Does everyone remember watching that movie from 2000; U-571? No? Me neither, because I didn’t watch it. I have nothing against the movie, and someday I would like to watch it. It is a WWII story of Americans disguised as Germans who board a German submarine in an effort to capture an enigma machine; one of the ultimate code encryption and decryption devices known to man at the time. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I don’t want to watch the movie for the simple fact that it’s not true. That in itself is not a prerequisite for movie and TV watching; after all, how else could I explain all those hours of bliss watching Dr. Who and Star Trek?
It has more to do with a book that was left behind when I moved into my house. The book was “A Man Called Intrepid.” Because I had not unpacked any of my books at the time, I began to read this book. It would turn out to be one of the most significant historical accounts of WWII, and as some claim, the ultimate tale, and untold story of WWII if for no other reason than most of the information was Top Secret at the time of the war. It goes on to tell not only the story and importance of the Enigma Machine, but people whose deeds and courage is still not properly recognized to this day.
To start, we have William Stephenson; Canadian, soldier, airman, and spymaster. He became one of the most important intelligence agents of the war. Then there was William “Wild Bill” Donovan; head of the OSS- Office of Strategic Services, which was the predecessor to the CIA. Add in the Polish Army and Navy who were not the unintelligent, and ignorant race of people belittled in so many ethnic jokes. The Poles would be some of the first to crack the German enigma codes, and later go on to capture a functional enigma machine without the Germans knowing it was missing. The ability to crack codes and military information with the enigma machine would turn out to be some of the most vital events of the war. Add the French Resistance to the fold. They were not cowards, but men and woman who committed amazing acts of bravery including laying some very important groundwork for the D-Day invasion. For this group, to be capture usually meant torture and execution instead of a prison camp.
If there was one person whose personality was the same before, during, and after the war, it was J. Edgar Hoover. In the book it was portrayed that the only thing bigger than his ego, was his mouth. Hoover’s insistence in repeating and claiming credit for operations was a constant security risk.
If there is a lighter note, it was Ian Fleming. He would go on to “pen” the James Bond novels. During the war, he worked for Bill Stephenson, and at one point told him that when the war was over, he wanted to write about the things they did and saw. Stephenson told him “ forget it; nobody would ever believe you!”