The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 posts, one for each letter of the English alphabet, in April. Most of us choose to make these posts on a particular theme. My theme for 2022 is Codebreaking in World War II, which fits with the topic of the novel that I’m writing. Visit every day (except Sunday) in April for a new post on my topic.
A is for Arlington Hall
Arlington Hall was originally a junior college for young women, west of Washington DC and the Arlington National Cemetery. Near the beginning of World War II, the government took possession of the 100-acre campus and the existing buildings.
Arlington Hall housed the Signals Intelligence Service of the U.S. Army during World War II. This is where army and civilian personnel, mostly women, decoded or decrypted and translated intercepted radio signals.
Arlington Hall worked, mainly, on encrypted Japanese diplomatic and army messages. Bletchley Park, more famously, did similar work breaking European cipher systems, like Enigma. Another women’s college in DC, Mount Vernon Seminary and College, was commandeered by the Navy and became the Naval Communications Annex, performing similar work on the enemies’ naval codes.
Hastily constructed buildings were added to the Arlington Hall campus to house tabulating machines, desks for thousands of employees, and services for those employees (including a beauty parlor, a barbershop, a tailor, and a mess hall).
At Arlington Hall, American personnel learned the secrets of their enemies, everything from the exact itinerary of Admiral Yamamoto’s final journey to the placements of German defenses along the west European coast.
For more information on the women code-breakers at Arlington Hall and the Naval Communications Annex, I recommend the book Code Girls by Liza Mundy. The Achievements of the Signal Security Agency in World War II is a government report written in 1946. It was Top Secret when it was published but now is available on the internet for anyone who wants to learn in great detail about the work done at Arlington Hall.