U.S. Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association

Professional Reviews of U.S. NCVA History Book

George McGinnis, an early member of the U.S. Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association, spent years researching and compiling histories of U.S. Navy cryptology into a single volume that was published in 1996. This important book was extensively reviewed by related organizations.

NCVA History Book

The Phoenician, the newsletter of the Phoenix Society, the organization of National Security Agency retired persons, published the following review of the U.S. NCVA History Book:

The Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association, made up of retired individuals from the Naval Security Group, has published a history book. Prior to publication, the volume was given a security review by both NSA and the NSG [Naval Security Group].

Included in the book is a comprehensive history of US Naval cryptology from shortly after the first World War to modern times. It contains stories about decoding the various Japanese naval systems and of the decrypting device known as Purple for reading the Japanese Foreign Office messages. There is an extensive description of the bombe used for recovering the wheel settings for the German Enigma cipher device, making it possible to read the German U-boat traffic. The D/F net that kept track of the U-boat positions, thus permitting US ship and aircraft to find them more easily, is described.

There is an excellent history of the WAVES during World War Two, and especially their contributions to the success of the bombes and at naval intercept sites.

The Marine and Coast Guard contributions to the COMINT effort are covered with separate stories. Field intercept sites from far northern Jan Mayen Island to sunny Hawaii and the Philippines are described in considerable detail. And the COMSEC side of the family is not ignored.

There are almost 100 photographs, including some graphic ones of the USS Liberty. The last section of the book contains 1,000 biographical sketches of individuals who served in the Naval Security Group.

It is the first book of this scope published by one of our companion organizations and the historical information in it is unique. Much of it (e.g., the descriptions and photos of bombe operations) has never been seen in print.

The editor of this valuable book is Phoenician George McGinnis of Gulf Breeze, FL.

The following review appeared in CRYPTOLOGIA, the quarterly journal devoted to all aspects of Cryptology, and in The Cryptogram. The review was written by Louis Kruh, editor of both publications.

This spectacular, oversized hardbound volume on high quality paper provides a comprehensive history of Naval cryptology from WW I to modern times. It features stories about decoding various Japanese naval systems and the Purple machine used for diplomatic communications. Work on the German Enigma cipher machine is also described with an extensive explanation of how the bombe was used to recover rotor settings, which made it possible to decrypt secret high level German communications.

A section, The Early Years, traces the early days of the Navy’s interest in radio intelligence and highlights the role of luminaries such as Russel Wilson, Agnes Driscoll, Laurence Safford, Edward Hebern, J.N. Wenger, Joseph J. Rochfort, Thomas H. Dyer, Jack S. Holtwick, Prescott Currier, Eunice Willson, Wesley A. Wright, Albert J. Pelletier, Robert H. Weeks, and many others.

Another section, Stories About Our Profession, includes articles on Traffic Analysis, Cryptography-Target Japan, and The First United States Contact With the British COMINT Organization by Prescott Currier, which has not been previously published. Waves in the The Naval Security Group During WWII, which describes their work on the bombes. U.S. Marine Corps in COMINT, Direct Support Units tells of the challenging work of radio intelligence units aboard flagships of the fleet. The Japanese Cipher Machines discusses the Red, Purple, and Jade machines. Some Observations about the German Enigma and its Analysis by Joseph J. Eachus, which has not been previously published, is a detailed review of the Enigma and how the bombe works, plus many other fascinating articles.

Throughout this excellent volume are almost 100 photographs of people, places, cipher machines, and other pictures related to the articles. Even the front and back endpapers are striking. The front papers have illustrations of seven intercepted Japanese messages; the back papers feature an etching of Naval Security Group Command Headquarters on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, D.C. and some intercept sites.

With kudos to the editor, George McGinnis, who devoted almost three years to this project, his efforts have resulted in an impressive volume, which you will appreciate having in your personal library so you can peruse it for research or pleasure, whichever you wish.


Publishing Information

Published by Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, KY. ISBN 1-56311-250-7, 208 pages, published 1996. Library of Congress card number 96-60850.

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