It was July, 1944 and somewhere in the Cotentin Peninsula of France Gen. Eugen Meindl could barely contain his anger.
He "felt it his duty to call attention to fact that fighting power of paratroops was steadily sinking and that utmost demands make of them had been exceeded," Meindl signalled the German high command.
"His two requests for . . . replacements had so far remained unanswered. On account of the critical situation last replacements had had to be employed on the most arduous operation at once."
"Result was that as was always the case, nine nought (90) per cent became casulties within a few days. Responsibility could not be accepted for sending these young untrained replacements (who, if trained, might give an excellent account of themselves and who were an elite body of men both as regards physique and fighting spirit) against the enemy in such conditions."
"Majority had never yet thrown a live hand grenade. Three nought (30) per cent had so far fired only five to ten rounds of live ammunition. Scarcely any had been trained in MGs (machine guns), to say nothing of use of entrenching tools and camouflage. This state of affairs was to be attributed to negligence of training regiments in respect of equipment and provision of cadre personnel."
The discomfiture of the Nazi command over this rocket could only have been matched by the delight of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his subordinate Allied commanders, still bogged down on the Normandy beaches. Unknown to Gen. Meidl, the elaborate Germany code had long ago been cracked and the allies were intercepting this and virtually every other German message on the air.
The next day, Meindl's II Parachute Corps, grimly holding the line against Gen. Omar Bradley's forces in the penisula, sent this "appreciation" to high command.
"Present calm indicated Allies regrouping formation" in order to break out of St. Lo. "Should Allies continue their attempt at breakthrough with their well-known expenditure of material, having regard to low German battle strength, it must be expected that such breakthrough would succeed."
Buoyed in part by this message and frustrated after seven weeks in the scrub woods of the peninsula Bradley moved four days later and confirmed II Parachute's estimate. Two more days and the Allies had at last broken out.
hese remarkable intercepts were opened to historians and others for the first time yesterday when the Public Records Office inaugurated its new Archive. They were among a series of messages from Operation Ultra, the extraordinary fruit of the wartime codebreakers at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.
Thanks to Bletchley Park and its Enigma machine, a randomizer that the Germans used to insure what they thought was fool-proof code system, the Allies could read virtually every radio message sent from Hitler and other top commanders as early as February, 1940.
How Ultra worked, how the British copied an Enigma machine thanksto the astonishing memory of a Polish worker are stories that have already been told. Until now, however, the Ministry of Defense here has ignored the rule making government documents public after 30 years and has withheld the results of Ultra's work.
Yesterday, 70,000 messages were released at last. Although more are to come, others dealing directly with intelligence matters will remain buried. Those available, moreover, are not raw texts of messages themselves but summaries provided by British intelligence to Allied commanders at headquarters and in the field.
I leafed at random through two bundles, about 500 pieces, covering July 20 through 22 and found them full of suggestive lore. Surely it must have helped the 8th Air Force to learn on July 21 of the skimpy air defense around the vital Romanian oil fields.
Did they ever get those planes on the ground at Airfield Ludwiglust, near Lubeck?
Its commander proudly signalled on July 20 that he had hidden away 30 planes in the camouflage bays and another 17 were camouflaged at "edge of wood." What a juicy target, nicely identified.
Both the wartime economists and the psychological warfare teams should have done something with this signal on July 21 from Luitlotte 3. It complained that "individual units had recently taken from the country butter, eggs and some other foods, on some cases by force, C-in-C West order of 15th expressly forbade any requisitioning on our own initiative. Cases of indispcipline to be ruthlessly punished so that planned supplying of units and further use of the country for the homeland was not jeopardized."
Somehow, the Ultra boys admitted, they had missed Commander-in-Chief West's order of the 15th. Perhaps it had not been sent over the air.
There were those that summer who worried whether Yugoslavia's Tito was the right horse to back after all.
They might have been reassured by this intercepted German signal on July 22.
"Guerrillas concentrating and reinforcing continual attacks on corps and divisional supply lines. Division therefore to guard whole area by regular patrolling. II Croat Corps, one Croat and jaeger Brigade and Railway Defense forces responsible for pacifying west of the Bosna (River, a tributary of the Sava."
For historians, the thousands of messages could be a gold mine - that is, if they are not scooped by Prof. F. H. Hinsley of Cambridge University who has already been working on an unpublished, official history of wartime intelligence.
It is unlikely that Ultra's files will reveal much that is not already known, but they will show what field commanders had at their disposal, a knowledge of the enemy's precise strength, and disposition of how, when and where he intended to carry out his operations. Armed with this, it is likely that questions will be raised anew about the heavy casualties taken by Gen. Mark Clark's GIS in Italy. Clark was notoriously cool towards Ultra.