Havana Moon

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William T. Godbey, KB2OOR, aka "Havana Moon" (SK)

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Havana Moon was the pseudonym used by the late William (Bill) Thomas Godbey, KB2OOR, who passed away in 1996. Godbey was a former government intelligence officer. After leaving his agency in the early 1960s he worked in commercial radio and as a reporter and freelance journalist. He lived for many years in the West Palm Beach area, moving later to Briarcliff Manor, Ossining, NY. His pen name was based on a 1983 music album by Carlos Santana, hinting that at least some of the numbers stations he investigated were transmitting from Cuba.

Contents

Investigating Numbers stations

Godbey started investigating the mysterious Spy Numbers Stations in 1976. Over the years he published the results of his activities in a number of books and magazines targeting the shortwave listeners market (see below).

In the 1980s he travelled in South Florida and used radio direction finding equipment to trace numbers broadcasts to antenna setups at the West Palm Beach airport, in nearby Tequesta and at the Homestead Air Force Base. According to Godbey, all these transmissions were aimed at the Caribbean.

Hobby publishing

Godbey was a regular contributor to Popular Communications and authored the books "Los Numeros" and "Uno, Dos, Quatro - A Guide to the Numbers Stations", published by Tiare Publications and currently available on-line. He also contributed to "The ACE", the monthly bulletin of the Association of Clandestine Enthusiasts, from 1989 to 1993.

Around 1989 Godbey also edited and distributed The Numbers Factsheet, a list of Spy Numbers Stations and associated frequencies, both in printed format and as a Commodore 64 computer file.

Publications

Havana Moon Logo.jpg

Extracts from Godbey's writings


Godbey's view on numbers stations
Spy Numbers Transmissions' are a shortwave oddity which have been around for the last 30 years. They are commonly heard in English, German, Spanish and the Slavic languages and take the form of four and five digit groups of numbers which are preceded by a three digit "identifier" and a "group count" which corresponds to the number of number groups transmitted in the crypt. They are generally broadcast by a mechanical-sounding YL, although Morse code (CW) "cut number" transmissions are also frequently reported, as are phonetic alphabet transmissions. Several distinctly different formats have been noted.

The who and why aspects of these transmissions are, for the most part, unknown. Their mysterious nature has resulted in their common characterization as 'spy' transmissions. The spy theory has been enhanced over the years by the FCC's inconsistent position in response to numerous inquiries by the Shortwave Listening community. If you've never heard a numbers transmission, tune your radio to one of the frequencies on the log-list. You'll almost certainly hear a 'classic' numbers transmission which will run from 15-30 minutes. In regards the "where" - a number of sites have been identified in recent years, notably in Warrenton and Remington, VA and Miami, FL. In addition, with the aid of sophisticated RDF (radio direction finding) equipment and the invaluable assistance of highly authoritative and professional resources, several new transmission sites have been posi- tively identified over the past years, including sites in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba and Cozumel.

One particularly dangerous station has been interfering with air to ground traffic on 6577 kHz, a frequency allocated to international aeronautical communications in the busy Caribbean sector. On at least one monitored transmission, the air traffic controller at ARINC moved the pilot to an alternate frequency as the numbers transmission was totally blocking the frequency from effective use. An identified Cuban site (Guineo) is believed to be a major transmitter site used by DGI (Cuban Intelligence). There has been some suggestion that the numbers are a form of 'one-time- pad' - a crude but unbreakable form of encryption (unless you've got the key, that is) - if that's the case, it's very curious to note that the same five-digit groups are often seen to repeat over and over again in the very same crypt - and that the same transmissions are seen to repeat from week to week, and from month to month - so often, in fact, that tape breaks are sometimes noted. When spliced back together, the sloppy handling sometimes results in truncated 5-digit groups - the end result being amixture of 4 and 5 digit groups in the very same transmission!

These facts would tend to point one away from the one-time-pad concept and support a couple of other theories - suggesting that the numbers are NOT a cipher, but rather a code unto themselves, and that much of this traffic is 'dummy' in nature - broadcast simply to keep a frequency open over a long period of time. In addition, most five-digit Spanish numbers transmissions are very badly over-modulated, resulting in numerous spurs up and down frequency. When broadcast under such conditions, the numbers (6) seis and (7) siete are almost indistinguishable, making it impossible to copy a crypt without numerous errors. It is worth noting that the four-digit Spanish and English transmissions do not reflect this same technical ineptitude.


The Mystery of the Numbers Stations
In response to a recent question about Numbers Stations, their origin and purpose, the following information should be of interest. This article was initially written about two years ago - with the massive changes in Eastern Europe, one would think the broadcasts would have diminished. No such luck. Certain of the transmissions have ceased, that's true - but many others continue, and new ones continue to appear. An ongoing mystery, to be sure.

"Spy Numbers Transmissions" are a shortwave oddity which have been around for the last 25 years. They are commonly heard in English, German, Spanish and the Slavic languages and take the form of four and five digit groups of numbers which are preceded by a three digit "identifier" and "group count". They are generally broadcast by a mechanical-sounding female voice, although Morse code (CW) "cut number" transmissions are also frequently reported. Several distinctly different transmission formats have been noted.

The "who" and "why" aspects of these transmissions are, for the most part, unknown. Their mysterious nature has resulted in their common characterization as 'spy' transmissions. Information on the "where" aspects below.

The spy theory has been enhanced over the years by the FCC's inconsistent position in response to numerous inquiries by the Shortwave Listening community.

If you've never heard a numbers transmission, tune your radio to 11468 kHz any Saturday at 4pm EST (2100 UTC). You'll almost certainly hear a 'classic' numbers transmission which will run from 15-30 minutes. The signal from this Saturday transmission is very powerful and can be heard across the United States.

In regards the "where" - a number of sites have been identified in recent years, notably in Warrenton and Remington, VA and Miami, FL. In addition, with the aid of sophisticated RDF (radio direction finding) equipment and the invaluable assistance of highly authoritative and professional resources, three new transmission sites have been positively identified in recent weeks. They include the following:

  1. A five-digit Spanish station on 6577 kHz has been traced to a site near Jinotega, Nicaragua. This station has been creating interference on this frequency which is allocated to air-to-ground communications for international airliners in the busy Caribbean sector.
  2. A five-digit Spanish station on 3927 kHz has been located approximately 15 miles SW of Havana near Guineo, Cuba.
  3. A five-digit CW station on 3690 kHz has also been traced to Guineo, Cuba.

Another government source believes Guineo to be a major transmitter site used by DGI (Cuban Intelligence).

Finally, there has been wide speculation that these transmissions are messages which are meant to be decoded using a 'one-time- pad' -- If that is the case, it's very curious to note that the same five digit groups are oftentimes seen to repeat over and again in the same crypt -- and that the very same transmissions are seen to repeat from week to week, and from month to month - so often, in fact, that tape breaks are sometimes noted! When spliced back together, the 'sloppy' handling sometimes results in truncated 5-digit groups - the end result being a mixture of 4 and 5-digit groups in the very same transmission!

These facts would tend to point one away from the one-time-pad concept and support a couple of other theories - suggesting that the numbers are NOT a cipher, but rather a code unto themselves, and that much of this traffic is 'dummy' in nature - broadcast simply to keep a frequency open over a long period of time.

In addition, most five-digit Spanish numbers transmissions are very badly over-modulated, resulting in numerous spurs up and down frequency. When broadcast under such conditions, the numbers (6) seis and (7) siete are almost indistinguishable, making it impossible to copy a crypt without numerous errors.

It is worth noting that the four-digit Spanish and English transmissions do not reflect this same technical ineptitude. There are a number of reference materials available which provide detailed information about cryptography and cryptanalysis, in general, and numbers crypts, specifically. I'd be happy to provide anyone interested with a list of books.

Only two publications I know of are currently available which provide regular coverage of numbers, clandestine, pirate and other interesting transmissions. The ACE Bulletin (monthly newsletter of the Association of Clandestine Enthusiasts - PO Box 11201, Department KK, Shawnee Mission, KS 66207) and The Numbers Factsheet - PO Box 149, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510, of which I am the Executive Editor. Sample edition of The ACE is $2.00, annual dues $18.00; sample edition of The Numbers Factsheet is $6.00, annual subscription is $20.00.

For those of you with access to shortwave - I'll be doing another live interview on this topic - among others - next Saturday night on Radio Free New York - 7520 kHz at 11pm Eastern.

"Havana Moon"


References

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