Allen Greenberg

[ Age 82 ] Code breaker served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam in military career spanning more than 30 years.

Mr. Greenberg spoke several languages, including Chinese and Korean, and served throughout Asia.

January 30, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

Allen Charles Greenberg, a retired military code breaker who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, died of cancer-related pneumonia Saturday at Dove's House, a Westminster hospice. He was 82.

Born in Baltimore and raised in the Easterwood Park section of West Baltimore, he attended Garrison Junior High School and was a 1944 City College graduate. He then entered the Air Force and remained in military service for more than three decades until he retired from the Navy Reserves in 1984. During World War II he served in the South Pacific and worked in intelligence.

Though he never received an undergraduate degree, he was awarded a college degree in the military. He studied for nearly two years at Yale University and completed an intensive course in Chinese at its Institute of Far Eastern Languages. Holding a top-secret security clearance, he went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars and won praise for his work in cryptology, communications and interpretation.

Known to friends as "Chief," he was fluent in Chinese, Korean and other Asian languages, and during his many years in the military he was stationed in Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, China, Thailand, Hawaii and New Guinea. He left the Air Force in the mid-1960s as a staff sergeant. He re-enlisted in the Navy in 1965 and was assigned initially to Japan.

He held the rank of a chief cryptology technician and disseminated false information in the language of enemy combatants, his resume stated.

During the Vietnam War he worked in what his superiors called "highly complex and invaluable electronic warfare" while in Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One. He was stationed aboard the USS Jamestown, a former World War II-era Liberty Ship then assigned to enemy surveillance.

Then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner wrote on a Navy Unit Commendation that Mr. Greenberg was part of an operation whose "actions resulted in both the destruction of enemy aircraft and radar defenses, preserving the lives of U.S. Airmen operating in the hostile environment over North Vietnam."

Mr. Greenberg worked "on a quick-reaction on-call basis over the entire breadth of the vast 7th Fleet operating area from the Northern Pacific to the Indian Ocean," and "greatly [expanded] the body of knowledge encompassing the complex field of electronic warfare," Mr. Warner said.

He was last stationed at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

Michael Gordon, a friend of Mr. Greenberg, said: "We can surmise that his work at the National Security Agency was directly connected to what he helped develop while he was aboard the Jamestown. He had an aptitude for languages and was a highly intelligent person."

In 1974, Capt. Harold E. Joslin of the NSA wrote a letter of appreciation to honor Mr. Greenberg for "the outstanding manner in which he had performed his duties, demonstrating professional competence, initiative and an uncompromising devotion to duty." The letter praised his performance of a classified mission, which "earned him the highest respect of his supervisors and co-workers, and a commendation for a job well done."

After retirement, he returned to his Baltimore home and later moved to Westminster.

For several years in the 1970s, he worked in security for Head Ski and Sportswear in Columbia. Friends said that he often visited with friends from the Easterwood Park recreation leagues. He enjoyed handball, swimming, chess, and watching live sports.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery on Garrison Forest Road.

Survivors include a sister, Vivian Greenberg Shapiro of Westminster; and two nephews.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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