We have completed the purchase of a very rare 1863 German language book on cryptology from a private European seller for $750. The book, “Die Geheimschriften und die Dechiffrierkunst” ("Secret Writing and the Art of Deciphering") was written by Major Friedrich Wilhelm Kasiski, a German infantry officer and cryptographer. The book is in excellent condition for its age and is bound together with a second book not related to cryptography. Kasiski's book is believed to be the first published account of a procedure for attacking polyalphabetic substitution ciphers, especially the Vigenère cipher. The significance of Kasiski's cryptanalytic work was not widely realized at the time. Cryptologic historian Dr. David Kahn notes, "Kasiski died on May 22, 1881, almost certainly without realizing that he had wrought a revolution in cryptology" (The Codebreakers). There are only a few known copies of this book in museums and 3 or 4 in the hands of private collectors. In one of his writings Dr. Kahn indicated that Kasiski's book had eluded him and it was still a book he coveted. Considering the book collection that Dr. Kahn donated to the National Cryptologic Museum had some of the rarest cryptology books in the world, this is fairly high praise for the Kasiski book
According to his memoirs in The Story of Magic, when Frank Rowlett reported to work as the first junior cryptanalyst in the Signal Service at Large on April 1, 1930, William Friedman told him that the best books on cryptography and cryptanalysis were not in English. Because he knew Rowlett had studied German he gave him a copy of the Kasiski book because it contained “some good explanations of a variety of cipher systems” and left him to begin his study. A week later Rowlett was joined by Solomon Kullback and Abraham Sinkov, and the training of Friedman’s first junior cryptanalysts began in earnest.
Pictures of the bound Kasiski book and title page are included below.
Foundation member Horace Meyers recently donated an R-390A receiver to the Foundation for the NCM. Horace acquired the receiver at some point during his Special Forces career. The venerable Motorola and Collins R-390URR and the R-390A, a variant built by many subcontractors, was the workhorse HF receiver of the US SIGINT System for over two decades. Thousands of both units were built and the original price for this one built by the Electronic Assistance Corporation probably around 1970 was approximately $1700. The donated receiver has the original power cord and is believed to still be in good working condition. An R-390 file photo is included below.
William (Bill) Jack recently gave us his personal copy of a1984 bid proposal submitted by AT&T in response to NSA’s RFP for a Future Secure Voice System Concept Definition. Bill was AT&T’s District Manager for Government Communications at the time. AT&T’s total bid for the concept development phase of what would eventually be the STU-III was $2.3M.
Foundation member Bob Conley recently donated an RF signal generator and retina scan device to the NCM. The EYE DENTIFICATION SYSTEM 7.5 retina scan unit was patented in 1986 and developed by Eyedentify Inc., an Oregon based firm. The two packing units of equipment include all original documentation. The device is believed to still be in good working condition. The Knight KG-686 RF signal generator was made by Allied Radio Corp., Chicago Illinois circa 1975. It has a broadcast, long wave and two short wave bands. The power cable is missing but the unit looks to be in very good condition and perhaps still in working order. The exact provenance of both is unknown at this time. Pictures of both are included below.
Eyedentification 7.5 Retina Scan Knight KG-686 RF Signal Generator
The Foundation recently received a donation of five boxes of books and cryptologic material from the collection of Samuel (Sam) Halpern, a career CIA officer and an original member of the Office of Strategic Services. The donation was made on his behalf by his wife Mrs. Kathryn Halpern and daughter Ms. Anne Halpern. Sam’s active duty career in the OSS and CIA spanned the years 1943-1974. He remained active in intelligence-related affairs in retirement and was a charter member and co-founder of AFIO – The Association of Former Intelligence Officers. His donation consisted of numerous intelligence-related novels and paperbacks and over 50 intelligence histories to include The History of Corona (America’s first intelligence satellite), a comprehensive two-part CIA Inspector General report of the Agency’s ill-fated attempt to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime, and a comprehensive SSCI report on the Aldrich Ames Spy case. All unique material will be gifted to the NCM Library on the Halpern family’s behalf.
A Beyer pocket cryptologic device from the 1930s, which in size and appearance resembles a pocket watch of the era, has been donated to NCMF by Mr. Michael Graham of California along with photocopies of the original ten-page US Patent dated 25 January 1932. Only about a half-dozen examples of the Beyer device are known to exist.
An extract from 'Denmark Abroad', circa 1933, describes the KRYPTO System Beyer device.
The device is manufactured and sold by the A/S The Danish Cipher Machine Co. Ltd., Copenhagen, the leader of which was the well-known Danish pilot Captain A.P. Botved. The system is based upon the theoretical calculations of the late A. Køhle, a Danish engineer. One of the officials of the Danish State Railways, P.G.G. Beyer succeeded in putting Køhle's theories into practical use. In conjunction with Captain Botved , the Danish Army Technical Corps and the Royal Engineers, the mechanical part of the device was resolved and designed.
The Beyer device consists of two disks, or rings carrying two dials divided into 26 or 30 slots in which the alphabet is written. - either in alphabetical order or in any other order that is chosen. An inner dial carries 26 or 30 additional slots bearing figures and punctuation marks. The disks are moved in relation to each other by means of two springs, rotation being set in motion by depressing a release spring. The movement is stopped by means of two wheels revolving on pivots or cam wheels arranged with intermediate spaces of unequal size which are numbered. The apparatus is always ready for use with the various springs being rewound automatically.
The possibility of decoding messages encrypted on the Krypto device are extremely small since there are 7034 x 1061 combinations."
On 3 December the Acquistion Chairman completed the indefinite loan of a rare Wheatstone-Plett cipher device from Riverbank Labs, Geneva, Illinois. This specific device is an irregular polyalphabetic substitution system invented in the 1860s by Sir Charles Wheatstone, and improved upon by J. St.Vincent Plett sometime thereafter. The British, French and Americans all tested the device and none could solve any Wheatstone-Plett cryptograms. In 1918 the U.S. considered using it as a tactical encoder. They submitted it to Riverbank Labs for a final security check where the combined team of William and Elizabeth Friedman solved the device within three hours. The exact provenance of the Wheatstone-Plett device pictured below is unknown at this time.
The lone survivor of the USS Liberty, SSgt Bryce Lockwood (USMC), recently donated an unusual artifact to the NCM: a USS Liberty Memorial tee shirt that commemorates two Marines killed during the Liberty attack: Sergeant Jack Raper and Corporal Edward Rehmeyer. The shirt is autographed by Bryce , two Marine Corps veterans from the 2nd Radio Platoon who served in Peleliu during WW II, Al Taylor and Bob Feist. and signed with a "Q" by James Quisenberry The battle for Peleliu lasted over two months (Sep-Nov 1944) and had the highest casualty rate for U.S. personnel of any battle in the Pacific War. The 2nd Radio Platoon was reactivated in 1958 as the First Marine Composite Radio Company. They were also the first Marines on the ground in Vietnam in 1962. The historical lineage of this t-shirt (pictured below) from WW II to Vietnam and the Cold War makes it an unusual artifact indeed.
John Treco recently donated a copy of the book, “Dialogue For Schools” authored by Increase Cook and published in 1813. The title page indicates the book is a sequel to the “American Orator” – however that book by Lewis Munn may have been published much later (I found a 4th edition published in 1855). The most unusual feature of this specific copy is the “missing words” on various pages of the book. Thirteen pages have words missing that appear to have been carefully cut from the text. Who did the cutting, why, and the aggregate meaning of the missing words is unknown. The missing words may have been used to form a code or book of code words, or simply cutout and pasted to send a message to some unknown recipient. Alas, if only books could talk… A picture of one of the pages with missing words is included below.
In June we received an anonymous donation of 12 monographs that are part of a series of reports published by the Bletchley Park Trust. The donor and reason for the donation are unknown. The report titles include “The First Break into German Enigma at BP” by Brian Oakley; “Breaking Naval Enigma” by Frank Carter”, and, “Codebreaking with the Colossus Computer” also by Frank Carter. The reports have been deeded to the NCM Library.
On 2 July Alexander Scott Crawford personally delivered and donated the subject receiver to the NCM. The receiver was found in a building he inherited. The receiver apparently belonged to a physicist at the University of Michigan (not identified) who did crypto-gear installations for the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies. The donation also included three modules, specs and instructions, but not the intercept antenna. The receiver value was estimated by the donor at $150K.
The AC recently purchased a “like new” WW II J-38 Telegraph Key produced by the Lionel Corporation for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. “J” Series keys J-1 through J-51 were used by the Signal Corps from WW I through the Korean War. The J-38 key was used extensively during WW II. It is one of the most popular in the J series and is highly coveted by collectors. Many are still used by ham radio operators today. The key and original box cost $47. A picture of the key and box is included below.
J-38 U.S. Army Signal Corps Telegraph Key
Through a colleague of his, Dr. David Kahn recently advised us that Riverbank Labs in Geneva Illinois has two copies of the Wheatstone Cryptograph , a rare pre WW I-era cipher device used extensively by the British during WW I. The Wheatstone Cryptograph was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), a well-known English scientist. It was evaluated by the U.S. Signal Corps and experimental models of Wheatstone were constructed at Signal Corps Laboratories in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, but the device was never adopted for use by U.S. forces.
During WW I, a variety of war-related research activities occurred at Riverbank Labs, including the decoding and deciphering of enemy messages. Teams of researchers lived and worked at Riverbank, to include our own Cryptologic Hall of Honor members William and Elizebeth Friedman. NSA and Riverbank Labs are derived from the same DNA, and the mission of the NSA is a direct descendant of the mission once performed at Riverbank Labs.
The Acquisition Chairman(AC) has subsequently contacted both the Director and Curator of Riverbank Labs and has negotiated a loan of one of the Wheatstone Cryptographs. The AC has also discussed pursuing a history partnership with Riverbank Labs and will facilitate a meeting with their principals in the near future.
A picture of the Wheatstone Cryptograph is included below. The NCM Library has an extensive collection of photos to include an undated photo of the Friedman’s swimming in the Riverbank Labs pool. A copy of that photo was provided to Riverbank Labs at their request, and is also included below. A fascinating detailed history of Riverbank Labs, their association with the Friedman’s, and some of the cryptologic work conducted there can be found on their web site.
Earlier this year WW II Army Signal Corp member Lou Holger donated samples of old newsletters from the Army’s Second Signal Service Battalion. In April Lou sent us another 70+ newsletters covering the period December 1992-December 2010. A host of interesting and informative historical cryptologic topics are included in the newsletters, and they serve as a valuable historical record of this unit’s service. Lou acquired the newsletters from another Signal Corp colleague in Iowa who has produced these newsletters over an extended period of time. The Second Signal Service Battalion traces its direct history to April 1942.
In February we reported on the passing of Patricia (Neway) Byrne, daughter-in-law of Chaocipher inventor John Byrne Sr, and donor of the Chaocipher archive to the NCMF. Ms. Michal Twine, the executor for Pat’s estate, recently contacted the AC and donated four items from Pat’s safe deposit box: the wheel settings for decoding Chaocipher; a hard disk with Chaocipher decoding instructions; and a business and confidentiality agreement between John Byrne Jr. and the RD Development company with plans to productize the Chaocipher algorithm for commercial profit. Copies of all four of these items were also included in the archived material donated by Pat to the NCMF.
On 24 February the AC picked up eight terminals of 1970s-1980s vintage early prototype secure voice equipment from the Navy Research Lab in Washington D.C. The pickup was delayed many months while NRL investigated how to donate equipment to a private foundation. Included in the donation were three Motorola Multi-Rate Processor (MRP) phone instruments; two Sylvania Mark IV Voice Digitizer units; two TRW Low Data Rate Voice Terminals; and a working Speech Spectographic Display terminal and video unit. The voice encryption technology used in these early vocoders was developed by NRL in concert with NSA and other technology companies. Pictures of each of the vocoder prototypes are included below.
Sylvania Mark IV Vocoder RCA MRP Vocoder
TRW Low Data Rate Vocoder
NSA retiree Robert LaPalme recently donated material from his uncle, USN Capt Richard Kane, who was the Air Operations Officer on the fleet carrier USS Guadalcanal, part of ASW TF 22.3 that attacked and eventually captured, salvaged and towed the German submarine U-505 to Bermuda. Capt Kane's original 9-page typed letter was written in 1983 and sent to a U-505 historian. Excerpts from his letter are available for reading or printing.
With the aid of Enigma code and radio transmission intercepts, U-505 was tracked and located near Cape Verde Islands. Task Group 22.3, consisting of the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal and five destroyer escorts, was sent to intercept. On June 4, 1944, after persistent hunting, the U-505 was brought to the surface with a depth charge attack from the USS Chatelain. A boarding party from the USS Pillsbury boarded the sub, secured it, and retrieved valuable documents, including code books and the Enigma machine. U-505 became the first enemy ship boarded and captured on the high seas by U.S. forces since the War of 1812.
On 17 January 2012 the AC Chairman traveled to New York City to accept another donation of cryptologic memorabilia from Dr. David Kahn. David’s latest donation consisted of seven boxes of material to include one box each of English language and foreign language books on cryptology; 2 boxes of notebooks, journals and correspondence; and three boxes of personal memorabilia and awards. Some of the more unique items in the donation included:
A build your own Enigma kit
A telephone stepping switch similar to ones used in the Japanese Purple Machine
A Motorola Info Guard dinomic cipher wheel
Foreign awards given to David by the French and Hungarian Intelligence Services
Bentleys Code Phrase book and many other rare books (for the Museum Library)
An Uncorrected Editors Proof of David’s book, The Reader of Gentlemen’s Mail
A two-act unpublished play written by Alan C. Kohn titled Cipher Brains, a fictional work inspired by the real life American code breakers Herbert Yardley, William Friedman, Joseph Rochefort and Joseph Redman.
Included in the personal memorabilia was a postcard written by David to his Father in 1936 while on vacation. It is likely the earliest surviving writing by this esteemed author. Pictures of some of the donated items are included below.
Telephone Switch Motorola Cipher Wheel
French Intelligence Service medallion Build your own Enigma kit
Foundation member Frank Rezek recently donated an SR-71 Executive Handbook and 8x11 color photographs of the U-2 and Cobra Judy intelligence and reconnaissance platforms. Those items have now been transferred to the NCM Library. Pictures of each are included below.
Three copies of Radio News magazine from 1923 were recently purchased from a Pennsylvania antique mall for $14. Radio News was an American monthly technology magazine published from 1919 to 1971. The magazine was started by Hugo Gernsback as a magazine for amateur radio enthusiasts, but it evolved to cover all the technical aspects of radio and electronics. During the First World War the government put a ban on amateur radio and Gernsback led the campaign to lift it. Many of the covers were painted by famous technical illustration specialist Howard V. Brown and are frame-worthy prints in their own right. Pictures of the three covers are included below:
Fred Parker donated a box of his personal papers to the Foundation for transfer to the NCM Library. Included in the donation were slides and text for Fred’s superb lectures on the role of communications intelligence (COMINT) in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the battles of Midway and the Coral Sea. Other items of note included NSA’s response to a Freedom of Information request for 188 Japanese naval messages intercepted prior to the 7 December 1941 attack. These messages were not decrypted at the time of intercept because the U.S. was not able to read the Japanese JN-25 naval cipher at that time (the first break-through came in March, 1942). Post war analysis of these 188 messages, in the aggregate, would clearly have indicated Japanese intentions. Other items included multiple copies of Fred’s superb papers on The Unsolved Messages of Pearl Harbor (Cryptologia, October 1991), and How OP20G Got Rid of Joe Rochefort (Cryptologia, July 2000). Numerous files of correspondence between Fred and various historians, authors and Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorists were also included. Of particular note was a poignant exchange between Fred and Admiral Husband Kimmel’s family. Admiral Kimmel was the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack. Kimmel and Army LtGen Walter Short (military commander responsible for the defense of Hawaii) were relieved of command and reduced in rank shortly after the attack. Admiral Kimmel’s family attempted in vain to clear his name and have his four-star rank re-instated. They achieved some measure of success when in May 1995 the Senate passed a non-binding resolution exonerating Kimmel and Short from blame. However, successive Presidents and administrations declined to reinstate both to their former ranks.
Carlos Van Orden, a previous donor to the Foundation, recently sent us the following WW-II era equipment and items for the Museum’s collection: two WW-II era Model-14 TT-205 Teletype Reperforators; three rolls of reperforator tape; a 1947 War Department Model-14 operators manual; a 1940s-1950s Teletype advertising brochure; five Teletype Code Cards; and various other period documents and advertising brochures. Those items have been gifted to the NCM on Carlos’ behalf.
Chris Griswold recently donated four WW II era U.S. military pennants to the Foundation. One of particular interest was a red US Army Fort Meade banner which was gifted to the NCM. The other three were pillow-cover pennants from Fort Know and Camp Tyson. Those three don’t fit the artifact theme of the NCM and will be put up for auction at a future general membership meeting.
One of the items donated to the Foundation for the October general membership meeting auction was deemed “museum worthy” and is now hanging in the Foundation office. Dean Spray donated a painting titled Turn For Home, which depicts a U2 aircraft operating high in the skies of Southeast Asia. The Nationalist Chinese U2 is in a bank turn evading two surface-to-air missiles, and is completing a "Turn For Home". Many thanks to Dean for this tasteful addition to the office.
Click on picture for an expanded view.
Acquired on eBay for $110.40. This U.S. Army Signal Corp unit was used operationally during WW II to train radio operators in Morse code communications. Morse signals were recorded in ink on paper tape for playback. Excellent condition and includes an original TG-34-A training manual, and a second technical manual on Code Practice Equipment. The unit came from the Chersky Aircrafters Warbird Museum in California.
TG-34-A Morse Keyer
Former Essex Corporation Chairman and CEO Harry Letaw recently donated three unique items to the NCMF, all of which are described and pictured below.
(1) PRC-25 Radio: The workhorse VHF tactical radio of the Vietnam War with over 50,000 units built by the RCA Corporation. Initially developed in 1958, the “Prick 25” as it was affectionately called was the first solid state FM tactical transceiver.
(2) WW II Japanese Field Radio Battery Case: This leather case is probably associated with the Japanese Type 94 transceiver which dates to 1935 and was used throughout WW II. The case has an open side to couple the battery and radio. This case came from the Japanese Imperial Army training base in Sagamihara Japan, occupied by the U.S. Army 1st Calvary Division in September 1945. The facility is now known as Camp Zama.
(3) 1877 Manual of Signals: This 500+ page tome in excellent condition was authored by BG Albert Meyer, the father of the U.S. Army Signal Corp. It is a comprehensive work on signals, codes and signaling methods of the era, and contains unique illustrations of code types and signaling stations in use during the post-Civil War period.
Pictured Top to Bottom - PRC-25 Radio; WW Japanese Battery Case; 1877 U.S. Army Signal Corp Manual
The First Composite Radio Company, Fleet Marine Force Pacific sent us a commemorative plaque and coin set commemorating the 50th anniversary of their deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. Their unit was first deployed to Pleiku in January 1962, and later moved to Phu-Bai. The unit changed their name to the 1st Radio Battalion in 1964. Images of the two plaques are included below.
From a historical standpoint, this was actually a reactivated unit from WWII which after being formed in 1943 was active in Guadacanal, New Caledonia and Peleliu before being relocated to Pear Harbort and deactivated in late September of 1945.
The AC won this item in an auction for $282. The document is a 3-page Congressional Imprint from 1862 signed by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. It is conveying a request to Congress from the Signal Officer of the U.S. Army Albert J. Myer for $46K for supplies for the fledgling U.S. Army Signal Corp. Included in the request are telescopes, Marine glasses, insulated wire, telegraphic instruments, turpentine, torch fuel cans, wicks and other signaling items of the period. The budget total in 1862 was $46K.
1862 Army Signal Corp Budget Request Submitted By Col Albert Myer
The American Cryptogram Association (ACA) recently donated a CD ROM containing every ACA issue between 1932-2009. For information about ACA membership please visit the following website: http://cryptogram.org/membership.html
Dr. David Kahn recently made two more donations of cryptologic items to the Foundation for the National Cryptologic Museum and Library. On 13 November 2010, NCM Librarian Rene Stein traveled to David’s residence in Great Neck, NY to pick-up an additional 16 boxes of memorabilia from David’s personal collection. Significant items included in this donation were:
--An early proof copy of his book on American cryptographer Herbert Yardley (The Reader of Gentlemen’s Mail)
--A number of early “private” code books used by American banks and telecommunications companies
--A 1943 Combined Field Code Book from WW II used to encode tactical communications between cooperating American and British forces
--A significant number of WW II era black and white photographs of Bletchley Park, and of British and American cryptographers
--Extensive correspondence and photographs from David’s time living abroad in Paris
On 16 January 2011, AC Chairman Dave D’Auria traveled to Great Neck to New York for what may be Dr. Kahn’s last donation. Included were four antiquarian books and a number of other significant items:
--A 1550 edition of Trimethius' "Polygraphia" (first published in 1516)
--Gaspar Schott Schola's "Steganographica", 1680 edition (first published in 1665)
--John Wilkin's "Mercury or the Secret and Swift Messenger" published in 1694
--Bentleys Complete Phrase Code Book from 1923
--An early DES encryption chip from 1978 encased in acrylic (at the time this chip was referred to as the world’s smallest computer)
--A WW I US Army Signal Corp pocket cipher disk encoder, patented in 1913
--A cipher wheel from one of American inventor Thomas Hebern's early rotor-based cipher machines (circa 1918-1923)
--A pocket cipher disk encoder produced by the Swiss company Crypto AG
Pictures from the 16 January pick-up are provided below.
Click on any of the items below for an expanded view
Antiquarian Books Donated by Dr. David Kahn
Dr. Glen Miranker, former head of product development for Apple Computers, graciously donated $7,500 to the NCMF to cover the cost of two recent Acquisition Committee auction wins of rare Civil War documents (click preceding for more details). The documents include references to both Union and Confederate intercepts of signal flag messages, and a very rare "Peter Cottontail Code" spy letter (click preceding for more details)
This is the second time that Glen has served as a benefactor to the NCMF. Glen previously covered the cost of re-manufacturing custom-made bulbs for the NCM’s Enigma machines and donated 820 of the bulbs to the NCM. Our sincere thanks for his interest, continuing support and generosity.
On 27 July and 27 August the AC Chairman traveled to Great Neck Long Island to pick-up perhaps the last large donation of items from Dr. David Kahn. In addition to 25 boxes of books and papers, the major items included a rare framed Napoleon letter, two black and white ink prints by MG Joseph Mauborgne (1881-1971, co-inventor of the modern-day one-time encryption pad), a complete bound set of The International Journal of Intelligence, a complete bound set of Studies in Intelligence and National Security; and, two artifacts from the Bletchley Park rebuild of the Colossus computer (the world’s first programmable computing device used to decipher German teleprinter messages during WW II). A picture of the Napoleon letter and a brief history are included below
Donation Summary: Since December 2003 David has made seven separate donations of items to the NCM. In addition to the above mentioned items, a small sample of the content in his earlier donations includes: almost four dozen antiquarian books and manuals; over 200 boxes of books on nearly every aspect of cryptologic history and intelligence; rare editor’s manuscripts and proof copies of his own books; numerous rare autographed first-edition books; rare foreign language pamphlets on codes and ciphers; numerous cipher-related toys and collectibles; rare Hollywood posters from movies with cipher themes; a number of small crypto devices; rare Nazi-era collectibles; and, hundreds of folders with thousands of pages of interview notes, letters and personal correspondence from David’s distinguished career. NCM staff are working to catalogue all of the material from David’s collection. Many items are already on display in the NCM exhibit hall, or available in the NCM Library as part of the David Kahn collection.
The Napoleon Letter: One of the most unique and rare items donated by David to date was a signed and framed 1806 letter from Napoleon to his son Prince Eugene Napoleon. In the letter Napoleon instructs his son to “keep sending me the letters from the Archbishop of Silesia sent from Rome to Dresden. The key has been found here so that they can be read just like ordinary writing. But it is necessary to let them continue on their way while copying them exactly.” David acquired the letter in1984 in a sale of rare authenticated documents by the Altman Company in New York.
For background: Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in present-day Poland, with parts in the Czech Republic and Germany. For centuries the area was a hotbed of religious, political, cultural and ethic differences and long contested between Germany and France. In 1812 students at a university in Silesia took part in a rebellion against Napoleon, presumably with the support of the Archbishop of Silesia and the catholic archdiocese in Rome. This letter is a reference to Napoleon spying on the Archbishop, a likely precursor to the student rebellion and to the much larger conflict that started in 1812 called the War of Liberation. An estimated two million people were killed in that war in which a coalition of countries led by Germany defeated France resulting in Napoleon’s exile to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean.
Dr. David Kahn donating a rare Napoleon letter to Acquisition Committee Chairman Dave D’Auria for the National Cryptologic Museum
The Acquisition Committee (AC) recently won five Union Army transcripts of Confederate war-date signal flag messages in a rare documents auction conducted by Raynor’s Auction House of North Carolina. The total cost of the transcripts was $1,077. The AC found a sponsor to cover the cost of this auction win, plus two lots of Civil War letters acquired in a December 2009 auction. The total sponsorship was for $7,500.
For background: The signal messages were intercepted by the Union Army Signal Corp at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia between 14 and 17 June during General Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. Unaware that the Union Army had broken their signal flag code (i.e., the Wig-wag code), the Confederates continued to send sensitive military messages on Union troop movements during the siege of Kennesaw Mountain. The intercepted messages were partly printed on “Signal Corps U.S.A.” forms and show the Confederates rising concern about being surrounded and outflanked by the Union army. These messages provide a firm link to our signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercept history that predates the generally accepted era of SIGINT that began with the introduction of radio and field phones in WW I. Two pictures of the transcripts are included below.
Five Union Army Transcripts of Confederate
Signal Flag Messages
A Single Transcript Printed on U.S.A Signal Corp Stationary
On 10 May the AC Chairman met with Mrs. Cheryl Needle in Pepperell MA to transfer the archive of Chaocipher material from the estate of inventor John Byrne to the National Cryptologic Museum. Chaocipher is the name Byrne (February 1880-April 1960) gave to a cipher system he invented in 1918. The AC negotiated the donation with Mrs. Needle who was acting on behalf of John Byrne’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Patricia Byrne. The archive consisted of two boxes of notes, papers and personal correspondence from both the inventor John Byrne, and his son, John Byrne Jr.; two copies of John Byrne’s book The Silent Years; five Chaocipher blueprint drawings from 1920; and a large crude wooden mockup of the cipher wheel function of the original Chaocipher machine. The original cigar-box size Chaocipher machine was apparently destroyed, and only the blueprint drawings and the crude mockup remain.
From the time of his invention in 1918 until his death in 1960, John Byrne tried to interest the U.S. government and various other organizations in his Chaocipher machine which he billed as absolutely unbreakable. Unfortunately neither he nor his invention were taken seriously by any U.S. government or commercial organization. This appears to be due in large part to Byrne's refusal to provide those he approached with detailed technical information on Chaocipher, and the standard number and type of challenge messages requested from every cipher inventor that approached U.S. government, military and commercial organizations.
The archive of donated material includes four decades of correspondence between Byrne and, inter alia, the White House, the State Department, the War Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Justice, and the Navy Bureau of Engineering. Personal appeals during this period include letters to President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur, and a host of other high-ranking U.S. government officials. Attempts to patent Chaocipher were rejected by at least two different patent attorney law firms, and attempts to “sell and tell” the Chaocipher story were rejected by Collier’s Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post. There were also “rejection” letters from Bell Laboratories and the Teletype corporation.
Of particular interest are numerous exchanges between Byrne and both William Friedman and Colonel Parker Hitt, two of American’s leading cryptologists during this period. Colonel Hitt, the author and publisher of the first ever book on Cryptography by the US Army in 1916, The Manual for Solution of Military Ciphers, believed Byrne’s invention had merit but he also indicated that Chaocipher had critical shortfalls. Friedman’s exchanges with Byrne beginning in 1922 were official rejections of Chaocipher for use by the U.S. government, but at least one of them pointed Byrne towards the commercial market. One particularly testy exchange that occurred in 1954 was spurred by caustic remarks Friedman made about Byrne and Chaocipher at a 13 March presentation to the American Association of the University of Women. In a February 1957 letter responding to Friedman’s remarks, Byrne maintained his conviction that Chaocipher is “forever indecipherable”, and he issued a personal challenge to Friedman to “prove me wrong right away” by solving an enciphered excerpt from a speech made by General Douglas MacArthur. In a following 1957 letter Friedman declined the challenge.
In 1953 Byrne published his autobiography The Silent Years. Although the book was intended to be about his life-long friendship with James Joyce, inexplicably Byrne used Chapter 21 of the book to discuss his four-decade quest to convince people about the merits of Chaocipher. Chapter 21 contains examples of plaintext and corresponding ciphertext from Chaocipher, and a few enciphered lines whose plaintext is not provided.
Byrne challenged the world-at-large to decipher those few lines with a $5,000 prize for the first person able to do so. No one ever came forward to claim the prize. After John Byrne’s death in 1960, his son John Byrne Jr. continued with his father’s cause and tried in vain to market Chaocipher as either a machine or cryptologic algorithm. John Byrne Jr. has also sadly passed away without ever seeing any commercial success from his father’s invention.
Chaocipher is on an infamous list of unsolved codes and ciphers and was a reference subject in David Kahn's book The Codebreakers. To date Chaocipher has not been cracked and it remains both a cryptologic curiosity and legend, and one of the premier unsolved cipher challenges of today.
For more information on legendary unsolved ciphers go to http://elonka.com/UnsolvedCodes.html.
For more general information on Chaocipher and efforts to solve this enigma go to http://www.mountainvistasoft.com/chaocipher/
Update (9/8/10) - In June 2010 the NCMF/NCM shared some of the archive material with the amateur cipher public and within weeks the first-ever Chaocipher solution was published on the Internet. You can read more about Chaocipher and the solution to this system at http://www.mountainvistasoft.com/chaocipher/ActualChaocipher/Chaocipher-Revealed-Algorithm.pdf
Dave D’Auria & Cheryl Needle Transfer
Chaocipher Archives & Blueprints
Wooden Mock-up Of Chaocipher
Chaocipher Blueprints (Keyboard on Right)
Silent Years Book - John Byrne’s Cipher Challenge
On 31 March the AC Chairman traveled to Long Island New York to accept a large donation of cryptologic items from the collection of Mr. Louis (Lou) Kruh. Lou was a nationally known collector of cryptologic memorabilia and a close associate of Dr. David Kahn. Lou’s wife Gladys arranged the donation on Lou’s behalf. Sadly, Lou passed away on 1 May. Lou had a life-long fascination with cryptography. He purchased his first book on the subject in 1943, Elementary Cryptography by Helen Gaines, which he used as his textbook for a cryptography course at Hunter College. He eventually amassed one of the largest collections of cryptologic memorabilia in private hands. The Kruh donation consisted of approximately 60 boxes of books, magazines, pamphlets and artifacts; three file cabinets of notes, rare photographs and personal papers; 15 framed collectible items; five small cipher devices; and a large collection of cryptologic toys and games.
PLEASE NOTE: Items from the listing found at http://www.apprendre-en-ligne.net/crypto/references/LouKruh.html went to a private collector and are not available through the National Cryptologic Museum
Two items in the Kruh donation to the NCM are of particular historic note:
-- A letter dated June 14, 1796 signed by William Coleman (1766-1829), the first editor of the New York Evening Post and a friend of Alexander Hamilton. The letter from Coleman includes two paragraphs of shorthand code. In April 1986 James Gillogly was able to decipher the shorthand and provide a transcript of the letter. The complete story of his cryptanalytic success is included in an April 1987 Cryptologia article. You can find the complete article and translation at:
--an intriguing looking "manuscript" of transcripts from a 1935 NBC Radio show called Stories From the Black Chamber. The radio show was loosely based on Herbert O. Yardley's book The American Black Chamber. The bound “manuscript” includes a letter from Yardley to a colleague on the inside flap. The show ran for 13 episodes before it was cancelled. One or more of the episodes were titled "Secret Ink." There are no known surviving audio copies of the series. The scripts of the broadcasts are available in the Library of Congress in the NBC archive. A number of rare books from Lou's collection have already been catalogued and are now available to the public at the NCM Library. A selection of photographs of items from the Kruh donation are included below.
NCM Librarian Rene Stein and NCMF Acquisition Chairman Dave D'Auria with books from the Kruh Collection
Mrs. Gladys Kruh donates a framed hieroglyphic to NCMF AC Chairman Dave D'Auria
1796 letter from William Coleman letter with a shorthand code
Stories from the Black Chamber Manuscript
US Army Signal Corp Slidex Encryptor
Rolodex Codeword Hagelin Cipherkey U.S. Army Cipherkey
Encoder Generator Generator
Cryptologic Toys and Games
Cryptologic Toys and Games
U.S. Army Signal Mirrors
Beaufort Frequency Chart
Cardboard Cipher Wheel
Codebreaking 1st Day Cover
Cryptologic Toys and Games
Toy Code Wheels
Framed Sherlock Holmes Dancing Man Code Prints
In December 2009 the Acquisition Chairman (AC) bid on and won two very rare Civil War-era letters of cryptologic significance. The total cost of the letters was $5,968.75. The AC is currently seeking a benefactor to cover the cost of the acquisitions. The Museum staff and History Department are currently researching the history of the letters and preparing them for inclusion in our Civil War era exhibit. A detailed description of the letters follows.
The Confederate Army Deciphers The Union Signal Flag Code
This letter is a rarity among rarities. It’s dated 21 Aug 1864 from Lt. Col. Charles Marshall (General Robert E. Lee's aide de camp and military secretary) to Lt.Gen. Jubal A. Early, one of General Lee's most trusted field commanders. In the letter Lt. Col. Marshall notifies Lt. Gen. Early that the Confederate Signal Corp have "deciphered" the enemy (i.e., the Union) signal alphabet for visual signaling. This alphabet would have been the Wig Wag code, a single flag code developed by U.S. Army Major Albert Myer in the 1850s, and first used in the Battle of Bull Run. The code was used extensively by both the Union and Confederate armies throughout the war. Lt. Col. Marshall also cautions Lt. Gen. Early to conceal the fact of Confederate knowledge of the Union signal code, and exhorts the General to have the Confederate signalmen on their guard to prevent the Union army from obtaining information by that means. This letter represents one of the earliest and best examples of both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Communications Security (COMSEC) references in tactical military communications in American military history. Also of interest is the letter is marked as "Confidential" although it was evidently sent in the clear (i.e., unencoded) by pouch/courier from General Lee's headquarters to Lt. Gen. Early's location. A Picture of the letter is included below.
The following is the text of the letter as best we can interpret it:
Confidential ???? ANVA (Army of Northern Virginia)
31 August 1864
Brigadier General JA Early
General Lee directs me to enclose the enemy’s signal alphabet as deciphered by some of our signal corps here. We read their messages with facility, and the General thinks it may be of service to you but advises that care be taken to conceal the fact of our knowledge of the alphabet. The enemy also reads our messages, and the General suggests that your signal men be put on their guard to prevent the enemy obtaining information by that means.
Lt. Colonel and ????
The “Peter Cottontail Code” Confederate Spy Letter
General William Hardee was a Georgian born West Point graduate who fought for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He led a Confederate Corp at the Battle of Shiloh, commanded the Confederate Army at the Battle of Perryville, and was one of the leading Confederate generals at the battle of Chattanooga and throughout the Atlanta Campaign. General Leonidas Polk from Tennessee was a cousin of President James Polk and an Episcopal Bishop from Louisiana prior to the start of the Civil War. He was appointed to the position of General because of his close friendship with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. By many accounts he was a poor General who made numerous tactical blunders during the war, and was held in ill-regard by many of his military contemporaries. He was killed in battle outside of Marietta Georgia on 14 June 1864.
The four-page letter written by "Jimmy Rabbit" on 24 April (year unknown, but
no later than 1864) in Lupinsville Georgia is addressed to General Polk in cryptic style using the children's story of Peter Cottontail to mask the military subject matter. It starts, "My Dear General Rabbit," and has numerous rabbit-related references and descriptions of rabbit-related idiosyncrasies throughout. It appears to be, inter alia, a military situation report (e.g., "I heard the other day that General Hardee had killed about 400 rabbits..."). The letter is a translation of a message written in code (i.e., "the Peter Cottontail Code"), and was found among the personal papers of General Polk. It is an intriguing and rare piece of early American code-related history but the exact meaning and translation may never be known. Pictures of the four-page letter are included below.
The following is the text of the letter as best we can interpret it:
Lupinsville April 24th
My Dear General Rabbit,
Though you have been gone a long time, you need not to think that I have forgotten you. For I think of you very often and remember all you told me. I try to keep my fur and my paws clean and do not eat or trouble anything any rabbit tells me not to. For I remember how I burnt my mouth with the pepper grass. And how the bees stung me so bad when I meddled with their hives. The other day I went in the garden to nibble some greens. Aunt Sue Cottontail saw me and scolded me and made me feel mighty bad. And told me, she once heard of a man, who had a nice turnip patch, and the little rabbits kept eating in it. So, he made a Tar baby and stuck it up in the garden. The little rabbits came that night and when they saw it they was mighty skeared. But when they saw it did not move, they got over their skear, and told it to “get out of their way”, and when it wouldn’t they ran at it, and butted it with their heads. And there they stuck!! So, the next day when the man came and found the little rabbits with their heads fast in the Tar baby, he said, “Oh yes! I got you now. I reckon you won’t be in my patch again.” And took them and gave them to his children, and they fried them and eat them up!!!!! When I heard this I was so skeared, that I cocked up my tail and hopped out of the garden as fast as I could. For I heard the other day that General Hardee had killed about 400 rabbits. And as I was close by Mrs. Polk’s I was so afraid General Polk would send home a Tar baby to be put in his garden, that I have not been in there since. And can only peep through the fence at the nice cabbage lettuce and peas. And can’t eat one bit of them. I hope a good time will come soon for the rabbits. The other night while we were all fast asleep in our burrows, a mean, bad, old, grey Rabbit came and stole some of our things. My father, Capt. Hare tracked his paws in the mud across a field to his burrow but could not find the things at all.
I send you a beautiful Easter egg dyed red, which I hope you will like as I think it is very pretty. I had a great many some blue, yellow and purple. I did not know I was going to get them and was so glad when I took off a napkin and found these beautiful eggs dressed with flowers.
Don’t you think this was a strange present for a Rabbit?
My Grandma Mrs. Cottontail and my Aunties the Misses Cottontails are very well so is my mother, Mrs. Hare and little brother Bunny.
Remember me to the Uncle Mich Lupin and write soon my dear General Rabbit to your
On 20 November the AC Chairman, Dave D'Auria, traveled to Great Neck NY to pick-up the 6th donation of cryptologic memorabilia from Dr. David Kahn. This latest donation consisted of 30+ boxes and three small file cabinets of books, notes, journals and other personal papers and effects from Dr. Kahn’s distinguished career in journalism and literature. The NCM Librarian will begin cataloging the material and add it to the extensive Kahn collection already on display and available in the Library.
Dave D'Auria and Dr. Kahn
In early October the AC completed the negotiation for the two-year loan of a Rosetta Stone replica from Dr. Joel Freeman, president of the Freeman Institute. The AC displayed the replica at the Foundation’s 2009 General Membership Meeting (GMM) on 14 October before transferring the stone to the NCM where it is now on display. The replica is a near perfect match for the original Rosetta Stone on display at the British Museum. Pictures of the original and replica are included below.
The Rosetta Stone dates to the year 196 BC and has the same text carved in three different languages: two Egyptian (hieroglyphic and Demotic) and one classical Greek. The Stone was discovered by the French in 1799 at Rashid, Egypt (the translation for Rashid is Rosetta), on the west bank of the Nile. The British eventually took possession of the Stone and it has been on display at the British Museum since 1802. The “secrets” of the stone were “decrypted” in 1822 by the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion. Deciphering the meaning of the hieroglyphic and demotic symbols and language is arguably the earliest known solution of a cryptologic isolog (i.e., the same text encoded in two or more forms).
To learn more about the Rosetta Stone and the replica project please visit www.RosettaStoneReplicas.com.
Original Rosetta Stone on Display at the British Museum
Rosetta Stone Replica On-Loan to the NCM Courtesy of Dr. Joel Freeman
A rare piece of one of the original Colossus computers was recently acquired from the estate of former NSA Director LTG William Odom. LTG Odom had contacted Dave D’Auria, the Chairman of the NCMF Acquisition Committee (AC) to donate the artifact prior to his passing. The Colossus memento was presented to LTG Odom by GCHQ in 1986 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the NSA-GCHQ partnership.
Colossus was one of the world’s first programmable digital computers. Two versions of Colossus were built during WW II to decipher German teleprinter messages encrypted using the German Lorenz cipher machine (codename Tunny). The prototype Colossus (Mark 1) became operational in February 1944. The Mark 2 Colossus, both faster and simpler to operate, became operational in June 1944. Eleven Colossus computers were built by the end of the war. Most of the Colossus computers were destroyed at the end of WW II. GCHQ continued to use a few for various computing tasks through the 1950s. A reconstructed Colossus Mark 2 is currently on display at Bletchley Park. A photo of the donated artifact and a picture of an original Colossus are included below
An operational Colossus from World War II
- Last Updated - 5/20/2013
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