The GUHOR Stick is one of the most important tool ever invented for the traffic analyst (TA). Solutions to the most intricate communications networks often began with this simple device.
No self-respecting TA was ever without one close at hand. Like the six-shooter of the old West, the analyst kept it at his or her side, always ready to draw- circles, boxes, and lines.
The GUHOR Stick, in its most recent and best known iteration, is merely a 6″ by 1.5″ clear plastic template. Its prime purpose is to facilitate the drawing of communications diagrams, although its secondary uses are endless. It comes equipped with a large circle at one end to draw control terminals, a smaller circle at the other end for outstations, and a small rectangle in the center for communications relays and collective (CQ) calls. The straight edges are used to connect these stations and show communications paths. With this tool, a #2 pencil (with extra erasers), some graph paper, and several pencils of various colored leads, the analyst of old was fully prepared to face any communications adversary.
GUHOR Stick! But where did this strange name come from? Putting my analytical skills to work, I set out to research the issue. To my surprise, there was a higher than expected number of individuals who had heard the name. Most were seasoned veterans from a mixture of professions, including linguists, reporters, managers, executives, and, naturally, traffic analysts. But there was more than a little discussion about what this device was and where its name originated.
The early returns were mixed, however. I was still searching for the definitive word. It was at this point when I began to get responses from members of a Communications Analysis Association (CAA) interest group. A number of seasoned veterans recounted their GUHOR experiences and, in a number of colorful responses, gave me what I believe to be the true scoop.
GUHOR Sticks as traffic analysis tools have been around for decades. Some CAA respondents remembered seeing or using them in one form or another from at least the early 1960s. Even so, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Who invented it? Why was it given this curious name? Someone out there knows. If you can solve the mystery, we (Station HYPO) are ready to hear a good story.
All this discussion about GUHOR Sticks may be moot. These devices are few and far between these days. The GUHOR Stick does not have a federal stock number. They were made in batches at NSA by special order; however, they are fast becoming collector items. With the advent software, many analysts are using computer graphics to diagram their targets. The traditional circles and lines on paper are becoming passé. Most GUHOR Sticks that are found are being employed for many a sundry task-not for crafting the intricate networks of old, but for drawing nondescript lines and symbols unrelated to the trade of traffic analysis.
Those on field duty in the Pacific used a similar device which they called a “pooka-maker.” Pooka is a Hawaiian word for “hole.”
Source: NSA CRYTPOLOG July, 1994 (MDR Case #54778)
Edited by Mario Vulcano
Starting tomorrow there will be a four part series on Traffic Analysis.
11 February 2019 at 12:58
GUHOR was a foreign acronym for something I forget. Pretty sure the use of the term was somewhat classified back in 1968, when I used one.
11 February 2019 at 15:18
Can’t contribute any more to the GUHOR discussion beyond what you’ve covered. However, I can add some information regarding the “puka-maker,” or “puka-punch” as I knew it.
NCS WASH D.C. (Cheltenham, MD) was my first duty station after Corry. Sat the line and then shifted to DF. Became friends with the “O-beats” in Comm and I asked one day about how to make a correction on baud tapes. This is when I was first shown the “puka-punch” and how it worked to make minor baud tape corrections.
As the months passed I became good friends with the CTO’s and they presented with my very own “puka-punch.” They said having the punch made the holder an honorary CTO. For years I kept the puka-punch on the same chain as my dog tags. In fact, I doubled checked my Navy heirloom box and it was still there!
Many years later I researched this sophisticated instrument of Naval Communications and discovered the punches were made by the National Band company of Newport, KY. They were designed and built by to facilitate “notching” of pigs ears which enabled identification of individual hogs. Ironically the size of the hole made in the pigs ear was the same size as one baud hole in the tape that was the mainstay for relaying communications in the U.S. Navy for years.
Whether you call it good old Yankee Ingenuity or simply getting the job done, a problem arose and a Navy Bluejacket solved it. This was long before the days of, “they have an app for that.”
11 February 2019 at 16:50
GUHOR had a specific meaning as I recall. Search for that meaning and we may get the real answer. Spent many a day diagramming the various comms activities of “nets” in order to produce intell reports. I seem to recall that if a net was not observed on a given day it was referred to as “GUHOR”. Man that was a long time ago.
11 February 2019 at 18:38
Guhor is a Russian communications term meaning “all is dark” . It is usually seen when someone is asking about Morse hearability ( one op sending V’s. Other op sends GUHOR meaning ‘I don’t hear you’.
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1 March 2019 at 04:36
Mike, I have some pics to share with you….
15 September 2020 at 10:47
12 February 2019 at 01:40
Agree with Mike. Took me a few years before I heard the translation
12 February 2019 at 11:26
Boy you guys are Old School hahahahaha! R/S, CTR1….
13 February 2019 at 18:18
Actually, Guhor is not a russian word. It is a signal from the International service code #2. The signals are five letter pronounceable and semi pronounceable words that enabled morse operators from different countries to communicate with one another. Examples are Tikas – pay attention, Guhor – everything is dark, I cannot hear you. Dadro – shift frequency to ______. Dadax – I am shifting frequency to ______.
3 May 2021 at 23:13
All sources point to it being of Russian origin. Your comment is the only one on the internet that says it is not. Can you provide a reference? Is the Guhor response different than the name of the stick?
1 March 2019 at 04:35
Good stuff Eugene (:
28 March 2019 at 22:37
Anyone know where I can get a GUHOR ? I gave mine to the 313th back in the day .
1 July 2019 at 01:08
GUHOR is a Russian communication term meaning “all is dark”. I think it was used to indicate poor or no communication reception. I used the stick in the late 1950’s.
3 May 2021 at 23:27
I don’t know. I always just heard it came from the saying, “A good whore has three holes.” Don’t anyone lecture me about profanity. Just repeating what I was told back in 1981.
2 September 2021 at 01:13
In 1965 at NSGA Bremhaven Germany as a CTR striker guhor was used in voice command. The term used, frequency, switch to teletype. It indicated a missile launch in 15 minutes. That was when the trackers took over. It was a big deal, all low tech. The word was commonly used in slang at every station I was assigned. The equivalent today as slang is probably
13 January 2022 at 13:49
Late to the party, but we used to write this at the bottom a log when we had listened for a sked and heard nothing.
15 February 2022 at 21:06
The NSN for the GUHOR stick is: 6675 00 856 9803
I still have mine in it’s original envelope with NSN sticker
28 December 2022 at 00:43
I was a Navy CTR back in the 50’s and came across Guhor in communications many times. Seems like it was always used to indicate no traffic on the frequency. Guhor, all is dark.
28 December 2022 at 01:59
The name is much simpler than you guys are trying to make it. It sorta off-color, but a lot of military related terms are. It comes from the phrase “A good whore has three holes.” Sorry if that offends anyone reading this, but it is what it is.
21 May 2023 at 22:02
I’ve been told it meant general utility hard operational ruler, but that could be a retronym.
22 May 2023 at 00:13
During his end of tour interview, one retired CSM said the first word was “Graphic,” but he could not remember the rest. I think yours is closer to reality. I am having difficulty believing the word is of Russian origin, then syncretized by American intel analysts.