On September 5, 1920, James F. Bradley Jr. was born. At the age of 25 he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1945 and served on active duty until 1974.
During World War II, he commanded an LST (landing ship, tank) in the amphibious operations at Okinawa and in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He served as executive officer of an attack transport in Vietnamese waters during the war in Southeast Asia. Other assignments included tours as submarine division commander and assistant naval attache in Germany.
He also spent a substantial part of his Navy career in intelligence. In 1966, he was undersea warfare director in the Office of Naval Intelligence when he had an idea that resulted in one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.
In the best-selling book “Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage,” Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew told how CAPT Bradley was at his office in Naval Intelligence one day at 3 a.m. when the St. Louis native began reflecting on his boyhood life on the Mississippi River. As he later told the authors, he recalled that the river beach was dotted with signs warning, “Cable Crossing — Do Not Anchor,” so a boater would not foul the cable.
At that point, he wondered if the Soviets had similar signs along their Arctic coasts to prevent their critical cables, including those used by the KGB and the Soviet Northern Fleet, from being damaged.
As a result of these ponderings, in 1971 the American submarine Halibut, with its periscope up, slowly and secretly traced the Siberian coast looking for telltale warning signs. The cable signs were found, and American divers put a tap at the bottom of the Sea of Okhotsk on Soviet communications.
A torrent of Soviet communications was intercepted until 1980, when the secret operation was betrayed by Ronald Pelton, an American who sold the information to the Soviets.
CAPT Bradley’s Navy decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal and two awards of the Legion of Merit. In 1994, he was elected president of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1945.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Peggy Rundlett Bradley of Arlington; two daughters, Rickcord Bradley Gibbons of Heidelberg, Germany, and Gayle Bradley Palmer of Arlington; three grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Mrs. Bradley died on July 7, 2016.
On March 1, 2002, CAPT Bradley died at the Arleigh Burke Pavilion in McLean from complications of a heart attack. He was 81 years old.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, divers from the specially-equipped submarine, USS Halibut (SSN 587), left their decompression chamber to start a bold and dangerous mission, code named “Ivy Bells“. These missions were directly attributed to CAPT Bradley’s reflecting during his boyhood life on the Mississippi River. The USS Halibut is the featured image.