“It was a surprise to me, for no matter what may be said about my organization, it can never be charged that any of us ever played politics, either for promotions or for honors. In fact, we were happy to remain unknown, hidden behind curtains, as long as our work was useful to the United States Government.” (Herbert O. Yardley in, The American Black Chamber, p.322)
Dropping the Façade & Unveiling His Lies
Soon after the release of Herbert O. Yardley's novel, "The American Black Chamber," William F. Friedman and other members of the cryptographic community were quick to express their outrage over what they read. In fact, these cryptographers viewed Yardley's words as a desperate and self-aggrandizing effort to elevate his position within his position, all the while degrading his fellow peers. In his book, Yardley revealed important state secrets, overstated and dramatized his own role in the decipherment of codes in the American Black Chamber, and misconstrued crucial aspects of the cryptographic work done during and after the war.
Intent on calling Yardley out on his life, Friedman and many other members of the cryptographic community congregated to annotate his novel, and call him out on all his lies.
William F. Friedman's notation on Page 40:
MI-8 compiled one code at this time—MI5. Later, it’s true they compiled one more, MI9 and the ‘ideal,’ a small code for M.I agents. MI9 was never used. A small geographic code for France was also compiled but never used.
Significance of Friedman's Marginal Notation:
Although Yardley's exaggeration may appear to be minor and inconsequential, it establishes a precedent for the more significant lies or exaggerations he includes later on in his novel. Furthermore, it demonstrates Friedman's meticulous reading and thorough knowledge of which facts are real, and which are false.
William F. Friedman's notation on Page 250:
The notes by Livesey were made in February, 1935. To Livesey belongs most of the credit which Yardley takes unto himself for the work with J (Japanese) ciphers.
Frederick Livesey's notation on Page 250:
Yardley went to New York inspired by the example of a man who doing no stenographic work himself was chief of a great stenographic bureau. He was given a residence and business office at Gov’t (Government) expense, and a good salary. He was anxious to establish his office job securely by breaking the Japanese code and then give his time building up a private code compiling business, the first job of which was to be the compilation of a code for the Tanners Council. For the first six months he divided his time and interest between his official and his private work
William F. Friedman's notation on Page 365:
I don’t know what this is, but I venture to say it is nothing new or startling. Later note: The above remark is true. Y (Yardley) admits it to be all junk! When I asked him about the story, also in ‘Liberty’ magazine on this same subject and said ‘Yardley, if its all junk, what did you say it for?’ He replies ‘For one thousand dollars’!!
Significance of Friedman's Marginal Notation on Page 365:
By the time this marginal notation arises, the reader has reached the end of the novel and thus, has greater awareness of the lies and deceit Yardley tells. Therefore, when reading about how Yardley mocks the stories he write in his novel, the reader might be annoyed, but remains unsurprised.