A coded telegram from the year 1925

In 1925, an encrypted telegram was sent from the USA to Argentina. The plaintext is known, but still poses a mystery.

Deutsche Version

First of all, I would like to advertise HistoCrypt, Europe’s leading event on crypto history. After having a great conference in Mons (Belgium) in 2019, we had to cancel the 2020 edition due to Corona. In 2021, there was at least a slimmed down online edition. The conference proceedings still appeared in both cases.

In 2022, a full-fledged HistoCrypt is to be held again, in Amsterdam from June 20-22. The chairmanship of the local organizing committee has been taken over by my Dutch friend Karl de Leeuw.

Quelle/Source: Schmeh

The Call for Papers for HistoCrypt 2022 has been updated again today. The deadline for submissions has been extended by one week and will now last until January 30, 2022, so if you want to submit something, you still have two weeks!


Review: The listening service cryptogram

On January 2, 2022, I blogged about a World War II listening service encrypted radio message. Fortunately, my readers (including Max Baertl, Norbert Biermann, Gerd Hechtfischer, Steffen, Steve, The_Piper, schorsch, and Matthew Brown) have found out quite a bit about the background of this message. Apparently it comes from Switzerland and was encoded with an English codebook.

Quelle/Source: eBay

Thomas Bosbach has identified the codebook that may have been used. Karo found this codebook online. Bob Bogart can remember a codebook that also fits (unofficially called “BABY code”) that he once worked with himself. I suspect that it is the same one.

Can anyone decode the bugging service message with this information?


Another codebook encryption

That a codebook encryption is solved by locating the codebook used is now relatively common. This is due to the fact that more and more codebooks are accessible via the Internet. In particular, the websites of Satoshi Tomokyo and John McVey are important sources for this. In my book “Codebreaking: A Practical Guide”, which I wrote with Elonka Dunin, there is a whole chapter on this topic.

Blog reader Sebastian alerted me to an encrypted Telegram that was solved in the way described on Reddit a few days ago. Thanks for pointing it out! Here is the telegram:

Quelle/Source: Reddit

This letter is dated April 2, 1925. Judging by the form, it was sent to Argentina. The sender was in Brookline, a suburb of Boston in the USA. REKRAB is probably the sender’s telegram identifier. Presumably his name was “Barker” and he chose his name spelled backwards, since BARKER was already taken.

The telegram, as it turned out, was encoded with “Bentley’s Complete Phrase Code”. The plain text “Only five days remaining is there any hope of Cristobal Love” is noted below the message. This is how the message is decoded:

Quelle/Source: Reddit

However, the meaning of “Cristobal Love” is not clear to me. Apparently, these two words are not in the codebook, but could still be decoded. Presumably there was an additional code list that the sender and receiver had agreed upon.

And what do the words “Cristobal” and “Love” mean in this context? Are these also code words? So were coded code words used? Were these so important that they were encoded twice? Or is there another explanation?

Maybe a reader knows more about this.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: Ungelöst: Ein Telegramm von US-Präsident Theodore Roosevelt

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