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NSA Historical Figures

Cecil J. Phillips

2006 Hall of Honor Inductee

Mr. Cecil J. Phillips attended the University of North Carolina for two years, then, rejected by the Army because of flat feet, was recruited to work for the Signal Security Agency, the Army's cryptologic organization.

Mr. Phillips worked on Japanese codes for about a year, then transferred to a new section working on Soviet diplomatic ciphers. It was his critical finding that enabled the breakthrough in the system now known as VENONA. By 1945, Mr. Phillips headed a section of 50 people working the Soviet problem, all this by the age of 20.

Beginning in 1950, Mr. Phillips became associated with data automation, working with one of the world's earliest computers, Atlas. In the 1960s, Mr. Phillips headed a series of organizations involved in the automation of cryptanalysis and traffic analysis. He was a key member of a group that planned the system to electronically forward raw traffic from field sites to NSA. During the 1970s, Mr. Phillips became chief of the organization that planned acquisition of the next generation of central computers, and was instrumental in pushing a system that would tie computers together into a central network.

Although retired from NSA in 1980, he teamed with Mr. Robert L. Benson of the NSA's Security Organization, in the 1990s, to write the history of VENONA, and gave numerous classified and unclassified lectures on the project. Mr. Phillips passed away in November 1998.