Enigma machine distribution

The German military used an encoding machine called the Enigma. How far down the chain of command were enigma machines issued? I suspect it was issued at the division level but maybe it went down to the regiment. I know individual ships like cruisers and U-boats got their own, along with craft that were specfically tasked with regularly reporting back to base like weather report ships. But would smaller craft like E-boats get one?

From what I’ve seen & read the Enigmas were used all the way down to ordinary soldiers in the field. Sending & receiving communications is ‘busy work’, not something an officer has to be bothered with. The Germans were so confident that the Enigma was secure they didn’t maintain an ironclad ‘Enigma Corp’ of operators or anything like that. They didn’t think a sloppy user could compromise it in any way. Which turned out to be untrue. Operators would often first send their daily code sheet in plain text against regulations, and the Allies made great use of this.

I can’t see an E-boat having an Enigma device. It’s possible that the E-boat squadrons and their HQ had their own lesser codes that just required a code book printed on paper that dissolves on contact with paper. Look, during the Vietnam war, US pilots would report their altitude by saying something like “Base plus 12”. At their mission briefing, they’d be told that “Today, your base is 10 thousand feet”, so “Base plus 12” = 22K feet. Not a sophisticated code, but it could be enough for the NV people listening to US transmissions won’t have a great altitude to tell the VN anti-aircraft crews.

I’ve just finished watching an excellent 2-part documentary on amazon prime.

“Breaking The Codes; The Rise of Enigma is the first of two programmes, which using rare archive footage and exclusive interviews, takes you to the heart of a war that was fought out far from the bombs and shells of any battlefront. A war that involved the brilliant skills of mathematicians and chess players. The war of the codebreakers.”

This video is wonderful. Lots of primary footage and interviews with the people who were there. It starts with codebreaking during WWI and the first of the machine-created codes and goes right through the Battle of Britain and Bletchley Park.

To answer your question, there were hundreds of enigma machines-- on all ships and submarines. The German army, air force, and navy had slightly different protocols and some slack discipline on the part of the users of the machines actually gave some clues to the codebreakers.

Can’t recommend this documentary enough if you have any interest in this subject.

Part 1. Amazon.com: Breaking The Codes - The Rise of Enigma : Norman de Lacy Evans, William Woollard: Prime Video

Part 2. Amazon.com: Breaking The Codes : Derek Jacobi, Alun Armstrong, Blake Ritson, Brian Johnson, Norman de Lacy Evans, William Woollard, Norman de Lacy Evans: Prime Video

I suspect that any craft that went out on a patrol or mission and returned in short order would not have an enigma since they could get new orders when they returned and use premade code phrases like Ranger Jeff describes during their mission.

Thelma-Lou, I’ve watched and read so many Enigma documentaries, I’ve probably seen the one you describe. An interesting part is how as time passes and each new documentary is made, the importance that mathematics played is reduced as folks reveal all the “real world” means of intelligence gathering. Things like raids to capture equipment and code books, exploiting the bad habits of german cipher clerks, and plain old spycraft were the real backbone of defeating enigma. You can design a completely unbreakable code and it doesn’t mean shit if your personnel can be bribed into selling their code books.

It’s funny how many of the bad habits the german code clerks had are now a familiar part of life on the internet. Not using your initials or your kids birthday for a password is well known now. But in the 40’s no one would really think of that. Except the Brits. And it cost Germany dearly.