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The Taussigs
The Taussigs
The Taussigs are a four-generation USNA alumni family with a distinguished record of service to our nation.
Edward David Taussig, 1867, as Commanding Officer of the USS Bennington claimed Wake Island for the US in 1899. He retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral. USS Taussig, DD 746, was named for Edward D. Taussig.

Joseph K. Taussig Sr., 1899, was born August 30, 1877, in Dresden, Germany, and entered the Naval Academy in 1895. As a midshipman, he served on the flagship, the armored cruiser New York (ACR-2), during the Battle of Santiago in the Spanish-American War. Taussig starred in football as Navy's quarterback in 1897 and 1898. In 1898, Caspar Whitney, who with Walter Camp originated the All-America team, wrote about him in Harper's Weekly: “Taussig is fast, good driver and runner and sure and hard tackler.” His brothers John Taussig and Charles Taussig played college ball at Cornell. He led the 1897 Navy team to an 8-1-0 record and 7-1-0 in 1898, with both losses coming to Princeton. In 1899, he won the Thompson Trophy as the man “who has done the most during the current year for the promotion of athletics at the Naval Academy.” Following his graduation he was assigned to cruiser Newark (C-1) and participated in the Allied Peking Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion. After two years as a naval cadet, he was commissioned an Ensign 28 January 1901 to begin a series of promotions and distinctions that would underscore his illustrious service to the Navy.

In July 1916, after serving in battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and on staffs afloat, Taussig took command of Division 8, Destroyer Force, the first group of American destroyers sent abroad during World War I. After crossing the storm and gale filled Atlantic, CDR Taussig was asked by the Commander in Chief of the Coasts of Ireland when he would be ready for sea. Taussig replied in the now famous words; “We are ready now, Sir.”. He received the Distinguished Service Medal for World War I service. After the war, he continued to serve the Navy at home and abroad. In 1922, his ship, the protected cruiser Cleveland (CL-21), rendered assistance to the victims of an earthquake and tidal wave in Chile. He served at the Naval War College from 1923 to 1926, and also saw duty in the Bureau of Navigation, as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, and as Commandant, 5th Naval District, in addition to commanding a battleship division and cruiser scouting force.

On April 22, 1940, RADM Taussig testified before the US Senate Naval Affairs Committee that war with Japan was inevitable. Vice Admiral Taussig retired in 1941, but was recalled to active duty in 1943 to serve in the office of the Secretary of the Navy until 1 June 1947, only a few months before his death 29 October 1947. USS Joseph K. Taussig, DE-1030, was named for Joseph K. Taussig Sr.

A verse of the song Sim's Flottilla addresses his accomplishment in WW I:

Joe Taussig brought the first bunch
Across from the U.S.A.
To uphold President Wilson's words
And make the U-boats pay.
When asked about his readiness
To take his turn at sea,
He told Vice-Admiral Bayly
He's as ready as could be.

You can talk about your battleships
Cruisers, scouts and all,
You can talk about the Fritzies
Who ran cruising for a fall;
You can take in all your Coast Guard,
It's home they have to be,
But Sims's Flotilla is the terror of the sea!

Joseph K. Taussig, Jr. '41 received the Navy Cross for heroism on board USS Nevada (BB 36) at Pearl Harbor. He was perhaps best known as the officer of the deck aboard Nevada when Japanese planes attacked “Battleship Row” on Dec. 7, 1941. Fourteen bombs hit Nevada that day; 43 people were killed and 118 wounded. After sounding the alert on his ship, the 21-year-old ensign manned a starboard anti-aircraft gun and refused to leave his post after taking a hit to his left leg. In his own words, “I was directing fire at the outset of the attack when I don't know what hit me, something went completely through my thigh. They ordered a cot for me, and I just continued to control the gun batteries. Some enlisted men brought a stretcher and I stayed up there until the (ship's) whole structure caught fire. They brought me down through the fire. The Navy said I was decorated because I refused to leave my post.”

“This is a direct order,” he said to BM1 Bob Norman, who was trying to carry him away to safety. “Leave me alone!” “I'm sorry sir,” replied Norman, “but this is one order I'm going to have to disobey.” Facing a fire that severely damaged the ship, Taussig resisted but was forcefully carried below decks by his shipmates where he was treated for his injuries. Besides receiving the Navy Cross, the Navy's second highest award for valor following the Medal of Honor in precedence, Taussig was also awarded the Purple Heart. He stayed in several hospitals until April 1946, when his left leg was amputated. He returned to active duty three days later. By the time he finally retired from active naval service in 1954 he was, at age 34, the youngest captain in the Navy.

Taussig worked in government relations until 1981, when he was appointed deputy assistant secretary for Civilian Personnel, Policy and Equal Employment Opportunity for the Department of the Navy (DoN). He later assumed the position of special assistant for safety and survivability for the Secretary of the Navy, where he implemented new procedures and tools to help Sailors and aviators survive at sea. His uncanny ability to cut through red tape to provide needed safety gear to Sailors and Marines was legendary.

“...He was a person who really cared about Sailors and Marines. He was a person who got things done,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig. The very scissors used by Secretary Danzig to open Taussig's memorial display at the Washington Navy Yard were once used by Taussig to make a point to then-Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, if in a shocking way. Taussig walked into Lehman's office holding pair of scissors with a piece of cloth in the blades -- and lit the cloth on fire, right inside the SECNAV's carpeted office. The cloth burned immediately.

“What was that?” asked a startled SECNAV.

“That was Nomex,” replied Taussig, “It's what we're using for our flight suits.”

Taussig pulled out another piece of cloth, put it in the scissors and tried to burn that one too. It wouldn't ignite.

“This,” said Taussig, “is what I want to use for our flight suits.”

The new material, “Kynol,” was something commercially available, similar to what racing drivers and firefighters were using. “He was really the match of the right guy with the right challenge, remarked retired Secretary Lehman about Taussig. “No one else was able to get so much personal safety gear out to the fleet in history. He had direct access to the CNO and the SECNAV and that made bureaucrats scared, but he knew how to use that crown of power wisely.”

“In 1986, he used off-the-shelf technology to create thermal imaging devices to see through smoke-filled compartments,” said retired Capt. Richard Healing, director of safety and survivability for the Navy. “In 1988, he fought to keep funding so Sailors could fight fires using the `fire fighter's ensemble'(FFE) instead of relying on chambray shirts and dungarees. He also implemented the new self-contained breathing apparatus SCBA), the new fire fighting breathing device that replaced the old `oxygen breathing apparatus'(OBA). We gave some SCBAs to Sailors onboard USS Kidd (DD 993) and they just loved them! They didn't want to give them back!” Taussig's overall contributions to the Navy lowered costs due to fire damages from $180 million to $1 million annually.

He was also instrumental in the development of the “helicopter emergency escape breathing device” (HEED), a compressed air bottle that gives two minutes of emergency air. It has saved more than 140 lives since it was introduced in 1986.

Taussig twice earned the Civilian Distinguished Public Service award, the Navy's highest award for public service. He passed away December 14, 1999, of an embolism at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md. He was 79. His remains were laid to rest December 17, 1999, at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis.

Joseph K. Taussig III, '66, was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps where he served as a patrol leader with First Force Recon and later as an infantry company commander in Hue City during the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam. He now resides in Bermuda and is a noted Bridge player.

This document was assembled from official Navy sources, Jews In Sports Online and a mirror of the Digital Tradition Folk Music Database.

 New 9/5/01 by Ray Trygstad '77. Web page (but not text content) copyright 1996-2001 Webmaster Sources, Naperville, IL