ULTRA - constrasting source(s)

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Andrea Callin Tambosi, May 29, 2020.

  1. Hello everyone,
    I have a history question about enigma.
    I am doing my History essay on how ULTRA affected ww2 and i need to find at least one contrasting source to this statement, as I'm asked to present different views. i would be extremely happy if someone here could help me. I am really struggling.
    the statement is the following:

    "did ULTRA win the war?
    Some writers claim that it did. But even as hyperbole this is nonsense. The Allies would have won without it—though at a much greater cost in men and materiel. Some historians argue that “Without ULTRA … the Allies could not have won the Battle of the Atlantic.” This too exaggerates. So does the view that ULTRA stands “at the top” of the factors that influenced the outcome of the Atlantic battle. The most important factor was the construction of an unbelievable number of vessels by American shipyards—so many so fast that even the total effort of all Dönitz’s U-boats was doomed to ineffectuality. Also more important than ULTRA was air cover, which drove the U-boats under water and thereby slowed them so that they could not keep up with the convoys."
    or this one
    "What effect, then, did ULTRA have?

    Can it at least be estimated how many months of war the solving of the naval Enigma saved? Any answer must be hypothetical, and similar calculations could be made about any wartime activity. Nevertheless, it is illuminating to suggest a figure. Without the shipping saved by ULTRA , forces would have been withdrawn from the Pacific to attempt to keep to the timetables for the invasions of Sicily and Italy and, above all, of Normandy. Calculations of ship production and of logistic problems suggest that these invasions would have been delayed by about three months."
    the sources I find are quite unifying around this. i would need someone to tell me:"ULTRA won the war" OR "ULTRA didn't matter at all for the victory of the Allies"
    Thank you in advance,
  2. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Phew. What a topic. I’m no ULTRA expert but here are a few random thoughts which might give you some leads for further investigation...

    1. There is a perception today that ULTRA was all-seeing and all-knowing. This is far from the truth and there were extensive gaps in the information it provided. Only certain codes were broken by Enigma and only for certain periods of time.

    2. Arguably it became less important as the war went on as the sheer weight of Allied military power ground down German resistance regardless of the intelligence held by the Allies.

    3. Here’s a thought (could make another essay title!)...Hitler’s interference in military matters was a greater war-winning factor for the Allies than ULTRA.

    4. Arguably ULTRA’s greatest significance was the part it played in supporting Allied strategic deception operations such as FORTITUDE.

    5. The operational use of ULTRA information was heavily constrained by the fear at the highest political levels that the success of code-breaking would be revealed.

    There is mountains more stuff out there on ULTRA but I hope those few thoughts might be of help. Others may strongly disagree with them but their views will also help you!

    Best wishes

    Last edited: May 29, 2020
  3. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Your thread might be better placed within the Top Secret forum. A moderator will undoubtedly advise on this.
  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Where land lines and teleprinters were used the signals were not picked up. A significant amount of Luftwaffe traffic was carried this way. I have seen a paper on the subject - I'll see if I can find it.
  5. thank you!
    i think i could definitely use these points!
    could you please give me the sources that statement?
    i can't make any statement for my essay without a source for it.
  6. I think it'd be a very strong point!
    thank you so much!
  7. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Hi Andrea - I had a horrible feeling you were going to ask me for references! Sadly, I can’t and they are thoughts/statements I have gathered over the years. I will have a think - with a cool drink in hand and an ice pack on my head - and see if I can dredge up anything.

  8. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I'm not sure what access you have to references but as a startpoint you could do worse than look at the references listed in Wikipedia under Ultra. Here's the link: Ultra - Wikipedia. I have read 'Ultra Goes to War - The Secret Story' by Ronald Lewin, which would be a pretty good source of information. However, I'm not sure how useful it would be in terms of his analysis of Ultra's strengths and weaknesses at the strategic (ie war-winning) level, which is what I think you are after.

    Here's a link to what might prove to you a very useful lecture by Sir Harry Hinsley: http://www.cdpa.co.uk/UoP/HoC/Lectures/HoC_08e.PDF.

    Good luck!
  9. great! thanks!!
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    For sources try: Ultra | Allied intelligence project which has this:
    Then: Ultra–The Misunderstood Allied Secret Weapon

    From 1974: https://www.nsa.gov/Portals/70/docu...cuments/cryptologic-spectrum/ultra_secret.pdf

    A Q&A with Professor Hinsley called 'The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War': The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War

    That will do and good luck. Please post the end result when submitted, others will find it worth a read I am sure.
    JimHerriot likes this.
  11. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    There are a couple of errors in the passage that you quote:
    "The most important factor was the construction of an unbelievable number of vessels by American shipyards—so many so fast that even the total effort of all Dönitz’s U-boats was doomed to ineffectuality. Also more important than ULTRA was air cover, which drove the U-boats under water and thereby slowed them so that they could not keep up with the convoys."

    The US shipyards did indeed construct many ships, but the Liberty, where 2,700 were built, was a comparatively slow ship, built to a British design. When new they had a top speed of no more than 12 knots, whereas a U-Boat on the surface could do 16 knots. The faster vessels that they built could do no more than 17 knots. As for air cover, the British were always short of aircraft for maritime patrol duties - mainly because Bomber Command were given preference; and there was a very large air gap, which was not filled until the MAC ships and Escort Carriers became available.

    My knowledge of ENIGMA is limited to secondary sources, but when a navy team boarded a sinking U-boat and saved a machine and the codebooks, in what became known as Operation Primrose, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound signalled HMS Bulldog, which carried out the salvage, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS. THE PETALS OF YOUR FLOWER ARE OF RARE BEAUTY. he was impressed!

    Good luck with your project Andrea.

    Last edited: May 29, 2020
    JimHerriot likes this.
  12. thank you!!!
  13. hello Roy,
    Thank you for your feedback!
    I hope you were not congratulating to me, as i didn't write that statement, but i just copied-pasted from a book:
    Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939–1943
    By David Kahn
    i was looking for some contrasting views on that statement :)))
    thank you so much!
    JimHerriot and Roy Martin like this.
  14. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Reading Hinsley it appears The luftwaffe Codes were compromised on a regular basis.
    JimHerriot likes this.
  15. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    ULTRA also revealed the Germans had broken RN codes. Both sides were reading the other's mail and (for example) though it was possible to track and intercept every single re-supply ship for the U-Boats it was decided to let some survive lest their total loss alert the Germans to the code-breaking. Also heavily-protected convoys were sometime re-routed so they would tempt/pass through a wolf-pack in order to distract from those convoys that had no escorts.
  16. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I gather at the tactical level as regards the British, the Germans hardly needed an Enigma equivalent as their intercept capability remained extremely effective to the last and our COMSEC was so awful they were able to build up an excellent picture of our orbats and intentions. The problem for the Germans was that in the latter part of the war they no longer had the forces and fuel to do anything about it.
    JimHerriot likes this.
  17. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Hi Andrea,

    No I wasn't too impressed with Mr Kahn's ramblings. What m kenny says is very true, the British had to sacrifice an occasional convoy to ensure that the Kreigsmarine didn't realise that the code had been broken. Also JDKR is correct, the Germans broke the convoy code and the Admiralty took about a year before they replaced it.
    JimHerriot likes this.
  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Have you had a look at these podcasts: News It appears to be a small series and the latest one: Intelligence Insight 007 the summary says:
    JimHerriot likes this.
  19. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Battle of the Bulge was not picked up as arrangements for the attack were made by phone and written orders. Oscar Koch G-2 of US 3rd Army predicted it from conventional intelligence sources but lack of Enigma/Tunny evidence fooled SHAEF. That's why Patton was already preparing for the Bulge before it happened.
    Convoys were diverted by use of RDF on U Boat enigma transmissions as well as message cracking.
    Operation Fortitude was driven by Enigma, as deception over D Day depended on feeding the Germans what they wanted to believe. It also gave during the battle the German order of battle, so the Allies could use Caen as the attraction for German attacks and build up for Cobra further west at St Lo on July 25-26.
    Knowing through Tunny the information in Hitler's hands and the way he was viewing it, they were able to modulate the battles in Italy and Normandy to keep stretching his forces and keep the resource level going to the Med at the minimum necessary.
    Sadly, Ultra was not able to predict the Bocage problem or the great storm of 19 June. I gather this was down to a failure of one of Tommy Flower's valves.
    Edit. To add the Italy bit.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  20. wow!! you are all so helpful! now I need to read through everything again in order to understand what i should use for my essay!
    thank you all!
    Roy Martin likes this.

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