Joseph Knefler Taussig Jr., 79, a retired Navy captain and former Pentagon official who won the Navy Cross for heroism on a battleship bombed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, died of an embolism Dec. 14 at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He lived in Annapolis.
Capt. Taussig, a third-generation naval officer, was the on-duty deck officer of the USS Nevada when Japanese forces attacked the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. After calling the ship's men to battle stations, he took his post as starboard anti-aircraft battery officer and commanded firing even after being severly wounded by bomb fragments, which ultimately resulted in the loss of his left leg.
According to the citation accompanying the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest medal for valor except for the Medal of Honor, Capt. Taussig refused to leave his battle station despite his injury and continued control of the battery until his crew forcibly carried him away.
Years later, he continued to be a force in the Navy, this time as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for civilian personnel/equal opportunity. He received the civilian appointment in 1981 and later became special secretary of the Navy for safety and survivability.
In that capacity, he helped streamline the process for incorporating emergency safety equipment into the military ranks. He retired in 1993 and twice received the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Navy's highest honor for public service.
Capt. Taussig was born in Newport, R.I., and raised partly in Washington, where he graduated from Western High School in 1936. Following in the footsteps of his father, retired Navy Vice Adm. J.K. Taussig, and grandfather, retired Navy Rear Adm. Edward D. Toussig, Capt. Taussig attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was one of four midshipman battalion commanders, and graduated on the accelerated course in early 1941.
After Pearl Harbor, he spent the remaining years of World War II recuperating from his wounds while also serving as a rehabilitation officer at naval hospitals and as a student-instructor at the Naval War College.
He received a law degree from George Washington University in 1949, taught administration and law at the Naval Academy and set up its first military law course.
He retired from active military duty in 1954, and at 34, was the youngest captain in the Navy. Aspiring to a career in public service, he ran for the 1955 Republican nomination to Congress from Maryland's 5th District but came in third in the race. He then headed his own defense weapons and materials consulting firm.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Betty Carney Taussig of Annapolis; a son, Joseph K. Taussig III of Bermuda; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A daughter, Susan T. Graves, died in 1993.