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Admiral Robert H. Wertheim inducted into Carlsbad Hall of Fame

The late Rear Admiral Robert H. Wertheim, a Carlsbad native, was described as the “Navy’s leading authority on strategic missiles” by the late Sen. Robert Byrd, and he was credited as instrumental in helping the U.S. rise to dominance during the Cold War.

Wertheim also wasn’t the kind of person to make a fuss over a cold cup of coffee, according to his grandson, Robert Witt.

See, Wertheim would get quite cold working on the top deck of a Naval ship. So he would ask someone of a lower rank to fetch him a cup of coffee. That person would later return with his coffee after climbing a long flight of stairs. The coffee would be cold.

“And no cream,” Witt said.

Wertheim had the rank to demand a hot cup with all the fixings. Rather than complaining, however, he offered a genuine smile of gratitude and drank his coffee cold.

Witt said that story, recently confirmed by his mother, made a big impression on his life. Through it, he got an understanding of “what a fantastic teammember and friend [Wertheim] probably was.” While the nation calls his grandfather a hero, Witt describes Wertheim as a role model who reminds him to live with good habits and positive influences.

“He inspired me to be an engineer,” said Witt, a computer engineer. “And of course every day at work I drink my coffee black, like my grandfather.”

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Witt joined City of Carlsbad officials, community members and fellow family members in inducting Wertheim into the Carlsbad Hall of Fame at the Carlsbad Museum.

Among Wertheim’s lengthy list of accomplishments, he led a team of government and industry laboratories and contractors that undertook the design, development and production of a new nuclear re-entry system, according to the Naval Academy. He played a central role in the development of submarine-launched fleet ballistic missile systems, including Polaris, Poseidon and Trident, which the Navy described as the nation’s “most secure and effective deterrent to nuclear war.” He ultimately served in numerous critical roles in the Navy for nearly four decades and also spent time in the private sector.

“Without the contribution of his and other people of his caliber, the world would be a very different place than it is today,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway noted at Saturday’s induction ceremony.

According to Janway, Wertheim enrolled in the New Mexico Military Institute following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, graduating in 1942, and then was later appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy.

“He worked his way up through the Navy and also enrolled at MIT, where he earned a master’s degree in nuclear physics,” Janway said. “He then became heavily involved in the Navy’s missile training program.”

Wertheim was born Nov. 9, 1922 and raised in Carlsbad, graduating from Carlsbad High School. At the Naval Academy, he was a leader on the varsity fencing team, which went 10-0 his First Class Year, including a win over rival Army, according to the academy. After graduating in 1946, he served tours in both the Pacific and Atlantic fleet and graduated at the top of this class from Electric Materials Schools. In his later years, he resided in San Diego and was able to return to Carlsbad for his 74th high school reunion.

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