David Kahn

R - Z

Kahn, David. The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail: Herbert O. Yardley and the Birth of American Intelligence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

Clark comment: This is an excellent biography of a difficult human being. That it reads easily should extend its reach beyond those just interested in cryptology and the beginnings of American COMINT. Kahn does not paint over Yardley's weaknesses, but in the end gives him the honor that he could not win in life.

After referring to Kahn as "the ultimate historian of cryptology," Levine, JIH 5.1 (Summer 2005), goes on to note that this "book is much more than the story of Yardley. Periodically, Kahn presents the various interfaces between Yardley and Friedman, contrasting their personalities, skills and weaknesses. He also shows the relationships Yardley had with other early U.S. cryptologist[s].... It is a must read for those interested in this history. Extensive endnotes and lists of core and published sources will be invaluable for those who wish to pursue this interest."

Johnson, Studies 48.2 (2004), finds that "Kahn has achieved the balance that all biographers hope for." The book "makes a fascinating read" but does not rehabilitate Yardley, as "Kahn condemns Yardley for his character flaws, his perpetual self-promotion, and his lack of imagination." For Powers, NYRB 52.8 (12 May 2005), the Yardley "who emerges in Kahn's briskly paced portrait is gifted, complex, resourceful, and often disappointed." The work includes "wonderful accounts ... of some of Yardley's greatest feats. Here Kahn's mastery of the field gives his book genuine intellectual excitement."

To Goulden, Washington Times, 1 Aug. 2004, this is "[a] lively read, even for those of us who know not the slightest thing about ciphers and codes." Freedman, FA 83.4 (May-Jun. 2004), comments that this book "includes more than one needs to know about Yardley, but it is at least an entertaining read." Kruh, Cryptologia 28.2, says that the author "does a magnificent job in detailing" Yardley's life. "This is a terrific book about an extraordinary individual."

Kahn's conclusion that Yardley could not rise above his personal limitations is endorsed by Hanyok, I&NS 20.4 (Dec. 2005). The reviewer notes that, writing in "his usually clear and crisp style, Kahn breathes life into the story of Yardley and American codebreaking." Stout, JIH 7.1 (Summer 2007), says that "Kahn has succeeded admirably in describing Yardley and explaining and bounding his significance." [WWI/U.S.; Interwar/U.S.]

Kahn, David. "The Rise of Intelligence." Foreign Affairs 85, no. 5 (Sep.-Oct. 2006): 125-134.

While acknowledging that "intelligence in war works only through force," the author notes that the introduction into warfare of new technologies -- primarily in communications -- brought on the increased institutionalization of intelligence in the aftermath of World War I. The information revolution and the advance of technology have further "multiplied" the opportunities for intelligence. Today, the "'war on terror' has featured intelligence in a starring role." [Overviews/Gen/00s]

Kahn, David. "Roosevelt, MAGIC, and ULTRA." Cryptologia 16, no. 4 (Oct. 1992): 289-319.

Kahn, David. "Secret Writings: Selected Works on Modern Cryptology." Bulletin of the New York Public Library 73 (May 1969): 315-327. [Petersen]

Kahn, David. Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. London: Souvenir Press, 1991. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1998.

Kruh, Cryptologia 23.2, notes that the Barnes & Noble edition of "this superb book ... contains a new preface by Kahn, who also used the opportunity to correct some minor errors found in the earlier edition." In the view of Milner, I&NS 9.1, the author presents a "fascinating study ... and a perfectly sound conclusion." He has an "impressive grasp of the practical problems of codebreaking and usage ... [and] understands the limits of special intelligence."

For Surveillant 1.4, this is a "rare gem" of a book. It tells the "story of how the British, unable to break the German naval Enigma cipher machine because it was used in a much more complicated fashion than the Luftwaffe Enigma machine (which they were breaking), had to steal documents from some German weather ships operating north of Iceland, to aid in breaking the codes.... [W]ith these filched documents, [they] were able to break the German U-boat codes and divert their convoys so they wouldn't be sunk and, later, sink the U-boats because they now knew where they were located."

Miller, IJI&C 6.3, says that Kahn "presents another excellent work on intelligence and raises his standards even higher.... This remarkably fine book is the best to date on ULTRA." To Ringle, WPNWE, 17-23 Jun. 1991, the author's "impressive economy and dogged research" has produced "not only great history, but great midnight reading." Peake, AIJ 15.1/90, sees Seizing the Enigma as "a very readable and worthwhile book." [UK/WWII/Services/Navy & Ultra; WWII/Atlantic]

Kahn, David. "The Significance of Codebreaking and Intelligence in Allied Strategy and Tactics." Cryptologia 1, no. 3 (Jul. 1977): 209-222.

According to Sexton, the author "downplays the idea of ULTRA as the decisive factor in the Allies' victory over Germany."

Kahn, David. "Soviet Comint in the Cold War." Cryptologia 22, no. 1 (Jan. 1998): 1-24.

Kahn comments on information received from a former KGB 16th Directorate translator and from Gen. Nicolai N. Andreyev, who headed the KGB's codebreaking and codemaking units. He concludes that the Soviet Union "seems to have gained most of its communications intelligence, not from cryptanalysis, but from bugs and traitors." [Russia/Sigint]

Kahn, David. "Why Weren't We Warned?" MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 4 (Autumn 1991): 50-59.

Sexton says that "Kahn provides a balanced and well-reasoned answer to the question of why the U.S. was surprised at Pearl Harbor." Kahn suggests that dependence on Magic may have blinded U.S. officials to warnings contained in non-Sigint intelligence. [WWII/PearlHarbor]

Kahn, David. "Woodrow Wilson on Intelligence." Intelligence and National Security 9, no. 3 (Jul. 1994): 534-535.

Kahn, David. "World War II History: The Biggest Hole." Military Affairs 39, no. 2 (Apr. 1975): 74-77.

More research is needed on the role of codes and ciphers (and intelligence matters generally) in and on the war. [WWII/Magic]

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