The first public museum within the Intelligence Community, the National Cryptologic Museum, is an affiliate of the National Security Agency (NSA) and is located near its headquarters in Fort Meade, MD. As the NSA’s central interface to the public, the museum has enhanced its virtual outreach during the coronavirus, proving you can enjoy the historical treasures from the comfort of your humble abode.
The director of the museum, Vince Houghton, is no stranger to ClearanceJobs and facilitated a discussion with US Army Major General Mari Eder to cap off Women’s History Month.
Women in cryptologic history during World War II
Cryptology is the science of codes or the art of writing and solving ciphers. Cryptography was also a large part of World War II, with an abundance of coded systems and transcriptions that were fielded by all the nations involved in the conflict. Cryptology is solving the ciphers while Cryptography is creating them.
Maj. Gen. Eder has an established history of publishing, but her next book to be released later this year is The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II. The book will take readers inside the experiences of women who served and fought, but executed their missions during WWII, which Eder says, “needed to be told―and the sooner the better. For theirs is a legacy destined to embolden generations of women to come.”
Like many women in the DoD before leaders were intentional about recognizing women and their accomplishments in the field, the stories of The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line are the heroes that you don’t hear about who did remarkable things without expecting a medal. Despite their incredible achievements, they’ve been mostly unrecognized―but Eder hopes to change that.
Maj. Gen. Mari Eder and Her Inspirations
“All I wanted to do was be a colonel in the US Army – I didn’t have any goals beyond that,” Eder says. “Most of it is luck and timing which you can’t plan for.”
She retired as a US Army Major General, is a distinguished author, and a prominent thought leader on strategic communication and leadership within the DoD. She has served in several senior positions at the Pentagon, on US Army Staff, as Deputy Chief of Public Affairs and Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve, and with DoD’s Reserve Forces Policy Board. She retired in 2012 and has brought the community inspiration through her writing, but told us about her own inspirations for this book.
Stephanie Rader was one of two Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agents supporting the US Embassy in Warsaw and traveled under the guise of locating family members in the aftermath of WWII. She passed away in 2016 but was recommended for the Legion of Merit for her successful intelligence work twice. However, the commendation was never approved, and could be because she one of the few women who worked as a field operative in a male-dominated agency that manifested into the CIA. Being awarded this posthumous award in time for her interment at Arlington National Cemetery gave Eder big inspiration to tell these stories.
Code Girls is another inspiration of many for Eder, and tells the story of women who cracked German and Japanese military codes during the war. More than ten thousand served as codebreakers that were recruited by the Army and Navy, moving to DC to learn the art of code cracking while the men took up arms. This book motivated her to tell other stories that are untold of a wide spectrum of different types of women (who mostly passed in the last few years).
These are important narratives for younger women to read, showcasing a vital history of bravery, service, and accomplishment to ignite your inner code breaker and professional risk taker selves.
Learn more about the National Cryptologic Museum here.