Compiled by Jim Schlueter and Deb Hogan Smith

Commander Harold Olmstead Hogan’s naval career began as an enlisted man in World War I. As a result of his contributions and hard work during both wars, he rose rapidly through the ranks. Most significantly, he would serve in the rank of Commander in the Office of Naval Communications, Communications Security Section (OP-20-G) during the entire Second World War. He was Officer in Charge of the GS Machine Section of the code and cipher unit in Washington, DC, targeting both Japanese and German military naval codes. Despite his formidable accomplishments, and all that has been written about naval communications during the Second World War, Hogan has remained in relative obscurity. No official Naval Security Group biography of Hogan appears to exist. Nor does his name or photo appear in any of NSG recent histories. Like many working in communications intelligence, he left less of a record of his activities due to his involvement in such secret activities.

Hogan was a man ideally positioned for the job at hand with the necessary naval experience and temperament in understanding the complexity of naval radio communications and radio engineering and codebreaking — as his well-documented family genealogy would attest: “Following a family tradition of military commitment, Commander Harold Olmstead Hogan served his country from 1917 to 1949. He was the grandson of Corporal Frederick Sweet Olmstead of Fairfield Co., Connecticut who fought in the Civil War from Sept. 1862 to Aug. 1863. Corporal Olmstead was part of a regiment captured near Brashear City Louisiana in June of 1863 and held in captivity for nearly two months with little food, clothing or medical attention. As a result, injuries he sustained left him debilitated throughout the rest of his life.”

Cmdr. Hogan’s great- great-grandfather, Ebenezer Olmstead, also fought for freedom during the Revolutionary War, 1775-1777. He served as part of four different Connecticut companies and rose to Ensign and Second Lieutenant, while in 2d Company, 5th Connecticut, under Colonel John Sullivan, (January-December 1777); at Long Island, Harlem Plains, White Plains, and Fort Washington. It was no surprise Hogan followed the lead of the Olmstead men when duty called in April of 1917. 

Hogan was born May 2, 1894 in New York to Henry (“Harry”) B. Burckhardt and Minnie F. Olmstead, daughter of Corporal F.S. Olmstead. Early years of his life were spent at the Burckhardt home in Chicago, IL. However, by 1906, for unknown reasons Harry and Minnie parted ways. Minnie and Harold relocated to New York City where she later married Richard Hogan, who raised young Harold as his own. Richard Hogan’s impact was profound, as throughout his life Harold referred to him as his “father.”

In 1914-1915 Harold O. Hogan relocated to Baltimore Maryland and was admitted to Lehigh University of South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. During his time at Lehigh, Hogan studied Electrical Engineering, and joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, Electrical Engineering Society, and the Rifle Club. Like so many others, Hogan was called to serve during his final years at university, but it was this engineering training that would prove vital during his World War II military service.

USS Missouri (BB-11) Lying at anchor in 1912.

In World War I, he served as a radio electrician aboard the USS MISSOURI (BB-11) on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., minesweepers USS KENNETH L McNEAL (AM-4) and the USS SWALLOW (AM-4) along the coast of France.  According to Vice Admiral Henry B. Wilson’s account of the operations of the American Navy in France during the War with Germany, “The German navy planted more than 43,000 mines in the shipping lanes around Great Britain and France during the course of World War I, successfully sinking more than 500 merchant vessels and 400 Allied warships. The US Navy took the lead in clearing the dangerous explosives, a challenge which has gone largely unheralded.” Hogan also had shore assignments at US Naval Base No. 19 at L’Orient, France and Naval Base Hampton Roads in Virginia. As an electrician (radio), he quickly rose through the enlisted ranks and was promoted to ensign in September 1918. He was awarded the Serbian Order of St. Sava, by the Government of Serbia as token of good will.

Photo: USS Kenneth L. McNeal (SP-333) off coast of L’Orient, France, circa 1918. She has the numeral “1” painted on her bow. At the time this photograph was taken, this ship’s name had been formally shortened to McNeal. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2011. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Following the conclusion of World War I, Hogan returned to Baltimore and at the age of 26, and on 19 October 1920 married Jean Ingelow Hamilton, the youngest daughter of James S. and Eva Albers Barnitz Hamilton of the Mt. Washington area. They lived for a short time in Baltimore, sharing a South Avenue home with his mother, then moved to Philadelphia, where son Harold O. Hogan, Jr. was born in May, 1926.

Photo: Celebrating the return of the Atlantic Fleet Mine-Sweeping Detachment return to U.S. on 24 November 1919, and being reviewed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. Ships identifiable here include: USS Woodcock (AM-14), USS SC-164, USS Eider (AM-17), USS SC-40, USS Swallow (AM-4), USS Teal (AM-23); Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 45238.