Arthur J. Levenson – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army National Security Agency Official

Courtesy of Noel Garland: December 2007

Compiled from a Phoenix Society release:

With his death on August 11, 2007, at the age of 93, the cryptologic community lost one of its most treasured members, Arthur J. Levenson, 93.  His loss will be felt keenly by all who were privileged to know him, to work with him, or to enjoy his company.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, he held a BS in mathematics from the City College of New York, with graduate work in mathematics at New York University and Columbia. As a youth he excelled in track, and running remained a principal interest in his life until injuries compelled him to stop in his late eighties. He loved all sports, and could quote baseball statistics that would amaze his listeners. Many years later he would confound Whitey Ford, the great Yankees pitcher, with details of Whitey's records in his many World Series. It was also at this time that he developed his lifelong love of music and his eclectic tastes ran from Billie Holiday to Johann Sebastian Bach. His music always remained a great source of enjoyment and comfort to him.

With the start of World War ll, the Army called Mr. Levenson to active duty from the Enlisted Reserve Corps. He would regale friends with stories of his adventures as a security guard at Arlington Hall Station, then Headquarters of the Signal Intelligence Service. He was approved for Signal Corps OCS at Fort Monmouth, and following graduation, was selected by Major William Bundy to be a member of the highly qualified group that joined the British wartime code breaking organization at Bletchley Park in Britain. There he worked against both the ENIGMA and TUNNY German cipher machines in the famous Hut 6. He became fast friends with many of the principal British cryptanalysts such as Alan Turing and Hugh Alexander with whom he shared a lifelong love of chess.

While in Britain, he secured permission from his superior officer and good friend, Major Bundy, to marry the love of his life, Marjorie West who he had met at Arlington Hall and who had transferred to OSS and was stationed in London. Their union was to be blessed with three children: David, Sarah, and Becky. all of whom survive.

Immediately after the conclusion of the war in Europe, Mr. Levenson was selected to be a part of an elite group of British and American officers who were sent to Germany to track down German cipher equipment and to locate and interrogate German cryptanalysts.

Returning to the U.S., he remained in the cryptologic business as a civilian with the organizations that eventually evolved into the National Security Agency. He was a member and then Chief of the Technical Consultants group, the prestigious cryptanalytic organization where the most difficult problems were attacked. During that period he initiated the program for sending out selected NSA working mathematicians to participate in the recruitment of promising college math students-a program that greatly enhanced the quality of the growing NSA professional work force.  When the Office of Production in NSA was re-structured to better focus its attacks he was selected to organize and serve as the first Chief of ADVA, an organization dedicated to the exploitation of Soviet high-grade encryption systems. He led the design and implementation of the technical attack and took the lead in procuring high-level government support for the project from such influential experts as William O. Baker, head of the Bell Laboratories and longtime member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Subsequently he became chief of A Group, the major NSA organization devoted to analyzing Soviet Bloc communications. Under his leadership A group was refocused to enhance the timeliness of its Signals Intelligence reporting to the intelligence community.

Before he retired in December 1973, Arthur served as Chief of the Machine Processing Organization, responsible for the maintenance and operation of the large NSA facility which housed both commercial off- the-shelf computers and highly sophisticated special purpose machines. Bringing his own expertise to the job, he also saw the need to introduce into the computer management structure professionals from private industry and thus was one of those who opened up the organization to innovation from outside the close-knit cryptologic workforce.  A former member of Phoenix Society, Inc., he retired with 32 years of Agency service. He also served his country attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army.

Mr. Levenson was a graduate of the National War College and a member of the Cosmos Club. He was awarded the NSA Exceptional Civilian Service Award in 1969.

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to Mrs. Marjorie Levenson and family, 3050 Military Road NW #645, Washington, D.C. 20015.

Mr. Levenson will be buried with full military honors on Friday, December 7, 2007, at Arlington National Cemetery. Guests must assemble at the Cemetery Administration Building no later than 12:30pm for the burial at 1:00pm.

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment