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Cryptologic Hall of Honor

The Cryptologic Hall of Honor was created in 1999 to pay special tribute to the pioneers and heroes who rendered distinguished service to American cryptology.

The standards are high for induction into this great hall. The individuals honored were innovators over their entire careers or made major contributions to the structure and processes of American cryptology. The men and women who have been inducted to the Cryptologic Hall of Honor are all greats in the once silent world of cryptology.

In the early days of America's cryptologic effort, many of the "giants" did both Signals Intelligence and Information Assurance. They made important contributions to both offensive and defensive cryptology. As such, they were among the first inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor. 

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Lester K. Myers, 2020 Hall of Honor inductee
Lester K. Myers
By | Dec. 15, 2020
About Lester K. Myers, former NSA Senior Language Analyst, mentor, and 2020 Hall of Honor inductee.

Dr. Whitfield Diffie, 2020 Hall of Honor inductee
Dr. Whitfield Diffie
By | Dec. 15, 2020
About Dr. Whitfield Diffie, computer security pioneer and 2020 Hall of Honor inductee.

Barbara A. McNamara, 2020 Hall of Honor inductee
Barbara A. McNamara
By | Dec. 15, 2020
About Barbara A. McNamara, former NSA Executive Assistant to the Director, former NSA representative to the Department of Defense, former Deputy Director NSA, and 2020 Hall of Honor inductee.

Dr. David Kahn, 2020 Hall of Honor inductee
Dr. David Kahn
By | Dec. 15, 2020
About Dr. David Kahn, Journalist, Author, former NSA Scholar-in-Residence, and 2020 Hall of Honor inductee.

George R. Cotter 2020 Hall of Honor inductee
George R. Cotter
By | Dec. 15, 2020
About George R. Cotter, former NSA Chief of Staff, NSA Chief Scientist, and 2020 Hall of Honor inductee.

Laura Holmes

2011 Hall of Honor Inductee

During the 1980s, Laura Holmes served as a career cryptanalyst and supervisor against a series of challenging manual cryptosystems. She also developed considerable expertise in an impressive number of target languages.

Her office analyzed about 100 manual systems from a variety of targets. None of the systems were monoalphabetic; all contained some nontrivial trick that made their analysis especially difficult. In many cases, the problem was marked by small quantities of traffic. Despite these tough obstacles Ms. Holmes, had an unexpectedly high rate of success.

Ms. Holmes also taught cryptanalysis to interns as a pragmatic application of technique and knowledge. She was a master of classic systems, plus modern variants, and conveyed as much target knowledge as her interns could absorb. She demonstrated to interns that knowledge of a nation's military structure, its culture, and current events all contributed to the process of cryptanalysis.

One of her interns described her this way:

From her knowledge of targets' past practices she could relate a supposedly "new" system back to something the target had used in the past - not by looking up the written records but just by tapping into her memory. Patience combined with sheer doggedness was her virtue as a cryppie. She would just "worry" a system to death until she recovered as much as possible, going back to plug newly recovered values into old messages, working back and forth to fill in the blanks-all by hand mind you.

On at least one occasion she was instrumental in re-establishing the ability to work against a long-dormant analytic problem. Her memory for facets of different systems was legendary, and she was meticulous in preserving the knowledge she had gained by analysis.

Her quiet abilities often were the difference between success and failure in cryptanalytic problems of the late 20th century. She also inspired and mentored both her colleagues and budding cryptanalysts to do what seemed beyond the possible. Her legacy as a master of the cryptanalytic craft remains an inspiration to cryptologists today.