The following short narrative written by Dad that was discovered in his papers shortly after his death and describes what he did during the war in his words:
“I was in the Navy in WWII and was in Naval Communications where we decoded messages in Hawaii, Australia, Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia. August 10, 1942, I reported to the Navy Yard at Anacostia, Md., and then to the Navy Department on Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C. I was vaguely familiar with cryptography and the Communication Division of the Navy. I had worked on IBM machines but had no indication how that could be utilized by the Navy. I was assigned to a “Cryptography School” which was “Top Secret”. I know now that during the early part of WWII the U.S. “broke” the Japanese code’ and enjoyed a secret advantage in the war in the Pacific. However, the Japs had many codes and often changed them. Their cryptographers and ours were engaged in an invisible war!
After my completion of the “school” was “Top Secret” and the that IBM was involved in “cracking the codes” was also “Top Secret.” After a month after I was in the Navy, I found out in a letter from my folks that the FBI was in Westphalia checking on my background. This was primarily due to my German name and my address of Westphalia, named after a German province in Germany! Evidently my U.S. loyalty was not questioned, and I did not hear anything about it.”
The FBI check, unknown to my Dad, was required by all members of the Naval Security Group during the war. Interestingly our surname “Schlueter” in some Germany translations means “keeper of the key”. The word for key, naval cipher or an Enigma machine is “Schluessel” with many derivatives relating to codes and ciphers. I wonder what the FBI thought about that and the fact that my grandmother spoke German! Perhaps that is why he was assigned to work on the Japanese “problem.”
In our home Dad only discussed the Navy in general terms or to discuss barracks life. The phrase a “passion for anonymity” would aptly describe him. Dad would tell you he was stationed in Washington, New Guinea, Australia, or Hawaii and he was quite willing to relate anecdotal comments and incidents; but never anything about his work in the Navy. As a youngster in the 1950s, I asked the usual ‘what did you do in the war daddy?” question of my Dad and he responded “I was just a clerk in the Navy.” A sort of boring answer to a kid so no further questions were forthcoming or warranted on my part. Later my mother said it had to do with codes and code breaking but by that time I respected my Dad’s wish not to discuss whatever it was he did during the war. I now know my siblings and I were raised on a “need to know” basis. It was only after his death, did I get serious about researching his naval service.
My dad left some clues: a photo album, his discharge records, some unidentified award ribbons, foreign currency including Japanese notes; two short-snorters with about 150 signatures, and a short narrative found after his death. These all would be clues in putting together the jigsaw puzzle of his naval service. Later, I would obtain some of his official personnel records from the US Personnel Center and find other naval security records that mentioned my Dad from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. A visit to the Naval Cryptologist Veterans Association NCVA archives and Command Display in Pensacola, Florida in 2005 was particular helpful for additional photos and documents. Their special publications and articles in the CRYPTOLOG were helpful. The staff helped me in the next several years to piece together my Dad’s story.
I was privileged to receive assistance from a number of WWII FRUPAC veterans including the late ADM Mac Showers of the Battle of Midway, Japanese linguist Bill Amos, John Bradbury, and Stan Lichtenstein. I have, also, corresponded with a number of sons and daughters of WWII Security Group veterans. The staff at the NSA National Cryptologic Museum in Ft. Meade, Maryland was very helpful in locating photographs and other documents. Bob Straude, a WWII Navy radioman and submariner, provided helpful information too.
By Jim Schlueter
Leave a Reply