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Pearl Harbor

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

(interviewer) August 21, 2009.
This is Tommy Lofton.
I’m here in the Atlanta area.
If you would, could you give me your name for the camera?
(Janice Martin Benario) Yes, I am Janice Martin Benario.
(interviewer) Miss Benario, can you tell me a
little bit about where you were born and where you
grew up, and what your life was life before the war?
(Janice) I was born in Baltimore, Maryland,
and went through public school there.
I wanted to go away to college but my father
said, “No, you’ve got Goucher College
six blocks down the street,” so I ended up at Goucher.
It was at Goucher that my war experiences started.
I was to graduate in 1943, and of course,
the United States had gone into World War II.
(Phone rings)
(interviewer) All right, you were saying your father
had said something to you about going to Goucher?
(Janice) Yes.
Along with a lot of my friends—we went
as city students, down to Goucher.
I majored in Latin, minored in History.
I was a senior—1942, ‘43.
Everyone at the college by that time
was doing something for the war.
Girls were rolling bandages, going to USO parties and such.
Everybody’s mind was on the war, and everybody
wanted to do something to help because this
was a war which we had to win—there
was no thought about anything else.
In the fall of my senior year, one day, an
English professor stopped me in the hall—this
was Dr. Ola Winslow—she had just won
a Pulitzer prize for a biography she had written.
“Janice, will you come into my office?”
So, I go in and sit down.
She comes in, closes the door, stands in front
of the door, and tells me about a course that
the Navy is giving in Cryptology—giving
in seven women’s colleges—Goucher was
one of them, and she was inviting me to take it.
If I successfully finished it, she said, you
can do war work, either through the civil service,
or by going into the Navy—into the WAVES.
That’s all she told me, but she said, “This is very secret.
You don’t tell anyone.”
So, I talked it over with my family, decided
to accept her invitation—there were about
ten or twelve of us in this class.
We met once a week for ten or fifteen weeks—I’m
not just sure how many—with Dr. Winslow—we
met late on Friday afternoon, in a locked
classroom on the fourth floor of one of our buildings.
If any of our friends wanted to know why we
were hanging around or what we were doing
on Friday afternoon, we had to either
go the other way or make up some story.
We could not tell what we were doing.
We all finished the course.
In the Spring of my senior year, the college
held a public induction service for all women
going into any war service—Navy, WACs—anyone.
So, we were all inducted in May.
We went on active duty early in July, after
graduation, for eight weeks’ indoctrination.
Some of us were sent to Mount Holyoke—some,
to Smith, both of which had officer training classes.
We studied, also took Navy subjects for
eight weeks, took exams—we passed.
We were Ensigns.
We were some of the first line officers in the Navy.
I didn’t know it at the time.
I know it now that that course—Dr. Winslow
had given that course to a group of the 1942 graduates,
and they were all in as WAVES.
As I said, I didn’t know it at the time.
That officer training class must have had
eighty or a hundred women in it from the seven
women’s colleges.
I would say about three-quarters of us were
given general orders to Communications in
Washington D.C.
We were all cleared to handle top-secret material.
We reported to the main Navy building downtown
in Washington, and there, we received our
individual orders.
Two others from Goucher, one from Radcliff,
I believe, and I, were assigned to OP-20-G.
And our branch of the office was that which
was reading the German Naval Enigma traffic.
That is the traffic from the German High Command
to the U-boats, and back.
The four of us were cleared to
handle Top-Secret Ultra material.
None of our friends—no one—none of the public
knew that there was such a level because
“Ultra” was the word which Churchill had
applied to all the decoding of
this German Naval Enigma traffic.
We—this—our office was at
the Naval Communications Annex,
out at Massachusetts, in Nebraska,
across the street from American U.
The first day we went out there, we were—went
for some indoctrination, and we were told,
“You do not talk.
"You do not breath a word of what goes on in that office.
"In wartime, it would be treason, and you
know the punishment for treason is death.”
None of us ever talked—never dreamed of
talking, either during the war—or—we knew
that after the war—
(interviewer) Just hang on a second.
I don’t know if it’s the
ladder—they’re moving the ladder.
(Laughs) Anyway, you were talking about the treason.
(Janice) None of us ever dreamed of talking—I didn’t.
People ask me today, “What did you tell people?”
I didn’t tell them anything.
I told them—this was wartime—and of course,
there’s that well-known slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.”
My family never pressed me.
Both my parents died, never knew
what I had done during the war.
That is how I ended up in the
position which I had as an Ensign.
(interviewer) Can you tell me—about when was the
date that you first started working with these
decoded messages and getting this top—top secret clearance?
(Janice) We went on active duty in that office
sometime in the middle of September of 1943,
and all we knew then was that we—the
messages came into our office.
As they were decoded—the machine room was
underneath ours, and people down in that office
printed these messages and put the messages
together with yellow strips of paper—like
telegrams used to come.
We had two translators on duty all the time.
(interviewer) Hang on just a second, I’m sorry.
They keep moving that ladder, and it’s making—
I guess they’re trying to find a spot for it.
(Janice) Yes.
I thought it was all stopped.
We could—I would have had them careful.
(interviewer) I’m trying to see
if they’re going to move it again.
I’ll stop this for a second.
All right, you said something about translators on site?
(Janice) Yes.
They—the messages came in just strips of letters.
The translators had to divide it into German
words, translate it from German to English.
Then we had specially-chosen enlisted people,
in the office, to do the typing and other
chores.
The messages were typed.
They were handed to the senior watch
officer who read them in their office.
There were also people who worked just in
the day time, on research, and material was
given to them.
Then it was passed to our desk.
We were the junior watch officers.
We read the messages.
We—there was a big board war map of the
Atlantic Ocean, and the United States, and
Europe—and we had pins for every submarine
that we knew about, because this was 1943.
Our office had collected lots of material
about all the German subs—people on them,
and they knew a lot of what I call “Naval-ese” words.
And so, this helped the translators.
We had a pin for every submarine, and we had
a pin with a flag—paper flag on it, for
every convoy.
One of our main jobs was to keep that board
up to date because that material was used
by those who were studying what was going on.
And—another job, every morning—we worked watches.
One week, 800 to 400.
The next week, 400 to midnight, and
the next week, midnight to 800.
When we were on that mid watch at 730 each day,
we prepared an envelope for downtown—contained
all the messages which had been translated that day.
There was a neutral shipping report, and the
research people wrote a couple of sheets with
big red letters on the top, “Top Secret Ultra.”
And so, that meant that this envelope
was limited to where it could go.
Each morning, an armed carrier came with a locked pouch.
We took the—our envelope to the
door—obviously, he could not come in.
Signed it over to him, he put it in his locked
pouch, carried it out front to his car, drove
it down to the main Navy department, where
it went up to the United States submarine
tracking room, and Admiral King, the COMINCH.
So, we were one step below the top—ultra secret, all the time.
(interviewer) Can you tell me a little bit more
about, I guess, how you were receiving some of these
messages from the Germans to be able to translate them?
(Janice) The messages were sent by
the Germans on the Enigma machine.
Every ship—everyone who was in contact—every
German who was—organization in contact with
the High Command, had an Enigma machine.
The army had its, the Navy, its—the
Air, and the Secret Service.
The Naval Enigma was the most complicated
of all, and it took the allies more time to
break into it.
The Germans never knew we broke into it, and
that’s why it had to be kept such a secret,
because certainly, if they learned—and several
times during the war, Admiral Donitz, the
first head of the submarines and head of the
whole German Navy, got suspicious, because
how did we know to send destroyers to his
submarine over off the coast of Africa, or
how did we know to change the route of a convoy?
But his underlings always persuaded him the
allies could not possibly have broken in to that machine.
And so, it was kept secret until 1974, when
the British finally allowed the material to
be declassified, and that’s when the Germans
learned that we had been reading it.
(interviewer) Do you remember maybe
some of what the messages were like?
(Janice) Yes.
The submarine—the U-boats—the submarines—I tend
to use that term—the terms, interchangeably,
but “U-boat” is what the Germans called it.
Every day, had to send in a position report.
Every day, had to send in a weather report—would
talk about convoys or ship signings, ship
sinkings—orders from the High Command, to
tell the U-boats where to go, what to do—that kind of thing.
And here we were, at the top, reading all these messages.
It’s—I still am not used to being able to talk about it.
(interviewer) Was it—I guess, were you
usually listening to the radio frequencies?
(Janice) These—a German operator, of course,
would have his message to put into the Enigma machine.
There was a typewriter row of keys, and they—the
German operator had to use the hunt and peck
method, letter by letter—would
punch a letter on the typewriter.
The Enigma machine worked by changeable electric
currents, and that current would go through
all the wheels and such, and another row of
letters, one would light up, and so they would
write that letter down, and then punch the next one.
Those messages then were sent by the Morse code,
and they were picked up at receiving stations
on the British coast, and along the
east coast off the Atlantic, and then were
turned over, first of all, both to the British
decoding people at Bletchley Park outside
of London, and then, to us, when we got in.
I just recently learned that about two months
after I was in that office, near the end of ’43,
the British turned the whole operation
over to the United States, and so we were
getting all the messages—all the use of
the machines—the bombe, was right in our
building.
But in another word, here, one reason this
happened—by the time I got, in September of 1943,
the United States and Great Britain,
had decided to exchange all the knowledge
about the German Naval Enigma messages, and such.
Second thing, the United States—the Navy
had taken over the National Cash Register Company
in Dayton, Ohio.
There were five hundred enlisted WAVES working
out there, doing nothing but plugging wires
into holes for eight hours.
They had no idea what they were doing, but
it was the United States, building its own
decoding machine, which from the beginning,
had been called b-o-m-b-e, bombe, but by the
time I got in, in our building, we had a number
of these machines made by the United States,
at the National Cash Register Company.
Each one of them would do the work of six British-made ones.
And by the time I got in, we were able to
read the traffic almost currently—say, within
four to twenty hours of when groups
of messages came for each day.
In the beginning of the war, the Germans changed
the way the machines were set once a month,
then once a week.
That’s the way it was, I think, by the time I got in.
By the end of the war, they were changing
the keys every day so that the settings had
to be determined.
(interviewer) How would you know what to
change your system to, based on their changes?
How did you figure it out?
(Janice) Well, this was done by the technicians
who—and the engineers, who were working
with the machines.
At one point during the war—well, each of
the machines—there were three rotor wheels.
Each one had twenty-six notches—one
for each letter of the alphabet.
Each one of those had to be set a certain way.
In the beginning, these three were chosen from eight.
So this—and then, there was a plugboard with twenty-six plugs.
Each of those wires had to be in the right places.
Germans estimated there were—what—I always
say fifty-nine million, million, million,
possibilities for the setup, each day.
And the—our bombes could—what the bombes did
was, find out—would find out what settings
were wrong, and they could run it until German
words appeared, and then the machine would
automatically stop, and those officers who were
tending the machine could get the messages.
(i) That’s pretty amazing.
(Janice) It is.
(interviewer) What—is there any particular time
that you just remember maybe more radio traffic,
if you will, or more messages going out than any other time?
(Janice) No.
Our office, you see, only got the results.
The messages came in to a different office,
which of course, was just as secret, but it
had the machines in it.
I never was in that office, even though
I knew what was coming out of it.
We had—all we received was paper with the messages on it.
(interviewer) Wow.
I guess what I was looking for—what I was
curious about was, is there any time, say
the United States is planning an operation,
or an invasion, like with the Invasion of
Normandy, did the Germans maybe increase their messages?
(Janice) I’m sure at that time, I
couldn’t put in a word about D-Day.
D-Day, our preparation for it was very dependent
on all of the German Enigmas, not just the
Navy, but the Army, and the Air, and it was
through it that we were able to find out about
German supplies, and German troops, and such.
In fact, one of the big deceptions in the
war—through the traffic, we were able to
keep the Germans thinking that D-Day, the
invasion was going to be in the north, at
Pas de Calais.
But it didn’t happen that way.
On the other hand, we were afraid there would
be a submarine attack, but that didn’t happen
either.
And for three months after our landings, the
Germans still kept troops and supplies in
the north, thinking there would be a second
invasion, and there—there never was.
And really, what I was most concerned with was
the Battle of the Atlantic, that is, what
was happening to the U-boats and such.
Of course, almost everyone knows of all the
sinkings of ships by the U-boats, particularly
along our coast.
But by 1943, when I got in, the tide had turned,
and we were sinking more U-boats, and they
were sinking fewer of our ships.
And then, after D-Day, the Battle of the Atlantic
was really considered to have been won, but
of course, there were still U-boats around,
and we still, even after, up to V-E Day, we
worked just as hard, because every day,
there was important traffic going though.
After V-E Day, our office stayed open about
six months to finish up, go back, and reread
traffic which hadn’t been read, and such.
At—I believe it was September
or October of ’45, I still had six more months to serve,
but our office had closed, so I was reassigned to
the Bureau of Medicine in Downtown Washington,
where I was put on a day job, reading correspondence
courses which Navy doctors had to take.
This was not quite as interesting as the
thing—as the place I’d had for most of the war.
But then, in March of 1946, it was—I was with
the group that was put on inactive duty.
Had a good bit of leave since we couldn’t
take leave during the war, so I really was
on inactive duty as of May of ’46.
WAVE officers, though, could not be discharged
because the—Congress had only passed to
keep WAVE officers in for a while, but in
1955, we were finally discharged out of the
Navy, completely.
But of course, before that time happened, I had
used four years of GI Bill, had a master’s
and a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
(interviewer) What—I was thinking about this—what
were you doing for housing during all this time?
And how did—did they keep you all together?
(Janice) No, that—that is interesting, too.
Enlisted WAVES had to live in wave barracks.
And across the street from the Communications Annex,
was a big barracks, because—there
were some officers which would have
eighty-five or a hundred enlisted WAVES.
But, officers were given twenty-one dollars a
month to use for housing, and we could live
anywhere we wanted.
Some of the girls would go together and rent apartments.
Washington, during the war, had many women’s
boarding houses, which would serve breakfast
over a period of two hours, and dinner.
And no matter what watch we were on, we could
take advantage of all the breakfast because
we could be there—and dinner’s on the day
watch, or the mid watch, so we only missed
very few of the meals.
And the particular one that I lived was very
near Dupont Circle in Downtown Washington.
There were only two other WAVES.
My roommates always were civilians.
Had one who swore she was going to get me to
talk in my sleep, and find out what I was
doing, but she never did.
And of course, the WAVES were very proud
of their uniforms, particularly the hats.
But one thing I would like to say, Washington
was, of course, full of service people.
It was safe no matter what hour of the day or night.
I would go to work at 11 pm, sometimes, and
I would come home from work after midnight,
but no fear in walking the five blocks
from the bus, to where I lived.
They just—we never heard of anything like an attack.
(interviewer) I just want to ask you something else.
I was going to, until I remembered this ladder again.
(Janice) You see, if I had known this, we could have stopped it.
(interviewer) Every time I think they’re
about through moving it, they move it again. (Laughs)
(Janice) I could go out there and—and get them quiet.
Trouble is, most of them don’t speak English.
(interviewer) Right.
I’ve been listening to them.
Most of them are Spanish.
(Janice) I know no Spanish.
(interviewer) I know a little bit,
but it’s not always the polite stuff.
(Laughs) What—I was about to ask you.
Being in D.C., and you mentioned a lot of
servicemen and everything else, and being
a female, did you ever feel any animosity,
or have any—any difficulty with—with males, in the service?
(Janice) That’s a question that I often get. No.
Our office was a bit different from most of them, I think.
Everyone was specially chosen.
The men who were in it, most of them had their
Ph.Ds., and many were college professors.
And I never—we were never—it was never,
“You go fix the coffee” or anything like that.
Intellectually, we were all on an equal—so,
I never experienced anything like that.
(interviewer) What about around town, away from the office?
(Janice) No.
Whether being an officer made any difference,
I don’t know, but service people, in general,
were looked up to—male or female.
I never thought of anything like that until recently.
For a number of years, I’ve been giving a
talk to groups—community groups, on Top
Secret Ultra—the allied secret weapon
in the Battle of the Atlantic.
And I always get the question of
“How were you treated as a woman?”
That question didn’t exist in wartime.
(interviewer) What—I guess, what was your key to
success, of keeping things secret for so long?
I’m sure, at some point, you just wanted
to talk about it—maybe or maybe not.
Did you ever have a point?
(Janice) No.
And another—I—I try to think back to when we
went on inactive duty and were discharged.
I don’t remember having to sign anything, but
we certainly were told that we could not—that
we just had to keep secret.
And my family never bothered me, and I don’t
remember ever—all I did—all I had to say
was, “I can’t talk.”
There wasn’t—wasn’t that problem.
I often wonder now if something like Top Secret Ultra
could be kept secret today.
(interviewer) Especially with the
Internet and everything else.
(Janice) The media.
(interviewer) Did you ever have an urge?
Maybe not during the war, but after the
war—you were keeping the secret for so long.
Did you ever have the urge to just want to tell somebody?
(Janice) No.
And actually, in 1974 and ’75, when the
material was first declassified, I didn’t
know—there were a couple of books published
then, but I didn’t know about them.
And by that—I was married, of course—my
husband’s parents were born in Germany,
so he is of German descent.
And I think—we were married in 1957.
I think probably in the—by the eighties, I
let him know that I was—had been working
on the Atlantic side, but really didn’t tell.
Then, my parents both died, and they
didn’t know what I had been doing.
It was not until 1991 when I had this book by
David Kahn, Seizing the Enigma—was reading
it, came to a group of pictures.
There was a picture of our office, and I was in it.
So, it was not until 1991 that I ever thought about telling it.
(interviewer) What was it like for you the first
time you picked up that book and went through it?
(Janice) I can remember the Sunday morning.
My husband was back in the study, reading the newspaper.
I was sitting in the living room with
that book, and I jumped up and shouted.
He must have wondered what was going on, because
there was that picture of me, in a book, which
I had bought.
From then on, I of course, reported that to
Goucher, that—because there were all these
Goucher people who weren’t talking—that was 1991.
In 1992, Goucher published an article in the
alumni magazine, entitled, Goucher’s Secret
Contribution to the War, and that set forth
the whole story and all the people who had
been in it—and how
the Enigma machines worked—just what we did.
And of course, now, one looks at the war,
sixty-something years later—and I have a
handout which I use when I tell of my experiences—always
with a list of books, and I—I keep changing that.
And two of the most recent ones that I have, one
of them is, How Allied Code-Breaking Contributed
to the Winning of World War II.
And the other has given the Polish crypt analyst
more attention because they were the ones
who had, first of all, had a simple German Enigma machine,
figured out the wiring, and built a simple bombe.
But they—by a strange set of circumstances,
the Polish passed their two machines onto
the French, and onto the British, one month
before the Germans marched into Poland.
So, Churchill had at his disposal, the Enigma machine,
and the bombe, from the very beginning of the war.
It’s strange—one looks back and thinks,
“Suppose these little things hadn’t happened,
how it would have changed affairs.”
And Churchill was always very fond of his
codebreakers from the beginning of the war.
And I include the Americans who came in much
later with it—he said that the code—the
codebreakers were like his—like geese
who laid golden eggs and never cackled.
(interviewer) What—once you picked up that book
and saw yourself in it and everything, did you
just immediately sit down and started telling
your husband everything, or your family?
(Janice) Yes, much more detailed than I ever had.
And as I said, I did tell Goucher about this
book, because it was only by accident that
my husband had seen it listed in the catalogue, up for sale.
Otherwise, I don’t know when we would have found out about it.
(interviewer) That’s amazing.
Did you have—you mentioned, I guess,
somewhat—capturing Enigmas and things.
Did you ever have, in that office, any sense
of the U.S. capturing of U-boats
and obtaining Enigmas or anything like that?
I know we had the U505 in Chicago.
Did you have any information on that?
(Janice) Well, yes, you see, because we got
all the messages that were sent about it.
Particularly, when submarines were sunk,
or captured, and that helped a great deal.
The whole story is in the book, Seizing the Enigma,
but it tells how, first of all, the
United States was able to capture some weather
ships, and would get books of keys to the
Enigma machine from them.
And then, of course, as the war went on, we
captured U505, which is—the Germans thought
was sunk, but we were able to get it towed
to—through to St. Lawrence, and to Chicago,
where it’s now on display.
And a couple of others, where secret materials
were gotten from submarines before they sank.
(interviewer) That’s amazing.
Was there ever, I guess, a sense of maybe
even victory in situations like that?
Did you stop and really feel good about it,
or were you just too busy to even think about it much?
(Janice) I don’t think we thought about it.
We were—one would be happy if we saw
that we had sunk a—a submarine.
In our office, there was a neutral shipping
desk, too, and this had two Goucher people
helping to man it from the year before us.
So, it was interesting being with them, but
we did keep track of neutral shipping because
if ships varied their course or did strange
things, one could learn about possible submarines in the area.
But—it—that office, one’s mind had to be
on what one was doing to keep track of
these submarines and things that were going on.
And as I said in the beginning—near the beginning
of this interview, people, in general,
felt—we felt we had to win that war.
We were not fighting for more property, or
more land, or more money, or more anything.
We were fighting to keep our liberty, so there
was—there was never any thought of losing.
The—I think the worst point was hearing
about ships sunk off our coasts that could
be seen from Atlantic City, and Florida, and
such—during—there were a couple of months
when the subs sank so many ships.
Another bad point for me, I was taking a Current Events course,
and the term after the war
started, and we—we followed the Japanese march
down the Malay Peninsula, to Singapore,
and that—that seemed awful. But—
(interviewer) What—in terms of—I guess,
I—I understand the concept of secrecy within the office,
but how did you—how did you keep it secure from the outside?
How did you keep people from getting in?
Were there armed guards at the door? How did—
(Janice) Our door was locked—actually, the
Navy had taken over the Mt. Vernon Girls School
at Massachusetts, Nebraska, and our particular
office was in what had been the gym, so we
had big double doors with windows in them,
but those windows were covered, and we had
to punch a buzzer to get in, and the clue
to the buzz was changed every week or so.
And—there were about thirty-five of us who
were there, officers and enlisted people.
Only a few high-ranking people from the main
Navy department—from Admiral King’s office,
or this United States Submarine Tracking Room,
they were the only ones who could come in.
There was no such thing as cleaners, or anything like that.
(Laughs) And of course, it’s hard to think back
to the days when there was not the Internet
and everything, but the telephones were not secure.
That’s why message—wire messages had to be
taken by personal armed carrier, to get
them downtown.
There could be nothing said over the phone.
(interviewer) Did you ever get to meet Admiral King?
(Janice) No, I didn’t.
I did meet the few people in the submarine
tracking room because they occasionally came
out to see us, and I can tell you, they—everything
was cleaned up and straightened up if these
couple of men were coming to look us over.
(interviewer) I’m assuming no photographs were
ever taken in the room or anything like that.
(Janice) Not in the room, no.
The one picture which was
in David Kahn’s book, Seizing the Enigma,
was taken at four o’clock one afternoon, outside, because at
four o’clock, the day watch was getting ready to leave.
The evening watch was coming on, and the people
on the mid watch could get up and come out.
And so, that’s why we have almost a hundred
percent of those working, in one picture.
(interviewer) What—can you tell me, again, what
you did after the war, and once the war was over?
You mentioned getting a master’s and Ph.D. Can you—
(Janice) Yes.
The war, of course, was over, in ’45.
I had taken some business courses and tried
working in an office, but I realized that
was not what I really wanted to do, and of
course, there was the possibility of using
the GI Bill.
I lived at home during that time, which—we lived
about six blocks north of Goucher College,
and about four blocks south of the Johns Hopkins University,
so I decided that I thought I
would go on and get—really, this has nothing
to do with the war, but when I was thirteen
or fourteen, I read a book
called, When Patty Went to College,
and I decided at that point
that what I wanted to do was something in the
college environment, and so, here, I had
this opportunity to go to graduate school, and
I took it, and it took—most of the graduate
students at that time were people on the
GI Bill, and very serious students.
Hopkins, the Department of Classics, knew
that people needed to get finished, so it
took me one year for a master’s, and then just
three more for the Ph.D. I got a dissertation
subject in May of one year, and got
the degree in May of the next year.
It was—they tried to pick subjects that
had a beginning and an end, and so, I was
extremely fortunate.
The GI Bill paid the tuition.
It gave me a hundred dollars a year for books,
which at that time, went pretty far—and
seventy-five dollars a month, for living.
So, it—it was a big thing.
After that, of course, I looked around for teaching positions.
Taught—I worked in the department there at
Hopkins for one year, then learned of some
grants given by the Ford Foundation
to beginning college teachers.
One college, was St. John’s, in Annapolis,
Maryland, and I was one of the six lucky people
to get one of these fellowships to
teach—to be at St. John’s for a year.
St. John’s is a place where one is a student,
as well as a teacher, and if I had gone back
another year, I’d have been put to teaching
Math instead of the Greek, which I knew.
(Laughs) So, then I was able to get a position
at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and was
there when—I met my husband in a Latin seminar at Johns Hopkins—
my future husband.
And so, I was at Sweet Briar, and then we
were married, and he took he a position at
Emory, and we came down to Atlanta in 1960.
I’ve been here ever since—retired here.
(interviewer) Pretty amazing.
(Janice) Two children, born here.
(interviewer) I meant to ask you earlier,
and now’s just as good a time as any.
Do you remember December 7, ’41, the attack on Pearl Harbor?
(Janice) Yes.
(interviewer) How you found out about that?
(Janice) Yes.
(interviewer) Can you tell me about that day?
(Janice) I lived at home because Goucher was
just a, really, fifteen-minute walk from the
house, so it was Sunday afternoon, and
I was home, studying in our house.
The main desk was right next to the radio,
and I had the radio on when I was studying,
and heard the announcement.
And—we—our family, it was hard to believe,
because I had grown up thinking that World War I
was the war to end wars.
Never dreamed they’d be involved in another one.
And of course, after—wasn’t too long before
one or another kind of rationing came, but
I never heard any—and within my family, never any complaining.
We took what we got and managed to work with
it the best way we could, because there really
wasn’t any choice.
My father was an attorney, and dealt a lot
with real estate, and needed to go to the
county seat courthouse, which was about—maybe
twenty miles from where we lived, so he always
had—not the smallest gasoline ration, but the next.
And—we were—we worked it out.
I have no recollections of ever feeling deprived or anything.
(interviewer) What about FDR’s death?
Do you remember hearing about that?
(Janice) Yes, I was in Washington, of course.
And along with lots of other people, the night
when we first heard about it, we got out and
went down near the White House, and I can
remember being in the crowds down there.
(interviewer) What was that like?
(Janice) A great deal of sadness.
But there—again, this was war, and
things fast got back to normal.
Certainly, one never—there was no staying—for
service people, there was no not going to
work every day, but—of course, I was brought
up in a family that was Republican through
and through.
My father, I think, had voted for Roosevelt,
but told no one else in the family.
(interviewer) What about V-E Day?
What was that day like for you?
(Janice) I’ve been asked that before.
I don’t even remember what watch I was on when we heard it.
I know that I learned of the D-Day
invasion through a message that we got.
Admiral Donitz sent out to all the U-boats
that yes, the allies have invaded.
Because Europe, of course, was five, six hours ahead of us.
And so, we had messages and were reading them
very shortly thereafter, but I don’t remember
messages around V-E Day.
(interviewer) I’m trying to think of—is there
anything else specific that I should have asked you
that I haven’t?
I know—how did the war,
and how did your service maybe change your life?
(Janice) I think it was that course at Goucher
which really changed my life, because it led me
into being an officer, and put me to work
for the duration of the war, and then I had
the GI Bill, which got me further schooling,
and the desire to be a professor.
And—I think that the war service, plus the
Johns Hopkins Ph.D. and the Phi Beta Kappa key,
got me the positions at Sweet Briar,
and then here at Georgia State University, down here.
And of course, I retired from teaching
completely, back in nineties.
But beginning in 2002, I’ve began telling
my World War II experiences, and I’m still
doing it till now, 2009.
(interviewer) Do you think it’s important that
we continue to teach and study World War II in the classroom?
(Janice) Yes.
I am horrified when I hear of students who
don’t know when World War II was, and really
seem to have so few facts about the recent
history, or any history of the United States.
I think telling it is most important to passing
on, and I have—myself, have not spoken at any schools.
I have friends who have spoken, and they say
that the interest is increasing in students,
that they really want to know something about it.
I have been interviewed by students, and they—they
look at me, and they—it’s almost as, “You were there?
You were—you went through this?”
It seems to me that I, in school—in high school,
and in college, had so much more history,
and feeling for history, than some students have.
(interviewer) On the same token, do you think it’s
important that we have museums
like the National World War II Museum?
(Janice) Oh, I think so.
I grew up knowing a lot about World War I.
Of course, I had had some family members who were in it.
World War II was on such a big scale, and
I was glad when the World War II Memorial
was built on the mall in Washington—of
course, went to see it.
And there is a Women’s memorial—a memorial
to not just one war, but to women who fought
in all of the wars that the U.S. has, and I
was very pleased when I heard that there
was the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
(interviewer) You’d have to come see us. (Laughs)
(Janice) Yeah, I would like to.
(interviewer) I think that’s about all I have
to ask, unless there’s anything else you want to add.
(Janice) I can’t think of anything.
(interviewer) Thank you for sitting down with me
today and giving me your experiences on film,
and for helping us to preserve—
[Captions by Adept Word Management Inc]

Annotation

Janice Martin Benario was born in Baltimore, Maryland and went through the public school system. She wanted to go away for college but ended up attending Goucher University in Baltimore. It was at Goucher where Benario's wartime experience started. 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 had to be won. In the fall of Benario’s senior year she was stopped in the hall by an English professor who told her 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 ten 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 in early July 1943. Some were sent to Mt. Holyoke and some were sent to Smith for officer training classes. They studied all types of material. 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, DC. They reported to the main navy building in D.C. and received their specific orders. Benario was assigned to OP-20G. Her 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. 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 assembled the German words and translated 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 had pins on a giant map of the Atlantic which represented all known German u-boats.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Janice Benario served in the navy as a member of the WAVES and worked with ULTRA intercepts decoding messages about German u-boats and ship movements.] They had a pin for every submarine and a pin with a flag on it for every convoy. One of their main jobs was to keep the board updated. They had to work watches. One was from eight to noon, the second was from noon to four and the third was from eight to midnight. Every morning they had to provide a report on the messages that were decoded during the previous shift. Some envelopes were marked Ultra Top Secret and immediately that envelope had limitations on who could see it. An armed guard would collect the report and put it in a locked pouch. The man carried it to his car and drove it down to the main naval department and eventually it would work its way up to Admiral King [Annotators Note: Admiral Ernest J. King was the Commander in Chief of the US Fleet and the Chief of Naval Operations]. The messages they decoded were sent from a German Enigma machine. The army, navy and air forces of Germany all used Enigmas. The Enigma machine was used to its full capacity by the German Navy. The Germans were convinced that the Allies had no way of cracking the Enigma. The Germans did not find out until the 1970s that the United States had cracked the code during the war. Every day the u-boats had to send in a position or weather report. Sometimes they reported seeing ships and convoys and they also reported on sunk ships. They were able to read this German u-boat traffic. Benario is still not used to being able to talk about it. A German operator would have a message that he put into the Enigma letter by letter. The Enigma worked by changable electrical currents. The current would go through all of the wheels and eventually the letters would light up. The messages were then sent by Morse code and they were picked up by receiving stations in Britain and off of the east coast of the United States. The British received the same message so their code breakers could take a swing at it. Benario learned later on that the British had in fact turned over the entire code breaking operation over to the United States. By 1943 the United States and Great Britain had decided to swap information they had on Germany. There was a group of women in Ohio who worked at a switchboard and they were an unknowing part of the United States spying scheme. By the time Benario got in they were able to translate a message in less than 14 hours. In the beginning of the war the Germans changed the Enigma settings once a week. By the end of the war they changed the keys every day.

Annotation

[Annotators Note: Janice Benario served in the navy as a member of the WAVES and worked with ULTRA intercepts decoding messages about German u-boats and ship movements.] There were three rotor wheels to each machine [Annotators Note: Enigma machine]. Each rotor had 26 notches for each letter of the alphabet. There was a plug board with 26 plugs. The Germans boasted that there were 59 million different combinations and set ups on the Enigma machine. They were able to figure out the combinations until German words appeared. When words appeared they knew they had the right combination. Their office only got the results of the messages. There was another office that handled the messages as they came in directly. They only received paper with the messages on it. The preparations for D-Day relied on all German Enigma traffic and not just u-boat traffic. Other departments were instrumental in decoding other German radio traffic. They were able to convince the Germans through the careful release of information that the invasion of France was going to come from somewhere else. Benario was focused on the Battle of the Atlantic. By 1943 when Benario joined, the Battle of the Atlantic had turned. They were sinking more submarines every day. The u-boat threat was still around throughout the war but it was not as big of a threat after 1944. In September 1945 Benario had six more months to serve so she was reassigned to the Bureau of Medicine in downtown Washington, DC. Benario was given a day job reading correspondence courses which navy doctors had to take. In March 1946 Benario was put on inactive duty. WAVE officers could not be discharged officially until 1955. Before that time happened, Benario had used four years of the GI bill to get her masters and PhD from Johns Hopkins. Enlisted WAVES had to live in barracks. The barracks were fairly large. Officers were given 21 dollars a month to use for housing. They could live wherever they wanted to. Some of the girls got together and rented a house. Washington, DC had many women’s boarding houses that would serve breakfast and dinner. The women were able to take advantage of this food. They missed very few of the meals. Benario lived near Dupont Circle. She always had civilian roommates. She had one roommate who swore she was going to get Benario to talk in her sleep about what she did during the day. Of course Benario never did. The WAVES were very proud of their uniforms. Washington was full of service people and it was incredibly safe. Benario would go to work somedays at 11 at night and she had no fear walking from the bus to her apartment. [Annotators Note: a brief pause takes place while the interviewer waits for some outside noise to settle.] Benario never felt any animosity towards her from males. Everyone was specially chosen in Benario’s office. Most of the men in the program had PhDs or were college professors. Intellectually, they were all on a level playing field.

Annotation

Janice Benario never received any awkward treatment from men. Since she was an officer she may have commanded respect. Benario felt that everyone looked up to people in uniform. For a number of years Benario has given talks about her experience during World War 2. She notes that she was concerned about her job and not social issues. Benario never felt compelled to talk about her job. She does not remember signing a secrecy order but it was heavily implied. All Benario had to tell people was that she was not able to talk. Benario wonders if something as top secret as Ultra could be kept secret today. Benario never felt the urge to tell anybody about it. It was not declassified until 1973. There were a couple of books published on the subject. Benario was married by the 1970s. Her husband’s parents were born in Germany. By the 1980s Benario had let her husband know that she was working on the Atlantic side of the war. Benario’s parents died before she was able to tell them. Benario saw a picture of herself in a book in 1991 and that was what propelled her to begin talking about her experiences. Benario remembers the exact moment she discovered her picture in the book. She reported her role to Goucher University. In 1992 Goucher published an article in its alumni magazine entitled Goucher’s secret contribution to the war. Churchill had at his disposal an Enigma machine because of the work of Polish cryptanalysts. Benario likes to look at the little events and how those events shaped the war. Churchill was very fond of his code breakers. Churchill said the code breakers were like his geese that laid golden eggs and never cackled. Once Benario’s photo was published in the book she began to tell more people exactly what she was doing. Benario had information on clandestine American operations to obtain an Enigma. As the war went on they captured U-505, which had an Enigma on it. The Germans thought it was sunk but it was crippled to the point where an American ship had to tow it.

Annotation

Janice Benario did not think about her job too much while she was doing it. Every once in a while they got excited when they saw that a German u-boat was sunk. They kept track of neutral shipping as well. Sometimes they could glean clues about German u-boat activity from civilian shipping records. People in general felt that they had to win the war. They were fighting to keep their liberty. There was never any thought of losing the war. The worst point for Benario was when they received reports of ships sunk off of the coast of America that could be seen by civilians in cities. There were a couple of months when the German u-boats sunk a lot of ships. Benario was taking a current events course in 1941 and she recalls following the Japanese aggression in the southwest Pacific. The office they worked at had a locked door on it. Her office was contained in an old all girls school. Only a few high ranking officers were allowed to go into Benario’s office. No one was really let in or out. They had no cleaners. Telephones were not secure at the time. They were not allowed to speak about anything over the phone. Benario ran into a couple of the submarine tracking folks. No photographs were ever taken into the room. The war was over in 1945. Benario had taken some business courses but realized quickly that was not what she wanted to do. Benario lived at home immediately after the war. She lived very close to Johns Hopkins and Goucher. When Benario was 13 or 14 she read a book called Patty Went to College. She realized that she wanted to do something in the college environment. Most of the graduate students at that time were people who were on the GI Bill. Johns Hopkins Department of Classics realized that they needed to get students in and out quickly. She finished her PhD and her master's within 4 years. The GI bill paid her tuition and 100 dollars a year for books. She also received 75 dollars per year for living. After graduating she looked around for teaching jobs and was able to get a position at Sweetwater College in Virginia.

Annotation

Janice Benario met her future husband at a Latin seminar at Johns Hopkins. Benario’s husband took a position at Emory and they have been there ever since. Benario had two children born in Atlanta. Benario recalls the events of 7 December 1941. She lived about 15 minutes from Groucher. She heard the announcement when she was studying. It was hard for her and her family to believe that war was starting. Benario never dreamed that the United States would be involved in another war. Eventually rationing came. Benario never heard anyone complaining about what they had. They worked with what they had. There was never any choice. Benario’s father was an attorney. He dealt with county real estate. Benario never felt deprived. Benario was in Washington when Roosevelt [Annotators Note: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] died. She was with people she worked with. They went down near the White House. Benario was in a crowd of people paying their respects. There was a great deal of sadness. Then again this was war and these things happen. People got back to their jobs. There was no not going to work just because someone died. Benario’s family was Republican through and through. Her father had voted for Roosevelt but he did not tell anyone else in the family. She does not remember too much about VE Day. Benario heard after everyone else. Messages were still coming in. She thinks that the course at Groucher changed her life. If she had not taken that class then she would have never been an officer. She was able to take her experience as an officer and use the GI bill. Benario was able to reap many benefits of her service. Benario’s contacts were able to help hook her up with different jobs. She retired from teaching in the 1990s. Beginning in 2002 Benario has began to tell her World War 2 experiences. She is still doing it to this day. Benario believes that it is important that people today should learn about World War 2. Benario is horrified when she finds out that kids do not know much about World War 2. She has not spoken at any schools but has friends who have. Students are increasingly more interested about World War 2. She enjoys teaching students. In high school and college Benario had a great appreciation for history. She believes it is important that we have The National World War II Museum. She grew up learning about World War 1. World War 2 was on such a big scale and she was glad when the World War II Memorial was built on The Mall. There is a memorial to women who fought in all of our nations wars. Benario was very pleased when she heard that there was The National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
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