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

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

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.
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Product Details
Sales Rank:
13,502
Pages:
432
Publication Date:
10/10/2017
ISBN13:
9780316352536
Product Dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.80(h) x1.40(d)
Publisher:
Hachette Books
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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

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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What People Are Saying
"Code Girls is a riveting account of the thousands of young coeds who flooded into Washington to help America win World War II. Liza Mundy has written a thrilling page-turner that illuminates the patriotism, rivalry and sexism of the code-breakers' world.""Code Girls is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary author. Liza Mundy's portraits of World War II codebreakers are so skillfully and vividly drawn that I felt as if I were right there with them—mastering ciphers, outwitting the Japanese army, sinking ships, breaking hearts, and even accidentally insulting Eleanor Roosevelt. I am an evangelist for this book: You must read it.""Liza Mundy's Code Girls reveals one of World War Two's last remaining secrets: the true tale of the young American women who helped shorten the war and saved thousands of lives by breaking the codes of the German and Japanese armed forces. But it's also a superbly researched and stirringly written social history of a pivotal chapter in the struggle for women's rights, told through the powerful and poignant stories of the individuals involved. In exploring the vast, obscure and makeshift offices of wartime Washington where these women performed seemingly impossible deeds, Mundy has discovered a birthplace of modern America."Code Girls is a riveting account of the thousands of young coeds who flooded into Washington to help America win World War II. Liza Mundy has written a thrilling page-turner that illuminates the patriotism, rivalry and sexism of the code-breakers' world.""Code Girls reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers, whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II. With clarity and insight, Mundy exposes the intertwined narratives of the women who broke codes and the burgeoning field of military intelligence in the 1940s. I cannot overstate the importance of this book; Mundy has rescued a piece of forgotten history, and given these American heroes the recognition they deserve."
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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.08/07/2017
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.)★ 08/01/2017
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.★ 2017-07-03
A previously untold history of the American women who served as codebreakers during World War II.When Hidden Figures—both the book and the movie it inspired—reached popular audiences, many Americans were surprised to learn that women played an instrumental role at NASA in the 1960s. That women have long been excluded from professional and intellectual life is well-known. That women have, during times of national crisis or fervor, bypassed that exclusion has not been so well-known. During the war, writes former Washington Post reporter Mundy (The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family, 2012, etc.), some 11,000 women served the war effort by working as codebreakers. Almost 70 percent of the Army's codebreaking force was female, and at least 80 percent of the Navy's. In addition to breaking enemy codes, they also tested American codes, ran complicated office machines, built libraries of intelligence, and worked as translators. At first, the military recruited only college-educated women strong in science, math, or languages; later, as the field rapidly expanded, many thousands more women were welcomed. Their jobs were intensely difficult, stimulating, and vital to the war effort. Because of the sensitive nature of their work, they told anyone who asked (including their own families) that they were doing low-level office tasks. Mundy is a fine storyteller, effectively shaping a massive amount of raw research into a sleek, compelling narrative. She had access to boxes of Army and Navy memos, reports, and internal histories, and she also interviewed some of the women who served as codebreakers. Unfortunately, she only briefly touches on the African-American women who worked on codes and never mentions the Navajo Code Talkers who served the same effort. Despite those omissions and the occasional cliché, the book is a winner. Her descriptions of codes and ciphers, how they worked and how they were broken, are remarkably clear and accessible. A well-researched, compellingly written, crucial addition to the literature of American involvement in World War II.
"Irresistible.... We owe Mundy gratitude for rescuing these hidden figures from obscurity. Even more valuable is her challenge to the myth of the eccentric, inspired, solitary male genius, like Alan Turing."—Elaine Showalter, Washington Post

"Code Girls...finally gives due to the courageous women who worked in the wartime intelligence community."—Smithsonian.com

"Code Girls is a riveting account of the thousands of young coeds who flooded into Washington to help America win World War II. Liza Mundy has written a thrilling page-turner that illuminates the patriotism, rivalry, and sexism of the code-breakers' world."—Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt

"Code Girls
is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary author. Liza Mundy's portraits of
World War II codebreakers are so skillfully and vividly drawn that I felt as if
I were right there with them—mastering ciphers, outwitting the Japanese army,
sinking ships, breaking hearts, and even accidentally insulting Eleanor
Roosevelt. I am an evangelist for this book: You must read it."—Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy

"Code Girls
reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers, whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II. With clarity and insight, Mundy exposes the intertwined narratives of the women who broke codes and the burgeoning field of military intelligence in the 1940s. I cannot overstate the importance of this book; Mundy has rescued a piece of forgotten history, and given these American heroes the recognition they deserve."—Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls

"Mundy is a fine storyteller.... A sleek, compelling narrative.... The book is a winner. Her descriptions of codes and ciphers, how they worked and how they were broken, are remarkably clear and accessible. A
well-researched, compellingly written, crucial addition to the literature of
American involvement in World War II."—Kirkus (starred review)

"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."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Mundy's fascinating book suggests that [the
Code Girls'] influence did play a role in defining modern Washington and challenging gender roles—changes that still matter 75 years later."—Washingtonian

"Fascinating.... Addictively readable.... [Mundy] displays a gift for creating both human portraits and intensely satisfying scenes."—Boston Globe

"Like Hidden Figures, this well-crafted book reveals a remarkable slice of unacknowledged U.S. history.... Captivating."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Extraordinary.... Mundy's book is expansive and precise. It's anecdotal enough to make it an entertaining read for the layperson, and there's plenty of technical detail to interest the crypto-nerd."—Houston Chronicle

"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."—Booklist (starred review)


"Astonishing.... Mundy, who mined US National Security
Agency archives and interviewed survivors for the book, joins authors such as
Margot Lee Shetterly and Nathalia Holt in giving the women behind great twentieth-century scientific endeavors their due."—Nature

"Mundy unveils the untold story of a very important part of American History that otherwise would have been kept secret."—Miami Herald

"Fans of Hidden Figures .... will love this true story of the women who cracked German and Japanese military code during
World War II."—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-)

"The book not only shines a light on a hidden chapter of American history, it also tells the kind of story of courage and determination that makes you want to work harder and be better."—Denver Post

"Women who helped bring victory achieve visibility, at last, in this history."—Military Times
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Customer Reviews (10)
Great insight to an overdue story!
Everyone should learn about the dedication and efforts these woman put forth during a hectic period of American history.
- Anonymous
February 4, 2018
What a great book. What great stories about the women who worked i ...
What a great book. What great stories about the women who worked in anonymity to help win WWII. I highly recommend this book especially those with an interest in WWII history.
- JerseyBoy
June 13, 2018
A terrific book
Highly recommended.
- Anonymous
December 29, 2017
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