The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Not a Single Factor is Responsible for the Allied Success

Although Singh argues that the primary reason that the Allies had success over the Germans in the cryptographic war, I believe that this simplifies the argument way too much. While undoubtedly the Germans were overconfident in the security of the Enigma machine, this was only a problem when they became lazy and began to repeat messages, giving the Allied cryptanalysts a chance to  break their codes.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the Allied codebreaking success was the determination and resilience of the code-breakers, and on top of that how diverse they were. As a group consisting of people from so many different backgrounds, their different ways of approaching the deciphering were no doubt crucial in the Allies breaking the German codes. Furthermore, it can not be overstated how impressive the resilience of the codebreakers was. Most days they worked fruitlessly for hours upon hours in an attempt to crack the codes and got absolutely nowhere. And then as soon as the clock struck midnight all of their work from the day before was rendered useless and they had to start all over again. While this would drive most people mad, the Allied cryptanalysts continued to decipher day after day.

Finally, the Allied codes were so strong because of the rarity of the Navajo language. Trying to understand a language without any indication of what any words mean is nearly impossible and the Germans were certainly among those who discovered this. Furthermore, when they combined the language with code words it became impossible for the Germans to break it without capturing an actual Navajo who would be able to decipher the messages for them. This brilliant way to securely transmit messages for the Allies proved to be a crucial part in them winning the war.


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Why did the Allies succeed in cracking the Enigma?


  1. colins

    In the post Not a Single Factor is Responsible for the Allied Success (, the author argues that simply reducing the intelligence victory of the Allies to German false confidence is a great mistake. I agree with the authors assessment as it is fact that a war is won on many fronts, not just one.

    I am not, however, discounting Singh’s argument all together. With the covert break of the Enigma machine, the Allied gained a crucial advantage. This advantage was brought about by many intelligent cryptographers, finding small weaknesses in the Nazi’s code. The frequent use of “Heil Hitler”, broadcasting the weather reports with the Enigma, and the radio operators using names of their girlfriends all provided ample chinks in its armor.

    I would instead like to highlight an argument made by this author that was not fully expanded upon. I believe the bravery and sacrifice of the Navajo code-talkers is reflective of the diversity of success the Allies experienced in the intelligence war underlying the physical battles. Philip Johnston’s idea to utilize a culture guarded from foreign knowledge as the basis of communication highlights the creativity behind the Allie code effort. Furthermore, the implementation of switching military words such as “plain” for “bird” increased the strength in the already seemingly impenetrable cipher. The will of the Navajo people was a testament to their code’s ability. Going against cultural strictures, Navajo men endured death and suffering they were taught would bring about chindi (haunted spirits of the dead). They did this to protect their homeland and people. They lied about age to be accepted into service and gouged themselves to fit weight requirements. The Allies can attribute a large portion of their success in the pacific and elsewhere to the selflessness of a marginalized people.

  2. Elton

    I really appreciate the argument made by the author that there are various factors for the Allied success. Enigma was really hard to decrypt but the Allied cryptographers were excellent. They have several small advantages in the cryptographic war and they made use of all of them to win the tough war. As the author said, a group of people from countries all over the world could come up with brilliant ideas because their different cultural background could lead to different ways of thinking. Moreover, the combination of Navajo language and cryptography was almost an incredible brilliant method of encryption. The rarity of the Navajo language directly took advantage of the lack of diversity of the Germany cryptography. It was hard to decode such a language with nowadays modern technology, let alone the Germany military at that time. Last and also the most important, the determination of the Allies and the nerveless attitude of Germany determined the result of this cryptographic war.

    However, I couldn’t see the inconsistency with the argument made by Singh that the primary reason that the Allies won the war was the success in the cryptographic war, especially the breaking of the enigma. The reason that Germany military could put such stress on the Allies was directly related to the power of enigma. The crack of this super code was at least the turning point of the cryptographic war as well as the whole situation of the WWII. All of this factors like the diversity of cultures in the cryptographic group, the use of Navajo language and the determination and effort of the Allied cryptographers, are parts of the breaking of enigma and success of cryptographic wars. Therefore, I would rather understand the argument of Singh of a conclusion of those specific factors of the Allied success.

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