Rochefort, Joseph J.

Rochefort, Joseph J. (John)

(1898–1976) naval officer; born in Dayton, Ohio. He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1918 during World War I, became an ensign in 1919, and transferred to the United States Navy where he was made captain. In 1925 he took charge of the cryptographic section of the Office of Naval Communications until 1927 when he went back to sea. In 1929 he went to the American Embassy in Tokyo to study Japanese, and returned to the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1932. By June 1941, he was in charge of the Combat Intelligence Unit located at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian territory. He broke the Japanese coded messages and relayed them to Admiral Chester Nimitz prior to and during the battle of Midway during World War II. For this he was given several awards including the Legion of Merit. He retired from the navy in 1947; after being reactivated in 1950 for the Korean War, he retired permanently in 1953. He was a consultant for the movie Tora, Tora, Tora (1953). Never a public figure, he was recognized posthumously when President Reagan awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal for his invaluable service in breaking the Japanese code.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.