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Owl’s Head, ME
The stories recounted here by Lydia Franz concern her experience in the United States Army as a cryptanalyst during World War II.
When I joined the Army, they gave me a battery of tests even before I joined, before I was sworn in, and they gave me a battery of tests. And I had been told and promised by the recruiter that I would be considered for this code-breaking program, so I had my heart set on that. Now they give me the battery of tests, I did very well on them except for typing. Now, I was a superb typist but I realized that if I did well on that test I might become a typist and I can’t have that. So I flunked the test deliberately. I probably got a negative score on typing; I sure tried to! Then there was a mechanical test, and I am, honestly, poor at mechanics. I am zero at mechanics, and there would be drawings, like “Rube Goldberg” kind of drawings, that would say, “If you press ‘Lever A’” – and there would be all kinds of things in between – “What happens over here at ‘Lever Z’” or whatever. Well, I don’t know; things go up or down, in or out, I don’t know. I have no idea, I’ll never know! So I flunked that easily, just naturally. But on the IQ thing I did very well, and, so they kept their promise. But I was very cautious because I had some friends that were in the service who said, “Look out,you know. They can promise you things but you never know!” And I was scared to death they’d put me in the motor pool or make me a cook or something awful like that, so I just, I had my heart set and I succeeded at that!
…It was a phenomenal experience. Things like, well, Hiroshima. When that bomb hit. We decoded the message from the Japanese to their… the other Japanese; it was from Hiroshima to Rangoon[, Myanmar], I remember that message, describing the devastation caused by one single bomb. We couldn’t believe it. We were given the message to read and we’re all just, our eyes are like this, you know? What do you suppose that is? Because we knew about “Project Manhattan,” you know, it was unreal.
Owl’s Head, Maine, Flunking a Test, Hiroshima, story, Lydia Franz, United States Army, cryptanalyst, WWII, Japan, atomic bomb, Arlington Hall, Virginia, Japanese code
Folklore | Oral History
Franz, Lydia. 2002. “Flunking a Test,” “Hiroshima.” NA3230, C2335. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Special Collections Department, University of Maine.