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World War II
The Secret of the Code Breakers, Part 1



The Secret of the Code Breakers, Part 1
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.79

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    bomba, cipher, cryptography, encrypting, krip, mastery, own-a, swapping, ticking, unbreakable, dispatches, jumble, wartime, poland, hastily, unravel
     content words:    In World War II, Marian Rejewski, MAR-yawn Ray-EFF-ski


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The Secret of the Code Breakers, Part 1
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Spies, codes, secret back rooms - it all sounds like a thriller movie plot. In wartime, however, secrets can be very important. Top secret plans must be relayed to troops in the field. Ships, planes, and the like must all be quietly sent where they are needed. In World War II, contact was often made by radio. Telegraph and hand delivery were also used.
 
2     These messages, of course, could fall into enemy hands (or ears). Each side used codes to keep its plans secret. Most of the codes were ciphers. A cipher disguises the letters in the real message. This is done by swapping numbers or other letters for the real letters. Figures that mean nothing can be thrown in to hide the message even more. In the end, the message looks like a jumble of nonsense. To decode it, a person has to know the secret key.
 
3     Figuring out how to read code without having the key is called breaking the code. The science of codes and code breaking is called cryptography (krip TOG raf ee). It is a war all its own—a war of wits. It usually takes place far from the battlefield. It was, however, one of the main battles of WWII.
 
4     First, each side strived to come up with an unbreakable code. The Nazis used a machine to make their ciphers. It was called Enigma (en IGG muh). The word means puzzle. The Enigma device looked like an old-fashioned typewriter in a box. It had a keyboard. It also had three to five wheels, or rotors. The letters of the alphabet circled around the edge of each rotor. Some machines had a plug board in the front as well. The board sprouted wires that could switch letters on the keyboard electronically.

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