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NSA Historical Figures

Col Alva Bryan Lasswell, USMC

2019 Hall of Honor Inductee

1stLt Alva Bryan Lasswell, USMC, commanded a Navy-Marine Corps pioneer covert signals collection unit in China in the 1930s. The intercept was both of national interest and crucial to Americans in the region in a time of crisis. 

Lasswell was then assigned to Station HYPO, Hawaii. He was one of only two at HYPO who were cryptolinguists, and became the “go to” person for analysis and language work.  He assumed the senior role in quality control in both cryptanalysis and translation after 1942. 

Lasswell’s analysis helped shape Navy decisions in the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942, and he was part of a team that uncovered Japan’s next major target, Midway Island. He had a large part in decrypting and translating enemy battle plans, a key factor in the stunning US victory at Midway, which changed the war. Lasswell processed Admiral Yamamoto’s flight plan for a frontline tour in 1943. The subsequent US ambush of Yamamoto, based on this decrypt, was a significant loss for Japan. 

Col Alva “Red” Lasswell coupled cryptanalytic and language skills with analytical insights that were decisive in turning the Pacific war in favor of the United States. His actions influenced strategic decisions that helped shorten the war and save countless lives.