Ellis M. Zacharias

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Ellis Mark Zacharias, Sr.
Ellis M Zacharias.jpg
Captain Ellis M. Zacharias, Sr.
Born(1890-01-01)January 1, 1890
Jacksonville, Florida
DiedJune 27, 1961(1961-06-27) (aged 71)
West Springfield, New Hampshire
Buried (38°52′45″N 77°04′08″W / 38.879074°N 77.069006°W / 38.879074; -77.069006)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of the Navy.svg United States Navy
Years of service1912–46
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Rear admiral
Commands heldDeputy Director of Naval Intelligence
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsLegion of Merit (3)
Other workTV presenter, Behind Closed Doors

Ellis Mark Zacharias, Sr. (January 1, 1890 – June 27, 1961) was a Rear admiral and naval attaché to Japan, who served in World War I and World War II. After World War II, he was appointed as the deputy director of US Naval Intelligence, and post-retirement he narrated the 1958–59 NBC television docudrama series Behind Closed Doors.

Military career[edit]

Early life and during World War I[edit]

Zacharias was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He was appointed as a midshipman in 1908, and graduated as an ensign in 1912 from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.[1][2] Zacharias served his first cruise aboard the new dreadnought battleship USS Arkansas, which escorted U.S. President William Howard Taft to Panama to inspect the dry Panama Canal prior to completion. From 1913 to 1915, Zacharias served aboard the battleship USS Virginia. He was then stationed for a time on the survey ship USS Hannibal.[3]

During World War I, he served as a line officer aboard the cruiser USS Pittsburgh.[2] and later as an engineering officer aboard the protected cruiser USS Raleigh, and returning to Pittsburgh as a gunnery line officer.[1][2]

Between the wars[edit]

In June 1919, he was transferred to the cruiser USS Huntington.[1] In September 1919, he was posted as an instructor in Marine Engineering and Naval Construction at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis.[1] In August 1920, Zacharias was appointed as an assistant U.S. Naval Attaché to Japan and was attached to the American Embassy, Tokyo as a language student, which typically involved the conduct of US diplomatic and intelligence missions.[1][4] He departed Japan to return to the United States following the Great Kantō earthquake in September 1923, on board the cruiser USS Huron, where he briefly served as First Lieutenant.[1] Zacharias then served two years as navigator of the cruiser USS Rochester. In August 1926, he served with United States Asiatic Fleet briefly commanding the destroyer USS McCormick, prior to rejoining Pittsburgh as her navigator between December 1926 and July 1928. He assigned back to Tokyo, serving as acting naval attaché until November 1928.[1]

For the next two years, he was posted in charge of the Far East Division, Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.,[1] during which he was designated an aide, along with Sidney Mashbir, to Prince Takamatsu, brother of the Japanese Emperor, during his two months’ visit to the United States in 1931.[1][5] At the end of 1931, he was assigned command of the destroyer USS Dorsey. Whilst detached, he completed the senior course at the Naval War College, Rhode Island in June 1933. In June 1934, he was posted back to Office of Naval Intelligence as the Head of the Far East Division.[1] From July 1936 until February 1938, Zacharias served as Executive Officer of the light cruiser USS Richmond . In May 1938 he served as District Intelligence Officer, Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California.[1]

World War II[edit]

From November 1940 until 1942, Zacharias commanded USS Salt Lake City, a heavy cruiser. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Salt Lake City was escorting the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise between Wake Island and Pearl Harbor; it was one of the few fully operational vessels remaining in the region and proceeded to join the first U.S. Navy offensive task force in the South Pacific.[6] In April 1942, Zacharias commanded Salt Lake City as an escort ship for the 1942 bombing raid over Japan.[2] During the war, he remained at the rank of captain.[7] He conducted radio psychological warfare against the Japanese high command.[8][9] During the war, Zacharias remained at the rank of captain, only after the war being promoted to rear admiral on the strength of his World War II combat citations.[1]

Later life[edit]

After the war, Zacharias was appointed to the United States Office of War Information then back to the Office of Naval Intelligence, where he developed plans to restructure and centralise Military intelligence under the organisational name Joint Intelligence Agency with his friend and former fellow Japanese attaché Sidney Mashbir, who had during World War II established the highly-effective inter-service Allied Translator and Interpreter Section.[4] Zacharias' plans for restructuring Military intelligence would not come to fruition until the Defense Intelligence Agency was established in 1961.[10] His television series, Behind Closed Doors, is a unique 26-episode program set during the Cold War hosted by and occasionally starring Bruce Gordon in the role of Commander Matson. The series focuses on how the former Soviet Union stole American missile secrets and proposes steps to prevent further espionage. Behind Closed Doors is based on Zacharias files in naval intelligence and his war-time experiences. He offers comments at the conclusion of each segment.[11] Before he appeared on Behind Closed Doors, Zacharias had also narrated a radio series entitled Secret Missions.[2] The titles of both programs were taken from books that he had written.[12][13]

Death and legacy[edit]

Zacharias retired from the US Navy in 1946 after 34 years of service as the result of a heart seizure. He died at his home in West Springfield, New Hampshire, at the age of 71 of complications from another heart seizure. He was interred on July 3, 1961, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. His wife, the former Clara Miller (born February 27, 1897), was interred with him upon her death on November 7, 1992. At the time of her death, she was living in Falls Church, Virginia.[14] Their two sons, Ellis M. Zacharias, Jr. and Jerrold M. Zacharias, were both Naval Academy graduates. Ellis (February 1, 1926 – April 17, 2006), a businessman,[15] inventor,[16] and avid amateur photographer, died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of eighty.[17] Jerrold (born December 17, 1927), also a career navy man, received the Navy Cross as a pilot in Vietnam.[18] After retiring from active service in 1978 he continued as a naval consultant until 1992.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Navy - Office of Information Biographies Branch (June 29, 1961). "Biography of Ellis M. Zacharias". Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ellis M. Zacharias". arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  3. ^ "Our Captain". usslcca25.com. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
  4. ^ a b David A. Pfeiffer (2008). "Sage Prophet or Loose Cannon? Skilled Intelligence Officer in World War II Foresaw Japan's Plans, but Annoyed Navy Brass". Prologue Summer 2008: Vol. 40, No. 2. College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  5. ^ Katz, Stan (August 10, 2015). The Emperor and the Spy: The Secret Alliance to Prevent World War II. Horizon Productions. ISBN 9780990334910.
  6. ^ "Salt Lake City (CL-25)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  7. ^ "Books: Fifteen Guns". time.com. December 23, 1946. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  8. ^ Linebarger, Paul M. A. (1955). Psychological Warfare (2nd ed.). Washington: Combat Forces Press. p. 204.
  9. ^ "Books: Fifteen Guns". time.com. December 23, 1946. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  10. ^ Deane J. Allen. "History of Defense Intelligence Agency". Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  11. ^ Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946–Present, New York: Ballantine Press, 1992, p. 79
  12. ^ "Secret Missions; The Story of an Intelligence Officer". abaa.org/books. Retrieved October 7, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Behind Closed Doors: The Secret History of the Cold War". barnesandnoble.com. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  14. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
  15. ^ "Tulsa Library plans series on Travels with Tulsans". Tulsa World. Tulsa, Oklahoma. January 4, 1989. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  16. ^ "Ellis M Zacharias Jr Inventor". PatentBuddy. May 8, 1992. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  17. ^ "ZACHARIAS – Ellis M Jr". Tulsa World. Tulsa, Oklahoma. April 20, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  18. ^ "CAPT JERROLD M. ZACHARIAS, USN". Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Inc. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  19. ^ "Jerrold M. Zacharias, Captain, USN (Ret.)" (PDF). The Golden Eagles Roost. The Golden Eagles. Retrieved November 12, 2013.