Commander, Undersea Surveillance

Virginia Beach, VA
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CAPT Joseph P. Kelly, USN (1914-1988)

Father of SOSUS

CAPT Joseph P. KellyJoseph P. Kelly received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Catholic University in 1937. After graduation, he worked at the Westinghouse Corporation in East Pittsburgh on large turbine generators and cable transmission systems. He was commissioned 22 October 1943 as an Ensign in the United States Navy and served in the Engineering Volunteer Service. He was indoctrinated in Arizona and trained in the Underwater Harbor Defense School in San Pedro, California.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Kelly was then sent to Panama as Maintenance Officer for magnetic loops and harbor defense mine fields. His work involved cable maintenance and repair and marked his first, but by no means last, encounter with cable ships. He was later sent to Clearfield, Utah, as the officer responsible for making weapons and equipment impervious to tropical climate conditions. As World War II came to a close, he was released from the Navy and returned to Westinghouse , where he worked from 1945-1951. With the advent of the Korean War, he was called back to active duty as a Lieutenant, assigned to Advanced Space Functional Components. In December 1951, he was interviewed by Admiral Wallen, Chief of the Bureau of Ships. He asked him, “What do you know about Project Jezebel?” His response was “What’s that?” The Admiral replied, “Welcome Aboard: you’re the new Project Officer.” That was the beginning of Joseph Kelly’s twenty-one year association with Oceanographic Surveillance.

During that period, he rose to the rank of Captain. His outstanding performance as manager of Projects Jezebel and Caesar and the entire Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) program was widely recognized both by the Navy and by industry. He received two Navy Commendation Medals, and was three times awarded the Legion of Merit. An award from the Maritime Technology Society for Ocean Science and Technology cited Captain Kelly’s “superb management” of the SOSUS program. Captain Kelly was also a recipient, along with Charles F. Wiebusch of Bell Laboratories, of the first Admiral Charles B. Martell Award, given by the National Security Industrial Association. The citation reads: “For their creative and dedicated leadership of the Project Caesar Navy/Industry Team, the work of which led to the implementation of an undersea surveillance system that has effectively and immeasurably increased the worldwide efficiency of the anti-submarine warfare effort of the United States Navy.”

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1973, Captain Kelly served as Staff Advisor of the Oceanic Division of Westinghouse. He died at Bethesda Naval Hospital on 6 November 1988.

In recognition of Captain Kelly’s unparalleled dedication and contributions to undersea surveillance, the Captain Joseph P. Kelly Award was established in 1992 to recognize those officers, enlisted and civilian personnel who have likewise made great contributions to the “System” during their tenure in the IUSS. This occasion, the forty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Sound Surveillance System, is dedicated to the late “Father of SOSUS” and the following Captain Joseph P. Kelly Award recipients: 

1992 -- CWO4 Thomas Uecker
1993 -- J. Hicks Ford
1994 -- CAPT John M. Parrish
1995 -- OTCM Edwin K. Smock
1996 -- LCDR (RCN) Fred A. Jones
1997 -- CDR Larry Wilcher
1998 -- No Winner
1999 -- LCDR Ernest Castillo III
2000 -- No Winner
2001 -- Stan Carmin
2002 -- Henry Stanton Fleming
2003 -- Roger Harris
2004 -- Jerry McDonald
2005 -- No Winner
2006 -- No Winner
2007 -- LCDR (Ret) George “Chuck” Gagnon
2008 -- Dr. Henry “Harry” Cox
2009 -- No Winner
2010 -- No Winner


[Data certified UNCLASSIFIED by DoD/DoN and IUSS Authorities]