Cryptology vital to US military ops

A cipher is a pair of algorithms for encryption, the process of converting ordinary information into an unreadable ciphertext, and for decryption, the reverse process.

Sound confusing? It is, its cryptology.

Tom Schram, the first speaker in the Military History Lecture series of the academic school year spoke about the role of cryptology in U.S. military history on Sept. 7 in Eva G. Farris Auditorium.

Cryptology is a branch of science that deals with secret communications. Although cryptology can be traced as far back as the fifth century B.C., Schram highlighted recent United States achievements in cracking ciphers and codes by discussing how decoding the Enigma and JN-25 played a vital role in ending WWII.

According to Schram, both the Enigma (a machine based on a system of three rotors that substituted cipher text letters for plain text letters) and JN-25 (a code book of over 30,000 words and additive tables) were highly successful at encrypting German Nazi and Japanese communications until they were decoded by United States and Allied forces. The cracking of these codes played a key role in the outcome of the North Atlantic U-boat engagements and helped end WWII.

Schram also established the enduring success of Morse code. In his speech, Schram presented a skit from Jay Leno in which teams competed against each other to convey messages through either Morse code or text messaging, to see which was faster. Morse code beat text messaging by a large margin. As Jay Leno stated, “Sometimes older is better.”

Schram, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant, was careful not to divulge any classified information from his career with Naval Security Group (NSA). Now the president and CEO of Wiresoft, he worked with the Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association (NCVA) to address pertinent areas of military intelligence.

Regarding the state of current national security, Schram said, “I think we have made some progress since Sept. 11, but I do not think we are there yet.” Schram’s advice to NKU students interested in cryptology is to “study math and science. Languages are also becoming a very important field; especially Arabic and Chinese.”

Schram closed his lecture with a final request; “Please say thank you to those serving in the military. They do not hear that often enough. Remember, they are volunteers.”

In attendance at the speech were students, faculty, and community members including Amanda Campbell, a senior history and geography double major and vice president of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.

“History is an important part of shaping lives. It helps us identify with our country and gives us a true sense of self,” Campbell said.

The Military History Lecture series has been in existence since 1992 and this was the 73rd lecture. The next installment will be at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia, Ohio, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Military History Lecture Series director Dr. Francois LeRoy said, “This is a community-oriented lecture series. The history department is reaching out to all who are interested.”