[cryptome] Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

  • From: John Young <jya@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: cryptography@xxxxxxxxxxxx,cypherpunks@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, cryptome@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2017 12:24:47 -0500

The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
By Liza Mundy


Describes the experiences of several thousand American women who spent the war years in Washington, untangling the clandestine messages sent by the Japanese and German militaries and diplomatic corps. At a time when even well-educated women were not encouraged to have careers ­ much less compete with men to demonstrate their mastery of arcane, technical skills ­ this hiring frenzy represented a dramatic shift. The same social experiment was simultaneously unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic. The British debutantes and their middle-class peers recruited to work at the secret Bletchley Park code-breaking operation came to outnumber the men.

Mundy’s narrative turns thrilling as she chronicles the eureka moments when the women succeed in cracking codes, relying on a mixture of mathematical expertise, memorization and occasional leaps of intuition. ...

At the end of the war, virtually all of the female code breakers were given their walking papers and returned to civilian life. Only a few superstars were asked to stay on (among them Ann Caracristi, who went on to become the first female deputy director of the National Security Agency).

For these accomplished and resourceful women, who had been given a heady taste of professional success, it was jarring to have to fight to be accepted to top graduate programs on the G.I. Bill or embark on traditional paths as wives and mothers. Warned not to reveal their secret wartime lives, many remained silent about their valuable service. Thanks to Mundy’s book, which deftly conveys both the puzzle-solving complexities and the emotion and drama of this era, their stories will live on.

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