Remembering Navy Cryptanalyst Agnes Meyer Driscoll (July 24, 1889 – September 16, 1971)

“Once the pursuit of truth begins to haunt the mind, it becomes an ideal never wholly attained.”

“We can never achieve absolute truth but we can live hopefully by a system of calculated probabilities.”

Agnes Meyer Driscoll

“In her thirty-year career, Mrs. Driscoll broke Japanese Navy manual codes — the Red Book Code in the 1920s, the Blue Book Code in 1930, and, in 1940, she made critical inroads into JN-25, the Japanese fleet’s operational code, which the U.S. Navy exploited after the attack on Pearl Harbor for the rest of the Pacific War.”

NSA — Hall of Honor

Agnes Meyer Driscoll (July 24, 1889 – September 16, 1971), known as Miss Aggie or Madame X, was an American cryptanalyst during both World War I and World War II. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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Agnes Driscoll joined the U.S. Navy in 1918, with a degree in mathematics and physics, and a proficiency in English, French, German, Latin, and Japanese. Edwin T. Layton described Driscoll as “without peer as a cryptanalyst”.

“She worked in their cryptologic office throughout World War I.

Staying with the Navy as a civilian, Mrs. Driscoll was instrumental in breaking Japanese naval systems between the wars. In 1930, she solved the Japanese system used during their Grand Maneuvers.

The information learned indicated that the Japanese knew American operational plans.

Later, she broke the Japanese “Blue Book” which required solving both the code and the overlaying cipher simultaneously.

Mrs. Driscoll also assisted in the development of an early cipher machine and encouraged the use of tabulating machines for cryptanalysis. She retired from NSA in 1959.”

In ‘The Emperor’s Codes’ — a book about breaking Japan’s secret ciphers by Michael Smith — Agnes Driscoll is mentioned only twice (Pages 218 & 278). This is perhaps a sign that the importance of her work has yet to be fully acknowledged.

The NSA Hall of Honor was created in 1999 to pay special tribute to the pioneers and heroes who rendered distinguished service to American cryptology. In 2000 she was inducted into the National Security Agency’s Hall of Honor.

PS: Many experts believe that JN-25 — the Japanese fleet’s operational code — could have been broken before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Life of Agnes Meyer Driscoll

REFERENCES

Agnes Meyer Driscoll — Wikipedia

Remembering Navy Cryptanalyst, Mrs. Agnes Meyer Driscoll — Station HYPO

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Remembering Navy Cryptanalyst Agnes Meyer Driscoll (July 24, 1889 – September 16, 1971)

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