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

Therapeutic Email

By Lou Rothenstein

Gen Milley’s statement brought back a lot of memories from early days in Vietnam. I also had a few of them pop up recently on a trip to Vietnam and a few places where I served. It also bugged me as I see many lessons learned not being read by enough people in high places.

I recall a statement from my last CO/Senior Advisor in Vietnam. “They should have shot the first man to bring an air conditioner into country.”

It had to do with an order coming down from on high that a certain category of personnel must have air-conditioned quarters. We had to use most of our electrical power for communications equipment that was essential to our mission. We had less than 100 men on an Advisory Team that covered perhaps the largest single a/o in territory in country. There were two SF B-Camps, about 14 A Camps, three Province Advisory Teams, and about 37 district and MATs. We had 7/1 Air Cav, the ARVN 41st Ranger Bn and an ARVN towed 155mm Arty Bn. Everyone was spread thin. Everyone became expert at calling for air support, primarily at night. Being at a primarily static camp, we made improvements in our living conditions. We traded captured enemy equipment for a well and water tank with erdolator (p) that gave us clear and drinkable water. We scrounged cement for sidewalks and an AK-47 got us a small cement mixer. We had a rather small PX with essentials only. Smokes, Jim Beam and a fewer, less essential items like razor blades and soda pop. Beer was traded with other elements or off the docks in Saigon on a monthly run or bribing a Caribou crew to deliver it. A Mamasan seamstress kept us supplied with VC flag replicas for further trading. We had it pretty good. Lack of clean ice might have been our biggest problem. Cold beer was sometimes had at the expense of some CO2 Fire Extinguishers……We worked out a trade with the Navy for refills….We survived discomfort through the gray military market as it was faster and sometimes more efficient than normal supply. We had our own supply system that skipped a couple of levels or worked locally and informally.

The problem was that some of us were gone more than half of each week somewhere in the AO. Down the street, a SF B Camp that worked on rebuilding and improving its compound after TET-68 major attacks – concrete mortar pits, actual buildings, etc., got movement orders to an area closer to the border. A great prize for a province advisory team. The B-Team lived in tents and had to improve a new camp just for survival. Eventually enough supplies arrived to build fairly good defenses and better living conditions. Few people realize that there were A Camps and Advisors in the Plain of Reeds that were pretty hard to get to when water levels were up. Some even had to travel within the camps in boats.

Probably the folks that did more with less were the MAT’s. Four or five on a Mobile Advisory Team were not very mobile as they advised the Popular Forces in their home villages and hamlets. Support was good between our SF Camps, MACV Teams and the U.S. Navy PBR and Swift Boat elements operating in our a/o. The USAF supported our SF Camps with a dedicated squadron of Caribous. Not a bad setup but it took quite a few people just to keep things running. I could not imagine what it would have been like to have to support things like Burger King that far from the flagpole….

On a previous advisory tour, we MI guys were assigned to an MI unit, attached to MACV. Our support was crappy from our unit. I was amazed at the lower ranks in the field we had to train while my headquarters area was filled with senior NCO’s at their club in Gia Dinh. All in fresh jungle boots and fatigues, while some of us in the field were wearing worn-out OG-107 or ARVN uniforms. It took a side trip to MACV J2 to fix some of the disparities. Going down through channels, things disappeared. The fix was to turn over the mission to MACV. It worked for us later in the war…

I had a couple of uncles and a brother-in-law who worked the WWII Battlefields. They all talked of the R&R camps where they got new clothes, hot showers, hot food, caught up on mail. How important it was to do it as a unit. Looking back on our R&R system in Vietnam, I could see the good it did for morale, but not being with one’s team left something out of the mix. After a big operation, our senior advisor sent us on in-country R&R as a team of at least four-five personnel to take care of one another. When I was in the 6th Convalescent Center, there were a couple of soldiers there that had 11 months in country with a Cav unit without any R&R. I had a good friend I served with in Berlin. He was assigned to MACV-SOG and had little support from his base area. They were in the field on recon a lot on classified missions, separate from other elements. To get support, they rounded up the nastiest, oldest clothing and equipment they could find and went to SF Hq. Once the CSM saw them, things happened. They were sent to supply for issuance of all new equipment, haircuts of course. and some rest. I try to contrast this with those who were close to the flagpole who were never short of jungle boots and fatigues they really didn’t need.

When I read of the Burger Kings and other “must have” niceties in base camps currently, I wonder if this is really a morale booster or buster. For those troops that go on missions away from the flagpole, it must be harder than it was for us to leave camps and compounds that didn’t have a lot to begin with. I wonder what percentage of troop strength is involved in this type of operation. Talking with a few soldiers with multiple deployments in our recent conflicts, it was nice to have things at a well-equipped base but they lamented having to pull guard and security duties while there. I do not get a good, clear picture around this. Where is the Rest part of R&R?

I recall our providing Navy PBR crews our cots for some daytime sleep after they were patrolling our Rivers all night long and too far away from their base LSTs. I also recall the making needed supply runs for us to teams and camps when helicopters were in short supply. The systems weren’t perfect but they worked. Things like mantles for gas stoves and refrigerators and certain radio batteries were like gold. Some of those on 30 day reup leaves would be detailed to bring some in their duffle bags on the return flight. Better than priority 999 they gave to Unattended Ground Sensors. Another project we picked up with Navy help.

I haven’t talked much about Grunts with U.S. Infantry units. In addition to working with ARVN, I worked a bit with the Mobile Riverine Force. A Brigade of the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division and a U.S. Navy Flotilla, CTF 117 did some major riverine operations along the major waterways of the Delta. They were pretty well supplied as they had a big base camp at Dong Tam and decent but cramped quarters afloat. There were a lot of immersion foot problems. Others who were friends or some clients in counseling over the years would state that they were in good units but their uniforms and gear were often in threads, not replaced on schedule as they spent too much time in the field, or the supplies simply weren’t there when they returned. I think there is something wrong with this picture of combat elements not getting what they needed on a priority over those living at the flagpole. It seems the picture I have of today’s Army is not too different from what I experienced. Too much tail.

Why not go back to something that worked in two World Wars and Korea? Of course the individual replacement system helped reduce unit integrity. One might recall the shiploads of troops returning from WWII when troops had some winddown time together before discharge. From Vietnam, many boarded the aircraft and were discharged the next day at Oakland trading jungle fatigues for civvies, then home. With shorter tours, it is possible. Perhaps the Navy Seabees had the best rotation/R&R system going in Vietnam. From a team training in CONUS, 8 months in country, four months at home base in the U.S., 8 months in country. Replacement teams brought with them the essentials they needed for much individual support, picking up tools from the departing team. Talking over the years with a few old hands at SF ops in Vietnam, a few would argue that the older TDY rotations of 6-8 months worked pretty well for them. One could also argue that even one year was not enough to do the mission as well as one would want it to be. Our combat Arms officers would rotate out of a combat role after six months. That worked well for us in Advisory units that received them as it reduced orientation and the learning curve. Too bad some senior NCO’s were also not a part of that rotation. We did receive a few after stints in the hospital and they worked out well.

I ate a lot of local food in Vietnam. On operations with an ARVN combat unit, I supplied Tabasco Sauce, I ate from the unit Wok at lunch break supplemented by that French contribution to their colonies, bread and of course local fruit. I never got sick until I returned to a U.S. camp and ate our chow. Things like ice cream took about 4.5 minutes to cleanse my digestive system.

Base camps are great things but I have the picture that their primary purpose is more to hold up the flagpole than with supporting combat troops. I am not sure if the Army/services have looked at what R&R should be, what the optimum time in a combat zone should be, or who should get R&R? I think base camp duty should be the longest, ground combat the shortest. Take a look at traumatic exposure, wound rates, PTS, and it comes pretty clear. All combat duty is not the same and exposure times should be more a determinate as to tour length. Not determined by costs of involving more units in rotation that could be offset by providing fewer creature comforts. It would reduce future Soldier problems greatly.

And now another area that bugs me about my Army.

I last talked to an Army Ranger senior NCO about two years ago. He had eight deployments and was on leave for his ninth. He loved the Rangers but it was hurting his family life. He questioned his deployments overseas to a non-combat area that could have been handled by a regular unit. It kept him from finishing college and possibly a promotion. I also talked with a MSG instructor at an Army school about the same time. He had one deployment, finished a college degree program and was on the promotion list. Both were infantry. I am not sure this is smart or fair for my Army in the long run.

I think that a conversation I had over several days in a PTS healing retreat is one that bothers me the most. It was with an Infantry PSG. He lost two platoon leaders and several Soldiers in Iraq. His unit stayed a bit longer than expected in country. When the unit came back to the states, he was stripped out along with several other senior NCOs and officers and sent to Ft Polk to train reserve component units. While he was gone, one of his Soldiers committed suicide. He felt deep guilt for not being with him in those critical readjustment months after combat deployment.

I recall the British Army some years back was having a time of it in Northern Ireland as a peacekeeping force. Infantry units were pretty much ragged after continual rotations at a time when the armed forces were being reduced. They decided to retrain other units as light infantry/security to even things up a bit. The U.S. Army would never attempt this I know but there are a lot of tail troops sitting in positions that could be replaced by civilians – or better – combat wounded veterans who could
still teach with first-hand knowledge from the combat zone from the platform at least. I think that the tail troops should also get two weeks of summer camp combat training to stay better prepared for that possible actual combat exposure as either an individual in a SMOS or as a unit. There are other armed forces that do this. I remember our Division Band in the 25th ID. They were well-versed in MP duties, pulled security at Division/Brigade CP’s. They trained for it with the MPs. Another unit I was in, the band assisted the medics as litter bearers and assisted in erecting those g*&&#^% GP Medium tents. Most able-bodied Soldiers can do more than one job if given the chance or a need is there. I recall an assignment to a small supply sub-depot where nearly all 60 or so Soldiers had more than one job. Originally I was a security type then by promotion and appointment, unit clerk. Morning Report, Leave/passes, orders, duty rosters for the 1SG. I spent more time driving a bus, deuce and a half or a 5-ton wrecker. Others in the supply operation were firemen and so on. Perhaps the Army might try to reduce tail strength by reducing slots and forcing commands to train troops in additional and needed jobs. Is it worth a try?

General Milley’s comment on disobeying orders caught me by surprise. What came to mind was a few of my seniors over the years that followed the book to a T and made no decisions on their own. It was painful to see a good target never engaged move out of range. They faded out soon. I do recall some relatively junior officers and some senior NCOs who took the bull by the horns in the absence of orders and communications and made decisions that were based on their training, experience, and gut feelings and saved lives. I saw some of these rise through the ranks to some pretty high and responsible places. I often think of Colonels Chamberlain and Lewis Millett who in the absence of attack orders and short on ammo, fixed bayonets, ordered a charge and won the day over a fleeing enemy force. I think the General in talking about disobeying orders is really talking about leadership.

I don’t recall who told me or where I read it but for what its worth “The only bad decision is the one that is not made.”

This has been my monthly therapeutic tirade.

Lou

Vietnam Architecture

By Lou Rothenstein

A bit hard to believe that most of this city and country has been rebuilt – looks like completely in some areas. The only building I recognized was the old train station, the palaces and gates of the old, old Seoul, and areas on Yongsan Compound. Some might miss the Old Korea as it is very hard to find.

A bit hard to find the old-time scenery, even rice paddies. They are different, much farmland is covered with greenhouses. Re-forestation seems to have occurred. Didn’t have time or inclination to hike the hills much. High-rise in Munsan-Ni, quonset huts all gone in 2nd ID, multi-lane  expressways, all make this a bit of a different country.

ROKA 1st Inf Div has a pretty good DMZ show at one of our old OP’s, and the whole of things look like a good tourist attraction. I talked with one ROKA who spoke good English and told him of our old radar and LP’s along the DMZ and he said he read about them in ROKA literature. We talked about how cold it was in winter there, particularly the Chorwon area.

We could take a few pages out of their book on security. They have some special purpose police vehicles allowing destruction of flaming barriers, buses that are bullet-proof and modified to prevent attachment of things under or up the tail-pipes, etc. Tomorrow is Buddha’s Birthday, and they have heightened security days before. On a visit to the Blue House area, everyone/thing is made digital. Even airport arrival at Incheon International includes facial photo/scan with passport and a couple of fingerprints.

Talked with a Korean War Veteran on a tour. He was on a tour sponsored by the ROK Government for U.S. and U.N. War Vets. They are provided most of a vacation, tours, shows, a formal dinner – their way of showing thanks for our help. He extended his stay to see more of the country. He felt it was something he needed to do for a long time. If you know of any Korean War Veterans who haven’t re-visited, they might check into Korea Veteran return tours.

Today it is shopping and a visit to the Korea War Memorial/Museum. Wife surprised at the difference in Vietnam and Korea. More English in Vietnam with people who deal with tourists/signs, etc. Also the large numbers of Korean tourists in Vietnam.

4.5 hour flight gets them a resort stay, 2 rounds of golf at the price one a single golf round in Korea.

Could not find any OB beer. The newer brands are not bad. Converting currency is not a problem, everybody including taxis use VISA.

Dennis Nolan Builds the First US Army G-2 Section

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

In May 1917, General John J. Pershing had cause to celebrate and lament his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of a “theoretical army which had yet to be constituted, equipped, trained, and sent abroad.”  As his first step in the monumental effort to build the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), he carefully chose his field general staff comprised of Administrative (G-1), Intelligence (G-2), Operations (G-3), Logistics (G-4), and Training (G-5) sections.

While Pershing searched for his most trusted staff members, Maj. Dennis E. Nolan was completing a two-year assignment on the War Department General Staff.  His first experience in intelligence work was preparing products used by the General Staff for planning and mobilization purposes. This included a threat estimate on Germany’s capability to invade the United States.  Nolan had been commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Infantry following graduation from the US Military Academy in 1896.  He received two citations for gallantry in action during the Spanish-American War and commanded a squadron of the 11th US Volunteer Cavalry during the Philippine Insurrection. It was during this latter assignment that Nolan had come to know Pershing and the future AEF Chief of Staff, James Harbord.  Between 1901 and 1915, Nolan held a variety of positions including, instructor of law and history at West Point, director of Southern Luzon in the Philippines, and officer with the 30th Infantry.

Despite his impressive service record, Nolan was hardly holding his breath for a position on the AEF staff.  Consequently, when Maj. Harbord summoned him for dinner one night and informed him of his appointment as the AEF G-2 in charge of the Intelligence Section, Nolan declared himself “surprised and delighted.”  He sailed with Pershing and the rest of the AEF staff less than two weeks later.

Once on the ground in France, Nolan built, from the ground up, the Army’s first multi-discipline theater intelligence organization.  Following the British model, Nolan divided his Headquarters G-2 Section into four divisions: Information, Secret Service, Topographical, and Censorship and Press.  Nolan’s staff, totaling nearly 350 personnel, compiled daily intelligence reports based on a multitude of sources.  In addition to the traditional methods of intelligence collection, such as patrolling, observation, prisoner interrogation, and document translation, Nolan added aerial observation, photographic interpretation, sound and flash ranging, and radio intelligence.  He also played a direct role in organizing the Corps of Intelligence Police, the Army’s first permanent counterintelligence organization.  Venturing outside the normal intelligence arena, Nolan’s press division started up The Stars and Stripes newspaper to communicate orders and regulations, provide news of events, and boost the morale of American soldiers in Europe.

Because Pershing’s General Staff organization was repeated in the tactical units, intelligence officers were appointed at every echelon down to battalion.  To increase their effectiveness, Nolan drafted a set of intelligence regulations applicable to each echelon and established a school at Langres, France, to train all intelligence officers down to division.  Throughout the war, these tactical intelligence sections pushed intelligence up through higher headquarters to Nolan’s G-2 Section, which also pushed intelligence down to give lower echelons a broad picture of the enemy’s situation.

In the closing days of World War I, Nolan was given an opportunity to command the 55th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, for ten days. For extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, France, on October 1, 1918, he received the Distinguished Service Cross and the respect of his men, who recalled Nolan was “right up there with us doughboys.”  He then returned to his G-2 Section for the duration of the war.

Nolan’s G-2 Section, the Army’s first theater intelligence organization, unquestionably contributed to the AEF’s success.  Declaring that “no army was better served by its intelligence bureau than our own,” Pershing awarded Nolan the Distinguished Service Medal.  Secretary of War Newton D. Baker praised “the fidelity and intelligence with which General Nolan supplied [Pershing] eyes to penetrate the fog which clouds military actions.”

After the Armistice, Nolan was detailed to the Peace Commission until returning to Washington in July 1919.  After a year instructing military intelligence at the Army War College, he was named as the War Department’s Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2. Perhaps his most important contribution during this assignment was the establishment of the Military Intelligence Officers Reserve Corps—the first formal recognition of the Army’s need to retain professional MI officers.  From 1924-1926, he served as the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, receiving promotion to the rank of Major General in 1925. His final assignment was Commander, Second Corps Area and First Army.  In 1936, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 64, Nolan had served 44 years and was the second-highest ranking officer of the US Army.

 

Dennis Nolan

Dennis Nolan

Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Dennis Nolan sitting at his desk in AEF Headquarters, May 23, 1918.

Ralph Van Deman and the Birth of Modern American Military Intelligence

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

When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, the US Army’s intelligence efforts were nearly non-existent.  Early attempts to gather information about foreign armies resulted in the creation of a Military Information Division in 1885.  In 1903, the division transferred from the Adjutant General’s Office to the Office of the Chief of Staff, where it became the Second Division of the General Staff.  However, by 1908, the Second Division had been absorbed by the Third (War College) Division, and the Army’s intelligence functions had been relegated to a committee.  Intelligence activities declined over the next several years due to insufficient personnel and appropriations as well as limited interest or understanding of its importance.  By early 1917, “personnel and appropriations were limited, the powers of the committee were narrow and its accomplishments, though valuable, were necessarily meager.  Such was the situation at the time war was declared.”  But change was coming.

In 1915, Major (later Major General) Ralph Van Deman arrived at the War College.  A native of Delaware, Ohio, he had attended both law and medical schools before accepting an infantry commission in 1891.  Over the next two decades, he gained valuable intelligence experience in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and China.  In Manila, Van Deman established an intelligence organization to conduct terrain analysis, mapping, and counterintelligence.  By the time he arrived at the War College, Van Deman was one of few career military intelligence officers in the Army.  He immediately grasped the implications of the United States’ lack of a military intelligence organization and resolved to reverse the situation.

Van Deman wrote numerous memoranda criticizing the ineffectual nature of the War College’s committee.  He stated, “To call a chair a table does not make it a table—it still remains a chair. And to call the personnel of the War College Division a Military Information Committee does not make it one” [emphasis in original].  His appeals for the creation of a competent organization were essentially ignored.  One week after the US declaration of war, Van Deman pled his case to Major General Hugh Scott, the Chief of Staff, who refused to consider the proposal on the grounds that it would only duplicate British and French efforts.

Persisting, Van Deman enlisted the aid of a female novelist and the Washington DC Chief of Police, both friends of Secretary of War Newton Baker.  Either because of or coincident to these outside interventions, Secretary Baker summoned Van Deman to his office on April 30, 1917, to explain the state of US military intelligence.  Just three days later, on May 3, the War College received an order to create an intelligence organization and detail an officer to “take up the work of military intelligence for the Army.”  Van Deman, of course, was the perfect choice to lead the newly established Military Intelligence Section (MIS).

The MIS experienced rapid growth throughout the war.  The Section was divided into a Positive Branch for intelligence collection, attachés, translations, maps and photographs, and training, and a Negative Branch for all counterintelligence functions.  A Code and Ciphers Section within the MIS became the Army’s first organized signals intelligence unit. Finally, Van Deman initiated the first personnel security investigation and identification card systems within the War Department.

By 1918, the renamed Military Intelligence Division had more than 1,400 military and civilian personnel.  At this time, it moved out from under the War College to a spot as one of four equal divisions on the War Department’s General Staff, a position it has maintained to this day.  In addition to equality on the General Staff, other long-standing consequences of the establishment of the MIS were the recognized need for professional intelligence personnel and the preservation of an intelligence effort even in times of peace.

That the World War I period was a watershed in US Army intelligence history cannot be overstated. No single individual did more to advance Army intelligence than Ralph Van Deman.  In 1988, the MI Corps recognized this when it chose him as one of the initial members of the Hall of Fame.  In 1992, it further memorialized him by naming the East Gate in his honor.  Maj. Gen. Ralph Van Deman is recognized as the Father of American Military Intelligence for his role in establishing the first effective, professional intelligence organization within the Army 100 years ago.

NOTE:  Join the US Army Intelligence Center when it rededicates the Van Deman Gate during the Hall of Fame activities, June 23, 2017, at 1430.

 

Ralph Van Deman

Ralph Van Deman

After the war, Ralph Van Deman, shown here as a Colonel, commanded at the regiment, brigade, and division level.  Promoted to Major General in 1929, he retired later that year but continued to consult in Army intelligence matters until his death in 1952.  (US Army photo)

CIC Beginnings

This recently declassified document shows the beginnings of the Counter Intelligence Corps.


Download (PDF, 5.24MB)

World War I Counterintelligence Agents Get Their Man – February 1918

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

On August 13, 1917, the US Army’s Military Intelligence Section (later elevated to Division) created the Corps of Intelligence Police (CIP) to protect American forces in France from sabotage and subversion. CIP agents also conducted special investigations, including suspected German espionage activities, throughout the United States.  The CIP had difficulty apprehending the enemy agents involved because they often fled to Mexico.  Several CIP agents were stationed along the US-Mexico border during this period to investigate and apprehend suspected German spies.

Two CIP agents in Nogales, Arizona, Captains Joel A. Lipscomb and Byron S. Butcher, recruited Dr. Paul B. Altendorf to infiltrate German spy rings in Mexico.  Altendorf was an Austrian immigrant to Mexico, where he served as a Colonel in the Mexican army.  Known to the CIP as Operative A-1, Altendorf managed to join the German Secret Service and become linked with several other German spies living in Mexico.

In January 1918, the CIP learned that Altendorf was accompanying one Lothar Witzke from Mexico City to the US border.  Witzke was a 22-year-old former lieutenant in the Germany navy, who alternately went by Harry Waberski, Hugo Olson, and Pablo Davis, to name just a few of his many aliases.  He had long been under CIP surveillance as a suspected German spy and saboteur.  During the trip from Mexico City, Witzke had no suspicion that his companion was an Allied double agent taking note of Witzke’s every move and indiscretion.  At one point, a drunk Witzke let slip bits of information that Altendorf quickly passed on to Capt. Butcher.  Specifically, Altendorf informed the CIP that Witzke’s handlers had sent him back to the US to incite mutiny within the US Army and various labor unions, conduct sabotage, and assassinate American officials.

On or about February 1, 1918, Capt. Butcher apprehended Witzke once he crossed the border at Nogales, and a search of Witzke’s luggage revealed a coded letter and Russian passport. Capt. John Manley, assistant to Herbert Yardley in the Military Intelligence Division’s MI-8 Cryptographic Bureau in Washington, DC, deciphered the letter, revealing Witzke’s German connections. The letter stated: “Strictly Secret! The bearer of this is a subject of the Empire who travels as a Russian under the name of Pablo Waberski. He is a German secret agent.”

While detained at Fort Sam Houston awaiting trial, Witzke was extensively interrogated by CIP agents but refused to provide any details about his contacts, co-conspirators, or alleged espionage.  His trial began in August 1918, and witnesses against him included Dr. Altendorf, Capt. Butcher, Capt. Lipscomb, and Capt. Manley.  Witzke took the stand in his own defense and spun a fantastical tale of how he was simply a down-on-his-luck drifter framed as a German spy.  The Military Commission found Witzke guilty of espionage and sentenced him to death, the only German spy thus sentenced in the US during World War I.  After the war, President Woodrow Wilson commuted his sentence to life in prison, and he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth.  In 1923, however, Witzke was pardoned and released to the German government.

A decade later, during the international Mixed Claims Commission hearings into damages related to the war, several American lawyers revealed Witzke’s role in the sabotage of the Black Tom Island munitions depot in New York Harbor on July 20, 1916. Ostensibly, he had been one of three collaborators who had placed dynamite on several barges loaded with ammunition causing a blast felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland.  The explosion lit up the night sky, shattered windows, broke water mains, and peppered the Statue of Liberty with shrapnel.  Seven people were killed.  Although in 1939 the Mixed Claims Commission found Germany complicit in the sabotage, Witzke and his co-conspirators, allegedly responsible for the worst act of terrorism on American soil up to that time, went unpunished.  Additionally, Germany refused to pay the $50 million judgment.

The capture of Witzke and other German spies and saboteurs by the Army’s counterintelligence agents undoubtedly prevented many, but not all, planned sabotage activities during the war.  Such incidents poisoned relations between the US and Germany and introduced suspicions and fear in the minds of the American public.  Americans could no longer assume complete security from enemy acts of terror on US soil, a reminder still valid today.

For more information on the Black Tom Island incident, see Michael Warner’s “The Kaiser Sows Destruction: Protecting the Homeland the First Time Around,” https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol46no1/article02.html#rfn12.

 

Damage to a pier at Black Tom Island caused by German sabotage to prevent American munitions from reaching Germany’s enemies.
(Library of Congress Photo)

Decoded Zimmermann Telegram Sets US on Path to War – January 1917

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

“…we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.”

These words are extracted from the now infamous telegram from Arthur Zimmerman, the German Foreign Secretary, to Heinrich von Eckardt, German Minister to Mexico.  The telegram, sent from Berlin on January 16, 1917, directed Eckardt to propose an alliance between Germany and Mexico to the Mexican president in the event the US formally entered World War I.

World War I, or the Great War as it was then known, had been fomenting in Europe for years, but the final catalyst proved to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in June 1914.  Shortly thereafter, Germany declared war successively on Russia, France, Belgium, and Portugal, and the United Kingdom and other European nations quickly declared war on Germany. The war eventually embroiled nations worldwide.  The US steadfastly retained its neutrality for two years. President Woodrow Wilson, re-elected in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war,” resolutely but unsuccessfully pursued a negotiated peace between the two sides.  By early 1917, Germany decided to launch unrestricted U-boat warfare on all ships, neutral or belligerent, in the waters of the war zones. This effort, German planners predicted, would bring England to the brink of economic collapse and thus surrender within months.

Zimmermann knew that the U-boat war would force the US, reluctantly but inexorably, into the war on the side of the Allies.  He believed that if Germany could entice Mexico into a war with the United States, it would divert US attention and ammunition shipments away from the Allies.  On January 18, the telegram reached Johann Heinrich von Bernstorff, the German ambassador in Washington, DC, who was then to send it to Eckardt in Mexico.  Zimmermann had audaciously sent the message over the US State Department’s own trans-Atlantic cable, which President Wilson had allowed Germany to use for transmitting communications related to peace negotiations.  Inexplicably, Wilson had allowed those dispatches to be sent in the German code, for which the State Department did not have a codebook.

Unbeknownst to the US, British cryptographers had been intercepting message traffic on the State Department’s telegraph route.  In addition, unbeknownst to both the US and the Germans, those same British code-breakers had cracked the German diplomatic code and immediately set themselves to decoding the Zimmermann Telegram.  Incredulous at its contents, the British debated how best to notify the US, knowing, on one hand, it would bring the US into the war and, on the other, that it would anger the US to know England was reading its dispatches.  To prevent the latter, the British code section waited until Bernstorff sent the message to Eckardt and used that message, slightly altered from the original, to enlighten the US of the brazen German scheme.

The British finally revealed the contents of the telegram to the US on February 23, and a week later, major newspapers around the country published the evidence of the German conspiracy.  Americans reacted with a mix of disbelief and anger.  Rumors that Germany had financed Mexican bandit Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in March 1916 had resulted in a comprehensive investigation by the State Department.  The results of that investigation, as well as others into German intrigue in Mexico, were inconclusive, however.  As a result, most Americans initially viewed the telegram as a hoax–surely the Germans were not so foolhardy as to promise to give away part of the United States.

Ultimately, the directives in the Zimmermann Telegram came to naught; the Mexican president chose to remain neutral rather than instigate a war with its northern neighbor.  Undeniably, however, knowledge of the threat of hostile action on American territory shifted public opinion in support of a war most citizens had previously marginalized.  At the same time, Germany had launched the unrestricted submarine warfare it had previously threatened, resulting in the sinking of several US merchant ships in late March.  The Great War, therefore, was no longer just a threat to Europe.  On April 2, 1917, President Wilson requested a declaration of war from Congress, stating, “That [the German government] means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors, the intercepted note to the German Minister at Mexico is eloquent evidence. We accept this challenge of hostile purpose….”  Congress overwhelmingly voted for war and ultimately, American intervention helped turn the tide in favor of the Allies and end the war.

 

The Zimmermann Telegram (National Archives)