World War I communication through Cryptography and spies

Communication between troops was meant to stay between troops, nevertheless, troops had to create a way of communication that enemy troops couldn't understand. Sending messages in a different language was easily translated, codes were the only way to send a message that without key; could not easily be decoded.. What else would make spying such a big deal?

1st Look at Codes in WWI

Trench Code were codes that many field armies used, simple substitution code were most commonly used. For messages of high importance, they added a mathematical encryption for added security. In retrospect, the poor strength of the majority of these codes brought the Choctaw language to importance.

1st Look at Spying in WWI

Since the war was being fought by many neighboring countries, having that mutual familiarity made spying seem like an irresistible way to gain advancements.

Conflicts of Codes.

The US Military codes were being broken too easily by Germans. During 1918, it was difficult to send a message in secret or obtain any sort of confidentiality. With the help of the German invention the "Moritz:" Germans were able to tap telephone lines, message runners were very often caught by the Germans, and codes were being deciphered too easily to even apply any sort or encryption.

So what would bring light to such circumstances?

Chanced from over-hearing a conversation between two Choctaw soldiers, a solution that would perplex Germans rose to grounds.

The beginning of WWI hadn't granted full citizenship to Native Americans, concocting a situation where if assimilation was enforced any further, this solution may have never presented itself. Nearly 26 tribes represented the 36th Division, contributing thousands of soldiers to fight with the allies.

The Choctaw language didn't cover or include words for more modern war weaponry; essentially creating a code inside of a code; furthermore strengthening the way of communication.

Some examples of their code words for unknown weaponry:

  • Little Gun Shoot Fast = Machine Gun
  • Big Gun = Artillery
  • Stone = Grenade
  • Scalps = Casualties

How it worked

While American soldiers weren’t necessarily learning the language, superiors placed Choctaw speakers at many field headquarters. Enabling a system where when needed to communicate, American’s would tell something the a Choctaw speaker, and they would transfer the message over telephone to the other destination; where another Choctaw native would receive, translate, and report the message to Americans. It even lead to the ability of transferring messages regardless if they were over heard or if the lines had been tapped into.


  • Color coded rockets.
  • Windmills were turned in such ways to transmit messages in Morse Code.
  • Electronic buzzer.
  • Developed by Germans, fire boxes on the sides of steam engines, they would open up and close in a such a manner to transmit messages via Morse Code.

Secrets within the sardines and cigars;

These are some events, examples of how the Germans implemented more secretive methods of transmitting messages, when codes weren't effecient are as follows

  • Germans used commercial documents to transmit codes and messages, to instances being when German agent- Ludovico Zender posed as a sardine merchant, in his invoices for orders of sardines and fish, he would include information on British shipping movements.
  • Another instance of commercial documents being used for purposes of transferring messages occurred when two German agents were captured while posing as Dutch cigar merchants. Within their suspiciously large orders for cigars, a code for whereabouts of British ships and their harbors was embedded. Their fatal error: failing to realize British seamen smoked pipes rather than cigars; that mistake placed them in the aim of a firing squad.

Aftermath in the century on:

It is fact that now we wouldn't think the act of British soldiers gutting dead fish from a river to uncover hidden messages implanted by the Germans would occur in present time; but put in a modern day perspective, the imprint it left on our culture still has an everlasting presence on us today. Think about it, almost anything as innocent looking as a shampoo bottle can be converted into something evil and harmful. It's similar to the aftermath of 9/11; TSA agents will check everything from the sole of your shoe to the cap of your bottle of lotion. WWI also helped Native American tribes get a better footing and helped to create a better attitude towards them after they tremendously helped the Allied Forces communicate more discreetly.


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