James H. Cullen

January 9, 1923September 9, 2013

James Henry Cullen Captain, USN (Ret)

Captain Cullen (90), of Springfield, VA, died on 9 September after a short illness. Captain Cullen was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in January 1923. He grew up in Price Hill and attended Elder High School. In December 1942, just a year after Pearl Harbor, he left Xavier University to join the Navy as an aviation cadet. He received his pilot wings as the war ended and, released from active service, he married Ruth Stephanie Polewski in April 1945. Captain Cullen returned to Xavier University to finish his degree. Shortly thereafter, he rejoined the Navy and was trained as a helicopter pilot at NAS Pensacola, Florida. From there, he moved into fixed wing aircraft operations.

For the bulk of his career as a Naval Aviator, he flew long-range patrol aircraft (P-2V Neptune and P-3B Orion) designed for hunting Russian submarines during the Cold War. In addition, he tracked other Soviet ships including tankers, supply ships, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. Each cluster of Soviet fishing vessels typically hid a spy ship bristling with listening devices for recording US radio, radar, and TV signals, over the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Mediterranean Seas. On January 4, 1966, as Commanding Officer (CO) of VP-26, he ferried the first P-3B from California to NAS Brunswick. VP-26 became the Navy’s first operational P-3B Squadron.

As a Pentagon Operations Research Analyst for Operations Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he analyzed combat air operations during the Vietnam War and participated in briefing President Johnson. His analyses supported the establishment of the Navy’s TOP GUN training squadron. For his work, he received the Legion of Merit.

Captain Cullen was Executive Officer (XO) of USS Guadalcanal and led the recovery of the Apollo 9 capsule in the Atlantic Ocean on March 13, 1969. Subsequently, he was Director of Operations at Pearl Harbor and, later, interim Chief of Staff, Third Fleet with overall responsibility for Anti-Submarine Warfare development and activities in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In that assignment, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a 2nd Legion of Merit.

Captain Cullen retired from active service in September 1973 after serving his country for 31 years. Upon retirement, he joined TRW, Inc. in McLean, VA where he was a military operations analyst. He and two associates then founded Xebec Corporation in Bethesda, MD in 1978. After three years, he retired from Xebec. He then taught computer science for eight years at Strayer University. He also was a volunteer docent at the National Museum of American History and at the National Air and Space Museum for ten years.

His wife, Ruth Polewski Cullen, also of Cincinnati, Ohio, predeceased him in 2009. He is survived by eight children and twelve grandchildren. His children are: James Cullen (Betty) of Fairfax, VA; Kathleen Fishback (Dan) of Chesnee, SC; Richard Cullen (Annie Fuller) of Petaluma, CA; Janice Britton of St. Simons Island, GA; Dean Cullen of Albuquerque, NM; Stephanie Siedschlag (Mike) of Omaha, NE; Michael Cullen (Mary) of La Canada, CA; and Sean Cullen (Shelbi) of Burbank, CA. His grandchildren are: Jennifer Dalrymple of Seattle, WA; Michael Cullen (Leslie) of Centreville, VA; Leigh Cullen of Arlington, VA; Adam Cullen (Amy) of Washington, DC; James Cullen of Burbank, CA; Kyle Cullen of Burbank, CA; Kelly Cullen of La Canada, CA; Dylan Saferstein of Omaha, NE; Kate Cullen of La Canada, CA; Carly Cullen of Burbank, CA; Rachel Saferstein of Omaha, NE; and Hannah Cullen of Burbank, CA.

He will be inurned with Full Military Honors at Arlington National Cemetery on a date to be announced. Donations in memory of Captain Cullen may be made to the United States Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Suite 123, Washington, D.C. 20004-2608.


  • Inurnment

James H. Cullen

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April 6, 2014

Dad was a good man and husband and father! Miss him a lot. He loved us all.

Kathy and Dan

Steven "Skip" Dalrymple

September 18, 2013

To the Cullen family, I am very sorry for your loss. Henry was a great man, wonderful father and grandfather - and an American hero. He will live on in our memories forever.

James Rizzo

September 16, 2013

So very proud to be able to call you my uncle. A tremendous Naval officer, a great father and husband. I wish I could have had more opportunities to talk to you.

September 15, 2013

I offer my deepest sympathy to James family. Keep him alive in your memories as your heavenly family does. Luke 20:38

September 15, 2013

Dad, I love you more and always will. You were a fantastic father, a loving husband and a truly great American. I will miss you forever, and thank you for being you! Your loving daughter, Janice

September 15, 2013

Rest in Peace, thanks for being you and for all the encourgement thru the years, Dean