Books: Ne Plus Ultra

THE ULTRA SECRET by F.W. WINTERBOTHAM 199 pages. Harper & Row. $8.95.

What if? is history's forever teasing and unanswerable question. What if Marshal Ney's troops had not sat eating lunch before Waterloo while the Duke of Wellington retreated to safety? Etcetera. To all such historic posers must now be added questions raised by a retired British group captain named Frederick Winterbotham. What if a Pole working in a German factory had not defected to the Allies in 1938, bringing with him the first construction details of the Nazis' coding machine, called Enigma? And what if British cryptographers had not eventually...

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