from the New York Times 7.15.19
Britain’s £50 Note Will Honor Computing Pioneer Alan Turing
“During his lifetime, the mathematician and computer pioneer’s reputation was overshadowed by a conviction under Britain’s Victorian laws against homosexuality, and his war work remained a secret until decades later.Alan Turing will be the face of Britain’s new 50-pound note, the Bank of England announced on Monday.”
Mathematical brilliance of gay man Alan Turing critical to the defeat of Nazi Germany
“In 1936, Turing published a paper that is now recognised as the foundation of computer science.” BBC
Beginning from this very moment all LBGT people must demand that whenever the “Greatest Generation” is remembered, we remember the gay genius Alan Turing, one of the greatest of them all.
by Charles McCain (c) 2019.
ALAN TURING: The Greatest Warrior of Them All
Copyright (c) 2019 by Charles McCain. A version of this article was originally written and published on 7 June 2010 by Charles McCain and reposted by GayPolitics.com.
In 1952, the man who discovered the Ultra-Secret was convicted of “charges of committing acts of gross indecency with another man.” The defendant was a rumpled Cambridge mathematics professor who had done something important in the war. Still did a bit of secret work for the government. He looked a regular sort of chap but he wasn’t – he was a poof, a Nancy boy, a queer.
Prison or Chemical Castration
The judge gave him two choices: prison or chemical castration through the injection of female hormones. This to one of the handful of men responsible for Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two – a man whose ideas changed our world. He chose the humiliation of being injected with estrogen – the doses so high he developed breasts.
Upon conviction, his security clearance was revoked by the British Government and he was dismissed. Men, straight men – the ones who ran the intelligence establishment – were happy to see him go, no doubt. Don’t need that sort around. Did something very hush-hush during the war. Not sure what exactly. Good riddance to bad trash.
But they couldn’t let this man just wander off. He knew too much – about what, no one actually knew. What this man had done in the war was so beyond ‘top secret’ the British government had created a fourth level of secrecy. Prime Minister Winston Churchill is thought to have said, “this is so secret it must ever be the Ultra Secret.” And Ultra it became, the very highest level of security in Great Britain. Only a very few men in the world knew the entire scope of this mind-boggling secret. Alan Turing was one of those men.
Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces in Europe, considered the Ultra Secret, “decisive” to our victory over Nazi Germany. Yet only a few of his subordinates ever saw intelligence from Ultra and while they knew it was absolutely reliable they had no idea where it came from. It was so secret, so critical to victory, we still don’t know the lengths to which the Allies went to protect it.
Did we assassinate men and women in German-occupied Europe who may have known one small detail of the Ultra-Secret? Most certainly. Mount hundreds of military operations to protect the secret by deceiving the Germans as to the origin of our intelligence? Yes.
the Ultra-Secret uncovered by Alan Turing
Did our most senior political and military leaders lie, violate the ‘rules of war’, deceive our own commanders, authorize the pilfering and reading of diplomatic mail, order the death of anyone who may have been able to tell the Germans we knew the secret? Yes. Do we know the details? No, they have never been released to this day. The only thing we know for certain is this: the Allies did everything and went to every length to protect the Ultra-Secret uncovered by Alan Turing.
MI5 Harrased Turing Because He Was A Queer
After Turing had his security clearance revoked, MI5, the British Internal Security agency, as ignorant as they were small-minded, watched him constantly because he knew the Ultra-Secret – although they didn’t use that term since the designation of Ultra was itself Ultra Secret. During the Cold War many believed that while not all Communists were homosexuals, all homosexuals were Communists.
They trailed him, harassed him, treated him with the worst kind of contempt – because he was a fruit, a homo, a faggot. Treated him so badly, in fact, that in March of 2009, only ten years ago, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the British Government for the way Alan Turing had been treated simply because he was gay.
Did Turing Kill Himself Or did MI5 Murder Him?
Unfortunately, Her Majesty’s Government was fifty-five years too late. On 7 June 1954, police reported that a Cambridge mathematics professor named Alan Turing had committed suicide by biting into an apple laced with cyanide. Was he so depressed he committed suicide? His mother and his brother said no nor did they ever accept the explanation given by the police. So the speculation continues: did he kill himself or was he killed? If so, who killed him?
In 1974 the British government authorized the publication of a book simply titled The Ultra Secret. What the book revealed was so shocking, so incredible, so unimaginable it changed everything we knew about the Second World War. And what it revealed was this: during World War Two the British, and later the Americans, read almost 90% of all top-secret German radio traffic – and the Germans used radio as their primary method of communication.
Because of gay activists in London, we also learned something else: the key player in the Ultra-Secret was a gay man named Alan Turing.
And this is how it helped us: “During the great campaigns on land or in desperate phases of the war at sea, exact and utterly reliable information could thus be conveyed, regularly and often instantly, mint-fresh, to the Allied commanders.” wrote historian Ronald Lewin in Ultra Goes To War.
Often the British decrypted Ultra messages as fast as the Germans did
Often we decrypted Ultra messages as fast as the Germans did. And what did we learn? Almost everything: battle plans, dates of attack, the position of every ship, plane, U-Boat, soldier – we knew almost all. And we knew it all because of a homosexual named Alan Turing.
To prevent anyone from understanding the secret information they were broadcasting, the German armed forces used a coding machine so complex the British called it the Enigma. It was unbreakable. Completely and totally secure. Only it wasn’t. Why? Because in one of his many flashes of genius, mathematician Alan Turing, who was working for the British military, figured out how to crack messages coded by the Enigma.
To Crack Enigma Turing Had to Invent the Computer
There was a small hitch. In order to perform the actions required to crack the Enigma, Turing had to invent a machine of some sort – a machine which had never existed before. The Oxford Companion to World War Two gives this bland explanation: “Turing, Alan (1912-1954). British mathematician whose theories and work … resulted in the modern computer.”
Turing Award Given Annually by Computer Industry Honors Turing as Father of the Computer Age
Today, the ‘Nobel Prize’ of the computing world is the Turing Award—so named to honor Alan Turing as the father of the computer age. It is awarded annually by the Association of Computer Manufacturers and carries a prize of $1 million dollars.
He changed the world. Yet few gay men or gay women know of him.
Turing worked for the British military and naturally had clearance for Ultra since he created it. Yet even with Turing on our side, even knowing all we did, it still required the combined might of the three strongest nations in the world – Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – to defeat Nazi Germany.
What if we hadn’t known as much as we did? What if Alan Turing hadn’t cracked the Enigma, invented the computer, and given us the Ultra-Secret?
What if the British military had not hired Turing because of his homosexuality? The alternative is unthinkable.
Somehow gay people are left out when the ‘Greatest Generation’ is honored. Let us therefore insist, beginning from this very moment, that whenever the ‘Greatest Generation’ is remembered, we remember Alan Turing, one of the greatest of them all.
You can purchase the GLAAD award-winning documentary Codebreaker here: https://www.turingfilm.com/
This outstanding documentary was produced by gay Washington, DC filmmaker Patrick Sammon.
More information can be found at Alan Turning on the BBC here: https://www.bbc.com/timelines/
Charles McCain on the bridge of museum ship HMS Belfast in London, 2014
Novelist, financial writer, historian, and speaker, Charles McCain, is an authority on World War Two in the European Theater. As a proud gay man, he speaks and writes about Alan Turing’s incredible contribution to Allied victory. He is the author of An Honorable German, a World War Two naval epic published by GCP/Hachette in 2009.
COPYRIGHT (c) 2019 by Charles McCain. All Rights Reserved.