This section is provided for those who would like to record lighter moments from their activities in the crypto field. Any submissions might be included here or with the machine descriptions. This will be done at the web master's discretion. Send any submissions to: jerry.proc(at)sympatico.ca
ALVIS (BID 610)
In the tape relay center, where I worked, the TROL equipment was maintained by technicians from the Postal Service.
The "techies" were only cleared to work with zeroized equipment, so when one of the Alvis machines needed more maintenance than we in the center could provide by changing boards (since we had a goodly supply of the most error-prone of them in the vault). We pulled the patch cords and placed a phone call.
The wait for the technician seemed like hours while traffic for the circuit piled higher and higher, and the supervisor's (my) blood pressure climbed in tune with the heaps of papersheets and TTY tapes mounting on a table next to the dead circuit, but in reality, the tech arrived within 15 minutes as he was supposed to.
I explained to the tech what had been done, and he mumbled something about the power supply, went over to the balking machine and hunched down in front of it, starting to wire it up in the one-to-one test configuration, while I went back to the task of finding alternative routes for the stalled traffic.
At that moment, one of our younger (and foolish) Lance Corporals got an idea for a prank. He went to stand behind the tech, who of course neither heard nor saw him, (anybody who have worked in a tape relay center at full blast will know why) and screamed "BOOO" at the top of his voice! The hunched-down tech gave a yelp of surprise and went flat on his ample behind, taking half the rather old and brittle patch cords with him in the process. It turned out that we did NOT have enough of those particular boards in the vault.
Result: Circuit down for 6 hours, and one hell of a chewing out for the "funny" guy - I did my share of it, but what I had to tell him was like calm fatherly words of advice when compared to what the HSO (Headquarters Signals Officer) had to say about his misguided past, his ugly present, and none the least, his probable future which, the major believed, would be very short and exceedingly nasty.
Bjarne Carlsen <bca(at)fakse-ldp.dk>
Black Crinkle Paint
Early crypto equipment such as the KL-2900 had a black crinkle paint finish, just like the old Teletype equipment. At the depot level we had a supply of this paint in quart cans, that was used very little,
because the equipment was becoming obsolete. Our janitor noticed this and "borrowed" a few quarts one-week end to paint his car. He was unaware of the crinkle feature of the paint as it dried and
became a legend in his own time among a shop full of technicians. [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
Blowing the Drawers at SAC
My first assignment was at Dyess AFB in 1969. We had a small 465L shop with combined crypto and computer maintenance. The 465L was the system SAC used for communications in the late 60's and 70's and comprised of two 8 foot tall racks of drawers.
Personally, I had one little thing happen while I was working alone one weekend. The 465L had an alarm that would go off when it got too many line hits. Normally we would hit the reset button and clear it. But on this one evening it kept beeping every 5 minutes or so. The last time I went in to reset it, I noticed an over voltage light was illuminated on one of the racks of 465L systems. We had two operational racks with one spares rack.
I then contacted the on-call computer tech who had been drinking a little. When he arrived he verified the problem and then told me to hand him a transmit drawer. I pulled the corresponding drawer from the spares rack and handed it to him. He pushed it into the rack and every light on the 465L came on. In the darkened room it was quite beautiful. We managed to keep the problem quiet for a few days, until the Chief of Maintenance heard we were ordering transistors and diodes by the gross. Moral of the story is never plug a Transmit A drawer into a Transmit B slot in a 465L system. We had found out the hard way that the drawers were not keyed and could inadvertently be inserted into the wrong slot.
At the same air base, I got to be friends with a Sgt. Rose in supply. We were always joking around. One day I tried the old Fallopian tube gag. I filled out a parts requisition for a Fallopian tube, part number, U812. A few days later I get a call from Sgt Rose. He needed to know who manufactured the tube. We could keep from laughing and had to tell him the joke. He wouldn't talk to me for a month after that. I don't know how many people he had asked about it trying to find one.
[George. Email: glipscomb(at)cox.net]
Destruction of Obsolete Cryptographic Equipment
While employed at the US Army Cryptographic Depot during the 1960's, we destroyed numerous obsolete COMSEC devices. Since we were a tenant organization of the Lexington Army Depot, we had them construct a concrete block building (burn pit) in a remote location about sixteen foot square, eight foot high, with one small door and no roof.
After dismantling the crypto devices and placing them in large wire containers we would take them by truck to the burn pit. Inside the pit we would stack old oak skids about six to eight feet high and throw the crypto junk on top. The depot maintenance shop would always furnish 55-gallon drums of waste fuel oil, which we would pour over the pile until it ran out of the small door. Once ignited, we would remain on site until the fire was out and often-molten aluminum would run out the door from the crypto device frames. Everything went well until one day the depot maintenance shop furnished drums of waste paint thinner, which while we were pouring it on the pile accumulated vapor fumes within the oak wood pile. When we lit the fuel running out the door there was a tremendous explosion, blowing some of the junk crypto devices out of the burn pit. Being young we were standing around laughing, when down the dirt road from the depot maintenance shop came this full bird colonel, with no hat on and the stub of a cigar in his mouth. If you have spent any time around the military, you know officers do
not roam around outside without headgear!! He was chief of the depot maintenance shop, mad as hell and wanted to know what we were doing blowing out the windows in his building. After explaining he calmed down some and said never let it happen again! It didn't!
In 1982 I was stationed at NAVCAMS WPAC in Guam. As a new guy, they put me in the message center, and I started working in the SEATICC room. One day I went to sit down at the off-line Model 28 teletype position to type something up. I touched the metal cabinet and it shocked me. Well, I wasn't sure if that's what happened or not, so (yes) I touched it again and sure enough got another stinger! The cabinet had a short in the electrical cord that was plugged into the 110 volt wall outlet.
So I went out and got one of the maintenance guys to come take a look at it. He unplugged it and opened it up and worked on it for a little while, and then closed it back up. He said he thought it was fixed, but couldnt be sure. He asked me if I would touch it again to check it, since he had on steel-toed boots, it wouldnt work for him to check it. Me being the "boot" that I was, I again touched it, and it gave me one more "stinger".
Well, now my right arm was going numb up to my elbow and I began wringing my arm as I went out into the main message center area. It just so happened that our C.O. had just come in for a walk-through or something and there I am in pain. The comm chief asked me what's wrong and stupid me, I told him what I had done. The Captain looked a bit unamused, and I went back into the seaticc spaces. The comm chief chewed on me later about it.
Today though, its funny!
[Via v/r Douglas Carney CTO2/USN; E-mail: alcatel3554(at)hotmail.com]
KLK-7 Depot Painting
The KLK-7 rotor basket received the most wear and tear, so at the depot level it required repainting. After removing the nameplate and window frame hard wear, you had an aluminum shell, painted gray on the outside and anodized inside. It was very time consuming masking off the inside shell, until one day one of our electronic technicians had a bright idea. After sanding, an elongated balloon was inserted in the shell and blown up, for shell priming and painting. It was very effective, but a little funny looking to see these shells hanging on a clothes line in the paint shop waiting to dry! [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
In 1965, I was assigned to SAC headquarters to battle staff as a crypto repairman. We would preflight crypto units on " the bird" before it was scheduled to take off. On my first trip to the plane, an experienced tech told me to get a 7" screw driver out of the tool box. He said " ya can't miss it, its the red box over the controller desk". Unwittingly I opened the box and that's when the alarms went off and lights were flashing. Security came up the gang way with guns drawn. Seems this red box held the war plans when in flight and this was the usual initiation to Looking Glass. (Looking Glass is the code name for an airborne command center that provides command and control of U.S. nuclear forces in the event that ground-based command centers are destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable. It is currently operated by the U.S. Navy.)
In the underground at SAC HQ, crypto maintenance was in room U102D. We could monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic simply by plugging into the crypto unit. I was going off duty one night when I was met by an elite guard strike team, who turned me around and ordered me back to my station. I went back to the shop where all hell broke loose. It was the capture of the USS Pueblo. I was ordered to the command post to run up some crypto equip. It was a frightening experience. When I got back to the shop one of my fellow airman was missing. The sarge told me that he was taken away by the AP's. Seems he had monitored the circuits and printed out what was going on. Worse yet, he decided to show it to the guards so they could read it for themselves. Never saw him again and don't know what ever became of him.
USAF 1965-1969, 1976-1998
With BID610 (Alvis) replacing the labour intensive BID30, night shifts were usually peaceful and sometimes outright boring. One Airman amused himself by trapping the resident mice, tilting them into a metal waste bin. Intrigued to find out if he was catching the same one(s) he tagged a few with Hellerman Cable Marker Sleeves on their tails and then let them go!
An unconfirmed report, from another Comcen department, said a tailless mouse had been spotted…
Security Lesson 101
After trading in my crypto technician "screwdriver" for the pen of a Communications Management Specialist with the US Army, I became a civilian staff action officer. As part of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations (DCSOPS) I would brief the Commanding General and his staff on the status of various communications projects being installed within our area of responsibility.
One such briefing lead the commanding general to direct that I provide this information and his decision to our intermediate commanders on an expedited basis. This kind of direction meant that you get it done NOW and furnish documented proof of accomplishment. Due to it's content the document I drafted was classified SECRET for electrical transmission by our Communications Center. With this kind of priority (and to polish my own apple a bit) I decided to hand carry the message myself to the Communications Center, a job normally accomplished by my secretary. I presented the message to the sergeant on duty and requested he assign a date/time group to register the message as proof of transmission. After completing this action I requested he give me my file copy and I would return to my office. NOW THE FUN BEGAN!
* The sergeant asked me if I had a signature card on file with him as required by Army regulation, for his release of classified message copies?* I said no but I was the originator of the message and had just given it to him.
* The sergeant said yes he knew that.
* I said you can see that's my signature on the message file copy and I can recite its contents.
* The sergeant said yes he could see that, but did I have a signature card on file?
Needless to say, with deflated ego, I had to return to my office empty handed and send my secretary to retrieve the copy!! Don't mess with the military mind- set. [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
When the Army Crypto Depot facility moved from Arlington Hall Station to Lexington Army Depot, we became a tenant organization. A huge concrete block warehouse with twenty-foot ceilings had the usual bank vault steel door with combination lock installed. Rows of forklift accessible steel racks were installed to hold pallets of crypto equipment, boxes of rotors and keying material. Our maintenance shop and repair parts supply section were located within the same area. For after hour's security, around the wall perimeter motion detector transmitter and receiver domes were installed because of the high classification evolved. When the Armed Forces Courier Service trucks arrived however, large doors were opened for use of forklifts. It never seemed to fail that at this time birds would decide to check out the interior!! False alarms at night became so numerous that security guards ignored them and we were forced to shoot the birds with pellet guns. [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
The OD That Didn't Listen
This story was submitted by Michael Valentine regarding his grandfather, Michael J. Maiorano who served in the US 28th Signal Corps during WWII. In this story, Michael refers to his grandfather as "Pop".
Before Pop went over to Europe he was stationed in Richmond, Va, the East Coast HQ for the Antiaircraft Artillery Unit. The HQ was located in The Mosque which is now called The Landmark Theater.
Pop was in the code room when the OD (Officer of the Day) tried to get into the code room. That particular OD was not cleared to be in the code room. Pop told him he had to leave. The OD said he was the OD and he was coming in the room. Pop drew his sidearm on the OD and told him to "Get the Hell out of here" or he was going to be shot.
When Pop's shift was over he was summoned to the CO's office. The CO asked Pop what happened and Pop told him exactly what happened. The CO asked Pop what he would have done if the OD refused to leave the code room. Pop said he would have shot him. The CO said, "That is all. You are dismissed."
As Pop was walking down the hallway he noticed light under the door of the OD. Pop knocked on the door and the OD said, "Enter." As Pop entered the office the OD jumped up from his desk and backed up. Pop said he just wanted to apologize for their interaction earlier in the day. Pop said when the OD saw it was Pop coming in his office the OD looked like he was about to crap his pants.
Mike Valentine <mike-valentine(at)comcast.net>
The T-37 and the 'Snake'
In the early 1980's we still worked with one-time-tapes on the Siemens T-37 in our Comcentre. As a main station, we had lots of point- to-point teletype lines with other garrisons. Having so many messages going in and out at the same time, we sometimes even didn't had the time to tear off the previous message before the next one arrived. It was stress all round! Sending in cipher mode required synchronization of the one-time-tapes on both sides. Often the synchro was lost and you had to ask for a new tape segment to start from. Needless to say, we were short handed.
So we found a way to make things easier. If long messages (sometimes 30 ft of perfo tape or more) arrived that were destined to all stations, we made sure that all the stations and the one-time-tapes were ready and passed the incoming paper perforation tape through all tape readers, a device called T-send, connected to the T-37. One by one, all tape readers were started and all T-37's were 'chained' together. This was a great way to send one message to all stations at once...if all went smooth. Unfortunately, many of the mechanical T-37's, which were very solid, often had contact problems. One weak point was the connector between the machine and the T-send tape reader. If there was a bad connection, the T-37 started to do operate erratically and you had to stop the machine. Since the T-37 would always shake the whole table on which it was placed on, a bad contact was always ready to ruin your day.
And there you were, with your nice looking 'snake' (imagine the paper tape waving from one T-send to the next) and in the middle of the 'snake' one T-37 with the "Monday blues" , operating erratically and creating a traffic-jam. Normally this would force the operator to stop all the other T-sends and break the chain transmission. Unfortunately we often didn't hear a lone T-37 going crazy, because of the loud noise produced by the other twelve T-37's (collectively they produced about the noise level as a Jumbo Jet). One by one, all pieces of the 'snake' were broken by the other T-sends that kept on pulling the jammed tape.
Here we were, trying to save some time by sending to all stations at once, but ended up with an incoming tape that was automatically shredded into numerous pieces by our great system! We had some dry gummed paper, the same width as the perfo tape, that we used to run through a machine reperforator by pressing only the LTRS key. With this all-holes-punched, fully perforated splice tape, we glued the pieces of the damaged tape together in the hope to reconstruct the original message. Do I need to say that we lost more time on reconstructive surgery than we gained time on using the 'snake' system. Nevertheless, we kept on using the snake system for many years in the hope that none of the machines would stop... and there was always one who did stop.
Dirk from Europe. E-mail witheld.
They Delivered What ??
While serving as a civilian staff action officer in the 1970's for the 7th Signal Command at Fort Ritchie, Maryland a very humorous thing happened. Several times weekly we would brief the Commanding Officer and his staff concerning status of our on going communications- electronics projects. For some unknown reason our Logistics Division had requisitioned an item and a diesel locomotive was delivered on a rail spur, which entered Fort Ritchie near the officers club. The day after delivery of this huge mistake I entered the briefing room, only to find the Commanding Officer wearing a locomotive engineers white hat, with blue stripes! To the chagrin of a bird colonel Deputy Chief of Staff Logistics (DCSLOG), this hat was worn at briefings for several weeks until the mistake corrected and the locomotive returned! Like a sore thumb, during this same period, the locomotive remained parked beside the officers club. We never did find out how the federal logistics system could issue such an expensive item without verification of the requirement.
Submitted by George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net
While employed at the US Army Cryptographic Depot during the mid 1960's, a modification was implemented to replace the magnetic key pick-ups with photocells. Untold man-hours by our technicians were used to accomplish this task and hundreds of small bar magnets were made surplus. For a number of years, I had dozens of these magnets for the children to play with.
Almost immediately an order was issued for us to destroy all the KO-6's, as no longer needed. Now the complete TSEC/KO-6 consisted of six huge steel bays full of electronic devices and it's associated wiring. These we dismantled and burned. It also included it's own (Unclassified) test equipment consisting of a Dumont Oscilloscope, RCA Senior Volt-Ohmyst multi-meter and signal generator. After coordination with our Officer Maintenance Chief, it was decided that the test equipment would be distributed (for personal use) among our military & civilian technicians. [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
TSEC/KY-1 Servo Motors
During the 1960's as the KY-1 was nearing the end of its useful life cycle, the US Army Cryptographic Depot was directed to refurbish the units for storage. For some reason Uncle Sam always seemed to rebuild/refurbish obsolete cryptographic equipment just prior to destroying it! At that time I was serving as the civilian final inspector of all cryptographic equipment/systems processed by the US Army Crypto Depot. The KY-1 was an early tube/valve device with a power supply controlled by a mechanical variable transformer (Variac) driven by a servomotor. Now this servomotor was a quality built, crypto unique item with precision bearings, about the size of a flashlight "C" battery. Part of the final inspection process included reviewing the equipment work order for completeness and I happened to notice that every KY-1 was requiring a replacement servomotor. This didn't cause me any problem as our parts supply section had a large stock of the servomotors, which would be destroyed along with the equipment!
Our electronic technicians at that time were senior noncommissioned officers and civilians, with years of experience and all were trained on at least several crypto systems. I also happened to notice that during our lunch period many technicians were busy rewinding the armatures on the "OLD" servomotors! Then it dawns on me.....
SLOT CAR RACERS were a big hit during this period and local competition held every weekend at several model shops in town. These technicians had experimented with rewinding the armatures until they had the only game in town! It takes a lot of fortitude to rewind an armature about ½ inch in diameter and 2 inches long, plus soldering to the brush segments!!
[Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
In May 1966 as a US Army civilian cryptographic repair technician, I received 400 hours of instruction on the TSEC/KY-8. Because the KY-28 and KY-38 were part of the same NESTOR family, in November 1966 at NSA I received 160 hours of instruction on these two devices. Electronically they were all the same, except for various keying methods and physical configuration. The KY-28 airborne unit also had a mechanism that was spring- loaded and would zeroize (clear) the keying unit permuter contacts should the aircraft crash. Since we were working with a KY-28 removed from it's case, the instructor warned us about this hazard! I can remember as a child my grandfather saying, Georgie don't touch that piece of metal as I just finished welding it and it's HOT. Yeah right!!
I had no more than stuck my finger into the middle of the KY-28 than ZAP, it zeroized! As the class watched, the instructor took the KYK and re-keyed the device, releasing my digit. On the top of my index finger six to eight little blood droplets formed from the module pins sticking through the printed circuit board. Quickly I wrapped my handkerchief around the incriminating evidence and tried to ask a half intelligent question about something else, to change the subject! I still believe a good technician needs to be inquisitive, maybe just a shade more careful! [Via George Mace e-mail: gmace8(at)comcast.net]
This one appeared in an "in house" DCN magazine in the early '70's ( UK Defence Communications network)
The C in C was due to make an inspection of the ComCen. All was cleaned dusted and polished to the usual high degree for such an event. He entered the Crypto room, impressed with the effort made, As he went to exit the room he noticed a clock above the door with a hand missing. He turned towards the train of officers & NCO's for an explanation when the duty technician saved the day....
"In here, Sir, even the time is secret"
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