By Māris Goldmanis
This is a continuation to the article Before Enigma: the Early Numbers Stations Monitors. The original article was a story about numbers stations monitoring during the period of 1983-1989 as seen in the popular radio magazine The Monitoring Times. Monitoring Times was journal that came out from 1982 to 2013 and covered a large spectrum of themes covering radio listening. DXing, bad scanning, ham radio, radio equipment, and numbers stations. For a long period of time the journal included special column by famous Havana Moon or William (Bill) Thomas Godbey, KB2OOR who was one of the earliest dedicated numbers stations monitors, before organized numbers stations monitoring groups appeared. MT also uncovered a numbers stations transmission site at Remington, Virginia used by NSA. The Monitoring Times did not stop following numbers stations after 1989. Recently site American Radio History upgraded their collections of the MT issues adding issues from 1990s. Studies of these issues shows that MT editors and readers still paid attention to the numbers stations and other shortwave radio oddities. The 1990s was the time when first numbers stations monitoring group Enigma emerged on 1993. This article is not about Enigma group and their findings as it’s a separate story. This is a story about numbers stations monitoring beyond Enigma as it was seen on MT magazine. The period of time is 1990 to 1999 a post Cold War decade with great numbers stations activity.
MT came out 12 times in a year. Every issue they had monthly utility station log made from reader submissions. Numbers station logs were always included. Most common logs were 5 digit Spanish numbers station coming from Cuba. One instance 6660 kHz was reported as live reading (“shouting into mike”) There was also sightings of 3 digit English numbers station with ten tone signal in the beginning. One interesting report was the story about German numbers station on January issue that transmitted on 7533 kHz at 2347 UTC in which during the transmission the female announcer coughed in the middle of the message. “One wonders what that has done to the intelligence operations across the world”. At the end of the January issue the closing comments were specially referred to the numbers stations. The author recalled the MT’s discovery of encrypted messages sent from Virginia and Florida by US government agencies. Author concluded that it’s no more a secret to anyone that these stations are used for espionage purposes by intelligence agencies. However, author noted that so called single -letter high frequency beacons (SLHFB) still remains a bit of mystery. These single letter beacons still present today are endless Morse transmissions of a single letter such as “K” or “P”. As reported the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and US military agencies tried to establish the origin of these transmissions. Most of them were traced to within soviet borders. But the purpose of these transmissions were still mystery back then and theories were made that they are navigational beacons for soviet submarines or marker buoys for soviet trawlers, propagation sounders or even part of the soviet navy readiness command. The question of their use is still unanswered, but it is for a fact that they are used by Russian navy. The MT March issue featured news story about US Vice Admiral Jerry Turtle the Navy Command and control chief who was talking about how to prevent another “Walker spy disaster”. He was talking about John Anthony Walker a soviet spy from 1968 to 1985 posing as United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer and communications specialist helped the Soviets decipher more than one million encrypted naval messages. The Vice Admiral suggested rapid deployment of new generation of computerized message scrambling machines. The scramblers, also known as cryptological machines, translate radio messages into seemingly chaotic lists of numbers — lists that are theoretically impossible to understand when intercepted. The high rank naval officer acknowledged that US Navy uses such machines and MT called a “New Spy Proof Radio Communications”. MT also included story from DX enthusiast Pat Murphy from Virginia who claimed to hear a large influx of numbers station transmissions on 6825 khz and 6840 kHz during US invasion in Panama. These frequencies were long suspected to be used by US intelligence or military were normally quiet on the weekdays, but became increasingly active during the US assault. There was also interesting information about US Air Force forced to abandon the night frequency on 5810 kHz that was used for NASA’s ground tracking communications and call–ins, because of “spy numbers” station that appeared on 5810 kHz and 5812 kHz.
The May issue contained log submitted by Peter from West Germany who heard German numbers station on 3370 kHz indentifying at the start of the message “Hier ist DFC37” and on 4010 kHz “Hier ist DFD21” The site of the transmissions was in Frankfurt, Germany and belonged to German PTT (Posts and Telecommunictions). However, the organization hosted by PTT remained in the dark. The station he heard was later assigned by Enigma as G14 and used by German Federal Republic or West Germany. March issue also reported Colombian clandestine Radio Patria Libre on6310 at 0105 with a numbers transmission. Rather than the usual numbers groups, these were “strings” with one of the longer ones containing 34 digits. The June issue contained a story about US Navy intelligence ship Pueblo, that was captured by North Koreans on January 23, 1987. The ship contained KW-7 a US Navy RTTY encryption box that was connected between the teletype machine and turning unit. Back then despite warning sing’s “The Enemy Is Listening” the commanding officers in naval base in South Korea told not to worry as even the enemy had KW-7 they still need a key list. A key list was a card or a piece of paper containing a bunch of numbers for setting up an encryption unit. It was a grey box that was slightly smallerthan the teletype and had a removable front panel. Once removed, it revealed a patch panel and a mass of numbered jumper wiresthat were inserted into numbered holes. Each week the encryption unit had to be rewired and the keylist was like a wiring list. If two jumpers were out of place, the unit would malfunction by sending random characters to the TTY. They received a keylist each week by a courier which was sealed in an envelope marked “SECRET.” Back then the personnel was not told that North Koreans had taken hold of such device.
According to information submitted by readers on July, Czechoslovakia was still using numbers stations even after anti-communist revolution that took place year before. The transmissions were on regular basis on 4885 kHz at 0445 UTC and repeat on 0530 UTC. Also there were reports of Chinese numbers station on 5874 kHz.
The August issue brought a surprise letter from a person who “was once in the intelligence community but is not now”. He said in his letter: “”Many of the numbers transmissions that you hear are actually practice or dummy transmissions and are used for propagation testing. The operative travels to two or three cities over a period of time and sends a reception report back to headquarters indicating best times and frequencies, noting overall signal quality and presence of interference. More than one agent may monitor the same transmission at different locations to determine the best schedule for future messages. These test transmissions account for many of the repeat messages and simulcasts reported by listeners over various periods of time. “The callsign trinome (the three numbers repeated at the beginning of each transmission) contains the majority of the message. The first two numbers identify the agent and the third is his basic instructions; for example, “240” would be directed to agent 24. The third numeral, in this case a zero, indicates a dummy message. Other third numerals indicate (approximately): (1) report to pickup point; (2) read message and follow their instructions; (3) arrange meeting and read message for instructions; (4) prepare for trip but no instructions; (5) prepare for trip and read message for instructions; (6) meet contact at safe house; (7) caution, prepare to evacuate; (8) evacuate according to set procedures; (9) destroy all and leave immediately the best way. The five -digit code groups are done on a trigraph matrix (three-way look -up” table) and, whether five straight digits or so-called “3/2” sets, are interpreted the same: one group indicates the line in the decoding book. “After the header group, either one or two, the first three digits of the next group apply to the matrix, either 3 x 12 or 6 x 6 columns and rows, followed by the last two digits of that group and the first digit of the next group.” He also noted that most of the German female voice numbers stations are actually from Hungary not East Germany. The Morse code stations that ended their broadcasts with either three or five cut zeros (long dashes) are KGB and, if coming from the west, originate from the GRU communications facility just outside Havana, Cuba. Some of the Polish CW stations sent the groups twice with an `R’ separator after ten groups.
News from West German DPA news agency reported the demise of the famous Gongs station or G03 as we know it had ceased its broadcasting. A message that was always preceded by gongs being struck many times followed by synthetic voice speaking in metallic tone on 3220 kHz was expected on Thursday as usual. But, this time the gongs were silent. The East German STASI had ceased their foreign operations as Germany was close for the second reunification. As Simon Mason writes the last Eastern German numbers stations broadcast took place on May 9 1990. More information on this famous station followed next month. German resident sent a report that source of these transmissions was Willmersdorf STASI station 15 km from Berlin. It transmitted daily in German on 3220 kHz at 0630, 1000 and 2000 UTC. On January 1990 the site was partially destroyed by the protestors and secret papers were “lost”, although most probably sent to ally KGB. By March the schedules were reduced to Thursday’s and by now it had ceased its activity.
On October as the conflict in Persian Gulf was heading near, the MT published frequencies of all involved sites including the Israeli MOSSAD numbers stations frequency list. MOSSAD stations were strings of phonetic letters in English with different callsigns. The tapes with the messages were prepared and sent via telephone, UHF or microwave links to over 20 shortwave transmitting sites in Israel. These transmitters ranged in power from 10 to 20 kW and used suppressed AM carriers or sideband depending on where the messages are destined for. The example of the message format was:
“VLB” – repeated for about three minutes
1. “Message, message”
2. “Group 34, group 34”
3. ‘Text, text”
4. “APKNC BNVGT OLIUY GFDWP .
5. “End of message”
(Items 1 through 5 then repeated once more)
6. “End of transmission”
These MOSSAD stations were commonly heard on bands and reported since 1980s as they used various frequencies and callsigns.
The last December issue made interesting headline: “Single letter beacons revealed”. According to a story from a man who worked in these stations, the first single letter beacons were actually used by US Army Signal Intelligence. Each station had its own CW beacon that served dual purpose. First purpose were propagation checks. If one in Europe wanted to check propagation towards Far East he would tune to “K” beacon in Tokyo. A second purpose for the beacons was to pass traffic through the network coded, of course, on the locations and frequencies of stations they intercepted. Occasionally, these stations would break into FSK transmissions and the encrypted messages would contain that information for the rest of the net. According to anonymous contact this network lasted for many years and was so good that it was replicated by the soviets. AS US military started to use satellites this network was eventually abandoned. However, Soviets being more backward in technologic means than Americans still used this method and using it by now.
During the first months of the year when war erupted in Middle East the Gulf War, there were many reports on notable activity of the numbers stations?, especially the phonetic ones implying Mossad. On May issue the MT became aware of the famous numbers station Lincolnshire Poacher or E03 A unusual station that transmitted on 9251 kHz 7880 kHz on 0400 UTC or later. It was peculiar for starting tune of an old English folk song “Lincolnshire Poacher” played on calliope, and followed by five digit English groups. The July issue reported story about the “Jolly Roger” numbers station. Why Jolly Roger – because of the pirate radio sending imitation of the numbers station a thing that not happened the first time and not happened the last. Overall it was year with less extraordinary reports about numbers stations. While most may have noticed that it was year of changes as Cold War was over and that would soon change the life of the numbers stations.
It was early 1992 when Simon Mason one of the veterans of the numbers stations monitoring came forward with his new book The Euronumbers Mystery. Mason introduced readers to numbers stations known by such monikers as “Bulgarian Betty,” “Papa November,” The Lincolnshire Poacher,” Swedish Rhapsody,” “The Russian Man,” – – many of which can be monitored in North America. The book includes numerous traffic excerpts, identifiers, schedules and clues turned up by hearing mistakes in transmissions. Also a frequency list and log made this book very special as one of the driving force of the first Enigma group.
The February issue again returned readers to KKN50 mystery that MT undertook on 1984. KKN50 a mysterious government controlled network that sent endless QRA markers via CW in the HF band. They have for years been referred to in the hobby press as State Department radio communications stations. In fact, several listeners over the years have even reported receiving QSL cards for reception of these stations from the State Department. However, author Larry van Horn was convinced this is run by State Department who uses computers and satellites would rely on antique CW communications method. On 1984 MT reporters discovered KKN50 transmission site at Warrington/ Remington, VA, about 50 miles southwest ofWashington. Not only CW cluster transmissions were sent from there but also 4-digit Spanish numbers stations. In 1989 in April 1989Al Zilman found sister station KKN39 to exist in Miami where the transmitter and receiver sites are separated by about 15 miles. Apart from CW QSX calls, the network also includes duplex encoded transmissions a loud rushing noise with embedded buzz. It was believed that all of the control stations have a direct link (satellite, wire or microwave) with KKN50 and requests for QSP relays were observed by the listeners. All sorts of strange howls, growls, and toots show up on these frequencies and were believed to be intentional as they appeared simultaneously on many of the known networks frequencies. Alerting tones resembling SELCAL signal were also observed. They were transmitted for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes these tones are alternated with a marker in which the control station replaces its QRA marker with a call to a specific station. These QRA markers were not constant so needed careful monitoring as they only showed up on purpose. There were events such as revolution in Liberia or volcanic eruption in Philippines that came together with total cease of transmissions of certain stations. Meaning these stations were either located there or aimed for US governmental work there. It was also noted that KKN44 station was increasingly active during political instability in the Baltic States during 1991. It means the KKN50 network was not just US wide it was worldwide as some of its clusters were noted in Japan, Far East, Greece and Egypt. Author suggested that this network could be follow up of US military single letter beacon network that was abandoned after army adapted satellites. KKN could have been the second generation for US Signal corps. Overall this network was suggested to be under NSA umbrella by the author.
The July issue had large article by the same author summing up all that was gathered by the MT and their readers. All evidence lead to governmental espionage employed by many countries across the world and despite the fact that Cold War was “over” these stations continued to be active. Author suggested that we all must gear up for another 30 years of numbers stations and he was right. Numbers stations are still around today.  Sadly some of the stations mentioned there like Swedish Rhapsody and Lincolnshire Poacher is thing of a past.
September issue featured a headline article by Nils Schiffhauer about German numbers stations. The West German numbers stations were called “Fuehrungsfunk.” Despite Grundig Ocean Boy being the most suitable for receiving these stations, they could blow the spies cover and instead a modified version of Eastern German made receivers was supplied. These stations did not cease activity after German reunification and messages sounding like “Fuennef – Zero – Dreien- Vier -Neuen ” -5 (Fuenf in everyday German), 0 (Null), 3 (Drei),4 (Vier) and 9 (Neun).” were issued on a daily basis. In unified Germany all technical matters are covered by “Bundesstelle fur Femmeldestatistik -B FST” with their headquarters in Stockach, some seven miles northwest of Pullach where West German spy agency BND had its headquarters. BSFST had transmitting sites all over Germany with exceptional sites in Schleswig –Holstein province. There were two major sites Norderwungweg 21 in Husum’s north -east, the other one at a path without any street sign. On more detailed maps this one was named “Krumweg.” A site with vertical folded dipoles with their typical high -angle radiation. A 2- element Quad as “Queen of Antennas” is mounted at considerable height for contacts with more remote countries. A horizontal broadband -dipole may bethe prime choice for covering medium distances. There was no clear confirmations to whom this site belongs to. BFST claimed its used by the military as their service, however, the reporter was never forbidden to take pictures of the site. Bundeswehr the German army told it’s for civil uses. Later BSFST staff member told the reporter that site is civilian but also does jobs for German army and “others”. Namely the BND and MA the German army intelligence service. BSFST claimed that this site is used for monitors the congestion of the allocated frequencies by statistical means in order to reduce interference.” However, it seemed obvious that BND and army was not only interested the content what was transmitted not just statistics. The author managed to pinpoint EC3Y number station that used Spanish callsign and was thought to be located in Spain to Krumweg site. Schiffhauer sent a QSL card request to the station hoping to get first QSL card from numbers stations site and as expected received a polite “on principle” will not verify reception reports; yours sincerely”. That lead to another venture – EC3Y was a Spanish callsign used by actual ham radio novice in Spain. This led to the fact that German governmental agency had hijacked legal ham radio call sign and was used for their spy purposes. Author reported this to PTT who explained that EC3Y was used for transmissions towards Spain and promised to change it to legal callsign. EC3Y then changed its callsign to DEA47. The author had managed to force a station run by the spy agency to change its callsign.
The August logs featured an interesting find: commercial fisher network passing four digit numbers. Most said “Good luck tomorrow!” after numbers were passed. The operators called each other by their first names. An example of civilian use of numbers stations. There was also interesting report of godless German number station regularly interfering with Radio Vatican on 11620 kHz around 0300 UTC. It was unclear if Radio Vatican was aware of this. Overall on 1993 MT took less time to write about numbers stations only included them in utility logs.
On 1994 another book about numbers stations reached the shelves and was promoted by MT. Intercepting Numbers Stations by Pierce Langley contained information on the origin and operation of the numbers stations and frequency list. April issue again touched the issue of Spanish five digit stations that were traced to Cuba by direction finding method on the Peninsula de Zapata, in the vicinity of Bauta, Cuba (sic). Because of other Cuban utility stations experiencing issues as same as these five digit station it lead to the use of Cuban foreign intelligence. Sometimes these broadcasts were in LSB mode. Today these stations are known as now defunct V02a.
Larry van Horn again returned to KKN network. This time he went to Miami where hurricane Andrew had seriously damaged the KKN39 station. The site was used by numerous federal agencies, army, and customs and served officially as High frequency intercept site. Before hurricane Andrew he had a large stock of HF antennas. There were log periodic HF beams (full size) mounted on towers. There were verticals, long wires, and rhombics. There were also two satellite satcomm dishes under their shrouds. It was a beautiful site, linked by a microwave link to the National Communications Center transmitter site located at 2400 S.W. 177th Avenue (Krome Avenue), Miami, Florida. The KKN39 was transmitting from 4954 kHz. The hurricane Andrew one of the worst natural disasters in US history leveled these antennas on 1992. Now on 1994 according to observations 2 new HF antennas have been installed, with many buildings still in bad shape. Two new Satcom antennas were added. The receiver site in Miami at Krome Avenue had many new HF antennas with a new sign – National Communications System Transmitter site.
This time MT came to subject of RTTY Numbers stations. A numbers broadcasts sent using RTTY data mode. These stations have been called the 11177 stations, KUL and YBU. There was even “KUL brotherhood” that specialized in monitoring these stations. The messages came in 5 figure groups. The first 5- figure group in the above series of number is always in the form 111xx, where xx is a double figure like 22, 33…etc. All possible combinations from 11122 to 11199 have been seen, but 11177 were by far the most common. The stations use 500 -Hz shift, which is common in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba (i.e. the Communist or ex- Communist countries), but not elsewhere. They also use some of the same unfamiliar `Q’ codes used by the Moscow Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) station, callsign RCF.” It was thought that these stations belong to Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was suggested in some listening circles that these transmissions are messages which were sent by satellite from Moscow to central stations for retransmission to embassies within their areas. Russia still uses HF for diplomatic communications until this day using various data modes.
MT again took attention on Single Letter Beacons revealing the culprit behind them – the Russian navy. A list of frequencies and marker locations were published. These single letter beacons were found in nearly all major Russian naval bases. Also reports of “P” marker on 3262 kHz from Kaliningrad sending weather forecast for the Baltic Fleet were a proof that these markers are part of Russian naval command and control network.
On March issue the MT finally revealed who is Havana Moon – one of the first true numbers stations monitors and whose column the “Spynumbers” was published for a long time on MT. William T. Godbey was a former US intelligence officer who born on September 5 1936 and passed away on January 9 1996. After retiring from numbers stations monitoring he spent his last years with his sweetheart and companion Christine Klauberg Paustian. The codename “The Havana Moon” came out from a joke. Since being 12 years old he was interesting in cryptography that made him employed by the intelligence agencies. He earned a degree in broadcasting and journalism from Arkansas State College. He spent years as an air personality and Program Director at AM stations throughout the south, before moving on into the world of newspapers. He worked at the Oakland Tribune and the Palm Beach Post for many years. The Numbers columns and articles first appeared in the Newark News Radio Club Bulletin, and moved through the years to Monitoring Times, Popular Communications, The A *C*E, Umbra et Lux, The Numbers Factsheet, Los Numeros Online, Clandestine Confidential, Radioscan and SIGNALS. There were a couple of books, and countless radio and magazine interviews. His identity was revealed after his death by his loving wife. William T. Godbey or Havana Moon was one of the founding fathers of dedicated numbers station monitoring.
While US Army High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program or HAARP was not a numbers station it certainly raised attention to many listeners keen to mysterious signals. Back then in 1996 when HAARP begun work in Alaska, it already made attention from conspiracy theorists. According to MT among the locals in Glennallen saw a moon walking backwards moving caribou that served as a proof that HAARP is capable of mind control. Books were written aiming to prove that HAARP can control the weather or massively disrupt the parts of atmosphere and create explosion which could destroy unprotected communications equipment around the world. HAARP is fundamentally an ionospheric heater with steerable beam. In operation it will attempt to excite targeted portions of the ionosphere so that scientists can measure the results with test instruments. One of the test instruments is a radar device that will measure densities of affected electrons, temperatures of affected electrons and ions, and Doppler velocities in the stimulated region, and compare them with those in the unstimulated portions of the ionosphere. The HAARP facility includes a huge inventory of other sophisticated test instruments, including ELF (extremely low frequency) and VLF receivers. The ability to understand, predict, and perhaps even enhance ionospheric propagation could have profound effects on worldwide communications. The ionosphere’s ability to reflect, distort, and absorb radio signals certainly affects the quality of civilian and military communications, navigation, surveillance, and remote sensing systems. HAARP was controlled by US Department of Defense and Penatogon who was interested in this research to improve their performance of communications, surveillance and navigation. HAARP was visited by MT reporters who were greeted by the staff and allowed to take photos of the station interior’s found no signs of diabolical US government plan to use HAARP as doomsday weapon that can even cause earthquakes as later some implied. However, concerns were raised on how the HAARP experiments will affect the shortwave listening with their experiments. The HAARP antenna array is essentially adirectional high -gain antenna. As with any antenna of this type, there will be a primary lobe accompanied by side lobes of lesser strength. These side lobes could strike the ionosphere at angles that would allow them to be reflected rather than absorbed by the ionosphere. In such a case, the side lobes could be propagated like ordinary HF radio transmissions. If so, they could be detected around the world. This was the case as recordings of HAARP generated signals were received and recorded. HAARP had special telephone line for radio interference reports caused by their transmissions. While many warned of the danger of this powerful radio station to nature and people the MT reminded about the International Radio Observatory in Sweden, that was many times more powerful than HAARP will be when in full operation in the year 2002. The Swedish facility, according to the report, transmits 10 megawatts with an antenna gain of almost 35 decibels. This would produce an ERP of nearly 32 billion watts. HAARP ceased its activities on 2014. However, after the site was transferred to University of Alaska Fairbanks in mid-August 2015 it we might hear from this famous station again in future.
The 1997 brought the rise of the Conet Project. British company called Irdial -Disks has produced a special quadruple CD covering 25 years of numbers station activity, with detailed logs, essays, and a definitive lookup table of all known numbers stations, including Morse numbers stations. Also on the CD are some very rare recordings from as early as 1971 as well as current numbers station transmissions. Since then almost everyone who has some interest in numbers stations have heard the recordings of this famous collection. Our site also has them.
On October issue MT again summed up all known numbers stations at the time. The MT author Hugh Steigman NV6H was not aware of designations made by ENIGMA so still gave them nicks like Atención for Cuban V02a , “Swedish Rhapsody” for G02. Article also covered the story about the CIA “Cynthia” numbers station. But one of the interesting parts of this article was the last chapter about strange signals like “Whales station”, “Buzzer”, and “Pip”. Seems the late 1990’s was the time when Russian military stations with their peculiar signal markers gained their names. Before that buzzer was known as the “foghorn signal”. Also on that same issue an article took insight on cryptography, one time pads and deciphering coded messages.
As from 1999 the MT included numbers station logs from ENIGMA. There are too few MT issues publicly available from 1999. Chris Smolinsky a dedicated numbers stations monitor had made its on collection of numbers stations recordings on CD Rom and distributed for 25 $. Later he founded the webpage spynumbers.com The 1999 went to an end and new century and new era had begun. The 21st century changed to shortwave scene, moving it away from the mainstream and causing overall decay of the communications in HF. Many numbers stations mentioned here ceased activity; many still are on air for our mystery and excitement. It’s important to preserve the information provided by editors and readers of the Monitoring Times as they done a major contribution to the numbers stations monitoring and are inspiring for our present day work. This concludes the long history of numbers stations monitoring from 1983 to 1999 as seen on the Monitoring Times magazine.