- The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
- By: Liza Mundy
- Narrated by: Erin Bennett
- Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
- Unabridged Audiobook
Code Girls is a book about women cryptographers in the US during World War II. More than ten thousand women in the U.S. were recruited by the the U.S. Army and Navy to move to Washington and learn the meticulous work of code-breaking. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; but through research and interviews with surviving code girls, Liza Mundy brings their stories to life. Liza Mundy, staff writer at the Washington Post, has won several awards for essays, profiles, and science writing. She lives in Arlington, Virginia. Arlington Hall was originally a girls' school, but during WWII it became headquarters of the United States Army's Signal Intelligence Service (SIS) cryptography effort, similar to Bletchley Park in England. Arlington Hall concentrated its efforts on the Japanese systems while Bletchley Park concentrated on what was going on in Europe.
Code Girls also reflects the changes in American women’s lives and rights during the war – including the rather remarkable “regress” after the war, when these women were supposed to go back to being “just housewives” again. The code girls were sworn to silence both while employed and for many years afterwards, and were not allowed to reveal to anyone what kind of qualified jobs they had really been doing during the war. It was generally believed that they had fulfilled some menial clerical function, while in fact they were responsible for many of the most important code breaking accomplishments that helped win the war.
When the previously classified information was finally declassified, the author Liza Mundy interviewed a number of the codebreakers and their families and researched the topic extensively. In most cases their husbands and families had no idea of the importance and complexity of the job they had been doing during the war.
I found the book very interesting but not the easiest read (or listen), as it is a mix of some more personal stories and a lot of facts. It was an enlightening read for me though, as I had never heard of this American equivalent of Bletchley Park before and did not know that so many American women were actively involved in WWII in this way. (Having heard mostly about the American pilots who came to over Europe before.)
In Farleigh Field
A novel set in Britain in the time of WWII – and also involving Bletchley Park.
World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham's middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: She has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.
As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela's family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela's help, stop them before England falls?
Rhys Bowen (alias for Janet Quin-Harkin; born in England but now living in the US) is an award-winning author of more than thirty mystery novels. I’m not sure if I ever heard of her before, though – until I happened to come across this title, and the summary caught my interest. I liked it well enough – but have to confess that after a couple of weeks, the details of the story are already escaping my memory, even if some “inner images” do remain in my mind. I think it might make a good TV-series…
I have also continued listening to Stephen Fry reading the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories; but as I keep falling asleep, I have to confess I’d have great difficulties trying to relate the intricate twists and turn of the individual stories (even if I read some of them before, way back in the past)… It’s a real delight listening to Stephen Fry reading them, though! His ability to subtly shift voices and dialects to represent various characters really is outstanding. The performance also includes Fry’s own enlightening introductions to each novel and collection of short stories.
(This collection previously mentioned in my post Read in March)
That first one really sounds interesting, I had no idea we had the equivalent of Bletchley Park.ReplyDelete
Interesting for me to note that my American friends never heard of Arlington Hall either. I guess it may be only quite recently then that the vows of secrecy were lifted.Delete
I had no idea about the women code breakers!! Liza Mundy is awesome for uncovering this and telling their stories. And there's even a cover photo of them! Wonder how that came about. We love Sherlock, and watch the different series, and also the movies when they show them. But I think they may be better for watching then reading! Conan Doyle was a genius. He was a doctor, and a ship's surgeon for awhile.ReplyDelete
I LOVE Stephen Fry! With my eyes being what they are, maybe I should start getting used to listening to more audio books, too. Thinking of how much I enjoy listening to his voice (for instance, he is the narrator in the Harry Potter computer games) makes me want to get started right away!ReplyDelete
Like you, I had never heard of the American "code girls" - Bletchley Park is, of course, much closer to home (in more than one sense), and I know a lot more about that.
Yes, there really was such a regress about women's lives. If you look at the role of women in 1950s adverts, only a few years after the war, it is appalling - those are the same women who, here in Germany, rebuilt the country almost on their own (because most of the able-bodied men were dead or POWs).
Meike, for some reason I've never quite thought of it quite in those terms before (about a regress in women's rights and roles in the 50s) until I read this book now. Perhaps because I was born in the mid 1950s myself and "that's just how it was" back then ;)Delete