Imagine having a talent so valuable that the Coast Guard is knocking at your door, begging you to work for them. This was the case for Elizebeth Friedman, one of the first code breakers in the United States. The Woman Who Smashed Codes describes the life of Elizebeth and her husband, William Friedman who were both instrumental in code breaking (cryptology) during WWI and WWII. Elizebeth served the Coast Guard and William served as an Army cryptologist.
Elizebeth’s career included breaking codes from rum runners during prohibition to drug smugglers and later Nazi leaders in South America. She even deciphered the Enigma machines used by the Germans using paper and pencil.
The author, Jason Fagone provides enough detail in the book to satisfy history buffs, but I enjoyed the human element of the story. Imagine you and your spouse work as top secret agents for the Government, one for the Coast Guard and one for the Army. You can’t share secrets, not even with each other and some you take to the grave. Imagine the horror of intercepting information from Nazis when your husband is a Jew and you were raised a Quaker. It was one of those books that left me wondering, “what if…”