The Story of U-250...

June 9th, 2012  

Topic: The Story of U-250...

On 30 July, 1944 at 1242 hrs U-250 attacked the 56-ton Russian submarine chaser MO 105 with a G7e torpedo, at the north side of the Koivisto strait in the Gulf of Finland. The Russian boat was destroyed easily (19 dead, 7 survivors), but the explosion brought other Russian boats to the location.

At 1910hrs, Russian 'Oberleutnant` Aleksander Kolenko, chief of MO 103, got a sonar contact from U-250 and dropped five depth charges. U-250 was not heavily damaged, but because an air-bubble track was visible on the water MO 103 dropped a second series of five depth charges. One of these exploded over the diesel room. A large hole opened in U-250's hull and she sank. Kapitänleutnant Werner-Karl Schmidt along with five other crewmembers in the control room managed to escape at the last minute.

Needless to say the Russians were thrilled to have a German U-boat captain alive and a sunken U-boat in shallow waters. Russian divers soon discovered that the boat lay at only 27 meters under water and had only a slight list of 14 degrees to the right. A large hole above the diesel room was observed. Two large air tanks, 200 tons each, were transported to the area and the Russians worked behind a smokescreen to raise the boat.

The Germans and the Finnish did what they could to prevent the boat, which was equipped with the new secret T5 acoustic-torpedo, also called Zaunkönig (Wren), from falling into Soviet hands. Finnish coastal artillery and German torpedo boats made frequent attacks on the salvage site, but to no avail.

Finally, in September 1944 the Russian raised U-250 and towed it between air tanks to Kronstadt for examination. On 15 Sept, 1944 U-250 was brought into the dry dock at Kronstadt.

The former Commander, Kptlt. Schmidt, had to go first into the now dry boat, as the Russian believed some explosive charges might still be on the boat. The 6 survivors then spent some years in Russian captivity.

Now oddly enough while the story of U-250 is interesting it really isn't the point of this post.

Throughout the years since world war two we have heard the stories of Bletchley Park, Enigma and ULTRA but we have heard almost nothing of Soviet attempts to read German radio traffic primarily because it appears nothing is known.

However in recent years fragments of information have come to light but for the most part Soviet decryption remains a mystery, it is assumed however that they captured intact enigma machines and code books, they certainly had a wealth of information from spies (chiefly John Cairncross) to confirm any decrypts.

Which brings me back now to U-250, as the submarine was raised, repaired and re-entered service with the Soviet Navy as TS-14 surely there is at least the strong possibility that German naval codes would also have been recovered and that the Soviet Union was reading German codes by the end of the war.

Anyone have any opinions on this?
June 10th, 2012  
Sounds reasonable. If the Capt survived captivity someone might have had a opportunity to ask him.
June 10th, 2012  
I am not suggesting that the Captain of the U-250 gave away the secrets to the Russians as he was captured in mid-1944 and there are suggestions that the Soviets were reading some communications by the Battle of Kursk a year earlier, what I am suggesting is that with the availability of captured machines and codebooks such as that which they must have got from the U-250 along with corroborating data from spies at Bletchley Park they must have at least made progress in breaking the codes.

The Russians must have been getting equipment from the Wehrmacht in reasonable quantities as early as the 1941 winter offensive, combine that with "vigorous" interrogations of captured operators and the volume of high quality mathematicians in Russia you would have to assume that they were capable of reading Enigma.
June 10th, 2012  
I don't the Russian had any qualms about making a person talk if they needed the information, so I would imagine that most of them talked and talked freely
June 10th, 2012  
I don't think the Russians could have had acces to the German code lists in the U-250 because they were printed with water-soluble inks.

Codebreaking and Secret Weapons in World War II
June 11th, 2012  
Originally Posted by MontyB
I am not suggesting that the Captain of the U-250 gave away the secrets to the Russians as he was captured in mid-1944 and there are suggestions that the Soviets were reading some communications by the Battle of Kursk a year earlier, what I am suggesting is that with the availability of captured machines and codebooks such as that which they must have got from the U-250 along with corroborating data from spies ....
I was thinking he might know if the Enigma Machine was destroyed or not.
June 11th, 2012  
Originally Posted by George
I was thinking he might know if the Enigma Machine was destroyed or not.
Apparently the U-250's Enigma machine was recovered...

Here is a comment from Peter Calvocoressi an Intelligence officer at Bletchley Park.


The question has been asked by some authorities, “to what extent during World War Two [WW2] were the Russians [Soviets] also able to “read” German Enigma encrypted radio traffic?

Calvocoressi writes:

"They [Russians] must have captured Enigma machines and cypher books and must have supposed that we did so. They [Russians] were not lacking in mathematicians and chess-players capable of appreciating what was involved in the breaking of cyphers."

Beesley [author of “Very Special Intelligence”] writes:

"According to Capitaine de Vaisseau C. Huan, the Russians raised U.250 after she was sunk in the Gulf of Finland . . . and recovered her Enigma machines . . . Admiral Golovko [Russian] . . . in his memoirs that he was aware that Admiral Fraser [British] knew in advance of the German intentions to send Scharnhorst to sea . . . which raises the interesting question of how Golovko came by this knowledge."

Personally, I have not seen anything yea or nay on the subject!

The Russians seem to be very good at keeping the “reading” of Enigma a secret, if indeed they were able to!!

It is not unreasonable to infer that the Russians were able to “read” German Enigma encrypted radio traffic, and do so in a manner to produce actionable intelligence.

From a Russian web site: [this particular web site is for a Russian private concern that produces and sells cryptographic algorithms and equipment for the commercial market.]

"Ciphering machines started to be used about this time: 'Enigma' (Germany) . . . 'Purple Code' (Japan). They had one typical weakness for all of them: the period of a key was about 10 days, and later the messages could have been easily decrypted by analysts, which now is a well-known fact: 'Enigma' had been broken by American and British specialists, the 'Purple Code'; – by American and Russian code-breakers in 1939 – 1940."

That the Russian was able to “read” the Japanese Purple crypto machine was news to me. I have not seen this referenced anywhere else. My understanding was that the Americans and the British each independently arrived at a cryptanalytic solution to Purple, but NOT the Russian.

[see David Irving's article on the British reading of "Purple" independently of the Americans!!]

That the Russian was ABLE to “read” Purple indicates to me that the Soviet military [probably the GRU], had an apparatus of "mathematicians, chess players", and cross-word puzzle solvers at the ready and working. If you could “read” Purple, you PROBABLY COULD “READ” ENIGMA!! The ability to find a solution to the “reading” of one type of cryptographic machine means an ability to find a solution to the “reading” of other machines of different types, given time, manpower, brainpower, etc.

[Russian mathematicians have the reputation as the best in the world!! Having good mathematicians is a must in creating and “breaking” cryptographic systems!]

NOW, go to this web site to see a description, complete with graphic simulation of the Russian electro-mechanical rotor cryptographic machine, the Fialka. Analogous to the Enigma, but much more sophisticated in design. MUCH MORE resistant to cryptanalytic attack??!! Was introduced by the Soviets in 1965 and NOT retired until the 1990’s??!! Download the simulator and try it. OUTSTANDING. You too can be a Russian cipher clerk!

[this graphical simulation and entire web site is just astounding. Information regarding Soviet/Russian cryptographics in the past would have been obtainable ONLY through the most dangerous and difficult of espionage operations!!]

What is most interesting to me is that the Soviets/Russians incorporated into the Fialka, from the start, what is called a “Magic Circuit”. The inability, "no letter of the alphabet could ever be enciphered as itself" as seen in the Enigma has been observed and eliminated in the Fialka, and done so from the start. This tells me the Russians had examined captured Enigmas and found “weakness” at several levels? “WEAKNESS” taken into account when designing their own crypto machines of a more sophisticated and resistant nature than the Enigma.

"One wire (13) is connected only to a diode that is in turn connected to the mechanical 5-bit plain-text encoder (under the keyboard). This line is used to override the coded letter and replace it with the original letter. When the current (through the drum) reaches pin 13 of the reflector, no signal is returned and the plain-text letter is used instead. This results in a 1:30 chance for a letter to be enciphered as itself."

"a letter to be enciphered as itself". An A in plaintext CAN appear as an A in the ciphertext.

[please recall the Enigma, that "no letter of the alphabet could ever be enciphered as itself. Z might turn into any letter from A to Y but never did it become Z."

And from Suvorov, how the Soviets exploited foreign cipher machines:

[here describing the compromise of an American cipher machine.]

"The cipher machine which was obtained, or more accurately two of its basic blocks, enabled the technical services of the GRU to decipher thousands of American radio communications which had been intercepted earlier but remained undeciphered. They also enabled them [technical services] to study the principles of cipher work in the American Army and in the armies of its allies and by exploiting the American principles, to create more complete Soviet examples."

* You study the strengths of the American machine and incorporate those strengths in your own designs.

* You study the weaknesses of the American machine and see if similar weaknesses exist in your own machines, and eliminate as possible.

My intuition tells me that the answer to the question - - "could the Russians read Enigma??" - - is YOU BETCHA!!
June 12th, 2012  
The official web-site of the Russian External Intelligence Service gives information about "Abbey" operation

It's in Russian but you can translate it with Google.

I got it from here. Did the Russians break the enigma code too?

Similar Topics
heartwarming lawyer story
DEA/FBI story
The story of Uncle Bob
The story of Uncle Bob
My story is short, but you may have a story worth reading