I will limit myself to only two subjects and try to be perspicuous and present them undistorted and unexaggerated. I will also start in the inverse order of their importance.
Beginning with the Vergeltungswaffen or weapons of retribution, as Hitler called the V-1 and particularly the V-2 rockets, we should keep in mind how frightful and terrible were the V-2 rockets. They were radio-controlled, and about 47 feet long and 5 feet in diameter. They had a range of 200 miles, could reach a height of 90 miles, and attain a speed about 900 miles per hour. At such a speed people on the site where a rocket was about to hit could not even hear it.
When the first V-2 struck the London suburb of Chiswick on September 8, 1944, it destroyed 19 homes, killed scores of people, and left a crater 30 feet deep. British authorities were panic-stricken. Immediately they muzzled the media and forbade any mention of the impact and destruction. It was only two months later that the British public found out anything about the damaging weapon.
What if Hitler had had this weapon sooner? Why did he not strike earlier? How many lives would have been lost? Would operation Overlord ever have taken place? Would any concentration of the large contingent of troops necessary for the invasion of the continent have been possible?
The production of V-2 was considered by Hitler as a project of high secrecy and priority. When Wernher von Braun showed Hitler the perfect launch of the V-2 on a color film, it is reported that Hitler jumped from his seat and in a somewhat uncharacteristic display of emotion pumped Braun's hand with the greatest excitement. "This is the decisive weapon of the war. Humanity will never be able to endure it," he said, and added "If I had had this weapon in 1939 we would not be at war now."
Polish intelligence reported in 1941 that the Nazis were building new and mysterious weapons in Peenemunde on the Uznam island, on the Baltic Sea. Polish reports and maps delivered to British intelligence in 1942 and 1943 were more specific, and indicated that they were building rockets capable of mass destruction.
The British, convinced of the veracity of these reports and supplied with all the necessary information, on August 17, 1943 bombed and demolished the V-2 factory in Peenemunde. Over 500 Allied bombers dropped 1600 tons of bombs and 280 tons of incendiaries. The operation code name was Hydra. Forty bombers were lost over Peenemunde and one Mosquito over Berlin. I mention Berlin because the whole operation was conducted as though it was directed as a regular bombing of Berlin.
To Germany the loss was much greater than the Allies realized at that time. Gen. Hans Jeschonek, the chief of staff of the German air force, the Luftwaffe that should have prevented the bombing, committed suicide and left a suicidal note that read: "I hate Goering. Heil Hitler." Herman Goering was the commander in chief of the Luftwaffe.
Hitler immediately turned over the entire responsibility for production of these rockets to Heinrich Himler, Minister of Interior of the Reich and Reichsfuerer of the powerful and ferocious SS. He frantically, in an around-the-clock operation, transferred the manufacturing of weapons to the deep tunnels of the Harz Mountains. However, testing was still necessary, and was conducted in Poland in the early Summer of 1944.
Polish intelligence officers who had been given the reports of tests of the V-1 and V-2 rockets from the Polish underground Home Army, notified the British that they knew where the experiments were conducted, and the British, confident that the Poles could do just about anything, asked if by any chance the Polish underground army could steal one of the V-2s and ship it to England. The Polish underground soldiers did exactly that: they stole the V-2 rocket, one of the most guarded secrets of the Third Reich. They had also stolen one of the earlier models of German rockets, the V-1, and sent it to England.
It happened when one of the tested V-2 rockets landed on a muddy bank of the river Bug and it did not blow up. The Polish underground fighters were waiting for just such a situation and immediately camouflaged the rocket. Then, after the German patrols stopped looking for it, at night they took 6 horses and pulled the V-2 out of the mud and hid it in an empty barn. Later four Polish scientists disassembled the rocket and packed it into empty barrels. While waiting for the plane that the British promised to send to pick up the rocket they used the time to study its guidance system. Finally the plane, a Dakota C47, arrived with Lt. Culliford as its pilot. To load the huge cargo, and the four Polish scientists, into the plane was a frantic operation due to the nearness of the Nazi forces.
The C47's motors were running high but unfortunately the heavy plane could not move on the wet, muddy field. While many attempts were being made, distant Nazi automobile lights became visible on a vicinity road. Nervousness among those present rose high, and Lt. Culliford ordered the already dynamited plane to be blown up. But about 100 members of the underground army pleaded for one more try. They clawed the mud with their bare and already bleeding hands to enable the plane to move. Their last chance Their last try Finally the wheels moved and slowly rolled down on the provisory runway. The C47 had lifted into the air with its so precious cargo. The remaining Poles were quickly gone out into the nearby woods-which were usually avoided by the Germans, particularly at night.
Some historians believe that the incredible airborne Market-Garden operation that was supposed to secure bridges on the Rhine and seize Arnhem was greatly accelerated by two events. First, Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery's promotion to Field Marshall, and second, the V-2 explosion in Chiswick two days earlier. If successful, the three airborne divisions and one Polish brigade were also to wipe out the launchers of the V-2 menace. Tragically the operation failed miserably, even though in his memoirs Marshall Montgomery remained its unrepentant advocate.
The German Gen. Fritz Kraemer rushed his V-2 rockets to the center of the Hague, Netherlands, as soon as the Market-Garden operation was halted by German forces, and the V-2s exploded again, some in London and some in Antwerp. But the attacks did not last long, for they were the last convulsions of the dying Nazi beast. The last V-2 exploded in London on March 27, 1945, killing 127 innocent people.
What if the Germans had had the V-2 rockets one year earlier? I request forgiveness for returning to this rhetorical question at the end of the first section of my paper, but unless you ponder and consider this, my efforts were in vain.
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Michel De Montaigne, a French philosopher, at the end of the XVIth century said: "If falsehood, like truth, had but one face, we would be on more equal terms. But the opposite of truth has a hundred thousand faces and an infinite field."
I am very much aware that my statement about those gentlemen who did not adhere to the truth is somewhat strong, but knowing that they were rather close to these knowledgeable people: Alastair Denniston who as a Captain before World War II was sent to Warsaw to collect the material on Enigma that was obtained by Polish intelligence , Alfred Dilwyn Knox, a leading English cryptographer, Humphrey Sandwith and Gen. Sir Steward Graham Menzies, the chief of the famous British MI-6, it is impossible that they did not know that those were the very men who brought the theoretical and practical knowledge along with one of the Polish made Enigmas to the Government Code and Cipher School in Bletchley Park, England, in July of 1938.
And as a comment on this, I would like to give you one of my favorite sayings: "Whenever you make a mark in this world, watch out for the guys with erasers."
Those who work in secrecy perform very thankless work. Credit can so easily be taken away from them-and alas so often is. There is no quarrel among historians that the intelligence which emanated from Bletchley Park was virtually priceless and according to Gen. Eisenhower it enormously simplified his task as a commander of the forces of the Allies that invaded Europe in June 1944, as he wrote in his letter of July 1945 to Gen. Steward Menzies.
In Winterbotham's book The Ultra Secret, there is a paragraph which reads: "Since this book was completed, Polish officers now living in Britain have stated that the Polish intelligence constructed a number of Enigma machines from information extracted from the factory in Germany, coupled with the help of their own cryptographers, and that it was presumably one of these which they supplied to us. This may well be true, and certainly the Polish mathematicians and technicians displayed brilliance and great courage, but the story I have given is the one told me at the time."
Let me relate to you the real story of the Enigma machines. The first Enigma was invented and patented as a Geheimschrifmaschine in 1919 by a Dutchman, Hugo Koch of Deft. He had not been able to build a prototype, and sold his patent to a German living in Berlin, Artur Scherbius, who had built a primitive form of a rotor cipher machine, and called it Enigma This machine was exhibited publicly in 1924. But he also did not succeed and sold his Enigma patent to another company, Heimsoeth and Rinke. At this time Enigmas were available to anybody who wanted to buy them. It took some years until Wermacht became convinced that the codes of the Geheimschrifmaschine were humanly impossible to break. The final, improved military model with exchangeable plug boards and discs increased the number of possible permutations to 10.5 quadrillion. According to one calculation, if 1000 cryptologists, each with one Enigma, tested 4 keys per minute for a whole day every day, the team would take 1.8 billion years to test them all.
By 1945 over 120,000 Enigmas were built for the Wermacht, the Schutzstaffe (SS), the Sicherheitsdients (SD), police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It became the official Chifriermachine of the whole German totalitarian state and was used on the land, in the air and at sea, by Hitler's staff, the Security and Political Intelligence, the Abwehr, and all levels of the Wermacht.
The codes of the earlier military version of Enigma were already broken by Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Ró?ycki and Henryk Zygalski, who were involved in trying to dissect and unscramble the ever increasing complexity introduced by the German inventors.
Help arrived from an unexpected source, from Germany through France. Capt. Gustave Bertrand (later General), of the French Deuxieme Bureau, was contacted by a German who was a clerk of the Third Reich's main cryptographic bureau. His brother Rudolf held a rank of Lt. Colonel. The clerk's name was Hans Schmidt and the French assigned him a code name "Asch." He delivered a very valuable collection of items such as: a secret instruction manual on the use of the machine, a cipher text and its plain text counterpart. Capt. Bertrand directed these documents to his bureau but the French cryptologists did not know how the papers could possibly be useful. Then he turned to the British leading cryptoanalyst, A.D. Knox, who was involved in Enigma on the British side.
Capt. Bertrand also knew that the Polish cryptologists had already made a great progress in breaking Enigma, and he obtained permission to give these sensitive items to the Polish mathematicians from the intelligence cryptographic department BS-4 who could use the valuable secret documents immediately. Having the instructions, they decided to built the more sophisticated Enigma. As a matter of fact a number of such machines were built in greatest secrecy by the AVA company in Warsaw, Poland. Possession of such machines was absolutely necessary for construction of a cyclometer and "The Bomb." Later a more sophisticated version of "The Bomb" was built with the British in 1938, a cabinet 8 feet tall and about 8 feet wide at its base. Inside it had wiring that was built to match the electrical circuits of Enigma. On these worked the mathematician with a true genius's mind, Marian Rejewski.
Gen. Gustave Bertrand wrote in his memoirs: "Only they deserve the entire glory for the highly specialized leadership in this incredible story. Only thanks to their knowledge and persistence, unequaled in the world, they conquered difficulties, which the Germans were absolutely convinced were humanly impossible."
A German, P. Fisher, in his article entitled "Die Ratselmashine" wrote in 1975 in Frankfurt, that Rejewski's theorem was the work of an absolute genius.
On July 1939 the Polish, knowing that the war was inevitable, invited both French and British to a conference at a Polish intelligence station in the Pyry forest near Warsaw, and handed over to the British everything regarding Enigma, holding only a part needed for operational means. From France came Capt. Bertrand and his expert cryptologist Henri Braquenie, and from Britain, A. Denniston, A.D. Knox and H. Sandwith.
Their hosts were Gwido Langer, the chief of the Polish counterintelligence BS-4, Maksymilian Ciezki and the three young mathematicians already mentioned: Rejewski, Rozycki and Zygalski. The visitors were given a tour of the super-secret cryptologist facilities in the well guarded center. They were shown the Polish built Enigma, they were shown the cyclometer and the first Polish "The Bomb." When Rajewski explained to the guests how he could read German communications within two hours of their receipt, they exchanged an incredulous glance as they were absolutely stunned. Finally Denniston asked if it would be possible to send British cryptologists and their technical staff to make a copy of the Polish built Enigma. The visitors were quite beside themselves when they were told that it would not be necessary for both the British and the French would be given a machine as a gift from their Polish ally.
Now we all know the immensely valuable service that Enigmas performed during the war. Because of Enigmas the Allies knew all of the German political intentions, as well as all military plans and movements of German armies.
* * *
And now again What if we had not had the ability to read the Nazi's commands? What if we had not had Rajewski's equations which helped to break Enigma?
I think that even if we had not read the Nazi communications, even if the Nazis had been victorious on all fronts well into the Summer of 1945-the nuclear bomb would most likely have exploded over Berlin first rather than Hiroshima, and the war would have ended right then and there.
When recently I was asked if, now that I am an old fellow, I have some
philosophical thoughts regarding the war, I said, quoting someone I once
heard: "At the end, all that matters is not so much who was right But it
surely matters who was left."