Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cracking the Code...of Enigmatic History

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Either we didn't pay enough attention in history class, or they don't teach a lot of details in public school.

We figure both.

Growing up American means thinking your country is the best at almost everything - America is a magical place where dreams come true, it's home of freedom, democracy and justice for all, and all the wars are fought for freedom...and God Bless America.

While in the not so subtle background people are persecuted for the many ways in which they choose to live and believe, or who they choose to worship as their deity; wars are not fought for freedom, but for reasons made up by the government under the guise of key hot-button words; there is no justice in much of the lives of 99%, their poverty levels, the people and children going hungry, the poor education rates, the healthcare only for people who can afford it, big business bailouts, rigged and purchased politicians. And if there is a God, he blessed the whole damn world, not one country.

For those Americans who aren't comfortable with being told what to think, for those who ask questions, those who pay attention and think "wait, something's not right here...", there is a world of information laying ahead of them. If they get the greatest opportunity in the world, the experience of traveling to other countries, they soon find out things that they never learn by watching the news, reading the "appropriate" books, listening to the "right: people. They discover people, things, lives, facts - things that believing what...hmmm, there is no word that we can find to describe the people who tell you things, in a certain way, in order for you to believe only their point of view, leaving out pertinent facts and information...other than clergy, educators, parents, people...anybody with an agenda tell them won't teach them. Wait, there is a word for those...bigots.

Of course you don't need to travel to learn, to educate yourself, you only need an open mind, and a library card...or, in some cases, the internet (seriously, but be careful, even research what we say here...we could be wrong, it wouldn't be unheard of, we're only humans).

Of course anybody willing to buck those people, to pave their own way founded with their own observations and study, and create a different view on things are just labeled conspiracy theorists, crazy, or *gulp* liberal.

But we digress.

One of many enigma machines
Today we went to Bletchley Park, located in Milton Keynes, England. This place is of great significance to World War II, and the events that made the end of it possible. It is where the Enigma machines, used by the German Axis to relay various information, including battle plans, were taken to have their codes broken; which subsequently took at least two years off of World War II. Without having those machines to thwart enemy attacks, as well as send messages to mislead the Germans in regards to European battle plans, the war would have lasted much longer, and quite possibly would have had a different outcome. There were several, perhaps hundreds, of enigma cipher machines in existence, which were modified often, with codes rotated and changing sometimes depending on the day, waiting to be cracked by the intelligent minds of Bletchley Park code-breakers.

A place of great secrecy during the war, nobody but the 9,000 or so people who worked on the secured grounds of Bletchley Park knew what was going on there. When all was said and done Winston Churchill described the workers as the "Geese that laid the golden egg, but never cackled".
Slate statue commemorating Alan Turing,
father of the modern computer and one on
the most important WWII code-breakers.

The grounds are also the birthplace of the modern computer, an idea of Alan Turing, who had an amazing personal history, as well as having made great contributions to helping end World War II. Alan Turing was tried for homosexuality in a time when it was considered a crime, and chemically sterilized, his other option being imprisonment, before committing suicide with cyanide two years later. Eventually the government wrote a public letter of apology for the great injustice. Alan Turning died at the young age of 41; who knows what great things he could have accomplished if he had not been unfairly treated simply for loving another man.

What we remember learning in high school history class, and what we remember people saying anytime World War II is/was mentioned is that the aid of the American troops' in the war was what ended the war. That without the Americans Europe would have been lost. *coughs* Bullshit.

If one honestly believes that they may need to look into various history books, and study more than what they were told by a teacher teaching from one book (for an interesting read on how interest groups change history over time, read The Language Police by Diane's brilliant work). There is not one single nation that can take the credit for ending a war that required so much of the world to fight, but it's sure nice for some countries to make their people think it is (for another entry we've written on World War II see: WWII, 70 Years Later
[Another example of how history can be confused is the movie 'U-571', based on true events, which portrayed the soldiers who captured that particular enigma machine as American, when they were in fact British - one of the rooms in Hut 8 on the grounds of Bletchely had newspaper clippings surrounding the controversy that film caused.]

On the wall in a room dedicated to the important work of
carrier pigeons in World War II
Bletchly Park is also a great place to see untouched spaces where the important work was being done, a memorial to the Polish who were responsible for finding a way to break the first Enigma codes in the late 1930's, news articles, photographs of the war, like the capture of U-110 by British soldier, in photography(!); as well as documentation on the great work of women (espionage hotties), and even pigeons. One of the carrier pigeons even has it's own memorial grave site somewhere in England.

Walking through Block-B at Bletchley there are artifacts, posters, photographs, displays and newspaper clippings of the difficulties, the struggles, the hardships that the people of England (and Europe) had to endure for nearly ten years during the war. It makes any bitching and complaining from lands physically untouched by the massive amounts of fighting done during more recent wars, laughable (except in the case where a loved one has been shipped off [willingly] to war, we're not going to pretend that it isn't a hardship of it's own).
Sleeping conditions required by the people living in England
during World War II (we imagine near the time of the Blitz)

Humbled, sobered, appalled at the self-importance of some people...we choked up and nearly shed a tear (come on, we're practically dead inside some days, almost shedding a tear is serious business) scanning a letter never received by a father, sent back to his son starting on the front it could not be delivered because that person was currently a prisoner of war.

We know we have a bit of a fixation on World War II, and anything we can learn about it - we always have. We thought about it today as we soaked in as much information as we could before we got overloaded - we also thought of some people we know have gotten flack from others over what some consider a "perverse fascination". It is merely a keen interest in one of the most horrendous wars, where a single person was able to brain wash an entire country into hate.

It's no secret that many of us [within our system] dislike people, but we find selective hate baffling. So when studying World War II and trying to wrap our head around such hatred of single groups of people; n this case, Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, and anyone who was "different", which were in fact the people Hitler put into the concentration camps and wanted to eradicate; no matter what we learn we cannot come to grasp that kind of malicious ignorance. It's just...too real in the things we see happening now, in the behavior of people now, but people are blind to it.


On the grounds are amazing things to see and learn about, things not directly related to the war efforts exist there to, such as The National Museum of Computing, a Train Museum...and so much more, that we recommend you check out the website.

Bletchley Park National Codes Centre:

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