Oct 21, 2020

TAPS: Robert P. Wilson, Jr, passed away in Fairfax, Virginia on 19 June 2020 at age 72.

Robert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on 26 May 1948. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in January 1969 and became a member of the Air Force Security Service as a Chinese linguist. Between June 1970 and February 1972, he frequently flew reconnaissance missions on RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea in support of U.S. military operations in Vietnam. In February 1972, Bob was assigned to the Air Force Support Group at Fort Meade, Maryland. The group was designed to meet the Air Force cryptological commitment to the National Security Agency. He was discharged from the Air Force in February 1973.

Bob was hired as a civilian intelligence analyst by the Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Center (NOSIC) in March 1974 and was assigned watch standing duties on the Merchant Shipping desk in NOSIC’s Current Operations Center. His responsibilities included monitoring civil maritime operations as part of the 24-hour watch structure.

In 1978, Bob moved to the NOSIC’s submarine desk as a watch stander assigned responsibilities for monitoring the submarine activities/operations of adversarial naval forces. He rose to position of the head of the submarine desk in 1980, from which he built a strong and highly capable corps of analysts into the foremost experts in foreign submarine activities.

In 1985, Bob became the division head of a newly formed analytic group with responsibilities of monitoring Command and Control of foreign military operations in support of the command’s National Indications and Warning mission. Again, he rose to the occasion and built a team of both more senior analysts and a group of relative newcomers who served in support of the National Command Authority.

In 1992, Bob returned to the Merchant shipping arena, assuming responsibilities as head of the Civil Maritime Department within the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). While overseeing the activities of nearly 100 analysts and supporting contractors, he recognized a need to bolster the command’s involvement in monitoring international maritime activities and reorganized his team into a strong multi-disciplinary entity. Events ongoing in the Middle East drove the improvement of a national understanding of civil maritime activities, something for which Bob was largely responsible.  

He continued as head of the newly formed Civil Maritime Directorate as the analytical efforts of ONI moved from many sites throughout the Washington, D.C. area into a centralized facility in the Suitland Federal Center beginning in 1993. His keen understanding of the civil maritime problem led to his being one of the leaders within the Intelligence Community, and a major participant in spreading that understanding throughout the NATO and Asian allied nations. He worked to gain insight into the capabilities of Allied nations to allow for a centralized “clearing house” for civil maritime matters. This manifested itself in a manner that ultimately allowed ONI to help consolidate the collection of civil maritime information in support of the Allied cause.

 He retired from ONI in June of 2003, after more than 33 years of dedicated service to his country. He was a true leader in all respects and was able to draw the best out of the people who worked under his tutelage. He possessed an often-strange wit and could easily have been identified as one of the “untamed” within the command; but his dedication to the job and willingness to take on detailed and difficult tasks helped him gain the respect of all who knew him, including his seniors. Once heard, nobody could forget his raspy cackle as some idiotic joke he told came to fore.  His distinct, bushy mustache led some to nickname him “The Walrus.” And everybody loved “The Walrus.”  He was, also, an unabashed fan of The Beatles. Perhaps the song was written with Bob in mind.

After retirement, Bob joined a group of former career ONI employees as a participant in bi-weekly golf outings. He could be deadly with a golf club and loved the challenge of playing a round of golf in hopes of it being better than the last one. Over time, however, he began to suffer from health issues that prematurely curtailed his golf participation. Ultimately, a failing heart caused his passing. A true patriot, boss, friend and husband has been lost but will never be forgotten.

Bob is survived by his wife of 44 years, Margaret (Peggy) Saunders. Bob met Peggy (a co-worker at the time) shortly after gaining employment at NOSIC, and they were married in 1976. They remained a strong and respected team until Bob’s passing.

During his career, Bob was the recipient of several prestigious awards including the following:

1982 – William G. Brown Memorial Award NFOIO Outstanding Civilian for 1982

1987 – Edward C. Nielson Memorial Award for the Most Significant Civilian Contribution to Naval Intelligence during 1987

2003 (At his retirement) – The National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal from the National Foreign Intelligence Community, signed by George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence

2003 (At his retirement) – The Superior Civilian Service Award from the Department of the Navy, signed by Rear Admiral Richard B. Porterfield, Director of Naval Intelligence