Axis History Forum

This is an apolitical forum for discussions on the Axis nations and related topics hosted by Marcus Wendel's Axis History Factbook in cooperation with Michael Miller's Axis Biographical Research, Christoph Awender's WW2 day by dayand Christian Ankerstjerne’s Panzerworld.

Skip to content

If you found the forum useful please consider supporting us. You can also support us by buying books through the AHF Bookstore.

ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Discussions on the intelligence operations and espionage of the Axis, Allies and neutral states.

ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby deathlibrarian on 22 Jan 2013 05:01

In terms of looking at WW2, it is really intersting how pivotal the ULTRA code breaking program was.
To me, with the Allies breaking cracking the Enigma machines and the regular ability to read German codes, it looks like it was pivotal in winning the war for two theatres, The Atlantic, and North Africa.

Could Germany have won the war without the Allies and their Ultra program?
deathlibrarian
Member
Australia
 
Posts: 5
Joined: 22 Jan 2013 04:54

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby LWD on 22 Jan 2013 13:57

Without the allies? yes. Without Ultra? no.
User avatar
LWD
Member
United States
 
Posts: 8251
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby deathlibrarian on 22 Jan 2013 15:31

Yep, I agree Germany probably wouldn't of won, if the Allies didn't have ULTRA. But reading about the North Africa Campaign, I think highly likely the Allies would have lost the whole campaign if ULTRA wasn't giving them advanced moves. They also would have probably wouldn't have lost the Battle of the Atalantic.

The flow on affects of Germany winning these two theatres to the overall Axis war effort would be interesting. Decreased supplies to the UK from the US because of effective U boat warfare. Britain loses North Africa, which could have encouraged Italy to stay in the war, and also possibly Spain and Turkey to join. 300,000 German and Italian troops not captured in North Africa, are now free to elsewhere.
deathlibrarian
Member
Australia
 
Posts: 5
Joined: 22 Jan 2013 04:54

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby paspartoo on 22 Jan 2013 16:58

deathlibrarian wrote: In terms of looking at WW2, it is really interesting how pivotal the ULTRA code breaking program was.


How did you figure that? Seems to me that the role of codebreaking is vastly exaggerated for the Allied side (it was very important for the Germans though).

deathlibrarian wrote:To me, with the Allies breaking cracking the Enigma machines and the regular ability to read German codes,


Yet for most of the war the only key they read regularly was the Luftwaffe’s general administrative key RED.

deathlibrarian wrote:it looks like it was pivotal in winning the war for two theatres, The Atlantic, and North Africa.


I don’t think codebreaking was important in the Atlantic, traffic analysis and direction finding were. As for N.Africa even the question of Rommel’s convoy losses is hard to attribute to codebreaking only, nor were the losses heavy.
A simple economist with an unhealthy interest in military and intelligence history.....
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com/
paspartoo
Member
Greece
 
Posts: 709
Joined: 07 Feb 2009 13:35

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby LWD on 22 Jan 2013 18:33

deathlibrarian wrote:Yep, I agree Germany probably wouldn't of won, if the Allies didn't have ULTRA. But reading about the North Africa Campaign, I think highly likely the Allies would have lost the whole campaign if ULTRA wasn't giving them advanced moves.

I'm not at all convinced of that. The allies had a logistical edge and once Torch went in the Axis would have been fighting on two fronts.
They also would have probably wouldn't have lost the Battle of the Atalantic. ...

HuffDuff was probably more important to the Atlantic than Ultra. In any case once the alled production of escorts and transports was ramped up there was little the Germans could do to win that battle. They could only make it more or less expensive for the allies.
User avatar
LWD
Member
United States
 
Posts: 8251
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby Carl Schwamberger on 23 Jan 2013 02:21

Only systematic or near so review of the usefulness of Enigma decrypts I am familiar with is in Holts 'The Deceivers' . Holt notes the incidents where the Brits were able to help monitor effects of their deception ops via the German radio traffic. The histories that touch on the Battle of the Atlantic seem vague on counts or estimates of the numbers for useful decrypts or incidents where the decrypts made a difference. Beyond that the books I have read are very uneven on the subject. Enigma decrypts were useful in the Normandy battle, tho it is not clear how critical they were, outside of warning of the scope of the attack near Mortain.

Perhaps not being a expert on the subject has misled me but it looks like a research opportunity.
Carl Schwamberger
Forum Staff
United States
 
Posts: 5238
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby deathlibrarian on 23 Jan 2013 05:18

If you look at the supplies to Rommel, Sir Harry Kinglsey, an Historian who was at Benchley Park with Ultra, said that 40% - 60% of Rommel's shipped supplies were destroyed, because of ULTRA decrypts. Hinsley, Francis Harry (1993), British intelligence in the Second World War also said ULTRA was pivotal in aiding shipping to cutting supplies to Rommel.
Winterbotham, writing in "The Ultra Secret" said "It was Ultra which denied all seaborne supplies to Rommel's retreating army and forced him to withdraw right into Tunisia".
That's just the supply issue.
The Allies had ULTRA intel on the attack on Crete, and the heavy losses sustained by German paratroopers, forced Hitler to abandon attack on Malta...which kept it in Allied hands as a base.
Additionally, Ultra decrypts gave advance knowledge of Axis movements that aided the Battle of Alam el Halfa, the Second Battle of El Alamein and Operation Torch.
The one time the Allies *ignored* ULTRA intel, at Kasserine Pass, they underestimated Axis forces and sufferred for it.

At times, Rommel very nearly succeded in winning in North Africa. Without Ultra, it would seem from my reading, the Allies would have been in some trouble and quite possibly have lost the campaign.
deathlibrarian
Member
Australia
 
Posts: 5
Joined: 22 Jan 2013 04:54

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby Michael Kenny on 23 Jan 2013 05:48

I believe this is a variation of the 'never beaten in a fair fight' excuse for German defeats.
Rommel had very effective signals intel too but l presume he was that good he didn't really need it to win any of his battles!.
Michael Kenny
Member
United Kingdom
 
Posts: 2620
Joined: 07 May 2002 19:40
Location: Teesside

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby paspartoo on 23 Jan 2013 08:43

deathlibrarian wrote:If you look at the supplies to Rommel, Sir Harry Kinglsey, an Historian who was at Benchley Park with Ultra, said that 40% - 60% of Rommel's shipped supplies were destroyed, because of ULTRA decrypts. Hinsley, Francis Harry (1993), British intelligence in the Second World War also said ULTRA was pivotal in aiding shipping to cutting supplies to Rommel.


Many of the things Hinsley claimed can be described as exaggerations. Check here about the Axis convoys:

viewtopic.php?f=75&t=187116

http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.gr/2 ... nvoys.html

deathlibrarian wrote:The Allies had ULTRA intel on the attack on Crete, and the heavy losses sustained by German paratroopers, forced Hitler to abandon attack on Malta...which kept it in Allied hands as a base.


Yes the first part is true but the second is wrong. Malta was not assaulted for several reasons , the main one was that Rommel’s advance led the Germans to send him the combat planes and supplies that would be used against Malta.

deathlibrarian wrote: Additionally, Ultra decrypts gave advance knowledge of Axis movements that aided the Battle of Alam el Halfa, the Second Battle of El Alamein and Operation Torch.
The one time the Allies *ignored* ULTRA intel, at Kasserine Pass, they underestimated Axis forces and sufferred for it.


Alam el Halfa is important but I haven’t read on the battle so I can’t say if sigint was vital or not. For the other cases I don’t see how sigint played a role. You seem to lump Enigma as one thing. Each service used several types of different ‘keys’.

deathlibrarian wrote:At times, Rommel very nearly succeded in winning in North Africa. Without Ultra, it would seem from my reading, the Allies would have been in some trouble and quite possibly have lost the campaign.


If Rommel had more supplies at the front he would have won with or without Ultra. Maybe if the Americans could send him some C-17 transports! :lol:
A simple economist with an unhealthy interest in military and intelligence history.....
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com/
paspartoo
Member
Greece
 
Posts: 709
Joined: 07 Feb 2009 13:35

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby deathlibrarian on 23 Jan 2013 14:24

Interesting - looking from those stats for shipping losses, it looks like the British only sunk around 20%... not the 40 - 60% that Kinglsy claimed. Big difference. I must admit, from what I have read, the shipping sunk seemed a lot more that that, though this could be the confusion relating to Rommel exagerating his supply problems.

Oh thanks for the info on Malta - yes clearly the Paratroopers bad experience in Crete was not the deciding factor, my bad!

No, I wasn't trying to argue that the Germans were 'never beaten in a fair fight'....after all, Rommel had intel as well - both sides used it.

El Alemain, quick to hand I found:
"On 30 August 1942 German and Italian forces breached the Alamein minefields and headed south in an attempt to outflank the Allied forces. Deciphered German codes – dubbed ULTRA intelligence by the Allies – allowed the Allies to track Rommel’s intended movements and they pounded his columns with artillery and from the air."
http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-nor ... el-alamein

"On August 31, 1942, Rommel launched what he believed would be the final attack in the Axis drive to the Nile. The British, however, had made extensive preparations around E1 Alamein, based on a plan developed by Auchinleck and adopted by Montgomery. The British commander also had the advantage of knowing Rommel's intentions through Ultra intercepts. "
Zabecki, David "Battlefield North Africa: Rommel's rise and fall." By: T., World War II, 08984204, Mar97, Vol. 11, Issue 7

"Hoping to catch the British off-balance, Rommel attacked south from the Mareth Line on March 6. Spearheaded by 140 tanks, it was the most potent offensive Rommel mounted since arriving in Tunisia. It would also be the last. Warned by Ultra intercepts, Montgomery was waiting. The Germans ran into skillfully prepared anti-tank defenses and lost 52 tanks. Right after the failure of the Medenine attack, Rommel returned to Germany a sick man. Arnim assumed overall Axis command, and Messe took command in south Tunisia. "
Zabecki, David "Battlefield North Africa: Rommel's rise and fall." By: T., World War II, 08984204, Mar97, Vol. 11, Issue 7

Ultra decrypts not only affect Supply by sea, but also by air:
"Aided by Ultra decrypts, Allied air and naval forces first shut down German sea lines of communication between Sicily and North Africa. By April 1943, the Axis partners were reduced to moving supplies and reinforcements across the Mediterranean by air alone. Here again, Ultra revealed their movements, and waiting Allied fighters fought off accompanying Luftwaffe aircraft to slaughter the Ju-52 transports. The end came in early May with the surrender of the remaining German and Italian forces in North Africa."
Murray, Williamson, "TRIUMPH OF OPERATION TORCH". By: World War II, 08984204, Nov2002, Vol. 17, Issue 4


Operation Torch: From what I read about Operation Torch, the Axis communication traffic was simply not mentioning it (Ie no news is good news), so the Allies knew it would be a suprise, and there would be no prepared resistance (similiar for landing in Italy)
http://www.topedge.com/panels/ww2/na/intelligence.html
deathlibrarian
Member
Australia
 
Posts: 5
Joined: 22 Jan 2013 04:54

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby paspartoo on 23 Jan 2013 15:34

In El Alamein Rommel had to attack frontally against a dug in opponent. I don't see how sigint played an important role. Same with the other cases you mentioned.

Codebreaking played a role in various ways but you have to look at each theatre and each service separately. For example German police messages gave information on the situation in occupied areas, abwehr messages betrayed secret ops etc etc. However if you are looking for war winning moments i don't think they exist.
A simple economist with an unhealthy interest in military and intelligence history.....
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com/
paspartoo
Member
Greece
 
Posts: 709
Joined: 07 Feb 2009 13:35

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby LWD on 24 Jan 2013 15:14

deathlibrarian wrote:... At times, Rommel very nearly succeded in winning in North Africa. Without Ultra, it would seem from my reading, the Allies would have been in some trouble and quite possibly have lost the campaign.

Did he? Certainly not from my reading. Also from other discussions on this board the logisitics problem wasn't getting supplies to North Africa it was getting them to the front from the ports. There's no question that Ultra was useful but my impression is that it was most useful in a strategic sense. North Africa was a lost cause for the Axis as far as I can see simply due to logistical reasons.
User avatar
LWD
Member
United States
 
Posts: 8251
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby Polar bear on 30 Jan 2013 19:02

hi,

LWD wrote:...the logisitics problem wasn't getting supplies to North Africa it was getting them to the front from the ports.


IMO it was both. The RN´s and RAF´s attacks on the Italian tankers and fuel-carrying freighters prior to Rommel´s last attack at El Alamein on September 1, 1942, was AFAIK quite successful and decisive.

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)
User avatar
Polar bear
Member
Germany
 
Posts: 2176
Joined: 25 Sep 2010 15:49
Location: Hanover, Lower Saxony

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby paspartoo on 30 Jan 2013 20:26

Polar bear wrote:hi,

LWD wrote:...the logisitics problem wasn't getting supplies to North Africa it was getting them to the front from the ports.


IMO it was both. The RN´s and RAF´s attacks on the Italian tankers and fuel-carrying freighters prior to Rommel´s last attack at El Alamein on September 1, 1942, was AFAIK quite successful and decisive.

greetings, the pb


Which battle are you referring to? First Alamein was in July, Second Alamein in October. For July fuel deliveries were 23.901 (89% of sent). For Second there’s 12.308 (48%) in October but previous month had 31.061 (77%) so you can say it evens out.

For the Axis the main problem is that they cannot move supplies to the front because their main ports are way back in Tripoli and Benghazi. Also keep in mind that they don’t have that much oil to send to N.Africa. For example in October the total sent was 25.771. Even if all of it went through how much would reach Rommel…
A simple economist with an unhealthy interest in military and intelligence history.....
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com/
paspartoo
Member
Greece
 
Posts: 709
Joined: 07 Feb 2009 13:35

Re: ULTRA/Enigma code breaking and Germany in WW2

Postby Polar bear on 30 Jan 2013 20:58

[quote="paspartoo]
which battle are you referring to? First Alamein was in July, Second Alamein in October. …[/quote]

I said September 1, didn´t I ? ... this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alam_el_Halfa

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)
User avatar
Polar bear
Member
Germany
 
Posts: 2176
Joined: 25 Sep 2010 15:49
Location: Hanover, Lower Saxony

Next

Return to Intelligence Operations and Espionage

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot] and 0 guests