Rear Admiral Joseph Numa Wenger
June 7, 1901 – September 21, 1970
Rear Admiral Joseph Numa Wenger, USN (Ret.) died on September 21, 1970 in Jackson, New Hampshire. Interment with full military honors followed on 25 September at Arlington National Cemetery.
Joseph Numa Wenger was born in Patterson, Louisiana, on June, 7 1901. His family shortly thereafter moved to Washington, D.C., where he spent most of his youth. Appointed to the Naval Academy in 1919, he was graduated and commissioned in 1923. Advancing progressively in rank, he was promoted to Captain in 1943 and his nomination to the rank of Rear Admiral was confirmed by the Senate in 1951.
Beginning in 1924, his naval career was largely devoted to varied and challenging assignments in communications and electronics. In 1925, he became Communication Watch Officer on the staff of Commander Battleship Division. In 1931, while assigned to the Bureau of Engineering at the Navy Department, he made certain proposals which were instrumental to the development of radar. There followed a brief assignment to Europe after which he joined the staff of the Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet. He next returned to Washington in 1935 to become a Branch head in the Communications Division of the Navy Department. While there, he devised various cipher devices with a very high degree of cryptographic security which were adopted by the Navy.
With the outbreak of World War Two, his early training and experience in communications and data processing found him assigned as technical director to the naval communications organization. In July 1941, he reported for duty as Deputy Director in the Office of Naval Communications, Navy Department. He remained in this office throughout World War Two and until July 1949.
With the end of the war, Captain Wenger anticipated the loss to the Navy of the talented group of engineers and specialized communicators. By his efforts, several key persons agreed to remain for a time and maintain the continuity of the effort. Another long-term solution was to support the creation of a private corporation, Engineering Research Associates of St. Paul , Minnesota, which helped lay the foundation for the vast computer industry. In the late 1940s, he initiated a computer research project which became the first development that IBM undertook for the United States Government.
During the Korean hostilities, he served as vice director of the National Security Agency. President Eisenhower awarded him the National Security Medal in 1953. In 1956, he was appointed Director of Communications-Electronics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in 1957 he was designated Chairman and U.S. member of the Communications-Electronics Board, Standing Group NATO.
Following a period of hospitalization, he retired in February 1958. Even in retirement, however, he was called to serve as a member of the National Security Agency Scientific Advisory Board, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Syracuse University Research Corporation and C-E-I-R, Inc.
He pursued a keen interest in drawing, etching and watercolor throughout his life, illustrating numerous periodicals and several books in his youth. He held a monumental and startlingly beautiful one-man photographic exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in 1934. He designed his own summer home in Jackson, New Hampshire, upon which he had just started construction when he suddenly died.
Source: NCVA/Echoes of our Past