Many of us can remember playing childhood games when we were younger. One of my personal favorites was hide and seek. My favorite part of the game was when I was hiding and tried to watch where the seeker looked while he or she searched. Of course I could have been caught, but it wasn’t a big deal at the time. What would happen though if the seeker didn’t know who he was looking for, but knew someone was hiding? How would he go about finding the person? Further more how much more could the person accomplish if they were hiding right in front of them, but the seeker did not know? Well it may sound a little off, but that was basically the game of espionage. Spies would try to conceal themselves by gathering information at the same time. During times of war it was critical to keep your movements, plans, and technology secret so that enemies could not be prepared or be one-step ahead. Therefore spies would be a very influential on outcomes of wars. One of the wars that the USA needed espionage help was in WWII. Not only did they need to get information but have counter intelligence to keep secrets away from Germany and their allies. Espionage helped the US during WWII in the defeat of Germany and their allies.
Spies during WWII were intended to provide the basis for an accurate assessment of other nations’ intentions and military capabilities. Richelson, 103 In such a war a successful surprise attack could leave a victim staggered and ready for a knockout blow. 103 That meant it was critical for the USA to stop espionage from telling their moves and having their spies tell them about the planned attacks of the Axis Powers. This would help the USA to pull off critical assaults on Germany such as D-Day. But before the beginning of the end of the war came many other obstacles to be overcome by the US. At the beginning of the war all the major combatants had a place in code breaking establishments, all of which would experience explosive growth during the war. 173 These agencies would then go on to provide critical information during the war to provide information needed to combat the Axis.
One of the most important needs for espionage was in the deciphering of the ENIGMA. 176 This was used to code and decode German messages sent and received between commanders and such. 176 It was very hard to decipher the ENIGMA because of the way it was set up. 176 What made it so difficult to decipher was the process by which a letter in an original message was transformed into a different one for the transmitted message. 176 The process involved, among other things, three motors in each machine that were chosen from a set of five. 176 Each of them had twenty-six settings, and a plugboard, which connected the keyboard letters to the lampboard letters. 176 For example the first time the L key was pressed a B might light up, but because the rotors turned further entries of L on the board would not produce another B but rather other letters. 176 US intelligence along with help from other countries was eventually able to make a duplicate machine that would help them in decoding messages. 177 Without help from espionage in this instance the US and their allies would be susceptible to unknown attacks and movements of armies without having a chance to prepare for it. Here to the use of American Espionage was evident in the fight against its oppressors. Without proper deciphering of messages the battles could have been altered for the side of the Axis.
One particular instance in which the US used intelligence to gain an advantage when going to be attacked was the battle of Midway. The US intercepted an encrypted message from a Japanese Admiral and revealed the date in which the attacks were scheduled. O’Toole, 388 Therefore the US was able to have a task force waiting for the Japanese when they arrived. 389 It was said that Midway marked the turning point of the war for the pacific. 389 Again the use of Espionage provided huge results for American’s throughout the war with the Axis.
Another importance of espionage in the war was that the Axis powers didn’t know that the Allies intercepted their communications. 392 Also, the British intercepted many messages that were given to the US as well. 392 The agreement they came upon to share intelligence was called the BRUSA. 392 This actually helped join the espionage together to use personnel along with technology of each other together with providing security for the operations. 392 Again the intelligence agencies of the USA helped them in winning the war by combining efforts with their allies.
Ultra intelligence played a vital role in every major allied operation in the European, North African, and Mediterranean theatres of the war. 393 For example, it showed the Germans were not prepared for American landings in North Africa in November of 1942. 393 Also it disclosed movement of German forces instantaneously after the landings. 393 As historian Ronald Lewin wrote:
Ultra was a fundamental for strategic deception—fundamental for knowing in advanced which of the enemy’s forces were stationed where (the order of battle): fundamental for observing immediately his secret reactions to any attempt to deceive: and fundamental for monitoring any redeployment of his troops which might confirm that he had been taken in. 393
One of the most important uses for Ultra was support in anti-submarine warfare in the Battle of the Atlantic. 394 They used intercepted information to capture the naval Enigma machine from U-110 in May 1941. 394 It helped to guide anti-submarine forces to the German U-boats. 394 Again Espionage from the US produces striking results in the battles that could’ve easily gone the other way without the information that was provided by the intelligence.
The US did not just use their spies against the Germans though. After all, the Japanese were that ones that attacked us to bring us into the war. A man by the name of William F. Friedman played a significant role in the world of American Espionage. Volkman, 74 After working to decode ciphering machines in World War I, Friedman looked to break the code of the Japanese ciphering machine named PURPLE. 76 To do this Friedman worked with a the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT;T) to come up with a ciphering machine of their own that was considered unbreakable. 75 It took him a while, but after working seven days a week, for twelve hours a day, for four months and finally cracked the machine. 75 This was the beginning of something huge for the Americans because they had a great deciphering man in Friedman. Friedman’s group of mathematicians and intelligence was called the Magicians. 77 Throughout the war they helped decipher many Japanese originated messages that were critical military moves. 81 One of the greatest moves Friedman made was in the interception of the fortifications of Normandy, which made D-Day possible. 81 His efforts led to the creation of a counterpart of PURPLE that allowed the USA to decipher its’ messages. 81 The Magicians and Friedman played a major role in making the defeat of Japan and Germany possible by deciphering messages and creating counterparts to cipher machines.
Another help that USA Espionage did in the war was because it could show evidence of military moves. One of the greatest moves it foretold was that Germany was going to attack Russia. Richelson, 113 It was recorded that Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden summoned Maisky, an Ambassador of resent German redeployments of forces towards Russian and informed him of this:
In the past forty-eight hours the information reaching us had become more significant. The troop concentrations might be for the purpose of a war of nerves, or they might be for the purpose of an attack on Russia . . . but we were bound to consider in the light of this very formidable build-up, that conflict between Germany and Russia was possible. 113
Of course there was an attack on Russia by Germany, but the Soviets were not completely unprepared thanks to our intelligence’s work. 113 Our spies had a work as great as the troops that fought in the war, because they also put themselves on the line in the other countries to support the war behind the scenes. Their contributions helped the US in preparing other countries for attacks that would soon after ally themselves with them.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a major part of the war. Although intelligence helped maintain our strength in the war, its’ mistakes helped us make it into the war. Intelligence historian David Kahn observed this:
“Intelligence officers could have perhaps have foreseen the attack if the United States, years before, had instituted spies into high level Japanese military and naval circles, flown regular aerial reconnaissance of the Japanese navy, put intercept units aboard ships sailing close to Japan to pick up naval messages hat greatly expanded codebreaking unit might have cracked. . . . The intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor was not one of analysis but of collection.” 122
Although it was not necessarily a mistake, the attack, according to Historian David Kahn could have been either known of or prevented. 123
Some of the various information that was critical for the US to acquire was provided by their counterspies. 124 These spies were used as agents against those who stole information that would help the Axis in their wins, just as the USA used their own Espionage to their advantage so would their enemies. Keeping their information was a critical point so that Germany was not able to know that the Allied Powers knew of their plans. Some of the transmitting had to stop because of the danger of counterspies. 131 Unfortunately for the Axis, the US continued to work throughout the hostility of counterspies and had success. Johnson, 123 One critical part of intelligence was to keep the atomic bomb a secret. Richelson, 134 Not only from the Axis, but Russia was trying to spy on the US’s attempts as well. 134, 135 The FBI and the CIA did much work in the defeat of these spies by arresting them, searching houses for documents and such. 140 This part of the US Espionage was critical for if the Atomic bombs plan were wrecked the war could’ve gone on longer, or if the technology had fallen into the hands of the Axis the war could have turned into a different scenario.
Throughout many different other battles the US had information on various military movements of the Axis because of the share of there information with the British. O’Toole, 392 British intelligence had some information the US did not have against the Axis which proved very useful against their enemies. 393 British intelligence became of much use to the US throughout the world war and they intern continue to give there espionage information to them as well. This boded for a greater advancement in espionage because each of the countries best combined for great possibilities in that field. 395 Again, when USA intelligence ran into some trouble they continue to help with their efforts in winning the war by sharing and receiving information from the British.
Perhaps the greatest contributions of the espionage in the USA were when the assault on D-Day took place. A plan finally arose after many days of scheming. Richelson, 154 It was called JEDBURGH. 154 The plan basically took many three manned teams that would infiltrate the area once the invasion began and started to gather intelligence, while others linked up with the masquisards. 154 They then continued to tell of German military movements, decipher intercepted messages and told airplanes where to drop the weapons that were needed to upend the German defense plans. 154 Additional sabotage operations forced Germans to communicate by radio and they became easier to intercept and decipher. 155 Espionage was needed to make this monumental assault a success for the Allies.
During the war, the spies continued there hiding, while the Germans began to seek them. Americans came out with the upper end in the war. Espionage helped prepare defenses, win battles, and warn other allied powers of attacks of the Axis. On all accounts it seems that the USA could not have won the war without the help of their Espionage. Whether it be deciphering messages, recording military movements, or finding other spies, American espionage played a major role in the defeat of Germany and their allies during World War II. American Espionage stood up to the dangers that a soldier faced in battle and did not back down when their country needed them, even if it meant dying to keep a secret.
Richelson, Jeffrey. A Century of Spies Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. Oxford
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O’Toole, G. J. A. Honorable Treachery A History of U.S. Intelligence, Espionage, and
Covert Action From the American Revolution to the CIA. New York: Atlantic
Monthly Press, 1991.
Volkman, Ernest. Espionage The greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century. John Wiley
; Sons, Inc., 1995.
Johnson, Loch K. Secret Agencies. Yale University, 1996.