Home » Law & Government » Elizebeth Smith Friedman, America’s first female cryptanalyst, worked as a code breaker who successfully broke up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took credit for her work until reports were declassified in 2008.

Elizebeth Smith Friedman, America’s first female cryptanalyst, worked as a code breaker who successfully broke up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took credit for her work until reports were declassified in 2008.

How Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman Broke Up a Nazi Spy Ring

Armed with a sharp mind and nerves of steel, Elizebeth Smith Friedman (1892–1980) cracked hundreds of ciphers during her career as America’s first female cryptanalyst, successfully busting smugglers during Prohibition and, most notably, breaking up a Nazi spy ring across South America during the 1940s.

But until records detailing her involvement in World War II were declassified in 2008, most Americans had never heard of Friedman. A man—then-director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover—took credit for Friedman’s wartime success, and she took her secret life as one of the country’s top codebreakers to the grave.

Those eager to learn more about Friedman’s extraordinary accomplishments can now watch a new documentary, “The Codebreaker” on PBS’ … Continue Reading (4 minute read)

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