Illustration by Ed Supovitz
Rear Admiral Lewis L. Strauss

Jewish Generals and Admirals in America's Military

Rear Admiral Lewis L. Strauss:
A Navy Man and a Statesman

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Rear Admiral Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss was a Navy Reserve staff officer, who took a leadership role in World War II and he was a United States administrator.

He was born on January 31, 1896, in Charleston, West Virginia. His parents, Rosa and Lewis Strauss were in the wholesale shoe business and had moved to Richmond, Virginia. Strauss became a traveling shoe salesman for his parents’ company.

In 1917, Strauss became a volunteer in Herbert Hoover’s Belgian Relief Program. When Herbert Hoover became the head of the Food Administration, Strauss became his personal secretary. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with President Herbert Hoover.

After World War I, Strauss went to work for the investment firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Company. In 1923, he married Alice Hanauer, a daughter of a partner in the firm. He became a partner of the firm in 1929. He became friendly with many people of the American Jewish Committee.

His parents both died of cancer. This led him to fund the construction of a surge generator to produce isotopes for cancer treatment.

Strauss joined the Navy Reserve in 1926. He was called up for active duty in 1941, becoming the advisor to Undersecretary James Forrestal. He directed the development of the radar proximity fuse, the Big “E” war production incentive program, and was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral by President Truman. In 1950, he was appointed to serve on the Atomic Energy Commission by President Truman. In 1953, President Eisenhower reappointed Strauss and made him the chairman.

In 1958, Strauss was the Acting Secretary Commerce. President Eisenhower nominated him for the permanent position, but it was narrowly rejected by the Senate (by a 49-46 vote).

Strauss was involved and committed to the American Jewish life and welfare. He served as a member of the board of directors of several Jewish philanthropic, academic and communal organizations.

In his life, Strauss fought the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford and Father Charles E. Coughlin. He was also involved in the controversy of the reinstatement of Atomic Energy Commissioner J. Robert Oppenheimer. He voted to not reinstate Oppenheimer, but he worked to have him retained in the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study and other nuclear research projects.

He received many rewards and honors: the Distinguished Service Medal, Medal for Freedom, Legion of Merit, French Legion of Honor and the Belgian Order of Leopold.

He died on January 21, 1974, in Brandy Station, Virginia.

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