The greatest success for TICOM was the capture of the “Russian Fish”, a set of German wide band receivers used to intercept Soviet high-level radio teletype signals.
On May 21, 1945, a party of TICOM Team 1 Including Lt -Cdr. Campaigne, Maj. Rushworth and Capt. Carter were at the POW camp at Bad Aibling searching for German SIGINT personnel. They had a tip that a German prisoner, an Unteroffizier Dietrich Suschowk, had knowledge of certain signals intelligence equipment and documentation pertaining to the interception and decoding of Russian traffic. After contacting the prisoner, Suschowk explained to the TICOM team that he worked for General der Nachrichtenaufklarung (GdNA) Gruppe VI, a platoon size unit lately responsible for intercepting high level Soviet Radio Teleprinter traffic. The last location of this unit was at the Pionier-Kaserne, a barracks at Rosenheim, Bavaria.
The next day, after rounding up the remaining members of Gruppe VI, TICOM took the unit back to Rosenheim to recover the booty. The prisoners recovered a dozen large chests, 53 smaller chests and another 53 boxes totaling about 7 ½ tons. Suschowk and his team then volunteered to put one of the machines together and demonstrated that it was in good working order. TICOM officer 1stLt. Paul Whitaker, who had joined the party at Rosenheim, later reported. “They were intercepting Russian traffic right while we were there…pretty soon they had shown us all we needed to see.”
The German prisoners and their gear were then taken to 7th Army H.Q. in Augsburg and held awaiting transportation to the U.K. This provided both TICOM and 7th Army G-2 an opportunity to initially interrogate the prisoners. Twenty prisoners, a senior NCO, three mechanics, eleven operators, two decoders and four evaluators, formed this group. Three in particular were found to be most helpful. The aforementioned Suschowk was described as “unquestionably the natural leader”, an intelligent man with a firm grasp of the “Russian Fish” apparatus and its operating procedures. Uffz. Werner Hempel, an engineer by profession, was not only responsible for maintaining the equipment but also helped the Lorenz Company build it. TICOM commented, “…he is not a leader like Suschowk, preferring as he does to get on with his job in a quiet and apparently efficient way.” However, the most useful prisoner for TICOM eventually proved to be Uffz. Erich Karrenberg. He was born in Poltava, Russia in 1911, the son of a German manufacturer. After being educated in Russia, he returned to Germany in 1930 to study music and was later employed as a lecturer in the History of Art and Music at Berlin University. He either joined the Army in 1939, or was called up in 1941 (sources vary), but nevertheless he ended up utilizing his Russian language skills in a wire-tapping detachment at the front. After a stint teaching Russian to trainees at an Army school, he took a cryptologic course at Jüterbog and was attached to GdNA Groupe VI where he specialized in working out the daily letter-scramble that the Russians used. He was described as “…very intelligent, extremely cooperative and has a multiplicity of interests.” Over a series of interrogations, he was probably the single best source for TICOM on the details of the Russian Fish.
Initial interrogations and transportation difficulties delayed the party at Augsburg. The equipment, all 71/2 tons, was boxed up and flown to the U.K. on June 5th accompanied by Maj. Rushworth and Capt. Carter. Lt. Whitaker accompanied six of the GdNA prisoners, selected for further interrogations in England, sent by road to the jail in Wiesbaden. In addition to Suschowk, Hempel and Karrenberg, this group also included Unteroffiziers Erdmann, a specialist in NKVD traffic, Grubler, an electrician and radio mechanic, and Schmitz, an intercept operator.
The men were delayed in travel and didn’t arrive in England until June 29th, when they were sent to a site at Steeple Clayton, a village some 15 miles southwest of Bletchley Park. The captured gear sent down to the site by TICOM in the previous two days, awaited their arrival, and the party was sent to work reconstructing the intercept equipment. Despite a few technical delays the 9-channel universal set was set up by the next evening. In addition, the intercept receiver, a wide band Fu. H.E.c. was set up and two antennas, one 30 meters tall in a tall tree, and the other an 18 meter on a mast, were erected. As a test, some loud and clear Russian signals were picked up the German operator.
After a week of testing, the group had all three types of receivers (2, 6, and 9-channel) operating. Some ten to twelve 2-channel links were discovered, but most of them were sending only synchronization signals. A 9-channel Baku station was intercepted, but was transmitting unencrypted traffic of no great value. The German operators helped developed charts, work aids, and continued to train their British counterparts. Two Traffic Analysis specialists were sent down from Bletchley Park to begin studying the nature of the signals.
However, the activity at Steeple Clayton was beginning to attract attention. The Post office delivered a complaint that there was interference with local reception of the B.B.C. In addition, the amount of equipment the group was powering was exceeding the local 15 Amps limit, causing brown outs in the local area. It was soon decided that, for both technical and security reasons, the operation had to be moved to a more permanent location.
Appendix 14 from TIOCM Team 1 report, Capture of the Russian Fish.
Parrish, Thomas. The Ultra Americans. New York: Stein and Day, 1986. Chapter 14
Christos Military and Intelligence Corner. German exploitation of Soviet multichannel radio-teletype networks 1936-1945.
IV. Case Studies >