06 February, 2012

06 February 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
6 February, 1945       0950

My dearest sweetheart –

It is with real satisfaction that I can again head my letters to you the word ‘Germany’. From the last time I wrote it until now – we’ve traveled a lot, seen a lot and suffered a little; we had anxious moments but my own particular concern was always as to how you at home were taking the news. I knew mail was delayed – there were more important uses for vehicles – and I can well imagine how you all ‘sweated it out’. That bothered me more than anything, darling, that and the effect on our pride. This has been a damned good Army we’ve been in, dear, better, I think, than any other on this Front – and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve got the best boys of any in this Army or any other Army. From the day we landed we have never had to go backwards because of enemy action and that’s a pretty good record – and when we went backwards this time – it was only because they wanted a damn good Corps to knock Rundstadt silly. The actual breakthrough – as you must have surmised – came in another sector. And we did knock him silly.

And the best part of all, sweetheart – is that we came back to the very same spot from where we left – and right now I’m at the same desk in the same department “Women’s Apparel”. The satisfying thing is to see these same Germans who had an awfully smug look on their faces when we left. They actually believed that Aachen would be theirs by Christmas and Brussels by New Years and I have no doubt that most of them believed we were gone for good. Such is the magic of the government propaganda the Germans are still able to put out. Anyway, we’re back and I’m betting we stay in Germany awhile longer. The result of our trip to Belgium was that it gave me an opportunity to see a part of Belgium I hadn’t seen before – the Ardennes, and it must have been beautiful before; a great part of it has been destroyed – the villages, that is.

And before I leave the subject, darling, I’m sorry I had you puzzled with my omission of “Belgium” on my letters. When we left here we were under very strict security measures – this Corps in particular. It wasn’t until we were in Belgium for some time that that restriction was lifted. I decided I wouldn’t write anything until I could write “Germany” again. And now – that’s enough about the military, sweetheart.

In addition to everything else, dear, we got a stack of mail and some as late as the 11th of January. I got Birthday cards and 3 Valentines from you! And I liked each of them because my sentiments are the same. I feel terrible about not having been able to send you even one this year, but you’ll have to blame the Germans for that. Just to make the record complete though, I’ll ask you now “Will you be my Valentine, mine alone – for now and always?” (I knew you would!)

Say – by the way sweetheart – didn’t you know I was the very jealous type? Who is this Frank fellow anyway? I remember your mentioning him sometime ago but I don’t remember whether you said he was in the Service or defense worker – or what. But it seems to me he calls you quite a bit. Better tell him to watch out! I’ve learned how to be pretty rough when I want to be. I’m kidding, of course, darling – about everything except the fact that I am the jealous type – but I don’t blame you for accepting a bit of diversion when you want to. Just don’t get too fond of anyone, dear!!

I got that letter of yours in which there was a note of Nancy’s enclosed. Will you tell her I got it, dear, and thank her for me? Thanks.

And now, darling, I’ll tell you I love you – again from Germany – but it’s the same true and constant love no matter where I am, sweetheart. But I think I’ll love you most and hardest from the good old United States – and let’s hope that day is not far off. My love to the folks, dear – and

All my everlasting love


about The Colmar Incident

A SIGABA enciphering and deciphering machine

From the National Securtiy Agency's public files comes this story about The Colmar Incident of World War II.
As the Allied armies were preparing for the final assault into Germany during the waning months of World War II, an event occurred which had the makings of a major disaster. An advancing U.S. Army division lost a SIGABA, the cryptographic machine used for the highest level of U.S. communications. This type of machine was a vital part of a world-wide Combined (UK/US) communications system, and should it fall into enemy hands, the results could be devastating. All of the Allied war plans for the Spring assault into Germany, for example had been enciphered by SIGABA, as well as arrangements for President Roosevelt's pending trip to Yalta. And it was the only highly secure U.S. cipher system available to many U.S. units in Europe at that time.

On 6 February 1945, Headquarters, Communications Zone, European Theatre of Operations (Paris) dispatched an Urgent-Secret message to all strategic commands in Europe, informing their signal officers to suspend use of certain cryptographic systems and materials due to a possible compromise. But it was not until 10 February, when the officer in charge of the War Department Code Center called persons at Arlington Hall to alert them that an extremely important message concerning the compromise had just been received, that any specific details became known concerning the systems involved in the compromise.

A trans-Atlantic enciphered phone conversation on the 11th, between Arlington Hall Station and the Signal Intelligence Division, ETO, Paris, afforded additional information. It noted, among other things, that a 2-1/2 ton truck had been stolen from a city street in Colmar, France, containing the SIGABA and associated - and other - equipment and documents. It further noted that the SIGABA and these other materials were in a locked safe in the "code room" carried by the truck. The theft involved the 28th Infantry Division, which was being transferred from Kayersburg, France, to the city of Colmar. Colmar had been evacuated by German troops several days before, and on the day of the theft the enemy was only about four miles to the north of the city.

The event had its beginning on 4 February, when the chief of the message center of the 28th Division's signal company departed from Kayersburg, with an advance station of his cryptographic team and equipment, to set up a message center in Colmar. When the men arrived, they found there were no billets ready or even allocated to the signal company. Having found an unoccupied house at No. 16 Barbarassastrasse, and having obtained official permission to occupy it, they unloaded their cryptographic equipment and established communications. The next day, 5 February, the second half of the team, with spare sets of cryptographic equipment, including a SIGABA departed for Colmar.

Upon arrival, the men located the first group. Unfortunately, though, the signal company's motor pool section, which had the responsibility for establishing a guarded truck park, had not yet arrived. After locating the division's message center, which had been established by the advance party the day before, the men were told that their billets were at No. 16, and were instructed to park as near to the house as possible. Subsequently, the truck with SIGABA and associated equipment was parked for the night in front of No. 20 Barbarassastrasse, but without guards, as normally required. The next morning, when two officers went to the truck to make some repairs, it was gone. After reporting to the message center chief that the vehicle was missing, the two men began searching for the truck. About 11:15 a.m. they found the trailer to the truck abandoned on a dead-end road. Tire tracks at the scene indicated that the trailer had been unfastened, and the truck had been turned around and driven out of town. A quick inspection revealed nothing was missing from the trailer, which had contained only unclassified material.

G-2 (Intelligence Staff) of the Division Headquarters in Colmar, coordinating with the Military Police, ordered a complete search of the area, and the Inspector General, 28th Division, ordered a thorough investigation of the responsible personnel. He also sought anyone who might have any information concerning the lost truck. This request had some results, revealing among other things, that a radio car from the same company had been parked across the street from the 2-1/2 ton truck and that men of the company had made frequent trips to the car throughout the night, for the purpose of occasionally running the motor. However, these men had neither seen nor heard anything and, in fact, had taken no notice of the truck in question.

It was further directed that all units and divisions conduct officer supervised searches to include all sheds, barns, woods, mountain areas, etc. SHAEF was also asked to conduct a complete theater-wide search, and the Sixth Army Group directed all headquarter troops, and subordinate units as well, to inventory the motor numbers and inspect the contents of all 2-1/2 ton trucks. Also, the help of the local police was promptly enlisted. Descriptions of the truck and safes, but not the contents, were given to the French officials. (American and British headquarters elements in Europe received more specific information about the contents of the truck.) General Eisenhower personally became involved and ordered that a vigorous investigation and search be made to locate the missing vehicle. With the possibility of the disclosure of all of the plans for the Spring offensive, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe gave top priority to the recovery of the truck containing the SIGABA; all Allied high commands participated in the search.

On the morning of 9 March 1945, the truck was finally located, abandoned in a wooded area several miles north of the city of Rambervillers, approximately 45 miles northeast of Colmar. The bumpers of the truck had been removed, and the numbers had been painted out; otherwise, there was no other apparernt damage to the truck. However, the safes containing the SIGABA and the other equipment were gone. Later that same afternoon, a search party from the First French Army, discovered the upper half of the safe as well as a small company field safe, submerged in the Gressen River, a small mountain stream which runs between the towns of Chatenois and Scherweiller. The safes were immediately placed under guard and turned over to the Sixth Army Group. The upper half of the safe contained the SIGABA and other classified equipment. The lower half of the safe, which had not yet been recovered, contained instructions, pamphlets and rotors for the SIGABA. After a thorough inspection, G-2 and Signal Intelligence decided that, since the settings in the safes had not been readjusted, and since there was no evidence suggesting that attempts had been made to open the safes, no compromise existed.

Finally, eleven days later, on 20 March, the lower safe was recovered from the river bottom about 100 feet downstream. Efforts to open the safe were unsuccessful because the combination was clogged with silt. Subsequently, the safe was sent to Paris where it was "opened" at a "ceremony" attended by at least half of the intelligence staffs in Paris. Attempts were first made to open the safe with a torch, but fortunately, the torch ran out of oxygen after cutting about two inches. For when the safe was finally cut and drilled open later, long after the VIP guests had departed, it was found to contain two 55-pound thermite bombs and 14-pound blocks of TNT, all wired to detonators. It was also fortunate that these explosives had not been designed as a booby trap; they were simply the devices normally carried with cipher machines to destroy them if they were in danger of being captured by the enemy.

Although no written record can be found regarding who had actually stolen the truck, an interview with an officer who was active in G-2 efforts at Headquarters, ETO, Paris, during the Colmar incident, did uncover some interesting information. He stated that during the Inspector General's investigations, two French peasants commented that the American Government could find its truck in the "woods," and, further, that the "boxes" in the truck had been thrown into the "river." Although the woods and river were not identified by name, their description of the surrounding area was sufficient to permit the truck and equipment to be found, and these two men were subsequently apprehended on the suspicion they participated in the theft. During their interrogation, however, it was learned from the Frenchmen that it was actually their friend, a farmer, who had taken the truck to move his household furniture. The farmer's name was never disclosed by his friends; consequently, he was not apprehended for questioning. In view of these revelations, the concensus at Sixth Army Group Headquarters was that the vehicle had been stolen for the value of the truck itself, and that the thieves were unaware that the truck contained highly valuable and sensitive cryptographic equipment.

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