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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.

Meredith Gardner

2004 Hall of Honor Inductee

Originally from Texas, Meredith Gardner was teaching German at the University of Akron when the U.S. Army's Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) hired him as a linguist in 1942. He quickly switched from the German to the Japanese problem, having learned Japanese in only three months. After World War II, this talented linguist learned Russian and moved to the Soviet problem. In 1946, he began working on VENONA.

VENONA was the final in a series of cover names for the project to exploit the cryptosystems used to protect Soviet diplomatic and spy communications. The messages were encrypted using a complicated numeric code that was then super-enciphered by adding a numeric key stream from a one-time pad to the code. Prior to 1943, the system was believed unbreakable and thus not worth the cryptanalytic effort. However, it was decided that VENONA was worth revisiting and in February 1943, a team was assembled to study the traffic.

Mr. Gardner proved instrumental in breaking the underlying code and led the efforts to reconstruct the codebooks. By identifying the "spell" and "end spell" indicators, Meredith Gardner was able to recover the portion of the codebook used for spelling English names and phrases in a message. He continued to build on his success, recovering more and more code groups. The first message was broken in February 1946. The value of his work was clearly demonstrated in July 1946, when he decoded a message containing encryption procedures for Soviet spies in Mexico.

Mr. Gardner decided that merely decrypting VENONA messages was not enough if the decrypts could not be put to good use. He sent a memo, "Special Report #1," to a small number of Army Security Agency (ASA) seniors in the summer of 1947, describing what sort of intelligence VENONA could provide. He also included samples of the material being recovered. Mr. Gardner's report helped the Army's leadership to recognize the value of VENONA, leading to cooperation between the ASA (later NSA) and the FBI in the identification of Soviet agents working in the United States.

Meredith Gardner returned to the VENONA project in the mid-1950s, where he worked until he retired in 1972. He died in August 2002.