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Parker Hitt (Hardback)

The Father of American Military Cryptology

P&S History > Humanities > Biography & Memoirs

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Series: American Warriors Series
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 29 b&w photos
ISBN: 9780813182407
Published: 22nd March 2022
Casemate UK Academic

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"The history of war teems with occasions where the interception of dispatches and orders written in plain language has resulted in defeat and disaster for the force whose intentions thus became known at once to the enemy." So begins Colonel Parker Hitt's 1916  Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers, a foundational text in the history of cryptology. Due largely in part to this manual and Hitt's early cipher inventions, codes became the default communication method for the U.S. military in the twentieth century as codebreakers and cipher machines had proved their worth during World War I. A modified version of Hitt's invention, the M--94 cipher device, was used by the Army for three decades until the Germans decrypted the code during the middle of WWII. To this day, Hitt is known as the "father of American military cryptology."


In the first biography of this American hero, historian Betsy Rohaly Smoot brings Hitt's legacy to the fore, chronicling his extraordinary military career and deviation from masculine tropes during the early twentieth century. Smoot reveals that Hitt was a champion for women in the workplace, giving his support to employment of the "Hello Girls," American female telephone operators for the First Army switchboard and working alongside his wife, Genevieve Young Hitt, the first woman to break ciphers for the United States government. Readers of Liza Mundy's Code Girls and David Kahn's  The Codebreakers will find an insightful profile of not only an American hero in Parker Hitt's story, but of early military cryptology as well. Drawing from a never-before-seen cache of Hitt's letters, photographs, and diaries, Smoot introduces readers to this unique cryptanalyst's life.

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