Four Questions for Lou Leto
"The best at secure communications gains a great advantage"
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission
Cryptology was a huge part of the World War I effort, yet the story is one that is not widely known. Lou Leto, of DC's National Cryptologic Museum, reached out to us the other day to tell us about the activities that they are planning for the World War I Centennial. These activities include some interesting new exhibits, and fascinating public programs.
The National Cryptologic Museum is a really unique place, and tells a unique story of World War I. Tell us about your mission, your facility, and your World War I-related exhibits.
The National Cryptologic Museum is the National Security Agency’s principal gateway to the public. It shares the Nation's, as well as NSA’s, cryptologic legacy and place in world history. Located adjacent to NSA Headquarters at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland, the museum houses a collection of thousands of artifacts that collectively serve to sustain the history of the cryptologic profession. Here visitors can catch a glimpse of some of the most dramatic moments in the history of American cryptology: the people who devoted their lives to cryptology and national defense, the machines and devices they developed, the techniques they used, and the places where they worked. For the visitor, some events in American and world history will take on a new meaning. For the cryptologic professional, it is an opportunity to absorb the heritage of the profession.
Originally designed to house artifacts from the Agency and to give employees a place to reflect on past successes and failures, the museum quickly developed into a priceless collection of the Nation's cryptologic history. The museum opened to the public in December 1993 and quickly became a highlight of the area.
Being the first and only public museum in the Intelligence Community, the National Cryptologic Museum hosts approximately 70,000 visitors annually from all over the country and around the world, allowing them a peek into the secret world of code making and code breaking.
The museum has been featured in a plethora of international TV, print, and radio media and has hosted visitors and dignitaries from around the world.
The museum houses several exhibits and displays dealing with the cryptologic aspects of World War I. They include the Zimmermann Telegram, the World War I Radio Intercept Site, and the Native American Code Talkers. Each has a unique and important story to tell about America’s role in The Great War. The Zimmermann Telegram exhibit, for example, highlights how a decoded message changed the course of history. The exhibit of the intercept site is important in telling the story of radio communications and interception. Signals could be intercepted without being in close proximity to the transmitter or transmission lines and could provide vital information about enemy tactics and strategy. As World War I was the first time messages could be sent using radio, the U.S. Army Radio Intelligence Section used their newfound capabilities to “spy” on enemy conversation.