It's outlandish that the Kormoran didn't know the secret callsign of the ship they were imitating.

Please see the question in my title, and the emboldened sentence underneath. I quote Wikipedia.

During the exchanges and distress signal, Sydney positioned herself just off the raider's starboard beam on a parallel course, approximately 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) from Kormoran.[48] The cruiser may or may not have been at action stations: the main guns and port torpedo launcher were trained on Kormoran and her Walrus scout plane had been readied for launch, prompting Detmers to prepare to engage Sydney, but her 4-inch (100 mm) guns were unmanned, and personnel were standing on the upper deck.[48][49] During her manoeuvre, Sydney appeared to signal "IK" (the short-form for "You should prepare for a cyclone, hurricane, or typhoon"), which Kormoran did not respond to, as from their perspective, such a signal did not make sense.[36][50] The Germans were unaware that the letters were the interior of the real Straat Malakka's secret callsign, "IIKP": to verify her identity, the ship had to signal back the outer letters.[36][48] The aircraft was shut down by 17:25, and the catapult swung into the storage position; the two ships were too close for a safe launch.[51]

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – MCW
    Apr 15 '19 at 8:41
  • 1
    In which case OP, please edit the question to provide more context and less melodrama. My edit was in response to a flag that found the question inappropriate for this forum.
    – MCW
    Apr 15 '19 at 9:55
  • 2
    Why would the Kriegsmarine know the secret callsign protocol of an enemy nation? If the Kriegsmarine knew the secret callsign protocol, why would the Australians continue to use the compromised protocol? Why on earth would it be "outlandish" or "clumsy"? If this question didn't have an answer, I'd recommend closure on the basis that it is unclear what is being asked.
    – MCW
    Apr 15 '19 at 12:55

I think there is a basic misunderstanding at play here:

It's outlandish that the Kormoran didn't know the secret callsign of the ship they were imitating.

No, to the contrary.

The Straat Malakka was not under German control at that time. It would not make much sense to "disguise" a German raider as a German merchantmen when trying to slip through Allied controlls! (The ship would be either captured or sunk, regardless. Merchantmen of warring nations are not neutral!)

The "free Dutch" ship had a secret callsign assigned by the Allies. (That is why the HMAS Sydney knew that callsign in the first place and could challenge the Kormoran this way.)

Naturally, that secret, Allied callsign was unknown to both the crew of the Kormoran and the Kriegsmarine in general.


Such codes tended to be temporary and change on a regular basis, sometimes for each trip. Combined with the fact that as stated the code transmitted was normally to indicate something else, the crew of the Kormorant probably weren't aware of the reason they were being hailed with that sequence.

Had the German intelligence services known of the code and been able to notify the Kormorant, they'd probably have done so. They weren't of course infallible. In fact German intelligence services throughout the war had a rather poor track record overall.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.