Friday, December 6, 2019

Female Code Breakers of World War II

Feldpost, World War I, LettersAnyone who has read about World War II knows that women stepped in to take over certain jobs so men could head off and fight overseas.We know of Rosie the Riveter, the poster girl for women but how much do we know about the women who made a huge difference by cracking both German and Japanese codes to help the Americans win the war.

At the end of 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, the government sent out mysterious invitations to women attending the top women's colleges of the time.

Specifically, it was the Navy who wanted women to work as cryptoanalysts or code breakers in their intelligence division.  Prior to this, the Navy had been recruiting males from elite colleges and after finding success, they decided to see how women would work out. By the spring of 1942, about half of the first group of women recruited finished the training and reported to a cramped basement in downtown Washington, D.C. for work.

 At about the same time, the Army met with representatives of these same prestigious universities to recruit women to work in their code-breaking facilities because there was a shortage of qualified people for this type of work.  In fact, with all the men fighting overseas, women who met the criteria to be code breakers were also in short supply.  This is the first time, women were in such demand.

All the women who joined the intelligence community knew they'd never receive credit for their work and that they'd face the full effects of the wartime secrets act should they talk about their code breaking work.  Many of these women had plans to escape should someone pay way too much attention to them.  Some said they sharpened pencils and emptied trashcans should they be asked what they did.

In the end, over 10,000 women were recruited to codebreak and it turned out these women formed one of the most successful intelligence efforts in history.  During the war these women ran machines that had been converted to code breaking machines, kept track of public speeches, shipping manifests, ship names, enemy commanders all used to break messages.  In addition, women worked as translators, managed small systems, broke some major codes.

In fact these women broke exploited, and rebroke codes while testing all new codes designed by the Americans to make sure they were solid.  Although the Navy refused to let women go overseas to participate in the war, the Army sent women to the Pacific to work as radio intercept operators.  Some women created fake radio messages misdirecting the Germans so they didn't know about the Normandy invasion

Neither Germany nor Japan believed in using their women for anything other than for making babies so they didn't even think of recruiting women to break codes or using them to listen in on radio transmission to obtain information for troop movements, pending attacks,  and all sorts of other information.  In addition, the women who worked for the United States advanced the signals transmission or reading the enemies coded transmissions, laid the foundation for cyber security,  and the modern computer industry.

The work these women did shortened the war and helped America win it.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Please remember that Pearl Harbor was bombed 78 years ago tomorrow.  I have a relative who is 95 and was a high school senior in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. There are a few veterans still alive who were there but they are passing with each year.

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