CDR Willson’s reputation as an expert in cryptography also shaped his post-war career!

Although detached from the Navy Department for sea duty with the British Grand Fleet in October 1918, he immediately was assigned special temporary duty in connection with Signal Books. Again in 1923, he was brought back to Washington as a member of a panel that evaluated the Hebern Electric Cipher Machine for securing Navy communications. Three ship commands followed in quick succession, followed by a year at the Naval War College and then another ship command, plus two tours on larger ships as executive officer.

During his years at sea, on five occasions Willson served tours in ships named PENNSYLVANIA, including command of that battleship from April 1935 to October 1936. Just prior to reporting for that command, he was awarded $15,000 by Congress in lieu of royalties for his cryptographic invention that had played a critical part in winning World War I. This set a precedent followed in several later Congressional actions providing monetary awards to other U.S. Navy, Army, and civilian cryptologists.

Russell Willson also spent three years, nine months as a member of the U.S. Naval Mission to Brazil, from 1927 to 1930, when he received promotion to Captain. Following command of the battleship PENNSYLVANIA, he gained additional credentials from 1937 to 1939 as the U.S. Naval Attaché and U.S. Naval Attaché for Air at the American Embassy in London. Then he commanded Battleship Division One in Hawaii where he was promoted to Flag rank in May 1939.

From 1932 to 1935 Captain Russell Willson had served as head of the Department of Seamanship and Navigation at the Naval Academy. He revised extensively and expanded and updated the Watch Officer’s Guide, United States Navy published by the U.S. Naval Institute. His contribution was to shorten sections on standing watches and “place more emphasis on ship handling duties and technique, and on safety of personnel and material.” He is credited with authorship of the 1935, 1941, and 1945 editions.

Source: NCVA Echoes of Our Past/Raymond P. Schmidt