Argonne National Laboratory

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Information Technology in the 1940's and How it Affected WWII in the Pacific

Argonne Engineering Professionals Seminar
Dave Raske (NE, retired)
February 13, 2013 12:00PM to 1:00PM
Building 208, Room A138
In late 1941 the US anticipated a Japanese attack somewhere in the Pacific, but no one expected it to be at Pearl Harbor. At the time, US/Japanese relations were at a low point due to a July 1941 freeze of Japanese assets and a complete oil embargo. But there was no credible information that an attack anywhere was imminent. At the time of the attack, the only sources of information about Japanese military movements or intentions in the Pacific was from coded radio messages or direct visual sightings of Japan's naval vessels.

The source of the coded radio messages could be directionally identified but the messages were unreadable because, at the time, the Japanese naval code, JN-25, could not be deciphered. The talk provides a short background of how the US embargoes led to the Japanese military to annexing the resource-rich territories in the South China Sea and how these actions led to WWII in the Pacific. The talk then describes the information technologies (ITs) available to the US in the early 1940's and provides examples of their use in the war against Japan. The talk also describes how the JN-25 code works.