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Anecdotes: Unlocking Enigma's Secrets Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129787D
Original Publication Date: 1993-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 3 page(s) / 19K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

IEEE Computer Society: OWNER


Anecdotes: Unlocking Enigma's Secrets

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Copyright ©; 1993 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: Unlocking Enigma's Secrets

For more than 40 years, Veronica Mackey Hulick adhered to an oath she had taken in 1945, promising not to tell anyone about her duties as a World War II WAVE. But several years ago, she learned that the role she and several hundred other WAVEs played during the war had been declassified, and she was able to tell her family, friends, and others about her contribution to the Allied victory. Hulick was a Bombe operator during the war. The Bombe -- a high-speed electromechanical decrypting machine -- enabled the Allies to break the Nazis' secret communications.

A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Hulick joined the Navy early in 1943 and was assigned to the Naval Communications Station in Washington, D.C. From there, she and a contingent of WAVEs were sent to Dayton, Ohio, where they attended Sugar Camp. The camp (named for a grove of maple trees tapped for sap) had been established in 1894 by the National Cash Register Corp. as a training school for salesmen; it was opened to the Navy in 1943. "At Sugar Camp, they sat us down with a graph and a rotor [a 6- to 7-inch wheel essential to the Bombe's operation] and had us solder wires according to the instructions," Hulick said. "I didn't have the foggiest idea of what I was doing." Several months later, she was back in Washington. During an orientation lecture, Hulick and other WAVEs were informed that they should never discuss their work with others. "The commanding officer told us that just because we were women, we shouldn't expect special attention," she said. "He went on to say that if we talked about our duties, we'd be shot." There were 120 Bombes -- complete with the rotors assembled by Hulick and the other WAVEs -- at the US Naval Security Group Command in Washington, D.C. A number of Bombes were also located in London. After the war, the machines were demolished with crowbars and sledgehammers. The only Bombe known to have remained intact is on public display for the first time in a new Smithsonian exhibition, "Information Age: People, Information and Technology," at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

"The Enigma machine was used by the German armed forces to encipher messages covering almost all phases of strategic and tactical planning and operations, including messages to and from Adolph Hitler," said Donald Kloster, a curator in the Division of Armed Forces at the museum. "Germany's complete confidence in the invulnerability of the system became a major advantage to the Allies after the Allied forces learned to read the enciphered messages." In secret communications, the individual receiving the code or cipher message must be able to convert the message to plain text. If a cipher is used, the recipient must possess the key; that is, t...