Joseph R. Desch

5/23/1907 - 8/3/1987

Inducted 2001


Joseph R. Desch led a team from National Cash Register that invented the Bombe, a World War II machine that supplemented the British Enigma machine in breaking Germany’s encoded messages and helped save hundreds of Allied and American lives. After graduating from the University of Dayton with a degree in electrical engineering and teaching himself glass tube blowing, he was hired by Edward Deeds at “the Cash” to head up an electrical research library. Soon after, while operating under high levels of military security Joseph Desch designed a cipher analyzing machine that allowed the U. S. and British Naviesto read encrypted radio messages transmitted by German submarines. The messages revealed the locations of the submarines, allowing them to be destroyed before they could attack Allied ships. For his work, Desch was awarded the Congressional Medal of Merit, the nation’s highest war-time honor for civilians.