My Father Was a Spy

So, my father passed away May 25th; his memorial service was yesterday.

I’d known that he developed an innovative side-looking sonar at Scripps for submarine detection, and been involved in maintenance of the transatlantic cable taps, but that was all after his USAF and USN military service, when he was in graduate school or the private sector doing oceanographic work.

But I’d also known that he’d served in Germany doing Top-Secret signals intercepts right out of high school. He wouldn’t talk about it much (it was only declassified in the late ’90s) and it was only yesterday that I learned the details of his unit: he served in the US Air Force Security Service (USAFSS). Yeah, you’ll want to click that link. Johnny Cash had his exact same job, and served in the exact same facility, just a few years prior to my Dad.

We were estranged for many years for lots of reasons, but even I choked up a bit when the color guard dropped to a knee and said his piece while handing the flag to his widow.

Thanks for your service, Dad.



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6 Responses to My Father Was a Spy

  1. Merle says:

    Sorry for your loss. It’s too bad you couldn’t have mended your fences sooner, and maybe learned more about his service.


  2. Rolf says:

    What Merle said, +1.

  3. Dave RNS Photographer says:

    Kind thoughts to you and the missus and your father’s widow.
    It’s rather sad when family dynamics lead to estrangement and sometimes a loss occurs before fences are mended
    I appreciate your father’s service.

  4. Davidwhitewolf says:

    Thanks for the sentiments. It takes two to tango. We ended up with a cordial if distant relationship; we did talk a couple of years ago and go through old photographs from throughout his career so he could reminisce, and that was useful.

    But mending fences? Let’s just say I’m can see him reaching out from the grave, with the crooked mischievous grin I share, to set the date for his memorial service just so I’d have to miss the Queen revival concert in San Jose last night. My disabled cousin and my replacement ended up with sixth-row seats in front of the stage, right behind Cyndi Lauper.

    I don’t really believe that, of course. But some years ago he and I had settled into subtly baiting each other like that just for spite, so there you go. Neither of us ever openly acknowledged it to the other, but we both knew what we were doing. It was satisfying, in a vindictive sort of way, except he got the last word, I suppose. [tips hat]

  5. Armageddon Rex says:

    You have my most sincere condolences sir.
    I might add that working in such an environment often leads to family stress on multiple levels. May you find such consolation as is possible from knowing that at least part of the difficulties with your father and his/your family may have resulted from his incredible stress at work. Sometimes a job can require such focus and attention to detail that it sucks all the available patience and interest right out of you.
    It’s very difficult to feign interest in your son’s pinewood derby car or wife’s recounting of her daily trials and tribulations when you deal with Top Secret /SCI SPECAT (SPEcial CATegory), sometimes earth shaking events on a daily basis. Due to the awkward requirement for “crew rest”, sometimes literally walking out on them in the very midst of something long anticipated and perhaps never to occur again happening, and then returning home to deal with the dirty dishes, the yard work, the disagreeable neighbors, the SITCOM reminiscences, the homework help.
    When you “live” in that environment for your entire professional life, many “normal” events tend to be difficult to find patience for. You wind up living a sort of schizophrenic life, split between extremely sensitive, highly classified information and decisions where a wrong understanding or conclusion really can cost lives and still having to bear up to all the mundane demands of a middle class American existence.
    I hope you find peace with his memory.


    Master Sergeant Armageddon Rex, USAF Retired

  6. Ted says:

    My condolences.

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