Code Talking using the Vigenere Cipher Method

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Code Talking MILITIA COMSEC Viginere Cipher

Throughout the Nation today the Militias are forming. They are ceasing to be rag tag strangely dressed guys and gals sitting around discussing what they will do when TSHTF. Today’s Militia are becoming tactically proficient, hard charging, maneuver units with a mission. The more people you put under arms the more communications are needed. Secure Communications that is.

Militia COMSEC

I was having a one on one with a friend last week when the subject of Comsec came up. COMmunications SECurity is the word in discussion. We were trying to hash out how millions of Militia members could all afford the new Self Encryptable radios. We both agreed that would be a non-starter. So how will we talk? He favored using small IPAD or Laptop computers to encrypt the text then handing it off to radio guys to transmit either by voice or by Morse Code. Here is what I said:

During the 60’s and 70’s our Spec Ops teams in Nam used Morse code as the basic communications links. They used one time pads and Tri-graphs in conjunction with protocols for how and when to transmit. You can hardly ever be identified while listening. He had a puzzled look on his face so I told him what follows.

To send information on an open frequency you have to break the data down to the smallest possible groups. In the one time pads there were 5 groups of 5 letters on each line. If the operator is sending 20 words per minute at 5 letter per word it took 1 minute for 100 characters to be transmitted. It takes about 2 minutes of sending in those days to get an 8 digit grid square for your location. That is about 2 HE rounds from a cannon sitting 5 to 10 miles away.

To keep the signal short they used a system where the operator keyed the morse digits into a small tape recorder. Then the recorder would play back the signal at 7 times the original speed. Kind of like recording at 1 7/8″ per second and playing back at 7″ per second. This still left a lot of time on the air for it to start raining steel. So high power transmitters from out of range would clutter the frequency up until the last second. Then the team transmitted their burst of generally 3 minutes, and the interference kicked back in on cue. Still we lost a few.

The enemy though would generally prefer to intercept the message and try to decrypt it than waste ammo in a vacant by then lot since the operator would climb a tree, drop an antenna out,send the data, pull up the antenna, and slip down and beat feet before the rounds were due in. They could sit in a thicket later and receive their answer on another frequency.

Code Talking using The vigenere Cypher Method

The key to all this was the vigenere. The vigenere was a device that dates back to the Greek and Roman wars period. The encryption was comparable with a computer running 16bit program.

Its main advantage was it could be used without any equipment. Most of the Operators had this vigenere in their memory and only needed the two variables to write their coded message.

The vernier is a 26 by 26 chart. You start on the left top with the letter A and go down the left side with the alphabet in order to Z. To go across the top for the same A to Z to create a 26 by 26 chart. succeeding lines each followed the plan till you had 26 rows of 26 letters. When you ran out of letter before you reached the end you started over with A and on. This is the vigenere.

Vigenere Cipher

The second part is a one-time Pad. This pad consists of a series of three lines of 5 letter 5 group spaces. You start on the first line writing your message on the spaces. If it goes beyond the 5 groups the next letter goes on the first space of the next three lines. Most operators break the lines groups by drawing a line.

Once the message is written you start on the Second line of the first group and begin inputting from the encryption sheet on the onetime pads. These encryption sheet pads though can be replaced by a shared document. In Nam the teams used John 3-16 when the pads were lost or compromised, and they needed to make contact for more. The spaces are filled in to the end of the message.

To encode you find the letter on the first line first space on the left side of the vigenere. Then come across the line to the letter on the second line. Then go to the top line and write that letter in the first space of the third line. This is the letter that will be transmitted.

Decoding is done in reverse. However you can swap if you want to so long as all know about it. The key is the three locations. Good operators could read the clear message and send the encrypted code in their heads. Not a good practice in case you screw up.

This system is good because all of this can be done in your head in case you are in a POW camp, Jail Cell, or behind enemy lines. If they make you talk it matters not because once you miss a check in the encrypt key is declared compromised and destroyed. In your head is only the vigenere and John 3-16. When that is used all know it is a possible agent and take the appropriate actions to correct the situations.

So as we prepare for the coming bad times we need to learn a rudimentary knowledge of Morse code, and know how to make a vigenere and a Tri-graph. Knowledge of John 3-16 should not be left out of our skills.

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About Ron Hardin

Ron Hardin has 27 years military experience in communication electronics, and has completed over a hundred FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) courses, and is CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) trained

9 thoughts on “Code Talking using the Vigenere Cipher Method

  1. Let’s begin communications at the Grass Roots level.

    Communications for the purpose of communications is a hobby. The preparation, operation, and and execution are OPSEC (OPerations SECurity) violations at best and treason at worst. So never create Military like networks! However groups of similarly employed, residing, or interested peoples who use their personal radio equipment to exchange information are a treasure chest of opportunity.


    Is as valid today as it was during the Second World War. Those words need to be etched on every patriots forehead. This is not possible to accomplish when everyone spends half of their lives speaking on phones, texting messages, sending and receiving emails, and answering Face Book and Twitter posts. To be safe we need to learn to compartmentalize our minds.

    Just as Communications for communications is a red flag to OPSEC so is dramatic reductions and increases in quantity or timing. These things need to all be addressed as Communications Modes, not curtailed. There is no sound greater that instant QUITE.

    This was my purpose for writing about the Vernier. If I call about 15 people a day, email 4 or 5 more, answer three or four Twitter or Face-Book posts, and suddenly stop! The silence will be deafening. The alarms will go off and I will probably see a strange SUV passing the house later in the evening.

    We each have a signature. The algorithms in place on our phones, data, and video communications can pick us out of a stack of user accounts and link them for cross-references. The act of not being there will raise more flags than what we say. Soooooo.

    If I am sending you an email on a bill in Congress that effects Gun Control it will probably be less useful than 18 places in the text where letters were separated from their words or words misspelled. If those 18 letters were vernier derived and not just poor typing the message may be pinged, but the use would not.

    If my neighborhood watch uses FRS Radios to report suspicious cars, people walking around who don’t live there, and reporting of strange noises no one will note that on a distant radio morse code is being sent. You can’t trace listeners sitting quietly on the frequency recording, then decrypting and sharing on CB after re-encrypting, but the message will still go through.

    While our movement may someday acquire high power encrypted radios like the real military has for now we will be limited to using what is available. That is CB in the High Frequency bands, and Family Radio Service, and public Radio, and a bit of backstopping on the business bands.

    This is where I always here the GO GET A HAM LICENSE advice. I agree, but never use a Ham frequency for militia business. The hams will call everyone but the local dog catcher. They aren’t traitors. They need those frequencies for emergencies. So if you buy a Ham radio spend the extra bucks to get the ability to reprogram them for other frequencies.

    The best networks will be the ones you use for Community Watch, Farm coordination, hunting coordination, or radio club membership. They won’t start suddenly, or move to some place they weren’t head before. The mannerisms won’t scream military. They will be just more hick talk, hood speak, or gossip talk, and quickly ignored by the ears.

  2. We must establish a national communications network ASAP. The dissemination of information, pre & post event, will be crucial to our success. We must consider operating frequencies and procedures that enhance our capabilities through accessibility not limit them with licensing and government red tape.
    I have forwarded some ideas to my regional commander. The sooner we establish the network the better. Practice will reveal holes, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, all if them can be overcome though.

    • HF would be the ideal medium, but may limit coverage areas due to licensing and equipment costs.

  3. We all need to be careful and watchful. Big brother is watching everyone. When the shit hits the fan, it will be We the People who will be targeted.
    Semper fi

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