The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) today honored Cryptologist Staff Sergeant Robert Franklin Townsend, USA, for his service in the U.S. Army Security Agency's 10th Radio Research Company during the Vietnam War. Approximately 80 guests, including military leaders and Sgt. Townsend's family members, attended a wreath-laying ceremony and tribute at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.
Every year since 2001, NSA honors cryptologists who died in service to the United States. Individual's names are engraved on NSA/CSS's Cryptologic Memorial Wall, and their stories are declassified and shared with family and loved ones in tribute to their service.
During the ceremony, General Paul M. Nakasone, USA, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service, expressed NSA's gratitude to cryptologists, like Staff Sergeant Robert Townsend, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
Born in 1936 in Royal Oak, Mich., Sgt. Townsend joined the U.S. Army after high school, trained as an infantryman then specialized in cryptologic work. He served in France and Ethiopia before volunteering to serve in Vietnam in 1965.
During October 1965, Sgt. Townsend and his fellow officers provided signals intelligence crucial to the defense of the U.S. Special Forces base at Plei Me against attacks from Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
Afterward, as U.S. 1st Cavalry Division helicopters pursued retreating North Vietnamese forces, Sgt. Townsend's unit warned that the enemy force was possibly much larger than anticipated. The ensuing battle launched the first major confrontation between U.S. and North Vietnamese armies, the battle of Ia Drang.
On November 4, 1965, Sgt. Townsend was killed by an enemy sniper while trying to protect his fellow soldiers. He was survived by his wife, Mary (deceased), and three children, Richard (deceased), Katheryn, and Dan.
Sgt. Townsend's name was engraved on NSA's Cryptologic Memorial Wall during its dedication in 1996. Today, the wall displays the names of 176 Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and civilian cryptologists who have died in service to their country since World War II. To learn more about Sgt. Townsend, please read his profile.