Ralph Adams

I learned a couple of days ago that Ralph Adams died on 23 January. I’d known Ralph for over fifty years. He arrived at the National Security Agency (NSA) as a soldier in 1961 one year after I did, and, like me, later joined the NSA workforce as a civilian. He served as the chief of my analysis shop in Saigon until he was evacuated just before the fall of Saigon in April 1975. He went on to become a member of the Senior Cryptologic Executive Service and became one of the highest-ranking civilians in the agency.

But the Ralph I knew was a fellow linguist. He possessed the inborn knack for understanding the Vietnamese language intuitively, and he spoke it so well that he was one of only three linguists I knew who were mistaken for native speakers on the phone. As an African American, he had to put up with the rough-and-ready humor of his fellow NSA civilians serving in Vietnam in the period just before the country fell to the North Vietnamese. They called him “Spear Chucker,” a moniker that became over time a symbol of respect and liking. There was no one like him.

His obituary is at http://www.omaha.com/obits/adams-ralph-w-jr/article_995bc9d2-09fa-5e95-8d5d-a9a272f8b801.html

2 thoughts on “Ralph Adams”

  1. If I’m not mistaken the moniker “Spear Chucker” was put on him after he came to a Halloween party dress as a native carrying a spear.

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