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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral William D. Masters, USNR (Ret.)

April 20, 2023 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral (lower half) William David “Bill” Masters Jr. on 4 April 2023 at age 79. Rear Admiral Masters enlisted in the U.S. Navy in March 1964, was commissioned in March 1973, and served as a cryptologic officer until his retirement in June 2006 as Vice Commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, with a cumulative 42 years of active and reserve service. He commanded cryptologic reserve units in Baltimore; Washington, DC; Atlanta; Fort Worth; and Orlando.

Bill Masters enlisted in the U.S. Navy in March 1964, serving as a cryptologic technician in supervisory and special operations assignments in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan, and at sea in submarines, earning a Vietnam Service Medal. He subsequently enrolled at the University of Western Illinois, earning a bachelor of science in economics in 1970 and a master’s of business administration in 1973. He received a direct commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an ensign on 5 March 1973, initially as an intelligence officer before converting to cryptologic officer in 1974.

He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in March 1975, to lieutenant in April 1977, to lieutenant commander in July 1982, and to commander in September 1988. During this period, he commanded several Navy cryptologic reserve units, and he graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College and from the Tuck Executive Program at Amos Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. 

In October 1993, Commander Masters assumed command of Naval Reserve Security Group, Orlando, Florida. He was promoted to captain in July 1995. In October 1995, Captain Masters assumed duty as director, Reserve Cryptologic Area Commander–South. In October 1998, he reported to Naval Reserve Security Group as assistant chief of staff for policy and plans.  

Captain Masters transferred to active duty in January 1999, serving in Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU) as special assistant for reserve plans and policy before assuming command of Naval Security Group Reserve. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 January 2003. In November 2003, Rear Admiral Masters assumed additional duty with the National Security Agency as mobility assistant to the deputy chief, Central Security Service. In February 2005, he assumed duty as vice commander, NAVSECGRU, until the merger of NAVSECGRU with Naval Network Warfare Command (NAVNETWARCOM) in October 2005. He then assumed the title of vice commander, NAVNETWARCOM. Rear Admiral Masters retired on 1 June 2006. 

Rear Admiral Masters’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Navy Unit Commendation (two awards), Good Conduct Medal, Naval Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (three awards), Vietnam Service Medal, Navy Overseas Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Expert Rifleman Medal, and Expert Pistol Shot Medal. 

Rear Admiral Masters held various leadership positions in the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including serving as head of organization/management development at the FAA Executive Leadership Center. He retired from the FAA in September 1998. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the “Hammer Award” for excellence in government, personally presented by the vice president of the United States, as well as the Meritorious Civilian Service Award. After 2011, he served as the commodore of the Halifax River Yacht Club and was active in local government. He also received the Western Illinois Distinguished Alumni Award. 

For over four decades, Bill Masters served our nation and Navy in the U.S. Naval Reserve, starting off in sensitive submarine missions as an enlisted cryptologic technician, until eventually retiring from his civilian job in the FAA to come on active duty in 1999 to help lead the U.S. Navy cryptologic community during its greatest period of transformation since World War II. He was in the forefront in the execution of the merger of NAVSECGRU and NAVNETWARCOM in 2005. He was in the vanguard of transforming the Navy cryptologic community into the premier cyber warriors in the world. He arrived in this position as a result of exemplary command of over seven Navy cryptologic reserve units, conducting sensitive intelligence collection, communications security, and cyber missions. As with other Naval Reserve flag officers, this path required extensive sacrifice of a civilian career, as well as personal and family time, demonstrating extraordinary dedication and fortitude. The merger of NAVSECGRU and NAVNETWARCOM set the stage for the further evolution of the command into what is now three commands: Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet, Naval Information Forces Command, and NAVNETWARCOM. His influence on today’s cryptologic warfare community has been profound and enduring, for which the U.S. Navy is grateful.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Masters.