First cases of "electronical warfare"

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David Lehmann
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First cases of "electronical warfare"

Post by David Lehmann » 16 May 2006 16:38

Hello,

In 1940 ther are reports of French listening posts (mainly artillery) intercepting German not coded communications. The Germans were often overconfident and caught on their positions by French counter-battery fire. The power of the French infantry / artillery couple as opposed to the German tanks / aviation couple is well illustrated by the Gembloux battle were many assaults were defeated thanks to artillery concentrations. German divisions' HQs were quickly detected by French listening posts and they were immediately under French artillery fire.

One can even see the first examples of "electronic warfare" (radio) during WW1. Before 1914, none of the belligerants had a project of "electronical warfare". Only listening, interception and decoding of messages were seen as eventually possible.

Concerning the organization of the signals in France in 1914 there are 2 important officers to mention :

Commandant Ferrié, in charge since 1899 of developping the TSF and testing it (e.g. in Morocco in 1908). He was also responsible of the radio/listening post installed in the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower played an important strategic role during WW1. It becomes a communication centre linked to the forts in Eastern France.

Commandant Cartier commands a signals engineer company (wire communication) from 24e Bataillon du Génie (becoming later 8e Régiment du Génie and 8e Régiment de Transmissions). He becomes then secretary of the the "commission de cryptographie militaire" (military cryptologists).
In 1911, he has the task to improve the coding of the TSF communications with Russia and Great Britain and he is in charge of the proper functioning of all the system.
In 1912, he is chief of the newly created "section chiffre du Ministère de la Guerre" (Cryptology -- keys/codes -- of the Ministry of War).
Already before 1912, when he was part of the 2e Bureau, he obtained the listening of the German and Italian signals.
The "section chiffre du Ministère de la Guerre" had at first the main task to code and decrypt telegrams. The mission was enlarged with the creation of a "bureau central de TSF" with the stations in Belfort, Epinal, Maubeuge, Toul and Verdun.

At the beginnig of WW1, the radio signal traffic was very low. The different French stations had the task to intercept German communications. As soon as August 11-12, 1914, the German networks were reconstituted and identified (frequencies, codes, HQs etc.). Cartier could then give to the French High-Command a complete organization chart of the German armies, corps and cavalry divisions (except von Kluck's 1st Army, which was not yet engaged).

Someone noticed intensity discrepancies in the listening between the different stations (according to their position and range to the listened target). That enabled to locate roughly the enemy radio station and to trace the moves of the German Army HQs. Therefore, beginning September, Cartier was able to give the intel about the changes in the moves of the 1st and 2nd German armies. This was then double checked thanks to aerial reconnaissance.

An example of "electronical warfare" deals with the Zeppelin raids over France and Great Britain. The listening operations enabled to give the departure of these raids (the Zeppelin making trials with their radio sets) adn therefore to warn the defences. The Zeppelin used radio signals for their navigation. These liaisons were jammed with success by France and Great Britain. Several poeple indicate even that we managed to give them wrong targets.
The return of the Zeppelin to their base was then more difficult. It was noticed that the German Zeppelins used the radio station of the Eiffel tower as key point for their navigation. During the raid of October 19, 1917, Ferrié stopped this station which was replaced by a station in Lyon-La-Doua. As a consequence, one Zeppelin ended in Sisteron (southern France) and an other was lost in the Mediterranean Sea due to this change.

Interceptions and localization played an important role in the naval operations led by the British during WW1 (e.g. Jutland battle). The French navy could also follow German ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

Regards,

David

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Intercept Station Roubaix

Post by Dave Bender » 17 May 2006 02:22

This is the best information I have seen concerning German EW efforts during WWI.

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/ ... 44764#cont

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 17 May 2006 08:36

Hello,

Thanks for the link Dave.

Regards,

David

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Post by Mad Zeppelin » 18 May 2006 09:53

For the radio interception service of the k.u.k. navy, see Lothar Baumgartner "Abgelauscht" (Intercepted), Vienna 2002.

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Post by Sewer King » 15 Aug 2006 04:00

Here is a good general history of electronic warfare (EW):

de Arcangelis, Mario. Electronic Warfare: from Tsushima to the Falklands and Lebanon Conflicts. Translated by Carol Preston. Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1985.

There is also an excellent (that is, detailed and readable) three-volume history of American EW in Alfred Price's The History of US Electronic Warfare (Association of Old Crows), 1984.

Volume 1, "The Years of Innovation: Beginnings to 1946", makes fine distinctions between different "firsts" in EW history (quoted in bold below) in pages 1-6:

"From the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, telegraph lines became an important target for the cavalry raiding forces of both sides. The Union forces, being the more extensively equipped with telegraphic systems, were the more vulnerable in this respect and this was exploited by the Confederate troops.

'Among the rarest breed of men, a kind of Signal Corps elite, were the telegraphers attached to Confederate cavalry commands. These fellows -- all of whom were also qualified as flagmen -- rode at the head of every command and during many raids into Union territory they switched military traffic to the wrong destinations, they transmitted false orders to the headquarters of Union commanders, they cast suspicion upon all orders that came by wire. And when they had finished the job, they cut all the wire in sight and took home as much as they could roll up in a hurry.'

"Thus were born the techniques of disrupting and spoofing enemy electronic communications; techniques which find considerable relevance today. Because they did not involve "radiated electromagnetic energy", the telegraph systems and the measures to counter them do not fall within the boundaries defined by the term "electronic warfare". Nevertheless some of these methods were later employed against radiating systems, and so do deserve mention here.

"The first recorded instance of deliberate radio jamming took place in September 1901, in the US. Interestingly, it was aimed at securing commercial gain rather than military advantage. As now, there was considerable public interest in the America's Cup yacht races, and the newspaper first to reach the streets carrying each result stood to reap a large profit. In that year, Marconi obtained a contract from the Associated Press to send radio reports on the races. Another company, the newly-formed Wireless Telegraph Company of America, secured a similar contract to pass reports to the Publishers' Press Association. A throd company, the American Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Co., failed to get a sponsor but decided to exploit the situation in a manner hardly in keeping with the highest standard of business ethics. The AWT&T used a transmitter more powerful than its competitors, and one of its engineers, John Pickard, worked out a method which allowed him to jam signals from the other companies while at the same time reporting on the progress of the race from his boat. He evolved a simple code whereby one 10-second dash repeated at intervals, indicated that the US yacht Columbia was in the lead, two such dashes indicated that British yacht Shamrock was ahead, three that they were neck-and-neck, and so on. Thus only AWT&T was able to pass accurate reports on the races, and profited accordingly. Packard's gloating account of the incident stated, 'When the yachts crossed the finish line, we held down the key and then continued to hold it down by the simple method of putting a weight on it. Thus radiating waves --- we sailed for home port, and the batteries lasted for the entire hour and a quarter that we utilized to send the longest dash ever sent by wireless'.

"The first intentional use of radio jamming by the military occured in 1902, during Royal Navy fleet exercises in the Mediterranean. One year later, during the US Navy fleet maneuvers of 1903, that service possessed five radio stations along the Atlantic coast, and had five ships equipped with radios. For the exercises, the force was divided into two groups. "White", the primary fleet, was to start 500 miles east of Cape Cod and attempt a simulated landing of troops on the New England coast. The "Blue" fleet was to try to engage the "White" force before it reached the coast, and had four of its ships with radios positioned as a screen to warn of the "White" approach. Only one of the "White" ships carried a radio, the USS Texas. She was to try to jam the sighting reports and so prevent "Blue" forces from closing in. That was the plan, but it failed to work, and the radioman aboard the Texas ended up in the brig. Afterward the unfortunate man explained:

'I was on watch and everything was working fine. I heard a message begin, and the first three letters were G, O, and L, so I knew it was going to be GOLD and that it was from the other side. I reached for the key, but the Flag Lieutenant who was with me said "No, don't do that, I want the entire message". When the message ended, the Lieutenant said "Make interference" and I said "Sir, it's no use now. The message had gone out with a speed of 186,000 miles per second and we can't catch up with it". So here I am on bread and water'.

"It was the first recorded instance -- and certainly not the last -- of a radio expert being overruled by a superior with no understanding of the subject. It was also the first recorded instance of a conflict between those who wished to listen to enemy radio signals to gain intelligence, and those who wished to jam them to prevent the information reaching the enemy. These differences persist to the present day.

"By 1903, jamming enemy radio communications was 'an idea whose time had come'. This was borne out the following year soon after the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, the first in which both naval forces used radio. On the morning of April 14, 1904, the Japanese armored cruisers Kasuga and Nisshin bombarded the Russian base at Port Arthur. Smaller ships, using radio, were to spot the fall of shells and pass corrections. At the radio station on shore, one of the Russian operators heard the Japanese signals, realized their importance and used his spark transmitter to jam them. As a result the bombardment caused little damage and few casualties. Radio jamming had made its first, unplanned and improvised step into the arena of combat.

"During the remainder of the conflict, which reached its climax with the resounding Japanese naval victory in the Tsushima Strait in May 1905, the Japanese made considerably more effective use of radio than their opponents. The Russians preferred to conceal the presence of their ships wherever possible by maintaining radio silence, to listen to and exploit enemy transmissions when it could, and on rare occasions, to jam them.

"From the opening of World War I in August 1914, there was widespread use of radio jamming. This began on Audust 4, the day before Britain entered the war on the side of Belgium and France against Germany and Austria. In the Mediterranean, the British cruisers Indomitable and Indefatigable passed close to the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau; both forces were moving at high speed, neither knowing whether the other was likely to open fire. In any event there were no shots, but as the German Admiral Souchon later wrote, 'The British cruisers merely attempted to jam systematically our wireless communications'.

"During subsequent WWI naval actions, communications jamming was employed from time to time, though the increasing success of cryptanalysis put a brake on this activity as the war progressed. The intelligence value of decrypted enemy signals was often far greater than the transitory advantage to be gained by jamming them ..."

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 30 Sep 2006 04:51

I'd guess the practice of dredging up marine telegraph cable & cutting them counts too? When was the earliest example of that? Any examples of evesdropping on them? On land raiders in the US Civil War frequently cut the telegraph cables along the roads. I'm not certain if there was much evesdropping on them.

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Post by Sewer King » 13 Oct 2006 05:08

The only specific reference I can find to cutting undersea cables is in Hew Strachan's expansive history The First World War, Volume I: To Arms (Oxford University Press, 2001), page 421:

[chapter "The War in Northern Waters"]

"Britain's ability to regain the initiative in the North Sea {after German U-boat successes] was derived in large measure from another unanticipated application of sea-power. Before 1914 the world's communications relied principally on underwater cables, the majority of them in British hands and lying along the major shipping lanes. From 1898 Britain reckoned, in the event of war, on cutting the underwater cables of its opponents, so isolating them from the rest of the world. Therefore, within hours of Britain's ultimatum expiring, Germany's cable communications were effectively restriicted to Europe only. Germany had, however, recognized the danger, and in the decade preceding the war had made considerable strides in the development of an alternative global communications network, using wireless. Throughout the war, therefore, Germany's communications with its ships and its embassies had to be broadcast; consequently they could be intercepted by their enemies, and to offset this danger messages were sent in cipher."

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Strachan goes on to describe the rapid rise of naval signals encryption and codebreaking from there. He cites Paul Kennedy's contribution to the book The War Plans of the Great Powers 1880-1914 (London, 1970), "Imperial Cable Communications and Strategy 1870-1914".

Not far from me back in 2002, the Smithsonian Institution held an exhibition on this subject titled "The Underwater Web: Cabling the Seas". The design of cables and receiving equipment themselves largely stayed the same until after World War II. One other recent study used in the exhibition was Daniel Headrick's The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunication and International Politics (New York, 1992).

Naturally, the Royal Navy was closely involved with the laying of the first trans-Atlantic cables from the 1850s-60s. But the scale of both warfare and international telecom did not reach the scale where the cables could be thought of a strategic weapon until the 1890s, as Strachan cites it.

Or actually used that way, as in 1914. But then most of the modern weapons that gave World War I its unprecedented killing power were also in their infancy in the late 1890s.

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Austria-Hungary

Post by Dave Bender » 13 Oct 2006 15:51

Austria was a player in this game also. In fact they appear to have been the first to do so.

http://aia.lackland.af.mil/homepages/pa ... ritage.cfm

http://www.nbh.hu/english/bmenu93.htm

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Post by gambadier » 24 Aug 2007 15:14

The reason the British defeated German forces so quickly in W Africa in 1914 was because communications from Berlin were unencrypted so the Brit commander new exactly what was happening. Game over.

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British defeated German forces so quickly in W Africa 1914

Post by Dave Bender » 25 Aug 2007 14:45

How do you define "Quickly"? The German overseas colonies were practically unarmed in July 1914. Considering that fact I think the German colonies did a superb job and held out far longer then could be expected.

Tsingtao (China) had the only regular military forces equipped with modern weapons and ample quantities of ammunition. Their landward defense force consisted of a single reinforced infantry battalion (3rd Marine Battalion). The seige proper lasted about 1 week (31 Oct - 7 Nov 1914). The attacking Japanese Army force contained 142 artillery pieces, so we are talking about an army corps size force.

Ost Afrika had 14 Schutztruppen companies armed mostly with black powder rifles dating from the 1870s, and practically no reserves of ammunition or other supplies. Like all the Schultztruppen they were trained and equipped for native pacification, not fightig a conventional military force. Despite being practically defenseless, the Northern port of Tanga remained in German hands until 7 July 1916 and Dar es Salaam remained in German hands until 4 September 1916. The Ost Afrika Schultztruppen were never wiped out, and continued to fight a guerilla war against the British invaders until November 1918.

Deutsch-Südwestafrika also had 14 Schultztruppen companies, armed with the usual obsolete weapons and practically no ammunition. The open and largely arid terrain was not conducive to guerilla warfare and living off the land. None the less, they conducted a fighting retreat to Tsumeb, finally surrendering 9 July 1915.

Kamerun had 12 Schultztruppen companies, just as wretchedly equipped as the others. They held out until the end of 1915. There was no surrender en mass, as most of the survivors marched to neighboring Spanish Rio Muni and were interned rather then become POWs of Britain and France.

The remaining German colonies had no proper military forces at all. Just a police force. However even this police force managed to defend Togo for 3 weeks before being overwhelmed by conventional military forces. Not bad for a bunch of cops. I doubt the London police force could hold out for 3 weeks against the British Army.

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