Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Book Review: How I Discovered World War II's Greatest Spy

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Government 102

benrothke (2577567) writes "When it comes to documenting the history of cryptography, David Kahn is singularly one of the finest, if not the finest writers in that domain. For anyone with an interest in the topic, Kahn's works are read in detail and anticipated. His first book was written almost 50 years ago: The Codebreakers – The Story of Secret Writing; which was a comprehensive overview on the history of cryptography. Other titles of his include Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boats Codes, 1939-1943. The Codebreakers was so good and so groundbreaking, that some in the US intelligence community wanted the book banned. They did not bear a grudge, as Kahn became an NSA scholar-in-residence in the mid 1990's. With such a pedigree, many were looking forward, including myself, to his latest book How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy and Other Stories of Intelligence and Code. While the entire book is fascinating, it is somewhat disingenuous, in that there is no new material in it. Many of the articles are decades old, and some go back to the late 1970's. From the book description and cover, one would get the impression that this is an all new work. But it is not until ones reads the preface, that it is detailed that the book is simple an assemblage of collected articles." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.For those that are long-time fans of Kahn, there is nothing new in the book. For those that want a wide-ranging overview of intelligence, espionage and codebreaking, the book does provide that.

The book gets its title from a 2007 article in which Kahn tracked down whom he felt was the greatest spy of World War 2. That was none other than Hans-Thilo Schmidt, who sold information about the Enigma cipher machine to the French. That information made its way to Marian Rejewski of Poland, which lead to the ability of the Polish military to read many Enigma-enciphered communications.

An interesting question Kahn deals with is the old conspiracy theory that President Franklin Roosevelt and many in is administration knew about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. He writes that the theory is flawed for numerous reasons. Kahn notes that the attack on Pearl Harbor succeeded because of Japan's total secrecy about the attack. Even the Japanese ambassador's in Washington, D.C., whose messages the US was reading were never told of the attack.

Chapter 4 from 1984 is particularly interesting which deals with how the US viewed Germany and Japan in 1941. Kahn writes that part of the reason the US did not anticipate a Japanese attack was due to racist attitudes. The book notes that many Americans viewed the Japanese as a bucktoothed and bespectacled nation.

Chapter 10 Why Germany's intelligence failed in World War II, is one of the most interesting chapters in the book. It is from Kahn's 1978 book Hitlers Spies: German Military Intelligence In World War II.

In the Allies vs. the Axis, the Allies were far from perfect. Battles at Norway, Arnhem and the Bulge were met with huge losses. But overall, the Allies enjoyed significant success in their intelligence, much of it due to their superiority in verbal intelligence because of their far better code-breaking. Kahn writes that the Germans in contrast, were glaringly inferior.

Kahn writes that there were five basic factors that led to the failure of the Germans, namely: unjustified arrogance, which caused them to lose touch with reality; aggression, which led to a neglect of intelligence; a power struggle within the officer corps, which made many generals hostile to intelligence; the authority structure of the Nazi state, which gravely impaired its intelligence, and anti-Semitism, which deprived German intelligence of many brains.

The Germans negative attitude towards intelligence went all the way back to World War I, when in 1914 the German Army was so certain of success that many units left their intelligence officers behind. Jump to 1941 and Hitler invaded Russia with no real intelligence preparation. This arrogance, which broke Germany's contact with reality, also prevented intelligence from seeking to resume that contact.

Other interesting stories in the book include how the US spied on the Vatican in WW2, the great spy capers between the US and Soviets, and more.

For those that want a broad overview of the recent history of cryptography, spying and military intelligence, How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy and Other Stories of Intelligence and Code, is an enjoyable, albeit somewhat disjointed summary of the topic.

The best part of the book is its broad scope. With topics from Edward Bell and his Zimmermann Telegram memoranda, cryptology and the origins of spread spectrum, to Nothing Sacred: The Allied Solution of Vatican Codes in World War II and a historical theory of intelligence, the book provides a macro view of the subject. The down side is that this comes at the cost of the 30 chapters being from almost as many different books and articles, over the course of almost 40 years.

For those that are avid readers of David Kahn, of which there are many, this title will not be anything new. For those that have read some of Kahn's other works and are looking for more, How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy will be an enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Ben Rothke.

You can purchase How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy and Other Stories of Intelligence and Code from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

germany ran out of people (1)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46641689)

they started so many wars that they didn't have enough people to replace their losses and after a while the allies' industrial might out produced the german army

battle of the bulge the US army was sending high school kids straight off the boat with no equipment and no training into battle. when they died, there were more of them. not so for german losses

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 7 months ago | (#46641761)

If hitler would have been more rational, we would all be speaking german today.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 7 months ago | (#46642481)

Speculative history being what it is, here's my $0.02. If Hitler were more rational, he wouldn't have become Chancellor. I think it takes a nut to get to where he got, but then because of his nuttiness the whole thing falls apart.

Not to compare Steve Jobs to Hilter in terms of morality; but there are people who say, "If only he hadn't been so arrogant as to believe that alternative medicine could cure his cancer". I think there's a similar dynamic with Jobs. If he weren't arrogant enough to believe he was better than modern medicine, he might not have been arrogant enough to believe he was better than the other device manufacturers.

More generally, the totality of your personality defines all phases of your outcome. Redefine your personality and you redefine all phases of your outcome, including the early ones that got you to where we care enough to speculate about the later phases.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 7 months ago | (#46660301)

:::. If Hitler were more rational, he wouldn't have become Chancellor. well that is a good thing!

Re:germany ran out of people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642955)

No we wouldn't. Everyone likes to say that Hitler cost Germany the war. He may have done things later in the war that hastened the end, but he's also the reason they came as close to winning as they did. He pushed for the invasion of France to happen the way it did, when most of his generals thought it was a crazy idea. He was correct about the USSR being a rotting structure ready to collapse, Germany came damn close to 'winning' a couple of times, and waiting to invade would have just resulted in the USSR getting stronger. The 'sideshow' in Africa was essential if Germany was going to get the oil she needed. The 'no retreat' order in the USSR was again, the only way they were going to win there.

The only way for Germany to win was to make some low-odds gambles, the "more rational" Germans wern't willing to do this. Assuming there is still a war being more rational means you're not playing to win which is just a fancy way of saying that you're going to lose by default.

Honestly, the most rational thing would be to not have a war, in which case a likely outcome is an isolationist US and all of Europe speaking Russian today.

Re:germany ran out of people (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#46643091)

The only way for Germany to win was to make some low-odds gambles, the "more rational" Germans wern't willing to do this.

Maybe the winning move was not to play? I realize the world had given Germany the shaft after WWI, and yes, I realize Germany in general realized the world was so sick of war that they could get away with a lot without any real repercussions. But you say it yourself, the only way Germany was going to win the wider war was with many low-odds plays coming out in their favor. Maybe the best solution was to avoid the wider conflict in the first place.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about 7 months ago | (#46643821)

Yes, it was in the interest of the German people to not play the war game, from a rational point of view. We understand that. However, in Hitler's estimate, his own personal interests and the interests of the German people were served best by other means.

Both Hitler and Stalin often acted as if they feared their generals more than their outside enemies. This underlying motivation precipitated decisions that were against the interests of the people of their respective nations, and creates thousands of "if I were in charge" scenarios. But the fear that Hitler (or Stalin) himself might be put out to pasture (or under perhaps under the pasture) unless he produced a string of military successes is not actually crazy at all. The assassinations attempts did almost get Hitler before the Red Army came near.

Re:germany ran out of people (2)

aberglas (991072) | about 7 months ago | (#46644623)

To win, they just needed to not attack France, which was a crazy gamble that they got away with. Instead, build their military for another year using the phony war as an excuse, and then attack the Soviets. Unlikely that France would have attacked any more than they did for Poland.

As part of that attack, do not be so nasty, an encourage nationalist soviet armies. Stalin was so evil, and the purges and deliberate starvation so severe that many if not most of the soviet armies would be more than happy to join an opposition, and indeed many did join the Germans. Millions were captured early on, most could have been turned around. It was a real achievement of the German SS to treat the soviets even worse than Stalin did and so lose this opportunity.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46643781)

Hitler was afraid that Russia was getting stronger rapidly. But history is less clear. Stalin was purging officers well after he should have been in full war prep mode.

Nazis and Communists are natural allies. It's only because they occupy adjacent spaces in political space that they fought each other.

Re:germany ran out of people (2)

Streetlight (1102081) | about 7 months ago | (#46644041)

Maybe I have watched too many WW II movies, but here's my take on why Germany "lost" WW II:

1. Germany's invasion of Russia in September was a bad move because they ran into the Russian winter. Had they invaded in the Russian spring they would have had a whole summer for action against Moscow and maybe Stalingrad.

2. Germany ended up fighting a two or maybe it can be called a three front war: Britain and western most of Europe, Russia and southern Europe (Italy/Mediterranean/North Africa). If they had just conquered Russia first, then the West may have had trouble beating them what with the resources they may have gained from Russia including oil, steel works, technical know how, manufacturing capacity, and man power.

3. At the battle of Stalingrad Hitler split his forces - one to take the city and one to go for the southern oil wells. The Germans should have gone for one or the other but not for both. Of course, Goering promised he could supply the German army there, but that didn't happen. Of course, by item 1 above, a three or four month head start might have been successful considering the winter situation.

4. The Germans were in love with technology and size. The tanks developed and used in the Battle of the Bulge were enormous and inappropriate for the forested/hilly/river containing terrain on the way to Holland. These tanks couldn't cross bridges because they were either too heavy or too wide and they used a lot of fuel. The Sherman and successor tanks weren't the technological marvels of the German tanks, (and those of the Russians) but they were reasonably reliable and repairable by their crews, large in numbers, maneuverable and more fuel efficient. Other choices by the Allies about what to manufacture in huge numbers and appropriate quality were also important.

4. And of course the incredible cryptanalysis capability of Bletcley Park that resulted in the defeat of the U Boats and kept the supply chain running to Britain and Russia from the U. S. as well as the defeat of the Germans at Kursk the the Russian advance west.

I'm sure others can add additional "mistakes" made by the Hitler-German war machine that resulted in Germany's defeat including the nature of the German army's culture of following orders, even if they came from a mad man.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

aberglas (991072) | about 7 months ago | (#46644661)

Germany delayed its invasion due to a late thaw in the spring. It was not actually to attack Greece, although that was a silly thing to do.

Splitting forces in Stalingrad avoided road congestion, and Stalin really needed the petroleum further south. The bombing actually helped the defenders somewhat. But the big issue was political, being so nasty that they did not have more ex-soviet troops on their side. (They did have quite a few.)

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 7 months ago | (#46650725)

1. The invasion of the Soviet Union was June 22, 1941. Spring ended late, and Spring in the Soviet Union was a horrible time to try to practice mobile warfare. One common Russian term for Spring translates as "season without roads".

2. Germany couldn't even reach the USSR without going through Poland, and the invasion of Poland was what got Britain and France into the war. It's conceivable that different diplomatic maneuvering before the war could have helped, but it's not clear that Germany could have gotten an adequate avenue to attack.

3. There are other questionable strategic decisions, but nobody got all the strategy right. German mistakes in 1941 were more important, anyway. One problem was that the strategy was split between Hitler and the General Staff. If one or the other had run the campaign, I think the Germans would have done better. That was the truly critical time of that particular war.

4. The German fascination with size and technology was more due to their continuing problems in the war than the other way around. Germany was fairly clearly losing the war when the really big tanks showed up in numbers. In fact, Germany at one point stopped research into advanced weapons in order to pour resources into the current war. Also note that US tanks were about as good as their Soviet or German counterparts of similar size.

5. Allied intelligence operations were generally better than German, and this did help in the Atlantic, but I don't know about Kursk. I suspect this was largely due to the German concentration on winning battles, neglecting to some extent logistics and intelligence. The impression that I've got from reading German combat memoirs is that they, more than other countries, tended to think that they should have gotten the supply they needed, and were justified in planning based on that.

6. The German Army culture was about as insubordinate as you could find. Individual initiative was pushed for all officers. Arguably, they would have been better in both world wars strictly obeying the people running the country. The strict obedience later in WWII was due to Hitler pushing it on the military by various means, not anything in the German military tradition.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 7 months ago | (#46654817)

Good point.

Re:germany ran out of people (2)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 7 months ago | (#46642805)

they started so many wars that they didn't have enough people to replace their losses and after a while the allies' industrial might out produced the german army

battle of the bulge the US army was sending high school kids straight off the boat with no equipment and no training into battle. when they died, there were more of them. not so for german losses

Although Germany was indeed dealing with manpower shortages, the US didn't have overwhelming manpower to throw at Germany either - that describes Russia better than the US. What we did have was vastly better equipped soldiers, and an overwhelming material advantage. Our forces were highly mobile by comparison, and had vastly superior artillery support and air dominance at that point. I don't believe the US sent our soldiers into battle with "no equipment and no training." In all the interviews I've seen with vets, they seemed to indicate that they were well equipped and well trained.

I'm guessing "no equipment" may refer to the 101st airborne infantry holding Bastogne with little winter equipment and only light equipment and artillery [wikipedia.org] , but that was a desperate and unexpected battle, and bad weather prevented resupply from the air, at least initially. While they were poorly equipped for that battle, they were among the most elite and well-trained of fighting forces.

The bulk of the German forces were driven back by Patton's third army (who were about as well equipped as they came) as he wheeled up from the south, and by Monty, who took control Bradley's army group in addition to his own, since he was cut off from them. I don't see how you could characterize these armies as under-equipped or poorly trained either.

Re:germany ran out of people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46643167)

"The bulk of the German forces were driven back by Patton's third army (who were about as well equipped as they came) as he wheeled up from the south, and by Monty, who took control Bradley's army group in addition to his own, since he was cut off from them. I don't see how you could characterize these armies as under-equipped or poorly trained either."

American deaths 19,276
American wounded 47493

German deaths 15,652.
Wounded 41,600.

Doesn't look very well equipped to me.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 7 months ago | (#46643495)

"The bulk of the German forces were driven back by Patton's third army (who were about as well equipped as they came) as he wheeled up from the south, and by Monty, who took control Bradley's army group in addition to his own, since he was cut off from them. I don't see how you could characterize these armies as under-equipped or poorly trained either."

American deaths 19,276
American wounded 47493

German deaths 15,652.
Wounded 41,600.

Doesn't look very well equipped to me.

The Germans were tough and smart soldiers - considered to be the best in the world at the time. They essentially gathered the last of their strength and pounded at the allies weakest point in the line, catching them by surprise (the Allies were very overconfident at that point) and inflicting a great deal of damage. However, the Battle of the Bulge was, in reality, their last ability to perform anything but defensive holding actions.

Keep in mind that during WW2 we didn't have the overwhelming technical superiority that our modern US army has, where we now have ridiculous casualty ratios of 1000 to 1 or so. Against a tough and determined foe, a lot of lives were expended in order to take ground from the enemy. The technology we employ today which saves our soldiers lives simply didn't exist. Also, it's important to understand that WW2 was fought at a scale and intensity that's hard for us to understand nowadays, where dozens of nations were embroiled in total war.

If you want to call them ill-equipped based on a simple comparison of some historic numbers, feel free, but I think it's a ridiculous assertion to make.

Re:germany ran out of people (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#46643799)

The Germans in WWII were the last nation to put up a better then 1:1 kill ratio against the USA. More impressive, considering they lost.

Re:germany ran out of people (2)

AHuxley (892839) | about 7 months ago | (#46646729)

The German kill ratio was always amazing due to their skills at training the small units to swap roles and keep the fire rate up with good weapon systems. Their tank crews where also well trained even without 'real' tanks in the 1930's. The supply line issue and complex mechanical designs also took a toll on German forces. Fuel would arrive but no ammo or parts. If parts did arrive you needed local expert workshop like conditions while been at war. If you got your tank repaired you then faced a loss of fuel or ammo supplies and no air cover or flak..
Over many battles just getting working tanks with fuel and ammo became very difficult for Germany. The US tanks where less complex, had huge production line like repair support with parts just waiting. The lack of good design in UK and US tanks ensured a poor combat experience but numbers lost vs Germany resupply ensured victory..
The US mil took home a lot of new ideas about engineering, design and training - not ready for Korea but later showed a total change in outlook and new "German' methods.

Re:germany ran out of people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46647561)

that is what happens when the country is run buy one of the biggest meglomaniancs and psychos in history

strange complaint (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 7 months ago | (#46641721)

" Many of the articles are decades old, and some go back to the late 1970's" Isn't it a book about WWII?

Re:strange complaint (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 7 months ago | (#46641791)

there are new stories about ww2 being written today....

Re:strange complaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641837)

The reference is to when the articles were written, not when the events took place.

Giving mod points to this is astonishing.

Re:strange complaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641945)

The best historical evidence would have been written during / right after the war though.

Re:strange complaint (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46642151)

The best historical evidence would have been written during / right after the war though.

Not necessarily. During and right after the war, many allied leaders were credited with great insight into enemy intentions and strategies. Today we know they were just being fed decrypted communications. The full extent of allied decryption wasn't disclosed until 1974 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:strange complaint (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | about 7 months ago | (#46641847)

Apparently this is a book about WWII approved by the NSA. I'm not surprised there is no new info here.

Re:strange complaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46646229)

what an absurd comment...u saying the NSA was involved in editing from 30 yrs ago?

Re:strange complaint (2)

neilo_1701D (2765337) | about 7 months ago | (#46641849)

By the 1970's, quite a bit of material relating to WWII was still classified. In the DVD notes to The World At War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_at_War), a documentary series commissioned in 1969, Jeremy Isaacs noted this.

I **believe** that some of the crypto stuff is still classified - 69 years later.

Re:strange complaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641905)

By the 1970's, quite a bit of material relating to WWII was still classified. In the DVD notes to The World At War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_at_War), a documentary series commissioned in 1969, Jeremy Isaacs noted this.

I **believe** that some of the crypto stuff is still classified - 69 years later.

I don't think 1969 was 69 years after WWII :)

Re:strange complaint (1)

neilo_1701D (2765337) | about 7 months ago | (#46642053)

Well... today is :)

Re:strange complaint (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 7 months ago | (#46641921)

That's a good point. I wasn't thinking about classified materials.

We don't know who the greatest spy was. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641765)

He was so great he was never uncovered.

Re:We don't know who the greatest spy was. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641809)

So the title should really be: How I Discovered World War IIs 2nd Greatest Spy??? :)

Re:We don't know who the greatest spy was. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 7 months ago | (#46642937)

Kim Philby and the other members of the famous 5

Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (4, Interesting)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46641797)

The most damaging spy of WWII might go to Klaus Fuchs who gave the A-Bomb secrets to Stalin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... [wikipedia.org] "Hans Bethe once said that Klaus Fuchs was the only physicist he knew who truly changed history" However this did not effect the outcome of WWII, but it arguably caused the Cold War.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (2)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46641843)

russia/USSR being invaded 3 or 4 times helped cause the cold war as well

germans in WW1
poland after WW1
US during russian revolution
germany in WW2

and that doesn't include all their other wars and invasions from northern and western europe before that

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (2)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46641877)

And had nothing to do with Stalin, probably the greatest butcher of all time?

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46641907)

Britain killed more people around the world than Stalin ever did. and they were the ones who invented the concentration camp

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641949)

that is news to me...

what do you base that on? Where were these camps?

you have sources?

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (3, Informative)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46642171)

britain killed people in india via a famine
britain killed people in ireland via a famine
in both cases there were laws against helping those who were starving

britain developed the first concentration camp during the boer war in south africa
the western powers killed a lot of africans in war there
britain killed people in afghanistan in the 1800s
britain and france attacked russia in the crimean war
britain and other western powers killed lots of people in china

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642421)

That's a metric shit ton of vagueness.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46642865)

you do know that britain and other western european nations colonized india, china, africa and asia starting in the 1700's, fought each other over the colonies and killed lots of natives via war and starvation over the two centuries to spread their empires. including using the natives in their armies in european wars.

france and some of the countries that eventually became germany invaded russia in 1812 and around 1845 or whenever the crimean war was fought along with the US sending marines to murmansk, poland invading russia after WW1 and germany in WW2

most of the problems in the world today are the result of british, french and german imperialism along with lying to colonies about independence for support in wars

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 7 months ago | (#46642963)

The local indian princes used the french and British as mercs in their local wars - and as often happens the foreign mercs took over.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642989)

Fully aware.

But data isn't your strong point.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

deadweight (681827) | about 7 months ago | (#46643001)

Just FYI, the Boers, while "African", were either from Holland or descendants of these settlers.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46642287)

Where were these camps?

South Africa [wikipedia.org] .

The United States also used concentration camps, with very high death rates, during their conquest and pacification of the Philippine Islands. More info here [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46642197)

Britain killed more people around the world than Stalin ever did.

Not the same. Stalin killed white people.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#46642367)

forgot when they changed the law, but for a long time in the USA if you were from southern or eastern europe you weren't legally white

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642431)

Britain killed more people around the world than Stalin ever did.

Not the same. Stalin killed white people.

So it's ok to kill people as long as they aren't white people?

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46644033)

Not the same. Stalin killed white people.

So it's ok to kill people as long as they aren't white people?

The world does not treat them the same. America expended money and political capital to confront the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, but did nothing about the far, far bloodier conflict in Rwanda. The British went to much effort to help the Dutch during the Hunger Winter of 1944 [wikipedia.org] , while a hundred times as many were starving in Bengal [wikipedia.org] , not due to food shortages, but from British administrative apathy. Hitler and Stalin are, legitimately, considered the monsters of the twentieth century. But Leopold II [wikipedia.org] may have killed as many people in Africa as died in the Nazi Holocaust. But how many people have ever even heard of him? If you kill 10 million white people, history books will be written about you, and parades will be held to honor your defeat. Kill 10 million black people (as Leopold did) and you might get a footnote.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 7 months ago | (#46642953)

Britain killed more people around the world than Stalin ever did. and they were the ones who invented the concentration camp

The very fact that you're trying to compare a single dictator versus the collective actions of a world wide empire over their entire history should tell you something.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 7 months ago | (#46641875)

I'd put Kim Philby up there as the most damaging . . . he revealed just about everything of Western Intelligence to the Soviets: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... [wikipedia.org]

Oh, and the Chief of German Military Intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, "was among the military officers involved in the clandestine opposition to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. He was executed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp for the act of high treason.": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

So what all he was up to on the side . . . we will never know . . .

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46641993)

Yup, and many people died slow, horrible deaths due to Philby such as the Estonian freedom fighters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org] But it was Klaus Fucks who gave the most dangerous & paranoid man in the world, Joe Stalin, the ultimate weapon which lead the enslavement of Eastern Europe. I can e argued that Stalin would have done the same without the bomb, but it might have slowed him down. Fucks was delusional about Stalin.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 7 months ago | (#46643727)

Dude.. really you need to read a bit more on this. The Russian program was not dependent upon Fuchs for the either the atomic or hydrogen bomb. And all intelligence the Russians received had to be double and triple checked. Fuchs aided their atomic program but it would have been build in much the same time frame without him.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46650775)

You are wrong. Almost all the Russian hardware, from the isotope separators to the reactors to the bomb were exact copies, bolt for bolt of the American versions. There was a lot of spying for the Ruskies, not just Fuchs, but it was Fuchs who gave Stalin the most important part, the neutron trigger. Russian was not considered an enemy at the time (the real enemy being Germany first and then Japan) and many on the project (in the press and the Left) were hopelessly naive about just how bad Stalin was. Some (i.e. people who never lived under Soviet rule such as Ivy League professors) are still naive about Stalin and the Soviet State. Without Fuchs and the rest, it would have taken Stalin and Beria decades. Look at their genetics or psychology "research". Torture and coercion do no lead to effective scientific research.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46651649)

Richard Rhodes covered this in detail in his building the bomb book

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 7 months ago | (#46654585)

You are wrong. Really. You clearly need to expand your resources on the subject past what you have so far. And honestly, it seems more that you have a fixation on Stalin than anything else.

The best that can be arugued is that Fuchs sped up the development of the implosion atomic weapon, largely by helping them better focus their resources. The Soviets could have made a gun device but opted instead to go to the high yield/smaller deliverable. And the further removed you get from the end of the war the less he mattered. His "info" on the hydrogen bomb was incorrect, yet the Joe 4 boosted and the later RDS 37 megaton weapons happened on similar timeframes as the US project.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46662373)

you got that right.

russian R&D is based on spying.

they steal from boeing 7x24.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642101)

philby gave away a lot...

but that spy who was #1, since he gave them info to break enigma.....he was epic...that uncovered tons more than kim philpy did.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641893)

True.

I think the Rosenbergs died due to him...they were blamed, not him.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46642005)

Files opened after the Soviet collapse showed that the Rosenbergs were guilty, but Fuchs did much worse. Fuchs should have been executed.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46641953)

Perhaps he was the most damaging to what the US thought were its best interests at the time. But by sharing those secrets the US lost the option of using the a-bomb again. Maybe a Cold War was better than the alternative

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

mangu (126918) | about 7 months ago | (#46642021)

The US didn't need to use the bomb again, the mere knowledge that it existed was enough.

Anyhow, it was several years until the Soviets got their own bomb, and even longer until they had some way to deliver them. Until the mid-1950s at least the Soviets had no bomber planes or missiles capable of dropping atom bombs on the USA.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46645043)

So why didn't the Japanese surrender after the first bomb?

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46647307)

IMHO they would have, given the time. Communication back then was not like it is today,
and the 1st wiped out much of that about the bomb site itself. They had just begun to realize
the extent of the first bomb when the second was dropped. Also, there was internal strife
happening as well. At the time, Japanese were considered sub-human so the normal courtesies
given to people did not apply. The second bomb should not have been dropped, IMHO.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 7 months ago | (#46651009)

Primarily because their scientists reported that it was an atomic bomb using lots of U-235, and correctly thinking it would be a long time before the US had another U-235 bomb. The Nagasaki bomb was a plutonium implosion bomb, which nobody else seems to have really researched, and they were far easier to produce once the technology was in place. That was far more threatening, and the Japanese didn't know how many more bombs were coming (the third could have been ready to drop by the Japanese surrender).

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 7 months ago | (#46643173)

Designing a fission nuke isn't as hard as people like to make it out to be. With a couple of math and physics students and access to unclassified materials and you can have a working, though perhaps not efficient, design in less than a year. We know this to be true because someone paid a couple of graduate students to do it and they came up with a design that, according to analysis by experts, would have worked. He might have helped them along by a few months, but the real bottle neck in any nuclear program is the enrichment process.

Fusion bombs are a bit trickier, but Fuchs left the US program before the difficult parts of the problem were fully understood. Again, he might have saved the Soviets some time, but would 6 months or a year really have made that much of a difference in history?

The only conceivable way I can imagine it changing history is if the US, emboldened by being the only power in the world with the H-bomb, had used them almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula. Not as far fetched as it may sound, there were voices in the US military who were calling for the nukes to be dropped even with a thermonuclear capable Russia right next door. Without that threat they may have gotten there way.

Re:Greatest, but maybe not the most damaging (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 7 months ago | (#46643691)

the material Fuchs gave was not a game changer by any means and had even less bearing of the H-bomb.

II's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641861)

No such war as IIs. How wrong can the rest be? Internet people nevermind. You will NEVER get that.

A better read, and probably a greater WWII spy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641871)

Re:A better read, and probably a greater WWII spy. (1)

Jerry Rivers (881171) | about 7 months ago | (#46645563)

An even better read and the greatest spy of them all:

http://amzn.to/1j1XrXx [amzn.to]

"Seizing the Enigma" - an excellent book (4, Interesting)

SylvesterTheCat (321686) | about 7 months ago | (#46641961)

I found a hardcover copy of "Seizing the Enigma" in a bookstore discount bin well over ten years ago. I found it to be an excellent read. The only (very minor) criticism I would have is the title. The book seemed as much (if not more) about the Allied prosecution of the German U-boat war as about the Enigma. Again, a very minor point about what seemed to be a very well researched and written book.

I still find it very interesting how Poland's role in breaking German encryption played in the overall history at that time. Poland very well understood that they were in a bad place (geographically and militarily) with regard to Germany and their military buildup and therefore, had a interest in trying to learn the details of Germany's intentions. I found Marian Rejewski to be a particularly interesting character. A Polish mathematician who was certainly smart, but not brilliant. Through determination (and some use of statistics) he was able to work with 2 other mathematicians to break a Enigma-encoded message. I find him to be a personally inspiring individual.

I cannot help but wonder what is happening in modern Poland with the actions of Russian and eastern Ukraine. Having joined NATO and the EU, I would still expect that they are more than a little interested in knowing what the intentions are of their neighbors.

K A A A A A A A A A A A H H H N!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46641971)

Come on, you were thinking it too.

Re:K A A A A A A A A A A A H H H N!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644933)

The wrath?????

Love it!!!!!

Re:K A A A A A A A A A A A H H H N!!! (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 7 months ago | (#46645589)

The wrath?????

No, the bath [etsy.com]

Re:K A A A A A A A A A A A H H H N!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46662141)

ok...help me...what is the reference?

Nothing to sneer at. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 7 months ago | (#46642009)

"From the book description and cover, one would get the impression that this is an all new work. But it is not until ones reads the preface, that it is detailed that the book is simple an assemblage of collected articles."

And what's wrong with that? Collections and anthologies have a long a distinguished history in non-fiction as well as fiction - for a reason. Books are far less ephemeral than magazine (and especially web!) articles, and seeing all the material at once or having it collected in one place is often advantageous for study and research.

Sneer because the material is faulty or lacking, or because the author is wrong or clueless. But don't sneer because a book doesn't live up to the very recent conceit that something must be all-new to be of any value.

Re:Nothing to sneer at. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642193)

:::And what's wrong with that?

nothing wrong...but what about full disclosure? let the readers know that it is a collection of old materiall...not new stuff.

Re:Nothing to sneer at. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644885)

It would be more honourable to clearly state that there are older items in the book, that the material is not new, and the articles are rehashed.

It is correct to assume a new book has all new material.

Please proof your posts and post title (1)

azav (469988) | about 7 months ago | (#46642025)

It's World War II's Greatest Spy

Please don't forget the apostrophe in the name of the book you are reviewing. That's just bad.

Re:Please proof your posts and post title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642611)

Isn't that a stylistic issue? not a grammar issue?

Re:Please proof your posts and post title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46662107)

this is slashdot.

if you want english...read the Stanford Review of Books.

"...singularly one of..." (1)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 7 months ago | (#46642109)

makes me giggle.

Re:"...singularly one of..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642379)

whats so funny about that?

Me me me (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46642341)

How I Discovered World War IIs Greatest Spy

Re:Me me me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642895)

the title in russia is 'how WE'.... :)

WW2's greatest spy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46642607)

World War II's greatest spy was a man who betrayed the Weimar Republic's intelligence secrets for money?

I'm afraid, Ben Rothke, that I must disagree with David Kahn.

Re:WW2's greatest spy? (1)

benrothke (2577567) | about 7 months ago | (#46644159)

Ok, thanks.

Who would you suggest is the greatest one?

NYT reports last of the Codebreakers dies 3/25/14 (1)

Streetlight (1102081) | about 7 months ago | (#46642943)

Maybe off topic a little, but today (4/2/2014) the New York Times has an obituary for the last living Bletchley Park codebreaker. Jerry Roberts worked to break the code used for Hitler to communicate with the highest field military officers, Field Marshals. Apparently the Germans used an ultra type machine with as many as 12 rotors for that purpose rather than the simpler device with three or four rotors. The code he and his coworkers broke they called Tunny, not Ultra, as in tuna fish since one of the German operators was called fish.

It's an interesting read: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04... [nytimes.com]

Re:NYT reports last of the Codebreakers dies 3/25/ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46643399)

i think there were others...but the list is confidential the GSHQ in the uk doesn not revel.

War Secrets in the Ether (2)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 7 months ago | (#46644239)

If you're interested in the German side of world war cryptanalysis, an excellent book is War Secrets in the Ether, by Wilhelm Flicke. The author was a German cryptanalyst during the two world wars, and it was written shortly after the end of the second world war. (It is out of print, so I suggest looking in libraries.)

It has been a decade or more since I read it, so I may have misremembered details, but here are a few points of note:

Pre-war, he'd been analysing Russian radio usage. They had a complicated system where the same station would use different call signs depending who they were talking to. This made their intercepts more chaotic and harder to do traffic analysis on. He and all his colleagues were shifted to the western front with the outbreak of war. When the war with Russia started, in the initial shock their complicated system failed and they fell back on a more standard system. Once they started to get over the initial attack and reorganize, they returned to the complicated system. The German cryptanalysts who were present had no experience with this (the experienced ones having been moved) so they interpreted the chaoticness of the signals as showing the Russians were in complete disarray, when the exact opposite was true.

He thought that the course of Battle of Crete indicated that the allies had broken the German codes at that time. (Which was correct, but he missed that they'd broken most of the German codes for almost the entire war.)

They knew that the allies had very good intelligence, but thought that it was supplied by spies. As a result, he spend the second half of the war on a whack-a-mole mission to shut down spy radio transmitters.

He complained about the multitude of German intelligence agencies and their lack of cooperation due to infighting.

Re:War Secrets in the Ether (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46644853)

thank you.

that seems like a really interesting book.

David Kahn and the NSA (2)

careysub (976506) | about 7 months ago | (#46645929)

By the time David Kahn had became an NSA fellow he had ceased being a writer about cryptography and had become an agency stenographer. Seriously - the "revised edition" of The Codebreakers published in 1996 simply has a 16 page forward that adds nothing to what he wrote in 1967. To learn anything about the vast changes to codes and cryptography over the last fifty years, you will have to go somewhere else.

Re:David Kahn and the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46646191)

::and had become an agency stenographer

You obviously have a grudge....

Re:David Kahn and the NSA (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 7 months ago | (#46646701)

Yes much more was slowly entering the history books. Germany broke some interesting US and UK codes at different times but always lost its easy way in due to UK upgrades.
The US was lost in its own world with the Army and Navy working on Japan as different teams early on. US codes where often old, badly used. Italy made some great human efforts too.
The UK was really the master, breaking most of the diverse 1920-30's European countires code efforts and learning from what their spies well placed where feeding back to their respective govs. Russia seemed to have some well placed spies in Germany but no real luck with Enigma. Finland, Poland, France also had some amazing people beyond the Enigma efforts.
Some great historical reading at http://chris-intel-corner.blog... [blogspot.gr] fills in the gaps many WW2 'books' just never get to or where not allowed to mention.
The US and UK where able to pick up a lot of skilled experts before, during and after WW2 - easy papers for many top staff at just the right time.
The real fear most authors seem to face is that the NSA and GCHQ did not want a wider group of crypto experts and academics understanding the ability to gather most of Germany and Japans codes in realtime. After WW2 the funding mix was difficult in the US and UK but the vision was the same - get everything in realtime.

Re:David Kahn and the NSA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46647493)

the uk also created pki...but they decided to make it private...unlike the mit rsa project

Re:David Kahn and the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46662065)

did you read the codebreakers update?

Yes there was the forward...but it also had over 200 pages of new info that was updated.

Garbo (2)

twocows (1216842) | about 7 months ago | (#46647903)

The most accomplished spy I know of was Garbo [wikipedia.org] , a double-agent who successfully convinced Nazi Germany that D-Day was just a diversion, among many other things. His story is fascinating.

The Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46647933)

Ironic that the breaking of the Enigma had more to do with social engineering, than pure science.
That was true 60+ years ago, even more true today.

Re:The Enigma (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46648379)

a precursor to kevin mitnick!

ignore the crypto...go after the person!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?