10 December 2000.
Frank Rowlett was an early, highly accomplished NSA cryptographer. The Codebreakers, by David Kahn, is a premier history of cryptography.
From: "Frank Fugate" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "Rowlett, Tom" <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2000 00:55:14 -0600
Someone gave me your website address http://jya.com/nsa-rowlett.htm without comment because that person knew I was related to Frank B. Rowlett. He is my Uncle. I dont know anything about JYA or its intended purpose. When I did get around to reviewing the Frank Rowlett page, I was disturbed to see this comment at end of the page:
JYA: David Kahn has tart remarks in The Codebreakers about how Friedman, and to a far lesser extent, Rowlett, got national awards for work done by others, through "well-situated friends, picayune mechanical differences, and a great but totally irrelevant record." (page 392)
This comment as presented here is completely out of context and disrespectful of a great American. Doesn't it seem strange that Frank Rowlett was only mentioned very briefly four times in this so-called comprehensive history of secret communications when he was a pioneer in modern machine cryptography. One of those four times was an innocuous footnote on page 392 which included him in this slanderous inference which JYA felt necessary to be highlighted on your website.
This is the reason, as related to me by my Uncle, at the time The Codebreakers was first published. When Khan was doing the research for his book he called my Uncle several times trying to get an interview. My Uncle declined on the basis he was still under security restrictions. He could not tell him anything about his career. Khan persisted and even said he would write my Uncle out of his book if he didn't give him an interview. My Uncle told Khan in so many words, do whatever you have to do, but you are not going to get an interview. I can only speculate why Khan persisted. My guess is Khan felt if he got his foot in the door he could get my Uncle to talk. He certainly knew from information he had gathered that my Uncle was a key player and could add much credence to his book if he could get him to talk.
Over the years, after my Uncles retirement, Khan and my Uncle did have several conversations. As more information became public the dialogue could be expanded in their conversations.
My Uncle also began writing his memoirs. He could not get NSA to clear the first chapters for publication. In 1994, NSA cleared what he had written. He was then 86, and the desire to complete the rest of his book had waned. In 1997, his son, Tom Rowlett, took the initiative and working with his father arranged to have the incomplete memoirs published. David Khan read the manuscript. He offered and did write an epilogue for the book. Frank Rowlett died June 29, 1998, at age 90. THE STORY OF MAGIC Memoirs of An American Cryptologic Pioneer, was finally published September, 1998.
In his epilogue, David Khan said:
I hope that this may give readers at least a glimmering of the significance of the work of a man whose contributions saved perhaps thousands of lives. I pray that some day Frank Rowlett will get the full history he deserves.
... the Japanese PURPLE machine was electromechanical, and in a way Frank Rowlett was destined from his youth to be the man to lead the solution.
Contrary to what David Khan said on page 392 of The Codebreakers, he says in his epilogue:
Rowlett did not consider his successes in cryptanalysis his major contribution. He believes it is codemaking. . . . It is more important, he said, to keep your own secrets than to obtain those of the enemy. Thus, he feels that his invention of the SIGABA . . . was his most important work in cryptology. During the war neither German nor Japanese nor Italian cryptanalysts ever solved a message encrypted by using the SIGABA. The Germans may have given him their greatest accolade when they wrote, in the war diary of the codebreakers of Army Group C, that, because statistical tests showed that no breaks were possible, they had decided to stop even intercepting U. S. Army five-letter (SIGABA) messages. Congress recognized Rowletts contribution when it awarded him $100,000 for his cryptologic inventions.
Frank Rowletts son, Tom, was present when Kahn and his father talked while Kahn was writing the epilogue for THE STORY OF MAGIC. At the conclusion, Kahn stood as tall as he could. He saluted Frank Rowlett and in essence said, "Mr. Rowlett, I want to personally thank you for the Jewish and American lives you saved because of the cryptologic contributions you made to the WWII Allied effort." Kahn then told his father that he was Jewish.
Another time at National Security Agency, Kahn told Tom Rowlett that after he had read the manuscript for THE STORY OF MAGIC he would have to re-write most of his book The Codebreakers so that it would be correct. I would say it is rather obvious that David Khan does not feel today that Rowlett, got national awards for work done by others, through well-situated friends, picayune mechanical differences, and a great but totally irrelevant record. as he did when he first wrote The Codebreakers. For this reason, I ask you to withdraw - or clarify - what is now known to be an incorrect statement highlighted on your website.
If you want to verify what David Khan said in his epilogue, I suggest you read THE STORY OF MAGIC Memoirs of An American Cryptologic Pioneer by Frank Rowlett, which is available at Amazon.com.
With kind regards,
Austin, TX 78747
cc: Thomas Rowlett
Dear Mr. Fugate,
It was most informative to read your message. We would like help correct David Kahn's initial mistaken comments by publishing your letter if you will grant permission.
We are well are aware that there are innumerable stories not yet published of the highest patriotism and dedication due to security restrictions -- especially concerning cryptology -- and we would very much like to see these invaluable contributions receive their due.
I look forward to reading "The Story of Magic" and I appreciate your pointing to it.
Best regards to you and Mr. Tom Rowlett,