Sunday, June 9, 2013

VET STORY 1 | Sgt. Tom Collins at Bletchley Park (Comment, Jan. 2, 2015)

Collins - Back of Jacket
Sgt. Tom Collins of East Hampton, NY, in his
proudly worn VFW jacket and his Bletchley
 Park cap, inscribed with his WW2 nickname,
"Sam Scram". Photo by JTMarlin.
Sgt. Thomas L. Collins, a lifetime resident of East Hampton, served in 1944-1945 in England. Not until 2010 did he receive official recognition of his contribution to the World War II effort.

He was honored by both the British and the American Governments in that year, just before he died. Sgt. Collins was the sole technician to bring the top-secret Dragon 1 Cryptography Machine to Bletchley Park (the other two people in the plane were the pilots), Britain's cryptography center.

He trained British cryptographers and technicians how to use the Dragon 1, and stayed to take care of it and make sure it did its cryptographic job. Since his mission was top secret, he couldn't talk about it until the 1990s. 

Tom Collins w Bletchley Park cap
Left side of Sgt. Tom Collins's cap
and jacket. Photo by JTMarlin.
Now Bletchley Park is a public museum and Tom was able to talk about his mission - and be honored for it:
  • In July 2009, he was awarded a UK Certificate of Appreciation and Medal for his participation in the important Bletchley Park cryptography program. The medal and certificate arrived in March 2010.
  • Less than two months later, on the Friday before Memorial Day 2010, Congressman Timothy Bishop of New York's First District read into the Congressional Record a tribute to Sergeant Collins. It is reproduced below.
  • His role is fully described and appreciated in a 2015 book (p. 609) about the cryptography machines at Bletchley.
The "Sam Scram" nickname that Sgt. Collins's colleagues at Bletchley Park gave him came from an American character by that name on a popular wartime radio show.

Congressman Bishop's tribute was well-timed, as Sgt. Collins had the opportunity to be honored by his hometown Legion and VFW Post at the 2011 Memorial Day services.

Text of Rep. Bishop's Remarks
Cong Record May 28, 2010
Award by British PM Gordon Brown, 2009.
Photo by JT Marlin.
Photo of Tom Cillins w Bletchley Park Cap on
Sgt. Tom Collins, aka "Sam Scram". Photo by JT Marlin.

He did not live to see the next Memorial Day, 2011. He died of a heart attack on May 18 at his home on Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton. He was remembered on Memorial Day 2011 by the Legion and the VFW.
The East Hampton Star obituary included the following:
Thomas Loudon Collins, a lifelong resident of East Hampton who was credited with helping to decode 143 Nazi messages during World War II, died of a heart attack on May 18 at home on Springs-Fireplace Road in Springs. He was 89 years old.
Representative Tim Bishop commended Mr. Collins’s wartime service on the floor of the House of Representatives last May, noting that he had received a medal and certificate of recognition from the British government for his service as a cryptologist.
Collins - medal
Medal as Presented in Box. Photo by
JT Marlin. 
Mr. Collins, who was trained as a cryptologist by the Army, was chosen to escort the Allies’ most advanced code-breaking machine, the Dragon, to the cryptography center at Bletchley Park in England. He subsequently was credited with designing the machine’s successor, which is said to have hastened the defeat of the Third Reich.
“So secret was his work, his invaluable contributions were not recognized and made public until the 1990s,” Mr. Bishop said. His remarks were entered into the Congressional Record.
After the war, Mr. Collins went to work for the Western Electric Company, retaining the position for almost 44 years. He also worked as a supervisor for Trees Inc. from 1983 to 1990.
Medal from the British Prime Minister to Sgt. Collins. honoring his hitherto-secret contribution to the Second World War.  Photo by JTMarlin.
Mr. Collins was born on June 28, 1921, to Frank deMar Collins and the former Nina Hulse. He grew up here and graduated from East Hampton High School. He was married to Anne E. Miller, who survives. The couple had three sons, Capt. Thomas L. Collins II, Michael deMar Collins, and Stephen T. Collins, all of whom survive. He also is survived by six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
In his spare time, Mr. Collins enjoyed hunting and fishing and barbershop singing. He was a member of the V.F.W., which honored him with a salute last Thursday, the Cryptographic Society, and the Springs Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Tony Larson and the Rev. George Wilson officiated at a funeral service at the church on Saturday. Burial followed at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton.
             East Hampton Star, Obituary, May 26, 2011Time Traveler site, Bletchley Park page
    siteTom Collins Honors page
             Congressman Tim Bishop's speech on the floor of the House, June 9, 2010
             ...and as printed in the Congressional Record, html version and pdf version
            (A pre-print of the Congressional Record was presented to Sgt. Collins at a ceremony in Springs.
            It was read out after the Memorial Day parade in East Hampton.) 
Collins - Memories of WWII
Sgt. Tom Collins's Reminiscences.

Comment (January 2, 2015)

The new movie, The Imitation Game, puts the 
focus of the Bletchley work on Alan Turing. It
is easy to forget all the people who played
a part in the success of the effort. One of them
was Tom Collins.

WWII Cryptography Center
Bletchley Park Cryptography Center
Sgt. Thomas L. Collins in uniform.


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