Helen, 91, of the Village at the Arboretum in Austin, TX, had a very unique experience during her service in WWII. As a young clerk working in Washington, DC, during the war, a young woman approached her and introduced her to a new and emerging opportunity for women during. She told Helen of the small group of women who were working closely with high-level officials in the Army on cryptology work. At first, Helen thought she had no chance of getting this job, but after meeting with an Army General, she was hired.
From the first day Helen received the job, it took her to Florida, California, Hawaii, and Japan. In all of these locations, Helen’s work was kept very confidential, and she was not even allowed to tell her fellow soldiers of her work. She would spend long hours working on cryptology machines and coding and decoding messages between Army officials. While stationed in Tokyo, Helen worked with General Douglas MacArthur at the Dai Ichi Building. During her service, Helen met a woman named Marion who became her closest friend during their service. They worked and traveled together for many years, and even to this day, they remain close friends. Helen and Marion were part of a very small group during the war, which has now become the focus of a project that the National Security Administration is working on.
In recent years, the National Security Administration, which has conducted a number of oral interviews with women involved in the cryptology work, has contacted Helen and Marion. The NSA has acquired a number of cryptology machines that were used during WWII in recent years and have reached out to these female veterans to learn more about how they work. Helen and Marion’s contribution to the NSA has been well appreciated, and they would love the chance to travel to Washington, DC, to meet the individuals they have been working with in person. The NSA has expressed their interest in meeting them as well and hope to be able to use this meeting to learn even more about these unique machines. Neither Helen nor Marion has been to DC since they worked there during WWII in the 1940s.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living collaborated to send these special women to Washington, DC, November 6-9, 2012, for this unique opportunity. While this meeting not only fulfilled a longtime dream for both women to travel back to Washington, DC, but also helped facilitate a wonderful intergenerational experience as they worked to educate the NSA on this subject. Both women were thrilled at this opportunity and those at the National Security Administration shared this same enthusiasm.