A Fork in the Road


The Letter

…my Yogi Berra moment in time
            I had not seen the above letter for maybe fifty years, perhaps more. It was found in some old army papers when I was searching the other day for my army discharge file. The reason was a good one: my weight is now down to 160 pounds, and I wondered what my weight would have been when I got out of the army in 1957. I found it, and it was the same 160 pounds. That was elating, until I reflected that at that time I had been drinking German beer for two years. Anyway, 160 is better than 184.
            Not expecting to find this letter, it would have been easy to file it away with other old, yellowing papers, but something clicked as it does nowadays on those many occasions when we say, “Check it out on Google.” I did, and found something about the signer, Dr. Klitzke, and much more on Miss Klaessy, and even something about Hungary in 1956.
            Google, as usual, is wonderful. But timing was gratuitous, too, as much of what I found on Google was declassified as recently as 2007 to 2010.
Dr. Klitzke
            At first, the letter from Dr. Klitzke brought back some dim memories, but in truth, I did not recall him or his letter. What I did recall was that I had had a visit in Germany from Miss Klaessy, whom he mentioned in his letter, and had followed up with some correspondence to her. Digging a little deeper into my old files, I found several letters to and from Miss Klaessy, all bringing back some clear memories of a distant past.
            A bit of background may be helpful. In my army days, I was selected to be schooled in the subject of cryptanalysis. It was an intense training of – I believe – about nine months. I have a diploma from the school, and of course it is not classified.
            Almost everything else was classified; we were not normally allowed to take a single piece of paper out of the school. There was one exception I remember. It was a copy of a poem I had written when I was finished the final exam with time to spare. It began, “I once was in an army school of a subject classified….” An officer in charged liked it well enough to make copies for all students, declaring them unclassified. (That poem – or part of it – appears on this web site in the piece called “Three years of my life.”)
            So far as I know, I am still subject to the rules of secrecy as to whether I ever used my training, or for that matter as to what my actual duties were for the next two years. My debriefing at discharge was clear: I was subject to a fine of $10,000 (a lot more value in 1957 than in 2012) and imprisonment of ten years.
            To my knowledge, I still have such an obligation simply because I have not been informed of any change. I have visited the NSA Museum at Fort Meade, and was surprised to see how much is revealed. However, it is not logical for me to infer that anything I did or know has been declassified. For that matter, my debriefing also made clear that I might reveal that I had been given a Top Secret clearance (the point was made that it could be helpful in a subsequent career), but not whether I had ever had information requiring that clearance.
            In Dr. Klitzke’s letter above, he requested my letters of commendation. I quote directly from one of these, as it tells more about my activity relative to the Hungarian revolt than I would have allowed myself to state.
            It was dated 29 May 1957 and signed my Capt. Richard B. Mosser, Operations Officer: “During the period of the Hungarian crisis, your accomplishments were even more outstanding than usual. Working 12 to 16 hours daily for weeks without a day off, and alternating with the OIC in supervising a greatly expanded effort, you produced operational products of inestimable value to our national defense effort….A copy of this letter will be forwarded to the Commanding Officer with a request that he use it, plus additional classified data, as the basis for initiating a recommendation for suitable recognition by higher headquarters.”
            Capt. Mosser’s letter was not classified. The full letter appears at the end of this document.
            Google was helpful in a minor way in identifying Dr. Klitzke. What I found is the following: 
The University of Chicago Magazine August 1995

Carl P. Klitzke, AM'34, PhD'36, a retired cryptologist and linguist, died November 10 at his home in Glenwood, MD. He was 87. A longtime employee of the National Security Agency, he began his career with the Army Signal Corps in 1942. He is survived by his wife, Eleanore, and two brothers, Theodore E. Klitzke, AB'41, PhD'53, and Lewis W. Klitzke, AB'41, AM'55.
Miss Klaessy             Much is available about Velva Klaessy on-line, as she had a long and distinguished career in the years following our meeting in Bad Aibling. Several articles are posted at the end of this piece.
            More to the point of Miss Klaessy’s suggestion about NSA, I had done well in the Army Security Agency School, and was fortunate to lead my class. After graduation, I was sent to Germany for two years.
            During that period occurred the Hungarian revolt from the USSR in 1956. It was a time of heroic actions by Hungarian “freedom fighters,” many of whom died. Others I saw streaming into the train station at Vienna, escaping the carnage. There was an expectation on the parts of the Hungarians that the United States would come into the action and support the revolt. That did not happen, at least militarily, as such action could have caused a much greater confrontation between the US and USSR.
            Further on in this memoir, I will quote from a recent release by NSA of a document called, “Hungary, 1956: The Crisis That NSA Did Not Predict.” Much is still deleted, but it is nonetheless surprising in that content which remains. The point is that it some way my activity – whether as a cryptanalyst or else wise – was involved. Moreover, I had been second in charge of a branch which consisted of devoted members who did a great job, working tirelessly over a long period of time. They were enlisted men who graduated from Brown, Harvard, and Princeton. Some had no such claim to higher education, but had been selected because they had the capacity to learn the work to be done.
            Sometime before my discharge in about June of 1957, I received a visit at Bad Aibling from Miss Klaessy. She came to acquaint me with the possibilities of my making application for employment with her employer upon discharge. She was working for the National Security Agency, which was then only about five years old.
            I remember some of our conversation having to do with possible assignments and pay grades. I believe at that time she left me papers to fill out and to mail in the event that I wished to pursue a position with NSA.
            Later, there were letters as follows:
1/6/58 and 3/31/58: Scratch copies of two letters from me to Miss K reopening negotiation, mentioning it had been a year and a half since her visit. Presumably, the first was never mailed. Both review previous discussion and ask for more details.
4/15/58: Copy of my letter to Miss K in which I mention that I had received letter from CWO Wheeler, my former immediate boss. In it, he stated that she again went to Bad Aibling and once more offered to help me get into NSA. He gave her address. Apparently my letter of 3/31 had crossed with her visit. In this letter, I said I was “very much interested.”
4/21/58: Miss K’s four-page, hand-written letter sent from NSAEUR giving detailed answers to questions I had asked and enclosing Form 57 for completion and mailing to Dr. K, whom she identified as “Division Chief in an area you might be interested to go.”
Letter also discussed salary, beginning at $4,525 for GS-7 level. Possibility of new security check necessary made suggestion of making application soon, as clearance check could take six months. She concluded by saying that she would soon be leaving NSAEUR for Washington, and would “hope to see me there.”
6/18/58: Dr. K’s letter pictured above (The letters of appreciation and commendation mentioned were those given to me by Mr. Wheeler, Capt. Mosser, and Lt. Col. Knauf.)
7/15/58: Letters to Dr. K and Miss K, thanking them for their interest in me, but saying that I had “not been able to see my way clear to a commitment.”
Yogi Berra and Me            The great Yankee catcher, outfielder, and clutch hitter who spoke in ways to make one contemplate various possibilities famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
            That’s what I did in 1957.
            The NSA was still new in those days, having been formed on November 4, 1952. It’s anyone’s guess as to how its budget then and now would compare; a similar comparison, equally mind boggling, would be the number of personnel in 1957 as compared to present-day figures.
            At the outset, I should point out that it is not my intention to express any regrets that I did not follow through and make application to the NSA. I made other choices, and had a good business career, but what would have happened in my life had I made such choice is something to wonder about.
            Immediately to be considered is that I might be long since dead. This is not to suggest that an NSA career would have been dangerous, much less than life-threatening. I guess maybe assignments in some foreign countries could have been risky, but what I am suggesting is simply that I might have been run over by a bus while crossing the street to go to Fort Meade, or similar dull demise.
            Another thing comes to mind, that having to do who might have become the mother of my children. She would probably have been someone in the area of Washington or Maryland or Virginia. I remember hearing that young women working for the government in those places outnumbered men about two to one. And this means that my children would be different. They might or might not have been four daughters, but their names certainly would not be Michele, Mignon, Nicole and Madeleine; nor would their personalities and characters be anything close to my real children. The laws of probability and chemistry simply would not allow it.
            Thoughts in philosophical and theological veins would open this discussion into spheres as big as solar systems. Maybe this is how fiction writers work.
Ay, there’s the rub…
            Mixing reality and possibility, I might have been involved in some of the legal and political squabbles that have plagued the NSA in recent years, having to do with intercepting citizens’ emails and phone calls.  I could have been right in the middle, sweating at a conference table in a Republican subcommittee witch hunt. Horrors! Bring me back to New Orleans and my real life family and career.
The non-decision
            Enough for wandering and wondering. More practical considerations having to do with reality force me to try to recall why I made the choice (non-choice, if you will) not to apply and to stay in New Orleans after separation from the service.
            To a large degree, it was inertia. New Orleans had been my home. I had been away for three years with the exception of two short leaves home. I had commitments of a sort to my parents: to my mother, one simply of devotion; to my father, one involving becoming his means to reestablish his real estate business in Mississippi.
            An item found within the folder containing my army discharge papers is perhaps relevant. An old 3×5 card, it is blank on the front side, but there is writing on the reverse in that beautiful cursive style of my father. It reads:
Principles of Real Est.
Real Estate Appraisal
    16-22 Day
    16-18 Night
            It was in that file for some reason.
            The last letter, the one in which I expressed my inability to make a commitment was dated in July of 1958. I was already with NY Life six months by then, but I remember that it was rough getting started. Maybe it was then that I again considered a career in Mississippi real estate. I had already secured residence in Mississippi simply by paying poll tax while I was in service. (I think the tax was $3.00, and that was all that was necessary to claim domicile. When I bought a used Plymouth from dad, it had to have MS plates even though MS in those days was a non-title state. Not a lot of tax, but enough to keep many blacks from voting.)
            Mississippi residence was required for me to become a realtor, which dad could no longer be in MS because of new legislation coupled with the fact that he did not want to give up his LA residence.
            I believe the 3×5 card to be a clue, but I have no memory of applying for a real estate license.
            Other motivations may have been factors. Miss Klaessy’s detailing of salary, yearly increases, etc. may have been considered low by my expectations. A starting salary of $4,525 in the year 1958 was probably respectable; it was 50% more than the $3,000 figure I was offered to teach at my old high school. However, I was by that time 25, and perhaps wanting to make up for some lost time.
            I did in fact continue with NY Life and spent the next forty-odd years with the company. Once more, the non-choice may have been one of inertia: Yogi’s fork probably always promotes the path which looks easier or closer.
            A number of articles about Miss Klaessy can be found on-line. Several follow:


Trudi Hahn
Star Tribune 
November 7, 2004
Velva Klaessy, a government cryptanalyst who accomplished some firsts
for female code breakers -- with accompanying problems in the
male-dominated field -- died Sept. 16 in Golden Valley. She was 88.
"She could never talk about it," said her brother Dale Klaessy of
Minnetonka. "It was a lonely, lonely job."
Born to a farm couple in 1915 in Renwick, Iowa, Klaessy got a
scholarship during the Depression to attend what is now Northern Iowa
University. With no money to buy clothes, her father bought her 500
baby chicks to raise. When she sold them, she bought fabric and made
her wardrobe.
She received her degree in math in 1937 and took her first job in a
small town dominated by a Protestant congregation. It decreed that the
public-school teachers weren't allowed to play cards or go to the
movies. After the town protested that she was insulting its sons by
dating a young man from a different town, she left at the end of the
In 1944, she was teaching high school math and science in Cherokee,
Iowa, when a government recruiter came to ask if she had any students
good in math who might want to join the war effort as a cryptologist
in the Army Signal Corps. Her best students were all headed for
college, so she didn't want to recommend them, but she took the job
After World War II she stayed in the field as the Armed Forces
Security Agency and the National Security Agency (NSA) were formed. 
Although much of her work remains classified, information from the
National Cryptologic Museum of the NSA, based at Fort Meade, Md.,
states that she was a member for many years of the highly respected
Technical Consultants group, which assisted other analytic offices
with their most difficult problems.
In the summer of 1953, she and a male officer were posted temporarily
to the Far East to train military personnel. According to oral
tradition, the museum said, female NSA employees had never gotten
temporary posts in that part of the world.
Before she left the consultants group, she was posted temporarily to
the United Kingdom. Her British counterpart threw a welcoming party --
in a men's club from which women were barred, her brother said.
Female NSA employees battled for recognition at home, too. At one
point a supervisor told her that she had earned a promotion but he was
giving it to a male co-worker "because he had a family," her brother
 From 1958 to 1967, Klaessy finally received positions of high
responsibility in sectors dealing with cutting-edge technology, the
museum said, including being named chief in 1964 of the New and
Unidentified Signals Division.
She returned in 1967 to what is now called the extended enterprise
when she was named deputy senior U.S. liaison officer in Ottawa,
Canada. In 1970 she was named senior liaison officer in Ottawa,
becoming the1967 to what is now called the extended enterprise
when she was named deputy senior U.S. liaison officer in Ottawa,
Canada. In 1970 she was named senior liaison officer in Ottawa,
becoming the first woman to hold the senior post anywhere in the
world. As senior officer, she represented the U.S. Intelligence Board
and the NSA with appropriate organizations in Canada in all matters
about signal intelligence and communications security.
She returned to Fort Meade in 1975 but retired shortly afterward to
care for ill relatives, her brother said. She was found to have
Parkinson's disease about 1987 and moved to the Twin Cities to be
close to relatives. In addition to her brother Dale, survivors include
another brother, Earl of Spencer, Iowa. Services have been held in
Date: Mon 08 Nov 2004 – 04:32:09 CST

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1JB'o~Q1M: NSAlCSS M.o.NlJ.OL 12.3-2.
 [The following item, when viewed on-line, is observed to have been until declassified a Top Secret document; the words show through the black editing, and other cut sections are clearly evident. It is presented here as it appears on-line, this writer choosing not to edit any parts.]
DOCID: 3112933
(U) Cryptologic Almanac 50th Anniversary Series
(U) Velva Klaessy
(Ui/fOUO) "ANOTHER FIRST – Velva Klaessy, a member of the
cryptologic community since 1944, was recently assigned as an NSA senior
liaison officer by John 1. Connelly, Jr., Assistant Director NSA for
Personnel Management. She will assume her new post this summer. Miss
Klaessy … [is] the first woman to be assigned to a senior liaison post…" -NSA
Newsletter, February 1970.
({}h'-FOUO) Velva Klaessy sperit approximately 35 years in the cryptologic business.
While her assignment as Senior United States Liaison Officer (SUSLO), as described
above, was a highlight ofher long career, there were many other significant
accomplishments along the way. During her years at NSA and its predecessor
organizations, she established a record of outstanding work and breaking barriers.
(lliWOUO) Born in October 1915, Klaessy attended Iowa State Teachers College, earning a B.A. in mathematics. She was employed by the Iowa public school system from 1937 until 1944 when she joined the World War II cryptologic effort.
        She remained in cryptanalysis after the war with the Anned Forces Security
Agency (AFSA) and its replacement agency, NSA. For several years – until about 1958 Klaessy was a member of the highly respected technical consultants group. This
organization, made up of some ofNSA's most talented cryptanalysts, assisted other
analytic offices with their most difficult problems. If you were a permanent member of technical consultants organization, like Velva Klaessy, you knew you had arrived as a cryptanalyst at NSA. Initially, there was one Agency-wide organization that served all the SIGINT offices. However, as the organization ofNSA evolved, the technical experts were assigned to the different targets. Klaessy, for example, ended up in the techniques group of
[Note: This space represents a cut from text not yet declassified.]
(g,l/gI) While a member of the technical consultants organization, Klassey, along with
Chief Bernard A. Malloy, USN, spent July and August 1953 in the Far East training U.S.
L..- —-:–"":":"""'::——JWhat is EO 1. 4. (c)
noteworthy about her trip is that at this time, according to oral tradition, a woman never
Declassified and approved for release by NSA on 27 February 2007 pursuant to E.O.
12958, as amended. MDR-51909.
DOCID: 3112933
went TDY to military postsl IYet,Klaessymadethisfrip.ApparenilYiiwasY~~~EO 1. 4. (c)
successful, for her efforts were highly praised in the ASA monthlyllQtesserifback to NSA.
In the parlance of the time: "Though the field centers li~~toseelhe 'Meringue' of the NSA pie they much prefer the 'filling' that Klaessy 31'ldMalloy represent."
iSHSI} In 1957, durin~lt~rlastYear as a technical consultant' .. // ,
I IKlassey was back overseas,I She appears to have
served as an NSA technical expert, tasked to act as a cryptanalytic/liaison between NSAW and the field sites. It is unclear how long she held this position, but she was apparently back at Fort Meade before the end of 1958.
(TSt/SI) When the Soviet Advanced Weaponry and Astronautics Division (AWAD) was formed in December 1958, Klaessy was part of a three-member team called the Advanced Weaponry and Astronautics Research Division(AWARD). AWARD was tasked to "direct that portion of the research programs of the other … divisions [in the key component] which is concerned with space and specialweapons fields." Answering directly to the chief of AWAD, Klaessy was one the highestranking technical experts in the organization. To
show the prestige of this assignment, one ofthe two other members ofAWARD was Charles Tevis, who became the first director ofDEFSMAC a few years later.
(TSHSI) From AWARD she became deputy chief ofthe New and Unidentified [Soviet]
Signals Divisionl land finally chief in 1964. She held this position only a short time before moving to an A Group staff position.
(UHFOUO) Klassey returned to what is now called the extended enterprise in 1967 when she was named Deputy Senior United States Liaison Officer (SUSLO) in Ottawa and then SUSLO in August 1970. As SUSLO, Klaessy represented the United States Intelligence Board and the National Security Agency in all SIGINT and COMSEC matters with the appropriate organizations in Canada. She was the first woman to hold a senior liaison officer post anywhere in the world.
(Ui~(fOYO) Velva Klaessy retired within a few years of her return to Fort Meade. She
currently lives in Minnesota.
[(U;l/FOUO) Jill Frahm, Center for Cryptologic history, 972-2893,jefrahm@nsa]
(UI/FOYO) Author's note: If you have any recollections of Velva Klaessy that you would like to share, please email me at jefrahm@nsa.
Almanac 50th Anniversary Series
DOCID: 3112933
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Source National Cryptologic Museum    i09_0214 076

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Velva was a true pioneer, here is her obituary

 [ISN] Velva Klaessy, government code breaker, dies at 88

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Velva Klaessy

Velva Klaessy

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This photo also appears in Trips09 Cryptologic Museum 13… (Set)

Velva Klaessy

Velva Klaessy attended Iowa State Teachers College, earning a Bachelor's Degree in mathematics. In 1944, she joined the World War II cryptologic effort remaining in the field even after the war. For many years she was a member of the highly respected Technical Consultants group assisting other analytic offices with their most difficult problems.
From 1958-1967, Ms. Klaessy held positions of high responsibility in organizations dealing with cutting edge technology. She became the deputy chief of the New and Unidentified Signals Division and was made chief in 1964.
Ms. Klaessy was named Deputy Senior United States Liaison Officer (Deputy SUSLO) in Ottawa, Canada in 1967 and then SUSLO in 1970. She was the first woman to hold a senior liaison officer post anywhere in the world.
Source National Cryptologic Museum  (U)Cryptologic Almanac 50th Anniversary Series
[The following item does not relate to Miss Klaessy or to Dr. Klitzke, but was found on-line while searching for NSA information. It is presented here primarily for its historical value and for its relevance to the Hungarian crisis. Also, it may lend a perspective to the work done as referred to in Capt. Mosser’s letter. It was declassified by NSA on March 5, 2010.]
DOCID: 3669314
 (U)Hungary, 1956: The Crisis That NSA Did Not
[(U) This article first appeared in the Cryptologic Almanac on 7 November 1994.]
(U) With the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a split occurred between the liberal and conservative wings the Communist Party from which Nikita Khrushchev emerged as leader by 1955. Khrushchev launched an all-out war on Stalinism. This "de-Stalinization," as the West called it, brought economic reform and a modicum ofnew freedoms to Soviet citizens. It also increased the rebelliousness in the Soviet satellites. In October 1956, the Hungarians launched a rebellion, led by students and workers, which installed a liberal Communist, Imre Nagy, as their new leader. On 4 November, Khrushchev sent 200,000 troops and 4,000 tanks into Budapest and other areas brutally suppressing the rebellion, toppling Nagy from power, killing thousands, and forcing thousands more to flee.
~The Soviet suppression of the Hungarian RevolutionI Ii
[Parts of 2 pages are even now cut out, even though this was released by NSA on March 5, 2010. There are 5 blanks, in total, at least a page.]
L…- ….,……,….-_…..,…._.,.,……__—-IIThen, on 29 October, the Israeli invasion ofSuez b)(1)
turned heads in another direction, and everyone forgot about Europe. (b)(3)-50 usc 403
DOCID: 3669314
(b)(3)-50 usc 403
[(UI7l"OUO) David A. Hatch, Director, Center for Cryptologic History, 972-2893s, dahatch@nsa]
Almanac 50th Anniversary Series
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Last Modified: by nsr
Last Reviewed: February 28, 2003
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–W:liW!….~ED ~OM: NSAICSS /I.WIIUAL 123-

Letter of Commendation


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