Pittsburgh World Code II “Codebreaker” turns 100 years outdated

Julia Parsons raised her hand when someone asked her college class who spoke German – from there she made history as a puzzle-code breaker in World War II. Lindsay Ward from KDKA spoke to the veteran, who is close to his 100th birthday

Video transcript

– – In a few days, a woman from Forest Hills will celebrate an important milestone. It will reach the mark of the century. While Julia Parsons devoted most of her life to her family, she made an invaluable contribution as a code breaker during World War II. Lindsay Ward has her story.


LINDSAY WARD: It was a remarkable time in our history. The second world war, which lasted four years, was also the beginning of a new wave. A wave in which Julia Parsons was involved.

JULIA PARSONS: I had a fantastic job and such an interesting time in my life. It was just very nice.

LINDSAY WARD: During his studies, Parsons volunteered for Navy WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. It was her time there that eventually led her to join a select group of women.

JULIA PARSONS: Someone came in and said, can anyone speak German? And I raised my hand because I had two years of German in high school.

LINDSAY WARD: Parsons said she was the only one who raised her hand, but it was this moment that would change her life forever. She became an Enigma code breaker and helped uncover the location of German submarines.

JULIA PARSONS: We knew we had to keep it a secret. But the Germans had no idea that the Allies had the Enigma machine.

LINDSAY WARD: It was during this time that she met her husband, who was in the army, and they eventually returned to Pittsburgh.

Now, years later, Parsons is happy to share her stories that were once closely guarded secrets. She also got involved with the Veterans Breakfast Club. To celebrate their 100th birthday, the nonprofit is holding a parade near their home in Forest Hills on Tuesday. It’s an age she’s still working to accept it.

JULIA PARSONS: The first card I opened was one of those automatic 100s. And I went, 100? What’s this? And I realized that this was a card for my birthday for a 100 year old.

LINDSAY WARD: Local first responders and soldiers will lead the parade at noon. Everyone is invited to participate. Lindsay Ward, KDKA News.

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