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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II

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In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers durin In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.


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In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers durin In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis. Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

30 review for Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie Barnard

    My mother was in the Navy during World War II doing code breaking; she was at Terminal Island near Long Beach in Southern California. She had been a classics major in college, studying Latin and Greek. The book was fascinating and made me wish that I could talk to her and ask the dozens of questions I never did.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie B

    4.5 stars So glad I finally got around to reading this one as it was everything I hoped it would be. I love reading books that showcase remarkable women doing extraordinary things. Highly recommend if you enjoy non-fiction, history about World War 2, and/or books that celebrate the achievements of women. Having watched the movie The Imitation Game, I had some basic knowledge about codebreaking during World War 2, but this book really gave me a much better understanding, particularly the important 4.5 stars So glad I finally got around to reading this one as it was everything I hoped it would be. I love reading books that showcase remarkable women doing extraordinary things. Highly recommend if you enjoy non-fiction, history about World War 2, and/or books that celebrate the achievements of women. Having watched the movie The Imitation Game, I had some basic knowledge about codebreaking during World War 2, but this book really gave me a much better understanding, particularly the important role played by American women in helping win the war. Over 10 thousand young women, many teachers or college students, were recruited by the U.S. government to work as codebreakers. Their work was so secretive that most downplayed their jobs when talking with friends and family as just typical, secretarial work. Decades later many of the codebreakers were highly reluctant to discuss their work during the war even though the government had given them permission to speak of their experiences. It was incredibly heartbreaking to read the toll this job took and how it had a negative impact on some women for the rest of their lives. While the book does focus on the lives of a few women in particular, you do get a glimpse into the lives of many other codebreakers and it was utterly fascinating learn about their experiences. It was slightly frustrating though when a person would be brought up and then not mentioned again until the very end of the book and by that point you had forgotten who they were, but for the most part it was a fairly easy book to follow. I highly recommend getting the updated version of this book (I believe it might only be available in paperback) as it contains some updates on a few of the people featured as well as the author sharing some stories from readers of this book who reached out to her. I actually shed a few tears while reading because it was incredibly awesome to hear that this book gave people an opportunity to learn more about their family history. This book really shines a light on women who deserve recognition for their contribution to the war effort. I honestly can't say enough good things about it. Just go out and read it already!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn Red Wing

    I was provided with a free copy of this book by NetGalley and Little, Brown in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I'm always game for a book centered around World War II. Add women and their major role and you've got me hooked. Code Girls is like taking a walk through history. A walk that is so rarely acknowledged and respected. While men were oversees fighting, women stepped up, Mundy gives a thorough history of the U.S. recruitments of women to break enemy codes. Over ten t I was provided with a free copy of this book by NetGalley and Little, Brown in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. I'm always game for a book centered around World War II. Add women and their major role and you've got me hooked. Code Girls is like taking a walk through history. A walk that is so rarely acknowledged and respected. While men were oversees fighting, women stepped up, Mundy gives a thorough history of the U.S. recruitments of women to break enemy codes. Over ten thousand women moved to Washington, in secret to decode enemy messages that would change the fate of the war. The book is a lot to take in. It covers a lot of information over many years and at times can become confusing. Especially when switching between Navy and Army code breakers and the countless women we follow. Where I felt the book lacked was in the characters themselves. Too much of the book was "Dot was this old, lived here, here parents names were blank and blank and this is why she joined the war" Only this was over entire chapters. Too much time was spent on the backstories of each women and not on their actual efforts in the war. While I value this homage to their lives, the book felt choppy and these chapters unnecessary. This book could've gone one or two ways, either it should've been just about cryptography and the war and how it worked, or it should've been about a few women (real or not) and their work over the course of the war. It felt like it was trying to be both and it failed. I really wish I could say this book hit the nail on the head, but it missed, just barely. If you're okay reading an ultimately boring book but looking for some interesting facts in the midst, feel free to pick this up. I did learn some things, but felt like I could've got all of the necessary information in a 100 page book

  4. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    Beginning in 1941 secret letters were sent across the country to women attending college requesting their service for the war effort. Tens of thousands of women from prestigious northeastern colleges, southern teaching schools, and many other walks of life answered the calls of the U.S Navy and Army to serve as code breakers during World War II. These unsung heroes left their small-towns, big cities, and families behind to work on their secret mission - one which would help win the war. Sworn t Beginning in 1941 secret letters were sent across the country to women attending college requesting their service for the war effort. Tens of thousands of women from prestigious northeastern colleges, southern teaching schools, and many other walks of life answered the calls of the U.S Navy and Army to serve as code breakers during World War II. These unsung heroes left their small-towns, big cities, and families behind to work on their secret mission - one which would help win the war. Sworn to secrecy, many never divulged their wartime efforts. This tale of history, science, and patriotism follows the personal and professional lives of these women. Rich in detail and highly researched, Code Girls gives everyone a deep look into the secret work of code breaking during the second great war. Liza Mundy is the bestselling author of The Richer Sex and Michelle: A Biography and a former reporter for the Washington Post. Mundy delivers inspiring accounts of the women involved in the uncelebrated effort of code breaking, which saved countless American lives. Vivid details of these women’s lives makes this a touching and interesting read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT!! "[A]ll along there have been female geniuses whose contributions are as important as their male counterparts. It's just that far less attention had been paid to them, and often these women were denied the top spots that would have brought them more recognition. Best work of historical nonfiction for 2017, by a landslide! Had I finished Liza Mundy's outstanding tome - Code Girls- before the onset of the Readers Choice Awards I would have nominated it. An EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT ***** EXCELLENT!! "[A]ll along there have been female geniuses whose contributions are as important as their male counterparts. It's just that far less attention had been paid to them, and often these women were denied the top spots that would have brought them more recognition. Best work of historical nonfiction for 2017, by a landslide! Had I finished Liza Mundy's outstanding tome - Code Girls- before the onset of the Readers Choice Awards I would have nominated it. And it deserves a smashingly good review. But here's the kicker Due to a couple rounds in hospital, and other life-is-an-adventure-craziness, I'm a month behind on reviews. So this will have to suffice for now. But I highly recommend this fabulous, highly engaging and relevant book, a look back at key women and components of WWII that totally changed the course of the war. Quotes to come . . . FIVE ***** Utterly Fascinating, Enlightening, Engaging, and Wowing; Highly Recommended Nonfiction, WWII, History Reading ***** STARS

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    This was an interesting look at the process by which women were recruited, trained and sent to work in code-breaking facilities for the American military during World War Two. I’ve been enjoying some of these untold slices of history, and this was another really cool one, following young girls, mostly right out of college with few prospects other than teaching school (and making up for there being teacher shortages by covering classes for multiple missing teachers in oversized classrooms). The b This was an interesting look at the process by which women were recruited, trained and sent to work in code-breaking facilities for the American military during World War Two. I’ve been enjoying some of these untold slices of history, and this was another really cool one, following young girls, mostly right out of college with few prospects other than teaching school (and making up for there being teacher shortages by covering classes for multiple missing teachers in oversized classrooms). The book was very technical, but also had interesting personal stories scattered throughout. I found the stories illustrating the blatant sexism of the time particularly interesting, as well as the resentments nursed between military men, civilian men working for the military as codebreakers, civilian women working for the military… there was a lot of tension! Anyway, a fascinating read. Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Interesting Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers who Helped Win World War II SUMMARY More than 10,000 women served as codebreakers during World War II. They were recruited by both the US Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges. While their brothers and boyfriend took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code breaking. Their effort shorten the war, save countless lives and gave them extra access to careers which had been previously de The Interesting Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers who Helped Win World War II SUMMARY More than 10,000 women served as codebreakers during World War II. They were recruited by both the US Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges. While their brothers and boyfriend took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code breaking. Their effort shorten the war, save countless lives and gave them extra access to careers which had been previously denied. “It was the first time many of the women had spent time in a bonafide work place apart from a classroom, and they discovered that work places are and have been since the dawn of time: places where one is annoyed and thwarted and underpaid and interrupted and under appreciated.” REVIEW Code Girls: The untold story of the American women code breakers who helped win World War II was jam packed with interesting information. Almost to much information, it was like drinking from a fire hose. There was no way I could absorb it all. Liza Mundy's years of accumulated research and interviews was certainly evident. With so much information to share, the organization could have been better. I absolutely loved reading about how these women exhibited strength by moving to Washington DC and exhibited intelligence by contributing to our national security during difficult times. These women were able to crack both German and Japanese encryptions. My mother also moved to Washington DC in 1941, to work for the FBI. She, like the Code Girls had been a school teacher in Mississippi before she was recruited by the FBI. Maybe there is a story there that I didn’t know! My favorite part of the book was the first hand experiences Mundy shared with us from her interviews of many of these brave women! Liza Mundy is an experienced researcher as evidenced by her New York Times best-selling books: The richer Sex: how the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love and family (2012) and Michelle a biography about Michelle Obama (2008). “Tooth and nail they worked. No one jostled for promotion. All this, they knew, was temporary. The point was to win the war and get back to their regularly scheduled lives.” Publisher Hachette Books/Hachette Audio Published October 10, 2017 Narrated Erin Bennett Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Though I've long been interested in the WWll code work all my reading up until now was about Bletchley Park and the work the Brits did so Code Girls was a welcome addition to my ongoing quest for understanding of this topic. The focus stays firmly on the women's perspective which was a welcome though often frustrating outlook. The often very young women, new college grads or even teenagers, accomplished amazing things while getting little credit. Sometimes the men fulfilled strereotypes of how w Though I've long been interested in the WWll code work all my reading up until now was about Bletchley Park and the work the Brits did so Code Girls was a welcome addition to my ongoing quest for understanding of this topic. The focus stays firmly on the women's perspective which was a welcome though often frustrating outlook. The often very young women, new college grads or even teenagers, accomplished amazing things while getting little credit. Sometimes the men fulfilled strereotypes of how women were treated at this time (and even today) but in other instances there was a surprisingly level playing field as all ideas were welcomed from the youngest to the most mature minds and from the highest ranking to the non ranging civilians. There was one shared goal: to find out what the enemy was up to so they could save American and Allied lives. There's a nice balance between the women's work and home life though the two were fairly mixed together since the women shared living quarters and tended to invite their male cohorts over for parties or meals. It was easier that way with less fear of saying the wrong thing to outsiders. Don't get me wrong the youthful high spirits were more focused on work than home or romantic life. I found this book inspiring and it was refreshing to read about the American code breakers. Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance reader's copy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A really hard to follow but ultimately rewarding book. Liza Mundy (mostly) describes the experiences of two code breakers: Dot and Ruth. Through their eyes, we are able to see the inner workings of what was one of the most secretive US operations during WWII. This book is a treasure trove of information. These women were responsible for saving thousands of lives--and on the other hand, they bore the weight of destroying thousands of others; most notably they broke the code that allowed the US to A really hard to follow but ultimately rewarding book. Liza Mundy (mostly) describes the experiences of two code breakers: Dot and Ruth. Through their eyes, we are able to see the inner workings of what was one of the most secretive US operations during WWII. This book is a treasure trove of information. These women were responsible for saving thousands of lives--and on the other hand, they bore the weight of destroying thousands of others; most notably they broke the code that allowed the US to intercept and take down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Their work was both difficult and stressful. They were not allowed to tell anyone (including friends or family) what they were doing. Sometimes they broke codes that made them realize their brothers, husbands, or friends would die and that they were powerless to save them. It's hard to imagine working under pressure of this magnitude, and Mundy does a wonderful job of relaying how the women were able to normalize their lives, often turning to each other for a sense of community. My biggest complaint is that the narrative jumps around a lot. There are so many women, from so many places, each with their own set of circumstances, families, and job specialties. I found it really hard to keep track of all of them. Add to that the fact Mundy tries to break down how they went about their code breaking using additives and patterns...I was SO LOST! That being said, I learned a lot from this book and am glad I stuck with it. I honestly don't know what the world would be like today without the contributions of these incredible women.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    Maybe this was a case of having too much research material available and not wanting to waste any of it. However, I thought that this book contained way too much information about train rides, living accommodations, letters to soldiers, engagements and other domestic details. There was also a problem of having too many names. While I believe that it’s a good thing for all of these women to get recognition, none of them stood out to me, and the book became a recitation of names. I was hoping for Maybe this was a case of having too much research material available and not wanting to waste any of it. However, I thought that this book contained way too much information about train rides, living accommodations, letters to soldiers, engagements and other domestic details. There was also a problem of having too many names. While I believe that it’s a good thing for all of these women to get recognition, none of them stood out to me, and the book became a recitation of names. I was hoping for details of the work done and how it impacted the war. There was certainly some of that, but it felt surrounded by fluff. The chronology was also wonky. It began with the recruitment of women from the Seven Sisters in 1941, then goes to an interminable introduction, then picks up with more WWII recruitment, then goes backwards to code breakers during WWI and then proceeds with the WWII story. Some of the book was informative but most of it was not really interesting to me. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristy K

    3.5 Stars If you enjoyed The Radium Girls and Hidden Figures then you'll like Code Girls. Mundy brings to life the young women who helped shape and changed the course of WWII. This portion of history has been largely left out of history books and schools (partially due to secrecy restrictions, partially because so much of women's role in history is skimmed over), so most of this information was new to me. I loved learning about these unsung heroines. Thank you to Hachette Books for sending me a co 3.5 Stars If you enjoyed The Radium Girls and Hidden Figures then you'll like Code Girls. Mundy brings to life the young women who helped shape and changed the course of WWII. This portion of history has been largely left out of history books and schools (partially due to secrecy restrictions, partially because so much of women's role in history is skimmed over), so most of this information was new to me. I loved learning about these unsung heroines. Thank you to Hachette Books for sending me a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Anderson

    Code Girls has very interesting moments, but unfortunately they end suddenly and return to repetitive convincing that women were important in breaking codes. Now I think this story deserves to be told but the book was good when we met one of the girls, like Dot and had a chance to hear her story. It is unfortunate that this was followed by chapters of history book excerpts from the the female perspective before we heard the story of another girl. To be honest I was disappointed because I love th Code Girls has very interesting moments, but unfortunately they end suddenly and return to repetitive convincing that women were important in breaking codes. Now I think this story deserves to be told but the book was good when we met one of the girls, like Dot and had a chance to hear her story. It is unfortunate that this was followed by chapters of history book excerpts from the the female perspective before we heard the story of another girl. To be honest I was disappointed because I love the idea of highlighting these women but wanted to see their story not be told a bunch of facts about them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I first heard about women code breakers in a historical fiction book by D. M. Sorlie. The heroine in the Sue Lee Series was recruited and trained to be a cryptographer by the Army. When I saw this book, I thought it might fill in my gap of knowledge on the subject. During World War One many women were recruited as Code breakers but as soon as the war was over they were sent home and told the secrecy oath was still effective. They were forgotten over time by the historians. During World War Two mo I first heard about women code breakers in a historical fiction book by D. M. Sorlie. The heroine in the Sue Lee Series was recruited and trained to be a cryptographer by the Army. When I saw this book, I thought it might fill in my gap of knowledge on the subject. During World War One many women were recruited as Code breakers but as soon as the war was over they were sent home and told the secrecy oath was still effective. They were forgotten over time by the historians. During World War Two more than 10,000 women worked on breaking and creating complex codes for the military and diplomatic forces. Mundy stated that during her research she discovered that many of the code breakers were female school teachers. The requirements for a code breaker were the ability to detect patterns, and have a deep understanding of the inner workings of languages and mathematics. The Navy recruited from the elite Seven Sisters Colleges and the Army recruited from teacher colleges of the South and Midwest. There were also a large portion of women code breakers that were civilian workers. The author states a small group of African-American women worked in the cryptology section and specialized in money movements and banking. The demand for educated women was at its highest during the war. The working conditions were difficult. The could not talk about their jobs; they lived in cramped quarters and had to put up with complex bureaucracy and sexual harassment. There accomplishments were most often dismissed by the men. The men stated that all the women were good for was to do the tedious work. After seventy years the information about the women code breakers was declassified. The book is well written and the research was meticulous. The author searched the government documents and archives. She interviewed the women code breakers, many of them were in their 90s. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is fourteen hours long. Erin Bennett does a great job narrating the book. Bennett is a voice-over artist and award-winning audiobook narrator.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jackballoon

    I enjoyed this book tremendously, never having known that women were also codebreakers. My Dad was one who never talked about it. He was one of the those who was evacuated off Correigedor, by submarine, just before it fell. (Page 133) He was missing in action for awhile, and landed in Australia. He was in Navy communications for 30 years, but none of us ever knew what he did. I bet if he were alive now, he still wouldn't answer any questions.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    America exists by the grace of incredible women. This book adds to a long line of books I’ve read about the real heroes of WW2. its shocking to me to see just how far and vast white male privilege exists in America, to the point where hundreds of important white women, and both men and women of color, are blatantly omitted from our history books, even though we could not have won without their smarts or service.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joy Smith

    This story--and the identities of the code girls--was classified for years. It's a fascinating look at our history and how these incredible and intelligent women helped us win the war. Their work of decoding and translating Japanese and German communications (and others) had to be kept secret so our enemies couldn't learn why our military so often was able to destroy u-boats and ships of all kinds, and it helped us on the islands that the Japanese held. Back in the day women weren't encouraged t This story--and the identities of the code girls--was classified for years. It's a fascinating look at our history and how these incredible and intelligent women helped us win the war. Their work of decoding and translating Japanese and German communications (and others) had to be kept secret so our enemies couldn't learn why our military so often was able to destroy u-boats and ships of all kinds, and it helped us on the islands that the Japanese held. Back in the day women weren't encouraged to go to college, to study math, the sciences, and other languages, so many of the women were recruited from colleges and schools, including teachers; most of these women had persevered--working hard--to get an education. And they weren't told what their work would be when they were first approached, but they were eager to help in the war effort and looked forward to the opportunity--whatever it was. And they could never reveal to anyone, including family and friends, what they were doing; they kept the secret for years. The stories of the women and their working conditions are interwoven with the history of the war, including the rivalry between the Navy and the Army who had their own cryptography departments; the author does an amazing job of making this an interesting read. There are updates and a long list of acknowledgments and a bibliography that hint at the research she did. There is romance and tragedy and the horrors of war. This is a must read because the history of these women and the war and the aftermath should not be forgotten any longer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Harris

    My expectations of what this book would entail vs. what it actually contained is part of the reason for the 1 star rating. I thought the book would have a heavy focus on the decoding operations and discuss the roles of some of the codebreakers. Very little of the book talked about the actual cryptanalysis and how it was accomplished. I applaud the author's desire to pay homage to these unsung heroes who saved countless lives through the tireless efforts to crack these difficult codes. My issue i My expectations of what this book would entail vs. what it actually contained is part of the reason for the 1 star rating. I thought the book would have a heavy focus on the decoding operations and discuss the roles of some of the codebreakers. Very little of the book talked about the actual cryptanalysis and how it was accomplished. I applaud the author's desire to pay homage to these unsung heroes who saved countless lives through the tireless efforts to crack these difficult codes. My issue is that it could have been accomplished over the span of 50 pages with an extensive acknowledgment section. Too much of the book read as follows: "Jane Doe from Kalamazoo got her degree from ABC College and joined the effort after seeing a poster in a movie theater seeking mathematics majors." And then there wouldn't be another reference to that person. So much of the book seemed disjointed and more like a collage of piecing together a variety of experiences. The most interesting part to me was the chapter devoted to Elizebeth Smith. I just found out that a whole book was written about her (The Woman Who Smashed Codes), but am reluctant to read it if it's anything like this one. I hate to give this such a poor review, but it was probably the most boring non-fiction book I've ever read. I should've quit after the 30 page Introduction but thought there'd be some educational value to it. At times, there were interesting facts interspersed that provided some valuable insight.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    An informative book mainly about the women who helped to break the codes of the Germans and Japanese during WWII. The author concentrates on a few of the women, showing how they were encouraged to use math and language skills to aid their country. Besides, the women such as Agnes Driscoll, there are many who receive a mention in passing, who came by the thousands to Washington, to the Midwest, basically to anywhere they were needed, except overseas, although a few even did that. There was quite a An informative book mainly about the women who helped to break the codes of the Germans and Japanese during WWII. The author concentrates on a few of the women, showing how they were encouraged to use math and language skills to aid their country. Besides, the women such as Agnes Driscoll, there are many who receive a mention in passing, who came by the thousands to Washington, to the Midwest, basically to anywhere they were needed, except overseas, although a few even did that. There was quite a bit of material about living conditions (usually dismal), sexual concerns (pregnancy and the abundance of men), and the tension of the military versus civilian service. It was interesting, but I thought the narrative became too scattered in its focus. It seemed that there was too much repetition at times. There are some photos at the end that gave faces to some of those named in the book. These women worked hard and helped to win the war, but then most were encouraged to go home and have families without ever divulging their service. It didn't seem to matter if 'the girls' were 'Rosie the Riveter' types, WAVES, WAACS or civilians who were good at code breaking, you did your bit for the war effort, and then went home to let the men take over. Still, the door to the future was open a bit wider than it had been in 1941.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Stoolfire

    I've always been been interested in learning more about women's involvement in WWII, whether on that's on the homefront, in the service, or industry, and this non-fiction book focusing on American women code breakers recruited by the Army (WAC) and Navy (WAVES) is fascinating. Before listening to this audiobook, I didn't know much about American code breaking in WWII because most of what nonfiction I've read has focused more on the British with Bletchley Park. Definitely a must read for anyone i I've always been been interested in learning more about women's involvement in WWII, whether on that's on the homefront, in the service, or industry, and this non-fiction book focusing on American women code breakers recruited by the Army (WAC) and Navy (WAVES) is fascinating. Before listening to this audiobook, I didn't know much about American code breaking in WWII because most of what nonfiction I've read has focused more on the British with Bletchley Park. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in learning more about women's efforts in the war.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    Strong writing and strong women make this a strong read that I recommend. Why not 4 stars? Well, it takes a lot for me to give it 5 stars--this was definitely over 4. What I like about this is that Mundy is able to follow some of the women until the 21st century so we can see what happened to them post-war. I am also happy that this history is finally hitting the mainstream, although I do hope the push against women in STEM fields doesn't swing to the extreme the other way, either--we still need Strong writing and strong women make this a strong read that I recommend. Why not 4 stars? Well, it takes a lot for me to give it 5 stars--this was definitely over 4. What I like about this is that Mundy is able to follow some of the women until the 21st century so we can see what happened to them post-war. I am also happy that this history is finally hitting the mainstream, although I do hope the push against women in STEM fields doesn't swing to the extreme the other way, either--we still need choice to pursue what we want to, which is one of the main, original tenets feminism. Let's not put everyone into a box or belittle those who opt for other paths in life--we cheer they stay at home dad, let's not diss the woman who opts to stay at home. Mundy was frustrated because she could find virtually nothing in the black women code breakers, and I feel her frustration; I wonder if any of these women lived long enough to feel free to tell their tales. One of the things I admire about these women is how well they kept their agreement to keep their work secret--if you sign a contract for that for this sort of work, then abide by it until you are released from it. But be warned, this is a book set during a war--much of this work was done to lead to the defeat of an enemy so it resulted in deaths of those fighting the Axis powers. Don't diss the women who initially rejoiced when their work led to the defeat of the enemy, because if they hadn't done their jobs so well we might be living under fascism even now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Loraine

    This is the interesting and untold story of the over 10,000 young women who became code breakers during World War II. Women were just beginning to attend college and some were smart enough and brave enough to pursue careers in math and sciences that had previously been dominated by men alone. Others were majoring or spoke foreign languages. Many were schoolteachers. But they all received secret letters from the Army or Navy inviting them, after careful screening, to train and join a select group This is the interesting and untold story of the over 10,000 young women who became code breakers during World War II. Women were just beginning to attend college and some were smart enough and brave enough to pursue careers in math and sciences that had previously been dominated by men alone. Others were majoring or spoke foreign languages. Many were schoolteachers. But they all received secret letters from the Army or Navy inviting them, after careful screening, to train and join a select group of women to learn to break and decipher coded material in order to help war strategy. Living in a clustered group, unable to even mention what their government job was, and unable to even speak of what they had done after the war was over, the material describing their efforts, success, and amazing initiative has only been declassified in the last few years. I found this book extremely interesting and learned a lot about cryptanalysis.

  22. 5 out of 5

    victor harris

    I really enjoyed the stories of the women who were recruited and how they adapted to the high pressure requirements of the job. They certainly had an impressive collection of talent. Their romantic adventures and misadventures were also interesting. Amazingly their critical role in the war was condemned to obscurity for decades because they were sworn to absolute silence about their code breaking assignments. Unfortunately some never received the recognition they deserved. The value of their ski I really enjoyed the stories of the women who were recruited and how they adapted to the high pressure requirements of the job. They certainly had an impressive collection of talent. Their romantic adventures and misadventures were also interesting. Amazingly their critical role in the war was condemned to obscurity for decades because they were sworn to absolute silence about their code breaking assignments. Unfortunately some never received the recognition they deserved. The value of their skills can not be overstated. Just one example, it was their patience and determination that led to the deciphering of the Japanese Pacific ship movements and it led to the sinking of Yamamoto's ship which led to his death. I did not particularly care for all the details of the actual code breaking itself. It was a morass of specialized information that was clearly important but some of it could have been summarized. A solid 4 rating that like so many other books surfacing sheds light on another aspect of the war and the previously overlooked contributions of women to the war effort.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: A perfect narrative nonfiction blend of personal stories, global events, and a history of code breaking. "Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to Summary: A perfect narrative nonfiction blend of personal stories, global events, and a history of code breaking. "Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history" (source) but here the author is able to share their story based on interviews and recently declassified documents. This book was everything I hoped it would be. The personal stories, told with the help of letters and interviews, really brought the women to life. An author couldn't have made up more engaging stories. Although the author does include the women's personal lives and their romances, this helped present them as well rounded people without taking over the story. Marriages were presented as part of their stories, but not as the culmination or ending. The bigger picture story was presented well too. The female code-breakers during WWII influenced global events throughout the war and their lives were influenced by global events, so this made for an intimate perspective on the course of the war. The history of code breaking, particularly the constant participation of women, was also explored. I loved learning about some principles of code-breaking as well. The author did an incredible job integrating all of these aspects - personal stories, global events, and code-breaking history - in a wonderful, engaging way.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  24. 5 out of 5

    TXGAL1

    Liza Mundy has written a thoroughly researched book about the CODE GIRLS of World War II. Differing recruitment techniques were used beginning in late 1941 by the United States Navy—discreet selection of seniors astute in math, foreign languages and critical thinking from elite women’s colleges in the Northeast; and, by the U S Army’s selection of code breakers using handsome male recruiters sent to teaching colleges in the South and Midwest. As more women were needed to fill the sensitive secur Liza Mundy has written a thoroughly researched book about the CODE GIRLS of World War II. Differing recruitment techniques were used beginning in late 1941 by the United States Navy—discreet selection of seniors astute in math, foreign languages and critical thinking from elite women’s colleges in the Northeast; and, by the U S Army’s selection of code breakers using handsome male recruiters sent to teaching colleges in the South and Midwest. As more women were needed to fill the sensitive security slots, female schoolteachers were enticed to try a new line of work with better pay—crypto analysis. Several of the code breaking girls are followed intermittently through the selection process, the day-to-day life of those sworn to secrecy trying to beat the clock to develop the means to break codes and determine what they mean, and the physical and mental toll brought about living a life so secret one’s parents or immediate family could never know the real work they did until decades later. As stated above, the book is very thorough. There is a lot of detail minutiae. So much, that sometimes it’s difficult to get through it all—but, none the less important. I just wonder if it might not have been able to be edited a bit more. It’s wonderful to know that readers have been able to connect their relatives with the Code Breakers. What a great source of family history knowledge. I did enjoy this book and selected it because this was a part of WWII history of which I was ignorant. I’m really glad I read it, but it was a grind at times.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Fascinating, well-written account of the women code breakers and their unsung major impact on the Allied victory of World War Two. The parts about how the German and Japanese code was set up was a little above my head, but I've never liked math. The book gives a flavor of what life was like during the war. The descriptions of how America celebrated the victory are awe-inspiring. Vint Hill is mentioned. I once taught college English classes on the Army base. Great stuff!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Code Girls is a terrific oral history and more. Liza Mundy, a journalist, interviewed dozens of people, scoured government documents, studied contemporary newspaper and journal articles, and tapped a wealth of books, videos, and web pages to tell the previously untold story of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of women who cracked codes during World War II. Many were recruited from universities, some hired on with the U.S. Government, some joined the WACS or WAVES. They moved to the Washington, Code Girls is a terrific oral history and more. Liza Mundy, a journalist, interviewed dozens of people, scoured government documents, studied contemporary newspaper and journal articles, and tapped a wealth of books, videos, and web pages to tell the previously untold story of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of women who cracked codes during World War II. Many were recruited from universities, some hired on with the U.S. Government, some joined the WACS or WAVES. They moved to the Washington, D.C. area and lived in government housing or shared quarters with other code breakers. Mundy tells the history of wartime code breaking in the U.S. and describes some of the methods that were used. She follows the progress of the war and some of the women who worked long hours doing meticulous work, knowing that solving the ciphers quickly was critical and could mean life or death to troops halfway around the world. For many years they were anonymous, taking seriously the pledge of non-disclosure the government swore them to. When the cone of silence was finally lifted, many were still reluctant to talk, and sadly, many had died. Mundy talked with many of the women, and with surviving family members of others, was given access to letters and journals, and to the many colorful memories so many of the women had. I enjoyed reading about the decoding processes and the evolution of codes during the war, as well as the more personal side of the women's stories. Mundy dug up fascinating details such as what the women did during their free time (one group of women bought a sailboat and spent their free time floating on the Potomac), the attitudes of the civilian and military men to working with so many women, and what the women did after the war. A well researched and thoroughly documented account of a story that has too long been untold. (Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for a digital review copy.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    “Code Girls” by Liza Mundy was a delightful story, and one not told before. This book joins that genre that has been abuilding about barely known or almost forgotten groups – often women – whose untold or rarely told stories show how much they have contributed to the progress of our nation. For example, the book (by Margot Lee Shetterly) and movie (Hidden Figures) about the African-American women who helped advance the space program. Other narratives such as those on the Tuskegee Airmen and WASP “Code Girls” by Liza Mundy was a delightful story, and one not told before. This book joins that genre that has been abuilding about barely known or almost forgotten groups – often women – whose untold or rarely told stories show how much they have contributed to the progress of our nation. For example, the book (by Margot Lee Shetterly) and movie (Hidden Figures) about the African-American women who helped advance the space program. Other narratives such as those on the Tuskegee Airmen and WASP women aviators fill the same category. Code Girls is a World War II tale of 10,000 some women being recruited to act as code breakers (using cryptanalysis) which enabled the Allies to know of enemy plans and strategies before they occurred. Both the U.S. Army and Navy used Code Girls: the Army as civilians at Arlington Hall and the Navy as commissioned officers and enlisted personnel in the WAVES at the Naval Annex; both locations were close to Washington DC. The book was sent to me through a Goodreads Giveaway. Well researched and written on a personal level, this was an engaging narrative. Recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book is similar to Hidden Figures in that it details an important role women played in history. This book specifically addresses the need to hire women to crack codes in the 1940s. I’m not a fan of history but this was an interesting read, especially the technical aspects of learning to break codes. As a fan of puzzles and logic games, I would have loved this profession! I was also interested because my grandmother, born in 1900, worked as a clerk typist for the US government in the 1940s i This book is similar to Hidden Figures in that it details an important role women played in history. This book specifically addresses the need to hire women to crack codes in the 1940s. I’m not a fan of history but this was an interesting read, especially the technical aspects of learning to break codes. As a fan of puzzles and logic games, I would have loved this profession! I was also interested because my grandmother, born in 1900, worked as a clerk typist for the US government in the 1940s in Hawaii, where she had to read all kinds of mail as part of censorship efforts, interested in the movement of ships and troops. Not a true code breaker but somewhat related.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Fascinating! Made more so, because this is what my Aunt did during WWII while an officer in the WAVES. These ladies had to battle the inequalities with the male work force, petty politics between services and oh, excuse me, there was a war going on with shortages of everything. It took patience and brilliant minds to crack enemy codes and these young girls (most just in their twenties) had both. Long, long hours knowing that every message they broke could save numerous lives of the Allied service Fascinating! Made more so, because this is what my Aunt did during WWII while an officer in the WAVES. These ladies had to battle the inequalities with the male work force, petty politics between services and oh, excuse me, there was a war going on with shortages of everything. It took patience and brilliant minds to crack enemy codes and these young girls (most just in their twenties) had both. Long, long hours knowing that every message they broke could save numerous lives of the Allied servicemen. Well researched and beautifully organized. The author actually lets you into the lives of the "Code Girls."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liesl

    Good, but not without flaws. I liked learning about these forgotten women of history and the vital role that they played during World War II; in that respect, the book reminded me of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I would have preferred for Mundy to have focused on a handful of women from the group to highlight; as presented, there is an overwhelming amount of ladies to keep straight along with lots of gene Good, but not without flaws. I liked learning about these forgotten women of history and the vital role that they played during World War II; in that respect, the book reminded me of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I would have preferred for Mundy to have focused on a handful of women from the group to highlight; as presented, there is an overwhelming amount of ladies to keep straight along with lots of general information relayed about the war. I also feel that cryptanalysis, which is given a basic overview, could have been explored in further detail. Although it could have been stronger overall, I'm glad that I read this. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this title.

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