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On 15 July 2008, at a suburban hospital alongside the Washington Beltway in Maryland, Milton Zaslow, once a self-described “smart-ass kid from New York” who became one of the giants of post-World War II government cryptology, slipped away from us, suddenly and unexpectedly. That perhaps would have been his preference. A supremely self-confident man and a natural leader, he was at heart a modest and private person: ready to honor his friends and colleagues, he disdained ceremony centered upon himself.
A father, he lived alone in recent years, since the loss of his beloved wife. A veteran of World War II in the Pacific, his life had been spent in government service; in retirement he devoted his time to repaying what he felt he had received, through volunteer work, “tiring, but necessary.” Much of that work involved the support of cryptologic history and the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation, in which he assumed the lead in recognizing and honoring his former colleagues.
Mr. Zaslow was graduated from the City College of New York as war broke out. Anticipating the need for linguists, he enrolled in a highly intensive (and highly expensive) course in Japanese, conducted by New York University. Upon completion, he was interviewed, with other students of promise, by an Army officer and sent to a “total immersion” Japanese course at the University of Michigan, after which – with no basic training – he was assigned to work with Nisei volunteers, Japanese Americans, mostly from Hawaii and California, in the army.
Totally alien to Japanese and their way of life, he formed a deep appreciation and a lasting bond. These became the subject of an interview for the Library of Congress, sponsored by the Japanese American Veterans’ Association (JAVA) in 2004 (available here) recounting his experiences as an army captain and leader of a ten-man team of military intelligence, detailed under US Navy auspices to serve with US Marines.
Transferring after the war to the US Army Security Agency and a career in cryptology, Zaslow moved through the echelons of management and organizational mergers into the Armed Forces Security Agency (1949) and the successor National Security Agency (1952), rising as a senior executive to the level of a deputy director, having headed offices in Japan (1961-63), the Pentagon (1969-72) and London (1975-78).
He also served as chief of the analytic office responsible for Southeast Asia during that war. Mr. Zaslow retired from active service in 1979, as NSA Deputy Director for Telecommunications and Computer Services. In October 2007, a life-time of confidential work that could not be publicly appreciated was honored by the induction of “Mr. Z.” into the Hall of Honor at the National Cryptologic Museum, Fort George G. Meade, MD. There he joined the pantheon of “giants” of American cryptology.
David W. Gaddy, NCMF, 18 July 200
An early (1997) acquisition by the NCMF for the Museum was the INFORM system which, at the time, was a modern state of the art hand held tour guide system which was also used by the Louvre in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and in some seventy major museums and similar sites world wide. The NCMF paid the Acoustiguide Corporation of New York for the development of the script for many of the Museum exhibits and then leased 25 of the units from them.
The system, which supplemented the use of docents, consisted of hand-held wands that a visitor would use to listen to audio descriptions of various exhibits in the museum. It provided countless hours of enjoyment to many visitors but in recent years the system, based on ageing technology, became obsolete and on October 1, 2009 it was deactivated and its components were returned to Acoustiguide.
The Foundation in consultation with NSA is exploring options for a more modern self-guided system. New communication devices, like cell phones, iPODs, and Blackberrys are being used to provide self-guided, multi-media tours. These systems are state-of-the-art and easy to use and maintain. For example, one system allows the use of an individual’s cell phone. The visitor simply dials a phone number listed at the display, keys in a code number and then listens to a recording consisting of narrative, or music, or even a special effect associated with that display. While much work remains, the Foundation expects once again to support the museum by providing this important capability.
The National Cryptologic Museum Foundation has established the Milt Zaslow Award for Cryptology for Maryland History Day with the Maryland Humanities Council (MDHC), sponsor of Maryland History Day. This is an annual statewide contest which involves over 450 students, 85 judges plus parents and teachers. The winners go on to represent Maryland at the National History Day contest in June.
The MDHC is a private, educational, nonprofit organization organized to stimulate and promote informed dialogue and civic engagement on issues critical to Marylanders. There are categories for Junior and Senior school participants. Judges have guidelines for a variety of subjects, and the Milt Zaslow Award for Cryptology will, of course, focus on cryptologic topics.
In 2008, student winners for cryptology shared the $500 award for projects on the Navajo Codetalkers in the Junior category and on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in the Senior category. During Milt's tenure as the Recognitions Chairman, he took great
interest in the program and on several occasions served as a contest judge for cryptology.
The ten-year grant was made possible by the generosity of the Foundation's general membership and the family of Mr. Zaslow who contributed to the Foundation's In Memoriam Program to commemorate Mr. Zaslow's many contributions to the field of cryptology. The Foundation decided that the most fitting memorial of all would be to establish a monetary award, the Milt Zaslow Award, to be presented to the winners in each of the junior and senior divisions of the Maryland History Day competition for the best submissions related to cryptology.
In December 2002, the NCMF Board of Directors received a briefing from Bernard Farkas and two associates, Morrie Cove and Carol Schultz, of Crypt Associates, LLP, on a proposal to encourage math learning, computer skills, and the lure of cryptographic games to attract the attention of school children at the K-12 level (The Link, Winter 2002). With the enthusiastic support of Gen. Morrison, then President and Chairman of the Board of the Foundation, the Board was given a follow-up briefing at its Spring 2003 meeting and undertook to endorse the program and provide both corporate and private donations as seed money. This was the birth of “a[[ll] k[ids] a[re]SMART” and the NCMF relationship with the program. Morrie Cove became the program manager, a tireless advocate and promoter. In subsequent years, as the concept spread into schools in Maryland and Virginia, feedback and interest were gratifying to all concerned
The a.k.a. Smart (All Kids Are Smart) Program’s objective is to stimulate the interest of students in the study of mathematics at the elementary through high school levels. The program was launched in March 2003 as a joint venture between the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation (NCMF) and a.k.a. Smart Corporation (formerly known as CLP Company) of Herndon, Virginia. The basic idea is to make math learning an exciting and challenging experience through the use of internet-derived puzzles and games, which are calibrated to be in consonance with the educational level of the student and tailored to meet the learning objectives of the particular math course or program.
The response to a.k.a. Smart by students, teachers, parents and school officials has been highly favorable, and the program has been the subject of positive coverage in the local area press. To date well over 1,000 students have participated in the program and several area schools have integrated it into their math curricula. Financial support to the program has been provided by NCMF, the Raytheon Corporation, the Army Security Agency Association and many groups and individual donors.
For more detailed information about the program please see the article in the Spring 2006 edition of the Foundation’s publication, The LINK which is available for viewing or printing in Members Only.
- Last Updated - 5/25/2013
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