European intelligence experts last month hit a dead end in their efforts to decode a secret World War II message that had originally been dispatched on the leg of a pigeon (and later found among its remains.) The blocks of random letters could not be understood without the code book from which the message was sourced, they said; the mystery could easily go forever unsolved. Yet thanks to a Canadian researcher with an inherited piece of World War II intelligence — his great-uncle's aerial observers' book, to be specific — we're now able to read the wartime communication. With the document in hand, Gord Young needed only 17 minutes to decipher the message, which pertained to the positioning of German troops in Normandy.
However, intelligence specialists GCHQ remain unconvinced, claiming there's no way to conclusively verify the contents without the proper accompanying code book. "It is also impossible to verify any proposed solutions, but those put forward without reference to the original cryptographic material are unlikely to be correct," the company said in a statement to BBC News. For his part, Young insists the answer is quite simple and that the message relies on World War I-era algorithms in piecing together its secret bulletin. The use of courier pigeons was quite common throughout the war; in total, over 250,000 were used to relay sensitive information.