26 historic Enigmas found in Spain

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Fri Oct 24 09:50:10 EDT 2008


Spanish discover cache of 26 Enigma machines

Franco's 'secret weapon' tracked to army HQ

By Lester Haines 

Posted in Science, 24th October 2008 10:03 GMT

Spanish newspaper El País last week tracked down 26 examples of Franco's
"secret weapon" against Republican forces in the country's civil war - a
cache of perfectly-preserved Enigma machines hidden for years in a "gloomy
office" in the army's main headquarters in Madrid.

Nationalist forces led by Franco acquired their first ten Enigma machines
from Germany in 1936. While Hitler "had already decided to offer Franco his
full support" in the Spanish civil war, this didn't actually extend to the
full-fat military versions of Enigma, and his Iberian ally had to make do
with the "vastly inferior" commercial "D" model.

The German High Command was apparently concerned that careless Spaniards
might let the Republicans get their hands on an Enigma. Indeed, even
Germany's Condor Legion - dispatched to Spain to aid the Nationalist cause -
also reportedly used commercial Enigmas in the field.

Nonetheless, the Republicans were never able to decipher Enigma
communications between Franco and his top brass, and the machines' success
led to further acquisitions. Commander Antonio Sarmiento, charged with
training operators in Franco's Salamanca headquarters, enthusiastically
reported in 1936: ?To give some idea of the level of security these machines
offer, it's suffice to say that the number of possible combinations is an
astounding 1,252,962,387,456.?

The total number of machines eventually bought by Spain is unknown, although
estimates vary from 30 to 50. They were not withdrawn from service until the
early 1950s, which offers the rather agreeable possibility that the British
were able to read the Spanish dictatorship's military communications while
Franco remained blissfully unaware that his Nazi sponsors' device had been
laid bare by Bletchley Park years before. 


El Reg is, of course, supporting Bletchley Park and the National Museum of
Computing with our splendid Enigma t-shirt. Get it before Cash'n'Carrion's
free shipping offer ends on 31 October.

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