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In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers durinIn the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.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....

Title : Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II
Author :
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ISBN : 9780316439893
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II Reviews

  • Julie Barnard
    2019-06-14 10:27

    My mother was in the Navy during World War II doing code breaking; she was at Terminal Island near Long Beach in Southern California. She had been a classics major in college, studying Latin and Greek. The book was fascinating and made me wish that I could talk to her and ask the dozens of questions I never did.

  • Pamela
    2019-06-19 14:39

    EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT!! "[A]ll along there have been female geniuses whose contributions are as important as their male counterparts. It's just that far less attention had been paid to them, and often these women were denied the top spots that would have brought them more recognition.Best work of historical nonfiction for 2017, by a landslide! Had I finished Liza Mundy's outstanding tome - Code Girls- before the onset of the Readers Choice Awards I would have nominated it. And it deserves a smashingly good review. But here's the kicker Due to a couple rounds in hospital, and other life-is-an-adventure-craziness, I'm a month behind on reviews. So this will have to suffice for now. But I highly recommend this fabulous, highly engaging and relevant book, a look back at key women and components of WWII that totally changed the course of the war. Quotes to come . . . FIVE ***** Utterly Fascinating, Enlightening, Engaging, and Wowing; Highly Recommended Nonfiction, WWII, History Reading ***** STARS

  • Cynthia
    2019-05-24 09:26

    Though I've long been interested in the WWll code work all my reading up until now was about Bletchley Park and the work the Brits did so Code Girls was a welcome addition to my ongoing quest for understanding of this topic. The focus stays firmly on the women's perspective which was a welcome though often frustrating outlook. The often very young women, new college grads or even teenagers, accomplished amazing things while getting little credit. Sometimes the men fulfilled strereotypes of how women were treated at this time (and even today) but in other instances there was a surprisingly level playing field as all ideas were welcomed from the youngest to the most mature minds and from the highest ranking to the non ranging civilians. There was one shared goal: to find out what the enemy was up to so they could save American and Allied lives.There's a nice balance between the women's work and home life though the two were fairly mixed together since the women shared living quarters and tended to invite their male cohorts over for parties or meals. It was easier that way with less fear of saying the wrong thing to outsiders. Don't get me wrong the youthful high spirits were more focused on work than home or romantic life. I found this book inspiring and it was refreshing to read about the American code breakers.Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance reader's copy.

  • Kaitlyn Red Wing
    2019-06-14 11:30

    I was provided with a free copy of this book by NetGalley and Little, Brown in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.I'm always game for a book centered around World War II. Add women and their major role and you've got me hooked. Code Girls is like taking a walk through history. A walk that is so rarely acknowledged and respected. While men were oversees fighting, women stepped up, Mundy gives a thorough history of the U.S. recruitments of women to break enemy codes. Over ten thousand women moved to Washington, in secret to decode enemy messages that would change the fate of the war. The book is a lot to take in. It covers a lot of information over many years and at times can become confusing. Especially when switching between Navy and Army code breakers and the countless women we follow. Where I felt the book lacked was in the characters themselves. Too much of the book was "Dot was this old, lived here, here parents names were blank and blank and this is why she joined the war" Only this was over entire chapters. Too much time was spent on the backstories of each women and not on their actual efforts in the war. While I value this homage to their lives, the book felt choppy and these chapters unnecessary. This book could've gone one or two ways, either it should've been just about cryptography and the war and how it worked, or it should've been about a few women (real or not) and their work over the course of the war. It felt like it was trying to be both and it failed. I really wish I could say this book hit the nail on the head, but it missed, just barely. If you're okay reading an ultimately boring book but looking for some interesting facts in the midst, feel free to pick this up. I did learn some things, but felt like I could've got all of the necessary information in a 100 page book

  • Jackballoon
    2019-06-02 08:52

    I enjoyed this book tremendously, never having known that women were also codebreakers. My Dad was one who never talked about it. He was one of the those who was evacuated off Correigedor, by submarine, just before it fell. (Page 133) He was missing in action for awhile, and landed in Australia. He was in Navy communications for 30 years, but none of us ever knew what he did. I bet if he were alive now, he still wouldn't answer any questions.

  • Jean Poulos
    2019-06-14 14:55

    I first heard about women code breakers in a historical fiction book by D. M. Sorlie. The heroine in the Sue Lee Series was recruited and trained to be a cryptographer by the Army. When I saw this book, I thought it might fill in my gap of knowledge on the subject.During World War One many women were recruited as Code breakers but as soon as the war was over they were sent home and told the secrecy oath was still effective. They were forgotten over time by the historians. During World War Two more than 10,000 women worked on breaking and creating complex codes for the military and diplomatic forces. Mundy stated that during her research she discovered that many of the code breakers were female school teachers. The requirements for a code breaker were the ability to detect patterns, and have a deep understanding of the inner workings of languages and mathematics. The Navy recruited from the elite Seven Sisters Colleges and the Army recruited from teacher colleges of the South and Midwest. There were also a large portion of women code breakers that were civilian workers. The author states a small group of African-American women worked in the cryptology section and specialized in money movements and banking. The demand for educated women was at its highest during the war.The working conditions were difficult. The could not talk about their jobs; they lived in cramped quarters and had to put up with complex bureaucracy and sexual harassment. There accomplishments were most often dismissed by the men. The men stated that all the women were good for was to do the tedious work.After seventy years the information about the women code breakers was declassified. The book is well written and the research was meticulous. The author searched the government documents and archives. She interviewed the women code breakers, many of them were in their 90s.I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is fourteen hours long. Erin Bennett does a great job narrating the book. Bennett is a voice-over artist and award-winning audiobook narrator.

  • Joy Smith
    2019-06-09 16:32

    This story--and the identities of the code girls--was classified for years. It's a fascinating look at our history and how these incredible and intelligent women helped us win the war. Their work of decoding and translating Japanese and German communications (and others) had to be kept secret so our enemies couldn't learn why our military so often was able to destroy u-boats and ships of all kinds, and it helped us on the islands that the Japanese held. Back in the day women weren't encouraged to go to college, to study math, the sciences, and other languages, so many of the women were recruited from colleges and schools, including teachers; most of these women had persevered--working hard--to get an education. And they weren't told what their work would be when they were first approached, but they were eager to help in the war effort and looked forward to the opportunity--whatever it was. And they could never reveal to anyone, including family and friends, what they were doing; they kept the secret for years.The stories of the women and their working conditions are interwoven with the history of the war, including the rivalry between the Navy and the Army who had their own cryptography departments; the author does an amazing job of making this an interesting read. There are updates and a long list of acknowledgments and a bibliography that hint at the research she did. There is romance and tragedy and the horrors of war. This is a must read because the history of these women and the war and the aftermath should not be forgotten any longer.

  • Katie
    2019-06-12 16:36

    A really hard to follow but ultimately rewarding book. Liza Mundy (mostly) describes the experiences of two code breakers: Dot and Ruth. Through their eyes, we are able to see the inner workings of what was one of the most secretive US operations during WWII. This book is a treasure trove of information. These women were responsible for saving thousands of lives--and on the other hand, they bore the weight of destroying thousands of others; most notably they broke the code that allowed the US to intercept and take down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Their work was both difficult and stressful. They were not allowed to tell anyone (including friends or family) what they were doing. Sometimes they broke codes that made them realize their brothers, husbands, or friends would die and that they were powerless to save them.It's hard to imagine working under pressure of this magnitude, and Mundy does a wonderful job of relaying how the women were able to normalize their lives, often turning to each other for a sense of community. My biggest complaint is that the narrative jumps around a lot. There are so many women, from so many places, each with their own set of circumstances, families, and job specialties. I found it really hard to keep track of all of them. Add to that the fact Mundy tries to break down how they went about their code breaking using additives and patterns...I was SO LOST!That being said, I learned a lot from this book and am glad I stuck with it. I honestly don't know what the world would be like today without the contributions of these incredible women.

  • Rick
    2019-05-28 16:28

    “Code Girls” by Liza Mundy was a delightful story, and one not told before. This book joins that genre that has been abuilding about barely known or almost forgotten groups – often women – whose untold or rarely told stories show how much they have contributed to the progress of our nation. For example, the book (by Margot Lee Shetterly) and movie (Hidden Figures) about the African-American women who helped advance the space program. Other narratives such as those on the Tuskegee Airmen and WASP women aviators fill the same category. Code Girls is a World War II tale of 10,000 some women being recruited to act as code breakers (using cryptanalysis) which enabled the Allies to know of enemy plans and strategies before they occurred. Both the U.S. Army and Navy used Code Girls: the Army as civilians at Arlington Hall and the Navy as commissioned officers and enlisted personnel in the WAVES at the Naval Annex; both locations were close to Washington DC.The book was sent to me through a Goodreads Giveaway. Well researched and written on a personal level, this was an engaging narrative. Recommended.

  • Leslie Anderson
    2019-05-27 12:39

    Code Girls has very interesting moments, but unfortunately they end suddenly and return to repetitive convincing that women were important in breaking codes. Now I think this story deserves to be told but the book was good when we met one of the girls, like Dot and had a chance to hear her story. It is unfortunate that this was followed by chapters of history book excerpts from the the female perspective before we heard the story of another girl. To be honest I was disappointed because I love the idea of highlighting these women but wanted to see their story not be told a bunch of facts about them.

  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    2019-05-28 14:36

    Summary: A perfect narrative nonfiction blend of personal stories, global events, and a history of code breaking."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" (source) but here the author is able to share their story based on interviews and recently declassified documents.This book was everything I hoped it would be. The personal stories, told with the help of letters and interviews, really brought the women to life. An author couldn't have made up more engaging stories. Although the author does include the women's personal lives and their romances, this helped present them as well rounded people without taking over the story. Marriages were presented as part of their stories, but not as the culmination or ending.The bigger picture story was presented well too. The female code-breakers during WWII influenced global events throughout the war and their lives were influenced by global events, so this made for an intimate perspective on the course of the war. The history of code breaking, particularly the constant participation of women, was also explored. I loved learning about some principles of code-breaking as well. The author did an incredible job integrating all of these aspects - personal stories, global events, and code-breaking history - in a wonderful, engaging way.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  • Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
    2019-06-06 08:46

    Code Girls is a terrific oral history and more. Liza Mundy, a journalist, interviewed dozens of people, scoured government documents, studied contemporary newspaper and journal articles, and tapped a wealth of books, videos, and web pages to tell the previously untold story of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of women who cracked codes during World War II. Many were recruited from universities, some hired on with the U.S. Government, some joined the WACS or WAVES. They moved to the Washington, D.C. area and lived in government housing or shared quarters with other code breakers. Mundy tells the history of wartime code breaking in the U.S. and describes some of the methods that were used. She follows the progress of the war and some of the women who worked long hours doing meticulous work, knowing that solving the ciphers quickly was critical and could mean life or death to troops halfway around the world. For many years they were anonymous, taking seriously the pledge of non-disclosure the government swore them to. When the cone of silence was finally lifted, many were still reluctant to talk, and sadly, many had died. Mundy talked with many of the women, and with surviving family members of others, was given access to letters and journals, and to the many colorful memories so many of the women had.I enjoyed reading about the decoding processes and the evolution of codes during the war, as well as the more personal side of the women's stories. Mundy dug up fascinating details such as what the women did during their free time (one group of women bought a sailboat and spent their free time floating on the Potomac), the attitudes of the civilian and military men to working with so many women, and what the women did after the war.A well researched and thoroughly documented account of a story that has too long been untold.(Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for a digital review copy.)

  • Liesl
    2019-05-24 10:41

    Good, but not without flaws. I liked learning about these forgotten women of history and the vital role that they played during World War II; in that respect, the book reminded me of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I would have preferred for Mundy to have focused on a handful of women from the group to highlight; as presented, there is an overwhelming amount of ladies to keep straight along with lots of general information relayed about the war. I also feel that cryptanalysis, which is given a basic overview, could have been explored in further detail. Although it could have been stronger overall, I'm glad that I read this.Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this title.

  • Kate
    2019-06-16 08:54

    I love that this book exists, I just wish it could have been know 70 years ago. The work these brave, unsung women did to help the war effort is amazing. For fans of Hidden Figures and Radium Girls, Liza Mundy shines the light on women who were breaking codes and helping to revolutionize cryptology. After listening to the audiobook, I also had the pleasure of hearing Liza Mundy talk about her book here at Fountain (we have signed copies!). You might want to speak to your grandmothers and great grandmothers, because a lot of the Code Girls don't know that it's been declassified- prepare to be amazed!

  • writegeist
    2019-05-27 11:32

    Mundy's in-depth view of how American women were in many ways the deciding factor in helping to win WWII expanded my already introductory understanding of the history of code breaking as presented in Fagone's The Woman Who Smashed Codes. It's also an interesting study of America's views of women and their ability to contribute to the society (pretty much as school teachers and wives). We still struggle with prejudices and misconceptions of what women are capable of doing. It is a comfort to know that the American experiment allowed them to help, to take on roles that many (most?) felt only men could do. I venture to say Germany and Japan lost the war because they were unwilling to let women work. A fascinating book. Highly recommended.

  • Kelly
    2019-06-19 11:31

    The Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers by Liza MundyOctober 2017Non-fictionI received this digital ARC in exchange for an unbiased review from NetGalley.A remarkable true account of the many women who were instrumental in the WWII era. Their stories, not unlike many other women over the years, have gone unspoken due to the classified nature of their work. The author thoroughly researched the women who were vital in the history of code breaking during WWII. She brings these women to life and provides a voice to those who are still alive. These well-educated women were vetted specifically for this complex task. Although they were unable to disclose the importance of their work, it is clear that the work provided tremendous pride and satisfaction. The story was a little slow and dry at times but understandable given the attention to detail and accuracy. There are many memorable characters who played major roles in protecting our country with their unique ability to decipher complex codes from different countries. It fascinates me how important women were to the national security of our country.

  • Alyssa Nelson
    2019-06-08 11:45

    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*Code Girls is far and away the BEST non-fiction I’ve read this year, if not in the past five years. Following the style of Hidden Figures in showing just how much work women have done to make our country what it is today, Liza Mundy reveals the women behind the code-breaking operation during World War II. During her research, she asked for documents to be declassified (some successfully, some not), giving us access to a whole new world of information about the lives of women during the war that they were never allowed to talk about.What struck me most about this book is how well the author formats the narrative; she gives plenty of background information in the field of cryptanalysis, the context of what was happening during World War II at various times, and the context of just what the military was doing in order to combat the Axis nations. Within that, she follows the lives of a few women who left their normal lives to work for the government and help the war effort by joining a super secret project that broke codes for the military. Because of the way it’s written, you get both the full context of what’s happening and what the work the women are doing means, but you also get the human element of being able to relate to specific women who served as codebreakers, which is such a great balance to have in a non-fiction. It really helps it to become a page-turner and I was enthralled.I never realized how much I didn’t know about the US World War II effort; I would poke at my husband throughout the day to share the most interesting tidbits and tell him about what I was learning; it almost made me feel like a little kid again, discovering information that fascinated and enthralled me. And, of course, it’s so great to hear the stories of women who were rock stars but never able to tell anyone about their accomplishments; it’s humbling to read about how much work they did and the sort of conditions they put up with in order to simply help us win the war.This book is everything — heartbreaking, inspiring, emotional, and intelligently researched. I’m going to be buying copies of this for friends for Christmas this year, because this is a story that people need to know.Also posted on Purple People Readers.

  • Julie
    2019-06-16 13:27

    The writing was wonderful, the narratives of the women and their path to code breaking was remarkable. It was inspiring to read how WWII was really only won because of women. Some of them had fascinating stories and apparently Bill Nye's mom was one of the codebreakers! The sexism, the condescension, the struggle to get by in an expensive area during wartime with an income higher than could be expected in other lines of work, but still not great. It was incredible. My only complaint was the format of the story. It jumped around in time, to different locations, to different women. One woman's story is used as the over-all arc of the book, but it was sporadic when she'd reenter the story and it was hard to keep track of each department and the women in it and what exactly they did that's different from other departments. I would've loved if it was more clearly broken down chronologically or by departments so it was easier to follow and keep straight.

  • Dick Reynolds
    2019-06-03 11:47

    Liza Mundy takes us back to the early 1940s — before, during and after WWII — and tells a fascinating story of how many talented American women worked so hard to break the communication codes used by the Germans and Japanese. She gives the reader a brief tutorial on the decoding techniques employed by these women such as cribs, overlaps, and additives. They aren’t too technical and will give you an appreciation of how difficult and tedious the job can be. One of their earliest triumphs occurred in September 1940 when Genevieve Grotjan broke the code being used by Japan’s “Purple” encryption machine. This breakthrough gave the U. S. strategic and long term intelligence that saved thousands of lives. For example, many messages were decoded that revealed the intended movement of Admiral Yamamoto’s fleet. Such information contributed greatly to the U. S. Navy’s victory at the battle of Midway. Many of the women who came to Washington from college campuses became members of our Navy as either enlisted or officers. The women’s part of the Navy had just been created and was called WAVES. It was actually a clever acronym that stood for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. To make the job even more attractive to volunteers the Navy enlisted the services of fashion house Mainbocher to design a snappy uniform for the women. Code breaking was not all of the triumphs won during the war. Prior to the invasion of France in June 1944, the U. S. engaged in a bit of communications trickery. So much fake message traffic was generated that the Germans believed the Allies had three armies ready to attack, one of which was fake and would invade Norway. The idea here was to make sure the Germans didn’t move troops from Norway to France. Mundy notes that many women code breakers went on to top level positions at the National Security Agency (NSA), the federal agency at Ft. Meade, MD that is responsible for monitoring the communications of all potential threats to our country. Mundy also conducted many interviews of women who served as code breakers, now allowed to tell their stories, to give us a fascinating picture of the long hours they worked to provide an extremely valuable service.

  • Lorrie
    2019-06-06 11:55

    Lengthy non-fictional account of WWII female code breakers. Actual correspondence & military records are included in this narrative which makes for an interesting historical lesson. I knew relatively little about this subject before reading this book. These women, Waves & Wack’s, had to adhere to the same athletic exercise regime and military dress uniform as their male counterparts while making less money and living in constant fear of pregnancy. They were not allowed to tell anyone what their specific government job was. I listened to the 12 disk audio which I would recommend for an otherwise rather dry read.

  • Lauren Caprioglio
    2019-06-02 13:40

    Repetitive phrasing at times and it jumps around a bit, but a really fascinating and solid story. Thoroughly enjoyed the history.

  • Laurie
    2019-05-22 15:45

    Well researched & discussed from all angles. Interesting opportunities given, differences made, lives changed. If you liked Rocket Girls and Hidden Figures, you'll also appreciate this book.

  • Darcysmom
    2019-06-01 14:54

    I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. Liza Mundy has written a compelling, well researched history that reads like a novel. The women who were recruited to do cryptanalysis during World War II were an extraordinary group who were intellectual, committed to the war effort, and able to take the lead and break codes that laid open the communications of the German and Japanese armed forces. It is not hyperbole to say that these women were instrumental in the Allied forces winning the war.This book should be required reading for everyone! It is important to see these women finally getting the recognition they deserve. In the notes and sources, there is a treasure trove of information that can be easily accessed, including oral histories! Code Girls should go to the top of your to be bought and to be read lists!

  • Nate Morse
    2019-06-20 09:48

    Advanced Review Copy.... Book to be released in October.The best way I can describe this book is to imagine wandering around a museum of Code Breaking during WWII and seeing different exhibits. You learn about what the codes were like and how they are formed, you then learn about some women who did were asked to do the work of code breaking, then you learn about architecture of the buildings they stayed in, then about different women and how they spent their of time.... and so forth. It is well written and interesting, but it seems disjointed at time as it switches focuses often and doesn't move chronologically. So overall, a very interesting history about how cryptography in America is built on the backs of women, but rarely were recognized of that fact.

  • Maureen
    2019-06-13 13:43

    4+- what a great story- I am loving how these deep, dark secrets of woman power are coming to light. There is a lot of techie lingo in this book which may have not been the best for me to read while having the flu, but the stories about the individual ladies were fantastically engaging. I learned a lot about something I knew nothing about so this one is a winner for me!

  • Catherine Read
    2019-06-09 09:47

    People in her family knew Dot [Dorothy Braden Bruce] was doing something for the war, but they assumed it was secretarial and low-level. She could not even tell her mother. But even as she admired the Navy women's outfits, it never occurred to Dot that the WAVES might be engaged in the same war work that she was, endeavoring - just as she was - to beat back the fascist menace and break the codes that would bring the boys home.I'm familiar with the wonderful writing of journalist and author Liza Mundy. A long time resident of Arlington, VA, she attended North Cross School in Roanoke, VA, before going on to earn degrees at both Princeton University and the University of Virginia. She is a talented writer who brings to life this amazing story of the thousands of women who helped the Allies win in World War II. My aunts, Maggie Catasca and Madeline Catasca, left their home in Roanoke to join the war effort as well. Aunt Maggie was a WAVE and Aunt Madeline had a civilian job and they shared an apartment in Arlington, VA, along with another roommate. My Aunt Mary Jane recalls that she and my mother went up to visit them over the summers while they were there. I recalled that my mother told me Madeline had worked on the code team that decoded the Japanese surrender. When I asked her daughter, my cousin Maggie, what her mother did during the war, she responded, "She never talked about what she did in the war. Neither did my father. I think it was secretarial." All the women who worked on code breaking teams were sworn to secrecy. Even roommates did not talk about their work with each other. And ALL OF THEM were told to say they did secretarial work. On the eve of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army had 181 people working in its small, highly secret code-breaking office in downtown Washington. By 1945 nearly 8,000 people would be working stateside for the Army's massive code-breaking operation, at a much-expanded suburban Virginia venue called Arlington Hall, with another 2,500 serving in the field. Of the entire group, some 7,000 were women. This means that of the Army's 10,500 person-strong code-breaking force, nearly 70 percent was female. Similarly, at the war's outset the U.S. Navy had a few hundred code breakers, stationed mostly in Washington but also in Hawaii and the Philippines. By 1945, there were 5,000 Naval code breakers stationed in Washington, and about the same number serving overseas. At least 80 percent of the Navy's domestic code breakers - some 4,000 - were female. Thus, out of about 20,000 total American code breakers during the war, some 11,000 were women.And they were sworn to secrecy. Which may account for why the children and grandchildren, parents and siblings of these 11,000 women had no idea what they did in the war. This story NEEDS to be told! The comparison to Hidden Figures is justified - why did it take decades for these stories to be told? There is a whole generation of girls who grew up with no idea that women were mathematicians, scientists, technology pioneers . . . and war heroes.In 1942, only about 4 percent of American women had completed four years of college. Both the Navy and the Army recruited these young women right out of their college classrooms in a highly secretive mission where they themselves were not certain of what they had signed up for. They next set their sites on recruiting school teachers from all over the country, as they too showed an aptitude for code breaking work. But as the war progressed and more and more women came to Washington and Arlington, they discovered there was no way to really predict who would be good at this type of work.Administrators were finding to their chagrin that there often was not a correlation between a person's background and how well that person would do at breaking codes. Some PhDs were hopeless, and some high school dropouts were naturals. There was a stage actress who was working out wonderfully, as was a woman with little formal education who had been a star member of the American Cryptogram Association, a membership group for puzzle and cipher enthusiasts. Code breaking required literacy, numeracy, care, creativity, painstaking attention to detail, a good memory, and a willingness to hazard guesses. It required a tolerance for drudgery and a boundless reserve of energy and optimism. A reliable aptitude test had yet to be developed.The research here is excellent and captivating. The personal stories of these women really shine a light on what it was like to live and work in such an intense time where the lives of their husbands and brothers hinged on how well they could to this work. Liza Mundy did extensive interviews with Dorothy Braden Bruce, a native of Lynchburg, VA, and a long time resident of Richmond, VA. She saved the many letters that were sent and received while her future husband, Jim Bruce, was overseas and that contemporaneous account of that era is priceless. This is one of those books that needs to be a "must read" for those who believe they know the history of World War II. That knowledge is incomplete without understanding the contributions of 11,000 women whose stories have never been told. This is an exceptional book.

  • Jill
    2019-06-12 13:33

    In the same vein as "Hidden Figures", this history of the female codebreakers that contributed significantly to the progress of WWII is long overdue. The author interviewed a number of the codebreakers and their families and researched the topic extensively when the previously classified information was finally declassified. The codebreakers were sworn to silence while employed and for many years afterwards; in most cases their husbands and families had no idea of the importance and complexity of the job the young women were doing during the war. It was generally believed that they had fulfilled some menial clerical function.The author incorporates personal information from a number of the "code girls" and factual information on many others. Women were responsible for many of the most important code breaking accomplishments during the war, and their efforts definitely helped the U.S. to win the war on both fronts. They actually learned of the Japanese surrender before many in the government and military did!Women were recruited from colleges and universities, and many had been trained as teachers, one of the few occupations available to educated women at the time. They underwent extensive screening and training to ensure that they were fit for the work. They arrived in Washington, D.C. in droves and were housed in hastily constructed rather Spartan accommodations. The work was scheduled 24 hours a day, and housing was so limited that it wasn't uncommon for multiple girls to use the same bed. They were housed and fed, and provided with a wage that was more than any of them could ever had made as teachers; nevertheless their pay rate was still 25-30% than men doing the same work. It was an exciting time to be in the Capitol, and the women also had lively social lives, some of them being courted by multiple men in uniform and all of them maintaining a steady correspondence with one or more men who were serving the country.The technical information relating to the strategy and tactics of code breaking was quite detailed, but somewhat inscrutable to me so I skimmed quickly some of those sections; suffice it to say that it required an extreme amount of organization, attention to detail, a mathematical orientation, razor sharp memories and ability to see patterns, both small and large.I found the book quite riveting, with enough personal detail to enliven the story, and enough technical detail to establish just how serious and demanding their work was. I can definitely imagine that a movie will be made of this exciting and interesting chapter in our nation's history.

  • Jenn
    2019-05-29 10:33

    4.5 starsUntil the fairly recent declassification of material, few people knew that thousands of women served as code breakers during WWII. In this fascinating and well researched investigative history, journalist Liza Mundy thoroughly details both the story of these women and the role of cryptanalysis within the war effort through interviews of surviving women, their families, and petitions to declassify information related to their work. It is hard to grasp that over ten thousand women, including Bill Nye's mother, were recruited as cryptographers; yet we knew nothing of it. .Among their successes were breaking the code used by the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, and learning about the Japanese surrender before the military leaders did. Mundy brilliantly portrays what it was like for a code girl and it wasn't as glamorous as you would think. Code girl were sworn to absolute secrecy; not even their husbands and families were allowed to know what they did. Often times they decoded details of an operation where loved ones were in mortal danger but they were unable to do anything about it. The job was isolating, stressful, and crucial so they banded together as a support system.I cannot praise Mundy's writing and research skills enough. I do have to warn you that this is an at times overwhelming about of details and information. Some of the technical details could have been excluded. A more intimate look at fewer women would have been better but overall this is an amazingly readable book despite all of the details crammed into the narrative. That is a testament to just how great a writer Liza Mundy is. If you enjoyed Hidden Figures you need to read this. I am not particularly interested in WWII military non-fiction as a rule and Code Girls had me riveted!

  • Ken Hoffner
    2019-05-27 09:41

    I give this book four stars because of the incredible story it tells about the 10,000 young women who went to Washington, DC during World War II to help break coded enemy messages. If I rated the book on its writing, I would probably give it 2.5 stars because it could have used some better editing and focus, but the awe inspiring narrative ratchets my rating up. These young women came fresh out of college and were often teachers who were chosen to be cryptoanalysts because of their aptitudes in math, languages, and music. They were an incredibly bright group, but the task of breaking codes was daunting, requiring equal measures of patience, perseverance, persistence, luck, and skill. Before the war's end, these women successfully broke the code systems used by the Japanese ambassadorial staff, army, navy, and their merchant marine fleets. Although the Poles, Alan Turing and the Brits at Bletchley Park first broke the German Enigma coding system, the Enigma system used by the German U-Boats had eluded decryption until the use of bombe machines, early computers that were run by the Code Girls.Besides focusing on the technical story of code-breaking, the book offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the women who often came from rural America to the wartime boomtown of Washington, DC to break codes. Two characters, Dot and Ruth, provide detailed accounts of their experiences of a time that they saw as the most exciting period of their lives. Many of the women did incredibly important work that shortened the war by years, but were sent home unrecognized and sworn to secrecy into a post-war nation where there were limited vocational opportunities for women.These ladies were heroes by any stretch of the imagination, and this book stands as a fitting memorial to the "Code Girls."

  • Mauri
    2019-06-05 12:36

    This book is a journey, for sure -- it's absolutely gripping in places, and in others, it takes a certain bit of mental stamina to read through what seemed like excruciating detail (far more than I could completely understand, re: coding, or that I could ever recall). But the book revealed so much beyond the obvious value of knowing the Codebreakers' amazing story. Like most books, there are always layers of value, depending on the reader. I found that for children, like myself, of parents who lived through and served in the war, this gave me a more detailed picture than I can remember getting anywhere else of WW2. My father was in the Army, a medic, at Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge, and the codebreakers' account of it was highly emotional for me, as he never talked about it much, and it was the first time I had any real inkling of what he really went through. It was incredibly difficult to read, but I was so glad for it, especially from a woman writer's perspective. Then, there is the real sense of how a world war (an idea that is perhaps thrown around a little too casually these days in the political sphere) changes everything, for everyone, at every level of our lives. Mundy does a great job of painting as complete a picture of that reality through this story as any author could. The service and efforts of these women who were behind every battle was inspiring, and heartbreaking. I loved the wrap-ups at the end -- all in all, it's a book that takes a certain amount of perseverance to get through, but the payoff is worth it.