Cover image for Code girls : the untold story of the American women code breakers who helped win World War II
Title:
Code girls : the untold story of the American women code breakers who helped win World War II
Author:
Mundy, Liza, 1960- author.
ISBN:
9780316352543

9780316352536
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
416 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Details may vary.
Contents:
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.
Abstract:
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.
Geographic Term:
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Summary

Summary

The award-winning New York Times bestseller about the American women who secretly served as codebreakers during World War II--a "prodigiously researched and engrossing" ( New York Times ) book that "shines a light on a hidden chapter of American history" ( Denver Post).

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. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.


Author Notes

Liza Mundy is the New York Times bestselling author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family and Michelle: A Biography. She has worked as a reporter at the Washington Post and contributed to numerous publications including The Atlantic, TIME, The New Republic, Slate, Mother Jones, and The Guardian. She is a frequent commentator on countless prominent national television, radio, and online news outlets and has positioned herself at the prestigious New America Foundation as one of the nation's foremost experts on women and work issues.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Mundy (The Richer Sex) strikes historical gold in this appealing tale of wartime intelligence work. As the U.S. headed to war in 1941, two things became clear to military leaders: victory depended on successful code breaking and they didn't have nearly enough people working on it. The solution was for the Army and Navy to recruit women for cryptanalysis. Tens of thousands of women-mostly college students and teachers with an affinity for math, science, and foreign languages-answered the call for this top-secret work. Drawing from recently declassified National Security Agency files, Mundy rescues these women's stories from anonymity and obscurity. She vividly describes the intricacies of code breaking while weaving in crucial historical information about the war and women's participation in it. Reflecting her contention that successful cryptanalysis is a collective endeavor, Mundy utilizes individual women's activities to illustrate her points. Though many women flit across the pages, some, such as Dot Braden of the Army Signal Intelligence Service, appear throughout, giving the story its emotional center. These intelligent and independent women faced dismissive attitudes from their male peers, yet they persevered. Mundy persuasively shows that recognizing women's contributions to the war effort is critical to understanding the Allied victory. Agent: Todd Shuster, Aevitas Creative Management. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Intelligence-gathering capabilities were sorely lacking in the early days of WWII. While wars ranged in both the Atlantic and Pacific, the military was hamstrung by its inability to decipher encrypted enemy communications, and with nearly every able-bodied American man serving in combat, this integral security operation fell to the women left behind. An intense recruitment drive for bright, clever, independent, and, most important, trustworthy young women was launched. Many were graduates of elite Seven Sisters colleges; others languished as frustrated small-town schoolteachers. What unified them, however, was their inherent drive to serve their country, their uncanny ability to detect patterns buried in chains of seemingly random numbers or letters, and their laser-like determination to translate them into information that would, literally, save lives and alter the course of the war. Salvaging this essential piece of American military history from certain obscurity, Mundy's painstaking and dedicated research produces an eye-opening glimpse into a crucial aspect of U.S. military operations and pays overdue homage to neglected heroines of WWII. Fans of Hidden Figures (2016) and its exposé of unsung talent will revel in Mundy's equally captivating portraits of women of sacrifice, initiative, and dedication.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2017 Booklist


Choice Review

A key difference between the US and its WW II enemies was that the US made use of the country's diversity. This is especially true in the area of codes and ciphers. Secure communication was provided by Navajo code talkers, and several of the Army's top code breakers were Jews. In England, the best cryptologist was Alan Turing, a homosexual. In Germany, women were valued only in kitchens and bedrooms; in the US, they made up the majority of code makers and code breakers. Their important story has never been told so well. Readers learn about their recruitment, how they helped manufacture cipher machines that were never broken, and how they cracked Japanese and German codes. It is all here. Cryptography, history, and personal details of the women's lives alternate, keeping the book lively. Mundy didn't just examine readily accessible sources; she also broke loose formerly classified material and interviewed some of the amazing women. The war would have lasted much longer without their contributions. It might even have ended differently. Mundy's book is for everyone and conveys a message that Americans must keep in mind to ensure their nation's future. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. --Craig Bauer, York College of Pennsylvania


Library Journal Review

Mundy (The Richer Sex) provides a history of female crytographers during World War II. At the outset of the war, cryptanalysis, the science of deciphering coded messages, had barely emerged and both allies and foes outpaced the United States. With young men galvanized to serve overseas, women were actively recruited on the home front. Initially, this effort focused on students from the Seven Sisters colleges but eventually expanded to include women from across the country who demonstrated an aptitude for math and discretion. These women were ensconced at Arlington Hall, a former girls' school in Virginia, which became the headquarters of the U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service (SIS). Codebreaking was excruciatingly complex work and had urgent consequences. Enemy movements were ascertained and ships sunk based on information relayed over the wires. The women were sworn to secrecy about the nature and gravity of their work and for years remained reticent to speak about it, even to family members. Mundy teases out their stories based on extensive interviews with the surviving codebreakers. VERDICT Similar to Nathalia Holt's The Rise of the Rocket Girls and -Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden -Figures, this is indispensable and fascinating history. Highly recommended for all readers.-Barrie Olmstead, -Sacramento P.L. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.