German Enigma Machine

340 VMI Parade Lexington

George C. Marshall Museum and Library
Written By George C. Marshall Museum and Library

The independent George C. Marshall Museum & Library perpetuates Marshall’s legacy through scholarship, Marshall Legacy Series programs and facilities that offer a wide range of resources and materials for use by the general public, amateur historians, scholars and students of all ages.

The Enigma machine was used to encipher and decipher messages. It was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I. The Enigma allowed an operator to type a message, then scramble it using three to five notched rotors. The receiver needed to know the settings of these rotors in order to decipher the coded text. The leaders of the German army during World War II were so confident that the code they developed could not be broken that they sent most messages using Enigma.

Top mathematicians and general problem solvers were recruited by the Allies, and early computers, known as bombes, were built to uncover the Enigma’s secret settings. The initial design of the bombe was produced in 1939 at the UK Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing.

The three-rotor Enigma machine, is located at the George C. Marshall Museum. It is the only one of its type in Virginia.

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German Enigma Machine

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