August 24, 2018
On October 1942, a professor at a women’s college in Baltimore asked a young student to step into her office.
“(The professor) closed the door, stood with her back against it…and said, ‘I’m going to invite you into a class given by the Navy…and don’t you dare mention it outside of this room, because, this being wartime, it would be considered treason,’” recalled Janice M. Benario, 95, on a recent morning, lounging in her living room at a Decatur retirement community.
Benario said she did as the professor asked; she kept quiet. As was advertised at the time on World War II-era posters: “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”
Allied ships in the Atlantic were falling prey to German U-boat torpedoes, and little did Benario know at the time, she’d very soon be working as part of the Navy’s Enigma code-breaking team that would contribute to the Allied victory in Europe.
Benario, a Baltimore native who has been living in Atlanta since 1960, was one of four from Goucher College selected and accepted into the Navy program. Benario said the college was one of seven women’s learning institutions in the country the Navy had selected candidates from to study cryptology, the art of writing and breaking codes.