Born in Cambridge Massachusetts, on February 10 1902, Arnold M. Conant was one of the first two enlisted cryptanalyst s in the Navy.
Conant, a PHMIC, was an instructor at the Naval Medical School in Washington, 1933-35. His friend, Ted Felt, was a Chief Yeoman working in BUPERS, who had served with Conant at Guam. Felt was taking a crypto course, and was not doing well with his lessons. Conant began to assist Felt and i n a few’ weeks, LT Harper asked Felt if someone was helping him with the course.
At Harper’s request, Arnold Conant came in to see LT Harper and was enrolled in the crypto course, which he finished in “record time.” Shortly after completion of the course, Conant was invited for an interview with LT Harper and LT Wenger; and consented t o a temporary assignment in OP-20-G, if the assignment could be arranged.
With the reluctant cooperation of the Naval Medical Service; Conant’s transfer and change of rate to Yeoman was approved – but Conant wished to remain in the medical service until after the CPO exams as he was positive he could make Chief. If he changed to YN, would he ever make Chief? LT Wenger agreed to the strategy, and long before the CPO exams, provided Conant with a desk and said, “Get all your hospital corps books together and do nothing but study until the CPHM examination.” Needless to say, Conant made Chief and his rate was changed to Chief Yeoman.
After working on every type of cipher available, Conant and Baxter D. Green (Chief Yeoman) were finally referred to as cryptanalysts; the first two enlisted men to be given that designation. After a transfer to the Navy Yard, Cavite in the Philippines, Conant wrote to E.S.L. Goodwin to inquire’ about civilian employment as a cryptanalyst. Goodwin advised that a civilian job could be created for him, but advised Conant to stay for twenty; and Conant took the advice.
In June 1939, Conant was transferred to Pearl Harbor, to the unit which would become Fleet Radio Unit, Pacific (FRUPAC) and was at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. In September 1942, Conant along with D.G. (Tex) Rorie was appointed Ships Clerk, a new status.
After rather demanding duties in Washington, Conant was appointed Chief Ships Clerk in July 1943, to LTJG in January 1944, to LT(T) in 1945, and earned a “spot” promotion to LCDR in January 1946. In October 1948, Conant was a member of the Communications Technicians Qualifications Advisory Board, along with CDR Jefferson Dennis, and LCDR Ralph Cook, LCDR Freddie Freeman and LT Steve Stalter. This was the board responsible for the new CT rating.
When the consolidation of security services’ was accomplished i n 1950, Conant was ordered to the new Armed Forces Security Agency, (AFSA) but along with other “spot” appointees Neil B. Carson, George P. Taylor, and others, was reduced to the grade of LT. Later in 1951, while on duty in Ottawa as the liaison officer between AFSA and its Canadian counterpart, Conant was again appointed LCDR, not a “spot” this time, but still temporary.
When the so called “hump” developed, Conant and many others lost their (T) status, and would face demotion to the last permanent status. In Conant’s case, this would have been Chief Ship’s Clerk. In view of his already long years of active duty, Conant elected retirement as of 1 April 1953.
From a first class Hospital Corpsman in 1934, through the years until retirement as LCDR, Conant witnessed, and was a part of the change from hand-picked talented individuals, to the beginning of the so called Modern Era of the Naval Security Group.
October 19, 1993, Arnold Mayberry Conant died. He was 91.
The following is a letter from Rear Admiral Joseph Wenger:
27 March 1953
LCDR A.M. Conant, USN
U.S. Naval Security Station
It was with deepest regret that I learned of your coming retirement from active duty after completion of 30 years service.
I recall that in 1935 you were selected by virtue of special interest and qualifications, for duty with a small group engaged in communication research. You accepted this assignment, although it entailed the abandonment of a medical service career in which you had already made considerable progress, and although by its very nature it offered no hope of the usual rewards and recognition that may come in other fields of endeavor.
As one who has been closely associated with that group throughout its existence, I know that you have contributed in no small way to the results that have been achieved. The mere existence of the large organization which has developed from that small group and its proven importance to the Nation constitute recognition of the success of the great enterprise for which you helped lay the foundation. In this you can take the full measure of pride of accomplishment.
Allow me to express on behalf of your many friends and associates our personal appreciation of your invaluable assistance and every good wish for a long happy retirement that you have richly earned.
/s/ J.N. WENGER
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Source: NCVA/CRYPTOLOG: By Graydon Lewis