Code Breakers at MHC

A few specially selected students learned how to crack code during WWII. Professor Roger Holmes taught legendary cryptography courses under the strictest secrecy, demanding that students study behind closed doors. Approved by a faculty unaware of the subject matter, the courses did not exist to the outside world and never appeared in the College catalog. Students who completed the courses were sent directly to Washington, where some went on to help break Japanese code just before the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

Patricia Ryan Leopold ’43 remembers learning that she was selected to take one such secret cryptanalysis course, hearing about it through “markers in [her] post box, to be in a certain building at a certain time, early in the morning and not to tell anybody.” Leopold was also among forty students in her graduating class sworn into the Navy after mastering cryptanalysis at MHC.

» Read the feature article, “Resiliency in Wartime,” from the winter 2014 Alumnae Quarterly.


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3 responses to “Code Breakers at MHC”

  1. Lys Cambridge Laurence '72 says:

    My mother Martha Allison Montague (Cambridge) ’42 was in the first group of WAVES trainees. She had been a philosophy major with Prof. Holmes, and had studied German as well. She spent the war in Washington breaking code from German navy radio transmissions – but we never knew that for over 50 years, as the codebreakers had been sworn to secrecy about Enigma and the whole project. Finally her family did hear about life in wartime Washington, the ‘bombe’ computer, the Enigma machines, and the transmissions: usually starting with a standard weather statement that was the clue to deciphering. Martha was also married on leave, and 3 days later my father went overseas for the next 3 years. She died in 2010.

  2. Henry Mulcahy (father of Lauren a graduate) says:

    ULTRA interesting!!! I’m sure it was all an ENIGMA to her at the time.

  3. Shireen says:

    Wow, very exciting!

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