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Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II Paperback – April 9, 2002
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For all their lack of preparedness and occasional inefficiencies, and for all the disdain with which some Allied ground commanders held the work of military intelligence, writes Budiansky, Allied cryptographers were of critical importance in determining the outcome of World War II. The decoding of Japanese and German encryption engines, for instance, helped the Allied navies gain victory in the battles of the Atlantic and Midway, while the translation of secret German railroad schedules allowed Winston Churchill to warn Josef Stalin that the German army was about to invade the Soviet Union--though Stalin refused to take the warning seriously. The codebreakers, in short, "averted disasters that would have been terrible setbacks to the Allied cause," and they almost certainly saved a considerable number of lives as they labored to crack such profound puzzles as Enigma and Purple.
Budiansky's narrative is strong on the science of cryptography--so much so that readers without a background in mathematics and logic may have trouble following the arcana of key squares, bigrams, and all the other trade secrets of cryptanalysis. Readers willing to brave matters technical, however, will find Budiansky's comprehensive account to be the best single book on the subject, and one well worth their attention. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
This book pays the reader the compliment of assuming both intelligence and sincere interest in the subject. Although much of the book is a repeat of what has been written before, the book also contains much new information (especially about breaking the Japanese codes) and important insights. As the most complete examination of the code side of World War II, the book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in that conflict.
Although this book is about World War II, it contains much interesting material about earlier code-breaking, especially during World War I and the disarmament conference in the 1920s.
Basically, codes and codebreaking were in a transition period during the 1930s and 1940s between the primitive historical codes and the modern encryption techniques. The weakness of this transition period was that computer-like devices could use brute force calculations to spot patterns that the code designers were unaware of.
Clues came from many places. For example, "eins" showed up very frequently in German communications, so by looking for four word groups of great frequency, you could guess that they meant "eins" and work from there. This could unmask the daily code key much faster. Luftwaffe code operators were sloppy about the codes they used, and those bad habits provided clues as well. The British were brilliant in targeting German naval and weather vessels, and sinking them in ways so that codes and code machine parts could be saved. In some cases, Japanese embassies were broken into and codes directly stolen.Read more ›
Very well done and hightly recommended to both those who have never read a book on this subject and those who have read several.
This is no dry academic text, but is a story of great excitement, of great internal rivalries and intrigues. It is also fortunately much more, as it also goes into detail about the design and operation of the code machines and ciphers, as well as the novel approaches that were used to overcome them. It goes into considerable detail about these approaches, without becoming overly pedantic. This book covers the Japanese Diplomatic and Naval codes as well as the German Enigma machine. As such, it covers both code machines and ciphers, with a very good discussion of the history of both and the distinction between them. This book is more than a dry discussion of mathematics, but also delves into the personalities of the people involved and the internal rivalries between the US Army and Navy and between the civilian and military branches of the governments involved. It touches on espionage and the application of the knowledge of what was learned from the code breaking.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Details, details. For some, perhaps too many. But for me, I was just fascinated about just how this stuff works. Was it the writers ability or my enthusiasm? Don't know. Read morePublished 18 days ago by spsok
This book was so packed full of information about WWI and WWII and how coding played a big part in WWII. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Deanna Jones
Stephen Budiansky has explained code breaking as practiced during WW II in a clear and comprehensive manor. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dan Pence
Very educatipnal concerning WWII cryptology methods. Not an easy read but a very important source if you want to understand cryptology techniques.Published 12 months ago by Glenn D. Carmichael
Battle of Wits
Stephen Budiansky has a master's degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University and worked on military studies as a Congressional Fellow. Read more
Ultra was the British operation to read the World War II German military radio messages. The Germans used a powerful encoding machine, the Enigma machine. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Anilao diver