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§ 3. Uneasy Peace
"Science Finds - Industry Applies - Man Conforms." - Motto of the Chicago World's Fair, 1933.
It is widely acknowledged the peace which settled over Europe after the surrender of Germany and Austria was not so much negotiated as imposed by the victorious Allies. The terms of the Vienna Conference were initially rejected by the German and Austrian diplomats as impossibly severe, but Britain and France held firm - full reparations, total demilitarization and the loss of territory in both countries would either be accepted, or hostilities would re-commence. President Woodrow Wilson, by this time active in the negotiations, counselled against such extremity, but the French government wanted total assurance they would never have to face another invasion by the German army and Britain had been quite nearly bankrupted by its war effort. Popular sentiment in both countries screamed for the punishment of the German people, and in the end the terms were sealed. Austria and Germany was promptly re-divided, as the victors re-drew the map of central Europe and the new states of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were created. Germany's navy, to the last ship and submarine, was scuttled.

The issues of the British war debt and Germany's reparation payments provide an excellent example of how the Armistice could lead only to disaster. As the war had dragged on through its second year, England had been in the dire spot of having to feed and arm her armies on the front as well as maintain her populace at home. Fuel, food, equipment and weapons were all being quickly exhausted by the effort, and the British appealed to the Americans for assistance. Although the States were at this point officially neutral, Congress did insist arms and food would be sold to anyone who would pay, and soon passed the Lend Lease Act which essentially supplied these materials on credit to the Allies. Long convoys of supply ships began to steam back and forth across the Atlantic, enabling the British to stay their course, but this also resulted in a massive debt, which loomed large as the war ended and reconstruction of Britain began. As the settlement was reached, Germany began to make payments of restitution to the British (who then forwarded the money onto the US). As the economy of Germany imploded and inflation spiralled, the government in Berlin began to borrow from private interests abroad to stay current with their peace settlement. Not surprisingly, the United States was the major lender to Germany, thus completing the circle of capital.

Clearly such a cycle could sustain itself for very long, especially as industrial output and international trade had buckled under the pressure of the war. As the 1920s continued, each nation grew increasingly protectionist in its economic policy as currencies devalued, prices rose and inflation swelled. Tariffs and quotas were put in place in an effort to stabilize the flow of badly needed cash, but while these seemed to protect local buying power in the short-term, soon capital and commodity markets began to react in kind. The European nations were very slow to recover their levels of pre-war productivity, and through most of the 20s American industry accounted for 40% of the world's coal output and nearly half the planet's manufacturing. While this situation had produced the incredible boom years of the Roaring 20s in the US, as noted above the cycle was untenable, especially in 1928 when the global financiers in New York and Chicago began calling the loans of their European debtors. The bankers were, in turn, responding to a shortage of local investment capital (people were spending, not saving) and economic reports by the Federal Reserve that US industrial expansion might soon be cease.

Once again, the swift dissemination of information set off a crisis, as the European borrowers sought frantically for money they did not have, stopped buying American goods in their frugality, triggering a severe downturn in international demand for US goods. In October 1929, the NYSE and Chicago Commodities Exchange reeled as investors withdrew and sold off before things got worse, which immediately lead to widespread panic selling. In the months ahead, trade collapsed, prices dropped, investment dried up and unemployment skyrocketed. By 1932, the industrial output of Germany and the US (the pre-war industrial dynamos) was at half its 1929 level, and by 1933 there were an estimated 30 million people unemployed world-wide. 16 The Great Depression had begun.

The economic and political distress which followed the wars spread far beyond Europe. A badly battered England began to withdraw its forces abroad, first from the protectorate of Egypt and then by granting limited self-rule to India. Many European Jews (often barred by the immigration policies of many nations, including Canada) fled Germany, Austria and Russia as anti-Semitism became a primary platform for the extremist parties which rose from the sense of desperation after the war. Many migrated to Palestine only to find Arabs there, after violently ejecting Turkish rule after the war, were equally hostile to the idea of any foreign influence. As the impact of the Great Depression spread throughout the period of '31-34, the National Socialist parties in both Germany and Italy made consolidating gains within their own countries, sweeping aside any liberal opposition or calls for political moderation and by 1935 Adolf Hitler had begun the process of re-arming Germany and re-occupying the de-militarized zones of the Rhineland. With the global economic scenario so dire, and political isolationism in many countries so strong after the horror of the war, appeasement seemed the only possible solution. Soon Germany had annexed all of Austria and portions of the new Czechoslovakia. However, despite all the meetings, summits and manoeuvrings through which Hitler had managed to gain concessions of territory from the international community, his push for half of Poland in Aug. 1939 seemed the breaking point. The discomfort circulating in the halls of Washington, London and Moscow turned to pure alarm and fear, as it became clear Germany (allied with Bennito Mussolini and Josef Stalin) seemed intent not just on reclaiming her lost territory, but seemed set on controlling much of Central Europe and beyond.

§ 4. Enigma
"It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe it is good to learn...that it is of the highest value to share your knowledge, to share it with anyone who is interested...that the knowledge of the world, and the power this gives, is a thing of intrinsic value to humanity...there are many people who try to wiggle out of this." -J. Robert Oppenheimer (1945)
As the German blitzkrieg swept through western Europe in 1939, the Allies again began to prepare for total war. There is no doubt that each nation was loathe to revisit the killing fields on the continent, and the astounding speed with which the German mechanized armour had overtaken Belgium and Poland clearly demonstrated the nature of war had, once again, been irrevocably altered. Panzer tank divisions had crossed, in a matter of days, through large tracts of forest and swamp felt to be impenetrable, and the strength of the German Luftwaffe indicated that air warfare would also be a significant new tactical element in the conflict. Yet despite the bold invasions carried out by German command during the period, through the winter of 1939-40, there was no readily visible deployment of troops against the Axis powers.

This led many at the time to see an element of hesitation, or a notion of 'phoney war', among the Allied leadership. Indeed, for many years after, the bulk of military scholarship took at face value Sir Winston Churchill's wartime assertions that England needed time to ready herself, even as Hitler made much of the advantage. However, military intelligence studies ever the past decade have attributed a deeper meaning to the 'quiet' period at the outset of the war. Not only were the Allies taking stock and remobilizing during these first months, so dark for the smaller nations of Europe, but it seems they were carefully gathering, decoding and analyzing information direct from German signals the entire time.

Though most nations, even before the Great War, had established some formal intelligence gathering apparatus and manner of cryptographic expertise, the American government was the first to formalize the information gathering process. Subsequently, as the German state began to rearm in the 1930s, Anglo-American information sharing deepened in response. Though officially neutral and geographically removed from the conflict in Europe (after the destruction of W.W.I, Congress had passed legislation to the effect no troops could be sent abroad unless US security was directly threatened), the American Signal Intelligence Service 17 (est. 1930) began extensive research and fact sharing with the British Foreign Office. The English, by the time hostilities erupted in the late 30s, had also established an intelligence bureau, the Code and Cypher School, at a rural manor in Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. Surely one of the Allies most guarded military secrets, known only among the highest levels of command during the conflict as 'the Lodge' or 'Station X', the secret installation was to produce not only some of the most astonishing tactical successes of the War, but would provide the first potent examples of the modern computer's application. The cryptanalytical techniques of the 'code war', born in the camouflaged Quonset huts of Bletchley, would soon emerge as the keys to modern electronic computing. Even more telling, the secret electro-mechanical machines (known as Bombes) developed by Alan Turing and others were quintessential realizations of the Analytical Engine proposed by Charles Baggage a century earlier.

Turing, despite the ground-breaking nature of his work, was not alone in the examination of machine computing at the time. The abstract foundations were quietly appearing in the mathematical literature of the day (circulating largely in academe) through elaborate discussions about the theoretical boundaries and foundations of numerical problem-solving. David Hilbert 18 , a German mathematician had been doing intellectual battle in this field with the likes of the Austrian Kurt Godel and American John Von Neumann, when a recent graduate of King's College, Alan Turing, boldly entered the fray. 19 In 1936 as Hitler's armies retook the Rhineland, Turing published at age 24 a paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, which refuted Hilbert's assertions that all number problems were demonstrably solvable, and went on to lay the conceptual groundwork of stored program digital computing. 20

By 1939, as the crisis on the continent worsened, Turing had just re-settled at Cambridge after two years at Princeton and was just preparing to continue his scholarly writing. However by this point Turing's reputation preceded him and his country's Foreign Office, in consort with American Signals Intelligence, had quite different applications in mind for his talents, involving a set of problems far beyond the field of theoretical mathematics. One would imagine, at this point, the grave military minds behind Churchill would have had other resources to draw upon, and that recourse to a young, eccentric mathematics prodigy would be seen as extreme. The truth of the matter, however, seems to be Turing's early paper had fortuitously used one specific example (in which a theoretical machine endlessly compares and computes sets of numbers, read off paper tapes, to divine patterns) which in 1939 the cryptographers on both sides of the Atlantic were desperate to explore. While Turing had no inkling of these military uses when he wrote On Computable Numbers, he was excited by the idea of the code work when approached, accepted the assignment and by 1940 was re-located from Cambridge to Bletchley to begin assisting the code-breaking work already underway. 21
Notes:
16 Ibid., 848.

17 Formerly the US Army Signal Corps, Code & Cipher Section, est. 1921, headed by William F. Friedman, who was drafted during the American intervention in 1917 (on account of his cryptographic interests) for service in France. The US military, at that time, still had no apparatus for code-breaking. To indicate the importance of the 'information front' during W.W.II, it should be noted that when the American Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) was established in 1930, it had a total of seven men including Friedman. By the end of the war, its global staff numbered over 10,000. While credit for cracking the ENIGMA falls largely at the feet of the British, Friedman's American SIS did greatly contribute to the war in the Pacific by breaking Purple, the Japanese diplomatic code. See James Bamford's The Puzzle Palace (NY: 1983)

18 David Hilbert's work was aiming to reverse the Heisenbergian uncertainty which had crept into mathematics by building a new foundation for the discipline from the ground up. Just a few years previous, in '27, Werner Heisenberg, aged 25, had published in a paper in a German physics journal entitled, On the Perceptual Content of Quantum Theoretical Kinematics and Mechanics. The article's ideas made for grave headaches in the world of applied mathematics by pointing out the very act of counting itself, or observing, particularly at the sub-atomic level in the real world, immediately alters the nature or course of the objects being enumerated, thereby making many elements of reality inherently anschaulich, that is, unseeable. Hence the uncertainty. In response to this antithetical bit of science, Hilbert was boldly asserting by the 1930s that at least all 'pure' (that is abstract) mathematical problems, by the innate rationality of numbers, were solvable. Both Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing took deep exception to such a carelessly dogmatic proposition- leading Godel to outline complex examples using set theory and imaginary number examples which spiralled into infinity, while Turing pointed out the plausible existence of algorithm-based mathematical problems which, if run by a machine, would essentially loop back on themselves forever. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, 'that our very efforts to fully understand what surrounds us must defeat their own purpose', may seem an odd origin for Turing's recruitment into the Allied code-breaking effort and the world of modern computing, but it actually had a very real analogue in the tactical planning of the British and Americans once the Enigma code machines were secretly cracked early in the war. The military planners abruptly found themselves in a peculiarly Heisenbergian position, insofar as they frequently intercepted and decoded the details of German operations before they were actually carried out, yet Allied command could not distribute or act on this knowledge. To do so would have made it clear to Nazis strategists that there was a 'leak' somewhere, and the observational advantage afforded by cracking Enigma was too important to risk such a suspicion. As a result, Allied forces were frequently put in a position where they had to seem ignorant of an attack they knew to be imminent and generals had to plan troop movements and sea patrols which at least appeared unaware of German plans. See Neal Stephenson Cryptonomicon (NY: Viking, 1999) and Jay Jakub Spies and Saboteurs: Anglo-American Collaboration and Rivalry in Human Intelligence Collection and Special Operations, 1940-45 (Washington: 1999).

19 Tragically, though receiving honours for his work during the war, Turing was later in life isolated by the establishment, mostly for being gay, which he openly acknowledged. In the Cold War paranoia which would characterize the 1950s (the American computer designer Mauchly would also be blacklisted during this period), Turing was forced into seclusion. He was later found dead, poisoned by cyanide, though whether this was suicide or not is still a matter of some speculation.

20 Turing, again, was not alone in exploring the practicalities of computing: that same year, in 1936, the American Howard Aiken (who later, in '44, would head the team to construct the Harvard Mark I) was completing his graduate studies on the problems and applications of vacuum tube computation. In '38, Konrad Zuse in Germany had developed the Z-2 electromechanical computer on behalf of the German Experimental Dynamics Institute. See Christos Moschovitis History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the present (Denver: ABC-CLIO, 1999).

21 That year, 1940, would a pivotal and fortuitous moment for British military science, as the first electromechanical Bombes went into operation to help with code-breaking, and at the same time the Royal Air Force was blessed with the discovery by two Scotsmen, Watt and Watson, of a functioning radar systems, just in time for the Blitz and Battle of Britain that autumn, in which the English only barely managed to repel the fighters and bombers of the German Luftwaffe.

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