WWII Cipher Machine As Used On D-Day
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 09 June 2024

To celebrate the 80th anniversary of D-Day there's a new addition to the line up of cryptographic machines on Martin Gillow's VirtualColossus website - a 3D simulation of the Hagelin M-209 cipher machine, used by the US military primarily in World War II, though it remained in active use through the Korean War.


About the size of a lunchbox at 3.25 × 5.5 × 7 inches (178 × 140 × 83 mm), the M-209, designated CSP-1500 by the US Navy is a portable, mechanical cipher machine. It was designed by Swedish cryptographer Boris Hagelin in response to a request for a device suitable for use on the front line, and was manufactured by Smith & Corona in Syracuse, New York, USA. 

The basic operation of the M-209 was relatively straightforward. Six adjustable key wheels on top of the box each display a letter of the alphabet. These six wheels comprise the external key for the machine, providing an initial state, similar to an initialization vector, for the enciphering process.

According to Crypto Museum:

"The cryptographic strength of the machine was reasonable for its time, but was not perfect. As of early 1943, it was assumed that German codebreakers were able to break an M-209 message in less than 4 hours. Nevertheless, it was considered sufficiently secure for tactical messages which, due to their nature, would be meaningless after several hours. This is why the M-209 was later also used in the Korean War."

Virtual Hagelin M-209 is a free online 3D simulation of the M-209 where you can learn to use the machine to encipher and decipher secret messages and to find out about it's history. This video is a short introduction: 

The simulation is based on a 3D scan of a real M-209 in the collection of the Deutsches Museum in Munich Germany. It has a fully working and animated interior mechanism and with the  tutorials provided anybody can use it to encrypt and decrypt messages.


More Information

Virtual Hagelin M-209

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 June 2024 )