The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Allies versus Germans: they won because they were Allies

It is my opinion that one of the prominent and yet overlooked reasons that the Allied cryptanalysts were able to end up winning against German cryptographers was that they were indeed Allies. Although there were times when they kept information from each other, they were able to share their breakthroughs in a way that Germany could not share with its allies. Every time an advancement in breaking the code was made it was possible for them to share that advancement with each other, and this allowed them to break more codes faster. Germany, on the other hand could not share breakthroughs with codewriting and codebreaking with its allies. This is for a pretty obvious reason.

The Allies were only intent on defeating Germany and its allies, to keep the world balance as it was. Germany and its allies were intent on conquering as much territory as possible. This meant that Germany was afraid to share information with its allies, because there was always the chance that once they defeated the Allies, they would turn on each other. An interesting parallel of this would be that of supervillains. The issue with them joining together to defeat superheroes was and is always that they can’t work together for very long before turning on each other.

The Allies could communicate with each other. Germany could not do so. This, as simple as it is, is one of the key reasons that the cryptanalysts worked so efficiently. The Allies were allies.


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Rejewski and Turing


  1. tsais

    I agree with your argument that a reason for Allied success came from the simplistic ability of the Allies to be allies. It seems that due to its individual motivations, Germany and its allies were unable to have the cooperative alliance that the Allies had. However, when you say, “The Allies could communicate with each other. Germany could not do so,” it seems a little severe. We cannot assume that Germany did not communicate with its allies. Although it may not have been to the same extent of Allied communication, Germany would have had to communicate with its allies to maintain an alliance. Can a large reason for Germany’s defeat really be attributed to lack of communication? Are there larger, more overpowering reasons for this defeat? Perhaps the strength of the Allied cryptographers or the Allies’ resources?

    • Derek

      See Parker’s post for a bit of info on the German approach to codebreaking. I’ll add that, according to David Kahn’s book The Codebreakers, Hitler had a bit of paranoia about any of his underlings becoming too powerful, so he intentionally isolated codebreaking divisions–to his detriment, it would seem.

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