Shipmate Column
March 2019

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
164 Sweetwater Lane, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
h: 828-506-2201  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        Although only a month has passed since my last report, I have a variety of interesting news to share with you. First, though, we note the loss of three members of the Class of 1963 family.

        Our classmate Stephen D. Guthrie passed away on 10 December. His stepson, Garry Shelton, can be contacted at P.O. Box 93, Erwin, TN 37650-0093.

        Joel Gardner's wife, Dorothy "Beth" Stephens Gardner, died on 17 December. Joel can be contacted at 539 Mountain Avenue #708, New Providence, NJ 07974.

        Tom Brandt's wife, Connie, passed away on 13 December Tom can be contacted at 7270 Chesapeake Circle, Boynton Beach, FL 33436.

        Several months ago, this column mentioned some of the remarkable World War II cryptographic accomplishments of the father of our classmate Jim Lasswell. Jim has just provided a narrative about honors recently afforded his father, with related photographs. I am sure you will enjoy reading it.
     The Lasswell family was invited to Fort Meade, MD, to attend the dedication of the Headquarters of The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER) designed to protect Marine Forces from cyberattack. This unit is the Marine Corps component to U. S. Cyber Command. Jim Lasswell, his wife Cindy Lasswell, his brother John '67, his wife Betsey, Jim's daughter Jennifer Albers '92, son Jim Lasswell, spouses, and grandchildren attended the building dedication (LASSWELL HALL) at the newly developed East Campus of the NSA (formerly the Golf Course) on the first "wintery mix" day of winter, November 15th. Presiding at the dedication of LASSWELL HALL were Major General Matthew Glavy '86, Commander MARFORCYBER, and Lieutenant General Loretta Reynolds '86, a previous Commander of MARFORCYBER and presently Deputy Marine Corps Commandant for Information and Commander of the Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command.
Lasswell Hall

The Lasswell Family

Cutting the Ribbon (Jim is second from left)

     Jim's father, Colonel A. Bryan (Red) Lasswell (USMC Ret.) was a Japanese linguist and cryptographer, trained in Tokyo and the Far East before World War II and stationed in Pearl Harbor just prior to the war. During the war he served as a codebreaker working to exploit intercepted messages from the Japanese Navy using their Code (JN-25.)
     In 1941 Captain Lasswell was transferred to Hawaii to teach Japanese at a University in Hawaii. It should have been a nice duty station to welcome the birth of their first child James B. Lasswell. Instead, he was diverted to a secret naval office and became the chief translator of a group of thirty men of which nine were naval officers. He was the only Marine officer in the unit. The unit operated out of what affectionately became known as "The Dungeon". CDR. Joe Rochefort led this unit administratively. The signal intelligence group was initially known as station "HYPO" and later was known as "FRUPAC" -- Fleet Radio Unit Pacific. Here is where Captain Lasswell would later play a personal role in changing the very outcome of World War II in the Pacific Theater saving countless thousands of lives, and which, as most historians agree, shortened the war.
     After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they went on a campaign to conquer as many islands in the southwestern Pacific as they could, and FRUPAC began receiving a lot of intercepted Japanese radio traffic to decode. Among the many translated messages that Captain Lasswell decoded were three translations that were considered major contributions to winning the war.
     The first Lasswell translation was in mid-1942 when he translated an intercepted message that revealed Japan's planned attack on Midway Island designated (AF) and the intended day of attack. The message was sent to the major commanders as well as NEGAT (FRUPAC's equivalent) in Washington D.C. They disagreed with the translation that (AF) was Midway Island. Admiral Nimitz spoke with Lasswell personally and asked him how sure he was of the planned target. Lasswell stated he was 100 percent sure. Lasswell's translation was verified by CDR Rochefort when a fake message was sent in the clear from Midway Island that its desalinization plant was malfunctioning and the American troops were short of fresh water. The Japanese, shortly thereafter, broadcast a message stating that (AF) was short of fresh water which verified the target was Midway.
     Admiral Nimitz used Captain Lasswell's information to plan appropriately for what would become history's first great aircraft carrier battle and what many experts believe was the turning point of the war in the Pacific Theater. After this battle was won, the Allies were finally able to go on a counter offensive that began with the Navy and Marine landings on Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Meanwhile, General MacArthur led the army and Australian allies in the taking of New Guinea's Papuan Peninsula. After this battle, Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur started on an Island-hopping campaign that skipped strongly held Japanese islands, isolating them, and cutting them off from Japanese supply lines and reinforcements. In essence, that was taking the Japanese out of the war without having to actually engage them.
     The next major war-changing contribution of then Captain Lasswell came on April 13, 1943, when he decoded and translated another Japanese naval message transmitting the movement intentions of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. He was to fly to the Japanese held island of Rabaul. The intercepted message gave information about his route, his escort fighters, and the exact time of his arrival. This information was relayed to Admiral Nimitz, who, having been convinced of Captain Lasswell's accuracy already, began planning the attack on Adm. Yamamoto's aircraft. Admiral Yamamoto was shot down on April 18, 1943 thereby demoralizing the Japanese Navy and Army. This shoot-down, according to several contemporary stories, had to be approved by President Roosevelt as it might signal the Japanese that their code had been broken once action was taken. Additionally, there was significant concern that killing Yamamoto might bring a new leader (Admiral Nagumo) to the Japanese Navy.
     Captain Lasswell's third major translation came when decoding a Japanese plot in May of 1944 to ambush General Douglas MacArthur as he was returning to the Philippines from the European front. The Japanese Navy was to place submarines every seven miles in a stretch around the east coast of New Guinea on MacArthur's expected return route to the Philippines. It is believed the Japanese were looking for a moral victory in retaliation for the killing of Admiral Yamamoto. Because of Lasswell's translation this plot was foiled. Differing reports indicate between five and seven of these submarines were destroyed.

        I have two more photos from the 55th reunion weekend to share with you. The first shows Fred Kaiser and Tom Meyer. Tom noted that they have known each other since the 4th grade, all the way through USNA, and all the way to the 55th and beyond.
Very long-time friends Kaiser and Meyer

        The second picture, taken in Old Town San Diego, shows (L-R) Jim Metcalfe, Marla and Jeff Miles, Mary Mutch, Lisa Metcalfe, and Frank Mutch.
Dining in Old Town

        Wrapping up our reunion coverage, here is news from Phillip Marsden about an after-action gathering of the reunion committee in San Diego.
     Some of the 55th Reunion Committee members gathered in late November for a celebratory dinner at a local steak house. Those in attendance were in a celebratory mood as we shared stories from our highly successful 55th Reunion. Some of the highlights included: Joe Morra confessed to personally coaching the Bob Hope impersonator. We toasted Ted Krohne's coup in landing the Midway venue for our Class Dinner. Dave Meyers, the dual-hatted "Hotel King" and "Bus Czar," was presented with a gift certificate for his consistent performance far above and beyond the expected. Attendees included Bill and Dottie Hughes, Lee and Sue Cargill, Phillip and Martha Marsden, Dave and Pattie Meyers, Karl and Marirose Kozak, Ted and Kay Krohne, Steve and Karen Hoy, John and Terri Ryan, Joe and Teresa Morra, Jay Roberts and Karen Miles, Vern and Gail Von Sydow, Janet Gushue, Lee Tillotson, Grant Telfer, June Stone, and Ron Wills.
     Phillip thanked the Committee for their support over the last two-plus years. He said the highlight of the reunion for him was to see the payoff for all their hard work. He could only echo June Stone's comment "Quality '63 certainly fits this team."
Lee Cargill, John Ryan, Vern Von Sydow, Phillip Marsden

Lee Cargill, Ted Krohne, Bill Hughes, Lee Tillotson

Joe Morra, Karen Miles, Steve Hoy, Gail and Vern Von Sydow

The Committee in July 2016

Dave and Patti Meyers, Marirose and Karl Kozak, Grant Telfer (standing)

Dottie Hughes, Sue Cargill, Kay Krohne

Grant, Sue, Lee, Gail, Vern, Karen, Steve, Ron

June, Patti, Dave, John, Terri, Martha

Jay, Karen, John, June, Ron

        Here's a brief note from Tom O'Brien:
     In early December Ann and I met up with JAX area Classmates Dave Bingemann and Denny Tomlin and their spouses Mary and Cindy, respectively, at the USNAAA-JAX Chapter's annual meeting held at Fleet Landing in Atlantic Beach , FL. No official "Top Class" poll was taken, but '63 had excellent representation! We're hoping for a larger '63 get-together after the holidays.
Tom O'Brien, Mary and Dave Bingemann, Cindy and Denny Tomlin

        Mario Fiori received a letter from Bill Pawlyk with holiday greetings and news about his full slate of activities. You can read the letter in his Current Biography on our web site by clicking HERE .

        This note came to me from authentic Mainer Bob Harper.
     We went to Newport, RI, for the funeral of my firstie CAPT John Chenard and took the opportunity to visit fellow Vietnam ship rider/advisor Ray Heins at his home on 14 December. Ray's wife Virginia was photographer for our mini reunion. We recounted events and recollections from long ago and far away. However, the camaraderie was near and dear. We invited them to visit us in Winter Harbor, ME, during our May/Dec stay in authentic down-east, commonly called God's country. Classmates should put Anne and me on their agenda. Her cooking more than equals the beauty and serenity of the region.
Bob Harper, Ray Heins, Anne Harper

        I have received questions about Shipmate subscriptions for '63 widows. This is one of those things that apparently few of us ever think about, so I sought answers from the Alumni Association. (1) Q: Will the widow of a life member continue to receive Shipmate until she dies? A: Yes, unless she decides to unsubscribe from Shipmate. (2) Q: What are the subscription options for the widow of someone who was not a life or annual member? A: The cost for Life Membership for a '63 alumnus or widow is $240; for annual membership it is $70. (3) Q: Is there a spouse/widow membership that confers benefits such as Mid Store access, etc.? A: All alumni who have a Life Membership can sign up their spouse for Joint Life Membership for $25 (one-time fee). She will receive a Joint Life Membership card for use at the Mid Store. For additional information, contact Mrs. Paige L. Fuller at 410-295-4026

        Whew! That's a lot of news. Help keep the momentum going by sending me an email about what you've been up to lately. I need your help.

Navigate to:   
Shipmate Index
Shipmate Index


Site Map

Site Map

USNA Class of 1963 Home Page