HistoricalInvestigation Was Alan Turing’s work reallyrelevant for the outcome of WW2?Word total: by E.K.Section 1: Identification andevaluation of sources 250wordsThe Enigma was an adept cipheringmachine used by the Axis powers to hide their messages from theAllies. This investigation will deal with Alan Turing’s code breakingwork during the Second World War, specifically whether it actuallychanged the outcome.Researchquestion: Was Alan Turing’s work really relevant for the outcome ofWW2?Thefirst source I have chosen to evaluate is “Alan Turing: TheEnigma”, published in 1983.It goes into great detail concerning AlanTuring’s achievements andactivities during the second world war.
Thebookwaswritten by Andrew Hodges, who teaches at Wadham College, Universityof Oxford.Theauthor cites a variety of primary sources in his work, amongst whichthere are interviews with contemporary witnesses. This shows that alot of research was done in order to get the complete picture that ispresented in the book. Multiple views are considered, which makes thesource a reliable collection of knowledge.Asa biography it includes a lot of excess information about his lifebeyond the war, which means that it does not go into as much detailat the parts that are useful to me.Instead it opts for a fairly balanced overview on the topics.
Formy investigation the source helps to determine how Alan Turing wasinvolved in the Enigma project. This aspect covers half of myresearch question. The book omitsdetails onthe effects Enigma had on the war,meaningthis source alone is not enough informationto answer the question.Mysecond source isSection2: Investigation 1,225wordsintroduction,what am i investigatingInthe first half of the 20thcentury it wasimportanttoencrypt telecommunications becausewireless technology was fairly new1and any message could be intercepted, which in times of war meantthat strategies and ordershad to be concealed ifthey were to remain private2.
Especiallyfor Hitler’s Blitzkrieg it was essential that units exchanged fastand protected information3.Forthis purpose theEnigma machine wasdevelopedby the German engineer Arthur Scherbius in the 1920s4.Thisoriginal machine was modified significantly by themilitaryto the point where Britishcryptologistscould no longer decipher messages encodedby it5.Polish mathematicians werethe first to attempt to crack thecode,andbetween 1932 and 1939 they had successfully constructed machines thatwere able to decode messages encrypted by earlier models of theEnigma6.Whenthe war began and Poland was overrun, Britain’sGovernment Code and Cipher School (GC&CS)hired at least 60 more cryptanalysts7(requirementswere to be someone “of a professor type”8)to carry on the workin secrecy at BletchleyPark9.
Decodingwas done manually and includedlong hours of systematic guessing, which was very inefficient andrequired a lot of staff10.AlanTuring was recruitedto work in one of the departments (Hut 8)11,wheretogetherwith Gordon Welchman he inventedanddesignedthe first prototypefor the Bombemachinein 194012.Its purpose was to work out the Enigma’srotor settings anddecrease the amount of work done by humans,so that the speed at which messages were decoded could be increased13.Thanksto his machines Britainwas ableto decipherup to twomessages per minute by 1943, which was incredibly fast forcontemporary standards14.Thedirect result of Turing and his colleagues’ work atHut 8 was that the locationsof enemy submarinesin the Atlantic could be passed on to Allied convoys15.According to Churchill and his analysts, hadthere been any more sunkensupply ships itwould have led to starvation in Britain16.
Thisin turn wouldhave slowed progress nationwide and possibly lengthened the war.Althoughthe Allies had to be careful whenusing stolen knowledge, theamount of faith the Germans had in the Enigma machine made itpossible to continue evading torpedoes at sea without muchsuspicion17.German officers suspected spies were the reason they were sinking acomparably smallamount of ships18and had they at any point decided to secure the Engimamachine with further rotors,then the workers at GC&CS would have had to start from scratchagain19.Itis indisputable that decoding, regardlessof how risky using the information was,helped win some decisive victories, such as the Battle of Matapan in194120.U-boat wolf packs could be preciselylocated and tracked,which saved the lives of many soldiers at sea overthe course of the war21.Itis estimatedthat the strategic advantages gainedfrom Turing’s technological triumph mighthave shortened the war by up to 2 – 4 years22.A lengthenedwar would have meant even more casualties on both sides, and couldhave potentially resulted in nuclear conflict according to AndrewHodges23.
There is evidence thatsuggests Germany was hoping to develop atomic weaponry, and althoughthey were still far behind the Manhattan Project, it is not unlikelythat the United States would have resorted to the bombs had the warcontinued on much longer24.Howeversome might argue thatthe outcome of the war was only slightly changed bythe efforts of GC because there were many other importantfactors that arguably played a larger role towards the end of thewar25.Enigmaand Turing’s ‘Bombe’ are scarcely mentioned bothin articles on WW2 andin history books26.
Thefailure of the Battleof Britain and the success of Allied air forces aremore commonly referred to as reasons for the development of the war27.With more advanced aerial technology, Britainhad a clear advantage over the German forces who had to fight aboveenemy territory28.The Royal Air Force hadbetter radar equipment, stillit was nearly beaten by the Luftwaffe in 194029.Attacks on Berlin provoked Hitler into changing strategies andinstead of going after the RAF he ordered revenge bombings on Englishcities30.While successfulaerial combat and efficientdefences can still be tracedback to Bletchley Park31,mistakes on behalf of Germany andHitler cannot.Bydeclaring war on the USA Nazi-Germany put themselves at adisadvantage in manyaspects32.The air power of the UnitedStates proved to beespecially formidable and theresources they could supply tipped the scales in favour of theAllies33,meaning that even withoutEnigma intelligence, Germany would still have been at a loss in termsof what their allies could provide34.
Theoutcome was also influencedsimply bythe sheermilitary and strategic strengthof the parties on eitherside. Enigmaand other topicsrelated tocommunication were only asmall part of the equation.To win the war it might have been crucial to communicate, buttechnology and man power werejust as important if noteven more so35.Italyfor example provedto be less useful in terms of military power, as seen in their failedattempt to annex Greece andtheir dependency on Hitler36.It was only throughclever tactics that relied oncommunication and coordination that German armies were able to makeGreece surrender37.Thefact that they had uncovered Enigma had to remain hidden, whichis why the case remainedclassified until the 1970s38.
The sensitive information waspassed on to intelligenceservices, amongst others the OSS(which only played a rolewhen the USA joined the war)39.Their job was to handle theknowledge and combine it with the intelligence their spies gatheredto devise plans to guide Allied landings40.Itis not unthinkable that inorder to keep the secret some units had to be sacrificed evenif saving them from peril was possible.Furthermore, knowing thepositions of units was notalways useful because in some cases it only helped to predictunavoidableattacks41.
Finally,cracking Enigma was a jointeffort between many mathematicians and not just Alan Turing alone42.Nevertheless hisworkledto the invention of the Bombe and the breakthrough in 194243that Bletchley Park needed tobetter supportBritain and the rest of the Allies in defeatingGermany. The accomplishments of the mathematician vastly shortenedthe war, which saved an estimate of 14 to 21 million lives44.Theachievements of the GC&CSthanks to the Bombe weredefinitely relevant to the outcome of WW2, considering they wereable to collect vitalinformation, which helped theAllies win the war muchfaster45.And althoughthere might have been other factors suchas the support of the US or mistakes made by the Axis powers,many of Alliessuccesses and victoriescan be traced back to GC&CS46.
Onefamous example being D-Day, where codebreakers were able to finddetailed dataon defences in Normandy, makingthe landings possible47.Thusit can be said that Alan Turing wasanimportant figure behind the scenes in World War 2. Hiscontributions to mathematics and computer science were not onlyrelevant to the war but also to the development of modern technology.He was grantedposthumous royal pardon from the Queen in 2013 forbeing convicted for homosexuality48.Section 3: Reflection…