October 15, 1920 – December 8, 2002
My father, ElmerJ Schlueter USNR (CT1c) (1920-2002), served with the Naval Security Group (Office of Naval Communications) from 1942 to 1952. He was an IBM tabulating machine operator in the GS “IBM machine” section.
Elmer was born in Westphalia Mo., a small rural Germanic town of 350 souls, in Central Missouri. He was raised during in the lean Depression era years. He mowed lawns, did odd jobs, worked with a local trucking company and played a lot of baseball during high school. His father, Ben, was a town barber and his mother, Rose, a homemaker who tended a large garden and raised chickens. During his high school junior year, he enrolled in the summer Civilian Military Training Program (CMTC) at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. The program was designed to give Depression era kids exposure to the military and to keep them productively occupied. It paid one dollar a day. If the participant completed 4 summers he would be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army reserves. Like many of the boys who dropped out of the program, they would end up in the Navy or Coast Guard preferring to sleep on clean sheets in bunks rather than in tents or on the ground!
In 1938 he graduated from Westphalia High School with a class of 10, five girls and five boys. All five boys would serve in WWII with one classmate, Harold Schroeder, losing his life in the skies over Germany. After high school, Elmer got a break getting a good job at the State Social Security Commission at the State Office Building in Jefferson City Mo. He would work with IBM tabulating and statistical machines. In those days, each state administered its own Social Security program. Unknown to my Dad at the time, this break would probably determine his future direction in the US Navy for the next four years.
My Dad would write “In about 1939, I was aware of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. I was 19. There was unrest in Europe and in about 1940 I realized that there would probably be a world war — I was 20 years old. Pearl Harbor was Dec. 7th 1941 and I heard it on the radio on a Sunday afternoon. I knew I would be drafted so decided the Navy would be the better way to go. I enlisted in August 42.” By August 1942 Elmer would have had two years’ experience in the operation of IBM equipment.
Elmer served at the following duty stations during WWII: Stateside he served with OP-20-G at the Navy Department (on Constitution Avenue), Washington D.C. and the Naval Communications Annex NAVSECGRU, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, Washington D.C for two years. In the Pacific he served with the US Seventh Fleet R/B EDUR, Milne Bay, New Guinea; Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne (FRUMEL), Australia; and the Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He returned stateside to Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida and Great Lakes Personnel Separation Center where he was discharged in March 1946. He re-enlisted in the Naval Reserve, St. Louis, Missouri in 1947 after CAPT Wenger’s reserve component was approved in Oct 1946. He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and attended boot camp for two weeks at the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. He would serve at the Naval Security Station (SECSTA) — Arlington Hall assigned to the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), Washington, D.C. Now a married man with a young child, he had accumulated enough overseas points during WWII that allowed him to stay stateside. He said during the Korean War he primarily trained other young sailors to take his place and the place of the other WWII veterans recalled in their section. During his Korean service, he, like a number of his fellow sailors, were offered an opportunity to stay in Washington and work for a “civilian” agency doing similar work (which he declined). Later it was determined that agency was the newly formed National Security Agency or NSA.
By Jim Schlueter