My Book World
of the American Women Code Breakers
of World War II. New York: Hachette,
Award-winning author Mundy writes of 11,000 women recruited in the early 1940s to help break codes of Japanese and German intelligence. The Navy recruits from exclusive women’s colleges in the Northeast, and the Army recruits from the ranks of teachers (mostly math but some who teach foreign languages), many of whom are disenchanted with their poor salaries and tough classroom conditions.
“Sworn to secrecy, the women were forbidden from telling anybody what they were doing: not their friends, not their parents, not their family, not their roommates. They were not to let news of their training leak into campus newspapers or disclose it in a letter, not even to their enlisted brother or boyfriend. If pressed, they could say they were studying communications: the routing of ordinary naval messages” (5)
The code girls tackle many important difficulties, including the one of German U-boats sinking US ships in the Atlantic (as many as 500 by 1942). The women slowly but methodically solve this problem so that American ships are able to get supplies and matériel to troops in Europe. They are also paramount in intercepting official messages between Japanese and German leaders and confounding their strategies. Because of their unique skills the women make the work look far easier than it is. With a combination of innate ability and extreme dedication they are able to shorten the war and help save lives.
Every man should think about what it would be like to minimize his intellect, to hide what he does for a living, to keep it a secret for almost seventy years—and come to the conclusion that it is not fair. And never again in our history should women be called upon to keep silent in this manner. It’s not only unfair but it cuts in half the sources our country could be using to solve problems. This book is not only a tribute to these particular women but to the idea of women taking their true place in the world as multifaceted individuals.
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