A CIA U-2 pilot identified as Francis Gary Powers poses in his high altitude flight suit with an early U-2B, one of several such aircraft fitted with the ventral antenna fairing atop the fuselage.


To commemorate the shoot-down of Powers’ U-2, this Fakel 13D missile on its SM-63 launcher was placed outside the Sverdlovsk military museum, where the remains of the U-2 are on display.

The first success of the S-75 [SA-2 GUIDELINE SAM] system took place under mysterious circumstances. The Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) had been staging reconnaissance missions over the People’s Republic of China using RF-101 Voodoo aircraft and, in early 1959, the US Air Force transferred three RB-57D high-altitude spyplanes to RoCAF for deep overflights. In 1958 the Soviet Union delivered five SA-75 Dvina batteries, along with a training battery and 62 missiles, to China. Soviet PVO-Strany troops helped man the launch sites, which included three around Beijing and the others around major missile and nuclear weapons test sites. On October 7, 1959, one of the Taiwanese RB-57Ds was struck at an altitude of 65,600ft (20km) by a salvo of three V-750 missiles. It was the first time in history that an aircraft was shot down by a SAM, although at the time the feat was attributed to Chinese fighters due to the secrecy of the Chinese S-75 battalions. The first kill in Soviet airspace was claimed on November 16 1959 when an SA-75 battery near Volgograd was credited with shooting down a US WS-416L reconnaissance balloon, although this incident remains unverified.

Due to growing political controversy over the Soviet strategic missile program, Eisenhower reluctantly agreed to a resumption of U-2 flights in 1960. The U-2 mission on April 10, 1960, flew near the Tyuratam missile range and passed a number of S-75 batteries that had not been alerted in time. A number of senior Soviet commanders were cashiered when Khrushchev learned of the failure. The next U-2 flight on May Day 1960 became the most infamous. Operation Grand Slam was piloted by Francis Gary Powers and flew from Pakistan towards Tyuratam and the Sary-shagan anti-ballistic missile proving ground. The PVO-Strany managed to track the U-2 almost continuously from the Soviet-Afghan border, and more than a dozen fighter aircraft were sent up to intercept it, including one attempt to ram it using a new Su-9 interceptor. The CIA had a very incomplete picture of the density of air defenses in the Urals, and the Sverdlovsk area had a heavy concentration of missile defenses since it was the center of the Soviet nuclear weapons industry. The new production line at the Kalinnin plant in the city had recently begun to deliver the new 13D missile to local SAM batteries. In the vicinity of Sverdlovsk, a PVO-Strany regiment newly equipped with the latest S-75N Desna engaged the U-2 from two of its batteries. A 13D missile from the battery, commanded by Maj Mikhail Voronov, scored a near miss behind the U-2 at around around 67,000ft (20.5km) at 0853 hours, which shattered the control surfaces of the U-2 and caused it to spiral out of control. Powers managed to escape the doomed aircraft by parachute, and shortly afterwards the U-2 was hit by another missile, which broke it apart. The shoot-down of the U-2 and capture of Powers was a major embarrassment for the Eisenhower administration and led Eisenhower to forbid any further flights over the Soviet Union by the U-2, a ban which was later extended to its supersonic follow-on, the SR-71. However, overflights did continue in other regions including China, North Korea, and the Middle East. By this time, new sources of overhead photography of the USSR were becoming available, the Corona spy satellites, which reduced the need for provocative overflights.

In 1956, as flying saucers were appearing regularly on the covers of pulp magazines, the US Air Force and the CIA were preparing to deploy U-2s overseas for operational missions.

Meanwhile, Project Genetrix had come to an end after only two months. Nearly fifty cameras and film capsules had been recovered, but most of the balloons had not successfully drifted across the entire breadth of the Soviet Union. Ironically one of the most useful results from having reconnaissance balloons masquerading as weather balloons was the weather data that was gathered. A great deal was learned from high altitudes winds over the Soviet Union that would be vital in planning the U-2 missions.

Meanwhile the cameras that had been developed for the U-2 were, like the airplane itself, breaking new ground technologically. They had to. Existing aerial cameras had good resolution when taking pictures from 30,000 feet, but the U-2 would be flying twice that far from the subjects of its cameras. The Connecticut-based Perkin-Elmer company, an existing maker of aerial cameras, had developed high-acuity K-38 cameras, but they needed to scale it down to meet the U-2’s 450-pound payload limit. The result was the A-1 system that consisted of a pair of K-38s with a K-17 as a back-up camera.

Of course, in the context of Cold War geopolitics, the notion of overflying the Soviet Union involved more dimensions than cameras, altitude, and weather. Even as he approved Project Aquatone at each step, President Eisenhower was well aware of the politics of violating the air space of another superpower. He voiced this opinion directly to CIA Director Allen Dulles and Richard Bissell, as well as through his Defense Liaison Officer Colonel Andrew Jackson Goodpaster.

Back on July 21, 1955, less than a week before the Angel went airborne for the first time, Eisenhower had made his famous Open Skies proposal to the Soviet Union in which he offered to allow the Soviets to overfly American facilities if they would reciprocate. Eisenhower had considered their rejection of this proposal as a rationale for continuing the Aquatone program, but a year later, he hesitated, fearing the reaction that would come if the Soviets detected a U-2, or even worse, if one of the aircraft crashed or was shot down.

The CIA, especially Dulles, insisted that this was unlikely and that it was worth the risk when balanced against the vital intelligence that was likely to be gained by the overflights.

Goodpaster, who served as Eisenhower’s point of contact with the CIA with regard to overhead reconnaissance and who sat in on the president’s meetings on the subject, recalled Dulles’s almost nonchalant attitude on the subject. In the early 1980s, he told Smithsonian historian Michael Bechloss that “Allen’s approach was that we were unlikely to lose one.

If we did lose one, the pilot would not survive.… We were told—and it was part of our understanding of the situation—that it was almost certain that the plane would disintegrate and that we could take it as a certainty that no pilot would survive and that although they would know where the plane came from, it would be difficult to prove it in any convincing way.”

Just as Genetrix operated under the weather balloon cover story, the CIA U-2s operated under the cover story of being weather reconnaissance aircraft ordered by National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which explains why the early ones bore NACA markings. These aircraft were assigned to the US Air Force 1st Weather Squadron, Provisional, with the latter qualification added because “provisional” squadrons could exist outside a routine command structure.

The pilots, meanwhile, were fighter pilots who held reserve, rather than regular, commissions. They resigned these commissions in order to be hired as civilians by the CIA and then masqueraded as US Air Force pilots flying with the newly created provisional squadron.

Detachment A of the 1st Weather Squadron began deploying overseas to England in April 1956 but was redeployed to the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) base at Wiesbaden in West Germany in June. According to Pedlow and Welzenbach, this move was to “avoid arousing further [public] reaction [to the U-2’s arrival] in the United Kingdom.” They were quickly moved to another location near the East German border whose name is redacted in the copy of the Pedlow-Welzenbach document available to the author. Here the aircraft were reengined with more powerful J57-P-31 engines and were redesignated as U-2Cs.

While waiting for Eisenhower’s final go-ahead for flights over the Soviet Union, the first U-2 missions, over East Germany and Poland, were flown on June 20. At the CIA, Richard Bissell and General Charles Cabell, now the agency’s deputy director of central intelligence (DDCI), were eager to begin flights over Soviet territory, but Eisenhower insisted on a face-to-face briefing for German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The two men flew to Bonn personally.

On July 4, less than one year after the U-2’s debut flight, the aircraft was flying an operational mission over the naval shipyards at Leningrad on its first Soviet Union mission. The following day, a U-2 overflew Moscow itself for the first and only time, then flew 125 miles farther east, looking down at the facility at the Zhukovsky Airfield at Ramenskoye where the Myasishchev M-4 Bison bombers were tested.

In a later conversation with Donald Welzenbach, Richard Bissell recalled briefing Dulles about Leningrad and Moscow having been overflown in the first twenty-four hours of the surveillance program. If Dulles was nonchalant, Bissell was almost cavalier.

“Oh my Lord,” Dulles said. “Do you think it was wise the first time?”

“Allen,” replied Bissell. “The first time is the safest.”

In turn, Dulles and Bissell met with Goodpaster to discuss the president’s concerns about whether the first overflights had been tracked on Soviet radar. In his July 5, 1956, memorandum for the record, Goodpaster noted that the CIA was authorized to continue the overflights “at the maximum rates until the first evidence of [radar] tracking was received.”

In a July 1987 interview, Goodpaster told Donald Welzenbach that Eisenhower was prepared to immediately halt the overflights if the U-2s were detected.

As the mission folders in the files of the CIA Office of Special Activities (OSA) show, the Soviets did detect the U-2 but were unable to track it consistently. Indeed, their radar coverage was so spotty that they did not know the aircraft had been over Moscow or Leningrad.

Elsewhere, MiG-15s and MiG-17s were captured by the K-38 cameras as they attempted to reach the Angel. However, the fighters were unable to reach the U-2 at its altitude. Just as the gleaming bare metal belly had made American airliner pilots mistake it for a flying saucer, the same glare made the Angel easy for Soviet pilots to see, even if they could not touch it.

Naturally, the Soviets protested about the overflights—privately, of course, because to admit being overflown would have been embarrassing.

Eisenhower then told Dulles to halt the flights—after eight missions behind the Iron Curtain, including five over the Soviet Union itself—and to tell no one about the U-2 missions who did not already know. The president met with Dulles on July 19, where he told him, according to Goodpaster, that he had “lost enthusiasm” for U-2 overflights of Soviet territory, although he did agree for them to continue over Eastern Europe. In an October 3 conversation with Goodpaster, a nervous Eisenhower grumbled that the U-2 operations were “provocative and unjustified.”

Despite all of the apparent failures, the U-2 had already achieved an unexpected intelligence coup. Analysts were able to ascertain that not nearly as many Bison bombers were being rolled out as previously feared. Indeed, there was no “bomber gap.”

In the fall of 1956, even as the overflights of the Soviet Union were suspended, the attention of the Eisenhower administration and the CIA shifted to the Middle East. Egypt had seized the Suez Canal, then owned and operated by Britain and France. The crisis devolved into open warfare as Israel attacked Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula, and Britain and France attempted to seize the canal by force. The United States remained on the sidelines with Eisenhower demanding a halt to hostilities.

Meanwhile, as Detachment A in West Germany was closed down, the CIA had made arrangements with Turkey, a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member, to base U-2 Detachment B there for possible future overflights of the Soviet Union. When the Suez Crisis began, the U-2s were able to supply Eisenhower with timely information about unfolding events. Later in 1956, after the Soviets intervened in Hungary to crush a rebellion against their dominance of Eastern Europe, Eisenhower agreed to a resumption of limited overhead reconnaissance by Detachment B of Eastern Europe, but not of the western Soviet Union.

As it was now obvious that Soviet radar could track the U-2s, the CIA initiated Project Rainbow, an effort to develop means of reducing the U-2’s radar cross section (RCS). These developments were early steps toward the basket of technologies known as “stealth,” which emerged into prominence a quarter century later.

One of the firms that emerged as a major player in this process was Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier (EG&G), a technical consulting firm founded in 1931 by MIT professor Harold Edgerton, a pioneer of high-speed photography. During World War II, EG&G had the imaging technology for Manhattan Project implosion tests, and in the 1950s, they were one of the key support organizations for the nuclear testing program at the NTS.

Over the coming decades, EG&G gradually expanded the scope of their work from engineering to facilities management at secure government locations, especially within the Nellis Range. As Area 51 mythology unfolded late in the century, EG&G was often singled out in various “black airplane” conspiracy theories. For Project Rainbow, their role was that of monitoring the proto-stealth experiments developed by others.

The early radar deception experiments conducted at Groom Lake involved radar-absorbing beads on wires strung around the periphery of the U-2 or gluing radar-absorbing “wallpaper” panels to its fuselage. Aircraft this encumbered were called “dirty birds,” an appellation readily accepted by Kelly Johnson, who did not like these additions because they interfered with the aerodynamics of his airplane.

This came to a head on April 2, 1957, when a dirty bird, coincidentally Article 341, the U-2 prototype, piloted by top Lockheed test pilot Robert Seiker (sometimes seen spelled as Sieker) crashed in a remote part of the Nellis AFB Range. It was not found for several days. The deadly mishap was traced to overheating caused by wallpaper, which resulted in a stall.

Ultimately, and sadly, given that they had claimed a life, the dirty bird modifications were proven ineffective.

Later RCS testing would be conducted with aircraft held aloft by a crane, or positioned atop a pole or pylon.

Soviet radar notwithstanding, overflights of parts of the Soviet Union east of the heavily populated areas had resumed and were proving extremely useful. During August 1957, under a series of missions conducted under the code name Soft Touch, U-2s brought back significant images of the ICBM test—and future space launch—facilities at Semipalatinsk and Tyuratam in Soviet Kazakhstan.

Russian Colonel Alexander Orlov told a CIA/CSI public symposium in September 1998 that “between March and October [of 1957], Soviet air defense radar picked up five U-2 overflights … at altitudes of 19 to 21 kilometers [about 62,000 to 69,000 feet], they were beyond the reach of the Soviet Air Defense Forces’ fighter planes and antiaircraft artillery.”

A short time later, the U-2s of Detachment C, flying out of Eilsen AFB in Alaska, photographed the nuclear weapons and missile facilities at Klyuchi on Kamchatka Island in the Soviet Far East.

In the span of a few days, Charles Cabell and Richard Bissell were able to put photos on President Eisenhower’s desk that showed him the Soviet equivalents of the NTS and Cape Canaveral. If all three men were as amazed to see the launch site at Tyuratam, they were astonished two months later on October 4 when the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 from here.

Also at Tyuratam, the Soviets built the Baikonur Cosmodrome, their manned space launch center, and in April 1961, Yuri Gagarin went aloft to become the first human to orbit the Earth in outer space. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, numerous American astronauts have traveled into space from Baikonur.

Despite the success of Soft Touch, Eisenhower’s reticence in the face of Soviet protests—and attempts to shoot down U-2s in international air space of the Black Sea—led to a winding down of deep-penetration overhead reconnaissance missions. On March 7, 1958, the president told Goodpaster to tell Cabell and Bissell to halt the U-2 surveillance flights completely, initiating a ban that would last sixteen months.

Goodpaster sent Dulles and Bissell a memo conveying the president’s demand that “every cent that has been available for any project involving crossing the Iron Curtain is to be impounded and no further expenditures are to be made.”



IN THE MONTHS AFTER President Eisenhower ordered CIA Director Dulles to pull the plug on overflights of the Soviet Union, a great many things happened that would affect the future of the U-2. On the operational side, the aircraft were again flying useful missions in the Middle East, this time watching over American troops who intervened in the 1958 Lebanon Crisis and monitoring Soviet ships and submarines in the Mediterranean. A secret deal to base the planes at Peshawar in Pakistan had been concluded, although no aircraft had yet been deployed there.

Meanwhile Detachment C, now based in Japan, had conducted overflights of the Peoples’ Republic of China, notably during 1958, when there were fears that the “Red” Chinese might attempt to invade Taiwan (the Republic of China). Later in the same year, the U-2s were also used—reverting to their original cover story—to monitor the progress of Typhoon Winnie as it came over Taiwan. The United States later transferred some U-2s to Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force. These were operated by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) 35th “Black Cat” Squadron, mainly over mainland China, between 1960 and 1974. The ROCAF was the only non-US air force to officially operate the U-2.

On the technical side, the CIA and US Air Force fleets of U-2As and two-seat U-2Bs were being upgraded. They were retrofitted with larger intakes, reengined with the new Pratt & Whitney J75-P-13 turbojet engines, and redesignated as U-2Cs. The J75’s 17,000 pounds of thrust permitted a more rapid climb into the troposphere and a stated operational altitude of 74,600 feet.

Meanwhile some earlier model U-2s were upgraded to U-2D standard, capable of carrying additional reconnaissance gear or a second crewmember. Later other aircraft were modified to be capable of being aerially refueled—although the endurance limitations of the aircraft did not rest with the fuel load but with pilot fatigue. Ten hours was shown to be the maximum length of time that a pilot could function at optimum performance. Aircraft with J57 engines retrofitted for aerial refueling were reportedly redesignated as U-2Es, while J75-powered aircraft became U-2Fs. The U-2G designation went to three U-2As, which were modified with arrestor hooks and other equipment for use aboard US Navy aircraft carriers.

Because of fears that the Soviets might soon deploy an interceptor that could threaten the U-2, the pilots wanted something done about that gleaming bare metal belly that made them feel like sitting ducks against the dark sky. Kelly Johnson’s engineers had resisted painting the U-2 because the weight of the paint would cost them altitude. With a more powerful engine installed, though, Johnson relented and the aircraft were painted a very dark blue-black.

On the geopolitical side, the Cold War arms race had heated up again. Just as there had once been a “bomber gap,” now there were cries in the media of a “missile gap,” as the Soviet Union was reportedly piling up ICBMs at a rapid rate. With nothing to refute these reports, and with mounting pressure from Congress to do something, Dwight Eisenhower was compelled to rethink his overflight ban.

One flight was made over Tyuratam on July 9, 1959, but further missions were complicated by an apparent thaw in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. Vice President Richard Nixon visited the Soviet Union later in July, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev returned the favor with a thirteen-day visit to the United States. Khrushchev was well received during his trip, which included coast-to-coast stops that were widely covered in the media and culminated in a meeting with President Eisenhower at Camp David. In turn, the two men made plans for another summit conference to be held in the spring of 1960.

Behind the scenes, however, the Soviet Union was working overtime to develop U-2 countermeasures. These included a high-altitude variant of the Yakovlev Yak-25 interceptor (NATO code name Flashlight) that was designated Yak-25RV (NATO code name Mandrake), as well as the high-altitude V-750VN variant of the S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile (SAM), which was known to NATO as the SA-2 Guideline.

Ominously, considering later events, Colonel William Burke of the CIA’s Development Projects Division (DPD) wrote to Richard Bissell on March 14, 1960, that ATIC’s “present evaluation is that the SAM (Guideline) has a high probability of successful intercept at 70,000 feet providing that [radar] detection is made in sufficient time to alert the [SAM launch] site.”

Meanwhile the Soviet counterpart to the CIA, the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, or Committee for State Security), was also pulling out all the stops to get their hands on information about the U-2. Their agents and stringers haunted the periphery of bases from Turkey to Japan, where U-2s were based. If they had known about the secret world at Groom Lake, they would have had agents climbing the hills of the Pahranagat Range to have a peek, just as later-generation black airplane buffs would be doing.

With regard to intelligence about the U-2, conspiracy theorists often make mention of a former US Marine who had worked as a radar operator at Atsugi in Japan and who defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959. His name, which would enter the annals of infamy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, was Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, the future assassin of John F. Kennedy had been no closer to the U-2 than his radar scope, and the Soviets showed no immediate interest in debriefing him.

By the spring of 1960, the CIA had developed an ambitious plan to utilize their U-2 launch site in Pakistan. They would fly 3,700 miles, cross the breadth of the Soviet Union, photograph ICBM facilities at Plesetsk and Sverdlovsk, and land in Norway. One mission, designated as Square Deal, had taken place on April 10, and another, designated as Grand Slam, was scheduled for May 1.

In retrospect, it seems counterintuitive, especially considering Eisenhower’s cautiousness about U-2 flights, that a mission would be scheduled for May Day. It was a major Soviet holiday, and it came just two weeks before the president was scheduled to sit down in Paris with Nikita Khrushchev on May 16 for their summit conference.

On the morning of May 1, Francis Gary “Frank” Powers, a veteran of 27 U-2 missions, climbed into a U-2C, Article 360, tail number 56-6693. He took off from Peshawar and flew north into the Soviet Union. He crossed Kazakhstan, photographed Tyuratam, entered Russia, and was 70,500 feet over the town of Degtyarsk, about 42 miles west of Sverdlovsk, when he was hit by a V-750VN missile. Powers bailed out and was captured by the Soviets, who made no immediate public mention of the incident.

When Powers did not arrive in Norway as planned, a preplanned cover story was released to the media through NASA on May 2 that a weather reconnaissance aircraft was missing on a flight over Turkey. On May 5, Khrushchev went public with a widely reported announcement that an American “spyplane” had been shot down.

For two days, he made no mention of the pilot having survived, but when he did, he announced that Powers had admitted to being a spy. Then the largely intact camera system was shown to the media in Moscow. The CIA, the US Air Force, and the Eisenhower administration were humiliated by their own bogus cover story—not to mention the embarrassment to NASA, who provided the cover story.

In the official CIA history of the U-2, Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach write that “Richard Bissell and the Development Projects Division had become overconfident and were not prepared for the ‘worst case’ scenario that actually occurred in May 1960.”

Pedlow and Welzenbach paint a picture of the CIA having come to believe its own unrealistic assurances about how long the U-2 could remain invulnerable to Soviet air defenses. They write that as early as 1956, the agency assumed the aircraft would have a useful service life of eighteen to twenty-five months, with Richard Bissell believing that it would become vulnerable before the end of 1957.

Now, however, here it was 1960, and the CIA had still never developed a worst case contingency.

In one ray of light, Kelly Johnson successfully cajoled the Soviets into displaying the entire crashed U-2 publicly.

“Hell, no,” he told the media when they displayed the wreckage of a Soviet aircraft, possibly a MiG that was accidentally shot down by a SAM trying to hit Powers. “That’s no U-2.”

It wasn’t, and the Soviets promptly dragged out the real wreckage, which was photographed in great detail. The widely published images allowed the Skunk Works team a close look.

The summit conference in Paris in mid-May, which also involved the British and French, turned sour when Eisenhower refused to apologize for the “U-2 incident.” Khrushchev walked out in a huff.

The show trial of Powers was a media circus that added insult to injury and cast a cloud over Eisenhower’s final months in office. Powers was convicted and sentenced to ten years, but he was released in a February 1962 prisoner swap with Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.

After seeing the wreckage on television, and especially after debriefing Powers in 1962, Johnson determined what exactly had happened. “Both wings failed because of down-bending, not penetration of critical structure by shrapnel from a missile,” he wrote in his memoirs. “None of the pictures showed a horizontal tail. And the right section of the stabilizer was missing. While this damage is conceivable from a crash landing, it was improbable because of the relatively undamaged condition of the vertical tail itself.

“The design of the U-2 wing is so very highly cambered that without a tail surface to balance the very high pitching moment, the aircraft immediately goes over on its back; and in severe cases the wings have broken off in down-bending. This occurred once in early testing when the pilot inadvertently extended wing flaps at high cruise speed, resulting in horizontal tail failure. This takes place in a few seconds, at great acceleration and with the fuselage generally spinning inverted. When Powers was exchanged in February 1962 for a Russian spy, I met and talked with him as soon as possible. His statements matched our conclusions.”

Between what the Skunk Works had deduced and what Powers could add, it appeared that the missile had knocked off the right stabilizer at cruising altitude. As Johnson explains, “The airplane then, predictably, immediately went over on its back at high speed and the wings broke off in downbending.… With the airplane spinning badly and hanging onto the windshield for support, he tried to reach the destruct button to destroy the airplane [the CIA states that it would only have destroyed the camera]. It was timed to go off about ten seconds after pilot ejection. But he could not reach the switch. We simulated the situation and it just was not possible with the forces on his body. He had to let go.”

Johnson later hired Powers at the Skunk Works. Dismissed by Lockheed after the publication of his 1971 book Operation Overflight, Powers went to work as a traffic reporter for radio station KGIL in Los Angeles. When he was killed in a 1977 helicopter crash while on the job, the incident spawned a round of conspiracy theories.

In the immediate aftermath of the May 1960 incident, new procedural changes required the National Security Council (NSC) to approve all CIA U-2 overflights of sensitive territory, though no more would be sanctioned of the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe.

Detachment B was closed, and all the U-2s but one were crated up and sent to the United States. Meanwhile, the Japanese government, sensitive about the “spyplanes” of Detachment C, asked that they be removed, and they were. The CIA fleet was then consolidated into Detachment G at Edwards AFB in California.

In 1961, Detachment G U-2s were twice redeployed to the Pacific, specifically to the Philippines, for some of their first operations over Laos and North Vietnam. In September 1961, during the crisis over the building of the Berlin Wall, John F. Kennedy came close to ordering a resumption, but he did not.

Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Joint Reconnaissance Center (JRC) to coordinate the separate CIA and US Air Force U-2 operations. According to Pedlow and Welzenbach, 500 missions were still being flown monthly in 1961. The targets included China, North Vietnam, and Cuba—especially before and during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.



Warning is an integral part of air defense, but for the purposes of this study it has been separated from its air defense matrix. Our concern with warning in this study of command and control is in terms of its passive detection role. We do not deal with any of the combat aspects of air defense systems.


While the Army Air Forces established the Air Defense Command (ADC) at Mitchell Field, N.Y., on 27 March 1946, the prevailing attitude toward air defense in this early postwar era was one of extreme ambivalence. Air defense was regarded within the air forces as necessary in theory but not in terms of resource allocation. Not surprisingly, therefore, planning for air defense in any practical and coordinated sense got under way late. This resulted also from the unsettled nature of roles and missions before mid-1948, the indeterminate status of Air Force programs and organization, and the cost of attempting to build both air defense and offensive forces.

By the end of 1946 and early 1947, however, world developments had led to some public concern, primarily over the deliberate reliance by the ADC on Air National Guard (ANG) and Reserve personnel to man the few resources it possessed. The first major air defense debate thus began over the issue of whether the United States required an “in-being” air defense system or whether one based on the Air National Guard and Reserve would be adequate.

When the ADC was activated, there was not a single search radar in operation within the United States. General Spaatz, the commanding general, Army Air Forces, revealed before a congressional committee in May 1946 that he had no intention of allocating a substantial proportion of regular AAF strength to air defense, and he declared his intention to rely principally for air defense manning on the ANG and Reserve. He did, however, ask at this time for funds to operate certain radar sites on a 24-hour basis.

The issue that lay behind Spaatz’ attitude was the one that underlay the whole air defense problem and was probably the crucial one in determining the course of events. This was the issue of resource allocation. Most of the AAF/USAF leadership was deeply committed to a concentration of resources on the development and expansion of US strategic striking power. Their view was that this course was dictated not only by the scarcity of funds, but by the absence for some time to come of any real airborne threat from the Soviet Union. Experimenting with air defense seemed a costly and unnecessary enterprise. With the sharply reduced budgets of the late 1940s, the new Air Force would choose to apply its resources to the development of nuclear attack forces, which would be a concrete asset, rather than to the air defense field, which was so dominated by uncertainties.

An issue derivative from the above was whether to postpone the development of an air defense system for several years, both until the threat became more real and by which time newer equipment would be available, or to start now on a system using rapidly obsolescing World War II equipment.

All through 1946 and into 1947, discussion of the real mission of the ADC continued, numerous views being expressed within the Army Air Forces, the other services, and the Congress. One overriding consideration did control the debate. In May 1947, Spaatz directed the ADC not to rock the boat over the matter until the unification of the air forces and budget issues were settled. It must be stressed that, a dominant concern of Army Air Force leaders in 1946-47 was the establishment and organization of an independent US Air Force. The ramifications of this concern were such that, while the issue of resource allocation between strategic offensive forces and air defense continued to be fundamental, in actual fact the United States would have little of either for several years, in good part because of the preoccupation of the Air Force leadership with the creation of the USAF.

Accordingly, steps toward the creation of even a token warning system were halting. In May 1947, operational search radars were set up in Arlington, Wash., and Half Moon Bay, Calif., but they were operated on a part-time basis and were mostly for training purposes. No real action was taken on any of the ADC’s plans until after the establishment of the USAF in July 1947. On 12 November 1947, the Secretary of Defense announced that planning for a nationwide radar early warning system was under way. This was an Air Force plan named SUPREMACY, which was designed to remedy the most fundamental lack in US air defense—an air control and warning (AC&W) system that would cover a very large part of the approaches to the United States. SUPREMACY was to provide a framework for such a system; it called for 223 basic radar stations and 14 control centers within the United States, and 37 basic radars and 4 control centers in Alaska. The plan, however, was too ambitious for the political and budgetary climate and it died when Congress failed to appropriate funds for it.

SUPREMACY did serve the function of raising key issues about air defense and warning. An exchange of memorandums between Secretary Forrestal and the JCS pointed up major issues that ..were to continue for years. The Bureau of the Budget, in May 1948, had sent the Secretary a memorandum that raised questions concerning SUPREMACY. The Bureau wanted to know the relative priority of the program, the extent to which USN picket ships would be used, and how the strength of the -services and the National Guard would be integrated.

A month later Forrestal turned to the JCS for advice. He pointed out the admitted inadequacies of the proposed radar fence against even World War II aircraft and reported that the Research and Development Board thought; that the United States could not expect to obtain more adequate equipment from current development programs for about five years. The Air Force, he said, planned an orderly replacement of older type equipment, at as reasonable a cost as possible, when new types became available. Forrestal continued:

Therefore, a fine question of judgment is involved. On the one hand there are considerations of economy involved in spending a substantial amount of money on radar which is now not completely effective and which will probably be obsolete in a few years, and on the other hand there is the obvious fact that the use of the present types of radar would give us at least some protection against a surprise attack during the years in which superior types are being developed.

The JCS reply came almost four months later, which perhaps indicates something of the priority they placed on air defense. They explained that the Soviets possessed aircraft capable of one-way strikes to any vital target in the United States and that Alaska and the Pacific Northwest were within radius of those aircraft from their present bases. As of September 1948, the Soviets had 210 long-range bombers with this capability, and it was estimated that their force of improved bombers would reach 1,600 by 1952. Furthermore, Soviet development of an aerial-refueling capability was possible. It could be assumed that until 1952 the Soviets would not have the atomic bomb in sufficient quantity to wage atomic war against the United States of such magnitude as to be decisive.

However, by 1953 it was possible that the Soviets might have 20-50 bombs. Until 1953, the JCS felt, the Soviets would have to rely upon-high-explosives, chemical, or bacteriological attacks, which would imply a series of sporadic, harassing attacks.

The JCS pointed out that the present 12 radar control and warning stations had almost negligible value. They recognized that present equipment was only reasonably effective now and would have only limited effectiveness against anticipated Soviet air capabilities in 1953. They therefore recommended the implementation of a modified air defense system that would (a) provide a basic capability; (b) be an operational proving ground for integration and improvement of methods, equipment, and training, both for defensive and offensive purposes; (c) be a deterrent to enemy attack; (d) provide means for the formulation of doctrine and ultimate requirements for joint and civilian participation; and (e) serve as a deterrent to the pressure of public opinion to divert military forces from offensive missions in case of attack. In regard to the Secretary’s query as to priority, the JCS said it was low compared with programs for the offensive, but that the priority would rise progressively with Soviet strategic capabilities.

Nevertheless, the pressures of growing tension in Europe had provoked some action. In March 1958, the Air Force had ordered the Arlington, Wash., radar station on to a 24-hour basis and activated four other radars in the area to cover the Hanford, Wash., nuclear facility. This was probably the initial step in a serious warning system.

A much reduced version of SUPREMACY, called the Interim Plan, was approved by the JCS and the Secretary of Defense in late 1948. This plan was to be completed in 26 months and would include the 5 basic radar stations and 2 control centers currently in operation. With equipment that was in storage or. on order added to the existing facilities, a total of 61 basic radar stations and 10 control centers in the United States and 10 basic radar stations and 1 control center in Alaska would be operational. In addition, 15 more basic radars were scheduled for eventual activation. The Interim Plan system was recognized as being far from ideal, but it did represent what could be accomplished by 1952 with restricted funds. What is significant about it is that by the end of 1948 a token “in-being” air defense system had finally begun to take shape.

The Interim Plan system was approved by Congress in March 1949. However, by this time the need for more immediate protection was recognized, and to fill the gap until the completion of the Interim Plan system, the ADC was directed to establish a temporary AC&W system, to be named LASHUP. This system would consist of 44 stations using World War II radars. Work got under way in late 1948. By the spring of 1949, 18 radars had been deployed to the northeast United States, but LASHUP was not completed until mid-1950.

Although the first plan (SUPREMACY) was submitted to it in late 1947, Congress did not act on a permanent radar system until the fall of 1949, after the first Soviet atomic explosion. During the first half of 1950, however, the Air Force continued to stress the construction of the Interim Plan system, and it was hoped by summer that the system, originally scheduled for completion in 1952, might be operational by mid-1951. By this time the Interim Plan system had merged into the so-called permanent system, so future reference shall be made the later term.


The outbreak of the Korean war, coupled with the Soviet nuclear explosion, provided tremendous stimulus to the development of a comprehensive warning system. The issuance .of NSC 68 added further impetus. Appearing in early 1950, NSC 68 had concluded that by 1954 the Soviets would have the capability to launch a devastating attack on the United States. One recommendation of the report was to build an active air defense that would provide warning of an attack and a means of defeating a bomber attack without resorting to nuclear retaliation initially. The suggested system would include a successive line of trans-Canada radar early warning stations, dispersed interceptor groups, deployment of antiaircraft missiles, an airborne-alert portion of the bomber force, and a hardened and sheltered command and control system to ensure communications. While no immediate action followed, the points made were all prophetic of future developments.

After June 1950, money ceased to be a problem, at least temporarily. The problems now lay not in budgetary constraints but in the slowness of project completion. Deadlines began slipping steadily. Completion date for the permanent system slipped from a firm November 1951 to May 1952.

There was also an increasing realization in the Air Force in 1951 that, despite the sense of accomplishment in that both the administration and the Congress had accepted the requirement of an in-being air defense system and were pouring massive funding into it, the system under development was based upon obsolescent World War II equipment and techniques. In order for the system to be effective for a respectable lifespan, considerable improvement would be needed.

There was also some concern that the public had been oversold or had oversold itself on the capabilities of the air defense of the near future. Official DoD views had been cautious. The Secretary of the Air Force, in his January-June 1950 report, had stated:

Completion of this aircraft early warning system will be an important step forward in the air defense of the US. However, it is only a start and will fall far short of the ultimate goal of a complete radar coverage. Additional stations must be built both in the US and in the North and great technical developments must be made in our scientific centers and labs in perfecting equipment and methods used for detection of aircraft.

These cautions were “too often forgotten. Estimates by authorities in early 1951 that the permanent system would stop only 5-10 percent of an attacking force led DoD to request the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to undertake Project Charles.

The Project Charles report on 1 August 1951 offered no unusual solutions to the dilemmas of air defense. It strongly recommended that the current system be updated by increasing the extent of the radar coverage and also by increasing the speed by which data acquired by radar could be analyzed and acted upon. The report further recommended use of picket ships and airborne radar to provide a measure of offshore coverage. The Ground Observer Corps (see below) could be used to cover low altitudes.

The report said that no new spectacular improvements in radar could be expected, but that great possibilities existed in the use of data automation to improve air defense systems. The scientific personnel who authored the report were convinced that automation was the only means by which speed in radar-data handling could be measurably increased. They called for new computers specially designed for an air defense function. (At this time, automation was just beginning to come into use in industry and its potential was not well understood.)

The Air Force accepted the recommendations in September 1951 and established the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT to continue research in the field.


A civilian support force for warning made its first appearance in September 1949, when personnel from the Office of Civil Defense were used in air defense tests. By December of that year, the USAF was considering a permanent Ground Observer Corps (GOC). Progress in developing a GOC was slow, however, through 1951, and the system itself proved faulty. The reporting and analyzing of data were generally too slow for the sightings. A much more rapid system, along the line of the Project Charles recommendation, was clearly needed. Yet, until a low-altitude radar could be developed, the GOC was the only capability for low-altitude coverage.

Another weakness of the GOC lay in its volunteer nature, which meant that it was not immediately available . It would require three hours’ notice before it was ready to begin to function. An effort in 1951 to get a 24-hour manning for the northeast portion of the United States during the summer months (estimated by Intelligence to be the period of greatest danger) failed. The GOC was finally placed on a 24-hour operational basis in 27 states in July 1952. This was achieved, it should be added, only after a shaky, politics-riven start as a result of the clashing of state and local jurisdictions with the DoD. The system was now given the code name of Operation Skywatch.


Despite progress, there was a certain confusion and lack of decision apparent in warning and air defense planning by 1952 over the issues of the scope and nature of a proper air defense of the United States. It will be apparent that the issues were the same ones that had appeared in 1946-47—how much should be devoted to air defense and what should be expected from it. A 75-station permanent radar system and new radar and aircraft were being produced to replace the older equipment. All had been authorized in 1951, or earlier. The question that came to the fore in 1952 was whether the basic air defense system under construction should be further expanded and improved—at very considerable cost. Discussion was brought into focus by the Lincoln Laboratory Summer Study Group, which recommended construction of a distant early warning (DEW) line across Canada and integrated and fully automated communications for control of the air defense systems, all this at a cost of several billions of dollars.

The DEW line had early antecedents. In 1946, a similar scheme had been proposed by AAF planners but died for economy reasons. In 1947-48, when the USAF was proposing SUPREMACY, the ADC had objected that the plan omitted a line of land-based radars along the farthest reaches of North America, a system the ADC called essential since the Soviets were then capable of a B-29-type aircraft assault across the North Pole. A distant early warning line could provide three-six hours of extra warning. The ADC’s efforts in 1948-49 failed, because no real threat was yet perceived in view of the US nuclear monopoly.

Some intermediate efforts were made to piece together AC&W programs in Canada and Alaska. One control center and 10 radar stations were planned for completion in 1952, but these ultimately became operational under the Alaskan Air Command only in early 1954. While US-Canada discussions dated to 1940, serious joint consideration of air defense did not begin until April 1949. A US-Canada agreement was signed in 1951, under which a total of 33 AC&W stations would be built in Canada, 22 by the United States and 11 by Canada. Eighteen would be manned by USAF personnel and 15 by Canadians. Of the US sites, 8 were assigned to the ADC and were operational by mld-1954. The other 10 US sites, deployed along northwest Canada from Baffin Island across Labrador to Newfoundland, were assigned to the Northeast Air Command. In addition, 10 permanent radars were to be erected in Greenland and Iceland to extend coverage eastward.

By the end of 1951, however, only five air defense radar stations were operational in Canada with Canadian manning. The Canadians were using World War II equipment and operating only eight hours a day; the Canadians said they could not begin full-time manning until sometime in 1952.

The patched-together system thus created provided some measure of protection against B-29-type bombers, but it-was obviously going to be inadequate against the threat expected in the 1956-60 period. Production of Soviet Jet aircraft similar to the B-47 was predicted for the late 1950s, with even faster models to come. The increased speed of Soviet aircraft dictated the need to push a detection .line farther out in order to make up for the increment of lost time. Consequently, a joint US-Canadian military study in 1953 agreed to a 1950 Canadian plan to set a line of radars across Canada at 54° or 55° N, to be called the Mid-Canada Line, with an operational date of 1957.

A very distant early warning line concept had been resurrected by Project Charles in August 1951, which concluded that a few hours extra warning would be invaluable. The Lincoln Laboratory Summer Study Group in August 1952 had suggested a line of radars along 70° N, connecting Alaskan radars with those of the Northeast Air Command. Locked onto the ends of this line would be a series of over-water stations flown by AEW&C patrols. Neither DoD nor the Air Force was enthusiastic and the report was not immediately approved. Both were concerned primarily over costs. The USAF opposed the Summer Study Group recommendation, essentially on the basis that the strategy of deterrence did not require such an enormous allocation of resources to air defense systems. The Air Force argued that available equipment did not possess the very high standards of technological excellence that were demanded by such a harsh environment as in the Far North. Furthermore, a DEW line concept was disparaged as potentially creating a Maginot Line mentality that could create a false sense of security. With these views, the Secretary of Defense tended to agree.

Opposition to the distant early warning line came from varied sources. The Commander of the ADC, General Chidlaw, favored, prophetically, concentration of resources on a ballistic missile defense system. A RAND study of the DEW Line concept in November 1952 also opposed it. Such a huge undertaking would necessarily be contingent upon a great increase in air defense funds sufficient to activate other air defense steps-first, such as development of a low-altitude radar screen for the United States, establishment of AEW&C and picket-ship coverage off either coast, and major improvement in the permanent warning system. Also, a very crucial point was that no such great commitment of resources to the Arctic should be made until communications between the United States and the Arctic could be thoroughly tested and proved. The Air Force declined to recommend the Summer Study report to the National Security Council, but in September 1952 the chairman of the National Security Resources Board took it to the NSC. The Air Force concern was the old one, that NSC consideration could end by compelling the Air Force to spend heavily on defense systems at the expense of the deterrent forces.

The NSC took no concrete action, except to request further study of the report. However, the findings of the Summer Study Group were leaked to the press and became the subject of a public debate in which advocates of concentration of resources on the deterrent forces were depicted as being too cavalier with the safety of the United States. This was an unfortunate interpretation of the issue, which was really one of competition for funds and a matter of proper timing for such major undertakings.

Late in 1952, the President decided to issue a policy statement on a warning system. The services and the JCS unanimously opposed what was first expected to be a public statement. The flurry that was created led to some very specific statements of the fundamental inhibition felt by most Defense official’s, military and civilian, over air defense programs. The Secretary of the Air Force, for example, cautioned the Secretary of Defense that “we must give full weight to the deterrent as well as to the air defense function in any considerations. There must be no withdrawal from or diminution of established national policy which holds that a strong offensive capability is the greatest single deterrent to war.”

The Secretary of the Air Force also suggested that a presidential statement on warning might result in accentuating early warning to the detriment of other known defense measures, as well as offensive striking power. If so, the buildup of “known quantities would be impaired in favor of what thus far is still a pig in a poke.” He also cautioned about announcing completion dates or estimates of cost. He stated that “we must have as effective an early warning system as American ingenuity can provide, but, in the national interests, this project must be viewed in proper perspective.”

The President and NSC took account of the solid front against any public statement and revised the policy statement accordingly. It appeared as NSC 139 on 31 December 1952, a top secret document. It stated that the estimated time scale on which the Soviet Union would possess sufficient atomic weapons to deliver a heavy attack on the United States indicated that the United States should plan to have an effective system of air, sea, and land measures ready no later than 31 December 1955 – An early warning system that would provide three-six hours warning was desired, and as much of the system as possible should be completed by 31 December 1954 and the full system completed by 31 December 1955.

The episode illustrated well the perpetual issue that overhung all warning and air defense developments, that of offense versus defense. Up until this point, the proponents of heavy emphasis on offensive measures and capabilities had been dominant.

In the meantime, despite the lack of any decision on an improved air defense and warning system in 1952, the existing permanent system was extended. Forty-four mobile radar stations were approved and in July the ADC requested 35 more. At the end of the year, the ADC was operating 81 radar stations within the United States. Of these, 75 were part of the permanent network and 6 were LASHUP radars of the earlier system. Nine stations were operational in Canada, 2 from the approved 33-station Canadian extension of the permanent system, and 7 of the LASHUP type.

Thus a basic “in-being” air defense was operational, although mostly of World War II type. The radar stations of the permanent system and the GOC in 27 states were sending data to 11 control centers. Thirty-nine Interceptor squadrons backed up the system. One-third of these were early model all-weather jets (F-89B/C and F-9WB), while 15 squadrons had fighters capable of daylight operations only (F-80, F-84, and F-86). Eleven squadrons still had World War II piston-engine fighters (F-47 and F-51).

The DEW Line controversy carried over into the new Eisenhower administration. The hearings on the last Truman budget began in early March 1953 and immediately bogged down over the air defense issue. General Vandenberg, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, stressed that the goal suggested by the Summer Study Group of a 25 percent attrition of an attacking force was gilding the lily and did not represent a reasonable objective. The issue posed a dilemma for the new Eisenhower administration, which had been elected on an economy-in-government campaign and now faced major outlays for air defense, outlays over which there was no general agreement. The administration and the NSC tended to divide over the issue.

The Kelly Committee, appointed in late 1952 to examine overall US defenses, reported in May 1953 that, while the principal element of American defense was the strategic striking force, a better air defense system, especially an early warning system, was needed. The report could thus be used by both opponents and proponents of the Summer Study Group recommendations. However, the Committee did play down the need for haste in continental defense and rejected the idea of a rush program.

With the administration still undecided, Secretary of Defense Wilson appointed another committee, under Maj. General Bull’s chairmanship, to study the air defense issue. Bull’s group reported to the NSC in July 1953 that existing air defense plans were entirely inadequate and estimated that needed improvements might cost $18-$25 billion. The report was not acted on by the NSC.

The JCS position on expenditures of this magnitude reflected the position of those who stressed offensive deterrent power. In a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense on the matter of continental defense, the JCS summed up their philosophy. Decrying the “inadequacy of intelligence” and calling for better intelligence on Soviet capabilities as a basis for threat projections, the JCS stated:

In weighing the effectiveness of defensive measures against the costs involved, the JCS feel that substantial improvement is possible at a modest cost. Yet there comes a point where a comparatively small increase in effectiveness becomes increasingly expensive until it reaches a point where even great expenditures fail to raise significantly the effectiveness of defenses. An aggressor nation will be far more deterred by evidence that we have the offensive potential and the mobility capable of dealing it decisive blows than by the excellence of our defenses.

The Summer Study Group, however, seemed vindicated in its criticism of the inadequacy of the warning and air defense system by Exercise TAILWIND in July 1953. The Strategic Air Command sent 94 bombers against the air defense system, employing all the techniques available to it—night attack, surprise; diversionary attacks, electronic countermeasures, saturation attack, and so on. Only 7 attackers were successfully intercepted. The following day, against daylight attacks, the air defense intercepted 29 out of 38 SAC task forces. Yet obviously, a real attack would come by night. The exercise pointed up the need for better early warning, solid radar coverage from 0 to 50,000 feet, and some automatic means of tying together data and displaying them to the battle commanders.

What finally broke the back of opposition to a DEW Line was the first Soviet thermonuclear explosion in August 1953. The JCS soon after identified continental air defense and massive retaliation as the two principal military problems facing the country, while on 26 August, Admiral Radford, the new Chairman of the JCS, in his first press conference declared that the Soviet thermonuclear development would compel the United States to review and to strengthen its air defenses. The questions of US thermonuclear development had been debuted earlier in the year, with leading members of the scientific community linking their opposition to development with the air defense issue. Their position was that with a sufficiently tight air defense there would be no need for massive offensive operations that would require thermonuclear weapons. In the debate, supporters of thermonuclear weapon development and of the primacy of the deterrent mission were again portrayed as the villains.

On 6 October 1953, the NSC approved NSC Paper 162, which included most of the Summer Study Group’s findings, of which a DEW Line and automation were the most significant. The NSC was apparently convinced that the large expenditures necessary to make automation in air defense a reality should be spent, notwithstanding the fact that automation was a new thing and nobody was certain what obstacles lay in the way of such large-scale applications of automation.

In late 1953, the Air Force, reflecting the NSC action, approved FY55 funding for 29 more mobile radars (Phase III of the Mobile Radar Program), 5 Texas towers for offshore radars, a Canadian radar line along the 55th parallel, and 323 small gap-filler radars for low-altitude coverage. Inclusion of the 55° line indicated the continued reluctance of the Air Force to build a DEW Line farther north.

The small gap-filler radars were meant to remedy deficiencies in existing radars, and would be unattended stations. Eventually they would replace the GOC, until then the only means of low-level coverage, which was proving to be a weak reed. Only about 11 percent of the personnel the ADC felt were needed were active, public apathy having taken its toll.

Intelligence in the Era of the Sun King Part I

John Wallis had been close to the Parliamentarian party, perhaps as a result of his exposure to Holbeach at Felsted School. He rendered them great practical assistance in deciphering Royalist dispatches. The quality of cryptography at that time was mixed; despite the individual successes of mathematicians such as François Viète, the principles underlying cipher design and analysis were very poorly understood. Most ciphers were ad hoc methods relying on a secret algorithm, as opposed to systems based on a variable key. Wallis realised that the latter were far more secure – even describing them as “unbreakable”, though he was not confident enough in this assertion to encourage revealing cryptographic algorithms. He was also concerned about the use of ciphers by foreign powers, refusing, for example, Gottfried Leibniz’s request of 1697 to teach Hanoverian students about cryptography.[

Louis XIV is far better remembered for self-glorification than for secret intelligence. When moving his court to the Palace of Versailles in 1682, he confined God to the chapel. The rest of the largest and grandest palace in European history was devoted to the cult of the Sun King, Louis’s favourite image of himself. By the end of his reign the resident devotees numbered about 10,000 nobles, soldiers, priests, officials, tradesmen and servants. Versailles was second only to the army as France’s largest employer. But Louis also regarded secrecy as essential to his royal authority. A medal struck to commemorate the beginning of his personal rule after the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661 had a portrait of the King on the front and, on the reverse, Harpocrates, the Greek god of silence and secrecy, raising a finger to his lips. A painting on the ceiling of the Versailles Hall of Mirrors, the most magnificent room in the palace, shows Louis ordering a simultaneous attack on four Dutch strongholds. By his side is an allegorical figure also holding a finger to his lips. Another figure puts his hand over his mouth as the King prepares to take the city of Ghent.

Louis XIV paid some interest to intelligence collection as well as official secrecy. He took a personal interest in the work of the cabinet noir. Like his father, Louis XIII, he honoured Antoine Rossignol, France’s leading codebreaker until his death in 1682, by visiting his château at Juvisy. Neither of the two great seventeenth-century English codebreakers, Thomas Phelippes and John Wallis, received any sign of royal appreciation from the Stuart kings. Lord Hollis, the English ambassador in Paris, complained in 1665 that his despatches were always opened and read before he received them. His successor, Ralph Montagu, made the same complaint in 1669. Their awareness, like that of some French courtiers, that their correspondence was intercepted must have diminished the value of the intelligence obtained from it by the cabinet noir. The celebrated letter-writer Madame de Sévigné sometimes made personal appeals in her correspondence to those who opened it during the second half of the seventeenth century: ‘Alas! I beseech those who take this trouble to consider the little pleasure which they gain from reading it and the sorrow they cause to us. Messieurs, at least take the trouble to put [the letters] back in their envelopes so that, sooner or later, they reach their destination.’

Louis’s first direct involvement in an intelligence operation, crucial to the establishment of his personal rule in 1661, was the plot to overthrow Mazarin’s superintendent of finance, Nicolas Fouquet, marquis de Belle-Île and vicomte de Melun et Vaux, who hoped to step into Mazarin’s shoes. Fouquet was a classic example of an overmighty subject whose power and prestige threatened royal authority. At his magnificent château at Vaux-le-Vicomte, he lived in greater opulence than the King. On the island of Belle-Île off the coast of Brittany, with the assistance of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the foremost military engineer of his age, he sought to construct an impregnable private fortress with its own garrison.

Fouquet’s nemesis was the shrewder and less ostentatious Jean-Baptiste Colbert, whose chilly exterior led Madame de Sévigné to give him the sobriquet le nord (‘the north’). Colbert came from a family of Rheims merchant bankers, trained as an accountant, and helped Mazarin amass the greatest private fortune in the history of the Ancien Régime. On his deathbed Mazarin recommended Colbert to Louis XIV. It was not long before Colbert succeeded in involving Louis in a plot against Fouquet, which, because of Fouquet’s numerous informants in the court and administration, had to be conducted in great secrecy. One of the first steps was to send a spy, disguised as a fisherman, to reconnoitre Fouquet’s Belle-Île fortress. The spy returned with a map of the fortress and details of its 200-man garrison, 400 cannon and the fortifications being built by 1,500 labourers to Vauban’s design. Colbert’s agents also reported that Fouquet had plans to take over the Caribbean island of Martinique and export its produce to Belle-Île. ‘In short, Fouquet was building a miniature kingdom and a small empire.’

Colbert devised a secret plan, approved by the King, for Fouquet to be arrested without warning after a meeting of the provincial Estates in Nantes, well away from his strongholds of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Belle-Île. Louis went out of his way to allay Fouquet’s suspicions by giving him repeated signs of royal favour before his sudden arrest in Nantes immediately after a meeting with the King on 5 September 1661. Since the commander of the royal bodyguard, the Garde du Corps, was an informant of Fouquet, he was arrested instead by Charles d’Artagnan, leader of the musketeers who accompanied the King on his travels. The fictional d’Artagnan in Alexandre Dumas’s celebrated mid-nineteenth-century novel The Three Musketeers, famous for the cry ‘All for one, one for all!’, has become far better known than the elusive and less romantic figure of the real musketeer. There is some evidence that the real d’Artagnan had carried out espionage missions for Mazarin and thus had the experience required for the secret operation which culminated in his arrest of Fouquet.

Colbert arranged for the simultaneous seizure of Fouquet’s files, chief among them the Cassette, a massive folio volume hidden behind a large armoire in his office containing financial secrets, evidence of corruption, and details of his agents, informers and mistresses. After a controversial three-year trial, Fouquet was sentenced to life imprisonment. Louis was proud of his own role in the sophisticated intelligence operation orchestrated by Colbert. The King later claimed that ‘the whole of France’, as well as approving the overthrow of Fouquet, ‘particularly praised’ his success in keeping secret the plan to arrest him for three or four months, despite the fact that Fouquet’s informers were all around him. Colbert’s critics said privately that his family crest of a climbing snake had proved highly appropriate.

From 1665 until his death in 1683 Colbert was Controller-General of Finance and First Minister in all but name. He regarded the royal account books, financial reports and all other state financial information as classified intelligence for official use only, believing that all ministers and government officials should take oaths of secrecy and lose their jobs if they broke them. Colbert’s ultimate aim was to assemble a classified audit of all the local resources and administrative systems of the French kingdom, sending officials to obtain information on population numbers, land holdings, economic activity, local regulations, laws and important individuals. He expanded the audit to include neighbouring states, drawing much of his inspiration from the sixteenth-century trading and banking empire of the Augsburg Fugger family, whose sophisticated filing system included regular reports from a far-flung network of correspondents. Colbert told his son (whom he hoped would succeed him) before sending him on a mission to Italy in 1671:

In each state, look at . . . its situation, its military forces, the size of its population, the greatness of the state, the number and size of cities, towns, and villages . . . ; the form of State government, and if it is aristocratic . . . the names and status of noble families that have taken or will take part in governing the Republic; their different functions; their general and particular councils; who represents the State, in whom the sovereign power lies and who resolves peace and war, who makes laws; etc . . . the results of elections; the particular councils for the militia, the admiralty, justice, for the city and for the rest of the State; the laws and the customs . . . Visit the public works, maritime and on land, all the palaces, public buildings, and generally all that is remarkable.

Faced with this demanding agenda, Colbert’s son had more than once to apologize to his father for failing to live up to his high expectations.

Colbert, concludes a recent study of him, aimed to construct a ‘secret state intelligence system’. Though only fragmentary evidence of Colbert’s use of the cabinet noir survives, his intelligence system involved the interception (and, where necessary, decryption) of correspondence. Colbert wrote to the Intendant of Toulouse in 1682 that letters from Flanders to Toulouse had revealed the existence of an important plot (possibly involving the spread of Jansenist heresy) which it was ‘very important to clarify’. Other intercepted correspondence to and from Toulouse revealed (unspecified) commercial ventures in Rome, which Colbert declared ‘prejudicial to the service of the King’.

Apart from its ambitiousness, a major obstacle to the development of Colbert’s state intelligence system was his rivalry with the marquis de Louvois, Secretary of State for War from 1662 until his death in 1691.† From 1668, Louvois was also superintendent of the posts, a position which brought him an income of about a million livres a year, as well as giving him greater authority than Colbert over the operations of the cabinet noir, which he used for military as well as political intelligence.‡ In 1668, at the request of the French military commander, the prince de Condé (‘le grand Condé’), who was in Dijon, preparing for the invasion of Franche-Comté, Louvois postponed the delivery of the post to Dijon until the invasion had begun, to prevent correspondents in Paris giving advance warning of it.

Louvois attached more importance to intelligence than any other European War Minister of his time. The growth in the size of armies in the age of Louis XIV, as well as of the munitions and rations they required, combined with the immense improvements in fortifications pioneered by Vauban to increase the importance of military intelligence. In the forty years after 1667, Vauban directed the construction of thirty-seven new fortresses and fortified harbours, as well as upgrading the fortifications of about 300 cities in France and the Low Countries. Before beginning his victorious advance along the River Meuse at the start of the Franco-Dutch War in 1672, Condé sent a fortifications expert to reconnoitre enemy fortresses. This reconnaissance probably contributed to the rapid conquest of four fortresses on the Rhine, for which Louis XIV claimed personal credit: ‘I hope no one complains that I disappointed public expectations.’ In 1673 the King’s army, after a siege conducted by Vauban, also took the Dutch fortress of Maastricht. French victories and Vauban’s fortifications increased the priority of military intelligence among France’s opponents. French military archives in the château de Vincennes contain an intelligence questionnaire given by his superiors to a military engineer in the Rhine army of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I who was also working as a French agent. He was asked to collect intelligence on French fortifications from both their designers and builders. In addition to identifying French military units and their commanders (later known as battle-order intelligence), the engineer was also asked for details of their stocks of munitions and rations, as well as information on their finances and how recently their troops had been paid. Even at the beginning of the seventeenth century such an attempt to collect this kind of military intelligence would have been very unusual.

Improved military intelligence contributed to the superiority of French armies over their foreign opponents in the 1660s and 1670s, though the fact that, thanks largely to Louvois, Louis XIV had both the largest European army of the era (possibly the largest since the fall of the Roman Empire) and the greatest generals – Condé, the vicomte de Turenne and the duc de Luxembourg – contributed far more. Louvois acted as his own intelligence chief. In dealing with Louis XIV, however, he had to face the classic problem of ‘telling truth to power’. This problem presented itself in an acute form in the autumn of 1673, when, following a Dutch and Habsburg offensive, combined with declarations of war on France by Spain and Brandenburg–Prussia, Louvois favoured a strategic withdrawal by French forces from some conquered territory. Louis, however, regarded retreat as incompatible with gloire. ‘In the King’s present mood’, wrote Louvois gloomily, ‘he would rather give up Paris or Versailles than Maastricht.’ French forces were thus pinned down defending conquests of the previous year while Dutch and Habsburg forces advanced to the Rhine.

Over the next decade Louis XIV lost both his greatest generals and his leading intelligence experts. Turenne died in battle in 1675. Soon afterwards the 64-year-old Condé, worn out by the exertions of his long military career and tortured by gout, retired. In 1682 the death of Rossignol, regarded by Colbert as one of the ‘most illustrious Frenchmen’ of the century, deprived France of the greatest codebreaker of the French Ancien Régime. With Colbert’s sudden death (probably from a kidney stone) in 1683, his still unfinished project to create a classified database was abandoned. Louis XIV gave up the attempt to centralize official information and dispersed responsibility for its collection and management to ministries and officials who lacked the accountancy skills required to conduct serious audits. Claude Le Peletier, who became Controller-General of Finance on Colbert’s death, complained to Louis XIV that he was unable to understand the state’s financial workings, for Colbert had kept them secret – ‘enclosed in his very self’.

After Colbert’s death, Louis XIV also lost interest in state finance and gave up the attempt to balance the books. He retained an active interest, however, in the operations of the cabinet noir. Louvois wrote to the French military commander in Alsace, Baron Joseph de Montclar, during the formation in 1685 of the anti-French League of Augsburg: ‘The King has been informed that in a few days’ time a courier of the Emperor [Leopold I] is due to return from Spain [through Alsace]. H[is] M[ajesty] judges it important in present circumstances to seize the courier’s valise and take possession of the despatches.’ On royal instructions, the attack on the imperial courier was to be disguised as a robbery: ‘Make sure that those whom you instruct to seize the courier’s valise do not fail to take all his money in order to strengthen the belief that they are robbers . . .’ Louis XIV also took a personal interest in what the cabinet noir revealed about gossip at court. The main topic for gossip in the mid-1680s and beyond was the King’s morganatic marriage to his mistress, Madame de Main-tenon. The marriage remained so secret that its exact date (possibly in October 1683) will probably never be known. Three young members of leading noble families were banished from Versailles in 1685 after their intercepted letters were found to contain satirical references comparing the royal couple to a decrepit provincial noble and his ageing mistress. Maintenon, who was fifty in 1685 (slightly older than Louis) and sensitive about her age, was outraged by ‘the very great irreverence’ of such gossip, which she denounced as an ‘abominable vice’.

The expulsions from Versailles in 1685 and other sanctions against ‘irreverent’ gossip must have inspired greater prudence in courtiers’ correspondence. Among those at court who were indignant about the invasion of their personal privacy by the cabinet noir was Louis XIV’s sister-in-law the Princess Palatine, who regularly corresponded with her German relatives. In one letter to a female relative, intended to shame those who opened it, she described how, while answering an urgent call of nature, the earthenware chamber pot on which she was sitting had broken. But for the fact that she clung on to a nearby table, she believed that the jagged fragments of the broken pot would have lacerated her derrière. This ‘fine story’, the princess added for the benefit of the letter-openers, would no doubt be considered ‘worthy of the attention of the Secretary of State [for foreign affairs] and I am sure that M. de Torcy will make a report on it to the King’.

Thanks chiefly to Charles II and his successor, James II, Louis XIV’s best foreign intelligence came from Britain. Charles II concealed the Treaty of Dover, secretly negotiated with Louis in 1670, from all but two of his ministers. The French ambassador in London from 1677 to 1688, Paul Barillon, marquis de Branges, reported that Charles was ‘so secret and impenetrable that even the most skillful observers are misled’. Barillon found James II, who succeeded his elder brother in 1685, much easier to deal with. James had received military training in the French army, was converted to Catholicism by a French Jesuit, and was strongly influenced by Louis XIV in his choice of the Catholic Mary of Modena as his second wife. Sir William Trumbull, James’s ambassador in Paris, later recalled that ‘all matters of moment were to be transacted by Barillon’, who was in close contact with Louvois as well as communicating directly with Louis XIV. James, Trumbull believed, ‘no doubt communicated to Barillon all that he knew’. Louis XIV’s special envoy, Usson de Bonrepaus, was also taken into James’s confidence. But James’s often expressed hopes to Barillon and Usson de Bonrepaus of returning England to the Catholic faith proved hopelessly optimistic. Given the difficulty of telling truth to power at the court of the Sun King, it is highly unlikely that any of Louis’s advisers dared tell him, even if they realized it, that James’s impossible project of a Catholic England risked putting his throne in jeopardy.

The English ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 was, in part, an anti-Catholic revolution. James II was overthrown by an invasion led by the Dutch Stadholder and Protestant hero William of Orange. Until 1688 William’s wife, Princess Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II by his Protestant first wife, Anne Hyde, had been James’s heir. On 10 June, however, Mary of Modena gave birth to a son and heir, James Francis Edward, thus threatening the Protestant succession. William sent his close friend William Nassau van Zuylestein (later 1st Earl of Rochford) to London, ostensibly to convey his congratulations to James and Mary of Modena on the birth of their son. Zuylestein’s real mission, however, was to continue secret talks with James’s leading opponents which he and others had begun in the previous year. He also reported to William a widespread belief that James’s alleged son was a baby who had been secretly smuggled into the Queen’s bedchamber in a warming pan. On 30 June, at William’s private request, seven of James’s opponents, later known as the ‘Immortal Seven’, sent a letter assuring him that, if he landed in England to protect English liberties, his forces would receive widespread support.

The timing of William’s landing was influenced by top-secret intelligence (‘secretum secretorum’) which he received from the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, Leopold I. William kept the identity of his informant in Vienna so secret that he refused to reveal it even to the leading Dutch supporters of his invasion of England. Recent research shows that the informant was the Emperor himself. Leopold warned William that Louis XIV was planning an attack on the Dutch United Provinces and other Protestant states, and was trying to persuade him to join an alliance against them. Though Catholic, Leopold had hitherto been an ally of the Protestant Dutch, but he now informed William that, if Louis XIV defeated the United Provinces and James II crushed English opposition to his rule, he would be obliged to change sides. The Protestant nightmare, shared by William, of a Roman Catholic grand alliance of Bourbon France, Habsburg Austria and Stuart England would become a reality. We now know that Leopold’s claims that the French were offering him the cession of Alsace and other inducements to form an alliance were fraudulent – part of his successful campaign to win Dutch support against Louis XIV. William, however, was completely taken in by the false intelligence he received from Vienna, and used it repeatedly from July 1688 to demonstrate the urgency of intervention in England.

Though William had good intelligence from England while planning his invasion, James II had virtually none from the Dutch Republic. Deceived by disinformation from Dutch envoys, he was so confident that William’s military preparations were for war with France rather than the invasion of England that, when Louis XIV offered to place the French Atlantic fleet at his disposal, James assured him it would not be needed. By the time he discovered his mistake in September, it was too late; the fleet had been deployed elsewhere. It also took some weeks for James to discover that William had printed 60,000 copies of a declaration intended to justify his invasion for distribution in England. William declared that his purpose was ‘to preserve and maintain the liberties, laws and customs of England’. Despite the fact that he had earlier congratulated James on the birth of his son and heir, he also declared the need to investigate the circumstances of the birth, thus appearing to give credence to the conspiracy theory that the baby had arrived in the Queen’s bedchamber in a warming pan.

Obtaining intelligence on where William’s forces intended to land was impossibly difficult. When the invasion fleet first set off in mid-October, storms drove it back to port. Driven west by a ‘Protestant wind’ at the second attempt, William decided at the last minute to land at Torbay in Devon on 5 November.32 Most support for James II quickly melted away. ‘The reason we have so little intelligence’ from the West Country, complained his Secretary of State, Charles Middleton, was that ‘none of the gentry of this or adjacent counties come near the court and the common [folk] are spies to the enemy’. Government spies continued to take Stuart money only to transfer their allegiance to William’s forces at the first opportunity. Among those who changed sides was James’s ablest general, John Churchill (later Duke of Marlborough). Even his younger daughter, the future Queen Anne, deserted him.

William could not have predicted that, with a larger army than his own, James would give up without a fight. On 11 December James threw the Great Seal of England into the Thames (hoping thus to prevent the passing of legislation in his absence) and travelled in heavy disguise to the Kent coast, where a small ship was waiting to take him to France. Before he could escape, however, he was caught by fishermen looking for fleeing Catholic priests, and suffered the humiliation of becoming the only British monarch ever to be strip-searched. Not until James had been frog-marched to the nearest town (another unique experience for an English monarch) was he recognized as the King. A crucifix stolen from him by the fishermen was given back. After briefly returning to London, James made a second attempt to flee, which William allowed to succeed. James’s flight to France, where he arrived on Christmas Day 1688, enabled his opponents to claim that he had abdicated and left the throne vacant. In February 1689 William and Mary were declared joint rulers.

William became simultaneously King William III of England and Ireland, William II of Scotland and Stadholder of the Dutch Republic. He immediately embroiled England as well as the Dutch Republic in the Nine Years War (1688–97) between Louis XIV (who continued to recognize James II as King of England and Ireland, and as James VII of Scotland) and a Grand Alliance dominated by William which also included the Austrian Habsburgs, princes of the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Savoy. Among William’s main wartime intelligence assets, little noticed by historians, was John Wallis, by now in his early seventies and in fragile health but still active as an Oxford mathematician and theologian as well as Britain’s chief cryptanalyst. Though Wallis had been distrusted by James II, probably in part because he was an Anglican priest, William was quick to recognize his talents. His correspondence with the leading Dutch statesman Anthonie Heinsius shows his admiration for Wallis as the greatest codebreaker of the era. The King’s personal interest in Wallis was in striking contrast with the distance he kept from most other British officials. He spent much of his time with foreign advisers in Hampton Court and Kensington, away from the great palace of Whitehall, the main seat of Stuart government. Unlike his sociable wife, Queen Mary, William was one of the most reserved and reclusive monarchs in British history. Mary’s death from smallpox in 1694 made the monarchy even more remote from most of its subjects.

Some of the first important decrypts produced by Wallis during William and Mary’s reign followed James II’s landing in Ireland in March 1689 with Jacobite and French forces, who began a siege of the Protestant stronghold of Londonderry (Derry) a month later. The relief of the 105-day siege, which, despite heavy loss of life, failed to starve the defenders into submission, is still celebrated by Unionists every August with the firing of a cannon to commemorate the apprentice boys who shut the city gates against James’s advancing armies. Wallis wrote to the Earl of Nottingham, one of the King’s two Secretaries of State, when sending him a decrypted despatch from an unidentified French commander soon after the relief of Londonderry: ‘I have met with better success than at first I could promise your lordship or myself and with more expedition than I could hope for.’ The decrypt gave William III welcome intelligence on dissension between Jacobite and French forces. The French commander complained that arms suppliers chosen by James II’s staff to provide munitions for his forces during the siege had defrauded him:

Orders were given for a supply of cannon and ammunition for our use, but they took care that, of the two cannon sent, only one would take the cannon balls supplied and the fuses were nearly worn out. Nothing I could do could then remedy these defects. I have made the [Jacobite] general officers understand the state of affairs so that they may inform the King, their master, of it, who I am sure will deal with those who are guilty in a fitting manner. The mistake cannot have been committed in ignorance, because, in my despatch, on which they acted, I particularly directed that the shot was to be tried, to see if it fitted the cannon and the fuses that they fitted the touch holes. If like faults are committed with impunity one cannot feel the same ardour for King [James’s] service. Shame will be acquired and reputation lost, if the public simply hear that supplies have been sent to the [French] camp without being also told that those supplies were useless. It will be thought that nothing was done, because the [French] officers were incapable. I am on my mettle, not being willing to be overcome by their malice.

As well as revealing dissension between French and Jacobite officers, increased by the failure of the Londonderry siege, the decrypted despatches of the French commander also reported disputes within James’s own high command. The Earl of Tyrconnell, commander-in-chief of his Irish army, was said to have faced ‘almost insurmountable resistance’ by James and, it was believed, his Secretary of State, Lord Melfort, to authorizing essential expenditure: ‘I am assured that Lord Tyrconnell’s discontent, as much as his indisposition, has contributed to his retirement to a country house.’ Wallis noted that one of the intercepted French despatches sent to him was in very poor condition: ‘Nor know I how it becomes so rotten and discoloured in so short a time: Unless possibly it may have been thrown overboard into salt water & recovered from thence.’ This was a distinct possibility, since some French despatches were intercepted at sea.

When sending Nottingham the decrypt from a French commander in Ireland, Wallis reported that another intercepted despatch, addressed to Louis XIV, ‘was in a hard cipher . . . I cannot yet see my way to break it.’42 Within a fortnight, however, he had begun to decrypt highly sensitive correspondence between Louis XIV and his ambassador in Warsaw:

I am almost ashamed to tell yo[u]r Lordship how much time & pains on that very perplexed cypher in the Letter from Poland, & have not yet dispatched it. But by what I have done all ready, I find two things (which seem to me) of moment. One is a Treaty (or entreaty rather) of the French King with the King of Poland presently to make a war on Prussia. The other, about a marriage of the Princess of Hanover with the Prince of Poland, promoted by the French King. How far it may be of concernment to us to know it, I am no competent Judge. But I thought it did become me to give this timely notice of it (lest there might be a prejudice by delay) while I am preparing to give a fuller account of that letter . . .

William immediately saw the opportunity to provoke a political crisis between France and Poland by revealing the contents of the decrypted French despatches. Wallis was quick to claim much of the credit: ‘The deciphering some of those letters . . . quite broke off all the French King’s measures in Poland . . . & caused his Ambassadors to be thence thrust out with disgrace. Which one thing was of much greater advantage to his Ma[jes]ty & his Allies than I am like to receive on that account.’ Contrary to his initial expectation, Wallis was given by Nottingham ‘a Present (from the King, I suppose) of Fifty pound. Which I looked upon as a handsome gratuity for the service then done and as a testimon[y] of his Ma[jes]ty’s acceptance (which I valued) and returned my acknowledgements.’ Wallis was anxious, however, that future French decrypts be kept secret in order not to lead France to change its ciphers.

Wallis’s success in revealing Louis XIV’s plans to provoke war between Poland and Prussia so impressed Frederick I, Duke (later King) of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg, that he asked Wallis to decrypt further (probably French) despatches for him. Having done so, Wallis was told that Frederick was sending him ‘a rich medal with an honourable inscription, & a gold chain of a great value’. Two years later, Wallis had still received neither and complained to the English ambassador in Berlin of being ‘treated like a child, as if I were to be wheedled on to difficult services by a few fair words, & a promise of a few sugar-plums, which should in the issue signify nothing’. The ‘rich medal’ and gold chain did, however, eventually arrive. Both appear on a small table by Wallis’s side in a portrait of him by the leading court painter, Sir Godfrey Kneller, presented to Oxford University by Wallis’s friend and admirer Samuel Pepys. Wallis was the first, and so far the only, British codebreaker to receive an award from a foreign ruler.

By the end of 1689, Wallis had succeeded in breaking a series of French diplomatic and military ciphers used by, among others, Louis XIV’s Foreign Minister, Colbert de Croissy, as well as by Louis himself.48 When sending the Earl of Nottingham the decrypt of a despatch to Croissy in December, Wallis added:

I am very ready to serve his Majesty the best I can, gratis, and to lay [aside] all my own affairs, as I have done this half year, to attend this service. I have been indisposed as to my health all this winter, my eyesight fails me so that I must be forced to quit this service. I have had assistance from my son who with some directions from me could pretty well perform it. I have lost the sight of one eye in the service already this winter.

Nottingham replied:

I . . . am very sorry this service has so much prejudiced your health. I have acquainted the King with it, who is very sensible of your zeal and good affection, and will, I believe, in a short time give you some mark of his favour, wherein my endeavours shall not be wanting to serve you. If I have occasion, hereafter, to send you any more of these letters, I will not press you to despatch them in so much haste as formerly, but leave it to you to do them more at leisure.

In fact, despite his fragile health, Wallis continued breaking ciphers for the remainder of the reign of William III, and outlived him by nearly two years. Wallis, however, continued to resent the fact that he received no regular salary as royal codebreaker and depended on irregular payments. Anxious to provide for his family, he told Nottingham he would be grateful for ‘any kindness’ in finding employment for his son and son-in-law, both struggling lawyers. Despite his age and infirmity, Wallis also declared himself ‘capable of any promotion Ecclesiastical’. Despite complimenting Wallis on his work, Nottingham failed to respond to his requests. As Wallis complained:

. . . Having (for my Lord Nottingham) condescended to do clarks[clerk’s]-work: I might at least expect clarks-wages (without being thought mercenary or ungentle). And I presume there is never a clark his Lo[rdshi]p keeps, but is (one way or other) better payd, for the work he doth, than I am.

He may say perhaps, This is (not his, but) the King’s service. Very true. And so is all the service his Lo[rdshi]p doth as Secretary. Yet he is well payd for it. And, so well, that he may (out of his allowance) afford to gratify those that work under him.

William III’s main military priority in 1690 was to drive James II and his forces from Ireland. Convinced that ‘nothing worthwhile would be done’ to end James’s rule in Ireland unless he took personal charge of the campaign, William crossed the Irish Sea in June 1690. The intelligence provided by Wallis’s decrypts was of great importance. Had Louis XIV sent further forces to add to the French regiments already in Ireland, James’s prospect of victory would have been much greater. Though the French fleet was stronger than those of the British and Dutch combined, William knew from intelligence reports (probably including decrypts) that the French fleet had no soldiers on board, and therefore that no French reinforcements were on the way to Ireland. At the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, on 1 July 1690, William won a crushing victory over James II, who left Ireland never to return, angrily blaming his poorly led Irish troops for having ‘basely fled the field’. His Irish forces conferred on James the nickname Seamus an Chaca (‘James the Shithead’). The victory of the French fleet over the British and Dutch at the Battle of Beachy Head on 10 July did nothing to restore his fortunes.

Intelligence in the Era of the Sun King Part II

William III painted in the 1690s

William III’s understanding of foreign intelligence, and in particular of black chambers (so called after the French cabinet noir), exceeded that of any other ruler of his time – or any other monarch in British history, with the possible exception of George I. As well as receiving decrypts from Wallis, from 1693 William III was also able to make use of a black chamber established at Celle in Lower Saxony, the official residence until 1705 of one of the two branches of the house of Brunswick-Lüneburg. William III was a personal friend of the last member of the dynasty, Duke George William of Celle, who had probably been inspired to found a black chamber by William’s diplomatic coup after Wallis’s decryption of Louis XIV’s correspondence with his ambassador in Poland. The two rulers had a common interest in monitoring French diplomacy in Germany and Northern Europe. Copies of intercepted French despatches obtained in Celle were forwarded to London. Inspired by the Celle example, the other branch of the house of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Hanover also set up a black chamber, at Nienburg. After Duke George Louis I, the future King of England, became Elector of Hanover in 1698, the two black chambers cooperated closely. By 1701 they even had a joint bonus scheme. When George William died in 1705, George I inherited the duchy of Celle and the two black chambers as well as the two duchies combined. As well as taking over Celle’s codebreakers, George removed the contents of the ducal palace and took them to Hanover. The development of codebreaking in both Celle and Hanover probably owed much to the inspiration of the great mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, who, though not a codebreaker himself, had a keen theoretical interest in the principles of cryptanalysis.

Despite the achievements of the black chambers in Celle and Hanover, Leibniz deferred to Wallis, even when Wallis was in his early eighties, as the greatest codebreaker of the age. Wallis wrote in 1701:

I have been solicited by . . . Leibnitz, more than once, in behalf of the Elector of Hanover: who is willing to send hither some young men, whom he desires I would instruct therein; leaving it to me to make my own proposals on what terms I would undertake it. To which I have returned answer, That I shal be ready, my selfe to serve his Electoral Highness if there be occasion: but the skill of doing it, being a curiosity which may be of use to my own Prince, I do not think it proper to send it abroad, without his Ma[jes]ty’s leave.

In 1701, two years before his death, Wallis at last secured the regular salary he had sought for the past decade. While training his precocious grandson William Blencowe, who had just graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, at the age of only eighteen, to succeed him, Wallis was granted £100 a year, backdated to 1699. At Wallis’s request, the salary was paid to him during his lifetime, ‘which is not like to be long (being now in my 85th year), and thenceforth to the young man during his Majesty’s pleasure’.

William III’s most important foreign agent network was at James II’s court in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. The agent penetration of Saint-Germain became so notorious that the Abbé Renaudot, its French liaison with Versailles, mistakenly concluded that James’s Secretary of State, Lord Melfort, was in the pay of William III. At Louis XIV’s insistence, James dismissed Melfort in 1694 and banished him to the provinces. William’s agents at Saint-Germain enabled him to feel some confidence that, as was to happen early in 1696, he would receive advance warning of any attempt by James to launch a cross-Channel invasion with French support. But William could not hope to keep the whole Jacobite exile community in France under surveillance. Numbering about 50,000, it was much larger, in proportion to the size of the British population, than the membership of the British Communist Party at any time in the twentieth century, as well as a far more diffuse and elusive target. Until the last minute, there was no intelligence warning of a serious plot to assassinate William which had been devised by a group of Jacobite exiles in 1695 and timed to precede the planned invasion of 1696.

Assessing the threat posed by Jacobite conspiracy in England was also difficult. Much public denunciation of William and Mary was simply alehouse talk which posed no significant threat to national security. The usual penalty imposed at the Middlesex assizes for such seditious talk was a fine combined with a sentence to spend an hour at the busiest time of the day in the pillory at Charing Cross, Covent Garden, St James’s Street, St John Street, Bow Street, the Strand or New Palace Yard. Most informers’ reports of Jacobite sympathizers contained nothing of real importance. An informant named James Ormiston wrote, for example, in 1695 to one of the secretaries of state, Sir William Trumbull, to report that a Captain Clifford had mistaken him for a Catholic and told him in an alehouse, under the influence of drink, that preparations for a Jacobite rising were going very well (though he declined to give details) and ‘in a short time we should have home our sovereign King James again’. A more experienced agent told Trumbull that such claims were ‘trumpeted in all [Jacobite] coffee houses’. There were similarly exaggerated reports that many French and other foreign travellers were Jacobite spies. Even John Wallis, not usually an alarmist, feared that many of the ‘great concourse’ of foreign students he saw in Oxford were really Jacobite agents sent ‘to take measure of the inclinations of the Kingdom’.

William III was more concerned with Jacobite sympathies among leading members of his own government and armed forces, some of whom had only recently changed sides in his favour and were quite capable of changing back again. Among them was the man who later emerged as the greatest British general of his generation: John Churchill, Earl (later Duke) of Marlborough. Though Marlborough had defected from James II’s forces a few weeks after William landed in England, in 1691 he began a secret correspondence with both James and the Duke of Berwick, James’s illegitimate son by Marlborough’s sister Arabella, and maintained contact with more than one Jacobite agent. Early in 1692 William dismissed Marlborough without warning. Those close to the King let it be known that Marlborough’s recent correspondence with James II had been intercepted and that he was suspected of revealing a secret plan by William to attack Dunkirk. Marlborough was sent to the Tower of London for six weeks and it took him several years to regain the King’s confidence. His later belief in the importance of ‘getting intelligence of the enemy’s motions and designs’ must have owed something his experience of William’s discovery of his own ‘designs’.

The majority of those with Jacobite connections in the government and armed forces were of what was called the ‘fire insurance’ variety – men who had no personal loyalty to James II but thought it prudent to keep some contact with his supporters in case he unexpectedly regained the throne. Keeping track of more serious Jacobite conspiracies was made more difficult by the diffuse nature of William III’s domestic intelligence system. William himself was partly responsible. He appointed no Scot or Thurloe to coordinate intelligence operations at home and abroad, as had happened during the Interregnum. William’s ministers were guilty of a classic failure to learn from past intelligence experience. In the mid-1650s the exiled Charles II had come to the pessimistic (and exaggerated) conclusion that Cromwell’s spymasters supplied him with ‘perfect intelligence of whatsoever His Majesty resolved to do’. The disorganized surveillance of Jacobites after the Glorious Revolution never approached in efficiency the penetration of royalist opposition by Scot and Thurloe a generation earlier. William’s two (sometimes three) secretaries of state independently ran their own agents, as well as receiving spasmodic reports on suspected Jacobites from local justices and mayors. Two Whig MPs, John Arnold and Henry Colt, ran their own spy networks to track down Jacobites, as did the Earl of Monmouth. Some county lords lieutenant, who led the local militias, took it on themselves to investigate subversive activity and arrest suspects.

The confused domestic intelligence system (far less effective than foreign intelligence), combined with widespread fear of Jacobite conspiracy, created new opportunities for confidence tricksters, much as earlier fears of ‘popish plots’ had enabled Titus Oates (undeservedly rehabilitated after the Glorious Revolution) to embark on a career as a celebrity fraudster. The confidence trickster who made the most sensational use of fraudulent intelligence on Jacobite plots after the Glorious Revolution was William Fuller, who claimed to have been brought up as a Catholic and employed both as a servant to James II’s adviser Lord Melfort and as a page to the Queen, Mary of Modena. By his own unreliable account, Fuller then secretly changed sides and worked as a Williamite agent at James’s court in exile at Saint-Germain. After assisting in the arrest of a Jacobite courier, Matthew Crone, in 1690 and giving evidence at his trial, Fuller extracted large sums of money to finance his supposed intelligence operations from William and his government. Among those deceived by Fuller was Queen Mary, who ordered him to be paid £100. Other sums paid to Fuller of which record survives are £180 ‘by his Majesty’s commands’ and £110 from the Earl (later Duke) of Shrewsbury. Fuller’s conspiracy theories, like those of Titus Oates just over a decade earlier, alarmed a nervous House of Commons. During two appearances at the bar of the House in 1691, he claimed that Louis XIV had spies in both the Privy Council and the offices of the secretaries of state. The truth of these and his other allegations of Franco-Jacobite conspiracy, he declared, could be proved by two witnesses who were currently abroad but willing to return if given safe passage and protection. The witnesses, however, failed to turn up as promised by Fuller. Early in 1692, Fuller claimed to be ‘very ill, with great vomiting and looseness’ of the bowels after being poisoned by Jacobites and unable to return to the Commons to give further evidence. Pretending to be on his deathbed, he gave a group of MPs who visited him a sworn statement directing them to the house of an apothecary where the elusive witnesses were allegedly lodging. But the witnesses were, once again, nowhere to be found and Fuller did not die. Embarrassed by their previous gullibility in taking seriously Fuller’s fraudulent inventions, the Commons angrily resolved that he was an impostor and cheat who had ‘scandalized Their Majesties and the government and abused this House and falsely accused several persons of honour and quality’. After prosecution by the Attorney General, he was sentenced to stand in the pillory, like Oates in 1685, and to pay a fine of 200 marks.

The most serious authentic Jacobite conspiracies uncovered by intelligence operations were linked plans to invade England and to assassinate William III in 1696. According to William’s informants at the court of Saint-Germain, James was confident, despite his humiliating flight from England and defeat in Ireland, that, with French assistance, he could recover his throne. In January 1696 he sent his illegitimate son, the Duke of Berwick, secretly to England to prepare an insurrection. Berwick rashly assured Louis XIV, who ordered troops to assemble on the Channel coast to support the insurrection, that ‘King James has a great party both in England and Scotland who will take up arms as soon as they hear he is landed.’ William’s closest adviser, the Dutch-born William Bentinck, first Duke of Portland, received intelligence reports from Flanders ‘that the enemy had collected a great body of troops at Dunkirk and Calais as well as a large number of transport vessels and ships of war, that the troops were either on board or being embarked and that it was well known there that they were assembled for the invasion of England’. Portland later confided to the English diplomat Baron Lexington: ‘We were on the brink of a precipice and ready to fall. When, by a manifest interposition of providence, we were made aware of the danger which threatened us and all Europe.’

What Portland called the ‘interposition of providence’ was intelligence received on the evening of 14 February 1696 that, in addition to the planned French invasion in support of a Jacobite rebellion, a well-prepared attempt would be made next day to assassinate the King as he returned by coach from a hunting expedition down a narrow street. Portland’s informant, Thomas Prendergast, had been chosen as one of a group of eight assassins led by Sir George Barclay, a Jacobite army officer at James’s court in exile who had travelled to London in disguise. Prendergast’s allotted role was to fire a musketoon repeatedly into the royal coach but, he told Portland, his conscience would not allow him to go ahead. With some difficulty, Portland persuaded William to postpone his hunt until 22 February. On the evening of the 21st, Prendergast went to Kensington Palace to report that the assassins had reassembled and intended to kill the King after the hunt next day. His report was confirmed by a double agent, Francis Delarue. Prendergast was shown into the presence of the King and for the first time revealed the names of his Jacobite associates. When the royal hunt was again cancelled, rumours spread that a plot had been discovered and the would-be assassins fled. Though most, including Barclay, eventually escaped to France, eleven of those involved in the plot – some peripherally – were executed or imprisoned. Plans for a French invasion, which would probably have gone ahead if the assassination had succeeded, were cancelled. The exposure of the plot did great damage to the Jacobite cause and strengthened William’s popularity at a time of economic crisis. The Duke of Berwick, who also escaped to France, despite the offer of a £1,000 reward for his capture, later claimed that ‘he came over to stir up rebellion, but knew nothing of the assassination’. He admits in his Memoirs, however, that he was informed of a plot to ‘kidnap’ the King, which he did not countermand. Since no such plot existed, ‘kidnap’ may have been a euphemism for assassination. After his escape, Berwick never returned to Britain.

The death in exile of James II in 1701 was hastened by an English intelligence coup involving his former Secretary of State Lord Melfort, whom James had allowed back to Saint-Germain from provincial exile in 1697 and restored to favour as gentleman of the bedchamber. In 1701 a French messenger mistakenly delivered a letter written by Melfort to his brother Lord Perth to the English court at Whitehall instead. The letter contained secret details about Jacobite supporters in Scotland and discussed the possibility of a French invasion. Seizing this unexpected opportunity to embarrass both James and Louis, William ordered the publication of the letter. Versailles was so furious that it accused Melfort of having deliberately sent the letter to Whitehall in the hope of provoking another war between France and England. James was so shocked when told of the letter’s publication that he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. At Louis XIV’s insistence, the unfortunate Melfort was once again banished to provincial exile.

Within a year, for reasons unconnected with Melfort’s letter, England and France were once again in conflict with the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–14), a further episode in the long-drawn-out struggle to contain the power of Louis XIV’s France that had dominated European politics for almost half a century. For much of the war the armies of England and its allies, under the leadership until 1711 of the Duke of Marlborough, the British commander-in-chief (‘captain-general’), triumphed over those of Louis XIV. The Battle of Blenheim in Bavaria in 1704 was both the first great English land victory on the Continent since the Hundred Years War and Louis XIV’s first decisive defeat. Marlborough was given the royal estate at Woodstock and a blank cheque to construct on it the great palace named after his victory. ‘For a time’, writes the historian Mark Kishlansky, ‘Marlborough was the most famous man in the world.’ He won further decisive victories at Ramillies in 1706, which enabled him to take possession of the Spanish Netherlands in a lightning campaign, and at Oudenarde in 1708, a battle which ended all prospect of a French invasion of the Dutch Republic.

Good intelligence, as well as Marlborough’s inspired generalship, contributed to Allied victories. Unlike British intelligence successes in the Nine Years War, however, those in the War of the Spanish Succession owed nothing to the monarch. Intelligence was beyond the mental horizons of William’s successor, Queen Anne. As her confidante, the Duchess of Marlborough, complained, Anne’s mind was so taken up with ‘ceremonies and customs of courts and such like insignificant trifles’ that her chief topics of conversation were ‘fashions and rules of precedence’. Though only thirty-seven when she became queen, Anne had to be carried to her coronation in a sedan chair, prematurely aged by seventeen pregnancies, all of which had ended tragically in miscarriages, still births or the birth of babies who died in infancy. Her pleasures were limited to dining and gambling.

The moving force in English intelligence during Anne’s reign (1702–14) was the Duke of Marlborough. The latest and best biography of Marlborough, by the military historian Richard Holmes, concludes that ‘The acquisition and analysis of intelligence underlay everything he did.’ When Marlborough assumed command of the Allied army in the Low Countries in April 1702, he appointed William (later General Earl) Cadogan his quartermaster-general; unofficially, he was also Marlborough’s intelligence chief – the first appointed by any English general. Cadogan was an excellent linguist, fluent in French, Dutch and German. While leading a reconnaissance expedition near Tournai in July 1706, he was taken prisoner by a French cavalry patrol. Aware of Marlborough’s high regard for him, the French chivalrously released him in a prisoner exchange. Lord Strafford claimed that the Dutch Grand Pensionary, Heinsius, had told him: ‘If you want to have a Duke of Marlborough, you need a Cadogan.’

As well as collating tactical intelligence from enemy prisoners and deserters, Cadogan also ran an agent network in France, much of it at the main French ports. The inducements given to his agents were not simply financial. Cadogan told Marlborough’s private secretary, Adam de Cardonnel, in 1705: ‘You will give me leave to remember my good friend the Conseiller Intime. I hope the Tokay and the lady are provided for him as promised.’ Cardonnel also ran an intelligence network through a former private secretary of William III, the Huguenot refugee Jean de Robethon, who had become private secretary and influential adviser to the Elector of Hanover, the future King George I. A few months before Blenheim, Robethon gave him a captured memorandum by Louis XIV’s Secretary of State for War, Michel de Chamillart, which summarized Louis’s instructions to his commanders. ‘We find . . . the utmost designs of the enemy in this memorial’, wrote Cardonnel, ‘and I hope we shall be able to traverse them.’ Marlborough thus knew the French campaign plan – that French commanders were to engage in battle only disunited Allied forces. Before Blenheim, by contrast, the French commander, Marshal Camille de Tallard, professed ‘total ignorance of the strength of the enemy’; he had no idea that the combined forces of Marlborough and his chief ally, the imperial commander-in-chief, Prince Eugène of Savoy (French-born but rejected by Louis XIV for service in the French army), were so close to him. Whereas Marlborough had devised his own campaign plan with the help of good intelligence, Tallard complained to Chamillart that a bad campaign plan had been imposed on him and that his Bavarian allies were impossible to deal with. He also blamed his own forces for his humiliating defeat: ‘The bulk of the cavalry did badly, I say very badly, for they did not break a single enemy squadron.’ Tallard spent the next eight years as prisoner-of-war in relative comfort in Nottingham, teaching his English captors how to make lace, bake proper bread, and grow celery, all skills hitherto unknown to them.

Following Marlborough’s victory at Ramillies and his unopposed entry into Brussels, previously under French control, in May 1706, he and the Dutch acquired a major new intelligence source. In December François Jaupain, who had taken charge of the Brussels post office, offered his services to Marlborough and the Earl of Sunderland, newly appointed Secretary of State. Jaupain gained control of all mail delivery between those parts of the Spanish Netherlands still under French or Bavarian control and Northern Europe. In the summer of 1707 and again in the spring of 1708, he joined Marlborough on his military campaigns, running an intelligence unit which collected information on enemy troop movements and provisioning. Jaupain’s main contribution to the Allied war effort, however, was to provide a regular flow of French intercepted messages to the youthful royal decipherer in England, William Blencowe, who had succeeded his grandfather John Wallis on Wallis’s death in 1703. Blencowe, then a twenty-year-old Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, was paid the salary of £100 a year negotiated by Wallis two years earlier. He initially made slow progress in breaking French ciphers, partly because of the limited number of intercepts sent to him. On one occasion Marlborough sent him a captured despatch from Chamillart, the French Secretary of State for War, but Blencowe failed to decrypt it in time for Marlborough to make use of it. Blencowe’s ‘French Ministers Letter-book’ contains only three decrypts for the period up to 1706. Thereafter, thanks to the intercepts from Jaupain, their numbers greatly increased. There were also a smaller number of letters from the court of James III, ‘the Old Pretender’, son of James II, to Jacobites in Scotland. Ironically, some of the correspondence intercepted in Brussels contained warnings of the dangers of letter interception in London.

Blencowe was rewarded for his success in decrypting French despatches by the doubling of his salary to £200 a year. Queen Anne, no doubt at the prompting of her secretaries of state, also took his side in a dispute with his Oxford college. In 1709 Blencowe sought a dispensation to permit him to retain his fellowship at All Souls without, as was customary, taking holy orders. The Warden, Bernard Gardiner, refused and tried to force Blencowe either to take orders or to resign his Fellowship. Queen Anne’s intervention on Blencowe’s behalf led to the abolition of the Warden’s veto on dispensations. Blencowe’s precocious career as royal decipherer came to a tragically early end in 1712 at the age of only twenty-nine. During a bout of insanity following serious illness, Blencowe shot himself. His memorial in All Saints’ Church, Northampton, records his expertise in ‘the art of deciphering letters wherein he excelled, and served the public for ten years’.

Marlborough was so anxious to keep secret Blencowe’s decrypts of the French correspondence intercepted by Jaupain during the War of the Spanish Succession that he did not share them with his Dutch allies. He had good reason to doubt whether the Dutch could keep the secret. Following the death of the ‘Stadholder-King’, William III, day-to-day management of Dutch foreign policy had passed to Heinsius. Heinsius, in turn, had to answer to a supposedly secret committee of the States-General consisting of representatives of all the provinces, who on important matters had to consult their provincial States. ‘This meant, in effect’, writes the Dutch historian Karl de Leeuw, ‘that in the Dutch Republic more people were involved in the making of foreign policy than anywhere in the world and that it was extremely difficult to conduct any form of secret diplomacy.’

Marlborough was unaware that Jaupain was sending copies of French intercepts to Heinsius, as well as to himself, and that Heinsius was sending them on to the Elector George I’s black chamber in Hanover. From 1707 to 1711 he paid Hanover’s leading codebreaker, Ludwig Neubourg, 1,000 guilders a year. ‘This’, Neubourg told Heinsius in 1707, ‘will greatly enhance my enthusiasm.’ Like Heinsius, George I’s mother, Sophia of Hanover, heiress presumptive to Queen Anne under the 1701 English Act of Settlement, was an enthusiastic admirer of Neubourg’s codebreaking expertise, calling him ‘one of the wonders of the century’. George, however, changed his mind about Neubourg’s cooperation with the Dutch after the leak in The Hague in 1711 of a French diplomatic decrypt which personally embarrassed him. The decrypt revealed a scheme by the French court to cause dissension among the Allies by promoting the election of the Elector of Hanover as Holy Roman Emperor after the death of the Emperor Joseph I in April. During a visit to The Hague two months later, George’s influential personal secretary, Jean de Robethon, reported to him that rumours were circulating about the contents of the French decrypt: ‘It is out of the question that these rumours originate from the Grand Pensionary, but one cannot be sure of the deputies of the secret committee of the States-General, who get the intercepts to read as well, after our people [in Hanover] have decoded them.’ The Hanover black chamber ceased work for Heinsius soon afterwards. However, Heinsius’s private secretary, Abel Tasien d’Alonne, believed to be an illegitimate son of the Stadholder William II, had begun to set up a Dutch black chamber, which grew in importance over subsequent decades.

Blencowe’s decrypts provided Marlborough, on occasion, with valuable intelligence about his Dutch allies as well as his French enemies. Correspondence intercepted by Marlborough’s agents in 1709 revealed secret peace negotiations between Heinsius and Torcy, Louis XIV’s Secretary of State. Cadogan provided confirmation in May that Torcy had passed through Brussels, and sent Sunderland as well as Marlborough details of the peace terms which Torcy had secretly offered the Dutch. British pressure on Heinsius helped to ensure the failure of the Franco-Dutch negotiations. Faced with attempts by Louis XIV to break up the Grand Alliance by offering generous concessions to the Dutch and Germans, Britain publicly pledged to make no separate peace.

Cadogan ended 1709 with a strikingly confident intelligence assessment: ‘Great numbers of deserters come in daily, they are half starved and quite naked, and give such an account of the misery the French troops are in as could not be believed were it not confirmed by the reports and letters from all their garrison towns on the frontier.’ Cadogan was too optimistic. Unlike Marlborough’s previous triumphs at Blenheim, Ramillies and Oudenarde, the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709 was a Pyrrhic victory which left him with double the casualties of the French. For the first time he received no congratulations from Queen Anne. Marshal Claude Louis Hector de Villars, the last great French general of the Louis XIV era, wrote to the King: ‘If God will have the goodness to lose us another battle like this one, Your Majesty can count on the destruction of all our enemies.’ In the aftermath of Malplaquet, a war-weary British government was ready for peace negotiations.

The transformation of the English government in London into a British government by the Act of Union in 1707 had owed much to a domestic intelligence operation run by Queen Anne’s future First Minister Robert Harley, then Northern Secretary of State, who a few years earlier had claimed that he ‘knew no more of Scotch business than of Japan’. During the negotiations which preceded the passage of the Act, Harley had sent secret agents to Scotland to report on, and seek to influence, Scottish opinion. Chief among them was the great writer, polemicist and unscrupulous businessman Daniel Defoe, whom Harley had already used as an agent in England. Defoe, who arrived in Edinburgh in September 1706, was later described by a contemporary as ‘a Spy amongst us, but not known to be such, otherways the Mob of Edinburgh had pulled him to pieces’. When the draft Act of Union was published in October, a ‘villainous and outragious mobb’ threatened members of the Scottish Parliament and judiciary. Despite the street protests, Defoe acquired sources in the Scottish Parliament, the Church of Scotland, and major business and civic groups, as well as gaining control of all the newspapers. Though Defoe publicly denied being a spy, writes the Cambridge literary scholar John Kerrigan, ‘he so liked to cut a dash in coffee houses that he couldn’t resist hinting at his role. This mixture of concealment and showing off is typical of the man . . .’ Economic ‘inducements’ certainly played a major part in winning a majority for the Union in the Scottish Parliament. Harley said cynically of the negotiations which won Scottish support for the Act of Union: ‘We bought them.’

Harley’s most dangerous encounter with intelligence work came in 1711, when, to quote the usually authoritative Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, he narrowly ‘survived an assassination attempt by a French spy, the marquis de Guiscard’. Antoine de Guiscard, Abbé de la Bourlie, marquis de Guiscard, was, in reality, a talented fantasist who spent more of his fraudulent career as an English than as a French agent. While living in Lausanne in 1704 Guiscard met and greatly impressed the English diplomat Richard Hill, who reported to the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State, that he ‘would engage to raise a revolt in Dauphine and Languedoc among the Catholics, if I would promise him such a protection and assurance as was absolutely necessary to begin the work. I liked the character of the man, and his temper so much, a man of figure, and family, very well known, that I promised him every thing.’ Guiscard claimed to have access to many French secrets and to carry with him a vial of poison in case he was caught by the agents of Louis XIV who were allegedly pursuing him.

Guiscard’s bizarre career is evidence of the vulnerability of Queen Anne’s governments (and, to a lesser extent, William’s) to intelligence fraud and the high-level access which a plausible impostor such as Guis-card could achieve. At the height of his influence, in 1706, he enjoyed the strong support of the Secretary for War, Henry St John, received 600 guineas from Queen Anne and a pension from the Dutch, and was given command of a regiment to land on the French coast and foment the uprising he had promised Hill two years earlier. The landing never took place and Guiscard’s credibility and income steadily declined over the next few years. In 1711 he sought to transform himself into a double agent working for Louis XIV, promising Torcy that, in so doing, he would ‘expiate his crimes towards [His Majesty] and towards his fatherland’. Though aware of Guiscard’s villainous reputation, Torcy was so impressed by his past high-level access to the British government that he sent an agent to England to make contact with him.

Guiscard’s correspondence, however, had been intercepted, and by the time Torcy’s agent arrived he was under arrest in London. On 8 March he was questioned by the members of the Cabinet (meeting without the presence of the Queen). Charged with treasonable correspondence with France, Guiscard at first denied it but was then confronted with his intercepted letters, which until that point had been hidden under a hat on the Cabinet table. He then lunged at Harley, head of the government elected in the previous year, and stabbed him with a penknife from his pocket. According to dramatic contemporary accounts, since many times repeated, though Harley was badly wounded, his life was saved by the heavy gold-thread embroidery lovingly sewn on his coat by his devoted sister Abigail, which broke the blade of the knife. Though the gold embroidery may have been a myth, the knife did break during the attack. A second attempt by Guiscard to stab Harley with the broken blade also failed to kill him, though Harley was confined to bed for the next six weeks. Harley’s attempted assassination by a French spy greatly increased his popularity among a public unaware of Guiscard’s earlier career as a fraudulent British agent. Guiscard died in Newgate Prison on 17 March from wounds sustained after his attack on Harley. Public interest in the assassination attempt was so great that the jailer pickled Guiscard’s corpse in a barrel, put it on display and charged a penny for admission. His remains were eventually interred at Newgate by royal command and the jailer, somewhat undeservedly, given £5 ‘to repair the damages done to the floor and ceilings of 2 rooms by the salt water that ran out of [Guiscard’s] cofin’. No double agent in British history has met a stranger end.

In June 1711 Harley, now Earl of Oxford, decided to begin secret negotiations with Louis XIV. On 12 July the poet and diplomat Matthew Prior was sent to France, travelling on a false passport in company with the French secret negotiator, Abbé François Gaultier, also travelling incognito. After ten days of negotiations with Torcy and an audience with Louis XIV, Prior returned to England with another French negotiator, Nicolas Mesnager. On landing in England he was briefly jailed by a customs official, whose suspicions may have been aroused by his false passport. The secret negotiations suddenly ceased to be secret. The Whig opposition to Harley’s Tory government derisively called the preliminary peace treaties signed on 8 October ‘Matt’s peace’.

Marlborough told Harley that ‘there is nothing on earth I wish more than an end to the war’, but disagreed with him on what constituted reasonable terms. His position was weakened by investigation of his military accounts, which uncovered a large shortfall. Marlborough maintained in his defence, not very persuasively, that he had personally received ‘no more than what has been allowed as a perquisite to the general, or commander-in-chief of the army’ and, rather more persuasively, that he had spent much of the money on ‘getting intelligence of the enemy’s motions and design’. On 30 December 1711 he was dismissed as commander-in-chief. His successor, the Duke of Ormond, was instructed to avoid engaging the enemy. On 11 April 1713 France, England, Holland, Portugal, Prussia and Savoy finally signed the Treaty of Utrecht, ending their involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession. The Emperor and his German allies continued for another year but achieved nothing of significance.

Obsessed by his increasingly unsuccessful quest for glory, Louis XIV ruled France less successfully at the end of his reign than at the beginning. In the 1660s, guided by Colbert, he showed a serious interest in understanding his account books and maintaining national solvency. After Colbert’s death he gave up. On his death in 1715 Louis left a bankrupt France with no effective accounting system and little more territory than at the beginning of his personal rule, despite the ruinous cost of his almost continuous wars in human lives as well as money. Half a century earlier, Colbert had had a broader vision of intelligence than any other European statesman of his time. In the Nine Years War, by contrast, William III made far better use of foreign intelligence than Louis or any of his ministers. During the War of the Spanish Succession, no French general matched Marlborough’s intelligence flair. Louis XIV’s grasp of intelligence, as of much else, did not compare with that of Cardinal Richelieu, who had died when he was only four. Under Richelieu, France had been the world leader in intelligence. It has never been so since.


U-Tanker & Type VIIC

German “Milch Cow” Type XIV. To extend the range of the Type VII U-Boats, the German Navy built ten submarine tankers in 1941.

The extension of the U-boat war to the American coast in January 1942 created a problem for Karl Dönitz C-in-C U-boat command. Because it took his submarines substantially more time to get to and from their rich target areas off New York or Virginia or Florida than it took to reach patrol lines off Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, their combat time was reduced. To prolong their battle period as much as possible, he resupplied the U-boats at sea, using special submarine tankers. These “milch cows,” twice as big as the standard Type VII combat submarines, carried 400 tons of fuel oil, 50 tons of provisions, a workshop, a physician, and personnel to replace injured or sick combat-sub crewmen. When the first U-tanker began work in March 1942, a U-boat averaged 41 days at sea. With one resupply, this time was extended to an average of 62 days and, with two, to a maximum of 81. Even for the more northerly operations, refueling was essential for efficiency. Experience showed that submarines had to spend from three to five weeks in the operational area before encountering a convoy in a favorable position. This meant that to make success likely, Type VIIC boats had to be refueled twice. After twelve months, by May of 1943, the U-tankers had completed 390 refuelings.

It became clear to the Allies that sinking one milch cow would reduce the effectiveness of many combat U-boats. They were unable to plan such an attack during the codebreaking blackout of 1942 because they could not read the instructions for the refueling rendezvous, and U-Boat Command had taken care to have the submarines meet in remote locations, far from the convoy tracks and out of the range of Allied airplanes. The U-tankers maintained radio silence. Instructions were enciphered in the special officer-grade keys and then reenciphered in the general key; the grid encipherment disguised positions. In 1943, however, with codebreaking restored, it became possible for the Allies to attack tankers. The solved messages sometimes disclosed the date and place of a refueling rendezvous; when these specifics were not available, the O.I.C.’s knowledge of the departures and movements of the supply submarines and of favorite refueling areas could guide ships and airplanes to likely hunting grounds.

But three factors saved the supply submarines for a while: the inability of Allied aircraft to reach the rendezvous, the need for surface forces to stay close to convoys, and the adamant refusal of the British to attack the isolated refueling points for fear that the Germans would guess that their cipher system had been solved. This refusal stemmed originally from the anxiety the British had experienced after the 1941 roundup of Bismarck supply ships, when two that were to be left alone so as not to raise German suspicions were accidentally attacked. Their decision was hardened by leakages that could be traced to Enigma solutions, by four cases in which Enigma solutions were repeated almost verbatim in British messages, and by a scare in March 1943.

The Kriegsmarine, an intercept showed, had grown suspicious about British warships sighted in an area where they would have encountered a German convoy bringing supplies to North Africa had the convoy not been delayed. The first sea lord reprimanded the Mediterranean commander in chief, and Churchill threatened to withhold Enigma intelligence, or ULTRA, unless it was “used only on great occasions or when thoroughly camouflaged.” At the same time, the first sea lord emphasized in a personal message about ULTRA to his American counterpart, Admiral King, his anxious desire that “we should not risk what is so invaluable to us.” The next month he resisted American proposals for using Enigma U-boat solutions to attack U-tankers at their supply rendezvous, arguing that “if our Z [ULTRA] information failed us at the present time it would, I am sure, result in our shipping losses going up by anything from 50 to 100%.”

But this risk declined late in May, when Dönitz pulled his submarines out of the North Atlantic. And a few weeks later an event showed how Enigma information, while still used with great care for its security, could greatly enhance the new offensive strength of the Allies at sea. This new strength consisted of the Americans’ introduction of task forces centered on small, “escort” aircraft carriers. These could bring airplanes to within striking distance of a refueling rendezvous. On June 12 the escort carrier Bogue, using information from both Enigma decrypts and direction-finding, sent out airplanes that, shortly after noon, spotted the 1,700-ton converted minelayer U-118 cruising placidly on the surface. The planes bombed and strafed her, drove her under, and, when she resurfaced, sank her. Her loss forced U-Boat Command to recall some submarines and delayed other combat boats in reaching their target areas. These disruptions, mentioned in Enigma intercepts, showed the Allies the value of attacking the U-tankers—a demonstration that was reinforced in a negative sense when the tanker U-488 refueled twenty-two boats to overcome the emergency. As a consequence, the Americans pressed to use Enigma information against the supply subs. By this time the British fears of the loss of ULTRA were allayed because using aircraft to spot the submarines covered their reliance on cryptanalytic intelligence, so Britain concurred in the American proposal. Enigma solutions now enabled the escort carriers to carry the war to the enemy. For the first time, the Allies attacked U-boats not just defensively, as in fighting off wolfpacks, or fortuitously, as when a plane spotted a submarine, but actively—aggressively seeking out subs and hitting them. Enigma decrypts had changed from a shield to a sword.


Among the targets of these machete chops was the U-117, a sister ship of the U-118. She had taken her crew of fifty-odd on three supply cruises when, on July 22, 1943, she sailed from France under the command of Lieutenant Commander Hans-Werner Neumann as one of five supply submarines that Dönitz sent to sea in the last third of July. Three of these were sunk while crossing the Bay of Biscay before the end of the month; a fourth was destroyed west of the Faeroes. This put additional pressure on the U-117 to meet and refuel combat submarines that otherwise might not have been able to return home.

One of these was the U-66, a veteran boat that had completed nine patrols in areas ranging from Cape Hatteras to the Mediterranean, had landed a saboteur on the northwest African coast, claimed to have sunk 200,000 tons of shipping, and had provided each of her two commanders with a Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross. On this cruise she had been at sea the extremely long time of three months, during which time she had sunk two American tankers. On July 27, U-Boat Command ordered her to square CD 50, about halfway between Washington, D.C., and Lisbon, Portugal, to rendezvous with the U-117 for reprovisioning.

The message was intercepted. But it had not yet been solved when the cryptanalysts read a message giving a new rendezvous for 8 P.M. August 3. The solution gave the location as “square 6755 of the large square west of” another square, which was disguised by the grid encipherment but which the cryptanalysts thought was CE. This would put little square 6755 in large square CD, making it 37° 57′ north latitude, or roughly east of Washington, D.C., and 38° 30′ west longitude, or north of the bulge of Brazil.

At 1:05 P.M. Eastern War Time, August 1, 1943, the U.S. Navy’s codebreaking unit on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, D.C., teletyped a solved intercept to F-21, the Atlantic section of the Combat Intelligence section of Cominch, where the Submarine Tracking Room was located.

The message was about twelve hours old, the time it took for Commander Engstrom’s back-room boys to crack it and the translators and evaluators to append to each U-boat commander’s name the number of his submarine and the latitude and longitude of its naval grid references. They put these insertions in double parentheses to show that they were not part of the original message. The first part of the text directed two submarines not to refuel but to proceed home. The second and more interesting portion, however, dealt with the U-117: “Neumann ((117)) head for Nav Sq 67 ((probably CD 67 = 37.57 N – 38.30 W)).”

Fifteen minutes later, the teletypewriter tapped out another solved German message. Sent ten hours after the first, it instructed the U-66’s captain, Lieutenant Friedrich Markworth, where and when to get supplies: “Beginning 3 August 15 2000B Markworth ((66)) will provision from Neumann ((117)) in Sq 6755 ((probably CD 6755 = 37.57 N – 38.30 W)).… After execution Markworth report affirmative, Neumann wait in that area.”

The day after these messages went to F-21, Cominch headquarters radioed the information to units at sea that could use it. It was included in the U-boat report for August 2. Not giving the source of the intelligence, the report stated: “Several [U-boats] area 3800 [north] 3830 [west].” The data were repeated in the next day’s report, with a cover source: “Several vicinity 3800 3830 by recent DFs suggesting refueling operations X.”

One of the recipients was the U.S. Navy’s Combat Task Group 21.14, a convoy support group consisting of the escort carrier Card and three old destroyers. The U-boat situation reports told its commander, Captain Arnold J. (Buster) Isbell, where to look for subs to sink. He knew that if refueling, they could be caught at a particularly vulnerable moment—moving slowly on the surface, joined by a fuel hose—and that one of them would be a particularly valuable target. He headed toward the reported U-boat concentration while his planes scouted ahead and to the sides.


Late in the afternoon of August 3, as the Card was perhaps 150 miles from that area, two of his pilots, reserve Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard L. Cormier, in a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber, and his wing-man, reserve Ensign Arne S. Paulson, in a Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter, making a routine submarine search, were flying southwest at 5,000 feet in clear skies when Cormier, with his binoculars, spotted a grayish white submarine off to port about 11 miles away. She was fully surfaced, cruising so slowly that no bow wave or wake was noticeable. It was the U-66.

Paulson, on Cormier’s orders to strafe the submarine, gave his fighter full throttle and, 100 feet above the waves, raced directly at the U-boat. At 500 yards, he began firing and saw his bullets strike the conning tower, kicking up puffs of rust. He saw nobody; on the U-boat, however, a machinist who was topside smoking was wounded in both thighs. Cormier then swept in to depth-charge the U-boat, but the charges failed to release. As he circled to attack again, Paulson made another run. It was met at this time with inaccurate antiaircraft fire from the six or eight men now topside. The attack had, however, killed the submarine’s second watch officer and panicked the men in the conning tower into ringing the diving alarm. But Markworth, demonstrating anew why he had won the Knight’s Cross, bulled his way up the ladder, belayed the command to dive, and held his men to their guns.

In his torpedo-bomber, Cormier sped toward the U-boat, skimming the water. He pressed his electrical bomb release and immediately pulled the emergency release. This time his acoustic torpedo and both depth charges dropped. Within seconds, while making a climbing turn, he saw a shock wave centered about 25 feet from the submarine’s starboard side and just forward of her conning tower. It swept to her port side and appeared to lift her from below and make her list to port. Then a heavy column of water about 100 feet high obscured the U-boat. When she reappeared, she was turning to starboard. Paulson attacked again. He saw half a dozen figures, some inert, on the conning tower. His shots killed one sailor who had kept firing despite several wounds, wounded another in the chest, and slightly injured six others. No further fire was returned. Cormier strafed, seriously wounding Markworth in the abdomen. Then it became clear to the men on the submarine that the planes had no more bombs and that it was therefore safe to dive, so the first watch officer gave the order. The bodies of the officer and the seaman had to be left where they were. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly, at an angle of 50 degrees, the U-boat submerged. Just as she was disappearing, Paulson made a final run, firing at the underside of the stern.

Cormier dropped a marker and circled over the spot for forty-five minutes. Though neither he nor the pilots of the other planes that the Card sent saw any debris, oil, or air bubbles, the squadron commander claimed a sinking. He was wrong. Though the U-66 had two fatalities, several seamen wounded, and a captain suffering from a bullet in his guts, and though her ballast and fuel tanks were leaking, she had escaped.

But she still had not met the U-117. She limped east toward home, with not enough fuel to make it and only two days’ worth of provisions. The next day, after midnight, she surfaced. Though the sailor’s body had washed overboard, the second watch officer’s body was, ghoulishly enough, still on the lower machine-gun stand. It and the body of a sailor who had died from his wounds were buried at sea.

Meanwhile, Buster Isbell on the Card was being further tantalized by F-21’s U-boat situation reports to his carrier task group telling of combat and tanker submarines nearby. On August 6, for example, he was told, “One probably refueler locality 3915 3730 by DFs 052330 and 052350 probably moving NE.” By 2 P.M., he was steering for that area.

That same day, the U-66 proposed a new rendezvous with the U-117 for that noon, some 54 miles north and 12 miles east of the August 1 meeting place. Dönitz acquiesced a few hours later. The Allied cryptanalysts could not read these messages as promptly as the others, and they remained a closed book. But the Tenth Fleet’s ULTRA-based knowledge of the rendezvous attempts, together with its background information that on July 30 the U-117 had been ordered to stand by within 100 miles of 38° 50′ north, 37° 20′ west, a circle within which the August 1 rendezvous was to have been effected, made it worthwhile to keep the Card in the vicinity.

Shortly before noon on Friday, the U-117 and the U-66 finally met. After dark the combat submarine took aboard some provisions and a physician to treat Markworth. But, unable to refuel at night, the pair waited for morning. With daylight, the U-66 began to take on oil. At just about the same time, 6:49 A.M. Saturday, the Card flew off the same kind of airplane pairing as had attacked the U-66, an Avenger and a Wildcat. An hour into the patrol, however, the Wildcat had to return to the carrier because of engine trouble. The Avenger, piloted by reserve Lieutenant (j.g.) Asbury H. Sallenger, continued its routine submarine search. At 9:46, while flying west-northwest at 4,500 feet in a cloudless sky, Sallenger spotted a large white object 15 miles off his starboard bow. He thought at first it was a merchantman, but he soon realized that it was two submarines, painted white, close together, fully surfaced and proceeding very slowly southwest, with neither bow waves nor wakes. The refueling was still in progress.

Sallenger radioed the Card, 82 miles away, and maneuvered to attack. Selecting the U-boat nearest him, which was slightly behind the other, he approached from the port quarter at 220 knots, out of the sun. “This is it!” he told his crew. The U-66, spotting him, shoved the throttles of both diesels to full speed ahead. When Sallenger was about 400 yards from the subs, both opened fire with their 20-millimeter guns. These filled the sky with white puffs, but Sallenger bored in and, from about 125 feet, dropped two depth charges, set to explode at 25 feet. They straddled the U-117. Three seconds later the explosions raised two columns of water on the starboard side, one about 10 feet out, the other some 20 feet out, cutting the refueling hose. Sallenger banked to the left and climbed. The submarine spurted flame from its stern, and dense gray smoke rolled out. The TBF’s turret gunner, Ammunition Mate Third Class James H. O’Hagan, Jr., sprayed the deck with his .50-caliber machine gun, then concentrated his fire around the machine guns on the conning tower. He saw about twenty men. The radioman took pictures, which would be used to improve tactics.

The U-boat began maneuvering erratically, as if her steering apparatus had been damaged. She started to trail a heavy oil slick. The U-66 was following her, seemingly trying to help. After about fifteen minutes, the undamaged U-66 started to submerge, apparently in an attempt to save at least herself. While she was thus vulnerable, Sallenger, who had been watching from 6,500 feet, dove to attack. As he flew along her track at 130 knots in level flight, 200 feet up, the U-117 threw intense antiaircraft fire at him. O’Hagan fired back. Sallenger dropped his acoustic torpedo on the last seen course of the submerged U-boat, 150 yards ahead of the diving swirl and 50 yards to starboard some forty seconds after she disappeared. Sun glare prevented him or his crew from observing any results. But the U-66 escaped.

His armament exhausted, Sallenger soared to 6,400 feet to vector in the other planes. As he circled, the damaged U-tanker tried to dive. For a moment, Sallenger thought she was gone, but she surfaced almost immediately. At 10:33 A.M., twenty minutes after his second attack, two Avengers and two Wildcats arrived from the Card. On command, one of the fighters made a strafing run. He fired a test burst from 2 miles away, but the bullets fell short, and he held his fire until he was in range. During his run, gun flashes from the 20-millimeters at the base of the conning tower winked at him, and he concentrated his fire on this area, though he saw no gunners; apparently they were well protected. He swooped around and attacked from the other side. But the U-boat continued her heavy antiaircraft fire, which forced the lead Avenger, flown by Lieutenant Charles R. Stapler, to weave as it bored in. In a shallow dive, Stapler released two depth charges at 185 feet. They fell close aboard the port side just ahead of the conning tower, and the explosion drenched the submarine. As Stapler pulled up, his gunner strafed the vessel. The first fighter again attacked, and so did the second, just before the second Avenger, coming from the U-boat’s stern, dropped its two depth charges 20 to 25 feet from the submarine on her starboard quarter. Spray covered her. The fighters zoomed down to strafe some more, finally silencing the antiaircraft fire.

As the two Avengers circled, the crippled U-117 turned to starboard, apparently trying to dive but instead only mushing down, stern first. Then she did go under, and the Avengers turned to attack with their acoustic torpedoes. But they pulled up when the bow and conning tower broke water and the submarine, now barely moving, struggled to surface. Quantities of oil leaked from her. After five minutes, she lost the fight. She began to settle. Her stern went down, her bow rose slightly; the conning tower slipped under, then the bow, and she was gone. Now the Avengers could use their acoustic torpedoes. Stapler dropped his 200 feet ahead of the oil slick and 100 feet to starboard of the U-boat’s last track. Ten seconds later, the other Avenger dropped its 400 feet ahead and to port of where the pilot had last seen the submarine. Some distance away, the crew of the U-66, still submerged, heard detonations, some sharp, some muffled.

The Avengers circled. A patch of oil 200 feet in diameter where the submarine had last been seen seemed to grow. The radioman of the second Avenger reported seeing a shock wave in the water forward and to starboard of the same point. The U-66 heard crackling noises, and finally sounds that the crew interpreted as those of a boat sinking. The airmen saw a very light blue area that seemed to be caused by small bubbles aerating the water. This persisted for many minutes. Nothing else was seen. At 11:26 the four planes were recalled to the Card. They were relieved by three Avengers which, however, saw neither submarine. Though Isbell claimed that one submarine had been “definitely sunk” and the other “probably sunk,” he was only half right. The U-66 had escaped. But the U-117 had made her last dive. She had gone down about 17 miles north and 40 miles west of where the August 6 U-boat situation report had told Isbell that “probably refueler” would be found. In the vast wastes of the ocean, that was practically pinpointing the target.

Reporting the episode early Sunday morning, the U-66 did not tell U-Boat Command about the detonations she had heard. U-Boat Command, assuming that the U-117 had survived, gave both submarines a new rendezvous for noon. Later the command observed that with the loss of another milch cow, the last fuel reserve for boats coming from the south had been exhausted, and all fourteen had to refuel now from the U-117. But when the U-66 reported on Wednesday that it had waited two days in vain for the U-117, and when the tanker failed to respond to orders to report, the command concluded that she had been lost during the attack. The critical supply situation forced U-Boat Command into complicated maneuvers: some combat submarines had to give fuel to other boats, then return home using fuel as sparingly as possible. The U-66 made it. The loss of the tankers, Dönitz complained, forced him to end operations in the mid-Atlantic earlier than planned.

Between June and August, American carrier planes, aided by ULTRA, sank five milch cows and reserve tankers. The British lost all reservations about using Enigma intelligence in these operations. On October 2 the Admiralty asked the U.S. Navy whether it could send a task force against a refueling to take place north of the Azores; Navy planes found four U-boats on the surface and sank the milch cow U-460. A similar request less than a week later ended in the sinking of the combat boat U-220. By the end of October, of the ten milch cows that Dönitz had had in service in the spring only one remained. The effect on U-boat operations was severe. Because resupply by U-tankers was so dangerous, Dönitz avoided it, compelling his U-boats to break off their operations correspondingly early and destroying his hopes for a formidable offensive in distant waters, far from Allied air cover. In November he abandoned the convoy routes as a theater of operations.

But he returned to the fray the following month. When a patrol line failed to find any ships, he broke it up into subgroups of three boats each in the hope that they would spot targets. It didn’t work. Between mid-December 1943 and the middle of January, they sighted not one of the ten convoys that sailed close to them, and they sank only one merchant ship. At the end of February, Dönitz formed what would be the last wolfpack worthy of the name. PRUSSIA’s sixteen submarines sank two small British warships—at a cost of seven U-boats. On March 22 Dönitz ordered another withdrawal. In the first three months of 1944, his U-boats sank only 3 merchantmen in convoy out of 3,360—at a cost of thirty-six submarines. He persisted with his “wonder weapons”—the acoustic torpedo and the snorkel, a valved tube to the surface that enabled a submarine to run on its diesels while under water, increasing its submerged speed and range. But he concentrated now on sinking shipping around the British Isles for the expected invasion of western Europe.

ULTRA had little effect on this. The few U-boats dotting the Atlantic posed little threat. The vast convoys, sometimes of hundreds of ships stretching from horizon to horizon, proceeded majestically across the broad expanse of the Atlantic, guarded by sea and by air, bringing the men and materiel that would drive a stake through the heart of the wickedest regime the world had ever seen. With the help of ULTRA, the Battle of the Atlantic had been won.

The Kempeitai’s Game, 1942–45 – Portuguese East Timor

The SRD operations – one of the greatest intelligence failures in Australian history!

In early 1942, as the war situation appeared to become more and more critical, Australia’s government agreed to the establishment of an organisation, the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) which later became. Special Operations Australia (SOA) and, in 1943, was yet again retitled as the Services Reconnaisance Department (SRD) of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), the latter formed by MacArthur’s General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area (GHQ, SWPA). Given the multiple titles given to the organisation between 1941 and 1944 we will use the title SRD throughout to reduce confusion.

SRD’s brief was to conduct HUMINT operations behind enemy lines as well as sabotage and other direct action. This decision mixed two types of activity that do not mix. The first was the collection of intelligence, an undertaking that requires a quiescent target and sits uneasily with the second, the conduct of sabotage, disruption and propaganda operations to harass and annoy the very same target. These two activities cannot be run at the same time, as the experience of the SRD amply demonstrates.

The disposition of the Australian ground forces in the islands to Australia’s north is a classic example of what you should never do. The forces were distributed in small groupings, with LARK Force at Rabaul, New Britain, and Kavieng, New Ireland, SPARROW Force on Timor and GULL Force at Ambon. These small and isolated forces were never going to do much more than evade capture before surrendering. At Rabaul and Kavieng LARK Force was destroyed so swiftly that it resembled a rout and the Japanese were unable to catch many of the Australian troops before they ran off into the jungle. On Ambon, GULL Force was commanded by Harry Freame’s old handler, now Lieutenant Colonel, W.R. Scott, and it was quickly taken prisoner and subjected to a brutal captivity for the remainder of the war. On Timor, SPARROW Force, commanded in the field by Lieutenant Colonel William Leggett, inflicted serious casualties on the Japanese before it too had to surrender the bulk of its strength. Nevertheless, around 300 escaped the Japanese and joined up with 2/2 Independent Company, the one unit to maintain its cohesion, in Portuguese East Timor, where they conducted a guerrilla campaign until the Japanese forced their evacuation in December 1942. It was this that provided a significant boost to the ambitions of those within the SRD [Services Reconnaissance Department] and AIB [Allied Intelligence Bureau] who believed that a successful guerrilla war could be conducted against the Japanese in occupied territory.

2/2 Independent Company began to harass the Japanese who had arrived on Timor, which, as a Portuguese colony, was officially neutral. This neutrality was somewhat lopsided, as the Portuguese administration allowed the Australian force to utilise telephones and postal services to pass messages. Their situation improved further when they finally got an improvised radio working and regained contact with Australian forces in Darwin.

The situation on Timor was one the Japanese would not tolerate for long, and in June 1942 their relationship with the Portuguese administration deteriorated to the point where they cut the communications link to Portugal and lodged a formal complaint about Manuel de Abreu Ferreira de Carvalho’s administration of the colony. Finally, their limited patience having evaporated, the Japanese 48th Division, led by Lieutenant General Tsuchihashi Yuitsu, occupied the Portuguese half of Timor and set about suppressing the Australian and Dutch guerrilla units. Tsuchihashi swiftly pushed his forces into the hinterland, took important towns and secured much of the coastline. A significant portion of the 48th Division was then withdrawn to Rabaul in preparation for further advances south through the Solomon Islands ready for the invasion of Fiji and New Caledonia. This operation, although it never eventuated, was seen by the Japanese as more important, because if successful it would have resulted in them cutting off the direct shipping lanes from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Australia.

The Australian commandos on Timor had now been contained to the areas around their bases, and the Japanese supported by local Timorese began a campaign of destroying them in detail. This resulted in an upsurge of inter-clan and intertribal fighting, as villages used the chaos to settle old scores. Some Timorese even revolted against the Portuguese.

For the Australian commandos, the hard reality was that the Japanese now had 12,000 troops on the island and they were not going to allow a stay-behind party of Australian and Dutch forces to continue operations. As the fighting alienated ever-growing numbers of Timorese, the position of the Australian and Dutch forces became untenable by early 1943.

As the Australian Independent Company was operating on Timor, the AIB was to conduct HUMINT, sabotage and other operations in Japanese-occupied areas. This was in line with the ethos of the SOE and its mission to ‘set Europe ablaze’. The success of the 2/2 Independent Company and the survivors of SPARROW in not being captured or destroyed led to the IJA moving more troops onto the island to deal with them and this in turn led to the arrival in September of LANCER Force, 400 men of 2/4 Independent Company. At face value, the situation on Timor looked as if it could lead to the creation of a viable guerrilla war conducted with local support. This attracted the attention of the AIB and the SRD.

In early 1942, two SOE officers, Major G.S. Mott and Major A.E.B. Trappes-Lomax, had arrived in Australia to advise the Australian Army on how to set up a local version of SOE. The outcome was that General Blamey ordered the creation of SOA and the ISD, which later became the SRD, commanded by Major Mott. In June 1942, this organisation was brought under the umbrella of the new AIB, which also oversaw the operations of FELO, the organisation responsible for propaganda in Japanese-occupied areas. The AIB was commanded by the DMI at LHQ, our old friend Colonel C.G. Roberts.

From the very beginning, AIB was double-tasked with obtaining intelligence about the enemy, which is why they form part of our story here, and taking action to weaken the enemy by sabotage and destruction of morale through commando raids and the creation of insurrection, which is not part of our story. As Rupert Long and Eric Feldt at the RAN had already identified, this was a recipe for disaster. As the official history of the SRD notes, in the period from July 1942 to August 1945, the SRD was ‘constantly engaged in field operations’, but ‘between October 1943 and June 1945, all parties in the field were in Japanese hands’. This makes the SRD operations one of the greatest intelligence failures in Australian history, at least as far as we know today.

The first mission undertaken by the SRD was Operation LION, a Dutch affair, led by First Lieutenant H.T. Van Hees. This party consisted of three men and was tasked with proceeding aboard the Prahu Samoa to Wotoe near Mailili in the Celebes on 24 June 1942. The party was successfully landed, and it is possible that a weak but unreadable signal from them was detected on 11 July. It was the last time anyone ever heard from them. That the first party to be sent to this area just disappeared did not seem to bother the planners at AIB or the SRD, who proceeded with the WALNUT series of intelligence operations and sent even more men there.

Operation WALNUT I, consisted of two men, Captain C.R. Sheldon, AIF, and N.P. Monsted, a Danish citizen who had lived in the Aroe (Aru) Islands. They were inserted at Dobo on 7 July 1942 to establish an intelligence organisation in the islands. The official SRD history describes Sheldon as a man reputed to be unpopular with the locals. These two men survived until August or September 1942, when they extricated themselves to Thursday Island aboard the lugger Express. At Thursday Island, their unexpected arrival led to a hostile reception and they were arrested.

With the failure of WALNUT I and following their release from custody on Thursday Island, Monsted sailed the Express to Darwin while Sheldon, along with Lieutenant R.W. Feetum and Sergeant J. McCandlish, was despatched on WALNUT II to join a Dutch official on Penamboela (Penambulai) Island who was in radio contact with Australia. On 8 March, they reported the locals as hostile and the Japanese aware of their presence. They were captured on 12 August 1943, and the Japanese extracted extensive intelligence from them on the organisation and personalities of the AIB, the SRD and their operational methods and equipment. In fact, the Kempeitai built a remarkably accurate profile of the AIB and the SRD from these men. They all died in captivity.

WALNUT III, comprising Monsted, Sergeants J.R. Plumridge and J.H. Dahlberg of the AIF, Sergeant J.A. Bloch, NEI, Mr Mitchell, an Indian, and five Indonesian seamen, sailed from Darwin to the Aroes in the Express on 28 January 1943. They reached Djeh Island, just north of Enoe (Enu), on 12 July. They were last heard from on 25 July 1943, after which the Japanese caught and killed all of them.

All three missions to the Aroe Islands had failed, with the loss of thirteen men for no intelligence return for the Allies. The intelligence gleaned by the Japanese was, however, extensive. It is likely they had completely compromised all of the Allied communications and codes used for special operations, and were obtaining intelligence useful against both the SRD in Papua New Guinea and the eastern archipelago and FERDINAND in the Solomons.

Operation MACKEREL, launched from Melbourne on 24 August 1942, was a party of three, Lieutenant G.C.M. Van Arcken, NEI Sergeant Raden Wirjomijardje Iswahjeodi and Seaman 1st Class W.F. Schneau. The party, along with two crewmen from the Dutch submarine K12, landed at Radjeg Wesi Baai, Java, on the evening of 14 September 1942. The landing boats capsized, the equipment was lost, and Van Arcken hurt his back. The captain of the K12 resurfaced on the morning of 15 September in full view of Japanese observation posts to successfully retrieve his crewmen and the rest of the party, and the mission was aborted. MACKEREL was lucky, because they at least survived.

The same could not be said for the small parties and individual agents who attempted to infiltrate Java on the six TIGER operations conducted from 10 November 1942 to 6 August 1943. Of the ten men despatched, one, Sergeant Raden, escaped from Kempeitai custody. The Kempeitai interrogated the rest, no doubt adding to the picture they were building of the AIB. All of these agents, except Raden, were executed. The TIGER operations should have alerted the SRD to the growing sophistication of the Japanese, as they kept TIGER I’s radio operational and fed disinformation to the AIB.

During this time, another operation, FLOUNDER, was launched on 18 December 1942 to insert a Dutch party onto Ambon from the US Submarine Sea Raven. The Japanese captured all eight members within a week of their insertion on 30 December 1942 and, the evidence suggests, Lieutenant H.F. Nygh RNN and the seven Indonesian members of the NEI military were all beheaded after interrogation.

By early 1943, all twelve SRD operations, LION, the three WALNUT missions, MACKEREL, the six TIGER missions and FLOUNDER had failed, with 34 dead, one hiding on Java, one who was warned off on landing and three recovered on MACKEREL. This is a death rate of 94 per cent for no intelligence return. Every mission had failed, and there were strong indications that the Kempeitai were now operating a double-cross system using the captured equipment and personnel.

All of this should have sent warning signals that the Japanese were an extremely sophisticated opponent, and that no further operations should be launched until a full threat assessment and cost–benefit analysis were completed. Nothing of the sort was done, and the AIB just kept throwing good men to torture and death. In fact, there was little or no oversight of what the AIB and the SRD were doing, and they were not being held answerable to a higher body charged with independently adjudicating whether the activity was worth the cost. If such a body had been in place, it would have shut down all SRD operations immediately.

The failure to conduct a thorough assessment of what was happening was made worse by poor tradecraft. The target area of operations was heavily populated and hostile. No one seems to have considered whether the Javanese and other peoples of the archipelago supported the Dutch. There seems to have been a wilful ignorance of the reality of the politics in the archipelago so that this reality did not stop operations.

On top of this, the series of operations, including MACKEREL and the TIGER missions, consistently used the same landing places. TIGER IV, V and VI were all landed at Pang Pang Baai. On an earlier mission, TIGER II, the practice of revisiting drop-off points almost resulted in the capture of yet another radio operator, his equipment and codebooks as he was about to be landed at the drop-off point used for TIGER I. The landing was aborted only because someone on shore sent a light signal in Dutch warning of danger.

As the SRD was running its missions in the Aroe Islands, Celebes and Java, it concurrently ran a series of operations into Portuguese Timor. These, codenamed LIZARD I, II and III, were intended to support the remnants of the various units, including SPARROW Force, that continued to operate there. There was no initial intention to conduct sabotage operations as part of LIZARD because, as The Official History of Special Operations Australia says, there was nothing of value to sabotage on the island. The intention was to run a guerrilla war to tie down Japanese troops.

The interest of the Japanese in Portuguese Timor was limited. The island had no strategic value or resources, and its only real use was as a point from which Allied forces could operate to disrupt Japanese activity on other islands and in the seas around Timor. This may be why the Japanese did not make it a target until 20 February 1942.

Before the arrival of the Japanese military on the island, there were twenty to 30 Japanese who worked for the Japanese Consulate, which had only opened in Dili on October 1941, when Consul Kuroki Tokitaro arrived. There were also Japanese civilians operating the offices of Dai Nippon Airlines and Nan’yo Kohatsu K. K. (the South Seas Development Company). These Japanese civilians had undoubtedly created networks among the Timorese and Indian residents on the island, which may have included Ishag Selam Rafig and his daughter Nora Rafig, who operated Toko Selam (Kupang Stores). This provided the Japanese with the necessary contacts to establish themselves quickly once they occupied the island.

This situation attracted the SRD because, unlike many of the other operations, LIZARD had the major advantage of being able to operate from the safe haven controlled by Australian troops, SPARROW Force, at Mape. LIZARD I, led by Captain I.S. Wylie, with Captain D.K. Broadhurst and Sergeant J.R.F. Cashman, was inserted from the launch Kuru at Suai on 17 July 1942. The safe haven was not as safe as thought, though, as IJN activity soon forced the move of SPARROW from Mape. It was during this move that all of SPARROW’s HF radios were sabotaged by unfriendly locals, forcing LIZARD I, now with the only operational HF radio, to accompany SPARROW HQ to Same. As the plans now being discussed for Timor included the evacuation of SPARROW and other elements, LIZARD I decided to extricate itself to Darwin on 17 August 1942. LIZARD I’s biggest accomplishment was the establishment of contact with Antonio de Sousa Santos, the Administrator of Fronteira Province, and Dr Carlos Brandau.

LIZARD II, made up of Captain Wylie, Captain Broadhurst, Lieutenant G. Greave and Sergeant Cashman, returned to Timor on 2 September 1942. The party established an operational post at Loi Uno and began caching supplies and arms before contacting the Chef de Poste at Ossu. Contact was then made with Manuel de Jesus Pires, the Administrator of Baucau Province, who had excellent connections within the Portuguese administration. The Japanese were onto LIZARD II within a week of its insertion, and moved a patrol down the Baucau Road in Viqueque District for a few days questioning the locals about LIZARD II’s location.

Despite the Japanese attention, LIZARD II, assisted by Pires, was able to establish a network of runners to carry messages, as well as the use of the services of friendly telephone operators to speak to contacts in Dili. They also arranged for the release of a Chinese Nationalist captain and five Chinese soldiers, and rescued a wounded RAAF crewman, Pilot Officer S. Wadey, from Ossu gaol. The intelligence gleaned from all of this was that the Japanese were controlling the Portuguese administration on Timor.

GHQ, SWPA wanted to meet with Pires to talk him into leading an insurrection against the Japanese in San Domingos and Lautém. The idea of raising this insurrection had been generated by a LIZARD II report that the behaviour of the Japanese was alienating the local population, both Portuguese and Timorese, and that arms and other stores were required to arm the potential insurgents. One hundred rifles and 10,000 rounds of ball ammunition were landed at Aliambata for this operation.

The Japanese countered these plans by arming the locals in Dutch Timor and loosing them upon the people of Portuguese Timor. The Japanese also brought in armed men from Alor and Wetar islands for the same purpose. On 1 October 1942, three Portuguese officials and 24 Portuguese colonial soldiers were massacred at Aileu, 25 miles (40 kilometres) from Dili, and the Portuguese Governor, Carvalho, sought to evacuate all Portuguese nationals to Mozambique. By the middle of October, the Portuguese administration had collapsed. For LIZARD II, there was a further blow, the loss of their leader, Captain Wylie, who had to be evacuated on 23 October by HMAS Vigilant because of malaria.

By the end of October 1942, LIZARD II estimated that 50,000 Timorese could be raised to fight the Japanese if they were armed. SRD advised LIZARD that this should not be done until a more appropriate time. The Official History of Special Operations Australia regards this decision as a tragedy, because it allowed ‘a genuinely aroused population to sink back into disgruntled apathy’. This evaluation gives the reader a clear insight into the unreality of SRD thinking. The enemy the SRD faced on Timor was a highly trained and very experienced military force with a reputation for aggression, competence and extreme brutality. They had good air and naval support, and plenty of heavy weapons including artillery. Any uprising would have been quickly put down. The decision not to proceed with this operation was the right one. The idea of 50,000 untrained Timorese going into battle against hardened Japanese troops doesn’t bear thinking about, even now.

Despite the questions over what would happen on Timor, the SRD reinforced LIZARD II with three more operatives: Lieutenant J.E. Grimson, W.T. Thomas and Signaller A.K. Smith. These reinforcements brought another 100 rifles with them and some Bren guns. Now LIZARD II had 200 rifles and some light machine guns for their guerrilla army.

At the same time, LIZARD III, with Lieutenant L.W. Ross and Captain R.C. Neave, arrived to collect raw rubber and succeeded in taking away a few tons of rubber to Australia. In response, the Japanese once more moved in strength down the Baucau Road and occupied all of the principal points, driving a mob of refugees before them. On 1 December, HMAS Armidale was sunk attempting to bring off more of SPARROW’s survivors and Portuguese refugees, consisting of the wives and families of Pires, a man named Don Paulo and some minor local chiefs attached to LIZARD II. The HNLMS Tjerk Hiddes finally evacuated this group on the night of 8–9 December. Lieutenant Greave was also evacuated because of ill health.

Around 23 December 1942, the Japanese mortared LIZARD II’s main post, killing ten Timorese and forcing the evacuation of the rest of LIZARD II to the secondary post near Hareapa. Now the previously supportive local leaders started changing sides. The Japanese hit more of LIZARD II’s posts and began a relentless chase of the survivors in exactly the same way they had driven the FERDINAND parties on New Britain and Bougainville. By 17 January 1943, the Japanese pressure had forced the withdrawal of the bulk of the LANCER Force elements that reinforced SPARROW, the Australian Independent Company, and the break-up of the small guerrilla force set up by LIZARD II. The intelligence network of runners and telephone operators was destroyed by 22 January 1943 with the disappearance of Don Paulo.

Eventually, on 10 February 1943, the remnants of LIZARD along with thirteen volunteers from the now withdrawn LANCER operation and a further seven LANCER men who were found lost in the bush, were evacuated by the submarine USS Gudgeon. This withdrawal coincided with an important development in our story, the arrival in Kupang of the 1st Platoon of the 5th Military Police (Kempeitai) commanded by Major Yutani Kiyoshi (Yujiro).

Major Yutani quickly established his HQ in Kupang and sent detachments to Soe in West Timor, Dili and Lautém in East Timor, and a small detachment to Atambua, West Timor. With the arrival of this unit, the Japanese counterintelligence capability increased dramatically, and the willingness of the local population to support Australian and other Allied operations dropped precipitously. This change was completely missed by the SRD and GHQ, SWPA.

The intelligence group left behind when LIZARD II was pulled out was renamed PORTOLIZARD, and consisted of 60 personnel, mainly regular Timorese soldiers, some Portuguese soldiers and some Nationalist Chinese soldiers. One Australian, Private D. Fittness of LANCER, had been left with PORTOLIZARD because he was too sick to evacuate with LANCER. The second-in-command was Augusto Leal de Matos e Silva, the ex-Chef de Poste at Laga. Communications for this group were the two ATR4 radios left by LIZARD II. Despite Captain Broadhurst having taken the ciphers to Australia with LIZARD II, the PORTOLIZARD party made contact with Australia and began reporting that it was hard-pressed by the Japanese. The radio discipline of PORTOLIZARD appears to have been poor, and they sent a flood of signals to Australia including four in one day. The Japanese SIGINT organisation would have had little or no trouble locating the radio, and would have been using the captured ciphers from the Java operations to read the content.

The situation on Timor had worsened considerably as the Japanese tightened their grip and the Kempeitai set up their clandestine intelligence networks. They also operated with the same levels of brutality as elsewhere, and kidnapped women for the IJA’s brothels and confiscated food. These actions led to severe unrest in the Viqueque area, which was seen as an opportunity by the AIB and SRD. The SRD now planned to send two parties back into Timor, to be led by Portuguese officials in the hope ‘that a spirit of competition between the parties would inspire them to achieve excellent results’.

As it happened, the Japanese prevented this idiocy from being put into action by massacring the Western Chief, Dom Alexio, and his family, leaving no friendly contacts alive in the west of the area of operations. That did not mean, however, that the SRD had given up on Timor. They planned to send another party, this one tasked with intelligence collection.

The cover name for this operation was LAGARTO, and it consisted of a party of two Portuguese men, Lieutenant Manuel de Jesus Pires and Patricio Luz, plus one Timorese. LAGARTO landed at the mouth of the Luca River on the night of 1–2 July 1943 and joined up with PORTOLIZARD.34 During this landing, LAGARTO lost all three of its radios. A signaller from SRD, Sergeant A.J. Ellwood, AIF, then joined them. LAGARTO first arranged by radio for the evacuation of 87 PORTOLIZARD personnel. This evacuation finally occurred on the night of 3–4 August 1943 because the Japanese made it impossible to get the group off any earlier.

The Japanese had no difficulty locating LAGARTO, and pursuing both it and the PORTOLIZARD party hard. On 9 July, 200 Japanese, supported by mortars and machine guns, attacked the party. The men escaped, but in doing so lost most of their equipment, although they saved the radio they inherited from PORTOLIZARD. Japanese mortars attacked them again on 11 July, following which they broke contact and were able to arrange the evacuation of the PORTOLIZARD personnel and camp followers.

The arrival of Ellwood was not a happy event. He had been selected to join LAGARTO because the SRD lacked faith in Pires’s leadership, but Pires had worked this out and resented Ellwood’s presence. On 5 August, the party was deprived of all its remaining food and stores when a small group sent to recover a cache was surprised by a Japanese patrol. With the Japanese and hostile Timorese now following them, LAGARTO attempted to escape by moving to Manatuto on the north coast. To ensure that the local villagers would not support the Australians, the Japanese chasing LAGARTO publicly tortured and killed all of the chiefs and villagers suspected of having assisted the party. It was a highly effective strategy, and demonstrated the stark reality of trying to build a resistance movement in the face of such an extremely brutal opponent.

LAGARTO’s move was ill disciplined, and conflict erupted between Ellwood and Pires. It may have been because of this that Ellwood was commissioned as a lieutenant on 17 September, so that he was of equal rank to Pires. The party was now 34 strong, comprising servants, bearers and camp followers, including the mistresses of Pires and Mateos da Silva, one of whom was pregnant. By 25 September, the Japanese were using tracker dogs and the entire population was too terrified to assist LAGARTO in any way. On 29 September 1943, as it moved along the Baucau Plateau, LAGARTO was ambushed by a large Japanese patrol. On contact, LAGARTO disintegrated, with a number of carriers, including those carrying the radio, cut down and everyone else running for the bush. Most of the personnel from LAGARTO were captured in such a way that it appears that the Japanese wanted them alive. One man, Patricio Luz, escaped and went into hiding. He survived the war.

The Japanese were by now so well informed on SRD procedures they conducted a painstaking search of the area through which LAGARTO had moved following contact. This unearthed Ellwood’s notebooks, codes and schedules, which he had, in accordance with SRD procedure, attempted to bury. A Japanese Major General, possibly Tanaka Toru, interviewed all of the captives, particularly Pires and Ellwood, at Kempeitai HQ in Dili, and a major named in the official history as Tanaka but most likely Major Kobayashi, conducted the interrogations, assisted by First Lieutenant Saiki Kasukane and a civilian from the Japanese Consulate.

The Japanese appear to have wanted a trusted radio net established with Australia, and they needed Ellwood and Pires to cooperate in this. The fact that Ellwood survived his captivity and Pires survived until he went insane and died in early 1944 is proof that they were singled out for special treatment. Every other member of LAGARTO died, the majority executed.

In the official history, Pires is blamed for the first compromise of the SRD’s cipher, as he handed over the emergency cipher early enough for the Japanese to send their first message to Australia on 6 October 1943. By the time this occurred, however, the Kempeitai had Ellwood’s ciphers and signal plan, as well as copious material collected from all of the other botched operations. The fact is that both Pires and Ellwood must have cooperated with the Kempeitai as soon as they were put through processing. Had they not, they would have been beheaded like the rest.

The Kempeitai wanted Ellwood to work his radio set for them, and to do this they had to balance out persuasion with pain before pampering him into compliance. They also needed to ensure that he did what they wanted and did not send any warnings of compromise. This is a hard thing to achieve, but the Kempeitai were very good at it. The fact that Ellwood was kept alive for so long proves that the Kempeitai turned him, but the message logs of the SRD provide the harder proof. Ellwood participated in the Kempeitai’s double-cross operation because he had no choice, and if the SRD operators and analysts did not detect that he was compromised, it was not Ellwood’s fault. The story that a seriously weakened Ellwood was forced to operate a Morse key with a Japanese operator to guide his hand is not credible. The Kempeitai would have known that the receiving operator would be very familiar with Ellwood’s hand,—that is the little quirks each operator has when they key a message. There is no way they would have had his keying ghosted, and the simple fact that Ellwood was not executed and that he survived the war indicates he cooperated.

The turning of intelligence operatives was standard Kempeitai practice. They used the full gamut of techniques, ranging from deprivation to physical abuse and perhaps a little torture, contrasted with moments of kindness, such as cigarettes immediately after capture. What we often overlook is that the Kempeitai were experienced professionals who were practised in all the techniques of winning cooperation. Leaving Ellwood to stew while the expendable members of his group were tortured within his earshot was simply softening him up for his subsequent interrogation. The Kempeitai probably kept Pires alive as a foil for Ellwood, and as a source of intelligence on his family and friends in Timor.

The Kempeitai would have used concurrent questioning of Ellwood and the Portuguese to play on the fears of each prisoner, and they would have used long sessions of repetitive questioning to isolate inconsistencies. Faced with expert interrogators who appeared to have obtained all of the most relevant secrets they had, it is unsurprising that the men of LAGARTO quickly surrendered their remaining secrets.

At some stage, probably as he approached mental exhaustion, the Kempeitai would also have shown Ellwood the extent of the information they had on the AIB and SRD. The shock to his system of finding out that the entire secret organisation was completely compromised would have been devastating. Before this they would have shown all the information they had captured locally, including the full nominal rolls of 2/2 and 2/4 Independent Companies, ciphers, message logs, recent Australian Army lists and documents. They also let him know they had his diary, ciphers and signal plan. Exposing their knowledge of AIB in this way would have removed any rational reason for continued resistance.

With Ellwood’s first signal back to Australia, the Kempeitai interrogators would have known they had peeled the onion back to its last layer. Once Ellwood had established routine communication without sending his warning word, they would have known they had him. He was released from close confinement and treated well. His rations improved and he was allowed letters, a magazine a month and given clothing. All of this indicates his Japanese handlers were happy with his performance.

That the SRD did not deduce that LAGARTO had been captured appears to the official historian to be ‘incomprehensible’, but it’s consistent with SRD’s management of the earlier operations in the Celebes and on Java. The fact is that the AIB and SRD were untrained in intelligence collection at this level. Their operational need to achieve something overrode the requirement for caution that is characteristic of all effective intelligence work.

The Kempeitai used Ellwood to compromise the security of all future SRD operations in Timor from this time forward, and, as AIB was now sending LAGARTO a flow of information on the conduct of the war everywhere, they were providing the Japanese with a broad insight into Allied operations. By the end of January 1944, the SRD had fallen for the Japanese double-cross so badly that they inserted the COBRA party of Lieutenant J.R.F. Cashman, Sergeant E.J. Liversidge and three Timorese, Paulo da Silva, Sancho da Silva and Cosmo Soares, into the waiting arms of Lieutenant Saiki of the Kempeitai and a company of soldiers who, along with Lieutenant Ellwood, were waiting for them at Dari Bai on 27 or 29 January 1944. COBRA was captured within an hour of its insertion.

The history of COBRA is almost identical to that of LAGARTO, even down to the abysmal tradecraft of the wireless operator, Sergeant Liversidge, who had written down the authenticator for the party being safe, ‘2926 Slender Silk Key’, in a notebook that the Japanese easily found.

The captured party was then taken and subjected to the same treatment as LAGARTO; the leader and radio operators were turned and began working a second trusted radio link to Australia. On 8 February, its radio operator, Lieutenant Cashman, sent his first message to SRD. The Japanese described him as ‘an excellent officer’ who ‘gave personal views as to future Allied Operations’.

As we have seen, SRD was so happy to hear from COBRA that it completely compromised Central Bureau’s SIGINT operations, sending a message on 7 March 1944 telling Cashman of the consternation at SRD when they read an ‘intercept Jap cipher naming you personally and apparently claiming your capture Jan 29’. Luckily, the Japanese were as complacent as the SRD, and their reaction to the compromise was ‘plain unbelief’ that the Australians could be reading their unbreakable codes.

After receiving the SIGINT report that COBRA had been captured, the SRD had first begun trying to get the authentication from COBRA it should have obtained at the very beginning. The party was told ‘Mother sends loving greetings for twenty-six’ and that Paulo’s daughter was born on 25 January [a reference to Timorese COBRA member Paulo da Silva]. COBRA replied on the same day in message 4, ‘PAULO had not yet returned’ and thanking SRD for the ‘relay of wishes for 26th. Give my love to Mother and Father.’ On 26 February, SRD attempted to obtain authentication, sending ‘Slender girl sends greetings’ and received a reply without the authenticator being repeated. This alone should have told SRD that COBRA was compromised.

Three days later, on 28 February, SRD asked for an acknowledgement of the greetings in the last message ‘from this particular girl’, who was then described as ‘not repeat not the fat repeat fat one’, which tipped the Kempeitai as to the significance of the phrase ‘Slender girl’. It was then that Cashman sent the authenticator that caused so much relief at SRD that it compromised the SIGINT on 7 March.

Given the clumsy exchange of messages with COBRA, the role played by LAGARTO in getting COBRA ashore on Timor, and the way LAGARTO had gone from being in dire straits to being secure so quickly, it should have been obvious to SRD and AIB that the whole Timor operation was compromised. The truth appears to be that optimism trumped hard analysis, and the scene was set for what the SRD’s own official history called ‘an operation with no redeeming feature at all’. LAGARTO led to the wretched deaths of nine more Australians, more Portuguese and scores of Timorese.

In early 1944, as the Japanese worked the survivors of LAGARTO and COBRA, the SRD was planning to insert another party, codenamed ADDER, into Timor.

ADDER, consisting of Captain J. Grimson, Sergeant E. Gregg, A. Fernandez, J. Carvalho and Z. Rebelo, went ashore just west of Cape Lai Aco on the night of 21–22 August 1944.59 Grimson and Gregg were killed in a firefight within hours of landing, Rebelo fell from a cliff and the rest died in captivity. The SRD received no news from ADDER at all. To add insult to injury, they tasked COBRA to find out what had happened. The Kempeitai must have had a good laugh about that.

Subsequent AIB operations in Timor did not run to plan either. Operation SUNBAKER ended in disaster on 17 May 1945 when the aircraft carrying the party crashed near Dili, killing all four members of the party and the crew of the aircraft. Operation SUNABLE ended on 5 July when the party came into contact with the Japanese; its leader, Lieutenant D.M. Williams, was killed and the rest of his party captured during the following week. Operation SUNCOB ended on 17 July with the capture of Captain W.P. Wynne and Sergeant J.B. Lawrence, who were added to the complement of LAGARTO and COBRA in Kempeitai custody.

In May 1945, it seems Central Bureau provided the first hard evidence that the Japanese were controlling the LAGARTO party when Japanese traffic carrying an AIB proforma (questionnaire) provided to LAGARTO was intercepted, decrypted and translated. SRD and AIB were warned:

Have obtained a new translation PROFORMA document picked up by JAPANESE. There is now no doubt what so ever that it was document dropped to LAGARTO repeat LAGARTO on January 19th. View fact challenge parties probably COMPROMISED LAGAROUT and COBREXIT will have to be replanned. ETD SUNFISH party and self for Darwin today.

The SRD finally proved what was happening on Timor in July 1945, when Operation SUNLAG, led by Captain A.D. Stevenson and consisting of Sergeant R.G. Dawson, AIF, and Celestino dos Anjos, forewarned of the compromise of COBRA and LAGARTO, parachuted into Timor on 29 June, an earlier date than the one supplied to LAGARTO and at a different location. Stevenson sent Celestino to elicit information from relatives in the area and was able to find out that the Japanese knew SUNLAG had arrived on the island.

Stevenson then arranged for a signal to be sent to LAGARTO, telling them that a supply drop was to be made at a drop zone on 1 July. Stevenson moved into an observation post overlooking the proposed drop zone and observed the arrival there of the Japanese and a white man he identified as Ellwood.64 This was the final proof of LAGARTO’s capture, proof that LAGARTO and COBRA had been turned, and proof that the string of disasters—COBRA, ADDER, SUNCOB and SUNABLE—had been engineered by the Kempeitai. Having established that the Japanese had been playing the SRD, Stevenson quickly got permission to evacuate his party from Timor.

By 22 July, SRD Darwin was requesting advice from its higher HQ for assistance in setting policy in relation to the now compromised LAGARTO. This action was prompted because the senior air staff officer in Darwin had refused any further RAAF support in making supply drops after he was told LAGARTO was compromised.

The decision by the RAAF to abandon LAGARTO was not accepted by SRD Darwin and they requested GHQ, General MacArthur, to order the RAAF to continue support to LAGARTO. The reply was, ‘Normal signal traffic and maintenance will be kept up…This is most important.’ The rationale was to maintain the illusion that LAGARTO was still trusted, in order to keep the captured members of the missions alive and so that disinformation could then be passed onto the Japanese.

The Timor intelligence operations ended on 12 August 1945, when the Japanese sent a message in the SRD code: ‘NIPPON for LMS [Lugger Maintenance Section]. Thanks your assistance for this long while. Hope to see you again. Until then wish your good health. NIPPON Army.’

On 13 August SRD replied:

Your signal received and understood. Thank for your good wishes. Please continue look after our soldiers. Will be good enough inform us of his welfare.

The Official History of Special Operations Australia intimates that the SRD and AIB remained ignorant of the compromise of their parties until they received this message on 12 August, but this is misleading. The SRD had begun to suspect something was wrong at the end of May 1945, when Central Bureau’s intercept reported the capture of COBRA. In yet another triumph of hope over reason, the possibility that the operations were compromised was discounted, although it has to be said, not by everyone. The SUNLAG operation was hard proof that everything the SRD had done in Timor and across the eastern part of the archipelago had been a complete waste of time. The whole series of operations stand as a warning against mixing intelligence collection and direct action. And against underestimating an opponent.

The Dutch Resistance and the OSS

PAN Resistance members escorting German POWs during Market-Garden.

On 10 May 1940, the German 10th Army, spearheaded by airborne troops, invaded the Netherlands. The rest of the Wehrmacht force committed to “the overrunning of the West executed the Manstein Plan through Belgium and the Ardennes Forest. On 14 May 1940, the Dutch commander ordered a cease-fire. Three days later, the entire Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.

The Netherlands royal family, led by Queen Wilhelmina, along with some 4,600 Dutch officers, sailors, soldiers, and policemen, staged a Dutch Dunkirk, assisted by remnants of the country’s Navy and the entire merchant marine. This evacuation to Britain of the royal family and a cadre of the Dutch Government was critical in establishing a government-in-exile and the initial intelligence networks in Holland. Additionally, the emigration to Britain of Netherlands military people and civilians from all over the Continent and from overseas Dutch possessions helped form the core of a reconstituted Dutch Royal Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Stirrings of Resistance

The initial years of the German occupation of Holland were characterized by the removal of Dutch Jews from their homeland and harsh economic and political measures. The Nazis set up a puppet government at The Hague headed by Dr. Seyss-Inquart and established a Dutch National Socialist Party. Some Dutch citizens eagerly joined the new party and took positions in the government. Others, however, joined with the purpose of pretending to collaborate while remaining loyal to the government-in-exile. Their positions enabled them to keep an eye on Dutch collaborators and to influence policy-making and implementation. The Leegsma family provided a good example of this tactic. Agardus Leegsma, his brother, and their father joined the Nazi-organized Dutch National Police. The father had been a professional soldier in the Guards Regiment of the Royal Dutch Army during the interwar years. The family assisted various Resistance organizations during the Nazi occupation. During the liberation of the Netherlands, Agardus Leegsma and his brother joined different Allied units, serving as guides and combatants.

As the harshness of the occupation grew, so did Dutch unrest and resentment toward the Germans. Individual Dutchmen took it upon themselves to strike back. With no central command, these brave individuals began recruiting relatives, friends, and neighbors into the first Resistance organizations. The dangers were exceptionally high: captured members of the Resistance were usually shot or sent to concentration camps. The primary anti-Nazi activity came initially from the Social Democrats and Catholic youth leagues. The Dutch Communists began actively resisting after the Germans invaded the USSR.

Members of the Dutch royal armed forces who had not escaped to Britain and had successfully evaded German capture secretly banded together and began collecting information. Under the leadership of Dr. Johan Stijkel, a Rotterdam lawyer, Maj. Gen. H. D. S. Husselman and Col. J. P. Bolton organized a Resistance group of young Dutch citizens. With the help of radio expert Cornelius Drupsteen, they established a wireless link with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and began passing information to the Allies.

Resistance operations consisted primarily of organizational and networking functions, as well as gathering intelligence on the occupation forces. Probably the most heroic and dangerous aspect of resistance was the hiding and sheltering of Netherlands Jews and young draft-age Dutch men and women by other Dutch, collectively known as onkerduikers (“underdivers”). The best-known story is that of Anne Frank.

Individual Dutch were horrified and appalled at the spectacle of their neighbors and friends being rounded up and taken away to an unknown fate. Most Dutch Jews who escaped capture were smuggled out of Holland to Britain via Belgium through France and then to Spain, or from Belgium to France, and then to Switzerland. Smuggling people out via the Dutch coast was extremely dangerous, as the Germans increasingly fortified the coast in anticipation of an Allied invasion. Some young Dutch men and women as well as Dutch Jews hid throughout the war, participating in underground activities. The underground networks established in this manner were later instrumental in hiding and exfiltrating Allied airmen shot down over Holland.

MI-9 and the Evaders

The British Military Intelligence Section 9 (MI-9) was set up to exploit available European Resistance networks and assist Allied airmen shot down over Europe in returning to Britain. MI-9, also known as IS-9, infiltrated agents, usually by parachute, into occupied Europe. These agents would link up with a Resistance cell and organize escape-and-evasion efforts in a particular area, usually after being notified by the Resistance of the presence of downed airmen. The agents brought money, maps, and false papers to assist these airmen. The usual route was either south to Switzerland or to southern France and then to Spain and Portugal.

One such MI-9 agent was Dick Kragt, who parachuted into Holland in 1943. He lost his equipment, including his radio, but continued on, armed only with a Colt.45. He managed to link up with a Dutch Jew named Joop Piller, living in the town of Emst, and they built a network designed to hide, protect, and eventually smuggle downed airmen out of Holland.

Initial Operations

By operating covertly and passively, members of the Resistance were able to function without attracting undue attention. This allowed them to organize their cells, gauge the German counterintelligence threat, and establish information networks. The telephone was their primary means of communication, and they always used nicknames. In face-to-face meetings, masks were often worn to ensure security.

The Dutch Resistance command and control hierarchy was decentralized and compartmented. Additionally, the creation of small groups by individual Dutchmen with no outside links was widespread. Some of these groups’ activities will never be known because many of their members were captured and executed by the Germans. Initially, they used leaflets and underground newspapers as means to enlist new members and raise money.

The Underground Press

Underground newspapers were helpful, especially in areas where the telephone lines were monitored and use of radio transmitters was too dangerous because of German direction-finding operations. These newspapers helped counterbalance Nazi propaganda and the German-controlled media. Almost as soon as the occupation began, anti-Nazi leaflets began to circulate. Period photographs show such anti-Nazi newspapers as DeUnion being openly distributed on city streets despite the obvious danger. By 1943, underground newspapers had attained a collective circulation of nearly 500,000. Although some were amateurish, they were effective. One such paper–a translation and transcription of daily BBC broadcasts–was produced by the Leegsma brothers working at The Hague.

Another newspaper was also a two-man effort. Working out of a hotel room in Grave, Gerald Peijnenburg and a Dutch Jew in hiding wrote and copied Young Netherlands. Peijnenburg handled the distribution, and most of his copies were passed from person to person, providing some degree of security.

Slow Growth

The Resistance developed slowly for several reasons. Because of the Netherlands’ geographic proximity and cultural ties to Germany, many Dutch were sympathetic to the ideas of German nationalism, and a significant portion of the population joined the Dutch Nazi Party and even the Wehrmacht. There were also Dutch civilians who informed on their neighbors.

The swift German victory, combined with Queen Wilhelmina’s seeming abandonment of the Dutch population, disillusioned and embittered much of Holland. Many who collaborated really believed that the Germans represented the future and felt that Nazi success was inevitable. For these citizens, occupation was something merely to be accepted. Ruthless German countermeasures toward any anti-Nazi activity further discouraged active resistance. As the occupation grew more repressive, a backlash against the Germans grew, fanned by the government-in-exile.

The government-in-exile made its presence known through the judicious use of BBC broadcasts, listened to covertly by the Dutch population. Queen Wilhelmina became a symbol of hope to occupied Holland, and Crown Prince Bernhard took an active role in Allied planning for military operations in the Netherlands.

Geography also slowed the growth of the Resistance. The lack of mountainous and forested terrain prevented the establishment of hiding areas for large groups of maquis. Moreover, the flat terrain, interdicted by many bodies of water, large and small, confined movement to the established railroads, road networks, and bridges. These were easily controlled by the Germans, who established checkpoints to curtail freedom of movement. Gasoline was scarce, and many Dutch used bicycles for transportation, sometimes riding on the rims because of a shortage of rubber for tires. On the other hand, the Germans were plagued by the Resistance’s incessant sabotage of telephone lines and by damage to the railroads.

Major Resistance Organizations

By the middle of 1944, there were four major Resistance organizations in Holland. They did not coordinate their activities unless help from one group to another was absolutely necessary; for the most part they did not answer to a central headquarters. They conducted their operations as they saw fit, and members of the groups often did not know which organization they were part of. Many did not learn the identity of their particular group until after the war.

“Central Government Organizations For Help To People In Hiding” (LO) was the most important such group. Its primary goal was the protection and exfiltration of onkerduikers. Another activity centered around the coupons used by the Germans and the Dutch Nazi government to ration food and keep tabs on the population. The LO made counterfeit coupons; it also obtained authentic coupons from loyal Netherlands citizens in the employ of the Dutch Nazis. Other groups conducted raids and robberies to steal authentic coupons from government agencies. And some Dutch civilians gave up their own coupons to the LO.

Besides keeping an eye on Dutch collaborators, local LO groups engaged in whatever resistance they could without endangering themselves. Occasionally, the Leegsma family in The Hague was able to use its position in the police force to tip off the LO before the impending arrest of an onkerduiker would occur. The family also was able to funnel genuine food coupons to the LO.

While the LO maintained a low profile, the “Central Government Fighting Group” (KP) carried out sabotage operations at the local level. Its estimated strength was 550 members nationally, but this figure is probably low. Without central direction, the KP attacked targets of opportunity in and around the hometowns. It tended mostly to target railroad tracks, telegraph and telephone lines, German supply points, and motor pools, but it occasionally assassinated individual German soldiers and Dutch collaborators. Such activities were dangerous. The Germans would crack down on the local population in the locale where a killing had occurred; sometimes they carried out a tit-for-tat retribution. The Germans would also step up their counterintelligence efforts in the area in an attempt to eradicate any underground cells.

A third organization, the “Council of Resistance” (RVV), engaged in both communications sabotage and protection of onkerduikers. Allied planners regarded this group as “sound from the security point of view.” With several thousand members, the RVV was in radio contact with the Bureau Inlichtingen (BI), the government-in-exile’s intelligence service, and demanded arms and ammunition.

Another organization, the “Order of Service” (OD), focused on preparing for the return of a Dutch Government following Holland’s liberation. The OD was made up primarily of former Dutch officers and government officials who found themselves supplanted by the Nazis and by Dutch collaborators. Its main missions were to collect intelligence and develop “plans for the maintenance of administrative services and civil order on the liberation of Holland.” Although the OD was thought to have been penetrated, Allied intelligence estimated that most OD cells were still loyal and could be depended on to provide assistance during the liberation of Holland.

A subgroup, the “Dutch Secret Service” (GDN), functioned as an intelligence agency for the OD. There were also some 20 other intelligence entities in wartime Holland. Most Resistance groups conducted some level of intelligence operations, even if it was only counterintelligence for security purposes. When organized at the national level, the groups were divided into regional geographic areas of administration.

At the national level, the National Steunfonds (NSV) was an umbrella financial organization which received money from the government-in-exile and conducted covert fundraising to finance KP and LO operations. There was some overlap in responsibilities among members of the local and regional groups. For example, in the Nijmegen district, the LO commander was also the chief of staff of the district OD.

Almost every town of any size had one or more of these groups. It was also possible for one person to belong to more than one such organization. In some groups, members simply were referred to by nicknames, and their true identities remain unknown. Many of the groups were named after their leader.

The Eindhoven and Nijmegen Undergrounds

Some organizations, established locally by individual Dutchmen, operated with no formal, structured links to any other groups. In Eindhoven, a group known as the “Partisan Action Nederlands” (PAN) functioned along the lines of the KP but did not consider itself part of that organization.

PAN was founded by Hoynck van Papendrecnt. He studied engineering at the Technical University in Delft until April 1943, when the Germans closed the Dutch universities and began forcibly relocating Dutch students to Germany as a manpower and professional talent pool. Van Papendrecht went into hiding and eventually moved to Eindhoven, where he established the PAN. By June 1944, the PAN had reached its full strength of 80 to 100 young men and women. The PAN had several small cells operating in the small towns around Eindhoven. These included the Group Sander, named after its leader, which worked as a KP and LO subgroup.

Margarethe Kelder and her sister were members of the Group Sander. They smuggled downed Allied airmen and Dutch onkerduikers to a crossing site on the Belgium border, coordinating their activities with a Belgian Resistance group. The female members of the PAN were primarily couriers, but they were also valued intelligence collectors. In early September 1944, Kelder and another female Resistance member were asked to go into the woods near Eindhoven to confirm the presence of a German antiaircraft battery. On the pretext of gathering mushrooms, they conducted their reconnaissance and, when confronted by German guards near the battery, were able to convince them of their innocence.

Another PAN group in a town north of Eindhoven conducted sabotage operations. It put salt in gas and oil tanks of German vehicles and blew up railroad tracks, using smuggled explosives provided by mining engineers.

After D-Day, many in the Dutch underground grew impatient and wanted to conduct more aggressive operations against the Germans. The PAN did so by launching raids against, among other targets, the 20- to 30-man German garrison at the Eindhoven airport on 5 September 1944. It also began conducting a form of psychological warfare; PAN members would approach German soldiers they knew and try to persuade them of the hopelessness of Germany’s situation and to surrender. Some PAN members were reported by German soldiers and arrested. The punishment for belonging to a Resistance organization was summary execution.

In June 1944, the PAN set up its headquarters in a house in Eindhoven. Van Papendrecht had little contact with the other groups in the Eindhoven area, including the RVV, which numbered only three of four members, but he was aware of their existence. The PAN leader did conduct some joint activities with other groups when he felt the operational need for outside assistance. One of his outside contacts was the KP leader in Rotterdam, Jan van Bijnen, whose nom deguerre was “Frank.” “Frank” was Van Pupendrecht’s periodic source of weapons and explosives, couriered by such women as Margerethe Kelder and her sister.

To the east of Eindhoven, in the small town of Helmond, a KP Resistance group was led by Johan Raaymaerkers, a former Dutch artillery captain who was a technical engineer and owned his own factory. Hans Bertels, a member of the group, began distributing an underground newspaper in 1941 in the Helmond area. Bertels’s contact was a man named Knaapen, who provided him with the newspapers and occasional operations orders.

South of Eindhoven, in the town of Roermond, a small LO group consisting of only 15 members had its headquarters in a vault in the local cemetery. Anya van Lyssens, later awarded the Military Order of William for her actions in the Resistance, was a member. The group had a radio, with which it maintained contact with a Belgian Resistance group, and smuggled downed Allied airmen over the border. By September 1944, it was credited with saving the lives of 29 airmen.

The Resistance groups in the Eindhoven area had a total of several hundred members. The local GDN was led by Arie Tromp, a director for the Phillips electrical firm office in Eindhoven. His nom de guerre was “Harry.” By placing their headquarters in the Eindhoven Museum, GDN members were able to come and go without arousing German suspicions. The GDN began receiving taskings and orders from the BI following its establishment in November 1942. Tromp and his agents used the underground electrical cables in the Phillips factory, which also had telephone lines, as their primary means of communication.

There were several underground groups in the Nijmegen area. In the city itself, some Resistance activities apparently were centered around Saint Canisius College. Jules Jansen was an engineering professor at the college and one of the leaders of the local KP. He set up a laboratory in his house for manufacturing explosives and an indoor firing range in his basement to teach KP members the basics of markmanship.

OSS Involvement

The Resistance organizations were part of the largely unknown story of the strategic OSS mission into occupied Holland. This story essentially began in May 1944, when Lt. Jan Laverge constituted the one-man Netherlands Section of Special Intelligence (SI) of the OSS in London. The American-born son of Dutch émigrés, he had been personally recruited for the job by Col. William Donovan. As planning progressed for the invasion of Europe, Lt. Col. De Vries, the chief of SI, asked Laverge to develop a plan for using an OSS team to assist in the liberation of the Netherlands. On 25 May 1944, Laverge submitted his preliminary plan, which called for two officers and three enlisted men with associated vehicles and communications equipment.

Following the Allied invasion of occupied France, Laverge looked forward to having a chance to operate an OSS mission in Holland similar to the OSS mission, codenamed Sussex, which had operated in France. In July 1944, the Netherlands Section came under the control of SI’s Continental Division. De Vries ordered resubmission of plans for the liberation of occupied countries, and Laverge reviewed the initial work. The OSS team designated for Holland would come under the control of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) military mission to the Netherlands. The OSS team grew to six officers and eight to 10 enlisted men.

Later that month, Laverge consulted with the BI and used its contributions for the final plan, submitted on 5 August 1944. Both the BI and the OSS approved the mission, which was given the codename Melanie. The Minister of War in the Dutch exile government also approved the mission, which was to gather intelligence and focus on “transmitting information obtained from the Dutch service’s intelligence nets, trying to recruit agents, and extending Dutch nets into Germany.’

After Lt. Laverge got the green light for the mission, he began recruiting soldiers for the team, choosing men he had worked with before in England. He also began building up his team to ensure maximum self-sufficiency. In addition to his radio operators and two Dutch BI analysts, he recruited an American Army mechanic, a radio repairman, and a Dutch-American major with no previous intelligence experience. The presence of a Major on the team would provide Laverge with enough rank to obtain resources.

Melanie Moves Ahead

As operations on the Continent speeded up, so did Laverge’s preparations. The target date for the start of the mission kept getting moved forward, and Laverge began to worry that he would not have enough time to prepare properly. The decision was finally made to deploy an advance team of two Dutch and two American officers not later than 7 September 1944, with the remainder of the team to follow as quickly as possible.

When the advance team arrived in Normandy, it reported to the SHAEF G2 Forward. On 9 September 1944, Lt. Laverge met with a Major Krick of the SHAEF G2. Krick apparently offered little or no guidance to Laverge as to Melanie’s intended intelligence-gathering priorities and requirements. According to Laverge’s report to his OSS superior, Krick only made suggestions, which Laverge developed into the following requirements:

German unit composition and positions behind the Siegfried Line.

Location of enemy headquarters of any kind and names of Germans located there.

Locations of the planning and archival sections of German industrial interests.

Information on “controlling personalities” at all levels of the Reich.

Locations of command, control, and communications nodes.

The OSS team was attached and ordered to report to Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery’s 21st Army Group. In early September, Laverge moved his team to the Palace Hotel in Brussels, in preparation for deployment into Holland. He also reported in at Montgomery’s headquarters.

Operation Market-Garden

In early September 1944, Montgomery, seeking to maintain the momentum of the Allied breakout from Normandy, conceived an operation to outflank the German “West Wall” defensive line. Encouraged by Ultra SIGINT intercepts which portrayed a disintegrating German Army, Montgomery persuaded Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower that his bold plan of forcing a narrow corridor through Holland and establishing a bridgehead across the Rhine River into northern Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial complex held the promise of bringing about a German collapse by the end of 1944.

Montgomery’s Operation Market-Garden had two parts. He proposed dropping the First Allied Airborne Army to seize seven canal and river bridges in Holland as well as the bridge across the lower Rhine at the Dutch town of Arnhem–the “Market” portion of Montgomery’s operation. Simultaneously, the British XXX Armored Corps would rapidly advance 60 miles along a narrow road corridor crossing the captured bridges to link up with the airborne forces in Arnhem–the “Garden” portion. The operation began on 17 September.

The Melanie mission, with no prior coordination with the British XXX Armored Corps, deployed into Holland over the Albert Canal and reached Eindhoven on 21 September 1944. The team established its base of operations in a house at No. 2 Vestdijk Street.

The Dutch telephone network was a vital communications link between Melanie and the Resistance cells scattered throughout the country. Using a TR-4 wireless telegraph radio set, the team’s radio operators established contact with the OSS SI section in Paris. In addition to the TR-4, the team used a TR-1 for local communications with the Dutch Resistance groups in the Market-Garden area of operations.

Even though the team was attached to the 21st Army Group, it apparently did not provide intelligence to Montgomery’s G2. Instead, its reporting channel was directly to Paris and the OSS Continental Division of SI. The exclusion of the 21st Army Group G2 from the intelligence reporting chain probably stemmed from the sensitive, compartmented nature of all OSS missions. The team had no contact with the 101st Airborne Division, whose Market-Garden objective was the seizure of Eindhoven and vital bridges nearby. The only American paratrooper the OSS team saw was a lone GI who wandered past the house one day and asked for a cigarette.

Laverge quickly made contact with Arie Tromp, the chief of the Eindhoven Resistance. With Tromp’s assistance, Laverge recruited four Dutch civilians to work as interpreters and telephone operators. A Resistance member named A. Jongbloed was employed as the mission’s intelligence and liaison officer with Dutch civilian authorities in Eindhoven. The OSS team used the Dutch telephone system to make contact with various Resistance groups throughout Holland. This reporting network began yielding excellent information almost immediately.

The team’s first message to SI in Paris, on 21 September 1944, reported that it had begun recruiting possible agents for work behind the German lines. As the Market-Garden battle raged up and down the corridor along “Hell’s Highway,” the OSS team continued its intelligence-gathering mission. On 22 September 1944, the team reported the location of the Gestapo headquarters in Kleve, Germany, a border town just east of Nijmegen, and the location of the telephone exchange there. This information was passed via the telephone network by Resistance members. A report dated 24 September 1944 from a “reliable source” stated that, as of 22 September, all “troops [are] leaving Rotterdam, except demolition squads.” The team also reported on other concentrations of enemy troops and artillery.

In addition to the Melanie operation, which was to provide strategic intelligence on the situation throughout Holland, OSS/SOE Jedburgh teams deployed with each Allied airborne division during Market-Garden. The Jedburgh teams worked closely with their respective division commanders and staff. These teams performed civil affairs and unconventional warfare missions in much the same manner as latter-day special forces units do, but they were primarily concerned with obtaining tactical intelligence provided by Resistance members.

During Market-Garden, intelligence supplied by the various Resistance networks, because of its non-compartmented nature, was passed through the Jedburgh teams to the various tactical commanders. The commanders received intelligence on the composition and disposition of German forces, as well as information on terrain and the conditions of the bridges. Once the paratroopers were on the ground, this information flow continued. Some of the Resistance cells were aware to some extent of Market-Garden before its implementation, but the decentralized nature of the underground network guaranteed that not everyone would know the time and place of the attack. As Allied parachutes began blossoming, those previously unaware of the operation reacted by mobilizing their cells and recovering arms caches.

Some Resistance members carried out independent actions during the operation. Others actively sought out airborne soldiers and attached themselves to any unit that would take them. In cases where their loyalties were suspect, Resistance members were vetted by the Jedburgh teams. Once this was done, they were farmed out to different units as the need arose.

Jedburgh Team Claude, attached to the British 1st Airborne Division, was too small to conduct effective operations. One four-man team per brigade would have been enough, but not one team for the entire division. The splitting of this team had disastrous consequences, placing the entire responsibility for the vetting and administration of the available Resistance on the junior member of Team Claude, Lt. Knottenbelt.

The British plan for using the Resistance fell apart after Col. Barlow, the officer in charge of civil affairs and of working with the Resistance in the Arnhem area, was killed. Dutch naval commander Wolters was attached to the British division, but his stated mission was focused on Dutch civil affairs after the liberation of Arnhem. His unplanned, ad hoc actions during the fighting demonstrated his considerable abilities; if his responsibilities had been broadened before D-Day, he could have been even more effective.

The communications failures suffered by Market forces, especially the lst Airborne Division, are legendary. Team Claude’s loss of communications occurred because the team carried only one radio for the operation, which was lost during the initial drop on D-Day. Team Edward’s inability to communicate with Team Claude and the physical isolation of the two teams prevented a clear assessment of the situation at Arnhem.

Intelligence Failure

Market-Garden ranks among the most serious intelligence failures of the war. Critiques of the operation have focused on the overly optimistic interpretations of SIGINT as well as on the failure of planners to credit airborne reconnaissance indications of recent German armored reinforcements in the Arnhem area.

Similarly, the operational planners, in their haste to meet Montgomery’s deadlines, paid too little attention to route, terrain, and weather assessments. These assessments, moreover, suffered from insufficient basic intelligence information. Selections of drop zones, especially at Arnhem, were ill-considered, and estimates of the road system’s ability to support the armored column were critically flawed, although this latter shortcoming was as much a planning failure as it was an intelligence failure.

The Dutch Resistance was not alerted to the Arnhem drop because British intelligence believed the Germans had penetrated their Dutch networks. If the British had heeded word from their agents in Arnhem, they would have been alerted to the presence of two enemy panzer divisions.

Carrying On

After Market-Garden, the Melanie mission continued to collect military, economic, and industrial intelligence. A detailed report dated 14 December 1944 provided the specifications on a Mauser small-arms factory in the town of Oberndorf, Germany. The team also provided reports regarding German atrocities committed against Allied prisoners and Netherlands civilians.

The unleashing of German secret weapons such as jet aircraft and the V-2 rocket made information about these weapons critical. Melanie responded by providing information on the location of V-2 launching sites, with detailed sketches. Information on industrial infrastructure was also provided. A report dated 3 March 1945 stated that V-2 parts were being manufactured in the Croecke textile factory in Hohenlimburg, Germany.

In late December, coinciding with the German attack through the Ardennes, Melanie developed intelligence indicating a secondary, supplementary German attack across the Maas River. Maj. Van der Gracht reported to his superior, Philip Horton, that in the period of a few days more than 30 German commandos wearing British uniforms had been captured in Eindhoven, some only a few blocks from the team’s quarters. Van der Gracht also reported, however, that Eindhoven had received numerous V-2 attacks “with some accuracy.” The threat became so ominous that Van der Gracht made plans for the destruction of those files which could not be evacuated.

On 8 February 1945, Melanie reported that Field Marshal Goering had established his headquarters in a train with three coaches at the Niederaula train station and that he had been there for several months. Dutch intelligence agents were routinely able to report the locations of German regimental and higher headquarters along with descriptions of vehicle and uniform markings. Reports on German units were usually able to identify the name of the commander and sometimes what decorations he wore. This type of information came from underground sources living in the occupied towns and villages.

SI also tasked Melanie to conduct and submit battle damage assessment reports on the results of Allied bombing raids in the Netherlands. Again, such reports could only be obtained through eyewitness accounts provided by Dutch Resistance members and Melanie agents.

A 24 December 1944 memorandum from Lt. Laverge states that the team had recruited nine Dutch citizens–five observers and four wireless telegraph operators–and was training them in Eindhoven to penetrate German lines and collect information. Armed with only their wits and the TR-1 radio, these Netherlanders tried, with varying degrees of success, to accomplish their assigned missions. From September 1944 until May 1945, several secondary missions were conducted, each including at least one agent. These missions involved contacting various Resistance groups and establishing radio contact between the groups and Melanie for intelligence-gathering purposes. Some of the agents did not survive.

Operations in occupied Holland were extremely difficult and dangerous for Melanie’s Dutch agents. After an OSS bureaucrat had recommended shutting down the operation because of a perceived lack of results, Laverge responded angrily: “Frankly, if you knew about conditions in Holland like we do here, you don’t see how the hell those people [Dutch agents] can accomplish what we are asking.” The lack of archival reports on the success or failure of these missions makes it impossible to evaluate them authoritatively.

Melanie continued in Eindhoven for the duration of the war. Besides obtaining intelligence on the strategic and tactical military situation, the team provided economic, political, and social intelligence on large and small urban areas and on rural communities. Melanie also put together a database on Dutch collaborators.

From 25 to 31 March 1945, the Melanie mission sent 251 reports, messages, and maps/sketches to the OSS/ETO SI section. From September 1944 to April 1945, Melanie sent approximately 3,200 courier reports and 750 cable messages to the OSS SI section in Paris. According to an afteraction report written by the SHAEF G-2 in 1945 evaluating Dutch intelligence production and reporting, the Melanie mission “supplied more reports for SHAEF’s Daily Digest than any other OSS mission from September 1944 to May 1945.

Undeserved Obscurity

Despite its achievements, Melanie has hardly been mentioned in most OSS histories. The only sources on Melanie are surviving participants and the declassified OSS records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. These records include daily situation reports, financial accounting records, operational reports, and debriefs of Dutch agents sent behind the lines. There are important gaps in the records; some documents have been pulled from the files and reclassified.

But the SHAEF G2, at least, gave some credit where it was justly due, when he reported that Melanie provided the most accurate and complete intelligence picture for its assigned area of any intelligence operation during the war As he indicated, Melanie’s efforts and the cooperation and sacrifices of its Dutch Resistance agents contributed substantially to Allied intelligence operations in Holland at a crucial stage.

A Bridge Too Far

Operation Market-Garden turned into a military disaster. Although the American airborne divisions eventually achieved their objectives–the 82nd Airborne parachuted into Grave and Groesbeek and controlled the strategic river crossings, while the 101st Airborne seized the bridges at Eindhoven and Veghel–the Germans managed to demolish one of the bridges. In addition, the British 1st Airborne Division, reinforced by a Polish airborne unit, was dropped too far from its target, the Arnhem bridge.

More fundamentally, German strength in Arnhem was substantially greater than anticipated in the intelligence estimates. Lightly armed Allied paratroopers found themselves up against two SS panzer divisions that had recently been refitting in the area. The British/Polish force, suffering from the loss in the airdrop of critical vehicles, artillery, and communications, failed to seize the Arnhem bridge despite a heroic fight.

The situation in Arnhem grew increasingly perilous. The British armored column which was to break through to relieve the airborne forces fell behind schedule as the tanks crawled along the narrow, congested roadway. The operation ended less than 10 days later, with the British and Polish airborne troops surrounded in Arnhem and the armored column stalled 10 miles away.

The British were able to pull back some of their forces, but not before the Germans killed or captured more than 7,000 paratroopers; the two American airborne divisions fighting along the corridor lost more than 3,500. With the debacle in Arnhem, hopes of an early end to the war quickly faded. In the words of the British airborne Commander General Boy Browning, Market-Garden was “a bridge too far.”