Oct 28, 2020

TAPS: Rear Admiral Henry Jefferson “Jeff” Davis, Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)

Rear Admiral Jefferson “Jeff” Davis, Jr., USN (Retired), passed away on 10 September 2020 at age 91.

The Early Years

RADM Jeff DavisRADM Davis entered the U.S. Navy via Officer Candidate School in August 1952, serving as a Naval Cryptologist (1610) until his retirement in 1982 as the Deputy Director (Operations) for the National Security Agency. He was awarded a Bronze Star for operations in the Vietnam combat area.  He held command of Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor, Maine and was the senior Cryptologist at Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Command in the mid-1970’s. During his career, he played a leading role in the development and operation of the Classic Bullseye world-wide High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) network.

Jeff Davis attended the University of Florida at Gainesville prior to entering the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1949. However, due to vision problems he was released from the Academy in June 1951 with an honorable discharge. He resumed studies and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Florida State University, Tallahassee. (The order of the Florida Schools is not clear and I may have them reversed.) He then enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 6 August 1952 and attended Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. He was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 1 September 1952 and reported for active duty.

Career Progression Through Thirty Years as a Cryptologist

In October 1952, Ensign Davis reported to the Naval Security Station, Washington DC for duty in communications and signals intelligence.  In March 1954, Lieutenant (junior grade) Davis assumed duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as the head of a special analysis unit in the Special Operations section of Naval Communications.  In February 1955, LTJG Davis returned to the Naval Security Station Washington DC.  In October 1955, LTJG Davis reported to the U.S. Pacific Fleet Naval Security Group Detachment as the Assistant for High-Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF.)

Promoted to lieutenant in September 1956, he reported to the Naval Security Group Department of the Naval Communications Station at Waihawa, Oahu.  In January 1958, he reported to the Naval Security Group Headquarters in Washington DC in facilities planning.  In June 1958, his Naval Reserve commitment was terminated and he was augmented into the U.S. Navy.  In July 1959, LT Davis reported to U.S. Naval Post-graduate School in Monterey where he earned a Master of Science in Engineering Electronics. In June 1962, LT Davis returned to Naval Security Group Headquarters, serving as Head of the HFDF Division in the Special Operations Department.  He was promoted to lieutenant commander in September 1962.

In August 1964, LCDR Davis reported to the Naval Security Group Activity, Kamiseya, Japan as Head of the Special Operations Department. In June 1966, he reported as Head of the Naval Security Group Department of the Naval Communications Station, San Miguel, Philippines, which was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation for support of operations in Vietnam. He was promoted to commander in July 1966. CDR Davis was awarded a Bronze Star and Vietnam Service Medal (with for campaign stars) and other Republic of Vietnam medals for operations in the Vietnam combat area.  

In August 1968, CDR Davis assumed command of the Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor, Maine. He returned to Naval Security Group Activity Washington DC in August 1970 as the Director of Cryptographic Equipment for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. He was promoted to captain in August 1971. 

In March 1972, CAPT Davis reported to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Telecommunications (ASD(T)) for systems and communications security. In September 1973, CAPT Davis returned to Pearl Harbor as Assistant Chief of Staff for Cryptology on the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet staff with additional duty as Director, Naval Security Group Pacific/Officer-in-Charge Naval Security Group Detachment CINCPACFLT. In July 1976, CAPT Davis assumed duty as Chief, National Security Agency/Central Security Service Pacific (NSA/CSS PAC) with additional duty as Chief of U.S. Pacific Command Cryptologic Support Group and Special Assistant for Cryptologic matters.

In October 1977, CAPT Davis was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank. He reported to the National Security Agency, initially as the Assistant Director for Cryptologic Plans and Resources. In that role, he was responsible for developing the national cryptologic budget and served as the senior U.S. NSA representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO,) coordinating allied cryptologic activities and systems development. He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 April 1978 and assumed duty as the National Security Agency/Central Security Service Deputy Director for Operations. RADM Davis retired on 1 September 1982.

A Long List of Awards

RADM Davis’ awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (3) (Clarinet Bullseye Task Unit, Naval Security Group)(USN Communications Station, Philippines and components)(Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE), Meritorious Unit Commendation (Program “C” NSG HQ,) National Defense Service Medal (2,) Vietnam Service Medal (4 Bronze Stars,) Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Commendation (Gallantry Cross,) and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (1960-1973.) The last update to RADM Davis’ service transcript was prior to his retirement, so there is no listing for an award as NSA Director of Operations, but it is likely a Defense Superior Service or Defense Distinguished Service Medal.   

Post Retirement Years

After his retirement, RADM Davis served as communication security consultant for industry and government. He worked with the Florida Information Resource Commission developing policy and standards for the state’s communications and data security, which were approved by the governor and cabinet and reside in Florida statutes. He also served for ten years as a member of the Gadsden County School Board. He was one of the founders and trustees of both the Quincy Music Theater and Gadsden Arts Center. He also served as a trustee of the Baptist College of Florida and was a member of the Quincy-Gadsden Airport Authority. He also served many years as deacon and Sunday school teacher. Funeral services were held 19 October 2020 with a private military interment. 

The True Impact of His Service

In RADM Davis’ service transcripts, under the entry for “unusual or wartime experience” it states, “none.”  This cryptic comment is belied by his Bronze Star and multiple other awards for service in the Vietnam combat area, but is in keeping with the extreme secrecy of cryptologic operations. As a result, the list of duty stations above doesn’t begin to do justice to his contribution to the war in Vietnam and, even more so, to the Cold War against the Soviet Union. He was a leader in the development and operation of the global network of High-Frequency Direction Finding sites (Clarinet Bullseye/Classic Bullseye.) These were the Wullenweber arrays (also known as elephant or dinosaur cages) at 16 sites that enabled the U.S. to locate and track Soviet out-of-area deployment operations throughout the world. He was a leader in the two main missions of Naval Cryptologists at the time, the exploitation of adversary use of the electro-magnetic spectrum (Signals Intelligence) and the protection of U.S. Navy communications from exploitation (Communications Security – COMSEC.) At the National Security Agency he led some of the most sensitive and successful national-level Intelligence collection operations against the Soviets, Communist Chinese and other adversary countries. Although unknown at the time, some of his work in COMSEC was being undone by the traitors of the Walker-Whitworth spy-ring. Nevertheless, the U.S. retained the advantage in the “war for Intelligence” against the Soviets. Almost always behind a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) door, the true contribution of Naval Cryptologists to the success of Navy operations was understood only by a very few, but it was immense. The efforts of RADM Davis helped pave the way for the very unique and critical contributions of today’s Cryptologic Warfare Officers (1810) to cyber operations. RADM Davis served our Navy and nation with distinction in very challenging operations against a very capable adversary, and the Navy and nation are far more secure for his efforts.