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4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: ARROW; New Ed edition (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099784114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099784111
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,846,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
`Nothing like the Hollywood version at all' is this exceedingly well researched account of the true story of capturing the first Enigma machine. This work is so detailed that we are even treated to the thoughts of Commander Joe Baker-Cresswell RN who, at a crucial moment when poised to ram U 110, remembered how the Russians recovered a code book from a German cruiser grounded in the Baltic during WW1 and how that book was used to decode German messages throughout that earlier conflict. Wondering whether or not he was about to destroy a similar find, he ordered full astern just in time to avoid the intended collision, sent over a boarding party and was responsible for the capture of the first Enigma cipher machine of the War. In so doing he made one of the most valuable contributions to the eventual Allied victory.

Rarely have I enjoyed such a fascinating read and it says much for the outstanding way in which detailed, technical research is combined with sheer readability that this important historical work reads better than most novels. In order to provide the reader with a taste of what I mean, Baker-Cresswell and U 110 are introduced in the first two paragraphs of Page 1 where the author skilfully begins to set the scene for their historic encounter. By page 7 one is the officer commanding No 3 escort group charged with protecting a convoy from U Boat attack and the other is attacking that convoy. By Page 16 the badly damaged U 110 is forced to the surface where her crew abandon ship. Only now is Baker-Cresswell mindful of the grounding of the Magdeburg.

Pausing there, we are then treated to a full account of the grounding of that German cruiser in 1914 and the resultant effects of her captured documents.
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Format: Paperback
In contrast to some English-language books on this subject, Kahn gives credit squarely where it is due. He emphasizes the fact that the Poles cracked the German Enigma code, and that "Poland did what no other country had done--and what the Germans believed impossible." (p. 67). Kahn recognizes the fact that Polish mathematician Marian Rejewski was the "solver of ENIGMA." (p. 323). He even calls Rejewski one of the "greatest cryptanalysts of all time". (p. 66).

Kahn emphasizes the codes used by the German Navy, but also touches on other aspects of WWII. He notes the Katyn massacre, wherein the Soviets murdered tens of thousands of disarmed Polish officers and intellectuals. He points to the irony of the Germans exploiting this tragedy for propaganda purposes while at the same time having killed many more Poles and Jews.

Kahn believes that the ULTRA was the greatest WWII secret after the atom bomb. However, he rejects the premise that the cracking of the "invincible" German codes by the Allies enabled them to win the war. Instead, he supposes that the Allied victory in the European theater would have been delayed by about a year, and with much greater casualties, had the Allies not broken the German ciphers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading Seizing the Enigma was for me a most enjoyable experience. The story is one that deserves to be told, it's a testimony that many disciplines coming together can creatively solve problems that seem insurmountable. The writing is steady and calm, but the underlying urgency is obvious. I love non-fiction for the depth you get about a subject, but to top it off, this one has a plot, a beginning, middle and end, and accounts from several perspectives and though it's a huge story, you're drawn into the details seen only by the actual participants whose tales are meticulously retold by David Kahn. Nice way to learn some 20th century history as it intersects with scientific and technological advances motivated by sheer human will. I hope we can tell a similar story about our age, sixty years later.
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