Japan's PURPLE Code Machine

Joe Buch joseph.buch at DOL.NET
Sun Jul 5 10:23:42 EDT 1998

At 00:20 7/5/98 -1000, you wrote:
>I don't usually read the obituaries, but the following was in
>very large type which caught my eye. It talks about the person who
>broke Japan's PURPLE Code. Like everyone else, I've heard of Germany's
>Enigma and the effort to break it, but this was the first I'd heard of the
>PURPLE machine. Can anyone provide some info?
>Jeff KH2PZ

The PURPLE machine was a code name within the US Signals Intelligence
Service (SIS) for a device the Japanese called the Angooki Taipu B.  The
Japanese translates to Cypher Machine Type A (surprise).  The ENIGMA code
was broken with the aid of a captured German machine.  The PURPLE code was
broken by analysis of the messages without the aid of a mechanical machine.
 SIS actually constructed a device capable of decoding the Japanese
diplomatic traffic which makes the accomplishment even more astounding than
the breaking of the ENIGMA code.

You can learn more from two books that I would recommend to anyone
interested in learning the history of the crypto art/science.

1. The Puzzle Palace, James Bamford, copyright 1982, Houghton Mifflin Co.,
Boston. ISBN 0-395-31286-8.  I think it has recently been re-published as a
paperback but I do not have that edition.

2. The Codebreakers, David Kahn.  I have no details on this one but saw a
copy recently in a book store so I am sure it is still in print.  The PBS
TV series Nova did a one hour program of the the same title within the last
few years.  It may have been based on this book and a video tape may be
available.  Check the PBS web site.

I suggest you go to http://www.amazon.com and use their nifty search engine
to get additional info and reviews of these books before plunking down your

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