Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Who really broke the Enigma code! by Louis Evan Palmer

Who really broke the Enigma code!

You may have heard about Bletchley park. You may have also heard about Alan Turing and other British mathematicians who worked on Enigma. Since the secrets surrounding Enigma started emerging in the early 1970s, the main focus has been on Britian's role in cracking this supposedly unbreakable code.

It's a rare person who will have any clue as to who these people are other than assuming they are Polish (they are).These are the Polish mathematicians who really broke theEnigma code along with the help of a small Polish contingent of about 60 persons including those who risked their lives to retrieve a broken Enigma machine from a German military vehicle accident.

The Poles worked with French intelligence and using their own data & the French information and advanced mathematical analysis, they broke the code prior to the start of the second world war. Constant effort was needed as the Germans kept refining the machine - adding rotors, adding other components, making the odds longer and longer at ever being able to crack it when its keys were changed every day.

The Enigma code machine had a long and convoluted history. Invented by Dutch naval officers in 1915, it was obtained by a German businessman who took out a patent on it in 1918 and began selling it. In 1924 the German military adapted it and began using it to encrypt military communications.

There has been a not too subtle campaign to minimize or ignore the Polish contribution. If mentioned at all, it's as a footnote. The Poles while having a small team achieved breakthroughs in all aspects of the Enigma code machine. They acquired, often at great risk, the first Enigma machines not in German hands and built facsimiles. They devised the mathematics that assisted in cracking the early & later codes. They came up with the technique of running Enigma machines in series to speed up the deciphering process - which they called "Bomba".

As Jozef Garlinski notes in his book "Hitler's Last Weapons", the Poles were officially working on breaking Enigma in 1932. They had their intelligence services collecting data, they were monitoring radio traffic and liasing with French intelligence. Poland was decrypting German military traffic by the end of 1937. Dabrowa provides other details on this momumental work at http://www.avoca.ndirect.co.uk/enigma/index.html

Of course, there was still tremendous effort and ingenuity required by the Bletchley folks to break the daily key setting and keep up with advances and in these efforts Turing and the others were outstanding - but how much easier their task was when it had been explained in detail by the Poles.

Rejewski. Rozycki. Zygalski.

They deserve our recognition and appreciation.

Who really broke the Enigma code!, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be, http://twicb.blogspot.com

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Copyright Louis Evan Palmer

He lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have been published in numerous publications. 

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