John T. Korn enlisted in the navy in October 1947 and attended basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois. After completing basic training, he transferred to the Naval Communication Station at 3801 Nebraska Avenue, Washington, DC, where he started his Naval Security Group career.
Korn remained at the Naval Communication Station from January of 1948 until June of 1949, waiting for the final adjudication of his security clearance and receiving basic communications technician training. Interestingly, the training he received was held under the instruction of Commander John Q. Adams, a direct descendent of President Quincy Adams.
Following training, he transferred to Arlington Hall Station where he conducted communication intelligence operations in support of the Armed Forces Security Agency. In March 1951, Korn transferred to the Communication Unit 35 in Yokosuka, Japan. In December 1952, Yokosuka operations were relocated to NSGA Kami Seya and in May 1953, Korn transferred to NSGA Kami Seya. Following his tour in NSGA Kami Seya, Korn reported for duty at the Naval Communications Station (NCS) Wahiawa.
First DIRSUP Trip
In late 1953, Korn, along with a Direct Support (DIRSUP) team, received TAD orders to USS KEARSAGE (CVA 33) for a WestPac deployment. In early 1954 while on deployment, the DIRSUP team cross-deck to the USS BOXER (CVA 21) and then to the USS ESSEX (CVA 9). It was especially noteworthy for the team while serving on the ESSEX, as they were the first cryptologic team to deploy off the coast of Vietnam during the French Indochina War. At the time, the French were losing their last battle at Diem Bien Phu. Later in Korn’s Naval Security Group career, he will return to Southeast Asia.
Following this historic deployment, Korn returned to Wahiawa and then in March 1955 he again received TAD orders to NSGA Shu Lin Kao, Taiwan, Republic of China, where he became a plank owner, serving in the Navy detachment alongside the 327th Communication Reconnaissance Company.
After returning to NCS Wahiawa, Korn transferred to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland to receive training and a new project from October 1955 to March 1956. Following his stint in the Washington DC area, Korn reported into NSGA Bremerhaven, Germany and served there from May 1956 through June 1957.
Second DIRSUP Trip
After his time in Germany, he reported to USS SALEM (CA 139), fleet flagship for Command Sixth Fleet and to the USS DES MOINES (CA 134) when she relieved the SALEM. In November 1958 he disembarked the DES MOINES and in January 1959 reported for duty at NSA Fort Meade leaving in September 1961, reporting to USNS JOSE F. VALDEZ (T-AG-169) in Hoboken, New Jersey, again as a plank owner. Following a year on JOSE F. VALDEZ, Korn reported for duty at RAF Edzell, Scotland. In October 1962, while serving at Edzell, Korn was selected to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island and commissioned an Ensign following OCS.
Commissioned Officer and Third DIRSUP Trip
From January through March 1964, Korn received orders to NCTC Corry Station, Pensacola to attend training. Following training, he reported to NSGA Fort Meade and was assigned to the DIRSUP division. In June 1964, he received TAD orders to the Icebreaker USS BURTON ISLAND (AGB 1) for Arctic deployment. The Navy Security Group equipment installation was conducted under the supervision of LT Dan Lynch and “M” branchers from NSGA Marietta, Washington. The BURTON ISLAND departed Seattle, with Korn and the DIRSUP team onboard and the ship sailed north to Kodiak, Alaska. While in Kodiak, a series of briefs were held that included weather and ice conditions the vessel would likely encounter, as well as possible Soviet overflights reactions and possible sightings of Soviet naval or merchant vessels.
Royal Blue Noses
From Kodiak the BURTON ISLAND sailed along the Aleutian chain, refueling in Dutch Harbor. With refueling completed, the vessel sailed north, past the Pribilof Islands, Saint Lawrence, the Diiomedes and through the Bering Straits, crossing the Arctic Circle on July 13 at Longitude 169 degrees, W. At this time Korn and the ship’s crew participated in the Navy tradition and was certified and carded as “Royal Blue Noses.” Two days later the ship crossed the 180th Meridian and was affirmed and reaffirmed into the “Ancient and Sacred Order of the Golden Dragon.”
After entering the Chukchi Sea, the BURTON ISLAND encountered their first over flight by Soviet aircraft, a lumbering old transport. The aircraft circled overhead for several minutes, probably at an altitude of about 1,000 feet before departing. Proceeding in a westerly direction and south of Wrangel Island, the BURTON ISLAND began to enter the ice fields. During this deployment, Korn observed the transfer of Soviet new contraction combatant ships transferring from the Soviet North Sea Fleet to the Soviet Pacific Sea Fleet. In late September or early October, the BURTON ISLAND started the turn trip to Kodiak. After a few days in Kodiak, the ship returned to Seattle where Korn and the DIRSUP team disembarked and returned to NSGA Ft Meade.
In June 1965, Korn, once again received TAD orders to the submarine rescue ship, USS Tringa (ASR 16) returning to NSGA Ft. Meade in September. Between 1966 and 1968, Korn served at Government Communication Head Quarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, England.
Back to the Pacific and Operation Brave Armada
Korn then transferred to NCS Guam and while there in 1969, he received TAD orders to Commander Amphibious Ready Group BRAVO (CTG 76.5)/Commander Amphibious Squadron ELEVEN and embarked in USS VALLEY FORGE (LPH 8) as part of Communication Security (COMSEC) Team 2 and then to USS CLEVELAND (LPD 7).
Between July 24 and August 7, 1969 the VALLEY FORGE participated in Operation Brave Armada. The operation was an airborne assault led by the Marine Special Landing Force (SLF) of the 26th Division. The assault took place against suspected Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in an area 15 miles south of Chu Lai in the Quang Ngai Province. During the operation no significant communications were noted.
The assignment involved constant monitoring of Navy/Marine radio circuits in order to provide the ARG commander with up-to-date evaluations of the essential elements of friendly information (EEFI). Ships operating in the area were given high marks in regards to COMSEC. Noted were minor violations with the helicopters operating from the VALLEY FORGE. When these were highlighted at the daily briefs, they were quickly corrected. After a short time, the DIRSUP team returned to the VALLEY FORGE to operate in the water around Danang, Viet Nam.
The Admiral Asked the Question
After returning to Danang, Korn received a message directing him to report the following morning to meet with Admiral Edwin M. Rosenberg (1919-1982), CTF (Commander Task Force 76) embarked in USS MOUNT MCKINLEY (AGC 7). The message contained no specific details. When Korn reported to the flight deck the next morning it was reported that the helicopter was still on the MCKINLEY’s deck. Eventually Korn arrived on MOUNT MCKINLEY, greeted by the Flag Secretary, and instructed that the Admiral would like to see him at 1300. This was a mystery.
Admiral Rosenberg shook Korn’s hand and thanked him for the important results the DIRSUP team had achieved. After a short discussion, the Admiral asked Korn if there was anything he could do for the team. Korn promptly said the team cross-decked from ship to ship with the occasional port call to Subic and the VALLEY FORGE is scheduled for port visit to Hong Kong. It would be very much appreciated if the team could go there for some rest and relaxation. The request was granted! As Korn was departing the meeting, the Admiral once again thanked him for the great job.
After deploying in the waters of Southeast Asia, John T. Korn returned to Guam and in 1970 retired after 23 years service.
When asked about his service in the Navy and in the Naval Security Group, Korn said, “Thinking back to my first visit to the waters off of French IndoChina (Vietnam) in 1954 and my return in 1969 this meeting stands out as the most memorable.” He continued, “Looking back I would say I had one really great career, the friends I made, and the places I have been. The experiences could not be purchased at any price.
As I now approach my 93rd birthday I consider myself one very lucky, blessed individual. The Good Lord has certainly smiled one me. I hope this gives you a little insight about yours truly and his career. Warm regards, John”
Thank you for your service shipmate and happy birthday.