Sunday, May 31, 2015

WW2 | Bletchley Park's U.S. (AT&T) Component

Photo of Tom Cillins w Bletchley Park Cap on
The late Sgt. Tom Collins, aka "Sam Scram", who was 
the only person to accompany the Dragon 1 computer 
to Bletchley Park in 1944-45. Photo by JT Marlin, 2010.
At the BookExpo America in New York City this week I picked up a book by William Bynum called A Little History of Science (Yale University Press, 2012).  It has nearly two pages on the use of computers in World War II, notably at Bletchley Park in England.

I have been comparing these pages with what I remember of The Imitation Game and two YouTube videos I just watched on how the German Enigma and Lorenz computers worked and how their codes were broken.

The Enigma worked on a 25-letter alphabet, whereas the Lorenz cryptography machine worked with the 32-character Baudot code. Hitler deliberately used the different Lorenz encryption for his top command.

The Bletchley group first cracked the Enigma code on July 9, 1941. But the sheer volume of messages required them to be constantly seeking more mechanicals ways of processing the coded messages that they received.

The report presented in A Little History of Science is consistent with the YouTube stories in giving virtually all the credit to the Bombe and Colossus machines - the Mark I and finally the Mark II, of which there were ten at Bletchley by 1944.

These machines worked through the Tunny machine (see p. 609 of the book to which a link is shown) to decrypt German messages.

The second YouTube video cited above ("How their codes were broken") references Bell Labs, which until the 1940s was in New York City; it later moved to New Jersey. Bell Labs was at the ] time a division of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T), half-owned through its Western Electric manufacturing subsidiary. Researchers working at Bell Labs are credited with the development of radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, and several popular programming languages - C, S and C++. Eight Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work at Bell Labs.

The late Tom Collins (nicknamed "Sam Scram" at Bletchey after a popular radio character) of Springs, N.Y., worked for Western Electric, and personally accompanied the Dragon 1 cryptography machine to Bletchley during World War II.  I am wondering where the Dragon 1 and Dragon 2 (both of which he worked on) fit into Bletchley's history. Was the Dragon 1 generated by Bell Labs and then transferred to Chicago for operation? Just wondering.

Here are the top six links I got typing Tom's name and "Bletchley" into a Google search:

  • 1. Sgt. Tom Collins at Bletchley - Warriors-Families Jun 9, 2013 
  • 2. T Collins Bletchley Park - BOISSEVAIN NEWS USA Sgt. Collins brought the Dragon 1 
    Cryptography Machine to Bletchley Park The Newmanry was a section at Bletchley Park... Middlesbrough; Tom Collins; Barbara Cooper, Ealing;...
  • 4. Breaking Teleprinter Ciphers at Bletchley Park: An edition ...
    Colin Burke, Pam Camp, Ray Chase, Tom Collins, David DeGeorge, Gina Douglas and John Parmenter, Ralph Erskine, Frederika and Stephen Freer, David ...
  • 5. 'Taps' In A Small Town - Forbes 
    Forbes. Jun 1, 2006 - Tom Collins, 84, marches in his old soldier suit. ... but during the war, he was one of the few Yanks at Bletchley Park, where the British code ...
  • 6. Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park
    F. H. Hinsley, ‎Alan Stripp - 2001 - ‎History. 'Sam Scram', see Collins...
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