THE SECRET CODE-BREAKERS OF CENTRAL BUREAU: How Australia's Signals-Intelligence Network Helped Win the Pacific War.

AuthorBall, Rhys
PositionBook review

THE SECRET CODE-BREAKERS OF CENTRAL BUREAU: How Australia's Signals-Intelligence Network Helped Win the Pacific War Author: David Dufty

Published by: Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2017, 252pp, $49.99.

As more material becomes available from declassified archives released to the wider public, scholars continue to consider the value of intelligence during the Second World War. Most will agree that its contribution to shortening the length of history's most devastating and costliest conflict came about thanks to a combination of imagination, determination and a healthy dose of luck.

There were successes and failures on both sides--although it has become clear that the Allies devoted more resources and had far greater success, over a consistent period, than the Germans and Japanese. Australian author David Dufty's recent publication, The Secret Code-Breakers of Central Bureau, provides a delightfully and thoroughly engaging story of the emergence of the Australian contribution to the signals and radio interception intelligence, and how these relatively small units, and their staff, produced some of the most significant intelligence successes of the war in the Pacific.

Australian military experiences in Europe and North Africa, the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Douglas MacArthur's withdrawal from the Philippines and the fall of Singapore would not only shatter Australia's reliance on Great Britain for security and protection, but would also bring the country increasingly under the influence of the United States. Dufty explains how these various signals intelligence and radio interception and traffic analysis components would ultimately morph into symbiotic and functioning components by the end of 1942.

Dufty clearly explains the differences between the Army and Air Force's Central Bureau--'the most boring name they could think of'--and the Navy's Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne (FRUMEL). Both had different masters and different customers; MacArthur became the principal controller and user of Central Bureau intelligence product, while FRUMEL product was controlled by the Australian and US navies. Neither were immune from personality conflicts and clashes, but both produced some quite remarkable results, thanks to the brilliance, perseverance and persistence of their staff.

Dufty's writing style is light and easy to read, reminiscent of other contemporary historical narratives that tell a series of stories, most notably the emphasis of the human...

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