tv Call-in with Liza Mundy Code Girls CSPAN April 6, 2018 3:13am-3:43am EDT
the codebreakers of world war ii now joins us on our outdoor set to take her calls liza, how do you find history like this? do you just stumble on it next. >> yes. i read a declassified history written by a nsa historian that is the descendent of wartime code breaking they knew it was largely female one was declassified then i talked to agency historians who introduced me to the larger story then i had to track down the women to get them declassified. >> hidden figures came out around the same time so how was that they came out at the same time? >> i think of them as the hidden figures i think it is extraordinary they have been
untold up until now. i think we are in the era there was a disservice to the rest of the authors letting people think that they that this really happens the rooms were dark but now the lights are going on and we realize they have been here doing important work all along. >>host: and you have first-person accounts. >> in some cases i had to convince them they would not be put in prison. they were very, very good about keeping their secret. >>host: francine. here is a quote she's the one that got that slb yamamoto saying only ed dm woman could have figured out that blinking code.
>> there was something about that irrational that the japanese were using it was a code breaking effort to put together the itinerary of yamamoto ahead of the japanese navy the mastermind behind pearl harbor and putting behind his itinerary and they shot his plane out of the year. >>host: francine? >> guest: there were men in the pacific then women at the code breaking facility working as fast as they could to put together his itinerary and a group of women from wellesley that was involved and they record that cheering went up when they learned the plane was shot out of the air. >>host: liza mundy what are the logistics moving women to washington, housing them? >> washington was transformed by thousands of women taking
the trains, landing in union station, looking for housing, eventually barracks would be built in dorms would be built but it was a scramble for boarding houses or an attic groups of women there -- living together in group houses are living together for the first time. it was a very hard job with a lot of stress and urgency but in the off hours there was a lot of fun the first time they had ever been on chaperones you can imagine. >>host: code girls is the book liza mundy is our guest our guest is calling in from hawaii please go ahead. >> caller: can you hear me? this isn't directly about necessarily the code girls although i'm sure what you
said happened to them and i listen to the other two ladies but have you heard from any of the other two or three ladies who put the bug in your ear about the code girls what we know of called the funny uncles? the men who did not go to war and the children who had to stay at home and live with them and a very nasty sexual experience for many of the wives their husbands were fighting but things were going on at home fighting world war ii on a whole different level and stories are just now coming out for example from my class and my classmates and i
am 75. so those horror stories are just beginning to come to light have you heard about them at all? >>host: any comment? >> guest: not those particular stories that i believe them. it was a time of enormous dislocation and social change i am sure there were vulnerable women at home and getting on trains traveling for thousands of miles most of those had a wonderful time with a highlight of their life but it was very chaotic into motorists. >>host: colorado you are on booktv. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. my older sister was living in washington d.c. and she was a code breaker she flew to england and worked over there
until after world war ii was over or not and she never talked about it. it was always a secret to the family. i just wanted to tell you that i was really interested in listening to all of the ladies especially the one from england. it was so much fun to hear their conversations and the accent of course and their stories of when they were codebreakers. >>host: thanks for calling. liza mundy right before this began i told you my aunt did this in world war ii and would not talk about it. >> guest: thousands did this work it was top-secret you cannot have the enemy know that you break into the code
system because then they will change it and all your hard work is lost. women were told during the war if anybody asks what they did they were to say they were secretaries they emptied wastebaskets and they work and importantly and they continue that after the war they were told nobody could ever know and nobody told him in the 80s when they were released so most of the women took the secret to their grade. >>host: because it's funny our guest said the same thing and you heard this in your research. >> from so many families all that is with she was doing. she said she was a secretary she probably wasn't particularly if the work was secret. >>host: las vegas please go ahead. >> caller: i'm watching
c-span as i do every weekend and a few weeks ago there was a spotlight on world war i the codebreakers and an american gentleman did you ever hear of anything of this person? >>host: i apologize i cannot remember what book that is we did cover some books on this topic including hidden figures and rocket girls and now of course code girls. let's try ohio you are on booktv from the tucson festival of books with our
3012 -- with author liza mundy. >> caller: i am a veteran from the middle 60s until i retired in the mid- 90s. >> guest: thank you for your service. >> caller: thank you for your book. the women and men working on that schedule were they part of the navy? >> guest: yes. navy. >> caller: i heard the women in world war ii was that the old security group headquarters and were told if they ever would reveal anything they would be shot.
>> guest: exactly. you got it. >> they didn't tell us but they did if we were captured greens were around who would shoot us but none of us we took rosemary seriously though and the association chapter had a debate at conventions of other agents on this agencies when is it okay and the answer was it is never okay to leak classified material it wasn't subject to the 12 year intervals we just didn't talk about it. i thought when the secret came out in the 70s i was appalled and outraged i didn't think anybody should be talking about it and i still
don't i think it is fine to keep it secret but in the 60s and 70s a lot of the material from world war ii was completely classified and rightfully so because some of our enemies in the 60s and 70s were using those same systems because i didn't know any better and that was fine with us. >>host: thank you. we will leave that they are. liza mundy are we still using some of the intelligence we learned from world war ii today? is some of it still classified ? tee3 some of the records are still classified yes. i worked very hard as i could many these years later a great deal of this should be declassified. i certainly agree with the caller during wartime that is something you don't want to have happen but i do very seriously in my interviews i had to persuade them they
would not be put in prison but they had trouble bringing themselves even under certain words like a noun and a verb they were told never even to say certain words because of the enemy heard you on the street and you said overlap or security or cryptanalysis then they would know what was going on and then in these compounds which department of homeland security is now is where the codebreakers were working for the u.s. navy. >>host: why women? >> guest: the men were unavailable at was a national emergency we availed ourselves of native american communication linguist and we did the same for women we needed educated people with math and language that can
learn very quickly i literally found memo in the national archives when they were recruiting codebreakers typed up new source, women's colleges men are unavailable let's see what the women can do. >>host: from your book the committee on naval affairs argued admitting women into the navy would break up homes and go backward in civilization. >> there was a nervous controversy getting women into the military during world war ii because those codebreakers were women accepted for volunteer emergency service their first gig ever to include in the u.s. military there was son in world war i but this is a larger number with a lot of resistant from the older admirals they didn't want them the navy blue but gray or tan but the women who
were pushing for inclusion understood even uniform color was very important to signal they were fully part of the reserves they were reservist called into action. it was a momentous time. some people i interviewed their parents didn't want them because there was rumormongering they could be prostitutes or entering for the benefit of the men but very quickly the families were very proud of their daughters who were members of the amy and nerve money --dash navy. >> caller: congratulations on your work liza mundy with the mandatory declassification and getting that done. i thank you can tell that my voice i am very, very knowledgeable on what that
takes and you need to take about when you're done with this interview. i know what you went through. number one. number two i have two relatives of mine that are cold war vietnam era and peacetime era individuals that were unclassified jobs in their branches and they are superduper secret so understand what you have gone through again. congratulations. what would you advise an individual who may want to write a book i have been talking to defense review i have a good relationship with them. and considering doing something like that. and how difficult that is and
what are the pros and cons and i will take your answer off the air. >> guest: it doesn't matter if you are an author or not if you are applying for freedom of information act are mandatory declassification act that is the beautiful part of the law that you don't have to be anybody as anybody can do it a lot of people put in the foia request file that request and take advantage of this great law that obligates the federal agencies to make this available and also will be patient because some of these requests can take years. >>host: years? how long did you work on code girls? >> guest: three-year start to finish i did get a loss of
records declassified but i'm still getting letters that if you are still interested from what you filed two years ago let us know of you are still interested. i am still interested. >> caller: thank you for taking my call thank you for bringing the untold story to light. were there any african-american women doing code breaking? >> guest: thank you so much for asking that question. yes the navy was not willing to admit african-american women they did not until 1945 but they were paranoid about background but the army did there was an african-american unit at the army compound in arlington virginia that was a
secret unit that worked as the private sector they decrypted their communication and wanted to know if they were having relations with hitler or mitsubishi the civilian army that was breaking the unit so i'm so glad the caller asked. >>host: that is an untold story. >> it was very hard to get records about that unit and i'm hoping maybe there is a family out there who knows their mother or grandmother did work as a civilian for the army during the war at arlington hall. >>host: do have a website? >> guest: it is tee12.com contact the author button i love to hear from people. >>host: pensacola florida go ahead. >> caller: thank you for
taking my call. my mother worked in d.c. as a code secretary we never knew exactly where or anything is there a list or how do we find out if in fact that might have been her job? >> that is what all the women told their families they were secretaries. on my website there is a tab called resources i do have instructions there you can file a request civilian or military personnel it is all a matter of public record i had a researcher that i worked with her name is on the website you can do-it-yourself and you can file a request it is wonderful you can get the college transcript and background welty report on --dash and the loyalty
report. >>host: alabama you are on booktv. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. >>host: please go ahead. >> caller: i do have a bit of history the army air force was using aerial surveillance to collect information to bring into the girls and my father was the pilot of one of those aircraft but to make things even more interesting is when i became old enough to join the air force i was put into the same type of organization and i did that for 40 years.
are you there? tee7 thank you for calling in and sharing your experience. >>host: were their male codebreakers as well? >> guest: absolutely the women were confined to washington d.c. literally on the compound that many joined the women -- the military hoping they would go overseas. the army was a little more willing to do that but for the most part they stayed in washington so i went to europe or pacific but the men were out there in the pacific and atlantic working with women as well to the callers.with the pilot so the japanese would not know we were breaking their code system, planes would be sent up at the japanese army and navy's they think they would be spotted by the airplane but in fact it was code breaking.
that was another way they would work together with the pilot. >>host: the war is ending 1945 what happens to these women. >> guest: at least 11000 probably more son have come and gone but for the navy they were there for the duration. after the war for the most part they are told take you for your service you did a great job. you saved thousands of lives, you you shortened the war but never tell anybody what you did the navy women were given a medal and told never to show anybody they were actually released from their oath to secrecy and to track them down but however there was the wartime code breaking from the nsa and those that actually
came out of the war one of the women who rose to become the first deputy director of the nsa it was an important generation of women with cyberintelligence. >>host: were they given veterans benefits? in theory women qualified for the g.i. bill or the wac. one of the women working for the navy she wanted to be an architect wanted to use the g.i. bill but they all turned her down and said we are holding the spots for returning men she said i was also a member of the navy and they said to bad but she couldn't tell them about her work or what contribution she had made.
there. >> sunday night at 80 stern on c-span. >> at a bookstore event, author ben steele talked about his book the marshall plan about the u.s. plan to rebuild western europe's economy after world war ii. from politics and prose in washington d.c., this is one hour. >> an afternoon everyone. my name is liz. i'm a member of the event staff and i would like to welcome you all to politics and prose. today we are here to listen to ben regarding the marshall plan