April 02, 2019

Senate Passes Wyden-Fischer Resolution Recognizing WWII Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., last night celebrated the Senate passage of a bipartisan resolution recognizing the contributions of Elizebeth Friedman, a cryptanalyst who helped break German codes during World War II.

“Elizebeth Friedman’s contributions, like those of many women in STEM and other fields, have been far too long overlooked,” Wyden said. “She leaves a rich legacy in tenacity, creativity and excellence in the field of cryptology, having taken down gangsters and Nazis alike during her career as a code breaker. It’s long overdue for Congress to recognize Freidman for the American hero she is.”

“Far too often, great achievements, like the ones of Elizebeth Smith Friedman’s, remain in the fog of history for too long. Our country owes a great deal to Friedman for her work decoding Nazi spy networks in the midst of World War II,” Fischer said. “I’m proud to join my colleague, Senator Wyden, in recognizing her accomplishments, sharing her story with the country, and encouraging other women like her to pursue careers in STEM.”

Friedman, born Elizebeth Smith in Huntington, Indiana in 1892, found her interest in codebreaking through her love of Shakespeare and poetry. Friedman was recruited by federal agents as a cryptanalyst for the Coast Guard in the 1920s. In the early 1930s, she went onto manage the first codebreaking unit in the U.S. to ever be run by a woman. During WWI, Friedman’s codebreaking unit worked to break the German Enigma codes and track down Nazi spies. J. Edgar Hoover subsequently hid Friedman and her team’s contributions from the public, taking sole credit for the FBI.