It is not often that a famous author of books dealing with the subject of secret military codes, ciphers, and cryptography writes to me asking for assistance in some research. In fact this is the first time such an author has written - about codes and ciphers, that is. Mr. Fred B. Wrixon contacted (see below) me after finding World War II communications articles posted on RF Cafe to ask whether I had any verifiable knowledge of a fabled communication system between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill that went by the name POTUS-PRIME. Other than recognizing that POTUS is President of the United States and PRIME is Prime Minister, I had to admit to possessing no useful knowledge. It reportedly involved the Bell Labs A-3 speech scrambler that was superseded by the SIGSALY system.
If you happen upon this post and are able to assist Mr. Wrixon, he would not only be most grateful, but is offering compensation of some sort for your troubles. His e-mail address is included in case you need to contact him directly, or if you prefer, you may send a note to me and I will forward it to him.
September 28, 2015
Dear Mr. Blattenberger:
A free-lance writer from Ohio who is new to your Internet site, I first wish to Congratulate you on its curiosity-creating content. It is my noting of some information about the U.S. Army Signal Corps therein which has led to this contact today. I hope that you shall find this topic worthy of your consideration during your obviously busy involvements.
Briefly, I have tried to learn the facts behind the words that soon follow from presumed archival data clarifiers in America as well as Great Britain. However, only fragmentary and conflicting "garbles" extending to Net "ether" have resulted. Very rare replies primarily say -- no staff time available.
Doing research for an unusual communications' history book, The topic of my puzzlement is a Second World War system called POTUS-PRIME. This term has been applied to the exchanges involving President Roosevelt's and Prime Minister Churchill's radio phone (proven vulnerable Bell A-3), diplomats' couriers, and special postal messages. However, it was also used with a now arcane to missing method involving the Signal Corps (and the U.S. Navy) and a marine cable (Western Union equipment for the Atlantic links as best as I can confirm). This cable method bridged the security gap between the Bell A-3 (ca. latter 1930s to 1941) and the then futuristic Signal Corps' SIGSALY radio phone developments ( active ca. mid 1944).
Here are the connections that I am trying to verify: An F.D.R. message originating at the White House -- (1) begins with one of his staff at either a Map Room or nearby OPEPS phone (where is the latter set up?); (2) the communique goes by phone line to the War Department (W.D.) [Pentagon being built]; (3) reportedly Navy staff (for F.D.R.sending) at the W.D. use an ECM Mark II cipher machine for encryption; (4) a W.D. telegraph line to New York connects at the Western Union (W.U.) terminus; (5) presumption that it is pre-linked to enter the land-to-sea site cable system with no W.U. civilian staff involved; (6) Atlantic crossing to Britain's Porthcurno, or Scotland's Oban, or similar coastal cable location; (7) telegraph land line to perhaps London's Faraday Complex; (8) then telegraph line transfer to perhaps the Selfridge Department Store's annex (other later-developed equipment such as SIGSALY there); (9) very uncertain message transfer to P.M. Churchill's present-day being reported "many" security sites (a.k.a. bunkers) around London; (10) therefore a mixture (?) of teletype, phone, and even courier possibilities, and with the U.S. Embassy reportedly (unclearly) involved as well.
The U.S. Army and Navy alternated Stateside (e.g. W.D.) and overseas duties at these communications sites (e.g. attaches applying the Army's SIGABA cipher machine for P.M. Churchill's "sends" to F.D.R., at the U.S. Embassy in London). The Signal Corps used the above-mentioned SIGSALY, and also the SIGTOT system for teletypes too. Because I did not notice U.S. Navy communications' history materials at your site, and did notice a time-frame-connected Signal Corps' publication, I chose to make my inquiry's link to you in that way.
Not taking your expertise for granted. I shall be willing to make a mutually acceptable arrangement for remuneration should you so require it. I would also be quite pleased indeed if you would ponder the possibility of posting the specific technology-linked text of this inquiry and my remuneration agreement offer at one or more of your Social Media access sites. I am not currently involved in any of those types of communications. Thank you again for you consideration and continued Best Wishes with your many endeavors!
Fred B. Wrixon
September 29, 2015
Dear Mr. Blattenberger,
Your rapid response and generosity regarding posting my inquiry are quite special and so very welcome! Indeed, all of my previous e-mailed words to you and these today are based upon far more London "fog" or D.C. "foggy bottom" research experiences than I had once thought possible. However, since I've checked books reportedly containing "all" of the facts about President Roosevelt's and Prime Minister Churchill's correspondence, and subsequently found nothing mentioned about the sea cables, I have learned not to doubt any possibilities of "seventy-years-plus secrecy!!"
Regarding my 9/28 e-mail's details, except for the typo of a "T" after my words about an unusual communications' book, I believe that I have been able to put together logical connections for the exchanges. I certainly don't claim any exact finality and very much seek clarifications.
In conclusion, you hopefully shall find the following facts to be a fascinating curiosity. Obviously involved archival sources in the U.S. would not verify the White House / War Department / New York City land line-to-cable site connection. British and Scotch coastal museums would not confirm what U.S. company (ies) was (were) providing the marine cable equipment that arrived at their locations. British phone and telegraph history sites would only reply in snippets concerning the full links of their coastal-to-city-bunker-embassy connections.
Due to my ongoing practice of not wishing to fault individual data repositories because of staff persons' varied expertise and archival regulations, I have herein not mentioned specific institutions' names. However, whenever I find any reason whatsoever to commend you and your Internet site, I shall do so with nanosecond speed !!!
Posted October 14, 2015