Allied and Axis forces constantly jockeyed for advantage during the World War II Battle of the Atlantic, not only over weaponry and tactics, but also over technology and information. The Imitation Game, a 2014 Academy Award–winning film, depicted iconoclastic British mathematician Alan Turing’s efforts to unravel Germany’s Enigma cipher system, which enabled British intelligence to capture top-secret “Ultra” intelligence data. The film’s screenwriters altered names and events but also shortchanged a related American story. The Kriegsmarine Enigma confounded Bletchley Park for much of the war, blinding it to vital information on U-boat operations. When the Battle of the Atlantic finally reached American shores, Howard T. Engstrom, a U.S. Naval Reserve commander, employed cutting-edge computing technology to help tame Enigma.
The Navy's 'Imitation Game'
During World War II, U.S. Navy success in breaking Japanese codes had wide-ranging effects. But in a less-well-known but also impressive cryptologic chapter, a Navy team cracked open the German navy’s formidable four-rotor Enigma cipher machine.
By David Sears