For the Record

Remarks entered in the Congressional Record

HONORING JOE DESCH AND THE NCR CODE-BREAKING EFFORT

HON. TONY P. HALL (Extensions of Remarks – October 17, 2001)

[Page: E1914] GPO’s PDF

HON. TONY P. HALL OF OHIO

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Mr. HALL of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, at a ceremony on October 19, 2001, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) will designate as a “Milestone in Engineering” the U.S. Naval Computing Machine Laboratory, in Dayton, Ohio, which I represent.

During World War II, the ability to analyze quickly coded enemy messages was one of our most critical military capabilities. To build a machine that could break codes from Nazi submarines, the Navy turned to Dayton’s National Cash Register Company (NCR) and Joseph R. Desch, director of its Electrical Research Laboratory.

For three years, Desch and his team of dedicated workers developed a machine which allowed our Nation to crack the secret code used by the Nazi military command to communicate its secret plans to its forces in the field. The device, called a Bombe, was the military’s highest priority, second only to the development of the Atom Bomb. Its success gave the Allies a significant advantage, hastening the end of the war and saving the lives of American soldiers.

Desch and his team faced enormous pressure as they labored daily to construct and produce the code-breaking device. They sacrificed their personal health, both emotional and physical. Many of these heroes are no longer living. Desch died on August 3, 1987, at age 80.

The effort has been all but forgotten because of the enormous secrecy surrounding the project. In February and March 2001, the Dayton Daily News ran an extraordinary 8-part series by Jim DeBrosse about Desch. The series brought to light for the first time much information about NCR’s code-breaking efforts. The IEEE ceremony later this monthwill bring additional honor to his memory.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to the memory of Joe Desch and his contribution to the war effort would be the permanent display of an original NCR Bombe in Dayton. Of themore than 120 Bombes that were believed to have been constructed in Dayton, the sole known surviving Bombe is displayed at the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic Museum in Ft. Meade, Maryland. I have been in touch with the National Security Agency requesting assistance in tracking down another example of this extraordinary invention.

As part the IEEE ceremony, the surviving members of this top-secret project will return to the site of the U.S. Naval Computing Machine Laboratory, at NCR. They will bejoined by Desch’s daughter, Debbie Anderson, whose persistence has helped the story be told.

I offer my congratulations on this award to all the survivors of the project and to Debbie Anderson in honor of her father.

This text can also be seen by going to the Library of Congress web site: HONORING JOE DESCH AND THE NCR CODE-BREAKING EFFORT — HON. TONY P. HALL (Extensions of Remarks – October 17, 2001).