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At Wellesley, the students were asked unusual questions: Did they like doing crossword puzzles, and did they have imminent wedding plans?

Unsolved Mysteries of World War II 5 1 1998)

Those women who gave the right answers — yes, and no — were asked to sign confidentiality agreements and join a hush-hush government project. With war raging in Europe, the United States Navy had been staffing up its cryptanalysis division for several years but this was a new recruiting strategy.

The female undergrads were offered campus training in code breaking, with the promise of government civilian jobs in Washington upon graduation. Not only did the Navy reach out to women from a wider range of colleges but the Army began ramping up its own rival code-breaking unit.

After Army brass were chastised for competing with the Navy for the same female campus talent pool, the Army switched tactics and sought out small-town schoolteachers eager to participate in the war effort and take part in a big-city adventure. At a time when even well-educated women were not encouraged to have careers — much less compete with men to demonstrate their mastery of arcane, technical skills — this hiring frenzy represented a dramatic shift.

The same social experiment was simultaneously unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic. The British debutantes and their middle-class peers recruited to work at the secret Bletchley Park code-breaking operation came to outnumber the men. Their work was often mind-numbingly tedious and frustrating as the women spent hour days and seven-day weeks in steamy offices staring at incomprehensible columns of numbers and letters and trying to decipher patterns.

Thanks to their efforts in retrieving and passing along vital information about enemy battle plans and the whereabouts of Japanese vessels, the American military was able to sink enemy supply ships, shoot down enemy planes and blunt attacks on American targets. This was emotionally fraught work since the women occasionally learned, in advance, that the Japanese had targeted ships in regions where their loved ones were serving.

The Atlantic Crossword

In the run-up to the D-Day landing in Normandy, the women were also charged with creating phony coded American messages to deceive the Germans about the site of the invasion. A former Washington Post reporter, Mundy was inspired to tackle this book after her husband, Mark Bradley, a veteran Justice Department official, read a declassified World War II document about a counterintelligence operation, which noted that many women schoolteachers worked on the project.

Three-quarters of a century later, with firsthand recollections of World War II vanishing daily in the obituary columns, Mundy was able to track down and interview more than 20 former code breakers such as Ann Caracristi, an English major at Russell Sage College who turned out to be such a problem-solving prodigy that as a year-old she became the head of an Army research unit. Dorothy Braden Bruce, a year-old former Virginia schoolteacher known as Dot, described the tense experience of decoding urgent data from Japanese supply ships and also offered up amusing and poignant details about wartime life.

These accounts are supplemented by numerous oral histories, declassified documents and exhaustive research at the National Archives. Full Cast and Crew.


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Female Spies and Their Secrets

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The Things Our Fathers Saw-The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation-Volume IV

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  6. Photos Add Image. Edit Cast Credited cast: Ron David Narrator voice Rest of cast listed alphabetically: James Delgado Himself - Norwegian Commando Claus Helberg Himself - Norwegian Commando Dan Lenahan Himself - Marine Archaeologist unconfirmed Kjell Nielsen Himself - Norwegian Commando Hashiro Oshikawa Himself - Kamikaze Squadron unconfirmed Jens A.

    Himself - Norwegian Commando Einar Skinnarland Taglines: Three Secrets that Changed the War. Certificate: Not Rated. Language: English Japanese. Runtime: 53 min. Color: Black and White Color. Edit Did You Know?

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