World War II


W - Z

Waldrop, M. Mitchell. "Alan Turing: The Oddball Who Changed the World." Washington Post, 9 June 1999, H1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Review of Turing's life and accomplishments. If you know nothing about Turing and his work at Bletchley Park, this is a good place to begin.

Watkins, Gwen. Cracking the Luftwaffe Codes: The Secrets of Bletchley Park. London: Greenhill/Lionel Leventhal, 2006. St. Paul, MN: MBI, 2006.

According to Polmar, NIPQ 22.4 (Sep. 2006), the author was an 18-year-old RAF WAAF when she arrived at Bletchley Park in the summer of 1942. Watkins provides "a very personal look" at her involvement in the British codebreaking effort in World War II. Kruh, Cryptologia 31.1 (Jan. 2007), finds that "Watkins has written an interesting book that should appeal to anyone interested in World War II, code-breaking, or simply looking for a 'good read.'" For Foot, I&NS 22.6 (Dec. 2007), this book "is unusually well and clearly written." It "covers many domestic points left out in more mathematical studies, as well as illuminating actual methods of code breaking."

Webb, Charlott. Secret Postings: Bletchley Park to the Pentagon. Redditch, UK: Tower Publishing, 2011. [pb]

According to Christensen, Cryptologia 37.1 (2013), this brief book (72 pages) "is a very personal account" of World War II by the author. Webb was "an Auxilary Territorial Service (ATS) volunteer who served at Bletchley Park and at the Pentagon.... Little is said of Webb's war work."

Weierud, Frode. "Bletchley Park's Sturgeon -- The Fish That Laid No Eggs." In Colossus: The Secret of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers, B. Jack Copeland, et al., 307-327. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Welchman, Gordon.

Taking note of Welchman's death on 8 October 1985, P.S. Milner-Berry, I&NS 1.2, says that Welchman "made probably the most important contribution of any to the solving of the German Enigma machine cypher." Beyond that, however, "the task of converting the original break-through into an effective organisation for the production of up-to-date intelligence" could not have been achieved without Welchman's leadership.

1. The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. Rev. ed. Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire: M&M Baldwin, 1997.

According to Sexton, the author, a "key member of the ULTRA team," discusses the development of the Bombe and supplies "significant information on the recovery of the ENIGMA keys." Banister, I&NS 13.4, reminds us that the reissue of The Hut Six Story provides "an opportunity to read something written by the one person who really knew the story and who had contributed so much to it.... Parts of it are complex ... but it is well written, clearly expressed with human touches and with illustrations and diagrams essential to understanding."

2. "From Polish Bombe to British Bombe: The Birth of Ultra." Intelligence and National Security 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1986): 71-110.

The author compares the achievements of the Poles and British in the process leading to the breaking of the Enigma system. See also, in I&NS 1.2, letters by Jean Howard (p. 299) and Gilbert Bloch {pp. 299-301) expressing respect for Welchman and his work but "correcting errors" contained in the article.

Wescombe, Peter.

1. Bletchley Park and the Luftwaffe: The Fall of France, the Battle of Britain and the Defence of Crete. Bletchley Park Report no. 8. Bletchley Park, UK: Bletchley Park Co. Ltd., 1997.

Kruh, Cryptologia 22.2: "Includes decrypted text of 20 German messages related to the defence of Crete."

2. and John Gallehawk. Getting Back into "Shark": H.M.S. Petard and the George Cross. Bletchley Park Report no. 5. Bletchley Park, UK: Bletchley Park Co. Ltd., 1997.

Kruh, Cryptologia 22.2: "The papers [taken from U-559] included the new Weather Code which led to cribs for messages enciphered by U-boats on the four-rotor Enigma."

Whitehead, David. "Cobra and Other Bombes." Cryptologia 20, no. 4 (Oct. 1996): 289-307.

The author was involved "in building the prototype electronic/relay rack for the Cobra Bombe,... one of the systems employed by Bletchley Park (BP) to break the German North Atlantic Naval cipher introduced in 1942."

Winkel, Brian J., Cipher A. Deavours, David Kahn, and Louis Kruh. The German Enigma Cipher Machine: Beginnings, Success and Ultimate Failure. Boston and London: Artech House, 2005.

From publisher: This volume "contains original essays, historical and technical papers, and translations of historical materials and retrospectives concerning the German Enigma Cipher machine. You get a comprehensive view of the Enigma machine's development, uses, role in WWII Allied intelligence, and cryptanalysis. All the papers in this volume are reprints of classic articles that originally appeared in the pages of Cryptologia."

Winterbotham, Frederick W.

1. The Ultra Secret. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. The Ultra Secret: The Inside Story of Operation Ultra, Bletchley Park and Enigma. London: Orion, 2000. [pb]

Clark comment: The Ultra Secret is important in the history of intelligence literature because it was the first popular account of Ultra, written by a participant. Winterbotham was the special security officer in SIS who established the system of dissemination and control of the Ultra material.

However, Pforzheimer, IJI&C 4.2, suggests that the book "must be read with some caution, because of [Winterbotham's] self-aggrandizement, because his aging memory occasionally betrays him and because he had no access for more than 25 years prior to the publication of his book to the British Ultra decryptions he discusses therein."

To Tordella, Studies 19.3 (Fall 1975), Winterbotham's recollections "are at best incomplete even if quite accurate in places," making the book "a prolific source of misinformation." The author "reveal[s] the fact of analytic operations against the German ENIGMA while hopelessly confusing the extent of the success and the fact that other types of machines and hand systems were also involved." The Ultra Secret "is inaccurate in detail, and although it resembles the truth in outline, much of it is purely imaginary."

Constantinides notes that our current understanding of Ultra shows many things to be wrong with Winterbotham's account. Basically, the work "has been superseded by subsequent works,... that deal with technical, cryptologic, and operational aspects of Ultra in a more complete and more accurate way."

For a range of contemporaneous reviews, see: Constantine Fitzgibbon, "'The Ultra Secret': Enigma in the War," Encounter 44 (Mar. 1975), 81-85; David Hunt, "Breakthrough at Bletchley Park," The Times Literary Supplement, 13 Apr. 1974, 1425 (an exchange of views between Winterbotham and Hunt is carried in The Times Literary Supplement, 25 Jun. 1976, 852, and 9 Jul. 1976, 783); David Kahn, "ENIGMA Unwrapped: The Ultra Secret," New York Times Book Review, 29 Dec. 1974, 5; Curtis Prendergast, "Ne Plus Ultra," Time, 9 Dec. 1974, 103-104; and Roger J. Spiller, "Assessing Ultra," Military Review 59 (Aug. 1979), 13-23 (Sexton terms the latter a "valuable essay that is well worth reading").

2. The Ultra Spy: An Autobiography. London: Macmillan 1989. London: Papermac, 1991. [pb]

Surveillant 1.5 calls this a "firsthand account of how the British decoded German communications..., by one of the leaders of this operation." For McGinnis, Cryptolog, Spring 1995, The Ultra Secret and The Ultra Spy provide "a very personal first hand story of how ENIGMA was handled by the British during the war. They also give an insight concerning the effectiveness of the decrypted material" in pursuing the war. The Ultra Secret "is the more interesting of the two.... I suggest you read it and forget about the second."

Bennett. I&NS 6.1, is bothered by the author's failure to take into account "anything published since the appearance of The Ultra Secret in 1974." By not doing so, he has failed to "correct[] his many errors." The book is "inaccurate and misleading, and most of it has been said by the same author before."

Winton, John [pen name of John Pratt]. ULTRA at Sea: How Breaking the Nazi Code Affected Allied Naval Strategy During World War II. London: Leo Cooper, 1988. New York: Morrow, 1988. London: Heinemann, 1988. [pb]

Winton/Pratt's obituary is carried in Telegraph (London), 3 May 2001.

Woytak, Richard A. On the Border of War and Peace: Polish Intelligence and Diplomacy in 1937-39 and the Origins of the Ultra Secret. Boulder, CO: East European Quarterly, 1979. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

To Constantinides, this book's title raises expectations the contents do not meet: "There is nothing very significant" on Ultra "or on the Polish codebreaking role in this short work." However, there is "some valuable information on the organization of Polish intelligence in prewar years and on some Polish positive, cryptologic, and counterintelligence operations against the Germans and the Soviets." On the other hand, Sexton finds the work "[e]specially revealing regarding the role of intelligence in Polish-German negotiations and the breaking of the ENIGMA cipher."

Wylie, Shaun. "Breaking Tunny and the Birth of Colossus." In Action This Day: Bletchley Park from the Breaking of the Enigma Code to the Birth of the Modern Computer, eds. Ralph Erskine and Michael Smith, 317-341, 499. London and New York: Bantam, 2001.

Return to Ultra Table of Contents