Friday, October 03, 2008

What If

What if the messages, encrypted with the German Enigma cipher machine, were never broken? What if the Germans realized their traffic was read by the Allies? It would have had devastating consequences if the code breakers in Bletchley Park were unable to break into the German naval radio traffic. Britain and Europe depended completely on the lifeline across the Atlantic.

All Signal Intelligence, gathered by codebreaking, was called ULTRA, and it was used with the utmost care to avoid the source being revealed. Action was never taken unless the ULTRA information was backed up by other sources. If the Germans would notice that their radio traffic was insecure, they would have changed to other encryption systems or improve the existing ones. They could keep their plans and strategies secret again, which would at least prolong the war for several years.

How would a Second World War until 1947 be like? Many more casualties, to begin with. Maybe no second front in the West against the Germans, occupied with fighting Russia. This might bring Nazi victory in the East. Britain could have fallen, without the crucial supplies over sea. If Hitler was still in power in 1947, would the US have used the atomic bombe on Berlin? Or would the Germans, inventive as they were, already have their own weapons of mass destruction?

Chris Andrew visited Bletchley Park and interviewed several veteran code breakers. It's an interesting view on how things would have been without the Bombe to break enigma traffic and without the Colossus computer to break the German High Command messages. Visit the BBC radio program What If and listen to the 30 minutes interview.

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