Captured Same

Bill Palmer w_a_palmer at BELLSOUTH.NET
Mon May 17 14:31:10 UTC 2010

Have we ever discussed on this list the most notorious misapprehension of
"padding" in encrypted messages?  The one where Admiral Nimitz, during the
Battle of Leyte Gulf, sent an inquiry to Adm Halsey asking "Where is Task
Force 34?".  The coding officer padded this communication with "The World
Wonders", and the officer on Halsey's staff decrypting it left it in,
thinking, apparently, that it was part of the text, altho the procedures in
place (if they were followed) should have removed any ambiguity about what
was text and what was padding.

The phrasing of the message as presented to Halsey, when viewed in the
context of the then-critical tactical situation, reportedly threw him into a
fearful tantrum, thinking that Nimitz was gratuitously criticizing him for
having his forces so far out of position. OT...Halsey did, in fact, commit
an unpardonable blunder (by leaving San Bernardino Strait unguarded), but
this apparent departure from the exquisite politeness with which flag
officers communicate with each other became a very big story. Again OT..many
believed that Halsey, altho an inspirational leader, was simply over his
head in command of a fleet.

Bill Palmer

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jonathan Lighter" <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, May 17, 2010 8:54 AM
Subject: Re: Captured Same

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Captured Same
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> My recollection is that the use of "same" to mean "it" was a common
> affectation in formal business correspondence, perhaps into the 1960s.
> Certainly the pilot's message has never struck me as oddly phrased, just
> concise and neatly rhythmical (esp. in the "sighted" version).
> Another famous message from the same period was "SEND US MORE
> JAPS," attributed to the besieged garrison on Wake Island.  It supposedly
> showed spunk.  Released from a prison camp after the war, both Navy and
> Marine commanders at Wake denied they had ever authorized such a
> ridiculous
> message.
> Decades later it transpired that the story had likely developed from an
> encrypted dispatch sent by Ensign Bernard J. Lauff.  Encryption practice
> included beginning and ending the real message with "padding," and Lauff
> had
> apparently begun with the words "send us" and ended with "more Japs."  Or
> so
> they say.
> JL
> JL
> On Mon, May 17, 2010 at 7:19 AM, Bill Palmer
> <w_a_palmer at>wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Bill Palmer <w_a_palmer at BELLSOUTH.NET>
>> Subject:      Re: Captured Same
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> The report was from a US Navy plane, I believe.  Whether the sub was
>> actually sunk is open to question.
>> On a TV show, sometime in the 1950's, maybe it was "I've Got a Secret",
>> the
>> originator of the communication was the guest. (It was time when WWII
>> vets
>> were no older than, say, Gulf War vets today). He explained that, for a
>> reason I don't recall, communications such as the one in question were,
>> for
>> that particular operation, to be phrased so that the initial letter of
>> each
>> word was to be the same...hence the alliteration.
>> Bill Palmer
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -


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