Francis Eugene Somers Oral History Interview

May 12, 1988; March 10, 1989; April 28, 2001
Oral History #OH0109
Lennon, Donald R.; Somers, Francis Eugene
Physical description
0.015 Cubic Feet, 3 audiotape, 3 hours, 45 pages
Preferred Citation
Francis Eugene Somers Oral History Interview (#OH0109), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Biographical/historical information

Francis Eugene Somers (b. 1918) entered the Naval Academy in 1937 and graduated with the Class of 1941. During World War II, he served on destroyers BUCK, WILKES, and MARSHALL. After the war he transferred to the U.S. Navy Reserve (USNR) and inactive duty (1947); he returned to active duty in 1950 and served until 1955. Somers joined the C.I.A. in 1955 where he worked in the nuclear weapons division for seventeen years. He retired as a captain in the USNR in 1978.

Scope and arrangement

Life at the U.S. Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1941 is described briefly (p. 1). After graduation Somers was assigned to the USS BUCK. In the interview he discusses the activities of the BUCK as part of a task force carrying Marines from Newfoundland to Iceland, and then briefly describes the sinking of the BUCK off the coast of Italy some months after the invasion (p. 2). (Somers had left the BUCK before it sank.) After leaving the BUCK, Somers was sent to serve aboard the USS WILKES. He describes convoy duty in the North Atlantic to Scotland and Londonderry and duty supporting invasions in North Africa and Sicily while aboard the WILKES (p. 2). Following the WILKES, he was transferred to the USS MARSHALL and he notes its participation in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (p. 4).

Somers gives a detailed description (pp. 4-5) of the activities at his next assignment with Task Force 69 out of Casco Bay, Maine, testing and evaluating experimental gunnery to counter kamikaze attacks under Admiral W. A. "Ching" Lee. After the war, Task Force 69 became part of OpTeVFor, and Somers remained there until he joined the F.B.I. in 1947. [Although he worked for the F.B.I. until the beginning of the Korean conflict, there is no discussion in the interview of his assignments or areas of work.]

At the start of the war in Korea, Somers returned to active duty. In the interview he briefly notes his five-year participation in a special weapons project as part of the nuclear weapons developmental group of the joint branches of the military (p. 6). In 1955, he joined the C.I.A. as part of their nuclear energy division and notes its three career branches and his combined technical and operation specialties for the agency (pp. 6-7).

Finally, Somers notes his participation in the Naval Academy's International Studies division, where he gave talks on the "role of intelligence in international affairs" (p. 6), and gives a short description of the Academy's annual Foreign Affairs Conference (pp. 6-7).

Accompanying this oral history is a letter (Jan. 6, 1989) from an unidentified German describing at length his career in the German Navy. He describes basic training (1938, p. 1), convoy duty (p. 1), submarine patrols aboard U-373 in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea (1941-1944, pp. 1-2), the German military rating system for promotions (p. 3), and the convoy lettering system for Allied ships (p. 3). He also describes his post-war career in the West German Navy and his immigration to the United States in 1965 (p. 2).

In Interview #2 Captain Somers comments on his perspective of academic challenges at the USNA, his assignment to the USS BUCK, convoy duty in the North Atlantic, transfer to the USS WILKES, and operations at Casablanca and in the Mediterranean during the North Africa and Sicily invasions. He also describes duty on the MARSHALL in the South Pacific at Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and the second battle of the Philippine Sea; his assignment to the USS TUCKER; his resignation from the Navy in order to join the FBI; his return to active duty during the Korean War to work with the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project; and his work for the CIA subsequent to the Korean War.

In Interview #3 Captain Somers concentrates on his duty with the CIA monitoring the Soviet nuclear program, liaison service in Tokyo and London with British Intelligence, and assignment as deputy commander of U-2 planes stationed at Edwards Air Force Base. He comments on effort to recover a Soviet nuclear submarine that sank in the Pacific, duty in Vietnam, and project work for the FBI and CIA.

Administrative information
Source of acquisition

Gift of Francis Eugene Somers

Processing information

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

General note


Key terms
Personal Names
Somers, Francis Eugene
Corporate Names
United States Naval Academy--History
United States. Navy--Officers--Interviews
Leyte Gulf, Battle of, Philippines, 1944
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Atlantic Ocean
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Ocean