February 19, 1923 – December 2, 2020
Janice Martin Benario was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 19, 1923 and went through the public school system. She wanted to go away for college but ended up attending Goucher University in Baltimore. It was at Goucher where Benario’s wartime experience started. She majored in Latin and minored in History.
Benario was a senior in 1943 and everyone on campus did something to help out with the war. Everyone wanted to do something to help. People realized it was a war that had to be won.
In the fall of Benario’s senior year she was stopped in the hall by an English professor who told her that the navy was offering a course in cryptology at seven women’s colleges. Benario was offered a spot in the course. If she finished it successfully there would be doors opened to work in the war effort. Benario was informed it was a secret program.
There were ten to 12 women in the class and they met once a week for about 15 weeks. Benario recalls working on Fridays and having to lie to people inquiring about it. All of the women finished the course and in the spring the college held a public induction service for any and all women going into the service.
Benario went on active duty in early July 1943. Some were sent to Mt. Holyoke and some were sent to Smith for officer training classes. They studied all types of material. Benario was among one of the first groups of women’s line officers in the navy at the time.
The officer training class must have had 80 to 100 women in it from the seven women’s colleges. About three quarters of the women were cleared to handle top secret material in Washington, DC. They reported to the main navy building in D.C. and received their specific orders. Benario was assigned to OP-20G. Her branch in the office had to do with reading German naval enigma traffic. They had to monitor high level German communiqués that were being sent to u-boats.
Benario’s office was at the Naval Communications annex off of the corner of Massachusetts and Nebraska Street. It was right across the street from American University. Their first day they were indoctrinated and told never to talk or breathe a word about the work they were doing, otherwise they were to be treated and punished as traitors.
Benario kept her mouth shut during the war and especially after the war. Benario’s parents died without knowing what she did during the war. Benario went on active duty in September of 1943. All they knew then was that they received messages in their office as they were decoded. The machine room was underneath their office. They had two translators on duty at all times.
The messages came in strips of letters. They then assembled the German words and translated it. The messages were typed and handed to the senior watch officer. In her office she had people who worked only during the day. Benario was a junior watch officer. They had pins on a giant map of the Atlantic which represented all known German u-boats.
Janice died December 2, 2020 at the age of 97.
19 February 2023 at 15:23
Another dedicated,hard working patriot!Keep them coming!
19 February 2023 at 17:48
I agree with ‘anonymous’: Keep them coming (and)
the more the better (for the USA).
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19 February 2023 at 19:10
God bless all of the women that helped win that 2 ocean war from 1941 to 1945. Bless the women who enlisted & wore the uniform & bless all those women who didn’t wear the uniform. That would be the factory workers, the Rosie The Riveters, the stay at home women who created & maintained those Victory Gardens. We are losing them each & every day. Surely, there is a special place in Heaven for each & every one of them.
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20 February 2023 at 17:36
Great story. I would like to shout out for a couple who did similar work here on the West Coast, at Skaggs Island, just West off the old Mare Island naval base. I knew them as Richard and Francis McDaniels. He was my 9th and 10th grade Science teacher, and she was a housewife and gourmet cook. One day, in class, when we were discussing communications and Apollo 13 (it was April of 1970) and the difficult time they were having, a student asked ‘ Sir, not to be disrespectful, but you are much older than our parents. Were you in World War 2?’ He replied yes, I was a codebreaker, up at Skaggs Island. I worked with many other people. And one of them became my wife. We all believed this. He had some methods of problem solving that we thought were screwball, but they worked. They both were very humble and special people, and were among my mom’s best friends.
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20 February 2023 at 18:44
Wonderful, but far too brief a story. Ms. Benario and the other codebreakers, female and male alike, almost certainly made as large a contribution to the Allied victory in World War II as any single group of people did. These codebreakers saved millions of lives on the Allied side.
May Janice M. Benario rest forever in peace.