Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: purple

Secure? So you thought…

World War II was a well choreographed ballet of air raids, land advances and U-boat attacks that required coordination across nations. The element of surprise was vital for successful attacks; maintaining secrecy in communications was absolutely crucial in winning the war. Because there were so many operations all across the globe involved in one of two sides, each nation developed their own coded system of transmitting information. After traditional encryption techniques were cracked in World War I, World War II demanded a whole new system of cryptographic methods that had not yet been solved. Both the Germans and the Japanese turned to machines to meet these new standards. The Nazi used Enigma machine and the Japanese employed Purple machine were both inventions that digitalized the encryption process for the first time. While the British worked on Enigma at Bletchley Park, the American codebreakers focuses their efforts on the Pacific powers. They worked on cracking the Japanese code that came to be known as Purple. The disadvantage they faced, unlike the British who had a version of the Enigma machine, was that no one knew how the encryption machine had been constructed. The cipher text it produced, was determined by many nations to be unbreakable, but the American cryptographers prevailed and worked for months to crack the code and ultimately succeeded. In wrongfully assuming their communications were secure, the enemy provided America (and Britain) with imperative intelligence, allowing us to evade attacks and plan successful missions of our own, ultimately leading to our victory on the beaches of Normandy.

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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