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WW II Code-Breaker Being Honored Posthumously

May 29, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan will present a posthumous medal Friday morning to the family of the late Navy Capt. Joseph J. Rochefort, whose code-breaking abilities helped the Navy win one of its greatest victories 44 years ago next week.

Reagan will give the Distinguished Service medal to the family of Rochefort, who died in 1976.

Rochefort had been turned down twice for the medal during his lifetime, but Navy Secretary John Lehman approved it late last year after the declassification of thousands of pages of papers about the Battle of Midway.

Rochefort headed a code-breaking team based in Hawaii. In May 1942 he and his men concluded that the Japanese, who were putting together a huge fleet, planned to atack Midway, a small island west of Hawaii.

But Navy officials in Washington disputed that view, and argued that the Japanese were preparing to attack either Hawaii or possibly the west coast of the United States.

Adm. Chester Nimitz, the Navy commander in Hawaii, listened to Rochefort and concentrated all his forces to prepare for an attack at Midway. American naval forces, although greatly outnumbered, achieved complete surprise and destroyed the Japanese navy forces during the battle from June 4-6, 1942.

Rochefort’s medal was announced shortly before the publication late last year of ″And I Was There,″ a book by the late Rear Adm. Edwin T. Layton, who was the Navy’s chief fleet intelligence officer during World War II.

Layton’s book details bureaucratic infighting which he says kept Rochefort from winning his proper recognition at the time.

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