Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More on our dear friend RADM Pat March - THE Cryptologist of the United States Navy - has rested his oars, folded his sails and taken his last flight

Rear Admiral George Patrick March, U.S. Navy (Retired), a resident of the Olympia, WA area since 1995, passed into the "Great Beyond" on October 18, 2009 at the age of 85. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on the squash court (doing what he loved). A lifelong learner, he had completed his Spanish lessons earlier in the day.

Born in Corvallis, Oregon ("God's country"), into a pioneer family on 16 January 1924, he lived in Valsetz from 1928 to 1933 after which he moved to Portland. Following graduation from Lincoln High School in 1941, he attended Oregon State College (now University) for two years before entering the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated from that institution (with a B.S. in Marine Engineering) and was commissioned Ensign in June 1946. On 20 December of that year he married the beautiful Betty Eileen Saum ("Saumie"). Pat's love for Saumie was as legendary as RADM Eugene Ince's lifelong romance with his wife Jean. After two years of destroyer duty, he studied the Russian language at the Navy's Intelligence School in Washington, D.C. He became a specialist in the field of cryptology in 1949 and for the next 29 years pursued a career that included staff and command assignments at sea, on foreign shore and in the Washington, D.C. area. His foreign shore duty included Morocco (where he flew extensively aboard the P4M-Q1 Mercator as a Communications Intelligence evaluator (COMEVAL)), Germany, France, Cyprus, England and Japan. He also served one year in Hawaii He was the OP-94 (DNC) and CNSG senior representative at the USS Pueblo crew debrief 12/68 – 1/69. In 1973 he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and assigned as an Assistant Director of the National Security Agency. The following year he was ordered to duty as the Commander, Naval Security Group Command, with additional duty as the Director, Electronic Warfare and Cryptology Division, on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. He retired from the Navy in 1978. Wherever he went he inspired people to do their very best. Annually (throughout the 1980s), he made pilgrimages to Naval Security Group Detachment Barbers Point, Hawaii to present the RADM G. P. March Award to the best linguists in the Navy. He loved sharing an Olympia beer (or six) with his Sailors.

When on duty in the Washington, D.C. area, he attended evening classes at Georgetown University, receiving his MA in 1952 and PhD in 1965 in the field of Russian History. After retirement from the Navy, he commenced post-doctoral work at the University of Hawaii in the field of East Asian Studies, which involved the study of the Mandarin and Classical Chinese languages. From 1983 to 1993 he lectured in history for the University of Hawaii. In addition to articles published in the journals Sibirica and Pacific Historical Review, he authored two published books: Cossacks of the Brotherhood: The Zaporog Kosh of the Dnieper River (1990) and Eastern Destiny: Russia in Asia and the North Pacific (1996). His vast array of interests and deep desire to keep learning kept him vitally engaged in life.

Since retirement in Olympia, he has been involved with golf at the Olympia Country and Golf Club (3 holes-in-one!), with squash racquets at the Valley Athletic Club, and with the Olympia World Affairs Council.

He loved and respected people, his friends were very dear to him and he had absolute dedication and love for his family. He lost his wife, Saumie in 2006 and is survived by three devoted daughters, Molly, Terry and Peggy and their spouses; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Over the years he apologized to me for his lack of correspondence but cited the need to devote some well-deserved attention to his three girls and their families. ((His note: "First, my apologies for being so slow to respond to you. After all, being a latter day historian, I am in favor of leaving records, especially written ones, for posterity. My three daughters were here for their annual pilgrimage part of last month, the only time in the year they get to see each other because of their rather wide geographical distribution. Their presence takes precedence over just about any other endeavors!"))

Ceremonies and inurnment will take place at the U.S. Naval Academy Columbarium in Annapolis, Maryland on December 5th. On Friday, October 23, 2009 at 12:00 noon a reception will be held at the Olympia Country and Golf Club so that those who knew and appreciated Pat can gather to celebrate the life of this remarkable man - a genuine officer and gentleman of the highest order.

Published in The Olympian on October 21, 2009

His anecdote about his admission to the United States Naval Academy:

"My mother read a book entitled “Annapolis Today” while I was in High School, and at her urging, I read it. I hadn’t really developed any special career thoughts; so it piqued my interest, and I signed up for the “competitive” exam for an appointment to the Naval Academy by Senator Holman. In due course, I received a “second alternate” appointment, which is like kissing your sister. So I went off to Oregon State College (now University) in Corvallis to study chemical engineering.

I took the test again that following year, with the same result. During that freshman year, Pearl Harbor was bombed and we were in WWII. I was in ROTC (Army) and signed up in the Enlisted Reserve Corps of the Army; so I was eligible for call up at the pleasure of the government. During my sophomore year I took the exam a third time and initially with the same results again.

Then, a strange thing happened. My sister Catherine’s husband was flying with the Army Air Corps; so she moved into an apartment next door to a nice, older couple in Portland. The husband, upon learning that Catherine’s little brother was trying to get an appointment from Senator Holman, indicated that he was having lunch with the Senator the following day. Knowing that we were from a pioneer family, he suggested that if Catherine could give him a run-down of the family history in Oregon by 8:00 the next morning, he would see what could be done.

In ten days I had received a principal appointment! So it wasn’t what one knew but rather whom one knew. The irony is that when I entered the Academy, I happened to run across the person who had been appointed the year before – he had just bilged out! So much for the “competitive” part of the exam!"


Anonymous said...

On my professional tombstone, I want these words engraved:
"I learned as much from my seniors' mistakes as from their good examples."

Amen, shipmate.

Anonymous said...

Only nice thing I can think of about his passing is that he and his buddy Jim McFarland can share a beer again and Saumie can cheer them on. Both guys were huge fans of athletics, so I am sure they are competing on some ball field or racquet ball court. Other than that, his passing is just one huge loss.

Captain Jerry Stump (1610) retired said...

He was very impressive. Playing squash at 85 must be a record. I was never able to beat him on the raquetball court, or even emerge victorious at martini time - at lunch or after work. (Part of our training as RULINGS.) He represents the legacy of the Security Group so far as I am concerned.

Via e-mail.

H. Winsor Whiton (RADM, USN retired) said...

Thought GP would live forever, and of course he does in the hearts and minds of those who served with him.

Somehow fitting it happened on the squash court. Not a bad thing going out doing something you love.

Glad to hear he didn't linger. He would not have been pleased.


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CDR Fred Stratton said...

Captain Lambert,

I had the honor of meeting Admiral March at then-NSGD Barber's Point in the early 90s when he presented the award the bears his name to the Det, which was led by LT Chuck Kasinger. He presented the award to us again under LT Larry Gloss. The Admiral always wore aloha attire, but you could tell by the way he carried himself and the way he spoke that he was someone special, someone who inspired others to do well. And he did just that.

VR, Fred

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