Readers Respond to the March 2021 Issue

Your feedback on our coverage of polar bears, Juanita Moody and the U.S. Capitol Peace Monument

That’s Amore!

In a city that is riotous with people, cars and movement, the margherita pizza is the calm in the storm (“Pie Is a Constant”). Naples is as much of an ingredient as yeast or basil.

—D. Jelks | Louisiana

Arctic Ecology

Polar bears represent a livelihood for the people of Churchill (“The Ice Is Calling”) and they give us an indication of what is happening with our planet. I remember hearing 20 years ago how they were having issues catching seals because of a lack of sea ice and how they would terrorize Churchill looking for food. They took on the mantle of being a nuisance. I believe attitudes have changed.

— Sheila Smith | Covington, Tennessee

Cracking the Code

In “Cuba Confidential,” it is implied that during World War II a machine was custom-built to solve messages sent from Berlin to Tokyo using a “one-time pad.” A one-time pad (random key) produces an absolutely undecipherable message if used properly. The key, which is the length of the message, is used only once. In contrast, the Japanese ambassador to Germany, Hiroshi Oshima, sent encrypted messages from Berlin to Tokyo using the Japanese diplomatic code. This was known as “Purple” to U.S. cryptanalysts and it used a Type B cipher machine. It did not create a random key stream and thus was not a one-time pad generator. The U.S. did build a replica machine and that is presumably the machine the article was referring to.

—Iver Cooper | Arlington, Virginia

Thank you for revealing the significant work of Juanita Moody, the woman whose contributions to the security of our country have finally been brought to light.

—Grace Hershman | Philadelphia

Made in China

As exciting as it was to find a photograph of the exquisite detail of Martha Washington’s dress (“The Secret Garden”), I was disappointed it wasn’t identified as hand-painted Chinese silk. During the 18th century, Chinese silks were prohibited for importation into European countries as competition to their textile industries. Because there was no silk industry in the United States, dozens of examples of hand-painted Chinese silk gowns have survived and can be found in American museum collections.

—Edward Maeder | Greenfield, Massachusetts

Keeping the Peace?

While Admiral Porter’s Peace Monument (“Tragic Figures”) seems artistically confusing, it has become absolutely apropos after the Capitol insurrection. All three faces of the figures have faded. The political bifurcation in the country is now so exacerbated, there is no more dove. Porter’s monument has aged perfectly as a symbol of American peace.

—Enrique Salas-Limon | San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

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This article is a selection from the April issue of Smithsonian magazine