Remembering The Women Codebreakers Who Helped End World World 2

by Elle Brosh

Today, June 6th, is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a victorious Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France that marked the near end of The Second World War. This part of history is a permanent aspect of the average American high school education; usually, this portion of the lesson plan entails a serious discussion about the evils of Nazi Germany and American valor. 

However, what we do not learn about, are the thousands of young British women who contributed to the war’s end by breaking the encoded German signals being sent between Nazi generals. The operation took place at a decoding enclave in the English countryside called Bletchley Park. Young, female code-breakers were recruited from all over England to help out with the Allies’ decryption effort. Using what would later be revealed as the world’s first electronic computer, “Colossus,” these women have just recently been recognized as having made more of a contribution than we realize; their decoding efforts not only had a hand in shortening the war, but also in lessening the amount of Allied casualties. 

The reason why we never learned about these awesome code-exploding geniuses is because the operation was entirely secret and remained that way for decades following. In fact, due to the emergence of a rare photograph of the codebreakers, it was not until this year that light was shed upon the operation and the surviving women were recognized. 

The fact that the activities and identities of these women were silenced for the passed 7 decades is tragic. Is it not suspicious that their victorious efforts remained under wraps while we honor men working in similar situations, all the time? This kind of historical neglect is not uncommon, and is actually quite prevalent in the history of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Many of the female minds that made major contributions to technological advancement have been left out of history and forgotten. That is why we must continue to look back and integrate these brilliant ladies back into the history we should be learning.

Today may be D-Day, and let us honor those who died in the war. Yet, let us also honor the incredible minds and achievements of the women who helped intercept Nazi communication by breaking codes, operating the first computer EVER, and just kicked-ass in general. 

One of Bletchley Park’s veterans, Jean Tocher, lives to tell her story today. Watch here.

Images courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and Aljazeera America.

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