Friday, October 28, 2016

Canadian participants at Second JAC Conference, 13 March 1944

As I mentioned in this earlier post, this 13 March 1944 photograph showing the attendees at the "Second JAC Conference" provides an interesting glimpse into the extent of Canadian participation in Allied signals intelligence planning during the Second World War (click photo for larger version).

According to GCHQ, JAC stands for Japanese Army Cypher (or possibly Japanese Army Communications). The conference was held at Arlington Hall Station, the home of the U.S. Army COMINT organization, the Signal Security Agency (SSA), and ran from 13 to 24 March 1944.

Of the 42 attendees at the conference (35 of whom are shown in the photo), six were Canadian. One other participant, British cryptanalyst F.A. (Tony) Kendrick, attended in his capacity as head of Canada's cryptanalytic agency, the Examination Unit. By my estimate, 13 other Britons, including GC&CS Director Edward Travis, and one Australian were also in attendance. The remaining 21 attendees were Americans. The head of OP-20-G, the U.S. Navy's COMINT organization, and two other U.S. Navy officers were present for the photo, but the great majority of the attendees were army officers, along with six civilians.

This version of the photo identifies the Canadian-related participants by number, as follows:

1) Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Drake. Drake was the officer in charge of Canadian Army SIGINT activities. He later became the first director of CSE (or CBNRC as it was then called), serving in that role from 1946 to 1971.

2) Squadron Leader Chester A. Ronning. Ronning was the commander of the RCAF Discrimination Unit, a small traffic analysis unit that worked closely with the Army Discrimination Unit. The son of missionaries, Ronning was fluent in Chinese. After the war he became a prominent Canadian diplomat. This National Film Board documentary about his life briefly mentions his wartime activities (at roughly the 41:30 mark).

3) Major Douglas D. Cameron. Dr Cameron was one of the original members of the Examination Unit (XU), joining as a civilian in June 1941. In 1942, he left the XU to join the Canadian Intelligence Corps and subsequently worked in the Army Discrimination Unit.

4) Captain J. Ross Mackay. Mackay, another child of missionaries, learned Japanese while going to school in Japan. Like Cameron, he was in the Canadian Intelligence Corps. In 1945, he was sent to Australia as commander of the intelligence section of 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group. After the war, he became a well-known Canadian geographer.

5) Major Ralph H. Pick. Pick was an engineer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and probably attended as a technical advisor. He later became second-in-command of 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group.

6) Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin deForest (Pat) Bayly. Bayly was also an engineer, overseeing communications and encryption systems for British Security Coordination (BSC). He probably also attended the conference as a technical advisor. Like BSC director William Stephenson, Bayly was a Canadian, but he spent the war years working for British intelligence and thus was not representing Canada at this conference.

7) A. F. (Tony) Kendrick. Kendrick was a British cryptanalyst who joined GC&CS before the war. In August 1942 he was lent to Canada to serve as director of the Examination Unit, replacing the first British cryptanalyst lent for this purpose, Oliver Strachey.

The presence of so many Canadian-related personnel at the conference was undoubtedly due in part to the proximity of Ottawa to Washington, which made it quick and safe for Canadian personnel to travel to Arlington Hall. But it also is evidence of the degree to which Canada had been integrated into the wider Allied SIGINT system and its personnel permitted to participate in Allied SIGINT planning.

Canada's role in Allied SIGINT decision-making would certainly have been small, in keeping with the minor contribution that Canadian SIGINT activities made to the overall Allied effort, and it would appear that not all of the decisions made were to the Canadians' liking. (The plan to shift some of the work on Japanese weather codes to Canada was kiboshed at the conference.) But according to Kendrick, Drake, at least, found the results "quite satisfactory".

He and the others undoubtedly considered it an important achievement just to be at the table.

The full list of attendees in the photo is as follows (front to back, left to right): Colonel John H. Tiltman, GC&CS; Colonel W. Preston Corderman, SSA; Commander Edward W. Travis, GC&CS; Major General Harry C. Ingles, OCSigO; Brigadier General Frank E. Stoner, OCSigO; Colonel Carter W. Clarke, G-2; Mr. William F. Friedman, SSA; Commander Joseph N. Wenger, USN; Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Drake, DU; Lieutenant Colonel Earle F. Cook, SSA; Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin DeForest (Pat) Bayly, BSC; Major Philip Lewis, GC&CS; Lieutenant Colonel Solomon Kullback, SSA; Mr. Leonard James (Joe) Hooper, GC&CS; Captain J. Ross Mackay, DU; Colonel Frank W. Bullock, CBI; Lieutenant Colonel Telford Taylor, G-2; Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Sinkov, CBB; Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Marr-Johnson, WEC; Major Geoffrey G. Stevens, GC&CS; Captain Stan R.I. Clark, CBB; Major Joseph J. Martan, CBI; Lieutenant Colonel W. Edward Crankshaw, GC&CS; Squadron Leader Chester A. Ronning, RCAF DU; Major Douglas D. Cameron, DU; Major Ralph H. Pick, DU; Colonel H.M. O’Connor, GC&CS; Major W.M. Allen, GC&CS; Major William Perdue, G-2; Colonel Samuel P. Collins, SSA; Commander C.A. Ford, USN; Commander Wesley A. Wright, USN; Mr. F.A. (Tony) Kendrick, XU; Lieutenant F.E. Maloney, SSA; Lieutenant Colonel Harold McDonald Brown, SSA.

GCHQ lists the other attendees at the conference as "LtCol S Clark (CBB); Maj K J Maidment (GCCS rep in BSC NY), LtCol W M Allen (WEC), LtCol H Sayer (GCCS); US Army - LtCol J E Slack, C H Judson, J J Morton". Two of these names look like they might be duplicates of people depicted in the photo, but I'm going to assume GCHQ knew what they were doing in listing them here.

Update 16 March 2017: The information above was updated based on this article ("The Second Japanese Army Cipher Conference 1944"), posted by GCHQ on 16 March 2017. The GCHQ article also contains some interesting details of the banquet that was held at the conference.


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