Col. Rudolf I. Glessner, 78, WWII veteran, NSA official

September 12, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Col. Rudolf I. Glessner never forgot how mad he was when he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. He had just watched his jeep sink into the Atlantic, taking with it a case of his favorite cognac.

"He was in the first wave that hit the beach," said his son, Greg Glessner of Hampden. "He said he was 'fightin' mad' after the jeep went down with the case of cognac. Because he was so mad, it probably contributed to his survival that day."

Colonel Glessner, 78, who retired from the military in 1965 and as a security official at the National Security Agency in 1990, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson.

The Govans resident's numerous decorations included three for heroism in combat -- a Bronze Star for his actions in the landing at Utah Beach with the 4th Infantry Division, and a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster for his aid to wounded men on battlefields in France.

In the incident that earned him a Silver Star, he was acting as an observer in a forward position preparing to direct an artillery strike when German fire wounded the radio man accompanying him.

At great risk to his own safety, he carried the injured man back to Allied lines and then returned alone to direct the attack.

He earned the second Bronze Star at Tourlaville, France.

"Lt. Glessner advanced under mortar attack and small arms fire to the wounded man," the citation read. "He administered first aid and carried the casualty 200 yards over difficult terrain to an ammunition vehicle. The quick and courageous act eased the suffering and conceivably saved the life of the officer who was critically wounded."

In December 1944, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge. "He recalled how cold it was and how they were in dire straits since they were cut off from other troops," his son said.

After the war, he worked in the engineering department of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad for several years but re-enlisted in the Army in 1948 and served in military intelligence in Germany until 1954.

From 1954 to 1958, he was a military intelligence instructor at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, and after several years in Hawaii, returned to the school in 1961. He retired from the Army with the rank of colonel in 1965.

He went to work for the National Security Agency in 1965, where he headed security for its National Cryptographic School.

Colonel Glessner was born and raised in New Haven, Conn.. He enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard in early 1941, but after the Pearl Harbor bombing enlisted in the Army. He served in the Pacific until being sent to Europe in 1944.

He was married in 1940 to the former Lillian M. Preiss, who died in 1994. Two other sons, Rudolf C. Glessner and Jeffrey N. Glessner, drowned in Germany in 1951.

He was a longtime communicant and usher at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5500 York Road in Govans, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to his son, survivors include four daughters, Marcella Gulledge of Towson, Debbie Santavenere of Bel Air, Pam Moyer of Forest Hill and Bobbie Glessner-Bush of Philadelphia; two sisters, Clara Heinig of North Haven, Conn., and Stella Rottman of Guilford, Conn.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/12/97

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