Coast Guard Honors Crime-Busting Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman

Pioneering codebreaker battles smugglers and rumrunners for the U.S. Coast Guard

Elizebeth Friedman, an original member of the NSA/CSS Cryptologic Hall of Honor and known as one of America’s first female cryptanalysts, was recently honored by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Prohibition laws of the 1920s forbade the importation of alcoholic beverages, and the Coast Guard was given the near-impossible task of stopping smuggling along thousands of miles of U.S. coastline. Coast Guard intelligence officials began exploiting communications used by criminal gangs to arrange delivery of their contraband, but found many of the messages were protected by sophisticated encryption systems. In response, they hired Ms. Friedman.

And they did so with good reason, because a few years earlier, during World War I, Ms. Friedman and her husband William had worked closely together to develop many of the principles of modern cryptology and trained American military personnel for wartime service.

During prohibition, Ms. Friedman was a crucial part of the Coast Guard's effort to enforce the ban on liquor. Her efforts helped decode about 12,000 coded messages between the so-called rum runners and smugglers, which resulted in 650 criminal prosecutions.

As part of it's recognition, the Coast Guard announced it will name a Legend-Class National Security Cutter in honor of Ms. Friedman.

For more on Ms. Friedman, visit