Heroes of World War II: Season 1, Episode 4

The Men Who Cracked Enigma (2 Jan. 2004)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, War
6.8
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The story of the men that cracked the Nazi's Enigma code. From the Polish mathematicians who made the first breakthroughs to the establishment at Bletchley Park and the work of Alan Turing and many others.

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Title: The Men Who Cracked Enigma (02 Jan 2004)

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The story of the men that cracked the Nazi's Enigma code. From the Polish mathematicians who made the first breakthroughs to the establishment at Bletchley Park and the work of Alan Turing and many others.

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Documentary | War

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2 January 2004 (UK)  »

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Ecryption, Life, Death, Victory, etc.
25 March 2015 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

It's brief, only half an hour long, but detailed enough to give a picture of how the Nazi military code was broken by an assortment of mathematicians, some of them, like Türing, truly eccentrics. And it was an international effort. The first Enigma code was deciphered by three Poles. Alas, the Germans changed their encryption just before Poland was invaded. The three had to make their way to Bletchley Park, later to be joined by Americans.

Of course, to the uninitiated, it all sounds boring -- fiddling around with rotors and knobs and permutations that run into the billions. But it could be argued that without this brainy stuff going on behind the scenes the war would have been longer and cost many more lives.

Once the mystery of the German code was solved, convoys could be routed away from U-boats, for instance.

There are so many secret codes and so many stories about them that I, for one, get them mixed up. Breaking an Italian naval code enabled air and British submarines to sink ships sailing from Italian ports to Rommel's base at Tripoli. Rommel thus ran short of men, water, fuel, and other necessary supplies and was finally reduced to draining fuel from some of his tanks in order to keep the remainder running. In a sense, it was code breaking that finally defeated Rommel.

All of this was taken with the utmost seriousness. Based on intelligence gathered from a broken code, the RAF sent bombers to attack transports in the Mediterranean. When the airplanes and ships were in sight of one another, their commanders discovered that the transports were carrying Allied prisoners of war. But by that time it was too late. Had the bombers been recalled, it would have raised the enemy's suspicions about the safety of their codes.

There is currently available a feature film -- "U-571" -- about how the Americans captured a vital machine used in Enigma, instead of the Brits who actually accomplished the job. As an American, I feel befouled. The KaEl of that U-boat, by the way, knew that the submarine and its decoding devices was not going to sink or explode, as had been intended. He was half-way to safety aboard the British destroyer, when he began swimming back to his boat to sink her before she could be captured. As one source put it, "he disappeared in a hail of bullets."


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