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NSA Historical Figures

Herman Phynes

In March 1944, Herman Phynes was a subprofessional (SP)-5 cryptanalytic aide returning to government work after brief stints as an insurance salesman and a real estate agent. A Washington, D.C., native, he had a B.A. degree (1941) from Howard University. His earlier government service was as a clerk for the Internal Revenue Service and as a messenger and clerk in the War Department. Dissatisfied with both the pay and levels of responsibility, he left the civil service to seek work more consistent with his academic background.

In his first assignment with the Signal Security Agency, Mr. Phynes worked in the all-black unit exploiting commercial coded messages. In 1946 he replaced William Coffee as assistant O.I.C. (officer in charge). Herman Phynes directed the B-3-b technical element charged with solving encipherments. In February 1947, the practice of having a Caucasian as the nominal head of the Commercial Code unit ended with the appointment of Herman Phynes to the position of O.I.C. He was a P-2 (Professional Level-2) with an annual salary of $3,522.60. Twenty-eight years into the future, Herman Phynes would be a GG-16, army flag officer equivalent, and NSA's first African-American office chief in the Operations Directorate.

Mr. Phynes retired in 1975.