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

John Young jya at pipeline.com
Sat Nov 11 12:24:47 EST 2017

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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