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CHIPS Articles: Navy Chief Inducted to Cryptologic Hall of Honor

Navy Chief Inducted to Cryptologic Hall of Honor
By Petty Officer 2nd Class William Sykes, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / U.S. 10th Fleet - November 14, 2019
Chief Radioman Harry Kidder was inducted into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor during a ceremony at the National Security Agency (NSA) Nov. 4.

The Cryptologic Hall of Honor, created in 1999, pays tribute to the pioneers and heroes who have made significant and enduring contributions to American cryptology. Kidder, along with Edward M. Drake, Marine Corps Col. Alva B. Lasswell and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan, were inducted into the Hall of Honor for achievements made throughout their careers.

Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command/ Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service, presided over the ceremony and highlighted the significance of being selected as inductees.

“The standards are high for induction,” said Nakasone. “Thousands of people have contributed to our agency over its 67 year history, but only 94 of them are recognized in the hall of honor.”

As part of the ceremony, inductees or their living family members received a recognition plaque from Nakasone. Command Master Chief Dee Allen from U.S. Fleet Cyber Command accepted the plaque on behalf of Kidder.

Kidder’s contributions began in 1910 when he enlisted in the Army Signal Corps, where he learned to build, maintain, and operate radio and telegraphic communications systems. While there, he became an expert in communicating via Morse code. Kidder joined the Navy in 1914 as a radio electrician and was stationed in the Asiatic Fleet until 1925. He became one of the best radiomen in the fleet, traveling from his home base of Naval Radio Control Station at Los Baños, Philippines, to assist less experienced radiomen.

Kidder was also an amateur radio enthusiast, building his own equipment and communicating frequently. By the time he was a chief petty officer, his ham call sign, 1HK, became known around the fleet and around the world establishing contacts anywhere his equipment could reach and English was spoken.

There were other languages out in the Asiatic Fleet, and operators became aware of unusual and strong transmissions. The transmissions sounded like Morse code but contained characters none of them knew. Kidder began to recognize the transmissions were originating from the Imperial Japanese Navy.

By 1921, with help of the Japanese wife of a friend, Kidder had learned the Japanese alphabet and the basics of the Japanese language. He also taught himself the corresponding Morse code equivalent. Kidder began relaying his intercepts to his commanders, who realized the value of his work and passed it on to the Headquarters Naval Communications Department in Washington. Subsequently, then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Charles Hughes instructed all fleets to copy the Japanese communications.

In 1925, Kidder was transferred to the Radio Control Station in Cheltenham, Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Laurence Safford, renowned as the “Father of Naval Cryptology” and commander of the Navy's signals intelligence and cryptanalysis group at the time, recognized the need for formal cryptology training and assigned Kidder to establish the program.

Kidder designed and helped build a concrete schoolhouse on the roof of the old Navy Department building in Washington. He also designed a robust training curriculum that would teach radiomen how to intercept, copy, and understand the Imperial Japanese Navy communications networks. After the classroom and curriculum were completed, Kidder instructed the first three classes. From 1928 to 1941, the school graduated 176 Sailors and Marines who were the first enlisted radio operators and formed the vanguard of naval cryptology. Graduates were nicknamed the “On-the-Roof Gang.”

Kidder returned to the Asiatic Fleet in 1931, where he travelled across the Pacific inspecting and assisting intercept sites with their operations. Then, following a second tour as a “roofer” instructor, Kidder was sent to Station HYPO, Hawaii, in 1934 where he coordinated the move of HYPO from Wailupe to He’eia. He designed the new intercept station, ensuring it had the most advanced equipment of all Navy stations.

Kidder retired from active duty in 1935. He remained active in amateur radio, became a local baseball reporter, and drilled annually with the Navy Reserve.

As World War II was beginning, Kidder was recalled into active service in February 1941. He helped find weaknesses in the Atlantic Fleet intercept network and traveled to Bermuda to observe a Royal Navy high-frequency direction finding (HFDF) site with new antenna technology. With a need for a new HFDF position in Greenland, Kidder designed the site, assembled a crew and equipment, and led the establishment of “Gamatron” Island. He stayed in Greenland through the beginning of the war.

Kidder retired again in February 1942.

Kidder, the second enlisted person inducted to the Cryptologic Hall of Honor, was a trainer and mentor to generations of Navy cryptologists during his nearly four decades of uniformed service. His technical skill in exploiting Japanese communications was without equal. His legacy lives on in U.S. Fleet Cyber Command (FCC), U.S. 10th Fleet (C10F), and the cryptologic technicians of today’s Navy.

FCC is responsible for Navy information network operations, offensive and defensive cyberspace operations, space operations, and signals intelligence. Comprised of more than 14,000 Sailors, Reservists and civilians stationed across the world, C10F is the operational arm of FCC and executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders.

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A photo of U.S. Navy Chief Radioman Harry Kidder, who was inducted into the National Security Agency's Cryptologic Hall of Honor November 4, 2019. The Cryptologic Hall of Honor, created in 1999, pays tribute to the pioneers and heroes who have made significant and enduring contributions to American cryptology. (NSA photo)
NSA photo of the Hall of Honor at the National Security Agency
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