Sailor helped with top secret codes

Because he could type Ken Lubold of Englewood got a job shortly after the end of World War II transcribing Morris Code for the U.S. Navy and working the Navy’s top secret code machine while serving in Bremerhaven, Germany for a couple of years.

It wasn’t long after he got out of boot camp at Bainbridge, Md. the 18-year-old recruit was put aboard ship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and headed for Europe.

“Everything in Bremerhaven was pretty well destroyed by the Allied air force during the war,” the 88-year-old former Navy man recalled. “For some reason all the buildings at the German Naval Academy in Bremerhaven remained standing. I couldn’t believe it. All around the academy for blocks there was destruction.

“Shortly after I first arrived they put us on guard duty near the Russian sector of the city. When I first went on guard duty we didn’t have ammunition in our weapons,” he said. “The Russians would fire their burp guns every once and a while when they were on guard duty.”

Most of the 24 months Lubold served in Germany he worked transcribing Morris Code and typing the information on paper. Occasionally he also worked in the cryptographic section on top secret cryptographic machines.

“They were five-letter codes all scrambled and you weren’t spelling anything. The encryption machines had 14 wheels in it and you could set it up for any hour of the day and differently for everyday of the month. You couldn’t hit the spacebar – you had to hit the letters and keep typing. It was hard for a typist to do that but I could keep my thumbs off the space bar and keep typing.”

Much of the communication between various U.S. units stationed in Germany had to do with destroying unneeded naval ships and the relocation of millions of dollars of Army equipment an supply from Europe back to America.

“At the time the U.S. Navy was getting rid of ships they didn’t need. The Navy took then out in the North Sea and sunk then. They were cruisers, minesweepers, destroyers — everything was sunk.”

When he wasn’t decoding for the Navy, Lubold and his service buddies were touring the countryside like a bunch of tourists. He got his hands on a camera and took pictures of everything he saw in Germany that interested a Pennsylvania farm boy, which was everything.

Cigarettes were the coin of the realm at the time.

“For a carton-and-a-half smokes I picked up at the PX for $1.20 I bought a 17th-century German-made violin. I was told recently by an expert that my violin was made by a skilled craftsman because even the inside of the instrument was finely finished. It could easily be worth $2,800 and possibly much more.

“I never learned the play the violin,” Lubold said sheepishly.

His instrument of choice is the guitar. While overseas he and several of his fellow sailors played in a small dance band. They played at a club in downtown Bremerhaven and on occasion at the U.S. Officers’ Club.

“The first thing I did when I got home from Germany was take $100 I had in my pocket and buy a Gibson guitar,” he said. “I understand my $100 guitar I bought when I got off the boat is worth $4,000 or $5,000 right now.”

Another thing he and his Navy fiends did on their off time in Germany was take a German PT-boat for a joy ride out into the North Sea.

“We’d get a barrel of beer and take the boat out to the big lighthouse 25-miles off the coast of Bremerhaven,” he recalled.

Things for the Americans serving as occupation troops in Germany got serious with the start of the Nuremberg Trials. These were the show trials where the members of the Nazi elite were put on trial and some were sentenced to death for war crimes.

“We had to be under arms because the Allies weren’t sure what the people in Germany were going to do because of these trials,” Lubold said. “They were concerned some of the young Germans might try and start an uprising.”

Nothing happened as far as problems with the general public and the trials were concerned. He went back the naval base and continued working with naval codes and the average German went about his business without incident.

“Because I could speak a little German,” he explained, “My folks were Pennsylvania Dutch, I would talk to the people, particularly in Southern Germany. What I learned from talking to a lot of Germans people and some farmers was that Hitler and his henchmen got some guns and took over the country. None of the people wanted World War II.”

As a result of the war and its aftermath the population of Germany was in tough shape after the shooting stopped.

“I visited one fräulein’s home. The family was living in a building about the size of a two-car garage. They had five beds in this one room,” he said. “They were existing on bread and butter.”

Seaman 1/C Ken Lubold returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1948 and was discharged from the Navy. He was a 20-year-old who took the G.I. Bill and started his education at the Bliss Electrical School in Washington, D.C. run by the Navy.

Upon Graduation he took a job with Westinghouse. He worked in Motor Division Control Systems. He was responsible for helping install the power system on the Nautilus atomic submarine.

“I set the relays up for 24,000 amps. There were big relays for the main drives on the sub,” he explained.

After three years at Westinghouse, Lupold went to work for Bell Aircraft.

“I became a discrepancy analyst at Bell. I was there when Chuck Yeager was there,” he said. “I worked there seven years for them and then got laid off with 1,200 others.

“I took a job with Sylvania GTE in Buffalo, N.Y. and got into more electronics. I was doing individual tests.

 Lubold holds a Nazi flag he got from a German workman while serving at the U.S. Navy facility in Bremerhaven in 1947. Sun photo by Don Moore


Lubold holds a Nazi flag he got from a German workman while serving at the U.S. Navy facility in Bremerhaven in 1947. Sun photo by Don Moore

After his retirement he and his wife Irene moved to Florida a couple of decades ago. This past year they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They have two children: Kevin, a sport fishing guide in Englewood for decades, and Deborah who just retired after teaching special education for 37 years.

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This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 and is republished with permission.

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