SCARBOROUGH, Maine — A group of more than 10,000 women served as cryptographers and cryptanalysts during World War II, each serving a total of two years.
Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy began recruiting college-age women as “Code Girls.” After the attack, recruitment efforts increased as the United States joined the Allied Forces.
The recruitment process included asking the women if they were good at math, if they had proficiency in different languages, and if they enjoyed crossword puzzles or were engaged to be married. Depending on their answers, they could join the U.S. in the war effort.
The women who were able to join the Navy as Code Girls were sworn to secrecy, and those who are alive still hold to their oath.
Their duties during the war included operating code-breaking machines, analyzing and breaking enemy codes, gathering resources on enemy operations, intercepting radio signals, and testing the security of American codes.
In 1944, the Code Girls intercepted around 30,000 Japanese Navy transport messages each month. Their efforts led to the U.S. Navy sinking almost all Japanese supply ships heading to the Philippines or South Pacific, the shooting down of a plane that held the architect of Pearl Harbor, and went on to help orchestrate the invasion of Normandy.
In order to honor one of those Code Girls here in Maine, Joy Asuncion, the Maine State Ambassador for Women In Military Service For America Memorial, held a ceremony at Piper Shores retirement community in Scarborough.
Asuncion, joined by two Navy Chief Petty Officers from Fort Meade MD, participated in the ceremony to honor two Navy Code Girls who served during World War II. One was not in attendance.
Jane Case, who lives at Piper Shores, and was at the ceremony, served as a Code Girl in the United States Navy for two years after she turned 20 years old.
“I waited until I was 20 because you couldn’t go in until you were, and I couldn’t wait to do it. As soon as I could, I did.” Case said.
Case still holds true to her oath and hasn’t shared any details from her time in the war.
“It drives my kids crazy,” she said.
Later in her life, Case discovered that the reason she was able to become a Code Girl was due to her attendance at a music school. Case also shared her mother’s disapproval of her voluntarily joining the U.S. Navy, but she did not let that hold her back.
“Ever since I was a little girl, this country has meant everything to me.” Case said.