/ul"treuh/, adj.
1. going beyond what is usual or ordinary; excessive; extreme.
2. an extremist, as in politics, religion, fashion, etc.
3. (cap.) Mil. the British code name for intelligence gathered by decrypting German wireless communications enciphered on the Enigma machine during World War II.
[independent use of ULTRA-, or shortening of words prefixed with it]

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Allied intelligence system that, in tapping the very highest-level communications among the armed forces of Germany and Japan, contributed to the Allied victory in World War II. In the early 1930s Polish cryptographers first broke the code of Germany's cipher machine Enigma.

In 1939 they turned their information over to the Allies, and Britain established the Ultra project at Bletchley Park to intercept and decipher Enigma messages. The Japanese also had a modified version of the Enigma, known as "Purple" by the Americans, who were able to duplicate it well before Pearl Harbor. The intercept of signals helped Allied forces win the Battle of Britain and the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway and led to the destruction of a large part of the German forces following the Allied landing in Normandy.

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▪ Allied intelligence project
      Allied intelligence project that, in tapping the very highest level of communications among the German armed forces, as well as (after 1941) those of the Japanese armed forces, contributed to the Allied victory in World War II.

      In the early 1930s Polish cryptographers (cryptology) first broke the code of Germany's cipher machine Enigma. They were led by mathematician Marian Rejewski and assisted by material provided to them by agents of French intelligence. For much of the decade, the Poles were able to decipher their neighbour's radio traffic, but in 1939, faced with possible invasion and difficulties decoding messages because of changes in Enigma's operating procedures, they turned their information over to the Allies. Early in 1939 Britain's secret service set up the Ultra project at Bletchley Park, 50 miles (80 km) north of London, for the purpose of intercepting the Enigma signals, deciphering the messages, and controlling the distribution of the resultant secret information. Strict rules were established to restrict the number of people who knew about the existence of the Ultra information and to ensure that no actions would alert the Axis powers that the Allies possessed knowledge of their plans.

      The incoming signals from the German war machine (more than 2,000 daily at the war's height) were of the highest level, even from Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf) himself. Such information enabled the Allies to build an accurate picture of enemy plans and orders of battle, forming the basis of war plans both strategic and tactical. Ultra intercepts of signals helped the Royal Air Force to win the Battle of Britain (Britain, Battle of). Intercepted signals between Hitler and General Günther von Kluge (Kluge, Günther von) led to the destruction of a large part of the German forces in Normandy (Normandy Invasion) in 1944 after the Allied landing.

      In the Pacific the Germans had supplied their Japanese ally with an Enigma machine as early as 1937; the modified Japanese version, called “Purple” by the Americans, was duplicated by the U.S. Signal Intelligence Service well before the Pearl Harbor attack. Resultant revelations of Japanese plans led to U.S. naval victories in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, crushing the offensive power of the Japanese fleet, and enabled American flyers to find and shoot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, the Japanese commander in the Pacific.

      For 29 years after the war, the existence of Ultra remained an official British secret. The ban was not lifted until 1974, the year that a key participant in the Ultra project, Frederick William Winterbotham (Winterbotham, Frederick William), published The Ultra Secret.

Additional Reading
David Kahn, The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing (1973; rev. ed, 1996); Ronald Lewin, Ultra Goes to War (1978); Peter Calvocoressi, Top Secret Ultra (1980); David Khan, Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939–1943 (1992); F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp (eds.), Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park (1994).

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Universalium. 2010.

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