NSA Linguist Kenneth Crawford

Monday, October 2, 2006

Kenneth Penland Crawford, 86, a retired language analyst and cryptographer for the National Security Agency, died Sept. 26 of cardiac arrest at his home in Chevy Chase.

Mr. Crawford was born in Cornelia, Ga., and graduated in 1940 from Young Harris College, a two-year liberal arts college in northern Georgia.

After completing the Navy's 90-day officer training program, he was assigned to sea duty and on Dec. 7, 1941, was aboard the USS New Orleans at Pearl Harbor. He participated in most of the Pacific conflicts of World War II, including Guadalcanal, Midway, Coral Sea and Okinawa, and naval battles in the Philippines and near Australia. A lieutenant commander when he left the Navy in 1945, he received a Bronze Star for developing a counter-battery fire system against Japanese artillery.

He studied at the University of Chicago and in 1947 accepted the position of captain in the Air Force, which sent him to study Russian at what was then the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, Calif. He was then posted to Chicksands, England, to monitor Russian radio broadcasts.

Returning to the United States, he received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1955. After an additional year at the Monterey language school to learn Arabic, he was sent to Libya during the Suez Canal crisis. Using his knowledge of Arabic, Russian, French and Italian, he worked as a traffic analyst, monitoring radio broadcasts. During a second tour in Libya, he produced the local Arabic Armed Forces Radio show.

Back in the United States, he received two master's degrees from UCLA -- in Russian studies in 1965 and African studies in 1966. He also did doctoral work at Howard University in North African history, Arabic and Berber and at times taught Arabic at Howard and to Peace Corps volunteers.

Joining the NSA in the late 1960s, he worked as a language analyst and cryptographer until his retirement in the late 1980s.

In retirement, he was a Red Cross volunteer at the National Naval Medical Center. He also was a member of the St. Andrews Society and the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Mr. Crawford's marriage to Laurice Mitchell Crawford ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Lila Oliver Asher of Chevy Chase; three children from his first marriage, Scott Crawford of Oakland, Calif., Lee Crawford of Laurel and Janna Crawford Karp of Hunt Valley, Md.; and five grandchildren.

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