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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

by Liza Mundy

3 Reviews

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II
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Overview

Overview

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Prodigiously researched and engrossing."—New York Times Book Review

"Fascinating.... Addictively readable."—Boston Globe

"Code Girls reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers, whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II.... Mundy has rescued a piece of forgotten history, and given these American heroes the recognition they deserve."—Nathalia Holt, bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls

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.

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Product Details
ISBN-13:
9780316352536
9780316352536
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Hachette Books
Publication date:
10/10/2017
Pages:
432
432
Sales rank:
52
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.40(d)
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About the Author

About the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

The Secret Letters 1

Introduction: "Your Country Needs You, Young Ladies" 17

Part I "In the Event of Total War Women Will Be Needed"

Chapter 1 Twenty-Eight Acres of Girls 53

Chapter 2 "This Is a Man's Size Job, but I Seem to Be Getting Away with It" 86

Chapter 3 The Most Difficult Problem 130

Chapter 4 "So Many Girls in One Place" 169

Part II "Over All This Vast Expanse of Waters Japan Was Supreme"

Chapter 5 "It Was Heart-Rending" 201

Chapter 6 "Q for Communications" 244

Chapter 7 The Forlorn Shoe 311

Chapter 8 "Hell's Half-Acre" 318

Chapter 9 "It Was Only Human to Complain" 356

Chapter 10 Pencil-Pushing Mamas Sink the Shipping of Japan 375

Part III The Tide Turns

Chapter 11 Sugar Camp 401

Chapter 12 "All My Love, Jim" 448

Chapter 13 "Enemy Landing at the Mouth of the Seine" 460

Chapter 14 Teedy 487

Chapter 15 The Surrender Message 499

Chapter 16 Good-Bye to Crow 513

Epilogue The Mitten 522

Acknowledgments 551

Notes 559

Bibliography 609

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Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

…prodigiously researched and engrossing…In an era when history is being updated to reflect the math and science accomplishments of 20th-century women with such accounts as Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, Mundy's book offers valuable insights and information about those unsung women who made crucial contributions during wartime…At the end of the war, virtually all of the female code breakers were given their walking papers and returned to civilian life…Warned not to reveal their secret wartime lives, many remained silent about their valuable service. Thanks to Mundy's book, which deftly conveys both the puzzle-solving complexities and the emotion and drama of this era, their stories will live on.

The New York Times Book Review - Meryl Gordon
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Customer Reviews (3)
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Ne ...
*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.
- alyssama121
October 11, 2017
If you enjoyed Hidden Figures or The Boys On The Boat, you are def ...
If you enjoyed Hidden Figures or The Boys On The Boat, you are definitely going to want to pick up a copy of Code Girls. While I was loosely familiar with Bletchley Park codebreakers in England, I didn't know anything about the US efforts, much less the important role women played. Due to the level of secrecy their job required, many people haven't heard of these amazing cryptanalysts and what they did to help end the second World War. Many of the women maintained confidentiality for decades after the war, even after the ban on talking was lifted, to the extent they were doubtful about whether they should talk to the author. I'm so grateful they did decide to share their stories, however. Mundy gives us a fascinating and valuable history with this work. The effort to recruit women to serve as codebreakers began shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Women also helped with cryptanalysis during the first World War and the chapter that centers on that period of time was mind-blowing, particularly how the women were basically dropped once the war ended.) The Navy targeted women's colleges of the Northeastern Seaboard, while the Army sent recruiters to teaching colleges throughout the South and Midwest. Mundy gives her readers a good understanding of what cryptanalysis is, as well as what it takes to be a good code breaker. This understanding made me even more in awe of what these women accomplished, especially given how much sexism and misogyny they experienced. Women were not welcomed with open arms when it came to the war effort, even though hundreds of thousands ultimately served. While the war was largely viewed as men's domain, women were given positions deemed less interesting, like code breaking. Mundy does not shy away from showing how prevailing sexist attitudes negatively affected the women's careers, especially post-war. Racism was also a factor. Although Eleanor Roosevelt wanted a certain percentage of the Arlington Hall workforce should be black, segregation and Jim Crow were at work. Black workers were given primarily menial jobs but the Army did have an African American code-breaking unit whose existence was so secretive, most white workers didn't know anything about it. Racism also affected Asian Americans who served as translators and in other capacities and who were largely distrusted due to the campaigns against the Japanese. Mundy showcases stories from both the WAVES at the Navy and the Arlington Hall workers at the Army. At times, I became confused about who was who and whether we were talking about the Army or the Navy. Picking a few women to focus on and letting their stories play out throughout the war years would have made for a stronger narrative. However, I learned a lot and I can't imagine how hard it would be to leave certain women's stories out so I can appreciate the choices Mundy made.  I was caught up in the code breaker's successes and frustrations and by the time Germany and then Japan surrendered, I wanted to shout their names from the rooftops. These women sacrificed so much for their country and received little recognition in return. Mundy has changed that by shining a light on their contributions and we are better for it. Oh, and the last paragraph of this book? Perfection. Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.
- LeighKramer
October 10, 2017
Fascinating
Fascinating.
- Anonymous
October 13, 2017
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