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Seizing the Enigma (Paperback)

The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1933-1945

WWII Maritime All Frontline Books Frontline: WWII

By David Kahn
Frontline Books
Pages: 387
ISBN: 9781526711458
Published: 12th April 2017


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For almost four desperate years, from 1939 to the middle of 1943, the British and, in time, American navies fought a savage, losing battle against German U-boat wolf-packs. The Allies might never have turned the tide without an intelligence coup. The race to break the German U-boat codes is one of the greatest untold stories of the Second World War. Kahn expertly brings this tale to life in this updated edition of his classic book.

Soon after war broke out, Hitler’s U-boats began to sever Allied lifelines. In the grey wasteland of the North Atlantic, submarines prowled; at night, the sky lit up with the flames of torpedoed and sinking merchant ships and tankers.

To meet the growing crisis, ingenious amateurs joined the nucleus of dedicated professionals at Bletchley Park. As the Battle of the Atlantic raged, they raced to unlock the continually changing German naval codes. Their mission: to read the U-boat messages of Hitler’s cipher device, the Enigma.

Critical to their success was a series of raids at sea. U-110, captured intact in the mid-Atlantic, yielded an example of the Enigma machine itself – as well as a trove of secret documents. The weather ship Lauenburg, seized near the Arctic ice pack, provided code-settings for an entire month. In the Mediterranean, two sailors rescued a German weather cipher than enabled the team at Bletchley to solve the Enigma after a year-long blackout.

This is a revised edition of the outstanding and most complete account of cryptography and the Enigma machine. There have been claims that the work of code breakers shortened the war by two
years, but it can be argued that it first avoided defeat and then made victory possible – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


About David Kahn

DAVID KAHN holds a PhD in history from Oxford University and is the author of the Codebreakers and Hitler’s Spies. He has written many articles on codes and intelligence, from the Historical Journal to the New York Times. A former editor of Newsday, he lives in New York and is one of the world’s leading historians of cryptography.

Perfect Partner

Very Special Intelligence (2015) The Story of the Admiralty's Operational Intelligence Centre 1939–1945 (Paperback)

The Operational Intelligence Centre (OIC) was the nerve centre of the British Admiralty in World War II, dedicated to the collection, analysing and disseminating of information from every possible source that could throw light upon the plans and deployment of German naval and maritime forces throughout the War. This highly readable account tells the story of how the results of Enigma decoding at Bletchley Park and other intelligence was used mainly in the titanic struggle against the U-boat menace. In the OIC operations room beneath the Admiralty, teams sifted through a combination of radar direction…

By Patrick Beesley

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