Gay Genius Alan Turing Critical to Defeat Nazi Germany

Brilliance of gay man Alan Turing Key in the defeat of nazi germany

Whenever the “Greatest Generation” is mentioned let all LGBTQ people remember Alan Turing, the greatest of them all.

by Charles McCain (c) 2012.

 

ALAN TURING: The Greatest Warrior of Them All

Copyright (c) by Charles McCain. 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.

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Upon conviction, his security clearance was revoked by the British Government and he was dismissed.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.

Alan Turing

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.

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.

Alan Turning MemorialAfter 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. 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, just over one year 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.

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.

Enigma MachineAnd 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 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.

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.”

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, the greatest of them all.

You can read more about Alan Turing on the BBC here:      BBCAlanTuring

 

[This article first appeared on 7 June 2010 before the repeal of DADT on GayPolitics.com 

[Editor’s note from GayPolitics.com: In light of the ongoing debate over whether openly gay people should be able to serve in the U.S. armed forces, it’s worth remembering that gay people already serve with distinction, and that some of those discharged for being gay may have taken with them extraordinary skills or talents necessary for success in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Author Charles McCain, a World War II expert guest posting here, contributes the following commentary about one such hero, whose incalculable contribution to the Allied effort to defeat Hitler’s Germany is not widely known.]

Images courtesy of TechFest–AV Techonology Blog, and Wikipedia. More information can be found at Alan Turning’s biographer’s website at http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/

Author, financial writer, historian, and speaker, Charles McCain, is an authority on World War Two. As a proud gay man, he often 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.

Minefield. You are in it. We are not.

Important to stay up to date on Notices to Mariners in World War Two so you don’t stray into a minefield

hms_highlanderh44

   Aerial photograph of British destroyer HMS Highlander (H44) underway. Rayner spent a number of months as her CO.

D.A. Rayner was an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. They wore wavy stripes on their uniforms and were called, with condescension, the “the Wavy Navy”. There was also the Royal Naval Reserve consisting of masters and mates of merchant ships. It was said that the RNVR were gentlemen trying to become officers and the RNR were officers trying to become gentlemen.


Royal Navy corvette HMS Primrose

although not designed to operate in the vicious weather of the North Atlantic these ships could be built quickly. Convoy escorts were desperately needed so hundreds were built. 

 

Rayner compiled an outstanding record in World War Two becoming the only RNVR officer to command a Royal Navy escort group in the Atlantic. His memoir, Escort, is rich in stories of his life at sea in the war, each one more amusing than the one before. Escort is one of the best naval memoirs I have ever read. It is beautifully written (the English really know how to write English), funny, very sad at times, and brutally honest. I certainly give it five stars. Escort is truly a must read.

The war has only recently begun and Rayner is commanding an anti-submarine trawler patrolling off the coast of England. He is lost in a dense fog. There was no radar then. Out of the fog looms a Royal Navy destroyer. Rayner orders the signalman to use his Aldis Lamp (Morse Lamp to Americans) and make to the destroyer: “Can you tell me where am I?” Comes the reply: “Regret have not known you long enough to venture an opinion.” Rayner is puzzled till he discovers the signalman had actually made the message: “Can you tell me what I am?”

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Though only 30, Rayner is quickly given command of a corvette, a small escort vessel used in the North Atlantic. Because of the shortage of escort ships, he has been compelled to put to sea before his charts are up to date. As he is putting into port one day, Rayner sees a merchantman sinking off his starboard bow. He asks the escort commander for leave to rescue the crew. Comes the reply, “Proceed, but your attention is called to Notices to Mariners Number______.”

Rayner rescues a boatload of survivors and sees another boatload. Comes a signal from the escort commander, “Your attention is called to Notices to Mariners_____.” This annoys Rayner but given his charts aren’t up to date, he doesn’t want to ask the escort commander what he means so he waits until another corvette steams between him and the escort commander. Rayner makes inquiry of what Notices to Mariners_____means. Comes the reply, “Minefield. You are in it. We are not.”

Nazi Germany Unleashes Bombers on London

Germans Bomb London

Bomb damage to HMV (His Master’s Voice) gramophone shop, Oxford Street, London, 1940. The shop had been opened by Sir Edward Elgar in 1921Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum

 

The Blitz, London, 1942. A workman with a wheelbarrow clears up fallen debris from the roof of St Mary-le-Bow after its first bombing. Subsequently the church was completely destroyed. The church was rebuilt after the war. It was said that a genuine Cockney was a person born within the sounds of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow.  Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum

 

Bomb damage to the church of St Lawrence Jewry, Guildhall, London, 1940. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the church suffered major damage during the Blitz and was rebuilt to Wren’s original design in 1957.  Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum

 

London Blitz:  Young woman pulled alive from rubble of bombed building by London Air Raid Precaution emergency workers

Payback is a Bitch
Stuttgart after a visit from RAF Bomber Command in 1943

ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. (CL 3437) Low-level aerial photograph of the devastated city centre of Stuttgart from the south-west, after 53 major raids, most of them by Bomber Command, destroyed nearly 68 percent of its built-up area and killed 4,562 people. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022152

 

 

Massive 16 inch guns of battleship HMS Rodney

HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney were the only two battleships in the British Royal Navy with 16 inch guns.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2127) View looking forward from the bridge of HMS RODNEY in rough seas, showing two of the three 16 inch turrets trained on either beam, the barrels of the third turret can be seen in the foreground. Water can be seen coming up over the bow. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185179

All three main batteries were in the forefront of the ship before the bridge giving them an unusual appearance and the only battleships designed this was. During testing the Royal Navy discovered that if the turret closest to the bridge was traversed abeam to the maximum extent, then firing it broke all the windows on the bridge.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2115) After spending the night in the gun turrets and engine rooms of the battleship HMS RODNEY, crewmen (sailors and marines) take some fresh air on the starboard deck. Two of the triple 16 inch gun turrets can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185174

Built to the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, the ships had heavy guns and heavy armour but had to reduce engine capacity to stay within the treaty limits. Unfortunately, their maximum speed was only 23 knots and that was on commissioning in the 1920s. They had a difficult time making that speed in World War Two although on occasion they made that speed and even higher such as when Rodney was trying to close with the Bismarck.

HMS Rodney had severe problems with water leaking into the ship due to defective riveting. In spite of extensive repairs made in the US Navy shipyard in Philadelphia the ship continued to have significant problems with water leaks–not a problem one wants in a man o’ war.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2147) A very clear shot of B turret on board HMS RODNEY taken from the bridge as the ship prepares to enter harbour. Beyond, on the focsle, some of the men are preparing to haul in the paravanes and get the cable cleared for anchoring. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185184

 

In her clash with the Bisarck, HMS Rodney fired 340 16-inch shell. While most firing was done in salvos, that is one barrel per turret would fire, the Rodney did fire a few broadsides. This meant all nine 16 inch guns fired at the same time. While designed for this, a full broadside was tough on the ship.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 15453) Inside the gunhouse of one of the three 16 inch triple Mark I mounting, housing three 16-inch Mark I guns on board HMS RODNEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186345
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 1135) On board HMS RODNEY a group of officers and men standing on a 16 inch turret watching a ‘Fashion Parade’. Aircraft of all types (not in the picture) fly past at a considerable height to give the Navy practice in identifying the machines. Note the 16 inch guns are at maximum elevation. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185088
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2123) Inside the gunhouse of one of the three Mark I triple mountings of HMS RODNEY showing the three 16 inch Mark I guns. In the foreground the gun lock is being shifted. In the centre the gun is being loaded and the gun on the left is ready to fire. Three members of crew can be seen. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185176
THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 1417) Royal Marines remove old paint from the X gun turret on board HMS RODNEY before repainting. Another of the triple 16 inch gun turrets can be seen beyond the men. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185114

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 4608) Members of the South African Division of the Royal Naval Volunteers Reserve on board HMS NELSON posing for the camera between two of the enormous 16 inch guns of A turret. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119388

While the photo above is of HMS Rodney’s sister ship, HMS Nelson, you can see just how big were these 16 inch guns. HMS Nelson was the first of the ships constructed so they were known as “Nelson class” battleships. These were the only two battleships which carried main battery guns actually larger than than the Bismarck’s 15 inch guns.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 2113) A memorial service for the Armed Merchant Cruiser JERVIS BAY, being held on the upper deck of HMS RODNEY whilst she is at sea. Comparatively few were able to attend the service, the rest being at their action stations, some being in the turrets of the 16 inch guns seen in the picture. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185173

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 200) Some of the barrels of goods passing under a 16 inch gun of HMS RODNEY as they are being rolled to the store rooms. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185017

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7694) Changing the 16 inch guns on HMS RODNEY at Cammel Laird shipyard, Birkenhead. Lowering a gun into position in A turret. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185604

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 16216) The battleship HMS RODNEY underway in the Mediterranean (photographed from the aircraft carrier HMS FORMIDABLE). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119664