An innovative linguist who was a prime advocate of new ways of exploiting language materials and developed highly-valuable intelligence information at a time when the U.S. lacked other sources.
Juliana Mickwitz was twice a refugee who outwitted her persecutors, a charming and determined woman who learned to drive at the age of 64, and above all, an American patriot.
She was born Juliana Ernestine von Mickwitz in 1889 near Vyborg, Finland. A daughter of the Russian aristocracy, Juliana was tutored at home and learned to speak German, Russian, and English with almost equal fluency.
After the ascent of the Bolsheviks to power in 1919, Ms. Mickwitz escaped Soviet Russia to Poland. Eventually, she became a translator for an American attaché. She survived the Nazi attack and occupation of Poland in September 1939 and departed Warsaw with U.S. officials. She was one of the last to leave and kept the American flag flying even as German soldiers occupied buildings around her.
Ms. Mickwitz worked for U.S. diplomats in Lisbon and came to the United States in 1941, when she worked for the War Department's Military Intelligence Directorate. She joined the Army Security Agency after the war and later the Armed Forces Security Agency, NSA's predecessor. With her native capability in the Russian language, she became an indispensible employee.
She became a prime advocate of new ways of exploiting language materials and developed highly-valuable intelligence information when the U.S. lacked other sources. Beyond that, she explained these innovations in a way that generated her significant resources to the effort.
Recognizing the scarcity of Russian linguists, Ms. Mickwitz took the initiative to teach and give language students direct experience that greatly expanded their capabilities in transcription and translation.
Ms. Mickwitz passed away in August 1976. The high standards and high performance levels of Russian linguists at NSA are her legacy.