Press Release | Dec. 3, 2008

NSA/CSS National Cryptologic Museum Dedicates The Magic of PURPLE Exhibit

FORT MEADE, Md.  –  

Today, Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service dedicated the PURPLE exhibit at the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) located in Ft. Meade, Maryland. Immediately after the dedication the Center for Cryptologic History (CCH) presented a 90-minute history seminar entitled "Pearl Harbor: Case Closed?" in the NCM's MAGIC Room.

PURPLE was the second of two Japanese diplomatic machine-generated cipher systems broken by the U.S. Signals Intelligence Service (SIS). In 1935, the SIS successfully broke Japan's machine produced RED system. In 1938; however, Japan began using a more complex and challenging system that the SIS referred to as PURPLE. In time, through a combination of hard work and effort, the SIS team met with success. The secret diplomatic communications of the Japanese Empire, hidden behind the PURPLE ciphers, were now open to the Americans. These decrypted messages, marked "Top Secret MAGIC," gave senior American decision makers insight into the thinking and policy of Japanese government officials in the days and months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. However while the information contained in MAGIC gave select US and military leaders insight into future Japanese intentions on a broad level there was no specific information in MAGIC that would have enabled America to predict the attack.

In addition to the unveiling of the exhibit the Center for Cryptologic History hosted a seminar and panel discussion on the topic of "Pearl Harbor: Case Closed?" The event explored the continuing controversies surrounding the 7 December 1941 attack through the views and opinions of several noted historians to include Dr. David Kahn, Mr. Robert Hanyok, Dr. John Ferris and Mr. Stephen Budiansky. In addition, the seminar provided a unique opportunity to present the CCH's newest publication, Mr. Robert Hanyok's West Wind Clear: Cryptology and the Winds Message Controversy- A Documentary History. Dr. David Hatch of the CCH moderated the event, which included a general discussion of topic followed by a Q&A session.

For more information about the dedication and seminar please contact the Public and Media Affairs Office via e-mail at or by phone 310-688-6524.

NOTE: Media outlets interested in receiving photographs from the ceremony or additional information should contact the NSA Public and Media Affairs Office at the number above.