The Emperor's Codes: The Breaking of Japan's Secret Ciphersby Michael Smith
In this gripping, previously untold story from World War II, Michael Smith examines how a group of eccentric codebreakers cracked Japan's secret codes and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Drawing upon recently declassified British files, privileged access to Australian secret official histories, and interviews with many of the men involved, The Emperor's Codes takes the reader step-by-step through the codebreaking process, explaining exactly how the codebreakers went about their daunting task-made even more difficult by the vast linguistic differences between Japanese and English. It details the grueling work and almost unfathomable dedication demonstrated by these relatively unsung heroes, without whose extraordinary exploits the outcome of World War II might have been very different.
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.58(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.83(d)
Meet the Author
Award-winning celebrity chef and author Michael Smith has been creating distinctive, delicious meals for over twenty years. An honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, he has worked in a variety of fine culinary venues: a Michelin 3-star restaurant in London, South America, the Caribbean, and some of Manhattan's best kitchens. Smith is the star of several Food Network TV shows including Chef at Home, Chef at Large, and Chef Abroad
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
I was first attracted to this book not only because I was interested in the challenge of cross-language codebreaking, but also because I was interested in the idea of codebreaking in general in WW2. I had never heard very much about these ‘unsung heroes’ of the Pacific War and I was interested in learning more; I also hoped to see a little more insight into the Japanese position during WW2. I was not disappointed in my desire for knowledge about the war and codebreaking in general. The Emperor’s Codes was exhaustive in following the progress of the war and viewing those events through the lens of the efforts of the codebreaking done by British codemakers, primarily those attached to the Government Code & Cipher School (GC&CS). From intercepting diplomatic cables during the Washington Conference in 1921, to the translation of the cables that hinted at the formation of the Tripartite Pact before any public announcement was made, to the decoding of the Emperor’s statement which led Harry Truman to make the decision to drop the atomic bomb. As a world war, WW2 is an important part of any history student’s study, and this book provides a new and interesting way to view it. This book was interesting, but for various reasons I wouldn’t recommend to anyone but the most serious student of cryptography, and certainly not to another student. First of all, it’s overly detailed. It lists every tiny facet of information, irrelevant or not, and listed off dozens of places, people, and protocols that required serious concentration and a notepad for one to keep track of all of them. This led to rambling and confusion and occasionally I had to skip over the more dense paragraphs listing some general’s obscure maneuvers in a little-known area. Second, the book relied almost entirely on quotes, recitations of records, and textbook –like paraphrasing of military maneuvers. The book had very little of Smith’s original writing or ideas; virtually every page had one to three quotes, with large paragraph block quotes every two pages or so. While I liked that it was very grounded in historical facts and accounts, it made the overall writing style dull and monotonous. Third, it was disappointing in content matter; the references and descriptions of the actual codebreaking devices were barely mentioned and mentions of them restricted to one or two sentences every chapter. The book focused more on the war, the various camps, and military maneuvers, rather than the codes, codebreaking, and codebreakers. Given the title, I would have preferred more emphasis on codebreaking. Additionally, as a former employee of the British Intelligence Corps, Smith utilizes every opportunity to prove the superiority and accomplishments of the British cryptographers over their American counterparts, sometimes with limited success. Overall, while succeeding as a history expounding on the British involvement in cryptography and the impact of its Bletchley Park cryptanalysts on WW2, it failed as an interesting book for any other than the seriously devoted student of cryptography. I would give it a 2/5 stars and recommend that any person attempting to read it be ready with a notepad, ibuprofen, and a lot of time on their hands.
The author minimises the contributions along with critisim of the US role in code- breaking. The facts do not square with his views. You would never know, from this book, about the monumental assistance from the US in breaking German and Japanese codes. This is a good read an examines the personal experiences of UK codebreakers which is very interesting. Smith might want to look at the book: "A World at Arms" by Weinberg and the book "Enigma" for more objectivity. William Wantuck, Houston, TX firstname.lastname@example.org....
The history of cracking the German codes during World War II has emerged slowly over the last ten years, and is now fairly fully described. By comparison, relatively little has been revealed about the comparable efforts aimed at Japanese codes. Recent declassification of British documents, privileged access to secret Australian histories of these events, and extensive new interviews with participants by Mr. Michael Smith (who spent 9 years in codebreaking for British Intelligence) provide the basis for the most complete and interesting account yet of the efforts aimed at Japan. The book is a success as a riveting history of individuals, for explaining the techniques involved, changing your view of how the war was won, and for raising fascinating new questions about military activities (did the atomic bomb really have to be dropped, or did Truman drop the ball?). Right after World War II, the American cryptographers broke the story of how they had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code (the so-called Purple code). What was not known, until recently, is that almost all of success with the other Japanese codes involved British and/or Australian codebreakers. Even more surprising is that the U.S. Navy kept intercepts and code books from the British codebreakers despite agreements to share. Undoubtedly, many lost their lives and the war was prolonged because of these U.S. errors. But there were also errors in using the coded output. Some commanders just wouldn't take it seriously, and placed their ships in harm's way. Consider the irony of the British decoding an impending attack on their codebreaking home in Ceylon which the British Navy largely ignored after the attack was delayed for a few days. The Japanese codebreaking was much more difficult than that for the German codes because the allies had few Japanese readers to draw on. Before the war's end, the British invented a six month cram course that effectively taught code-breaking Japanese. Also, because the British lost so many bases in Asia, the codebreakers were pushed further and further away from Japanese bases and shipping. That meant an inability to get enough radio messages to be able to effectively decode. At the key turning points in the war, the British were trying to listen to Japan from a lousy station in Kenya. Go figure! Here's where the U.S. Navy could have made a big difference, because they always had lots of intercepts from naval shipping in the Pacific. 'The record of the US Navy in cooperation, not just with the British but with their own Army, was not merely lamentable, it was shameful.' Interestingly, the Japanese codes were able to be broken mostly because the Japanese assumed that no one could. So when it appeared that the codes might have been compromised, they kept using the same ones. That gave the allies an edge. The Japanese also had some habits that helped. They began many messages with similar flowery language such as 'I have the honour to inform your excellency . . . .' Find enough of those messages, and you could begin to decode. It was fascinating to see how one source of intelligence helped other parts of the war. The Japanese ambassador in Berlin was a great source of information about Nazi Germany, through the broken Purple code. He toured Normandy just before D-Day, and his rambling account tipped the allies off to the need to throw Hitler's attention towards Pas de Calais. The book also recounts how a broken message allowed the allies to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto. You also get a very fine explanation of how the coded messages were used to help win the Battle of Midway and the speed the liberation of the Philippines. Long sections of the story are presented as quoted material from partipants, which provides a change in voice and of perspective. Many of the codebreakers in the various Asian locations were women. What was it like to find a giant snake in the toilet that you so desperately wanted to use? Many of thos