This blog was created for USASTRATCOM Long Lines Battalion Army personnel who served in Taiwan during the 1965-72 time frame. Specifically, those who lived and worked in and around Taipei are the target. If you worked at the Grass Mountain or Gold Mountain facilities or anywhere in downtown Taipei, we would like to hear from you. All are welcome to visit and contribute to this blog. Your comments and pictures are encouraged.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Our Brush With Encryption

During the seventh week of signal school punched paper tape training at the USASESS at Ft. Gordon, GA, we entered an area surrounded by a chain link fence.

We had heard what was inside this enclosure, but now we found out. First, there was a sign inside the fence next to the buildings.

It read something like this----What You See Here, What You Do Here, When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here. And it wasn't Las Vegas!

So, for a week, we found out why we had a security clearance. For the majority of us, this would be the last time we used this equipment directly.

The history of encryption, decryption and cipher technology is more than expansive. Pictures and links will be shown throughout this post.

One of the most comprehensive websites for crypto machines is Jerry Proc's personal collection. Hours can be spent looking at his site by clicking HERE.

Another great site which encompasses the cipher machines of many different countries can be seen by clicking this  LINK.

The National Cryptologic Museum is in Fort Meade MD. To view its attractions, click HERE.

The Crypto Museum is also loaded. See it by clicking HERE.

To view a very intricate collection click HERE. 

The capture of the USS Pueblo in January of 1968 had great future significance for United States intelligence. Much of the encryption and decryption equipment was confiscated by the North Koreans.

This changed the future of American spy equipment and software. Of course, this was unknown to us in April of 1968 when we were finishing Signal School. 

The Pueblo incident can be read by clicking HERE.

Photo from

Inside the restricted area in Ft. Gordon, GA, you can see the teletypewriters and encryption equipment. What we learned was very basic. 

We used our regular teletype and had the encryption equipment plugged into it.

Then, we began typing basic script. Looking up at the printer, we saw five letters, followed by a space. And that's how it continued. We would see DYMQU FPZEY AGVLS HNPMI, for example.

The perforated tape also was in five letter code groups, followed by a space.

Then, we were instructed to type the encrypted encoded message. So, by typing the five letters in their groups, followed by a space, we decoded the message.

Again, we just knew the basics, not the technology. My friend and I typed the same letter over and over and never got a repeat of any letter groups.

During active duty, I saw several of these messages being sent through relay.

Word was that an encoded message could be hand delivered or even sent by mail in an envelope. As long as the date the message was shown, then it could be deciphered.

There was a sheet for each year with 365(6) number setups for the 6 rotors.

All of the pictures below came from one of the linked websites above. unless otherwise noted.

The workhorse of the Armed Forces during WWII was the M209 and its variations. Below are just a few pictures of this machine.

This pretty much shows why the M209 was so efficient. Lightweight, small, portable and sometimes battery powered only, it fit the bill on many different levels.

From the Crypto Museum, this version did not have a motor.

With the wheels removed, this shows the exposed M209.

Photo from

Here's another closeup of the spinning wheels removed from the M209.

With the lid open, and from a distance, the M209B was an impressive cipher machine.

Finally, the M209B is shown up close.

The Man From Dayton

During information gathering regarding cipher machinery, I came across a series of articles from the Dayton Daily News,  a famous Ohio newspaper.

During WWII, the U.S. government had almost total control over wages and prices. It also had the authority to convert factories and businesses to wartime production.

We may think of the sacrifices made by the military which are unparalleled. With that being said, this series was devoted to a man who was an engineer at NCR, the National Cash Register Company in Dayton.

After decades of silence about his and his company's role in code breaking during the war, an ailing Joe Desch was finally able to tell his daughter secrets that once took his emotional stability due to the circumstances.

To me, it's fascinating reading and shows the sacrifices all Americans made during WWII. To read this summation, click HERE.

A much more detailed view of the strain on a company, its engineers, scientists and employees, click HERE.

From the Crypto Museum

This is the famous American Bombe code breaking machine which helped crack the German Enigma codes and lessen German U-Boat effectiveness..

The British Bombe

The Allies had their own code breaking machines. In fact, it's fairly common knowledge, we discovered that the Japanese codes were broken before  the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Take a look at the British Bombe. Think of the heat from the tubes these machines produced. Click HERE.


  1. I remember using the KL-7 crypto machine to encrypt and decrypt many messages while working at the USTDC comm center in the 60's. At the time, this method of encryption was reserved for messages containing very sensitive information to and from high level officials.

  2. Thanks for the comment, John. I drew the line when it came to the KL-7 as one of my readers thinks it is still Top Secret. I'm sure you can find pictures of them in one of the suggested links.

  3. One can find numerous articles, pictures and schematics of the KL-7 online. It's the roters, wiring and circuitry that are/were classified, not the actual machine.

    I also used the PYTHON (one-time tape) system while at USTDC. That was a piece of work. We use it to communicate with the ROC communications center.(There are many mentions of this system online too.)