Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1928: ENIGMA Introduced into German Army

Monday, July 15, 2024

15 July 1928: The ENIGMA was introduced into the German Army and used for the transmission of coded messages. The Enigma was invented by Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I and the machine was used commercially beginning in the early 1920s. The military version of the Enigma was a modified form of the commercial model to make it more secure. The Enigma became the workhorse of the German military services, used to encrypt tens of thousands of tactical messages throughout World War II. German military messages enciphered on the Enigma machine were first broken by the Polish Cipher Bureau, beginning in December 1932.

The number of mathematical permutations for every keystroke is astronomical. Allied forces were able to read most of the Enigma encrypted messages throughout most of the war as a result of the tireless effort of many Allied cryptologists. It is an electromechanical machine that used a combination of wired rotors and plugs to change each letter as it is typed. Today, many historians believe that the Allies' ability to read the Enigma-enciphered messages and act on that information shortened the war by as many as two years, saving thousands of Allied and Axis lives."

The Enigma exhibit is one of the most popular exhibits at the National Cryptologic Museum. Updated in 2016, the exhibit features the history and development of several versions of the once thought unbreakable Enigma machine.

What makes this exhibit most unique, however, is that it includes authentic World War II Enigma machines that visitors can use to encrypt and decrypt their own messages.


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