The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

The Allies Work Better Under Pressure

It is no secret that Allied code breakers bested German code makers during World War II which contributed enormously to an Allied victory in the war. Germany’s overconfidence in the strength of its Enigma cipher definitely contributed to the Allies’ code breaking success, but another main contribution was the pressure that Germany forced against the Allies. The Allies were on their heels trying to defend against Germany, which led countries to band together and individual cryptographers to band together to fight a common enemy. The necessity for the Allies to break Enigma in order to thwart the Axis’ attacks brought Poland, England, France, and America together which gave them the resources to crack Enigma and Purple (Japan’s encryption method).

Without the pressure the Axis powers were putting the Allies under, they would not have felt the urgency to break Enigma and Purple. The Allies won this war on intelligence because they were on the defense and needed to break Enigma and Purple in order to turn the tables against the Axis, while the Axis got complacent and confident about their machines because they were able to advance through Europe and the Pacific without their code being decrypted. Since the Allies were under such pressure, they had to find a way to gain the advantage. Therefore, countries such as Poland and England teamed up and individuals such as the mathematicians at Bletchley Park teamed up to crack the Enigma and Purple ciphers. Without the pressure that the Axis’ exerted on the Allies, the Allies would not have been so desperate to find any way possible to crack Germany and Japan’s seemingly unbreakable ciphers.


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  1. Yuthika

    The Axis putting pressure on the Allies does seem to be a significant factor in the reason the Allies were so readily able to team up against the Axis. However, you didn’t really discuss how and why the Axis was putting so much pressure on the Allies. And to go even deeper, weren’t the Allies also putting pressure on the Axis? Why didn’t that serve as a unifying factor for the Axis as well?

  2. schrokr1

    In the post titled “The Allies Work Better Under Pressure,” the author argues that the Allied success in breaking the Enigma cipher was in large part due to the pressure to defend against the German offensive.   He says that the threat of invasion and loss of lives motivated the Allies to put more of their effort and resources toward breaking German codes in a desperate attempt to gain an advantage.  The fact that they had to break Enigma to win the war was essentially what they needed to actually do it.  I agree with the author on the point that playing defense was a major factor that led to the Allies’ success.  Without a lot of pressure, it would have been easy for the cryptanalysts to just give up in the face of the apparent strength of Enigma.  However, motivation alone was not quite enough.

    Regardless of how much was on the line, the Allies wouldn’t have been able to crack Enigma without a way in.  Luckily, this came in the form of repetition and defined structure within the German messages, which were arguably even more important in the downfall of Enigma.  Each message always began with the 3-letter message key repeated twice, which the Germans thought would prevent mistakes in decoding by their intended recipients.  What they didn’t realize was that it also provided a pattern that the Allied cryptanalysts could exploit.  Additionally, the routine of sending out a structured weather report at the same time every day allowed the Allies to make accurate guesses as to the meanings of certain chunks of ciphertext, called cillies, which could also be used to help break the code.  In conclusion, the fact that the Allies were working under pressure certainly gave them the motivation to break Enigma, but they were only able to make any progress because of the structure within the messages that they recognized and exploited.

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