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Code Breakers

At the height of World War II in the Pacific, two secret organisations existed in Australia to break the Japanese military codes. They were peopled by brilliant and idiosyncratic cryptographers with achievements in mathematics and the classics. These men patiently and carefully deciphered the Japanese signals, ultimately making a significant contribution to the victories at Midway, Coral Sea and Milne Bay.

But this is more than a story of codes. It is an extraordinary exploration of a unique group of men and their intense personal rivalries. It is also the story of a fierce inter-national and inter-service political battle for control of war-changing intelligence between a group of Australian cryptographers with strong connections to British Naval Intelligence and a counter group allied to the US military. What happened between these two groups would have consequences for intelligence services in the years to follow.

Code Breakers brings this surprising and very secret world and the men who operated in it to rich life for the first time.

Australia's First Spies

Australia was born with its eyes wide open. Although politicians spoke publicly of loyalty to Britain and the empire, in secret they immediately set about protecting Australia’s interests from the Germans, the Japanese – and from Britain itself.

As an experienced intelligence officer, John Fahey knows how the security services disguise their activities within government files. He has combed the archives to compile the first account of Australia’s intelligence operations in the years from Federation to World War II.

He tells the stories of dedicated patriots who undertook dangerous operations to protect their new nation, despite a lack of training and support. He shows how the early adoption of advanced radio technology by Australia contributed to the war effort in Europe. He also exposes the bureaucratic mismanagement in World War II that cost many lives, and the leaks that compromised Australia’s standing with its wartime allies so badly that Australia was nearly expelled from the Anglo-Saxon intelligence network.

Australia’s First Spies shows Australia always has been a far savvier operator in international affairs than much of the historical record suggests, and it offers a glimpse into the secret history of the nation.