Joseph R. Desch

1907 – 1987

Joe Desch led a team from the National Cash Register Company that invented the Bombe, a World War II machine that supplemented the British Enigma Machine in breaking German encoded messages, and helped saved 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 A. Deeds at “the Cash” to head up an electrical research library. Soon after, while operating under high levels of military security, Desch designed a cipher analyzing machine that allowed the U.S. and the British Navy to read encrypted radio messages transmitted by German submarines. 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 highest wartime honor for civilians.

Inducted: 2001