Marshall Foundation Begins Legacy Series

The George C. Marshall Foundation will launch its new George C. Marshall Legacy Series in April to interpret General Marshall’s legacy through a multi-year series of events, programs and information centered on key themes, events or episodes from General Marshall’s career and the extensive holdings in the Foundation’s archives.

To kick off the Legacy Series, the Foundation and the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will hold an afternoon program on April 23 to discuss William Friedman, who is considered to be the leading codebreaking pioneer in the United States in the 20th century.

As head codebreaker for the U.S. War Department, Friedman led a team that broke the Japanese diplomatic code known as PURPLE in 1940 during World War II. General Marshall later described the intelligence provided by Friedman and his cryptologists as “contributing greatly to the victory and tremendously to the saving of American lives…and…the early termination of the war.” Col. Friedman continued his work after the war in government signals intelligence and became the head cryptologist of the NSA. Upon his retirement from NSA in 1955, he donated his personal papers to the Marshall Foundation where they have resided since 1969.

With the declassification and release of Friedman’s professional papers on April 23 and their availability through the Marshall Foundation, the Foundation will have the most complete and comprehensive set of Friedman materials as part of one of the most important private collections of cryptologic material worldwide.

“The significance of this additional material, about 50,000 pages, cannot be overstated in terms of the vast amount of information that will be available to researchers and scholars on William Friedman, his wife Elizebeth, who was a stalwart codebreaker in her own right, and the early days of codebreaking beginning in World War I and continuing through World War II,” said Marshall Foundation President Rob Havers. “Our Friedman collections put us at the epicenter of cryptology research,” he added.

During the evening of April 23, Bill Sherman, who is head of research at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the curator of the Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition on “Decoding the Renaissance,” will talk about codes, codebreaking and ciphers. His talk, which will be free to members of the Foundation, titled “From the Cipher Disk to the Enigma Machine: 500 Years of Cryptography,” will be followed by a reception. Current members must show their membership cards on arrival. Non-members will be admitted on a space-available basis after paying an admission fee. Call Leigh McFaddin at 463-7103, ext. 138 to reserve a seat.

A new exhibition on the Friedmans and Codebreaking, “Partners in Code: William and Elizebeth Friedman,” will be open as well.

Foundation members will be invited back on May 20 for a display of and short lecture about the German Enigma machine by Archivist Jeffrey Kozak and a showing of the acclaimed and Oscar-winning movie “The Imitation Game.”

The Marshall Legacy Series promises substantial benefits to many constituencies the Foundation serves including members, children and families, scholars and researchers, historians and history buffs, and museum visitors of all ages.

Because General Marshall’s career touched on nearly every major event of the first half of the 20th Century, the landscape for the Legacy Series is rich and vast. The Foundation staff will access its own resources and collections to create unique activities and events to share with the public. Beginning projects, each lasting about three months, will include Codebreaking, Weapons of War, and Taking Care of the Troops.

The Legacy Series provides an exposition of the key moments in General Marshall’s life through selected documents and artifacts from the Foundation archives, associated articles, audiovisual presentations, unique museum exhibitions and speaker events. The Series will flesh out who he was, what he did, how he did it and why he is still so relevant today. The aim is to make Marshall’s career and achievements more popularly accessible and to move on from the completion of the Marshall Papers that will conclude later this year.