NEWPORT, R.I. – As the United States Navy readies to honor the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, a new book on a key player of the battle was showcased at the U.S. Navy War College (NWC) Museum’s Eight Bell Lecture-Series on Mar. 9.
Author Elliot Carlson discussed his book, “Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway” to a standing-room only crowd. The book tells the compelling story of the trials and tribulations of Capt. Rochefort, a Navy cryptanalyst, and his efforts in cracking the Japanese code that played a crucial role at the Battle of Midway.
“Rochefort helped greatly in the winning at the Battle of Midway,” said Carlson “The victory at Midway was a key turning point for the American forces in the Pacific Theater of World War II.”
Carlson, a retired journalist who was once editor of the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) magazine said he became interested in the World War II Pacific Theater when he was as a student at University of Oregon. There, he shared a class with a Marine who served as a Japanese language officer on Oahu during World War II. After graduating from Oregon and obtaining a master’s degree at Stanford University, the author moved to Hawaii to write for the Honolulu Advertiser
“It was in Honolulu that I was ‘bit by the bug’ of fascination regarding World War II,” said Carlson. ”While in Honolulu, I’d go to Pearl Harbor to look around or go to the Arizona Memorial. It just fascinated me with the whole history of Pearl Harbor and that’s where I became an amateur student on the Pacific War.”
Over the years, Carlson kept reading about the Pacific War and kept coming across the name Rochefort. Rochefort quickly came to intrigue Carlson due to the interesting history of his accomplishments and personality. Rochefort led the effort to break the Japanese JN-25 code that provided invaluable intelligence on Japanese naval intentions and paved the way for the Navy’s victory at Midway. However, his accomplishments were ignored and Adm. Chester Nimitz’s recommendation for Rochefort’s Distinguished Service Medal was never processed.
While Rochefort was posthumously awarded his Distinguished Service Medal in 1985, Carlson’s book , “Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway” is the first detailed accounting of the cryptanalyst and his accomplishment. This testament to a Navy hero is the culmination of six years of hard work. Carlson’s wife Norma, was instrumental as a research assistant and cheerleader.
“This journey has been a great thrill,” said Carlson. “It was very nice to see all the hard work come together in such a book.”
“When you look at books written about Nimitz, you read about how important intelligence was in the Battle of Midway and some mention Rochfert,” said Naval War College Museum Education and Community Outreach Director and retired Navy Cmdr. John Kennedy. “There was nothing definitive written about him until this book.”
The opportunity to hear about Rochefort and the six-year project to put the story to paper was evident at the Eight Bells Lecture.
“This was the biggest turnout we’ve had so far,” said Kennedy. “I’m glad to see a book like this to receive the attention it did at our lecture series.”