Huntington native cracked codes for the US in two World Wars

Veterans Voices

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) — Elizebeth Smith Friedman (1892-1980) has received more accolades in death than she did during her lifetime of cracking codes for the U.S. government and military.

In 1999, she was a charter inductee into the National Security Agency’s Hall of Honor.

A biography, The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone became a New York Times bestseller in 2017.

After the book, PBS released The Codebreaker: Wife. Mother. Secret American Hero in 2021.

The Coast Guard has commissioned a ship to be named after her.

This summer her hometown joined the accolade parade with a memorial plaque.

“Huntington has a long and proud tradition of honoring our veterans as well as sending sons and daughters off to serve their nation through military service,” said Mayor Richard Strick (I). “Elizebeth Smith Friedman demonstrates that as well. While her work is adjacent to military service, we thought it was fitting to have the memorial marker for her here on the outskirts of our Veterans Memorial.”

The personal library Friedman shared with her husband William has been painstakingly moved and preserved by the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia.

“They wanted to have a room separate from the archives where all of their things would be kept,” said the foundation’s Melissa Davis. “And they wanted it to stay in their order.”

That “order” made sense to the codebreaking couple but not to librarians.

“The first book they got is ‘book one’ and the second book they got is ‘book two’ all the way through thousands of items. They really honestly concluded it was the only logical way to catalog their books.”

Davis said their system survived them.

“When a librarian here asked Elizebeth shortly after the delivery of everything if they could re-catalog her library in Library of Congress style (which is what the foundation uses), Elizebeth said, ‘Um, no.'”


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