Vice Admiral Joseph Knefler Taussig:
Served in Four U.S. Military Wars
by Seymour “Sy” Brody
Vice Admiral Joseph Knefler Taussig served in four major United States military actions: Spanish-American War, China Relief Expedition, World War I and World War II.
He was born on August 30, 1877, in Dresden, Germany. He was the son of Rear Admiral Edward D. Taussig. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1895. He starred as a quarterback on the Academy’s football team in 1897 and 1898. Taussig led the football team to an 8-1-0 season in 1897. The team had a 7-1-0 season in 1898.
Taussig served as a midshipman on the flagship New York during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in the Spanish-American War. After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1899, Taussig was assigned to the Newark ©-1) and participated in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion.
After two years as a naval cadet, he was commissioned as an Ensign on January 28, 1901. During the years, he was given promotions. In 1916, Taussig was given the command of Division 8, Destroyer Force, the first group of American destroyers sent abroad during World War I.
After crossing the Atlantic Ocean during gales and storms, Commander Taussig was asked by the Commander in Chief when he would be ready for sea duty. Taussig replied in the now famous words, “We are ready now, Sir.” He received the Distinguished Service Medal for World War I service.
He remained in the Naval service following World War I. In 1922, he was in command of the ship Cleveland which gave assistance to the victims of a tidal wave in Chile. He served the Naval College from 1923-1926. He was assigned to duty in the Bureau of Navigation, as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations and as Commandant of the 5th Naval District.
Vice Admiral Taussig was called to testify before a Senate Committee a year and a half before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He told the Senate Committee that events pointed to an eventual war with Japan. He documented his statement with the now famous Fanaka Memorial of 1927 as a blueprint of Japanese expansionist ambitions. Taussig’s statement stirred up a hornet’s nest in Washington, D.C., and the Navy Department was quick to repudiate his “poor judgement.”
He retired three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy applied the mandatory retirement age of 64. His retirement was viewed as a reprimand for his statement to the Senate Committee.
In 1943, he was recalled to active duty to serve in office of the Secretary of the Navy until June 1, 1947. He died on October 29, 1947, at Bethesda Naval Hospital and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, with his wife, Lulie Johnston, who died in 1989.
Return to Table of Contents