Code Girls by Liza Mundy

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When you think about why the Allies won WWII, what do you think about? Marines storming Iwo Jima? Brave Navy officers taking Guadacanal? The pilots who dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

These are all reasons why the Allies won WWII. But, these answers overlook a crucial element in the war: the homefront. Not all military personnel were men, and not all fought overseas.

Liza Mundy’s book, “Code Girls,” tells the story of the many women, working all over the United States, who secretly broke codes in WWII and contributed to the Allied victory over Germany, Japan and Italy.

Like me, you may not know much about the role of codebreaking in war, but after reading this book, you will understand the importance of codebreaking and the important role it played in WWII. Most importantly, you will learn about the role women played in this effort, something that was not acknowledged during or after the war. In fact, the women who broke code during WWII were prohibited from talking about their work, and were threatened with jail time if they revealed the truth about their role. Not even their families knew the truth. As far as they were concerned, their daughters, wives and sisters were secretaries.

At 207 pages, Mundy’s book is a bit longer than some literature for young adults, but shorter than many other books about the history of WWII. Mundy organizes the book around the different locations in the United States where the female code breakers worked, and each section tells the story of the individual women who worked there. Each story is unique, like that of Ann Caracristi, a college student who washed her hair with laundry soap, and broke the Japanese water transport code!

I highly recommend Code Girls, particularly for any readers interested in history, mathematics or the role of women in history that textbooks do not always address.