A Military Brat & 9/11

by Francis Smiley
Printed with Permission

Prior to September 11th, 2001 my life was as normal as your normal can be for a military kid, after that dreadful day my life would be forever changed.

My family and I had moved from England to Japan in early 2001, and by September 2001 I had just turned 11 years old living life every two to three years at a time. The center of my world throughout my stay in Japan revolved around two locations: Camp Zama, where U.S. Army Headquarters Japan was located and Sagamihara Housing Area (SHA) where many military families lived, including ours. Camp Zama was the central hub the PX, food court, and a movie theater were there and for any 11 year old these were the locations we always wanted to be.

When the attacks occurred I had just started my 6th grade year at SHA’s own John O Arnn Elementary School. My memories of living overseas are filled with spotty events all riddled with hazy recollections, however 9/11 and the months that followed are still very clear in my mind.

That day would not only change my family’s lives, but would continually transform my own life for the years to come. I remember waking up early and watching my mother glued to the television. I don’t remember if I was comprehending what I was watching at the time, though now I understand it was the constant reruns of the planes crashing into both Twin Towers, and there eventual collapse. I had no idea what New York City or Washington D.C. was, what the towers were, or what effect of what I was watching would have on me. The memories I have of that day are not of the actual day or any specific one day, but the weeks and months that followed.

First, was the dramatic change of my everyday environment. Both SHA and Camp Zama were on full lock down, both installations had increased armed guards and extremely strict curfews that seemed to last forever. At some point after the attacks I remember being at school, and a small contingent of military police were on the campus. These men were armed, and I remember all of us kids were excited to see their weapons, this mixture of infatuation and fear continued for some time. I can’t recall how long this new change occurred, though it has always been significant in my mind with the date of 9/11/01.

My most significant memory associated with 9/11 is when my father sat my two brothers and myself down and explained he was going away. I don’t remember the full conversation but I do remember that once we had it, he was gone a few months later and gone for a while once he left. At this point the realization of what 9/11 actually was and why my father was going away sank in. This realization would never truly fade away, and in later years that day would continually shape my future.

Many kids raised within the military community follow their parent(s) into any one of the respective military branches. Many who were children during 9/11, and saw their parents deploy, have now shaped their own lives mirroring that of what they have experienced. Some have enlisted, some have joined an officers program, and many others have joined in federal service for our nation.

For me, I have dedicated my young adult life towards academics in the fields of international security and history, so I can too at some point make my contribution towards the safety and security of our nation. Throughout my academic career I have made many transitions, reflections, and observations for how best I can contribute to our nation’s defense. One certainty I have always had is my perspective of 9/11 as a military kid overseas.

The significance of that day fifteen years ago has always stuck with me, and like so many others it has made the drive for a more effective security environment for our nation’s defense a target goal in life.

The Belfort Ruse (August-September 1918)

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

“My dear General Pershing:  I hear from everywhere, and especially from the armies and civil authorities of the east, that, in their generous enthusiasm on account of the prospect of a great success over the enemy, numerous American officers and soldiers have talked in a public way of the projects of the High Command in the Woëvre. …It is impossible that the enemy should not be forewarned….” –Gen. Henri Philippe Pétain, Commander-in-Chief, French Army

The date was August 19, 1918.  After 15 months of preparation, planning, and training, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) was finally ready to launch its first large-scale military operation of World War I. The early September offensive would pit the US First Army and more than 100,000 French troops against 11 German divisions at the St. Mihiel salient in northeastern France. The French were worried, and rightly so. Inexperienced American soldiers and officers, who certainly should have known better, were egregiously violating operational security.

General John J. Pershing, commander of the AEF, was no stranger to the importance of negative intelligence—keeping information from the enemy. Chagrined that his own troops were exhibiting such carelessness, Pershing replied to Pétain on August 22: “…the importance of the considerations which you have set forth relative to the necessity for secrecy in all operations had not escaped me. I keenly regret that indiscretions may have been committed, and I consider, with you, that we must attempt to deceive the enemy upon the actual directions the attack.”

Pershing directed the Information Division within his G-2 Section to devise and execute, in very short order, a plan to mislead the Germans as to the true location of the planned American attack. The chief of the division was Capt. (later Col.) Arthur L. Conger, Jr., a Harvard graduate, instructor at Fort Leavenworth, and German linguist familiar with the German army. Conger, however, was a reluctant intelligence officer. Reportedly difficult to work with, he had been passed over by other AEF staff officers and ended up “stuck” in the G-2. After the war, Conger told a group of new intelligence officers, “I was one of those people in Intelligence who felt that they were in the wrong place all during the war and wanted very much to be some place else.” Despite his wishes, Conger was second in command to Maj. (later Maj. Gen.) Dennis Nolan, the AEF G-2.

Although unhappy about the assignment, Conger attacked it with vigor. To prevent further security breaches, he limited knowledge of the deception plan to Pershing, his Chief of Staff, and the AEF G-3. Conger had the G-3 issue a confidential order to the VI Corps commander to establish a headquarters at Belfort and to expect seven divisions for an attack on the city of Mulhouse through the Belfort Gap, 125 miles southeast of St. Mihiel. Staff officers from the corps and each of the named divisions converged on Belfort to arrange for lodging and administrative space to support this large force. Conger also traveled to Belfort, a hot bed of German sympathizers and spies, where he dropped hints to local inhabitants and conveniently left “confidential” papers in plain sight. He arranged for reconnaissance flights over enemy lines, sent borrowed French tanks to drive around open fields, and dispatched agents to scout rail lines, roads, and hospital facilities. Signal units set up large antennas and proceeded to dispatch a flurry of messages.

Throughout the execution of his deception plan, Conger expressed pessimism on its chances for success, doubting “that the enemy takes this reconnaissance very seriously; … [he won’t] be deceived by a mere ‘paperwork’ demonstration or reconnaissance of officers, unaccompanied by actual preparations of guns, munitions, materiel, and subsistence….” And he was right. German intelligence officers doubted the legitimacy of the information they received out of Belfort but felt it was too important to ignore completely. After all, Belfort might very well have been the true site of the upcoming attack and the American preparations at St. Mihiel the ruse.

The US First Army moves forward to its first offensive of World War I at the St. Mihiel salient, September 1918. (Library of Congress)

Ultimately, the Belfort Ruse had little impact on the offensive at St. Mihiel. It did sow enough confusion and concern within the German forces for them to divert resources, time, and effort that could have been more effective elsewhere. Pershing believed the ruse successful enough to request additional deception operations to keep the enemy uncertain and distracted.

After the war, Conger stated, “Of course, it is as old as the history of war for false information to be given to the enemy.” Indeed, examples, both successful and not, can be found throughout US Army history. Used to counteract a serious security leak or to mislead the enemy, deception operations can help a commander preserve that all-important principle of war–Security.

The US Army and the Press: Censorship in World War I

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

When Military Intelligence became a full-fledged member of the War Department’s General Staff, it took on a number of responsibilities that are not considered applicable to the intelligence mission today. One of those, wartime press censorship, was considered a variant of counterintelligence, or negative intelligence as it was referred to in 1918.

The objective of wartime censorship was to prevent the exposure of sensitive military information to the enemy. Similar censorship had been practiced by the US Army in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. During World War I, however, the press censorship system was formalized and extended, according to the Army’s official history, to include anything that might “injure morale in our forces here, or at home, or among our Allies,” or “embarrass the United States or her Allies in neutral countries.”

In July 1918, the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division established the MI-10 Censorship Section within the Negative Branch. Under the leadership of well-known author Maj. Rupert Hughes, MI-10 had 15 subsections focused on censorship of the mail, publications, telegraph, radio, photographs, and other sources of information. Subsection 10F, Press, implemented a form of “voluntary censorship,” bolstered by the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918, as well as several executive orders. Essentially, in a climate of cooperation fueled by patriotism and common sense, journalists dutifully avoided writing about topics recommended off-limits by the military.

In the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Maj. Dennis Nolan dedicated the G-2-D section of his intelligence organization to Censorship and Press. Nolan had personally witnessed how contentious relations between the military and the press could lead to negative consequences.  During the Spanish-American War, when Nolan was Aide de Camp to the commander of the Fifth Army Corps in Cuba, the press leaked US plans to supply Cuban guerillas with weapons and horses. The operation had to be scrapped as a result. Nearly 20 years later, as the AEF’s senior intelligence officer, Nolan was determined to prevent similar compromises of military information.

The Press Section of the G-2-D was led by 44-year-old Frederick Palmer, a personal friend of Gen. John J. Pershing. Having covered nearly every military conflict in the world between the 1890s and World War I, Palmer was arguably the most experienced war correspondent in the American press community. As the only American correspondent accredited by the British, he had been covering the war with Germany since late 1914.  Just two weeks before the US entered the war, Palmer addressed students at the Army War College promoting the appointment of a civilian censor to work with Army forces.  Taking this recommendation, Pershing convinced Palmer to turn down a $40,000 annual salary at the New York Herald and instead take a Major’s commission at an annual salary of $2,400 to head the Press Section.

Maj. Frederick Palmer (in uniform) meets with American press correspondents in the garden of the AEF Headquarters in Paris, 1917. (National Archives Photo)

Under Palmer’s direction, the Press Section supervised accredited war correspondents and even provided their transportation and billeting. Unlike the British and French militaries, the AEF allowed the press unrestricted access to the troops.  However, when reviewing their dispatches, Palmer insisted on accuracy and censored any mention of specific units, their locations and capabilities, aircraft, supplies, lines of communications, and conditions or morale of the troops.  He also suppressed information that cast American soldiers in a negative light, such as an incident in which a German prisoner was killed during capture.

For the most part, journalists willfully cooperated with all Palmer’s requirements; however, at least three were banned from the AEF for publishing articles not reviewed by the censors.  Palmer also received criticism from commanders who felt the restriction against publishing information about specific units meant their military successes were being ignored.

For his part, Palmer may have regretted his pre-war recommendation and he reportedly considered resigning his post numerous times.  While he wholeheartedly supported the need to safeguard military secrets, he struggled to find balance between satisfying the American citizen’s right to the truth and preventing erosion of popular support for the war. He lamented being “cast for the part of a public liar to keep up the spirits of the armies and peoples on our side” and often “squirmed with nausea as he allowed propaganda to pass.”

Despite his internal struggle, Palmer undoubtedly played a key role in saving the lives of American soldiers and ensuring the support of the American public for the United States first large scale war effort. Gen. Pershing recognized this when he awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, making Palmer the first war correspondent so decorated.

Wartime censorship remained the responsibility of Military Intelligence through the early 1970s.  While the military does not censor the press today, both entities continue to struggle with the same dilemma that Palmer faced: that delicate balance to protect wartime secrets, avoid propaganda, and defend the First Amendment.

Value and Handling of Prisoners in World War I

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

“Prisoners or deserters constitute one of the most fruitful sources from which information of the enemy is obtained.”
Intelligence Regulations, American Expeditionary Forces, October 21, 1918

By the time of the Armistice ending World War I on November 11, 1918, the US held nearly 48,000 prisoners of war. The majority had been captured within the final months as the war moved out of the trenches.  The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) G-2, Maj. (later Maj. Gen.) Dennis Nolan put much emphasis on the information obtained from enemy prisoners. After the war, he remarked, “[A prisoner] can, as a rule, tell you much more than a spy…who is trying to get around and find out about the enemy.  [A prisoner] knows and the other man is frequently guessing at it.”

In mid-October 1918, Capt. Ernst Howald (standing right), the lead interrogator for the 28th Division, Second US Army, used prisoner statements to construct a detailed template showing the enemy facing the division. After the war, his estimates were proven to be highly accurate.

As Nolan shaped his formal intelligence organization in the early months of American involvement, he recognized prisoners could be captured any time on any battlefield, and commanders at every echelon wanted to examine the prisoners they captured.  He also realized that, due to a lack of personnel and the high operating tempo, in-depth interrogations at lower echelons were not practicable or effectual.  Nolan developed a hierarchical system for the examination of prisoners at all echelons and outlined clear guidelines for handling prisoners in the 1918 Intelligence Regulations and Instructions for Regimental Intelligence Service. Those same guidelines were published in the Army’s first (provisional) Combat Intelligence Manual, also printed in 1918.

Nolan’s system started at the regiment.  The Regimental Intelligence Officer, typically a first lieutenant, determined the name, rank, and organization of any prisoners, as well as the time and place captured.  Prisoners were searched and then quickly transferred to division assembly points.  The division G-2 sections, led by a lieutenant colonel or major, conducted limited questioning, with the help of commissioned linguists from the Corps of Interpreters.  This questioning focused on necessary tactical information about the division sector to a depth of two miles behind the enemy front lines.

From the division, prisoners were transferred to the corps collecting centers, where more in-depth questioning began.  The number of prisoners, especially during offensive operations, often stressed the corps G-2 sections.  At those times, Army headquarters dispatched teams of four sergeants and one officer to augment the corps’ interrogation efforts.  During the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives in the fall of 1918, French interrogators also supplemented the US interrogators.

The corps intelligence sections found that simple and direct questioning, combined with kindness and courtesy, was the most effective method for eliciting information.  Many of the AEF’s interrogators had been lawyers in their civilian lives and could coax information out of the most recalcitrant prisoner.  Corps interrogators used a variety of other tactics to elicit information, as well.  One interrogator found that he could get prisoners to talk openly if he showed them aerial photographs with landmarks they recognized. The II Corps G-2, Col. “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, recruited a drafted German soldier, who had previously lived in the United States and yearned to return there, to “work the prisoner cages” and glean information from his fellow prisoners.  Additionally, US interpreters donned German uniforms and wandered the collection points to eavesdrop on prisoners bragging about intentionally misleading their interrogators.  This use of “stool pigeons” was common practice throughout the war.

The quality and veracity of the information varied with the rank of the prisoner.  Lt. Col. Walter Sweeney, who served in the AEF G-2 during the war, claimed that “noncommissioned officers were by far the best sources for gaining information” and “few of them resisted insistent interrogation.”  About 60 percent of officers “invoked military honor” and refused to cooperate.  A typical German soldier had little knowledge about the larger battlefield, but he provided details on his own unit, weapons, troop losses, and general morale.  Enemy soldiers from Poland, Denmark, the Alsace-Lorraine region and southern Germany were particularly cooperative.  Unquestionably, the most important information obtained from prisoners was enemy order of battle, but they also gave up their routes of movement; the position and condition of trenches, dugouts and wire entanglements; their capacity to attack; and how susceptible they were to being attacked.

Based on the preceding outline, it is clear that World War I was no different than any other war in US Army history: prisoners of war have always been proven and valued sources of intelligence.  However, formalizing and standardizing the process for handling and examining prisoners in the 1918 Intelligence Regulations and provisional manuals was one more step in modernizing US Army Intelligence.  While field manuals published in 1940 provided more details on accepted interrogation techniques, the system for prisoner-of-war handling Nolan developed for World War I continued, with minor changes, throughout the 20th century.

The 1st Corps Observation Group in World War I

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

In the latter half of the 19th century, military organizations around the world began experimenting with aerial technologies. By the early part of the 20th century, advances in airplanes and cameras inevitably linked these two technologies for military intelligence purposes. By the time the US entered World War I, aerial visual and photographic reconnaissance had become principle sources of intelligence used by the British and French for planning and executing battles. Following the lead of the Allies, the fledgling US Air Service deployed 18 Aero Squadrons (Observation) to France in 1917 and 1918. Of these, 14 served with 1st, 3d, 4th, 5th, and 6th Corps. The first corps-level observation group was established in 1st Corps.

In April 1918, the 1st Corps Observation Group was assigned to the Toul Sector in support of the 26th Division. The Group consisted of the 1st Aero Squadron, responsible for long-range visual observation and aerial photographic missions and adjustment of divisional heavy artillery fire, and the 12th Aero Squadron, which conducted short-range visual and photographic missions, light artillery spotting missions, and infantry contact patrols. During its eight months of operations, the Group also temporarily included the 50th and 88th Aero Squadrons.

Courier Cpl. Roland McFall receives plates from Observer, 1st Lt. James B Harvey. At the end of the aerial photo mission, the motorcyclist waits to retrieve the glass photographic plates for speedy delivery to the photo lab for processing.

Each squadron consisted of 18 pilots and 18 observers, all officers. The Group also had a Photographic Officer, responsible for installing cameras on the aircraft and overseeing development of photographs after the missions, and a Branch Intelligence Officer (BIO). The BIO, assigned by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) G-2, studied and interpreted the photographs and distributed all relevant information to higher commands. The Group also included a motorcycle courier, who sped the photo plates from the aircraft to the lab where 30 enlisted technicians and specialists printed and enlarged the photos and got them in the hands of the BIO within six hours.

In the early days of aerial operations, weather and mechanical problems cancelled more missions than were actually flown and many of the initial photographs had little intelligence value. Squadron personnel used their time in the relatively quiet sector to complete their training in preparation for more active operations. In addition to providing valuable training, the constant overwatch in the sector made it difficult for the enemy to make preparations for large-scale attacks without the Allies’ knowledge.

These quiet days in Toul came to an end in early July 1918 when the US began large-scale military operations against the German lines. The 1st Corps Observation Group had active participation in the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Commanders who had initially expressed skepticism about the value of aerial reconnaissance were now relying heavily on the discipline when planning operations. Weather permitting, aero squadrons flew daily dawn and twilight patrol missions and other missions as the tactical situation dictated. The BIO compared photographs from successive missions to identify changes in enemy battery positions, movement on roads and railways, and evidence of new works and troop concentrations. As the squadrons gained experience in actual combat conditions, they became more responsive to the needs of Corps and Division G-2s, air-delivering timely “First Needs” packets of photographs directly to command posts.

As the war moved out of the trenches as became more mobile, photographic reconnaissance became less important than artillery adjustment and infantry contact patrols. Because most of the observers were field artillery officers, they were attuned to and focused on meeting the requirements for artillery targeting. During contact patrols, air crews kept the command informed of the location of its front line by flying low enough to mitigate issues of unfavorable weather, while braving the dangers of both friendly and enemy ground fire. Communication issues between air crews and infantry units were partially overcome by more intensive collective training, although the rapidly changing battlefield challenged even the best efforts at liaison.

In reviewing its efforts, the US Air Service identified issues related to weather, air-to-ground communication, timeliness of photographic processing, and inadequate training that would need to be addressed in post-war developments. Still, the success of the Aero Squadrons cannot be overlooked. The Air Service understated the value of aerial visual and photographic reconnaissance as “satisfactory,” while historians noted that it had become the primary information source influencing decision-making by the end of the war. General John J. Pershing, commander of the AEF, concurred, stating, “No army ever went out with the information as to what was in front of it as the American army did at St. Mihiel and the Argonne.” Clearly, aerial reconnaissance would continue to be a critical component of Army Intelligence operations.

Counterintelligence In The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

In 1917, following declaration of war against Germany, the United States began building its one-million-man military force through a wide-spread draft. In the process, all eligible US citizens and resident foreign nationals were swept into the US Army.  The Allies, particularly paranoid of America’s “melting pot,” warned the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) G-2, Major Dennis Nolan, that US forces needed to be safeguarded from internal and external threats of enemy espionage, sabotage, and subversion.

On July 11, 1917, Nolan wrote to the Chief of Staff of the Army requesting “that fifty secret service men, who have had training in police work [and] who speak French fluently, be enlisted as sergeants of infantry in service in intelligence work and sent to France at an early date.” Nolan also requested 50 company-grade officers to assist British and French counter-espionage efforts at French ports and on the front lines.  Both requests were approved the following month and the Corps of Intelligence Police (CIP) became the first official recognition of the counterintelligence discipline in the US Army.

The first 50 CIP agents arrived in France in November 1917.  Two months later, the AEF received authorization to recruit another 700 agents from units already overseas. By the armistice in November 1918, however, the CIP had only reached a strength of 418 agents.

Belgian and American personnel in Wortegheim, Belgium, question a suspected spy charged with signaling to a German machine gun emplacement, November 1918.

One third of CIP agents served in the Front Zone, where the US Army had responsibility for 123 miles of territory adjacent to the fighting. They established mobile checkpoints to prevent entry of non-combatants into the combat zone and secured France’s border with neutral and Allied countries. Other agents served directly with advancing troops of the First and Second Armies where their chief mission was to control the civil population and detect and prevent espionage. Among the first to enter recaptured towns, they immediately replaced any suspect government officials and interviewed inhabitants for enemy order of battle information.

The majority of the CIP agents served with the G-2 Services of Supply (SOS) in the Rear Zone.  They provided security for 14 ports in France, England, and Scotland; 400 miles of frontier along the borders with Spain and Italy; 31 supply depots; and 7 leave centers.  They disguised themselves as laborers and interpreters to detect enemy agents circulating among US troops.  They also warned Soldiers about the consequences of “loose talk” and investigated suspicious behavior or cases of possible sabotage.  The CIP agents in the G-2 SOS investigated 3,706 cases and neutralized 229 suspected enemy agents through conviction, internment, or expulsion from the war zone.

Additionally, a few CIP agents worked “Special Projects” in the Counter Espionage Section of the AEF G-2. In addition to compiling a central file of more than 160,000 names, they provided security for traveling VIPs and, at times, served as General John Pershing’s bodyguard.

The CIP recorded a number of problems that arose during their World War I operations. Foremost, wartime haste left little time to procure suitable personnel, to adequately train agents, or to educate the rest of the US Army about the need for and importance of counterintelligence.  Furthermore, since CIP agents arrived in France several months after the first American combat troops, they did not have time to set up a “protective screen” to safeguard US forces and support services from enemy espionage or subversion.  The secret nature of much of the CIP’s work meant that their successes went unrecognized, which inhibited promotions for officers and commissions for enlisted personnel and negatively impacted morale.  Rank disparity often became an issue when agents interviewed senior officers or interacted with Allied counterintelligence personnel. Finally, the word “police” in the organization’s title led to CIP investigations of more criminal activities than their mission required or allowed, much to the consternation of the Military Police.

Despite these myriad problems, CIP agents were exceedingly proud of their service.  According to their official history, “World War I experiences taught most CIP agents that it was hard, unglamorous and painstaking work that earned for the Corps of Intelligence Police a permanent and honored place in all the future wartime plans of the United States Army.”  This, however, did not protect CIP from post-war reductions along with the rest of the US Army.  While the CIP remained a viable organization, carrying out critical counterintelligence missions in Hawaii, Panama, the Philippines, and along the United States-Mexico border, the number of agents on duty from 1920 to 1940 ranged from just 18 to 40.  Unfortunately, the same wartime haste that plagued effective operations in World War I would cause similar problems in World War II.

Some (more) Vietnam War Memories from the Early Days

By Lou Rothenstein

Since some of us really old guys are recalling things from the far distant past, I thought of recording a few more memories. Maybe one or two are interesting.

In 61 and 62, I had several TDY trips to Vietnam from KMAG in Korea. There was a ceiling on assigned troops – I think 5,000 so the Army brought in people TDY from several places in Asia. I was promoted to SSG and somewhat out of a job so I was a good candidate. I went from working for the Chief, KMAG as an E5 to document security for Detachment 40, (SF Advisors from 1st SF Group) KMAG, as an E6.

So, the Eighth Army SGM sent me to Vietnam. In 61 there was no MACV. MAAG-V, headquartered in Saigon was the place to be until around February of 62 when MACV cranked up.

I was living sort of in the basement of an outbuilding at MAAG-V HQ. I did odd jobs like teaching motor stables on sedans and packaging items for distribution to advisors in the field and sometimes the mail. It included some SF camps. These were manned by TDY teams from several different groups. It caused a few problems when they changed and not one in the HQ passed on the info. I delivered some newer than French 1:100,000 maps – some 1:50,000s, 1:250,000 around. Sometimes I had to hang out at Ton San Nhut for a ride. Aircraft were not too plentiful in 61. Once I was given a box to deliver to Vientiane. I had cash, bought a ticket on Air Vietnam, a C-46, delivered the package to a Mr. Miller, and immediately flew back to Saigon. I think it contained altimeters/aircraft gauges. We called this Gopher work. I believe that this was a CAT plane as the crew was Chinese. I had to have fatigues with a MAAG-V patch so I didn’t stand out in a crowd. I had to carry other shirts with different patches on them when going to another country. If I went into Laos, I would have to change shirts. There was a lot of this deceptive stuff going on. Apparently a way to get things into Air America or other outfits without the normal procedures.

I recall some advisors in 61 in the field who had little to work with. There was a new Ranger training center not to far from Da Lat that I recall that was the picture of field expedients. They apparently got things started by trading on the OD market. Goods for captured equipment. This was practiced even after we had more than we could use. Col Tom Henry who passed away in 2015 (China Post 1) was setting it up then a Captain. He also set up Delta Force early on.

I was rewarded with a plush job on my second TDY. I drove around an Army Major PAO type. He roomed at the new Caravelle Hotel. So I did also, sharing a room with an AF ATC from Taiwan for awhile. but I think he was a Spook as he didn’t handle a camera very well and was always asking me questions about this or that guy I had a beer or two with up at the Roof Garden (Saigon Saigon)at night. At the hotel, there were quite a few foreign correspondents and several from the U.S. I ended up writing some reports on these folks that were probably sent to ACSI, DA. It may have been the start of my change from grunt/clerk to intel.

About two weeks I spent thumbing rides around Vietnam to deliver things. I always came back to Saigon for a long weekend. I thought that this was the way to be in a war. Not much shooting going on and those weekends were great. After reading the book “The Spy Who Loved Us” (Pham Xuan An) I wondered if I had a beer or two with this chain-smoking guy. Back then, most people smoked so American cigarettes were good trading material at the end of the month when the cash ran out. I still don’t know. I talked with several reporters who bought beer as long as we low-ranking guys fed them information. ABC was more prone to bribe us for info than the other network folks. To this day, I do not understand the question when asked of an Army SSG “How do you think the war is going?” As if I really had inside info. My roommate could quaff some beer. After awhile, we gravitated towards some Aussies and Kiwis who lived in the hotel. Now they really drank beer. Sometimes, a U.S. officer would report me to MAAG HQ for excess beer consumption and other frowned upon behaviors. My Major always intervened – I worked for him and was following orders.

I recall the rooftop bar/cafe Saigon Saigon perhaps more than anything. Sitting at a table with good food, drinks, watching some military actions in the distance at night. I sat there in April of this year and had a couple of beers reminiscing. Also some much modified black B-26’s that flew at night. I discovered much later, they were testing the terrain following radar. Also the overloaded T-28s at Soc Trang. I saw one right after a wing fell off. These trainers were really overworked in ground support missions. And of course, the old helicopters. One can never forget the CH-21.

Things changed a lot with MACV establishing a larger presence in early 62. No Caravelle Hotel this trip. I first lived out of a security unit’s billets close to TSN where I could get my jeep serviced (washed and fueled). I got to know the flight schedules pretty well and drove people to and from the airport and sometimes the closer helipad. One Monday, MAAG HQ (both MAAG and MACV were operating at the same time) sent me on a mission to the Delta. I had to drive a new MACV LTC named Vann to My Tho as he didn’t want to fly. He wanted to look at the terrain. As soon as we left the Saigon area, he gave me his carbine, said I was shotgun and he drove to My Tho. I spent a couple of weeks there until replacements and new personnel came in. It was a bit closer to the action but the action was still sparse. I actually went on a couple of small operations, one that gave a a nice scar. I then went TDY to Okinawa ostensibly to learn how to jump out of planes but got injured inside one of them. That ended my dreams of an extra $55 a month. It left me with a problem shoulder for many years.

I started to worry about my pay. I was getting cash that sometimes I had to sign for, other times it was just handed to me. I found that someone arranged to have my regular but meager Army pay put away for safekeeping. I wonder if this was another way to get around counting all the people in country. But when I was sent back to Korea, it was all OK with the pay. The accumulated pay let me buy a new car at my next assignment. I had nothing much to do so I toured most of the KMAG teams, sometimes with new people, a couple of USO shows, or delivering goods. The G2 Advisor in KMAG had me write up a lengthy report on my experiences. There was also an Eighth Army NCO and a Captain who were also TDY to SEA that did the same. Apparently no one ever read the reports as when I went back to Vietnam in 66, things were worse. I, at times, felt like the VC made me their #1 target. There was a big difference in KMAG and MAAG/MACV. In KMAG, the Army folks were pretty senior.

After I left Asia, Germany was my next assignment. First Heidelberg, putting together message books for the CINC and staff. Pretty uneventful (boring) except one trip as a driver to Zossen-Wuensdorf, GSFG HQ. I ended up in Berlin thinking I would soon be in the Infantry. That didn’t happen. I was reassigned to G2, Berlin Brigade as an assistant to an assistant in G2 Operations. All the officers were Infantry. Working in SMOS. There were only two enlisted there that had any intel experience. The G2 SGM and the Ops NCO, both WWII and Korean Vets. They taught me enough to stay out of too much trouble. As Army Intelligence and Security (later MI) grew, we needed to retrain more enlisted folks into the new MOSs.

Vietnam was heating up and since I was there (short time and lack of significant roles), I became the “expert” on Vietnam. So junior officers and senior NCOs would stop by after patrols to ask questions. I was training a new G2 recruit, SSG Jim Fiske what little I knew of the workings of intelligence. The Vietnam orders started coming in in late 64. Jim was among the first to depart. I told him of my experiences, good times, gave him a few addresses, and he left a happy camper.

Well Jim got into country just before Christmas of 64. The day after his arrival, Charlie blew up much of his temporary billet, the Brinks BOQ. He was due to work at the new Combined Intel Center. I received perhaps one of the nastiest notes ever written by humans from him. He survived and went on to become an MI WO and embassy work. Good troop. I just remembered another one of our trainees. SFC Jim Kinnon. Profiled out of the Infantry, he became one of our collectors. I guess he didn’t want to stay MI as when he went to Vietnam, he told MACV their Drug and Alcohol program sucked, that he could do better. He was given the job which worked but was underfunded and undermanned. His program became a standard used even by fancy places like the Betty Ford Center.

I thought of writing this down as best that my memory could do. I did it previously but it was lost. Not that it matters much in the grand scheme of things, but it taught me not to pay too much attention to people who were “experts.” The world changes too quick. It also taught Jim to never listen to me again.

With the media and press in the news as perhaps not too well balanced in their reporting, I remember very well the situations in Vietnam. What really happened and was told to reporters, they most often reported the facts pretty well, at least in the early years. However, there were several of their stories modified a bit back stateside. Some stories I read later were not near the truth and reporter opinions were often more influential than official government reports. Some of this was our fault. MACV held a 1700 brief for the press. What was being told to reporters about TET-68 was not in line what some reporters were told by troops and they visited battle sites to see for themselves. It led one reporter, the most trusted man in America at the time to state that we were basically in a stale mate. It changed the opinions of many in America from pro to con about Vietnam.

Anyway, it felt good to write down what I can still remember at 78.

Tactical Signals Intelligence Originates in World War I

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

After the invention of the radio in the 1890s, the first widespread use of the technology for military communications occurred during World War I.  The ease of intercepting radio messages quickly spurred advances in encryption and decryption of codes and ciphers.  The Military Intelligence Division in Washington recognized the importance of this discipline and quickly established Herbert Yardley’s Code and Cipher Section.  Likewise, shortly after arriving in France, Brig. Gen. Dennis Nolan, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) G-2, was forced to acknowledge that the US was woefully unprepared to exploit signals intelligence.  When British intelligence informed him that it had identified two-thirds of the enemy’s divisions through the intercepting and decoding of Germany’s radio messages, Nolan acted immediately.  On July 28, 1917, he tasked Capt. Frank Moorman to form the AEF’s Radio Intelligence Section (RIS), also known as G-2 A6.

Moorman, a 40-year-old Coastal Artillery officer serving as the acting director of the Signal School at Fort Leavenworth, had served in the Military Information Division in the Philippines and had temporarily worked with Parker Hitt, the Army’s foremost authority on codes and ciphers.  When Moorman arrived in France, however, he understood little more than his mission: to read and decipher German radio messages.  Starting from scratch, Moorman soon built a successful collaborative network that provided the AEF with reliable intelligence throughout the war.

Lt. Col. Frank Moorman and his staff of the Radio Intelligence Section, AEF Headquarters (INSCOM photo)

The US Army’s Signal Corps, which had responsibility for Army code compilation and communications security, figured prominently in Moorman’s network.  The Signal Corps’ own Radio Intelligence Service, later renamed the Radio Section, established, operated, and maintained listening stations close to the front lines.  Personnel manning these stations intercepted and copied enemy radio messages around the clock.  The Signal Corps turned recorded messages over to RIS personnel at each Army headquarters for deciphering and analysis using keys provided by the G-2 A6. The most difficult codes and ciphers and potentially important messages were passed further up the chain to Moorman’s section.

The US Army’s first foray into tactical signals intelligence quickly surpassed the efforts of its Allies.  Its eight listening stations intercepted more than 72,000 messages and 238,000 telephone calls.  Additionally, personnel located enemy radio stations, constructed net diagrams, intercepted and located radio signals from airplanes ranging for hostile artillery, policed US Army telephone lines near the front for operational security, and distributed American trench codes.  They also helped develop enemy order of battle through traffic analysis by using call signs and knowledge of German communication protocols.

One early success occurred in December 1917, when the RIS intercepted a transmission indicating the enemy planned a barrage in an area where a US division was co-located with the French.  The RIS passed this intelligence to front line headquarters just in time to allow the Allies to unleash a counter-battery attack that effectively prevented the Germans from carrying out their plan.  Examples like this quickly won over skeptical commanders who initially distrusted the value of code and cipher work. However, it also exposed a vulnerability for future warfare. Moorman cautioned that the system developed for use in World War I was successful primarily because of the static nature of trench warfare.  Its value decreased when the enemy became mobile and the RIS could not maintain close contact long enough to establish the listening stations and install the necessary equipment.

In 1920, Moorman spoke to the officers of the Military Intelligence Division in an effort to pass on insights relevant for the future.  He recalled that his most pressing problem was obtaining adequate personnel: “The difficulty in finding men who could actually think without a guardian was surprising.  It is hoped that one of the aims of the future will be to develop this ability in men chosen for code and cipher work.”

Another obstacle the RIS faced was educating outside personnel about the process of code and cipher work.  “What [headquarters] wanted us to do was pick out the important messages, decode them, and let the rest go.…It was a matter of considerable difficulty to make them see that we had to work them out and that the Germans did not tag their important messages before sending them.”  Additionally, educating troops about the importance of safeguarding their own communications was paramount.  Moorman warned, “It is a sacrifice of American lives to unnecessarily assist the enemy in the solution of our code.”  Too often, soldiers mishandled codes and refused to “[observe] the ‘foolish’ little details that the code man insists on.”  Moorman correctly predicted that all these issues would endure in the future.

US Army’s First Code and Cipher Bureau Created June 10, 1917

Published with Permission by:
Lori S. Tagg, Command Historian,
US Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, AZ.

When Ralph Van Deman established the War Department’s intelligence organization shortly after the US entered World War I, he was faced with building his section from nearly nothing.  Although his background was more in the field of counterintelligence, he readily recognized the need for an office dedicated to cryptology.  He received numerous letters from amateur cryptologists offering their services, but he was intrigued by one person in particular: a bored State Department telegraph operator named Herbert O. Yardley who had deciphered a communication between President Woodrow Wilson and his aide in two hours.  Putting aside concerns about Yardley’s age—he was only 28—Van Deman chose him to create the Army’s first code and cipher bureau, known originally as the American Cryptographic Bureau but most popularly as MI-8.  Yardley reportedly remarked that “it was immaterial to America whether I or someone else formed such a bureau, but such a bureau must begin to function at once.”

Yardley was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Signal Corps on June 29, 1917 and was given two civilian assistants.  Over the next year, MI-8 grew rapidly to 165 military and civilian personnel working in five subsections:  Code and Cipher Solutions, Code and Cipher Compilation, Secret Inks, Shorthand, and Communications.

Code and Cipher Solutions examined communications from commercial telegraph and cable companies, intercepted radio traffic, and seized mail.  Every suspicious missive, military or civilian, ended up on the desks of this subsection.  In addition to written communications, the section analyzed atypical items like postage stamps, musical scores, religious amulets, even a pigeon’s wings. The amount of work was overwhelming, especially after the US Navy stopped its cryptology efforts and let the Army take the lead.  During the course of the war, the subsection read more than 10,000 messages and solved 50 codes and ciphers used by eight foreign nations. This included the celebrated case in which Capt. John Manley deciphered a coded message found on Lothar Witzke (aka Pablo Waberski), a suspected German spy and saboteur.  Manley’s solution to the code sealed Witzke’s conviction for espionage.

The Code and Cipher Compilation Subsection established secure communications for 40-plus military attachés and hundreds of intelligence officers in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).  Its services were critical for several reasons.  First, the Army’s 1915 telegraph code book had been stolen during the Punitive Expedition and had yet to be updated.  Additionally, British cryptologists informed the War Department that German telegraph operators on U-boats were able to copy US messages sent to the AEF and its allies via the transatlantic cables.  Because breaches in US communications would ultimately compromise the whole Allied effort, the subsection revised the entire War Department code and cipher system.  In conjunction, the Communications Subsection operated round-the-clock, averaging the secure transmission of more than 100 sensitive and classified messages per day.

The Secret Ink Subsection established two laboratories specifically for MI-8 use.  Chemists succeeded in developing an iodine vapor reagent for all types of secret inks.  As a result, the MI-8 uncovered communications directing sabotage, which allowed the War Industries Board to implement tighter security measures.  At its peak, the subsection was reviewing more than 2,000 items weekly. As more sophisticated methods to conceal messages were developed, the subsection continually worked on new reagents.

The Shorthand Subsection was an impromptu addition to the organization.  Military censors provided MI-8 with a number of messages believed to be in code but were found instead to be written in shorthand.  The subsection cultivated a community of experts in more than 30 shorthand systems used worldwide.

MI-8’s work was at times exciting and often fruitless, but personnel persevered.  In a series of post-war articles, Capt. Manley stated, “…it is the business of a Cipher Bureau never to allow its interests or energies to flag, for although a thousand suspicious documents may turn out…to be entirely innocent or insignificant, the very next one might be of the greatest importance.”  Manley also stressed that the organization successfully uncovered cases of nefarious activities but also cleared the name of several innocent civilians wrongly accused of spying for Germany.

Although employing relatively simple deciphering methods using little more than pen and paper, MI-8 constituted a significant development for military intelligence during World War I.  Brig. Gen. Marlborough Churchill, the Army’s Director of Military Intelligence, predicted in 1919, “Code attack is indeed still in its infancy.  It is capable of rapid and incalculable development.” Consequently, both the State and War Departments continued MI-8’s efforts as the Black Chamber in the post-war period. Soon thereafter, cryptology evolved into more sophisticated codes and ciphers requiring the invention of mechanical devices that would dominate both Allied and Axis code operations during World War II.

Lieutenant Herbert O. Yardley created the Army’s first code and cipher organization.  By the end of World War I, he had been promoted to Major and oversaw all cryptologic efforts for the US delegation to the Peace Commission in Paris.

A Vietnam Veteran Returns to Vietnam

A Vietnam Veteran Army Retiree Returns to Vietnam – Again.

By Lou Rothenstein

I had previous trips to Vietnam after the War. One was a working one, the other was a healing return tour with Soldier’s Heart for Vietnam Veterans in 2012. My wife was with me on this tour and as a Nurse, decided she wanted to return to do some medical volunteer service. We did this over a couple of weeks with Vets With A Mission, a nongovernmental organization that has been doing medical care work in Vietnam for 28 years. We then traveled to several world heritage sites and I needed to return to see a bit of Saigon.

After four years in Europe and the Middle East – a great first four years of Army service – I was assigned to a CONUS stateside four-star HQ. Sort of a boring let down. I volunteered for overseas again. Vietnam came into my life shortly after I was assigned to KMAG – Korea Military Assistance Group. Seems like the unit became a bit over strength in certain grades, I was promotable into one of them and MAAG in Vietnam needed a few more warm bodies so I did several TDY trips there in 1961-2. TDY was a way to get around troop level strengths and that apparently worked for the Army.

I initially started as an admin-operations type that was mostly taking people here and there, there usually being the airfield. As a Speedy 5, I then worked (driver-gopher) for a Major who was usually in civilian clothes, was always around the press and had a room at the Caravelle Hotel. Fairly new, it was a pretty nice pad. I shared a small room with another NCO who was TDY from Japan. He was an Intelligence type that spoke several languages. I believe their job was to watch the foreign and U.S. press types as many had offices at the hotel. What was nice was that I got cash to pay for my billeting and breakfast in an air-conditioned facility. Few around then. It was around $5-6 and included laundry. We junior ranks usually had enough left over for liquid refreshments.

    

MAAG-V 606 TRAN HUNG DAO SAIGON THEN AND NOW.
ONE STAYED AWAY TO AVOID REALLY BAD DETAILS.

Capable of two-finger typewriter operations, I typed several reports on people and conversations. It had some interest but a bit boring. The press was always asking questions of us like we knew what was going on. We reported their questions. I became Interested in going out and looking around where there was some activity in addition to an office, behind the steering wheel of a car and drinking atop the Hotel at Saigon. I was just up there today drinking a local craft ale and remembered that it was one of just a few 10 floor buildings around in 61. The view of the Catholic Cathedral was still there, now tucked between the many high-rise hotels and office buildings that is now Saigon District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City.
    

Saigon today still has the same old French Colonial look around the downtown area. What has changed is the current high volume of traffic – mopeds, newer model cars, buses and trucks. People still hawk their food and wares on the sidewalks, and the Ao Dai are seen worn by employees at hotels and government businesses. It is hard to tell what city one is in around Asia these days. They have become quite western in appearance. Work has started on urban rail to alleviate the traffic a bit. To the traveler, one must plan drives well as traffic jams are frequent and uncomfortable. Avoid rush hours. I thought of a couple of books about Pham Xuan An. Perhaps one of the best placed agents working against us during the war. This was someone I probably saw at his undercover work several times. The Army gave our press much information about what was going on which he had open access to. Should be read by all MI types.

I eventually got a job escorting (carrying luggage) the newly assigned MAAG officers and senior NCO’s who were relegated to the field, away from the easy life of Saigon. Later, the time was split between MAAG-V and MACV that started up 1962. Sometimes people did not know for sure what unit they were in and we had SF teams TDY in and out, and there was always someone choking up on the bat as to who got an airplane ride to the boondocks rather than a jeep or worn-out sedan. New maps were coming out and getting them out to where they were needed allowed a couple of our gopher corps to see some of the country.

While traveling around the country, an occasional view of a former SF Camp or MAAG/MACV Advisory Team would pop up. Most have been levelled to the ground in rural areas but in towns, they are in use by local police or agencies. The sheer number of Vietnamese government buildings, compounds and activities is quite amazing. Even very small towns have their share. In the areas I served, the U.S. areas were built over but former provincial headquarters I see are now small museums about the war. Outside of one or two in the bigger cities, they are generally worthless historically. One does get an impression of our more effective programs by the sheer amount of coverage they receive on display.

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon is the largest around. It shows U.S. markings painted over ARVN and VNAF equipment. It depicts former U.S. Navy anti-war demonstrator and Senator John Kerry in a heroic manner and former U.S. Navy Seal Bob Kerrey, an effective anti-VC Cadre operator as a war criminal.

Few Vietnamese remember the war. What they have comes from their parents and the government. Vietnam has a young population that knows they do not have much power to change things. In addition to the Re-Education Camps, the government restricted the children of their former adversaries to have any jobs connected with the government. However, the grandchildren might be able to work for government industries but unless they are a member of organizations such as the Young Communists, they will never be in positions such as the police. So, children of GVN personnel work for private and overseas companies or are self-employed or work at labor. It is sad to see resources wasted like this over the years.

The English language newspapers daily have the same type of articles. There are always visits to Southeast Asian countries to improve commercial relations and there is some government official visiting somewhere promising aid or investments in economically troubled areas. The third area is that of government corruption. It is a way of life over here. If one rises to some position of authority, it is expected that part of costs provided to the government will go to these trusted officials. Officials such as customs and immigration have become much more professional, no open palms noted this trip. They have learned from other countries.

The Koreans have returned. They were our allies during the war and later brought good quality transport and commerce with them. Now they are a major tourist group. From these and language training, they are displacing the Russians rapidly. A Korean on vacation can make the four-and-a-half-hour flight from Korea, stay at a resort for five days, play two rounds of golf cheaper than a round might cost them in Seoul.

The watchful eyes of the party are still omnipresent. I recall my first trip here early 90’s when paranoia abounded as they feared that USSF was training the old and wounded Montagnards in North Carolina to return and cause them problems. In 2012, it was economic fears that non-governmental organizations (NGO) would somehow drain their collection boxes. This time it was over watch on who could get medical treatment from the NGO. In addition, the college interpreters were interrogated as to their experiences.

Whether in China, Russia, East Germany, or Vietnam, officials seem to continually invent threats, probably to justify their security positions. By the way, they are quite easy to spot. When there is a problem around, an NGO is a good scapegoat. One of the medical treatment sites might have been changed for one apparent reason but might be tied in with a visit during the period of a high-ranking party official in the area.

If any reader is a Vietnam Veteran, they should consider re-visiting Vietnam. It provides some closure on what might have been a traumatic time, as well as some decent traveling and tours at a reasonable cost. Air travel is relatively cheap in country and there are recurring U.S. to Vietnam flights at special rates.

I am not a travel expert but might be able to offer a few more suggestions. Like every Vietnam Veteran I know or have worked with, the war was different for everyone. Even the same unit or location experienced different battles a few months apart.

Pham Xuan An –
“Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent” by Larry Berman, 2007. This book is sold in many Vietnamese book stores in English.

”The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An’s Dangerous Game” by Thomas A. Bass, 2009.

As I sat at a rooftop table at Saigon Saigon a couple of nights ago, I tried to bring up memories of those later well-known reporters and photographers who stayed at the Caravelle in the 1960’s. I tried to picture the spy with a cigarillo in his mouth, but they were popular smokes at the time. I recalled a few names but mostly remembered those reporters who visited we military guys in the field. Some were intelligent and reported facts but many did not report all of what actually happened. A couple would not listen to our warnings and have never been seen since. In retrospect, it seems that some of those actions I knew about and participated in never made it into the archives. Perhaps what was reported sold newspapers or TV time, but I feel deep down that what was reported, or the way it was reported was more influential on the outcome than the actual battles, deaths, and goals.

Lou

Acronym Key:
CONUS – Continental United States
TDY trips – Temporary Duty Yonder
NCO – non-commissioned officer
MAAG – Military Assistance Advisory Group
MAAG-V – Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam
MACV – Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
ARVN – Army of the Republic of Vietnam
VNAF – Vietnamese Air Force
GVN – Government of Vietnam