Welcome to our class of January 2020. I’m excited about this year–this is my second time teaching this class and I have fresh material and fresh ideas. In my first year I tried to avoid family stories and memories for various reasons. I learned that that’s what my class members enjoy the most and so I’ve decided on a blended approach. I was surprise to find how well the two approaches complement each other. I also will ask for class input–is there a topic I’m overlooking? How about the WAVES? the importance of amateur radio? Feel free to speak up. And there is no required reading, although I will provide a copy of the documentary and ask you to view it.

The first week I plan to narrate how I got there–growing up in the Desch household, knowing there’s something unusual going on but now beginning to understand the mystery until I was in my 40s. Then I’ll introduce Joe Desch and his story as we know it today (I continue to learn new things about his career).

From Week 2 on the class will aim to balance between my personal knowledge of he story as only child of Joseph Desch and with historical facts, figures and stories I’ve learned in books, conferences and the National Archives. We’ll examine the growth of German militarism in both the fatherland and in the US, and how that affected the Desches. We’ll examine the growth of interest in the US Navy in more modern methods of communication analysis and how that played into NCR’s Research Laboratory. We’ll spend most of a class examining the interplay of the Enigma, the British Bombe and the Desch bombe. I have found a new (2019) analysis of how the bombe worked which is much more detailed than any I’ve encountered. With the help of my class we’ll tackle an Enigma message ourselves. We’ll cover the war with Japan, the myriad of machines built in Dayton for the Japanese code and how that affected Joe Desch.

Finally, the argument I’ve been building all year, we study the debate and exactly how successful the bombe program was–some have called it too little, too late. Can that be disputed by the many ways bombe output was used besides just U-Boat warfare? Let’s look at Postwar reports about the U-Boat war, the Pacific war and the European theatre.

I’m looking forward to this a lot. Debbie Anderson


Week 1: My Search, Joe Desch
Week 2: Joe gets discovered, The Enigma
Week 3: Work in Plain Sight, The Bombe
Week 4: Playing “Catch Up” with all the media that we’ve missed! The WAVES, U-505
Week 5: Looking to the Pacific,
Week 6: A Reckoning, The Effect of 50 years of Secrecy

Further materials:
Declassified documents!

Week 3’s materials:

PDF: US Navy Cryptanalytic Bombe: A Theory of Operation and Computer SimulationDesch bombe