He went directly into cryptologic work for the Navy"s codebreaking organization, OP-20-G. He finished the war at OP-20-G collection stations on the West Coast, at Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Skaggs Island, California.
He displayed an early affinity for mathematics, and obtained bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in the 1930s. The outbreak of World World War II found him teaching mathematics at Chicago"s Loyola University. He joined the United States Navy, immediately made contacts in the service, and was brought aboard as a lieutenant junior grade in 1942.
He was a key figure in devising policy for the new agency, and for its successor, the National Security Agency, which emerged in 1952 to replace AFSA. His career at National Security Agency brought him to the very front rank of cryptologists.
He was an early advocate of the use of computers for cryptologic work, and helped to cement a close working relationship with American industry. His grasp of computer technology and the associated engineering concepts, coupled with his understanding of cryptanalysis, led Tordella to push forcefully for the development of supercomputers for cryptologic applications.
Tordella was also a leader in securing American communications, pushing a series of leading-edge new encoding devices to secure United States. Government communications. As a senior official at National Security Agency, Tordella played a central role in National Security Agency"s outside relationships.
Close collaborators in Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations built up such a trust with Tordella that many foreign intelligence officials regarded him as the linchpin in their relationship with National Security Agency. Tordella became the deputy director of National Security Agency in 1958, and remained in the post until his retirement in 1974.
He thus became the longest serving deputy director in National Security Agency"s history. Tordella received unprecedented honors over the years. In 1992 the Security Affairs Support Association, composed mainly of retired intelligence officials, gave him the William O. Baker medal for distinguished service to American intelligence.
He died at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1996.
He had leukemia.