Earl A. Luehman Oral History Interview

June 6, 1991
Oral History #OH0129
Lennon, Donald R.; Luehman, Earl A., 1918-
Physical description
0.005 Cubic Feet, 1 audiotape, 1.5 hours, 32 pages
Preferred Citation
Earl A. Luehman Oral History Interview (#OH0129), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Scope and arrangement

Captain Earl Arthur Luehman (b. 1918) graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1941. Stationed aboard the USS HELENA as turret officer during World War II, he saw action in Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal. He attended flight school, received his wings in September 1943, and flew Navy Privateers and B-24's for the remainder of World War II, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he was an instructor in Naval Science and Navigation at Iowa State (1950-1952); served as the commanding officer of the Naval air station in Trinidad (1959-1962); was the country director for the Caribbean Islands, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guinea in the Western Hemisphereoffice of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (1966-1967); was the Naval operations officer during Task Force 8 (the Pacific atomic bomb tests, 1958-1959); served two years as the Naval Attaché to the USSR (1963-1965); and served as the Naval Defense and the Naval Air Attaché in Greece (1968-1971). In the early 1970s, after his retirement, he worked for a subsidiary of National Cash Register as the marketing director for the Middle East and North Africa, selling communication systems for military and civilian aviation uses.

During the course of this interview, Luehman primarily describes his experiences in World War II and, after the war, the events surrounding his duties as a Naval Attaché in the USSR and as the commanding officer of the Naval air station in Trinidad.

A 1941 graduate of the Naval Academy, Luehman discusses his assignment to the USS HELENA in Pearl Harbor (p. 3), the Japanese attack there on December 7, 1941 (p. 4), and the subsequent torpedo damage to the ship (p. 5). After the HELENA was repaired, Luehman describes her participation in several night battles (pp. 5-6), including the third battle of Savo Island in the Guadalcanal campaign, in which his turret was hit (pp. 6-7). He describes the terrible damage done to the SAN FRANCISCO during the last of the night battles and the unconventional burial at sea the next day of the men killed on her during that battle (pp. 7-8), and a firsthand account of the USS JUNEAU being blown up by a torpedo (p. 8). He also mentions the sinking of the HELENA after he had left it and the attempted rescue operations (p. 10).

After completing flight school and getting his wings in September 1943, he flew land-based Navy Liberators and B-24's on patrol to protectthe invasion forces in the Pacific for the rest of the war. He describes the planes (pp. 10-11) and some of the missions he flew, including encountering "Zeros" off Iwo Jima (p. 12); sinking a submarine near Tokyo Bay (p. 13); and setting mines in a strait near Pusan (p. 14). He also speaks of the lack of adequate runway room for the American planes on captured islands and the solutions (p. 11).

After the war he mentions that he became skipper of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron VW-1 and flew B-17's with radar domes (p. 15) and Constellations in the early 1950s (p. 15). He also briefly describes his work as the Naval operations officer in Task Force 8, the atomic bomb tests series at Eniwetok (p. 16). Luehman discusses activities (1959-1962) in Trinidad as commander of the Naval air station before Trinidad and Tobago obtained their independence (pp. 16-17).

Luehman discusses in great length his years (1963-1965) as Naval Attaché to the USSR (pp. 17-28), including the use of assigned drivers who were KGB men (pp. 17-18); attempts to spy on Soviet ship and submarine building (pp. 18-19); the preponderance of Russian surveillance (pp. 19-27) with many details concerning KGB operations; demonstrations against Americans (p. 27); and of the hardships of embassy life such as having to obtain food from other countries (pp. 25-28).

After finishing his tour in the USSR, Luehman returned to the States, earning his Master's in Foreign Affairs from George Washington University (p. 24) before being assigned as the Naval Attaché in Greece (p. 25).

After his retirement in 1971, Luehman worked for several years (pp. 28-29) in the Near East for a subsidiary of National Cash Register (NCR) which dealt with military communications systems. He describes visits to Khartoum in Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

The last items described are the weather tracking of a typhoon off of Okinawa when he flew to the center of the typhoon (pp. 30-31) and an incident during World War II when he had engine trouble while searching for a submarine and barely made it back to Midway (pp. 31-32).

For more information see Collection #619.1.

Administrative information
Source of acquisition

Gift of Earl A. Luehman

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
Luehman, Earl A., 1918-
Corporate Names
Helena (Cruiser)
National Cash Register Company
Soviet Union. Komitet gosudarstvennoĭ bezopasnosti
United States Naval Academy
United States. Navy--Aviation
United States. Navy--Officers--Interviews
Guadalcanal, Battle of, Solomon Islands, 1942-1943
Military attachés--Russia--Moscow
Military intelligence--Russia
Military intelligence--United States
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Japan
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Solomon Islands--Guadalcanal
Russia--Politics and government--20th century