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Our Open Enigma goes to the Minnesota Speech State Competition

Thank You,Mary Pat!

Here is her speech, reprinted with permission:

A Code Worth Breaking

Everyone has their secrets, but in the spring of 1974, Mrs. Ruth Bourne proved just how extensive these secrets can be. She gave the book The Bletchley Park Circle to her husband, he then replied, “That’s interesting, dear, what’s for tea?” And despite Mrs. Bourne’s husband’s causal response, the work that Mrs.Bourne along with thousands of other British completed in a top-secret war effort that remained under wraps long after the end of the war, was anything butordinary. These women worked at Bletchley Park, which housed the British code breaking operations during World War II. At its peak approximately 10,000 civilians, 8,000 of whom were women tackled the complex task of deciphering and analyzing the intelligence derived from enemy radio signals Not only did the workers of Bletchley Park contribute to intelligence efforts that aided the allied nations, but also the techniques developed at Bletchley Park played a major role in the Cold War and in many cases still remain relevant. So let’s start by breaking the code of the history of Bletchley Park and the amazing story of how this huge and important operation impacted World War II. Then we will decipher the women who were not only essential to the intelligence efforts at Bletchley Park but who were able to keep their work secret for decades after the war ended. And finally we will reveal some of the interesting encryptions of how the work that started at Bletchley Park that lived beyond WWII.

Nazi military intelligence developed what became known as enigma, a code that no one understood, produced by a machine that no one had ever seen and with a range of possible inscriptions that were utterly unimaginable. Enigma used rotors to scramble messages into unintelligible cypher text. While researching this topic, I came across Marc Tessier and James Sanderson of S and T Geotronics in Georgia that are currently making exact replicas of the enigma machine (in order to promote education, cryptology and gaming.) I was dismayed to (realize) discover that these working scale models $1000 dollars, I then emailed the company. And they graciously agreed to loan me an enigma machine for the next two weeks free of charge. I had to promise my parents this morning that I wouldn’t drop it. So in addition to seeing a picture of the enigma, we’re able to see the actual size of this machine (actually looked like in WWII.) Finding the Key settings for each network – which were reset at midnight every day –was the chall enge faced by the Code breakers. The standard 3 rotors Enigma was capable of being set to approximately 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible combinations—and no I didn’t sutter, that’s 18 zeros. What’s important about the enigma machine is that as you can see it was portable, meaning the Nazi military could use it from any location of the battlefield.

According to the book, The Bletchley Park Code Breakers, Before WWII, militaries used fixed lines to deliver messages, but at the start of WWII they began usi ng radio technology to spread messages faster. Thanks to Britain’s exceptional radio engineers their receivers could pick up messages from farther away. Thankfully, the Germans were unaware of this new development in reception. With this advance in retriev ing of encoding messages, a hidden army, mostly made up of young civilian women, engaged in a shadowing struggle for Nazi military intelligence. But how did this English Estate become the site of one of the most important intelligence efforts of WWII? According to the book, The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The History of the Wartime Codebreaking Centre by the Men and Women Who Were There, the estate was conveniently located within