministry’s decryption department Pers Z, captured at the end of WWII, show that his messages were solved by the German codebreakers:



Source: TICOM report DF-15 ‘Reports of Group A’ (US National archives - RG 457)

Additional information: Gilbert’s 1927 report.