A Man of Intelligence by Ian Pfennigwerth
A review by David Morton
A Man Of Intelligence is an excellent book about the life of Captain Eric Nave, an Australian Codebreaker and the basic founder of Australian cypher breaking against the Japanese during World War II. Eric Nave is no James Bond type, but in his own quiet and inimitable way, he saved probably hundreds of thousands of lives on the Allied side, much more than any fictional 007 ever imaginably could. Born in the last year of the 19th Century, Nave became an officer in the fledgling Royal Australian Navy. It was his brilliance and leadership, however, that lead him to a permanent transfer to the more senior Royal Navy, a move that is unheard of, before and since.
Nave was sent to Japan in 1921 to live there for two years to learn the intricate language of this country, mainly because people with foresight saw the upcoming rise of Japanese Imperial power. Upon his return with Japanese fluency under his belt he was guided into cryptography, the technical way of describing code breaking. Within a few years Nave was heading up Australian and British teams to start breaking the Japanese Naval and eventually Army codes. During the coming war, many of his joint decoding efforts were directly used by General MacArthur, assisting him greatly in defeating the Japanese military throughout the islands of the southern archipelago. Many of Captain Nave’s code breaking work is still secret to this day, though later in life he was officially recognized for his ground breaking work. Author Ian Pfennigwerth has done an admirable job piecing together many of the complexities of Captain Nave’s life, and the intricacies of Japanese code breaking. As we remove ourselves more with the passing years from WWII, more here-to-fore unknown heroes such as Captain Eric Nave will be introduced to the public, but for now this Australian-born Royal Navy Codebreaker can inspire us as a fascinating “man of intelligence.”