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From Our Home Page Archive
Home Page as originally published in
— This Month —
The First Signal Cipher
This is where it all started...
Not Every War Worth Fighting Is Worth
The Battle For Novorossiya Is Not Yet Our Battle
The Words Behind the Phrase "Unconditional Surrender"
- - - - -
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The First Signal Cipher
This is where it all started...
Back on our
Page we challenged your knowledge of how the telegraph
developed. Why? Because most of our readers are ex-Signal
Corps Officers, and what kind of Signal Corps Officer would
you be if you didn’t know what telegraphs were, how they
worked, or where they came from?
To challenge you we presented an
article entitled So You Think You Know Everything About The
Development Of The Telegraph? A trivia trove, the
article told you things few men know about how the telegraph
came into existence. As to its value, other than to make you
seem like the geek you are, especially if you are still buying beers at
the bar at the O Club and telling stories of the signal
sites you ran in Vietnam, it was useless. Still, it was
Signal Corps trivia, and for us men who bleed Signal blood,
This month we will try to top that.
This time we’ll take you back to a time before the telegraph
existed… even before signal flags were used to send
messages. In the process we will focus on a process
known as cipher… a new concept, at the
What’s cipher you ask?
OMG… if you
don’t know the answer to that, then maybe you never should
have worn those
crossed flags on your collar! So pay attention.... you may
Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language (some 2078+
pages long) defines cipher 12 different ways. The first two
ways we have no problem with. They read:
arithmetic symbol (0) which denotes naught, or no quantity
of magnitude; zero.
2. Any of the Arabic numerals or
As far as we are concerned, those two
definitions are o.k. It’s the 6th definition that we have a problem
with. It reads:
6. A secure method of writing.
with this definition, as this type of sloppy defining of
words is what leads to people misusing the English language.
While we might quibble that definitions 1 and 2 above should be reversed in priority,
it's definition 6—and others like it—that we have a real
problem with because these kinds of definitions imply that the purpose of ciphering is to encode
information. It is not. The purpose of ciphering is to change
the form of information or data from one substantive type
matter what you have heard or been led to believe, ciphering
involves nothing more, nor anything less than this simple
goal: to transform a piece of data or information
from one form to another. Why bother doing this? Typically,
the purpose is to allow the data or information to be more
easily or successfully transmitted, as opposed to encoded
so that it's value can be hidden from an observer (to either
the data itself or the transmission process).
all this fuss about the definition of cipher? Because we are
specifically trying to make the case that the purpose of a
cipher is not to encode (i.e. encrypt) information (and/or data) in a form
so that it cannot be understood or read by another, but to
merely represent (in a different form) the information being ciphered.
Again, the purpose
of ciphering then is to change the form of a piece of
information or data from its original form into some new
form… perhaps so it can be more easily communicated
than would otherwise be possible if the information were
left in its original form.
Ciphering and encryption are
two different beasts, each used for a different purpose…
albeit there is no doubt that to the untrained a ciphered
message is the same as an encoded or encrypted message.
With this as a foundation for our
discussion, we can now begin to look at the first signal
cipher ever devised.
The Great American Cipher
As we all know,
armies through the ages have used ciphers to communicate.
For armies, getting the message through is critical, and
since shouting from one place to another on a
battlefield leaves something to be desired in terms of
effectiveness in getting the message through, ciphering
messages was developed to improve the reliability of
transmission. But who were the first to cipher
messages, and how and why did they find the need to develop
this mode of communication?
Leaving aside ancient Roman or earlier
times, in more modern times... such as America in its
very earliest days... the communication experts of the
day were the American Indians... and they were the first to develop
and perfect ciphering. They did so by converting their
messages from spoken words into sequences of staccato beats
that could be sent by drum; more specifically, a drum made
from a hollow log.
In terms of whether this fits our
definition of ciphering or not, it clearly does. There is no doubt that when
you convert a normally spoken sentence into the disjointed
sound of a hollow log being
beaten with a stick you are en-ciphering the message
involved. The same is true if, instead of beating on the
side of a hollow log, you turn it on its end, cover the open
end of with a stretched piece of deer skin, and beat on that
area instead. In America the
Mohawk Indians perfected this routine,
and so for our purposes we give them pride of place in holding the position of
being the first
people to practice ciphering.
How do we know this is true? Have
you never heard of Drums
Along The Mohawk?
to how the Mohawk's need for ciphering came about, the book
is named for an actual trail that the Mohawk Indians
travelled in the pre-revolutionary period... back during the
days of the French & Indian Wars. The trail winds its way
through the center of the state of Massachusetts
(technically the Commonwealth of Massachusetts…
Massachusetts is not a state per se), from east to west,
through endless, dense New England forests… from the Cape
Cod seashore to the far west border with New York state and
the Hudson River, near a town called Pittsfield,
Originally a simple path cut in the
woods that the Indians would jog along to traverse the
state, over time colonial settlers used this same Indian
path to move by horseback along its length. With every
passing the path became wider and wider, until horse drawn
wagons could be pulled along it. When automobiles were
invented, the path was turned into a dirt road, getting
wider and wider still until eventually what was once a
simple Indian path through the New England woods became the
modern Route 2 highway that one can drive today. One of the more scenic
roads of America’s northeast, it is also the
original route used by the Mohecan and Mohawk Indian
tribes to support the French in their bid to toss the
British out of the new world. And it was that goal that
caused the Mohawks to turn to ciphering to perfect their
Not Every War Worth Fighting
is Worth Fighting
The Battle For Novorossiya
Is Not Yet Our Battle
When Russia seized the
Crimean Peninsula (technically, the
Autonomous Republic of Crimea) in August,
every red blooded American hawk began screaming
that Russia’s actions had to be stopped, even if
that meant going to war. When three months later
Putin followed up his taking of the Crimea with
overt encouragement, backing, collaboration,
support, assistance and arms deliveries to the
rebel separatist trying to hive off the eastern
part of the Ukraine… so that it could be made
part of Russia,
the hawk’s crying and gnashing of teeth got
Part of the answer is that
from a hawk’s standpoint the principles that
underwrite any nation’s independence, when
brought under attack as in the Ukraine’s case,
must be defended. And even if a case could be
made that the Ukraine didn’t deserve such
protection, most egalitarian self-governing
adherents would ask who Putin thought he was
marching around Eastern Europe grabbing
diminutive sized countries and sticking them in
Mother Russia’s pocket? On that basis alone they
would say, America should come to the rescue of
the Ukraine and, if needed, stand up to him
To some extent this kind
of thinking is good for the world; what they say
is true. But what if the countries and regions
Putin was targeting—and still is—were among the
more corrupt in the world, failed over the past
50 years to do anything of consequence to raise
the standard of living of their people, and
exist for no greater purpose than to serve the
needs of the corrupt oligarchs that run them? Is
that kind of “national independence” worth
fighting for? What too if a large percentage of
the people in those countries—the Ukraine in
particular—want to be part of Russia to begin
with? Does that count? In cases like this,
should America—or any other country for that
matter—be going to the rescue of what might be
considered corrupt, aberrant little countries…
like the Ukraine?
At the time of Russia’s seizing of Crimea it certainly
seemed logical to think that America should step forward and
act to save this “bulwark of democracy” from dismemberment
by the great dictatorial power monger Russia. And it seemed
more so when Russia loosed separatists to attack eastern
Ukraine. And even more so when Malaysian flight MH17 got
shot down. Today though, it is beginning to look more and
more like America dodged a bullet when it didn’t rush to
initiate a military confrontation over these events. In this
article we will try to understand why it may be that this
time it was in America’s interest not to use its militarily
strength to go to the rescue of the Ukraine. To make sure we
get the answer right, we’ll do that by asking two questions.
This page last updated 1 December 2014. New content is constantly being added.
Please check back frequently.
1 December 2014 –Surely you know
by now: Chuck Hagel resigned. Be sure to join us
next month when we look at the problems Obama having
appointed 4 Secretaries of Defense in 6 years is
having on the military. With no road map, rotating
leadership and constantly changing goals, what does
the future hold for our beloved military? Join us
next month and find out.
3 November 2014 –The association
needs a couple (maybe three) class coordinators who
intend to attend the reunion in San Antonio next
year... to verify addresses... to encourage others
to join them there... etc. So the question is, who
is going against all training to volunteer for the
"job"... Don't let the "silence" be deafening!!
Contact MAJ (R) Richard Green TODAY!
11 November 2014 –A new Class Photo
for OCS Class 66-04 has been sent in and posted.
This one has the names of all of the candidates
shown on it. Be sure to check it out!
1 October 2014 –COL (R) Earl
Tingle, Class 09-67, sent along a picture of our
fellow classmate Kent Sterling, who passed away in
April of this year. In it Pete Bradley is also
shown. Pete died in 2009. How young our fellow
classmates are, to die so soon! Such good men all.
Honesty, integrity, intellect, kindness, compassion,
true friends never to be forgotten, true American
heroes. The kind of men we all long to be, even in
these advanced years of ours. Honorable beyond
measure. See their picture here
Continued from left column...
First, the most basic one:
Should America have gone to the rescue of the
Ukraine, sending soldiers or military advisors if needed, to fight alongside the
Ukrainian army to stop Russian sponsored rebel aggression?
And then the more complex one:
If not sending soldiers, should America have at a
minimum acted to arm the Ukrainian military… by sending
military hardware to what all presume must have been a
poorly constituted army… so that, at a minimum, they would
have a fighting chance against both Russia and its sponsored
and fully armed rebels?
To answer these questions we need to spend a little time
understanding what the Ukraine is and what it is not…
especially from a military standpoint. Before looking at the
military though, let’s take a moment to reflect on how the
Ukraine gained its independence in the first place. This is
important, because it goes to the heart of what Russia was
doing when it took control of the Crimean Peninsula.
Crimea Come Of Age
though it may seem, the Ukraine was not always an
independent country. In fact, from the time of Stalin’s rule
it was caught up with and very much a part of Soviet Russia.
Things began to change for the Ukraine only after Khrushchev
came to power. While Stalin harbored prejudices against
Ukrainians and persecuted them in his Gulags at every
chance, Khrushchev saw them as having loyally served the
Soviet state for decades. Further, as first secretary of the
CP(B)U, Khrushchev gained intimate knowledge of the Ukraine,
staffed party and government posts with his own trusted
appointees and become familiar with the Ukrainian cultural
elite. With Khrushchev, Stalin’s anti-Ukrainian paranoia
disappeared, and the state came into its own as a trusted
friend of Nikita Khrushchev. Along with this blossoming, of
course, came corruption; fully constituted, organized,
high-level government corruption of the kind that only a
communist regime can create.
Who benefited from this corruption? To some extent the
leaders of the Ukraine; but to a greater degree Nikita
Khrushchev… who the Ukraine’s leaders owed a massive debt of
gratitude and pay offs to for having reversed the policy of
persecution that Stalin had mounted against this country and
its leaders. Either way, over the ensuing years Ukrainian
leaders learned at the feet of the best how to squeeze every
last dime out of their country... and pocket the money
themselves. To a large extent, they continue to do so today.
the booty and the spoils that flowed amongst this group,
Khrushchev’s feelings of kindness towards the Ukraine were
real, and so the relationship grew beyond the money side of
the equation. In fact, so well did the relationship between
the leaders of the Ukraine and Khrushchev develop that a
celebration was held in 1954 for the 300th anniversary of
the “reunification” of Ukraine with Russia. During that
celebration, with Khrushchev’s blessing, the Crimean
Peninsula was transferred from the Russian S.F.S.R. to
Until that moment, for over 300 years, both the Russians and
the Ukrainian people saw the Ukraine and the Crimean
Peninsula as two separate things… with the Ukraine being
viewed as a semi-autonomous state within the U.S.S.R, and
the Crimean Peninsula being seen as a fundamental part of
Russian, i.e. it was Russian owned territory. The act of
transferring Crimea from Russia to the Ukraine in 1954 then
was unprecedented. An act of pure kindness on Khrushchev’s
part, towards the people of the Ukraine who he held great
fondness for. From that point forward the Crimean Peninsula
would be considered a part of Ukrainian territory
To gauge the kind of situation this created and therein
begin to understand why Khrushchev’s actions in 1954 may
well give pause today to someone like Putin, the reader
might think in terms of our own relationship with the Panama
Canal Zone. While the U.S. never claimed sovereignty over
the country of Panama, there is no doubt that for the years
we held it we considered the Canal Zone as ours. To see the
analogy, think of things this way: in the Ukraine’s case,
the Crimea is the Canal Zone, Ukraine is Panama, and Russia
is the U.S.
For America and the Canal Zone, while some think that
President Jimmy Carter did well in giving the canal back to
the Panamanians, others think he made a huge mistake. This
is especially so today, now that China has a
contract to run the Canal Zone for the next 50 years.
Those who decry what Carter did say that not only is China
making billions off of a facility that should rightfully
belong to us (i.e. it never should have been given away to
begin with, and even if it was, we should be running it and
pocketing the money, not China), but also the Chinese
presence augers badly from a military perspective, as it
puts the U.S. at risk of not being able to use the Panama
Canal in a time of war.
Still Celebrating Pearl Harbor Day? Consider This...
The words behind the phrase "unconditional surrender"
This being December, in addition to celebrating Christmas a fair number of
Americans also pause to commemorate those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.
Even today, this perfidy goes down in history as a despicable action on Japan's
part... so much so that as America went to war against the Empire of the sun it
determined to annihilate it's very existence... by forcing onto it an
unconditional surrender. Yet while everyone knows that America's terms for
surrender of the Japanese government in WWII were "unconditional", few if any
know how those terms got that way.
Strangely, the requirement of an unconditional surrender came about somewhat by
accident. President Truman, in a speech shortly after taking office, made the
comment that America once had a General whose nickname was Unconditional
Surrender Grant. Truman said he fully intended to apply General Grant's view on
war to the war with Japan, and that the only acceptable outcome of that war
would be Japan's total and unconditional surrender.
Once said, his comments became law. From that point on the phrase unconditional
surrendered appeared in nearly every statement Truman made about how the Japanese
could end the war. As an example, on 16 April, 1945, he delivered his first
congressional address to a nation still traumatized by his predecessor's death,
only 4 days earlier. In that speech he pledged "We must carry on..." saying that
"both Germany and Japan can be certain , beyond any shadow of a doubt , that
America will continue the fight for freedom until no vestige of resistance
remains! ... America will never become party to any plan of partial victory! To
settle for merely another temporary respite would surely jeopardize the future
security of all the world. Our demand has been and it remains: Unconditional
Surrender!" To make his point, he chopped at the podium with his hand, raising
his voice as he stated that both Japan and Germany had "violated... the laws of
God and man."
After that occasion President Truman's use of the term Unconditional Surrender
appeared in a further 28 formal speeches, and, while some disagreed with the
severity of the terms, the requirement was echoed by his cabinet. Yet while the
phrase rang through America's hallowed halls of government, and received fulsome
press, one wonders how the world could be sure that the Japanese were
listening... and getting the message? Back during World War II, what exactly was
the mechanism for a warring nation to signal to its enemy its terms for ending
In the case of Japan the answer lies in the Potsdam Declaration.
As all remember, the allies met at Potsdam from July 17 to August 2 1945. Known
as the Potsdam Conference, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met at Cecilienhof,
the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in Potsdam, occupied Germany.
While its ostensible purpose was to allow the victorious allies to reach
agreement as to how to administer punishment to the defeated Nazi Germany, which
had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier, it is more famous
today for the agreement they reached regarding how to partition Europe. In that
agreement, of course, Stalin walked away with nearly all of Eastern Europe,
lesser importance at the time the end of the conference also saw the U.S.,
England and China issue a joint statement as to what terms they would accept
from Japan, if it wanted to sue for peace. Stalin, who was not invited to sign
the statement, was furious when he heard it was issued without the Soviet Union
being a signatory to it. His anger stemmed from his obvious intention of joining
in on the spoils of war, once Japan succumbed. From his perspective, he felt
that the Soviet Union should be given all of Hokkaido Island and the northern
half of Honshu. Considering that the Soviets hadn't at that time engaged in even
one battle against the Japanese, this was the height of chutzpah on his
part. Can one imagine what the world would be like today if Truman had allowed
Stalin to take half of Japan?
Either way, Truman was not about to allow the Soviets to do to Japan what it was
already in the process of doing in Eastern Europe. To preclude this, his
advisors drafted what became known as the Potsdam Declaration, a document that
set out in no uncertain terms what Japan had to do if it wanted to end the war.
In the Potsdam Declaration appeared for the first time the words
unconditional surrender as an official and prescribed statement from the
United States to the Empire of Japan, as to what terms it must accept before the
fighting would end.
Considering its impact on the world we live in, few people have actually read
this declaration to the Japanese. Also, considering the number of small wars the
world is filled with today, and how the governments that fight them have shied
away from issuing statements of demand to their enemy as to what they must do to
end the war, it is intriguing to read what America sent to the Emperor of Japan.
At a page and a half the Potsdam Declaration is short. We encourage you to read
it, and as you do remember each of the 111,606 who lost their life in fighting
the Japanese during World War II, the additional 253,142 who were wounded in
action, and the 21,580 that were subjected to inhumane treatment as prisoners of
war of the Japanese.
December Crossword Puzzle
Vietnam War Trivia
Join 2, 3 and 4 word answers together
as one complete word.
For answer key to this month's
see icon at bottom of page
 Hutchison Whampoa, the nominal
authority of the Chinese government that has the contract to
control the Canal Zone, controls not only the ports at both
ends of the canal, but also the surrounding areas the United
States used to control, including the former U.S. Rodman
Naval Station and the former U.S. Albrook Air Force Base.
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