The Turing Bombe: Was It Enough?

In the Cryptologia article by C.A. Deavours and Louis Kruh, The Turing Bombe: Was It Enough?, Cryptologia, Vol. XIV, No.4, October 1990, pp. 331‐349, there is on page 342 a facsimile of a teleprinter message which contains a cipher text in three parts. These three parts had been enciphered on the German Army’s Enigma machine.

First of all the date given for this message as 21 September 1939 is wrong, it should be 21 September 1938. Secondly on page 346 the decrypts of the three parts are given in German with the indication that they contain garbles. This is true, but nevertheless difficult to understand why, as the three parts as given in the facsimile can be decrypted almost 100% without garbles. The only error is the 24th group in part II, YRORP, which should be XRORP.

The three parts have been successfully decrypted and are set out below. First as the separate three parts and then as an assembled, but still 100% authentic decrypt in German. To ease understanding and translation this completely assembled whole has then been rewritten in more standard German with punctuation and abbreviations in full.

It should be stressed that the construct Z X ZT which the Cryptologia authors thought was a possible map reference is meant to be z.Zt which is a very common German abbreviation for zur Zeit, at this moment.

The essential part of the facsimile is given below.


Teleprinter message:

Fernschreiben H.F.M.No. 563

+ HRKM 13617 1807 -
AN HEERESGRUPPENKOMMANDO 2=             06 18 24 (FRX)
2109 - 1750 - 3 TLE - FRX FRX -          1TL - 172=

                        01 07 09 (In pencil; AGI)
HCALN UQKRQ AXPWT WUQTZ KFXZO MJFOY RHYZW VBXYS IWMMV WBLEB
DMWUW BTVHM RFLKS DCCEX IYPAH RMPZI OVBBR VLNHZ UPOSY EIPWJ
TUGYO SLAOX RHKVC HQOSV DTRBP DJEUK SBBXH TYGVH GFICA CVGUV
OQFAQ WBKXZ JSQJF ZPEVJ RO -

2TL - 166 -             25 02 05 (In pencil; YBE)
ZZWTV SYBDO YDTEC DMVWQ KWJPZ OCZJW XOFWP XWGAR KLRLX TOFCD
SZHEV INQWI NRMBS QPTCK LKCQR MTYVG UQODM EIEUT VSQFI MWORP
RPLHG XKMCM PASOM YRORP CVICA HUEAF BZNVR VZWXX MTWOE GIEBS
ZZQIU JAPGN FJXDK I -

3TL - 176 -             12 21 14 (In pencil; LUN)
DHHAO FWQQM EIHBF BMHTT YFBHK YYXJK IXKDF RTSHB HLUEJ MFLAC
ZRJDL CJZVK HFBYL GFSEW NRSGS KHLFW JKLLZ TFMWD QDQQV JUTJS
VPRDE MUVPM BPBXX USOPG IVHFC ISGPY IYKST VQUIO CAVCW AKEQQ
EFRVM XSLQC FPFTF SPIIU ENLUW O =
1 ABT GEN ST D H NR. 2050/38 G KDOS +

Note:
The starting positions, 01 07 09 in the case of part I, was not part of the original teleprinted message, but had been added in pencil on the received message form as an aid in the deciphering process. I have added as well the starting positions in letters, 01 07 09 corresponds to AGI.

Decrypts:

Part I:

AUF BEFEHL DES OBERSTEN BEFEHLSHABERS SIND IM
FALLE X Z X ZT X UNWAHRSCHEINLICHEN X FRANZOESISQEN
ANGRIFFS DIE WESTBEFESTIGUNGEN JEDER ZAHLENMAESSIGEN
UEBERLEGENHEIT ZUM TROTZ ZU HALTEN X

Part II:

FUEHRUNG UND TRUPPE MUESSEN VON DIESER EHRENPFLIQT
DURQDRUNGEN SEIN X ABS X DEM GEMAESS BEHALTE IQ
MIR DIE ERMAEQTIGUNG ZUR PUFGABE DER BEFESTIGUNGEN
ODER AUQ VON TEILEN AUSDRUECKLIQ

Part III:

PERSOENLIQ VOR X ABS X AENDERUNG DER ANWEISUNG
X OKH X GEN X ST X D X H X ERSTE ABT X NR X DREI DREI
ZWO EINS X DREI AQT G X KDOS X VOM JULI EINS NEUN DREI AQT
BLEIBT VORBEHALTEN X DER OBERBEFEHLSHABER DES HEERES

Completely assembled German message:

AUF BEFEHL DES OBERSTEN BEFEHLSHABERS SIND IM
FALLE X Z X ZT X UNWAHRSCHEINLICHEN X FRANZOESISQEN
ANGRIFFS DIE WESTBEFESTIGUNGEN JEDER ZAHLENMAESSIGEN
UEBERLEGENHEIT ZUM TROTZ ZU HALTEN X
FUEHRUNG UND TRUPPE MUESSEN VON DIESER EHRENPFLIQT
DURQDRUNGEN SEIN X
ABS X DEM GEMAESS BEHALTE IQ MIR DIE ERMAEQTIGUNG
ZUR PUFGABE DER BEFESTIGUNGEN ODER AUQ VON TEILEN
AUSDRUECKLIQ PERSOENLIQ VOR X
ABS X AENDERUNG DER ANWEISUNG X OKH X GEN X ST
X D X H X ERSTE ABT X NR X DREI DREI ZWO EINS
X DREI AQT G X KDOS X VOM JULI EINS NEUN DREI AQT
BLEIBT VORBEHALTEN X
DER OBERBEFEHLSHABER DES HEERES

Rewritten German text:

Auf Befehl des Obersten Befehlshabers sind im Falle,
(z.Zt =) zur Zeit unwahrscheinlichen, Französischen Angriffs
die Westbefestigungen jeder zahlenmässigen Überlegenheit
zum trotz zu halten.

Führung und Truppe müssen von dieser Ehrenpflicht
durchdrungen sein.

Dem gemäss behalte ich mir die Ermächtigung zur Aufgabe
der Befestigungen oder auch von Teilen ausdrücklich
persönlich vor.

Änderungen der Anweisung OKH/Gen/St/D/H Erste Abt Nr. 3321/38
G/KDos vom Juli 1938 bleibt vorbehalten.

Der Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres.

English translation:

The Commander-in-Chief orders as follows:
In the case of French attacks on the western fortifications,
although unlikely at this moment, those fortifications must be held
at all costs, even against numerically superior forces.

Commanders and troops must be imbued with the honour of this duty.

In accordance with orders, I emphasise that I alone have the right
to authorise the fortifications to be abandoned in whole or
part.

I reserve the right to make changes to the order OKH/Gen/St/D/H
1. Abt. Nr. 3321/38 GKDos of July 1938.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Comments on the translation:

I am indebted to Ralph Erskine who has verified my translation and proposed various improvements. The translation has been kept as close to the German text as possible, however it is not a literal translation. It has been attempted to make the translation easily understandable in the English language and to use British Army idioms (i.e Commander-in-Chief) where applicable.

The German word Westbefestigungen means literally western fortifications and has been retained as such in the given translation, even if it could be interpreted to simply mean western front. A major fortifications in this sector was the French Maginot Line, but the message clearly does not refer to this. It is therefore likely that it is the West Wall or the Siegfried line which the message refers to. According to The Oxford Companion to the Second World War the construction started in 1936 and accelerated in 1938 when the Todt Organization employed 500,000 workers and consumed one-third of Germany’s annual output of cement to complete it. It eventually ran for 300 miles (480 km), opposite the Maginot line.

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Copyright © 1998, Frode Weierud


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