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Code Girls : : the Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers who Helped win World War II

Mundy, Liza, 1960- author. Book - 2017 940.548 Mu, Adult Book / Nonfiction / History / World War II / Mundy, Liza None on shelf 7 requests on 5 copies Community Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Cover image for Code girls : : the untold story of the American women code breakers who helped win World War II

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Introduction: your country needs you, young ladies -- Part I. In the event of total war women will be needed -- Twenty-eight acres of girls -- This is a man's size job but I seem to be getting away with it -- The most difficult problem -- So many girls in one place -- Part II. Over all this vast expanse of water Japan was supreme -- It was heart-rending -- Q for communications -- The forlorn shoe -- Hell's half-acre -- It's only human to complain -- Pencil-pushing mamas sink the shipping of Japan -- Part III. The tide turns -- Sugar camp -- All my love, Jim -- Enemy landing at the mouth of the Seine -- Teedy -- The missionary and the surrender message -- The train platform -- Epilogue.
Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them.


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important story, but not well told submitted by camelsamba on August 31, 2018, 10:40am This book chronicles a part of the war effort that you probably never heard of: those who worked behind the scenes to break our enemies' secret codes leading up to and during World War 2. Initially women were recruited from elite colleges and the ranks of teachers. They had a variety of tasks, from advanced math (cryptanalysis) to meticulous filing (surprisingly important for finding patterns to break codes). These women were instrumental in the Allied war efforts, yet their stories were unknown for decades because of the classified nature of their work. They couldn't even tell family after the war ended. (Some were nervous to talk about their work even once it was declassified 50 years later.)

As fascinating as the story was, I was disappointed that it wasn't better told. The author spends time telling about how cryptographic breakthroughs were made, but then intersperses it with details of finding housing in wartime Washington. A few chapters focus on correspondence between a woman and her soldier overseas. In addition, the timeline jumps back and forth at time and loses the narrative thread. It's almost as though there were two - maybe three? - stories that needed to be told and the author couldn't figure out which to focus upon or how to effectively intertwine them within the narrative. (Focus on individuals or the larger effort; focus on cryptography and how it enabled military advances or focus on the lives of women involved in the work.) Better editing might have fixed this problem.

Codes and puzzles have always appealed to me - I wonder if I would have made it as a Code Girl?

Cover image for Code girls : : the untold story of the American women code breakers who helped win World War II

New York : Hachette Books, 2017.
Year Published: 2017
Description: 416 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Format: Book


World War, 1939-1945 -- Cryptography.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Participation, Female.
Cryptographers -- History -- 20th century.
Cryptography -- History -- 20th century.