Kenneth Boulier

[Age 91] A Navy code breaker during World War II, he later worked at the National Security Agency.

Mr. Boulier escaped the island of Corregidor in the Philippines days before it fell to the Japanese in 1942.

November 08, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

Kenneth Alexander Boulier, a retired Navy code breaker who survived the Battle of Corregidor and was decorated for his work during World War II, died of cancer Sunday at his Glen Burnie home. He was 91.

Born in Cedar Bluffs, Neb., he quit school during the Depression and hopped freight trains to see the country. He then enlisted in the Navy and was sent to a military cryptological school in Long Beach, Calif. He served aboard the USS Houston and the USS New Mexico, and was assigned to the Philippines during World War II.

Family members said that in March 1942, he escaped from the island of Corregidor in the Philippines to Australia aboard the submarine USS Permit days before the Japanese took control of it. He was among the 40 officers and enlisted men, including code analysts from the Navy's Far East intelligence station.

His family said his escape vessel was chased and rocked by depth charges several times by the Japanese. At one point, the submarine was submerged for more than 22 hours.

"Ken helped decipher the Japanese transmissions that led to the shooting down of the plane of Admiral [Isoroku] Yamamoto," said his daughter Maureen Ashley of Marblehead, Mass. Admiral Yamamoto was the commander of the Japanese fleet and is credited with planning the Pearl Harbor attack.

Mr. Boulier's code-breaking in Australia gave warning of the June 1942 Japanese attack at Midway, which became an important Allied victory in the war.

Mr. Boulier was awarded the Army Distinguished Unit Badge with oak leaf cluster for his work.

Shortly after the war, he met Eileen O'Toole, a Navy WAVE who worked in classified communications at a Washington installation. They married in 1946.

A chief warrant officer, he remained in the Navy. He retired from the National Security Agency at Fort Meade in 1972.

Mr. Boulier became interested in lapidary while stationed on the island of Adak in Alaska in 1953. He worked with opal, jade and malachite, and his cabochons, or cut and highly polished gems, were displayed for several years at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. He taught the craft and was the winner of multiple American Federation of Mineralogical Societies trophies. He later turned to carving ivory.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Glen Burnie.

In addition to his daughter and wife, survivors include four sons, Brian Boulier of Virginia Beach, Va., Kevin Boulier of Marriottsville, James Boulier of Millersville and Michael Boulier of Gambrills; three other daughters, Patricia Rowan of Annapolis, Pamela Chapman of Jupiter, Fla., and Dianne Bailey of Bethesda; a sister, Betty Olson of Omaha, Neb.; 18 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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