Sharing the Burden

Title:                      Sharing the Burden

Author:                 Jennifer Wilcox

Wilcox, Jennifer (2013). Sharing the Burden: Women in Cryptology during WWII. Fort George G. Meade, MD: Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency

LCCN:    Not available


Date Updated:  April 7, 2017

This was produced for the Center for Cryptologic History at NSA, and may be downloaded free from that site. It is too long s(25 pages) to be included in toto here.

The cryptanalysts working for the Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) of the U.S. Army knew how crucial it was to decipher and read Japanese secret messages. But this new code, “Purple,” wasn’t breaking.

For eighteen months the team struggled with this difficult Japanese diplomatic code. Then, one day in September 1940, Genevieve Grotjan made a discovery that would change the course of history. By analyzing and studying the intercepted coded messages, she found a correlation that no one else had yet detected. This breakthrough enabled other cryptanalysts to find similar links. Shortly thereafter, SIS, along with the U.S. Navy, built a “Purple” analog machine to decode the Japanese diplomatic messages.

Almost sixty years later, Frank Rowlett, a cryptologic pioneer and head of the “Purple” team, remembered that historic day: “What [Genevieve] Grotjan did was a big step forward and was very significant in the solution of the ‘Purple’.” Her discovery, and the work of other team members, allowed the United States to read secret Japanese diplomatic messages and to continue reading them throughout World War II.

Genevieve Grotjan’s contribution to the Allied victory cannot be measured. Nor can the contributions of the thousands of women serving their country through cryptography. Like Genevieve, many women working in cryptology during World War II were civilians; thousands of others were in the military.

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2 Responses to Sharing the Burden

  1. Pingback: The Secret of Adam and Eve | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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