Former Deputy Assistant Director at National Security Agency Tobias Raphael Philbin Jr., 85, a highly decorated Army brigadier general who served in intelligence and security positions before retiring in 1972 as deputy assistant director for communications security at the National Security Agency, died on 27 November 2002 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from complications of pneumonia.
General Philbin distinguished himself in Europe during World War II as commanding officer of a battalion through crucial campaigns as the Allies advanced toward Berlin. Even before that, he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel on 21 December 1943. This made him, at age 26, one of the Army's youngest infantry leaders, according to his official Army biography.
He participated in the battle for the German-occupied French city of Metz and the bridgehead at Saarlautern, Germany, a key industrial stronghold. In the Saarlautern campaign, he played a major role in a predawn amphibious raid over the Saar River which held the bridge intact despite constant German attempts to destroy it before the Allies could cross.
He also blew up an ammunition dump supplying a fort. For this action he became a recipient of the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor. He also received the Distinguished Service Order, one of Britain's top awards for valor.
His other decorations included the Army's Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star specifically for his efforts at Saarlautern, two awards of the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart.
Tobias Raphael Philbin Jr., the son of a millworker, was a native of Clinton, Mass., and a 1940 electrical engineering graduate of the University of Connecticut.
He received a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1955 and was an Army fellow at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs in the early 1960s. After World War II, he studied Russian and became assistant military attache at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. In the early 1950s, he was a plans and policy officer with the Psychological Strategy Board, which provided strategy and guidance for Cold War covert operations. Toward the end of the decade, he was the NSA's assistant deputy chief of staff for plans and operations.
He continued working in intelligence and security matters both for the Army and the Defense Department, including serving as senior adviser to the South Korean army and deputy director of research and development for the Army Materiel Command.
From 1967 to 1969, he was chief of the NSA in Europe.
He was a Washington resident in the 1950s and 1960s and then spent decades in Lexington, Va., before moving to Alexandria two years ago. His memberships included St. Louis Catholic Church in Alexandria. His avocations included riflery and target shooting as well as repairing clocks and chronometers. His wife, Anne Marie Scarborough Philbin, a retired Baltimore Evening Sun columnist whom he married in 1945, died in 2000.
Survivors include two sons, Guy Philbin and Tobias Raphael Philbin III, both of Alexandria; four sisters; and three grandchildren.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
Special to www.historicalmilitaria.com 11 December 2002