III. The Teams

TICOM teams were flexible in organization and composition, ranging from as little as two officers up to over a dozen depending upon the nature of the targets they were searching. Often, additional officers were attached or detached from the team as events developed in the field. Teams were supported by a number of enlisted drivers and radio operators, and were often assisted by intelligence and signals officers from the Army areas they were searching. Each TICOM officer underwent two months of additional training at Bletchley Park to be designated as a TRO (Target Reporting Officer).
            Each team faced challenges in coordination, communications, transportation and other liaison issues in the field. Although TICOM teams were issued special ID cards and orders from SHAEF, these teams had to be coordinated with the local Army and Army Group authorities. The top-secret ULTRA classification of their mission meant that only a small number of field officers at the top understood the nature of their work. Extensive coordination was required, with stops in Paris first for liaison with the Signals Intelligence Division of the European Theatre command, and then further stops to introduce themselves to each Army Group or Army headquarters in whose area they were assigned to operate, and upon whom they were dependent on for clearances, berthing, transportation and substance. Communications for the teams was a concern because an unknown transmitter sending encrypted communications from behind Allied lines would set off alarms among their own communications security organizations. This problem was solved by borrowing radio operators from Special Liaison Units/Special Communications Units (that worked the ULTRA intelligence circuits) to transmit TICOM messages along their established frequencies. Encryption was via one-time pads.

TICOM Team 1 in the field.

            The physical security of the teams was also a concern. The first teams were on the road just prior to the German surrender, and since the TICOM officers were all ULTRA cleared they needed protection from capture. Even after the surrender, the chaotic conditions within Germany meant that German forces were still armed and occupying many of the target areas. For instance, a party from Team 6 was among the first allied troops to enter Flensburg, still under the control of Donitz’s Nazi government. Field security and the troops necessary to seal off and protect enemy crypto targets were provided by attaching the TICOM team to 30 AU, a Royal Marine Commando that had been formed in 1942 under the supervision of Commander Ian Fleming, RNVR, to act as a special intelligence assault unit. TICOM teams in the American sector often drew upon local signal intelligence companies and battalions for assistance and support. 

The collection effort began in April 1945, when six teams, with representatives from the British GC&CS (Government Code and Cipher School), the US Army’s ASA (Army Security Agency), and the US Navy’s OP-20G, drawn largely from the personnel at Bletchley Park, deployed to the continent.  The original operation, planned earlier that spring, called for these TICOM teams to jump into Berlin with the 101st Airborne division, seize the headquarters of German Signals intelligence agencies, and then hope the paratroopers could defend them until relieved by an American armored column from the west.  Changing circumstances on the ground by March canceled this operation. For these desk bound and largely scholarly professorial types in the cryptologic service, this change of plan must have been a relief.