FORT MEADE, Md. –
The National Security Agency celebrated its 67th birthday Monday, November 4 by honoring four cryptologic greats.
These individuals whose contributions to American cryptology placed them among the very best and brightest to ever serve in the once silent world of making and breaking codes.
The honorees, including former Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan (USAF, Ret.) – who, two decades ago, established this tribute to American cryptology pioneers and heroes – were inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor during an afternoon ceremony in front of an audience of more than 300 family members, friends, former colleagues and Enterprise retirees.
“As we recognize the pioneers and heroes whose cryptologic achievements helped to defend our Nation, we also pay tribute to our history as an organization,” said Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service (CSS) during his opening remarks. “We are surrounded by reminders of the innovations and ground-breaking technological advancements that helped our Nation through times of conflict, crisis, and competition.”
Along with Lt. Gen. Minihan, three other cryptologic greats were inducted posthumously: Mr. Edward M. Drake, Chief Radioman Harry Kidder (USN), and Col. Alva Bryan Lasswell (USMC). NSA Historian, Dr. David A. Hatch, detailed their achievements to the audience following Gen. Nakasone’s remarks.
Mr. Kidder secretly taught a select group of radiomen in intercept and traffic analysis during WWII. His contributions “pioneered Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) work and provided essential wartime support.”
Lt. Gen. Minihan served as director of NSA/CSS from 1996-1999. His achievements include transitioning NSA “away from its WWII blueprint” and preparing the Agency “for an era in which cyberspace would become a domain in its own right.” He also introduced NSA “to an outside world needing to understand its purpose and outcomes.”
His efforts included doubling the size of the National Cryptologic Museum and creating the Cryptologic Hall of Honor.
“It was part of capturing our history. What we had not done well is capture the people of our history, so we needed a hall,” Lt. Gen. Minihan reflected. “Now you find this, the [Cryptologic] Hall of Honor, as you come in and you see the pictures on the wall.”
Brothers James and John Lasswell attended on behalf of their late father, Col. Alva Bryan Lasswell, who “coupled cryptanalytic and language skills with analytical insights” to help turn the Pacific war in favor of the United States during WWII.
“As a Marine, he was torn. He really wanted to be on one of those islands in the Pacific, yet his skills that he had trained for over years were all about the Japanese language, the Japanese intellect and what they were thinking, so he was obviously the best [person] for what he did,” James Lasswell said. “Later, when he left the intelligence world, he was unable to talk about what he had done. Going back to the Marines who had been on the islands, [they asked him] ‘where were you?’ I felt for him in that ceremony.”
Added John Lasswell: “It’s of great relief that he gets the recognition that he deserves.”
Mr. Drake was the principal architect of Canadian SIGINT both in wartime and peacetime and the first Canadian to be inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor. In recognition of his SIGINT support to Allied operations during WWII, he received the US Legion of Merit in 1946. Leaders from the Communications Security Establishment, NSA’s counterpart in Canada, also attended Monday’s induction ceremony.
“When I was growing up, we really didn’t know what he did,” said Drake’s grandson, Christopher Yermal. “From the stories I understood about him, he didn’t really want to take a whole lot of credit for what he did. He just did what he did. One thing I heard a lot about was the way he treated people, treated his employees… There was a whole lot of comradery. I think he made a work environment that was very much ahead of his time.”
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