Segment 1


Janice Martin Benario was born in Baltimore, Maryland and went through the public school system. Benario wanted to go away for college but her father told her there were plenty of good colleges near. Benario ended up attending Goucher University in Baltimore. It was at Goucher where Benarios wartime experience started. Benario was set to graduate in 1943. Benario and a lot of her friends went to Goucher. She majored in Latin and minored in History. Benario was a senior in 1943 and everyone on campus did something to help out with the war. Everyone wanted to do something to help. People realized it was a war that we had to win. In the fall of Benario’s senior year she was stopped by an English professor in the hall and she asked to see Benario. She told Benario that the Navy was offering a course in cryptology at seven women’s colleges. Benario was offered a spot in the course. If she finished it successfully there would be doors opened to work in the war effort. Benario was informed it was a secret program. There were 10 to 12 women in the class and they met once a week for about 15 weeks. Benario recalls working on Fridays and having to lie to people inquiring about it. All of the women finished the course and in the spring the college held a public induction service for any and all women going into the service. Benario went on active duty early in July of 1943. Some were sent to Mt. Holyoke and some were sent to Smith which both had officer training classes. They studied all types of material and eventually passed. Benario was among one of the first groups of women’s line officers in the Navy at the time. The officer training class must have had 80 to 100 women in it from the seven women’s colleges. About three quarters of the women were cleared to handle top secret material in Washington, D.C. They reported to the main navy building in D.C. and received their specific orders. Benario was assigned to OP-20G and their branch in the office had to do with reading German naval enigma traffic. They had to monitor high level German communiqués that were being sent to U Boats. Benario’s office was at the Naval Communications annex off of the corner of Massachusetts and Nebraska Street in D.C. It was right across the street from American University. Their first day they were indoctrinated and told never to talk or breathe a word about the work they were doing otherwise they were to be treated and punished as traitors. Benario kept her mouth shut during the war and especially after the war. Benario’s parents died without knowing what she did during the war. Benario went on active duty in September of 1943. All they knew then was that they received messages in their office as they were decoded. The machine room was underneath their office. They had two translators on duty at all times.[Annotators note: the Interviewer pauses the interview for about 30 seconds because of a noisy ladder in the background.] The messages came in strips of letters; they then assemble the German words and then translate it. The messages were typed and handed to the senior watch officer. In her office she had people who worked only during the day. Benario was a junior watch officer. They read the messages. They had pins on a giant map of the Atlantic which represented all known German U-Boats. This material helped the translators.


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