WW2 code breakers

I don’t want to abort the discussion but I am advised that PR for this publication is premature so I will regretfully delete the details. Will come back when it fits with the plans of the publisher and the author who wishes to maintain a low profile for the moment.

Check out this one.

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43 Responses to WW2 code breakers

  1. Rabz

    He has toiled on this latest work for years, BTW.

  2. Bob in Castlemaine

    Perhaps even the shooting down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane on the island of Bougainville?

  3. Kev

    Coincidentally I’m currently reading Michael Smith’s The Emperor’s Codes
    A good read as well.

  4. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Coincidentally I’m currently reading Michael Smith’s The Emperor’s Codes
    A good read as well.

    I can highly recommend that particular title, indeed.

  5. The Pugilist

    Love your work Dave. It helps that he’should also a top bloke.

  6. Muddy

    Congratulations.
    The biography of Commander Rupert Long by Barbara Winter (I forget the title right now as it’s in storage) would be a good parallel read for anyone interested in this niche topic. Also “You Can’t Fight Tanks with Bayonets” by Allison B. Gillmore, about psych warfare in the SWPA (where the Australian F.E.L.O. took the lead early on).

  7. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    The biography of Commander Rupert Long by Barbara Winter (I forget the title right now as it’s in storage) would be a good parallel read for anyone interested in this niche topic.

    “The Intrigue Master” is the title you are looking for.

  8. DM OF WA

    Astonishing that most Australians are unaware of the astonishing career of this man:
    Captain Eric Nave RAN.

  9. Dr Fred Lenin

    On the subject of the second world warc,I oncemet Jack Sue a Chinese Aussie who was infiltrated behind JPanese lines as an intelligence agent ,he would not speak of his exploits. but it must have been a dangerous experience . He was a very nice ordinary guy who loved music but never spoke of his experience a most modest hero . He came from Perth ,WA .

  10. Muddy

    DM of WA.
    Nave’s bio was still available for purchase online the last time I looked.

    Zulu.
    Yes, The Intrigue Master. Thanks. I think either you or I have mentioned that previously.

    Slightly off topic (and another generation), but Ann Blair’s biography of Australian Brigadier ‘Ted’ Serong is an interesting read, though perhaps a little overblown. For those unaware, Serong was a counterinsurgency expert in the 60s and 70s, his most interesting period being during the Vietnam War. Apologies for digressing.

  11. Muddy

    Jack Wong Sue wrote a book of his experiences (in Borneo) Dr. Fred. I have it somewhere. Not sure where though.

  12. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Astonishing that most Australians are unaware of the astonishing career of this man:
    Captain Eric Nave RAN.

    It was a shame that he let his name be put to a thoroughly bad book on Pearl Harbor, arguing that the British had broken the Japanese naval codes, and let Pearl Harbor go ahead to drag the Americans into the war. I’ve read his biography, but his autobiography would have made fascinating reading.

  13. Muddy

    Here we go. Blood on Borneo by Jack Wong Sue D.C.M., J.P. No publication date.
    Can still be purchased here possibly.

  14. Dr Fred Lenin

    I met him through a fellow musicianwho had known him fir years a really nice bloke ,as Aussie as you can get ,didnt mind a beer too .

  15. Muddy

    The book is a great read, Dr. Fred. I found my copy and will dust it off to re-read when I get a spare moment. The link I provided was to his website (he passed away a handful or so years ago now).

  16. Rafe Champion

    Muddy no need to apologize for mention of Serong, let the discussion spread in all directions!

    Another great read, Peter Ryan Fear Drive my Feet, not to be confused with another Peter Ryan of the ABC. The real Peter Ryan aged 18 was dispatched behind the Japanese lines in New Guinea and lived to tell the tale (just).
    A top man, he wrote a regular column for Quadrant for decades until he died last year, aged 92.

    Check out his story at the link, he is one of the most remarkable Australians of our time.

  17. Jannie

    Looks great, its on my list for sure.

    According to Wikipedia, the Yamamoto hit was made possible through US Navy Magic system, which was reading Japanese mail throughout the war.

    It would be interesting to see how the Oz team made their input. The performance of Australian senior command during WW2 does not leave the impression that there was significant intelligence guiding their deliberations.

  18. Muddy

    At the risk of ruining the thread via my repeated digressions, for those with an interest in special operations-type history, I received in the mail today a book titled Special Operations, South-East Asia 1942-1945: Minerva, Baldhead & Longshanks/Creek by David Miller (Pen & Sword Military, 2015) about British special ops (WWII) in Sumatra, the Andaman Islands, and Goa.

    I haven’t read it yet, so cannot evaluate the content, however I’m often drawn to these type of subjects that have not yet been flogged to death. (The cover photo is a bit disingenuous though, as it is of an Australian independent company in New Guinea, so nothing at all to do with the subject of the book).

  19. Muddy

    Rafe.
    I have a copy of Fear Drive My Feet and have a reasonable knowledge of the campaign just to the south in the Bulolo Valley, to which Ryan’s experiences contributed.

    IIRC, Australian forces made a significant contribution to the overall intel picture in New Guinea in about April/May ’43 when a trove of documents was found by an Aussie infantry party mopping up after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea on (Fergusson?) Island.

    Lionel Veale, who last time I heard was still alive on the Gold Coast, was a member of several ‘M’ Special Unit parties and wrote of his experiences in about four books, two of which were Wewak Mission and Long Island. They were self-published so could have been edited better, but they are great stories of small, adventurous parties of isolated Australians ‘behind the lines.’

    These topics are very much my forte (I’ve admitted previously to being a scientific and economic illiterate) and I could waffle about them for hours.

  20. Pedro the Ignorant

    Historian Lynette Silver, author of the highly acclaimed reference work Sandakan, A Conspiracy of Silence claims that Jack Wong Sue’s book, Blood on Borneo is full of inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

    She has a good record of exposing the fraudulent claims of military “heroes”.

    Take Jack’s book with a grain of salt, but it is a ripping yarn anyway.

  21. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    IIRC, Australian forces made a significant contribution to the overall intel picture in New Guinea in about April/May ’43 when a trove of documents was found by an Aussie infantry party mopping up after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea on (Fergusson?) Island.

    I don’t have a reference, but you are quite correct. The retreating Japanese failed to burn their code books, buried them, and as you say, their discovery made a significant contribution to the overall Intel war.

  22. Muddy

    Pedro.
    You bring up a good point. I’ve always been quite suspicious of those history books which use copious amounts of dialogue to tell the story (another reason for disliking that Fitzsimons bozo), as though the author could recall exactly what was said after six or seven decades. Lionel Veale – who I mentioned above – wrote like that, so as you advise: read them as yarns. To put Jack Wong Sue’s story in context, people might consult Operation Semut, Silent Feet and others.

    I think it was Silver who wrote The Bridge at Parit Sulong? If so, another great, and largely ignored story. But also in Malaya, so I’m wandering again…

  23. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    You bring up a good point. I’ve always been quite suspicious of those history books which use copious amounts of dialogue to tell the story (another reason for disliking that Fitzsimons bozo),

    I can’t take Red Bandanna Man seriously as a historian.

  24. Muddy

    Just before I head off for some beauty sleep, I think we might be referring to two separate discoveries with the intel hoard in New Guinea, Zulu. The cache of documents I was thinking of was found in a boat somewhere in the vicinity of Goodenough Island (I wrote ‘Ferguson Island’ above) after the Bismarck Sea disaster, but the buried hoard was found later, in perhaps ’44, and further north. It’s too late to do research, but it’s comforting to know I’m not the only military history nerd here. Cheers.

  25. stackja

    Feldt Coast watchers was Long’s idea. Broken Japanese codes revealed some one in Canberra was helping Japaneses.

  26. Muddy

    Bandanna Man only flogs the already flogged horses. He treads where others have trodden a well-worn path. I’ve only read one of his books, the Kokoda one, and I found it excruciating. However I’m still gobsmacked that there is apparently such a large market for that kind of excreta.

  27. Muddy

    stackja.
    You’re right about Long and the Coastwatchers. The topic is covered well in Barbara Winters’ book as mentioned upthread. Speaking of which, Feldt’s original version of The Coastwatchers was not entirely accurate in one respect, as it did a great disservice to No.1 Australian Independent Company with a handful of factual inaccuracies that presented them in an undeserved bad light. But that’s another long story for another day.

    Night all. Thanks for the company.

  28. Muddy

    OK, DEFINITELY my last comment for the night: Another interesting and even less-known story is that of Australian involvement in the defence of New Caledonia in the first 18 months of the war in the Pacific. An Australian independent company of about 330 men was sent there just after the start of the war, and in addition to a few RAAF personnel and some Catalinas, was the only substantial military presence on the island (apart from some New Cal militia) until the arrival of the U.S. Americal Division in March ’42. The Aussies even trained some of the Yanks for a while. One of the Aussies ended up staying with the Americans and serving on Guadalcanal. He was KIA while serving with the U.S. forces on Bougainville.

  29. stackja

    Muddy
    #2431032, posted on July 3, 2017 at 9:09 pm New Caledonia

    Vichy controlled New Caledonia until RAN sent HMAS Adelaide. Vichy fled back to Indo-China and Free French controlled New Caledonia.

  30. Rafe Champion

    Muddy stop apologizing for interesting diversions, this is a pub conversation not a university seminar.

  31. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    I don’t want to abort the discussion but I am advised that PR for this publication is premature so I will regretfully delete the details.

    Bugger, I’ve just rung my favorite bookshop to score a copy!

  32. Rafe Champion

    Its ok to buy it, it is advertised on the publishers site, the information about the book is in the public domain but for strategic reasons we are running dead on the promotion for the moment, likewise on the author, at his request.

  33. Muddy

    Can’t bloody sleep.
    An Australian officer, Captain Paul Kneen was sent to New Cal to clandestinely gather intelligence about the loyalties of prominent New Cal individuals, both in the public services and otherwise. He masqueraded as a gunner in the small contingent named Robin Force that trained the French to man two old coastal artillery pieces which were part of the minimal defences of Nouméa. Kneen’s dossier can be viewed online via the National Archives. Kneen was promoted to major and was killed as the C.O. of No.5 Australian Independent Company during a raid on a Japanese outpost near Lae, New Guinea in mid 1942. He was an Englishman by birth. Political tension simmered in New Caledonia until the arrival of substantial U.S. forces. The arty contingent of Robin Force was withdrawn in early ‘ 42 and No. 3 Aust Ind Coy, which had arrived just prior to Christmas ’41 and returned to Aust in early August ’42, assumed their title. No.3 Ind Coy had been on their way to the N.T. from S.A. to replace No.2 Aust Ind Coy which had just embarked for Timor, but was turned around in the middle of the night and sent to New Cal via Sydney instead. They were the only force Aust could spare for the the French who had minimal personnel and equipment in New Cal, which was a target for the Japanese primarily for its mineral resources. The fact that it lay in the path of the route between the U.S. and Australia was secondary.
    Can I go the sleep now?

  34. Muddy

    Nope, still no sleep. That’s bad news for my co-workers in a few hours time, but until the intravenous rum kicks in, I’ll continue talking to myself.

    In late June, 1942, before the Japanese landed on the Papuan beachheads thus beginning the Owen Stanley’s campaign (as it was then known, commonly known now as simply ‘Kokoda’), Kanga Force (No.5 Australian Independent Company and the territorial unit, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles) staged a surprise attack on the most forward Japanese outpost in New Guinea, the township of Salamaua. Of the just over 100 enemy who were killed in the successful assault (only three of the attacking force were wounded, none seriously), one was the pilot of a Japanese float plane which had landed in the nearby harbour only hours previously. When the assault began, the pilot tried to get to his aircraft carrying a satchel of documents, but was killed en route. Among those documents was a map on which was marked Milne Bay as a location of interest. Of course, two months later in August, Milne Bay was the scene of an attempted enemy amphibious assault. That is not to say that the documents captured at Salamaua were the only intelligence sources that pointed to the enemy’s intentions, but they certainly contributed to the urgent build-up of Allied (predominantly Australian) defences there.

    On a broader note, it is important not to oversell code-breaking as being the only significant source of intelligence. I recall reading somewhere (perhaps “Breaking the Emperor’s Codes,” but I’m not sure) that Ultra intelligence (from the interception and reading of enemy coded communications) had indicated Japanese intentions to send a large convoy of reinforcements to Lae, New Guinea, the interception of which became known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, a significant victory for the Allies, hence RAAF Hudsons were sent on reconnaissance along the suspected convoy routes, one of which discovered the convoy and set in train the following disaster for the Japanese. HOWEVER, the Allies had been sending regular aerial reconnaissance missions to Rabaul (and Gasmata) on the island of New Britain, and were aware of the buildup of Japanese shipping in Simpson Harbour, Rabaul, thus indicating that the Japanese intended to transport a larger-than-normal force to an important destination. Given that the Wau-Salamaua area was the only active battlefield in Papua and New Guinea at that time, and that Guadalcanal in the Solomons had been evacuated, it was reasonable to suspect, even without intercepted enemy communications traffic, that a potential destination was Lae-Salamaua in New Guinea. So I’m not trying to devalue the efforts of codebreakers, (and especially the Australian contributions), of which I have taken an interest in the past, but to state that the intelligence picture in the region during this period consisted of more than what we read of on the bookshelves at K-mart.
    OK, there will be a test on this tomorrow, so make sure you study.

  35. Muddy

    Sorry, I think I got that wrong. I don’t think it was a Hudson that first spotted the convoy. In my defence, it’s now five hours past my normal bedtime, and I’m beginning to see noises.

  36. Muddy

    I really, really need some sheep.

  37. I think it was Silver who wrote The Bridge at Parit Sulong? If so, another great, and largely ignored story.

    Yep, I think that was the name of her book. It was at least the 3rd book written on that …er… incident.
    Though possibly the one with the most depth – I wouldn’t know, I’ve not yet read hers.

    I did notice one of the others was sold sealed in Singapore – you couldn’t open it until you’d purchased it – the same book was banned in Malaysia.

  38. John Comnenus

    I spoke recently to one of the few living veterans of Central Bureau and 6 Special Wireless Company. He thoroughly recommended David Dufty’s book The Secret Codebreakers of Central Bureau’. A former head of Defence Intelligence and historian of signals intelligence who did much for these veterans and preserving their legacy describes it as the most complete account of this part of Australia’s war effort. I enjoyed reading David’s work very much.

  39. Entropy

    Muddy
    #2431015, posted on July 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm
    Bandanna Man only flogs the already flogged horses. He treads where others have trodden a well-worn path. I’ve only read one of his books, the Kokoda one, and I found it excruciating. However I’m still gobsmacked that there is apparently such a large market for that kind of excreta.

    They are mostly bought as gifts, which is why Fitzsimmons tends to release a new one prior to Father’s Day or Christmas.

    The most important criteria appears to be thickness of the book.

  40. Muddy

    That’s a mighty fine compliment John Comnenus.

  41. Gab

    Miss him commenting here. He certainly added value to the blog.

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