Event Calendar

1885: Cryptologic pioneer Genevieve Young Hitt was born.

Monday, May 29, 2017

1885: Cryptologic pioneer Genevieve Young Hitt was born.

Description: 29 May 1885: Birth date of cryptologic pioneer Genevieve Young Hitt.

Learn more about the work done by Colonel Parker Hitt and Genevieve Young Hitt via the publication, "Pioneers of U.S. Military Cryptology: Colonel Parker Hitt and His Wife, Genevieve Young Hitt," by Betsy Rohaly Smoot via the link at the bottom of this page.

Below is an excerpt from article on Army.mil by Ruth Quinn, "An Army Wife "Doing Her Bit" in World War I, The Story of Genevieve Young Hitt." Get link to the full article at the bottom of the page.

"While it is unknown when Mrs. Hitt developed an interest in cryptology, she likely studied the discipline alongside her husband (Col. Parker Hitt), and became proficient in using the M138-A sliding strip decoding device that Parker first developed in 1914. Genevieve has also been credited with assisting in the preparation and compilation of her husband's seminal work, Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers, published by the Army in 1916. Obviously, she had a knack for cipher work too.

While Genevieve and her husband were stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma the Army put them both to work analyzing intercepted Mexican government messages during the 1916 Punitive Expedition. However, the reality of being an Army wife surfaced when Captain Hitt was sent overseas in May 1917 to serve on General Pershing's staff as assistant to the Chief Signal Officer during World War I. Genevieve moved from Fort Sill to Fort Sam Houston to be near her family. But rather than siting around pining for her deployed husband, Genevieve traveled to Riverbank Laboratories to gain some training in cryptology, meeting another cryptology pioneer, William Friedman. Back home in Texas, Genevieve began receiving hand-written notes marked "For Mrs. Hitt," clipped to cipher messages that had been sent to the Southern Department. Without ceremony or salary, she routinely deciphered them.

In April 1918, the Army finally deemed her work worthy of a paycheck. Genevieve was placed in charge of code work for the Southern Department's Intelligence Officer, Robert L. Barnes, for the salary of $1,000 per year. She worked 5 ½ days per week (plus overtime) coding and decoding official Army intelligence correspondence, maintaining control of the Army codebooks in the department, and breaking intercepted coded and enciphered messages. Except for her brief visit to Riverbank, she was entirely self-taught. Barnes later noted that Genevieve was "specially qualified for such work having made a special study thereof." Her new job was hardly what she imagined her life would be as a young debutante in Texas a few years earlier."