Army Air Forces


USAFSS - The Beginnings

At its activation on 20 October 1948, the United States Air Force Security Service had no mission-nor any personnel to carry out a mission. Under a joint Army-Air Force agreement effective 1 January 1949, the new USAFSS command acquired "certain classified communications intelligence and communications security functions" from the U.S. Army Security Agency. The ASA transferred to USAFSS four Signal Corps units that had been performing COMINT and COMSEC missions for the Air Force. Those four units-1st, 2nd and 8th Radio Squadrons Mobile and the 136th Radio Security Detachment-represented what remained of Signal Corps organizations that supported the Army Air Forces COMINT and COMSEC missions during World War II. A brief review of AAF COMINT and COMSEC activities for WW II follows.

USAFSS - World War II Heritage

In 1942, the Army Air Forces activated its first signal radio intelligence companies. Patterned after the Army Signal Corps' signal radio intelligence company, each AAF SRIC was uniquely adapted to perform a designated air force mission-either communications security monitoring (COMSEC) or communications intelligence (COMINT) support. Radio security sections performed the COMSEC monitoring mission, while expanded SRIC's (redesignated radio squadrons mobile) provided COMINT support to air force commanders in the field.

136th Radio Security Detachment - COMSEC

The Army Air Forces activated the 136th Signal Radio Intelligence Company at Bolling Field, District of Columbia, in February 1942. Redesignated the 136th Radio Security Detachment, the 136th RSD and a series of detached sections monitored friendly air force communications-performed COMSEC-for the AAF during World War II.

Although a declassified unit history for the 136th exists, the author has not succeeded in reviewing that document. However, other source documents show members of the 136th and subordinate radio security sections operating in the United States and in each overseas combat area during the war and a brief post-war period into 1949.

The details presented herein are based on anecdotal data from 136th RSD veterans. While the total number of air force COMSEC security sections that were active during the war is unknown, additional units were located at: Fort Devens, Massachusetts; Bangor and Brunswick, Maine; Naknek (King Salmon), Alaska; Hawaii and Iceland. The sections were quite mobile and moved as necessary to monitor the communications of supported tactical commanders. At some point after 1945, the 136th Radio Security Detachment moved to Fort Slocum, New York-on David's Island in Long Island Sound. The 136th Radio Security Detachment became part of the newly activated U.S. Air Force Security Service in 1949.

U.S. Army Air Forces Mobile SIGINT Support

When America went to war in World War II, the U.S. Army had no tactical (mobile) signals intelligence support units. The deployment of radio intercept operators on the battle fronts was a concept that evolved during the war as a means of intercepting signals from low-powered transmitters and line-of-sight signals that enemy forces were using in combat. In 1941, the Signal Corps had signal service companies with Morse intercept operators in Hawaii and in the Philippines targeted against Japanese diplomatic communications. The mission of these intercept units adapted quickly after the attack on Pearl Harbor to include the interception of Japanese army, navy and air force communications.


136th Signal Radio Intelligence Company - 1940's
136th Signal Radio Intel Company became 136th Radio Security Detachment.Bolling Field, DC
Ft Meade, MD
Reading AAFB, PA
Ft Slocum, NY
Feb 42 - Aug 43
1943 - 45
February 1949
1st Radio Security SectionGushara, India 
2nd Radio Security SectionPresque Isle, MaineFebruary 1949
3rd Radio Security SectionDaly City, California1945 - 46
4th Radio Security SectionIceland
Bushy Park, England
1944 - 45
6th Radio Security SectionKingston, JamaicaJul 48 - Feb 49*
9th Radio Security SectionEuropean Theater1944 - 45
12th Radio Security SectionHijli, India 
14th Radio Security SectionOndal, India 
15th Radio Security SectionFt Meade, MD
Oran, Algeria
Cerignola, Italy
Bad Kissingen, Germany
Wiesbaden, Germany
1945 - 46
1947 - 49
17th Radio Security SectionGuamMay 47 - Feb 49
18th Radio Security SectionNagoya, Japan1946 - Feb 49
19th Radio Security SectionJefferson Hall, UK 
Unknown RSSMcChord Field, WA1943 - 44
  * Morse intercept operator Cpl. Paul L. Simpson arrived in unit at Vernon Field, Jamaica in July 1948


Evolution of the Radio Squadron Mobile

The requirements were poorly defined, and the radio squadron mobile had not even been conceptualized in early 1942 when the Army Signal Corps began training its first group of men in what would later become radio squadron mobile operations. An introduction to the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile unit history (Feb 1942-Jan 1944) puts into perspective the evolution of the RSM-the operational field unit that Air Force Security Service inherited from the Army Security Agency in 1949. The introduction to that earlier unit history follows.

The expansion and improvement of radio as an important means of communication, and its integration into the war machines of the world, carried in its wake a necessary countermeasure, an antitoxin, so to speak, for the spreading virus. Like all implements of war, radio was not so flawless that it could not in some way be rendered less effective, in some way stultified, and in some way be used to even greater advantage by an opposing power.

The same genius who created the amazing instrument created the means of minimizing it. The same radio receiver that had to be used for the exchange of vital signals could be used by a hostile listening post to record those signals. And in the radio receiver, one had the cornerstone of radio intelligence, a simple system for copying enemy radio signals and deriving therefrom as much intelligence as cryptanalytic systems and skill will allow.

The radio intelligence company was designed as a service unit for a field army or higher organization. By means of radio interception and direction finding, the company would furnish to the signals intelligence service the raw material for learning the enemy's deepest secrets. With the steady expansion of the Army Air Force, it was also determined that radio intelligence could be used as a valuable means of gathering air intelligence on the enemy

The radio intelligence company as it was adopted by the air force did not differ organizationally from the ground force company. But with the test of time, it was deemed essential to alter the establishment and reconstitute the company along different lines. The signal radio intelligence company (aviation) was a step in this direction, but the final improvement was made when the radio squadron mobile was devised. This latter organization possessed the mobility and versatility that the Army Air Force required.

Radio intelligence probably provides the main avenue for all intelligence gathered by all the major powers engaged in the war. Unlike the romance and fable associated with espionage and other more dramatic phases of intelligence, radio intelligence is methodical, systematic, relentlessly accurate. But beneath the fringes of the system, there is a dynamic story that may some day be told. For in its broadest aspects, it is a tool against a tool and one that is available to Allied or Axis nations alike. The Germans were operating with radio intelligence regiments when the Americans still relied on radio intelligence companies. The Japanese produced scholarly works on radio direction finding during the 1920's.

For the Air Force, radio intelligence was a new thing, even after one year of war. With the emphasis on radar to provide a vital system of air warning, the need for radio intelligence was probably not too seriously considered. But since radio intelligence could extend beyond the farthest limits of radar, and because it could furnish information available through no other source, its value must have soon become apparent. The metamorphosis from a company ill-fated to meet Air Force demands to a squadron, highly mobile and flexible, was evidence of the acceptance of the value of radio intelligence.

The essential characteristic of the new squadron was that its function was enlarged, because there was no S.I.S. [Signal Intelligence Service] in the Air Force. This meant that the function of analysis and evaluation was assumed by the intelligence gathering unit itself.

The difference between the Air Force radio intelligence squadron and the ground force company is considerable. The addition of the Analysis and Evaluation Sections changed the Air Force unit from the fact-gathering agency to one that had the all-important function of producing finished, evaluated strategic air intelligence.

Handwritten by an unidentified author (possibly the squadron commander), the unit history is written diary-style as an eyewitness accounting of the unit's first two years-not in the staid, dry format normally associated with military unit histories.

The U.S. Army Air Forces radio squadron mobile was modeled after British Royal Air Force (RAF) mobile Y [COMINT] intercept units. The RSM's destined for duty in Europe were trained to intercept and analyze German air force communications and included German linguists; those destined for duty in the Pacific had Japanese linguists assigned and specialized in exploiting Japanese air traffic.

In 1942, the Signal Corps began training signal radio intelligence companies to support theater air force commanders, but German and Japanese air force-specific training delayed the arrival of those units in the combat zones for several months. The plan to field a radio squadron mobile in Europe began taking shape in July 1943.

The U.S. Army Air Forces arranged with the British RAF to train Army Air Forces personnel in traffic analysis at its RAF Cairo headquarters. Receiving word of this training, the U.S. Army Signal Security Agency disagreed with the Army Air Force plan and investigated the "desirability of Army Air Force doing signals intelligence work."

The Signal Security Agency found that the plan was based on experience in the recent North African campaign and called for special Air Force intercept platoons complete with radio intelligence and cryptographic personnel much like RAF units. These platoons were to work as an integral part of each air force and would not be under the theater signals intelligence service. This plan was to be used in all theaters.

Signal radio intelligence companies (aviation) were already in radio intercept training at MacDill Field, Florida, and Camp Pinedale, California, but needed specialized training in German or Japanese communications procedures as applicable. This was Army Air Force's first attempt to acquire its own "Security Service" and the Army Signal Security Agency attempted to keep the AAF subservient to the Army for its air intelligence support. Siding with the Army Signal Security Agency, the European Theater of Operations Signal Intelligence Division (SID/ETO) strongly recommended to the War Department that all signals intelligence activities remain under one control.

Plans are under way here (SID/ETO) to operate Air Force R.I. [radio intercept] units under direction of theater S.I.S. (Signal Intelligence Service), which is theater policy. These plans provide for complete cooperation with RAF although American group will have separate organization to stand on its own feet. . . . . Plans will include the fusion of American and British efforts and the distribution of intelligence to G-2 and Air Force. Independent operation of signals intelligence service by Air Force would not be satisfactory as such intelligence is of use to G-2 as well as Air Force. While RAF ostensibly operates a separate show, in actual practice all "Y" [COMINT] activities are under control of "Y" Committee on which RAF is member. All "Y" service is completely integrated, and in fact the high grade German Air is done at BP [Bletchley Park] same as Army.

Persistent air force generals and intelligence specialists continued the fight.

Radio Squadrons Mobile

In its second attempt in early August 1943 to establish intercept and signals intelligence units under its own immediate control, the Eighth Air Force sought permission to establish its own "command voice intercept units for lower echelons." The RAF agreed to train the Air Force officers and enlisted troops in the intercept, deciphering and analysis of German air force Morse and radiotelephone (voice) communications.

Details for a radio intelligence program for the U.S. Army Air Forces in the United Kingdom were hashed out at a conference hosted by 9th Air Force Headquarters on 30 October 1943. Available units would be used "to the fullest advantage to the Air Force as a whole, by integrating them with the facilities of the Royal Air Force and the Signal Intelligence Division, ETOUSA." Correspondence in early December revealed that Army Air Forces Headquarters in Washington was contemplating activating one radio squadron for each numbered air force in the army, including the air force in England.

The reorganization would absorb the signal radio intelligence companies (aviation), and the squadrons would operate as a separate Air Force signals intelligence service. However, it was anticipated that the theater Signals Intelligence Service would retain technical control. It was understood that the squadrons would be trained for Air Force missions, and that the tactical locations and assignments of missions would be controlled by the Air Force commander. The coordination by the theater Signals Intelligence Service with these units would be in methods of procedure and exchange of technical information.


AAF Radio Squadrons Mobile - WW II
Organization *Last Noted StationHeadquarters
1st Radio Squadron Mobile
(138th SRI Co)
Irumagawa Field, JapanFifth Air Force
2nd Radio Squadron Mobile
(139th SRI Co)
Bad Vilbel, GermanyFirst TAF (Provisional)
3rd Radio Squadron Mobile
(951st SRI Co)
Bad Vilbel, GermanyNinth Air Force
4th Radio Squadron Mobile
(952nd SRI Co)
Camp Pinedale, CASecond Air Force
5th Radio Squadron Mobile
(954th SRI Co)
Bhamo, BurmaTenth Air Force
6th Radio Squadron Mobile
Chabua, IndiaTenth Air Force
7th Radio Squadron Mobile
(957th SRI Co)
Leyte, PhilippinesThirteenth Air Force
8th Radio Squadron Mobile
(958th SRI Co)
GuamXXI Bomber Command
9th Radio Squadron Mobile
(123rd SRI Co)
Castellana, ItalyFifteenth Air Force
  * RSM's activated as signal radio intelligence companies


Deliberations continued through early 1944 to obtain approval of a Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) for a mobile air force radio squadron. In a message dated 25 February 1944, the War Department authorized the radio squadron mobile-an RSM for each numbered air force.

Each radio squadron's mission was "to provide radio intelligence to the air force commander and to the theater commander by means of radio intercept, radio direction finding, traffic analysis and evaluation of enemy radio traffic, telegraph and voice." Each squadron was to be a self-contained entity, with its own headquarters platoon and mess, supply, transportation and communications capabilities. Twenty-three officers and 292 enlisted men were authorized as the basic RSM complement

Augmentation teams could be added to an RSM so that a "basic" squadron could be enlarged "to fit any required field condition." The radio intelligence units already supporting air force commanders in the war theaters were organized into RSM's in 1944. The previous table shows the RSM's from World War II.

During post-war demobilization, all of the radio squadrons mobile except the 1st RSM and 2nd RSM were deactivated in 1945. An overview of World War II activities follows for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th RSM's-the squadrons that served with Air Force Security Service, commencing in 1949.

1st Radio Squadron Mobile

Activated as the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company at Fort George Wright, Spokane, Washington, on 15 February 1942, the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile supported Fifth Air Force operations in the Pacific area from mid-1943 to the end of the war. The 138th SRIC was redesignated the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile (J) [Japan] on 25 April 1944. A charter member of the organization, 1st Lt. (later Major) Felix M. Marshall commanded the 1st RSM throughout its campaign in the Pacific.

Arriving in Brisbane, Australia, in June 1943, the squadron lived up to its "mobile" name-hopscotching in lockstep with Fifth Air Force HQ across New Guinea, New Britain, the Admiralty Islands, the Philippines and Okinawa before arriving at an air base in the Tokyo area.


Det 3, 1st RSM - washing mess kits after chow
New Britain, Southwest Pacific, April 1944


The 1st RSM moved from Leyte to Clark Field in the P.I. about April 1945 and relocated to Okinawa in July of 1945.


1st RSM Mess Hall, Naha, Okinawa, July 1945


Finally, following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile transferred as part of the post-war occupation force to Irumagawa Field, Japan, on 2 September 1945.

1st Radio Squadron Mobile - Post War

Though details are sketchy, in 1945 the War Department and Army Air Forces Headquarters wisely decided to assign a radio squadron mobile with American occupation forces in Germany and in Japan. Yesterday's ally-Joseph Stalin's Red Army-posed a threat to Eastern Europe, the Korean peninsula and Japan as soon as Germany and Japan capitulated in 1945. As fewer and fewer Japanese air force transmitters remained on the air, DF operators and intercept operators assigned to the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile found their positions being tasked to obtain DF bearings and intercept signals emanating from the Soviet Far East. The Cold War had started.

Colocated with Fifth Air Force Headquarters at Irumagawa Field, the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile had a new mission-the interception of Soviet air force activities in the Soviet Far East Military District. In February 1946, Irumagawa Field was officially renamed Johnson Army Air Base, in honor of Col. Gerald R. Johnson who was killed in an air crash over Tokyo Bay in October 1945.

In December 1945, the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile was resubordinated to the U.S. Army Security Agency although it kept its Soviet air force mission. It continued to provide signals intelligence support to Fifth Air Force in the post-war years, although Fifth Air Force moved its headquarters to downtown Tokyo in 1946, while the 1st RSM remained at Johnson AB. Later, the Fifth Air Force relocated its headquarters to Nagoya, Japan, where it was located when the Korean War started.

Languishing during the post-war years with essentially a caretaker staff, the 1st RSM's relationship with Fifth Air Force came alive with the resubordination of the squadron to the new U.S. Air Force. Following the complete revamping of the War Department that created the new Defense Department and Department of the Air Force, on 1 February 1949, the 1st Radio Squadron Mobile was reassigned to the United States Air Force Security Service.

2d Radio Squadron Mobile

On 14 February 1942, Third Air Force Headquarters, Tampa, Florida, activated the 139th Signal Radio Intelligence Company at nearby MacDill Field. Created from scratch with assigned personnel having no signals intelligence experience, Morse operator trainees underwent basic military training and Morse code training concurrently. Future traffic analysts, cryptanalysts and other specialists traveled to Vint Hill Farms, Virginia, and other locations on temporary duty for training. Indicative of the urgency placed on rushing signals intelligence support to the European Theater, the Air Force alerted the 139th SRIC for overseas shipment in September 1942-never mind that its personnel lacked training and were incapable of performing an operational mission.

The orders were later rescinded, and eventually Army Air Forces Headquarters decided to keep the 139th SRIC in the Zone of Interior as a training unit. The 139th SRIC became the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile (G) [Germany] on 16 March 1944. The following month, the unit finally took on the appearance of a functional tactical signals intelligence organization. The squadron trained linguists, traffic analysts and cryptanalysts who later served with the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (G) in Europe. In July 1944, the 2nd RSM (G) relocated from MacDill Field to Camp Pinedale, California, where it trained personnel for assignments to both the European and Pacific Theaters. With the mission and personnel of the 2nd RSM (G) absorbed by other units at Camp Pinedale, the 2nd RSM was deactivated in March 1945.

2nd RSM (G) Reactivated in Europe in April 1945

In March 1945, the Commander, United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, announced the assignment of the 2nd RSM (G) to the European Theater.

The 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile (G), having been assigned to this headquarters less personnel and equipment, is to be further assigned to the 64th Fighter Wing, known as First Tactical Air Force (Prov). The 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile is organized under T/O & E 1-1027, 25 January 1944, and consists of one basic squadron (columns 1 through 14) only, strength: twenty-three (23) officers and two hundred ninety-two (292) enlisted men.

Staffed by personnel from multiple sources, the 2nd RSM (G) was reactivated at Vittel, France, on 10 April 1945 under command of Capt. W. W. Shaughnessy, who had been the adjutant of the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (G). The primary purpose of the 2nd RSM (G) was to provide the First Tactical Air Force (Provisional) with the same type of signals intelligence support that the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (G) was providing to Ninth Air Force. On 24 April 1945, the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile (G) moved from Vittel, France, to Heidelberg, Germany, relocating again in May-June 1945 to Bad Kissingen, Germany.

2d RSM Replaced 3d RSM in Europe

With the war winding down in Europe, the 2nd and 3rd RSM's made plans to transfer personnel from the 3rd RSM into the 2nd RSM as a prelude to deactivating the 3rd RSM. On 1 July 1945, the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile was assigned to Ninth Air Force, U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE). When the 3rd RSM left Europe on 4 September 1945, the 2nd RSM assumed responsibility for signals intelligence support to Ninth Air Force. With the deactivation of Ninth Air Force in late 1945, the 2nd RSM relocated from Bad Kissingen to Bad Vilbel, near Frankfurt, Germany, on 16 January 1946. The 2nd RSM remained under USAFE command until 1 February 1946, when the squadron was transferred to the Army Security Agency. The 2nd RSM remained an ASA resource until February 1949 when Air Force Security Service took control of the squadron.

3rd Radio Squadron Mobile

Third Air Force Headquarters, Tampa, Florida, activated the predecessor unit of the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile-the 951st Signal Radio Intelligence Company-at Drew Field, Florida, in 1942. The Air Force shipped the 951st SRIC to England in the spring of 1943 for theater-oriented training under the Royal Air Force Y Service. The Signal Intelligence Division/European Theater of Operation (SID/ETO), which managed all U.S. SIGINT resources in Europe, discussed the pending arrival of the 951st in the ETO.

From information obtained in April 1943 it was learned that the 951st Signal Radio Intelligence Company (Aviation) was being trained in the United States in direction finding and "spoofing activities" to adapt it to the requirements of the Eighth Air Force. It was agreed that the final training of this unit would be accomplished by SID, ETOUSA. The 951st Signal R.I. Company arrived in the United Kingdom in August 1943. It consisted of eight officers and 192 enlisted men. The company was assigned to Headquarters Eighth Air Force.

951st SRIC (Aviation) On-the-job-Training in UK

The 951st Signal Radio Intelligence Company-designated an aviation company in November 1943-began training at Tidworth, Wiltshire, under American and RAF supervision. Lt. Col. Harry Raymond Turkel commanded the organization during its tour of duty in the European Theater. The unit moved to Blythe Bridge, Cheshire, in early December 1943 for training at the nearby RAF Tean intercept site. (Tean was an outstation of the RAF's main intercept station at Cheadle.) The training of intelligence officers and intercept operators of the 951st SRIC, Aviation continued at Cheadle into 1944.

951st SRIC (Aviation) Redesignated 3rd AAF RSM

Along with the redesignation of all Army Air Forces signal radio intelligence companies (aviation), the 951st SRIC became the 3rd Army Air Forces Radio Squadron Mobile (G) in March 1944. Detachments A and B of the 3rd AAF RSM (G) were activated at Cheadle and Middle Wallop, England, respectively on 7 April 1944 before the squadron relocated to 9th Air Force Headquarters.

On 13 May 1944, this squadron left Tean and Cheadle and moved to the Ninth Air Force Headquarters at Uxbridge. This move terminated Air Intelligence Section, SID control and connection with all U.S. Army Air Force R.I. units.

The 3rd RSM (G) later deployed three additional units-Detachments C, D and E. The squadron's voice interceptors were assigned to Dets B and C while the cryptographic technicians were assigned to Detachment A. The German linguists had very little time to train on the job with the RAF since the squadron had been tasked to support the imminent Normandy Invasion.


3rd RSM Bedford Intercept Vans, Uxbridge, England
poker game pending Normandy Invasion, Spring 1944


3rd RSM Deploys to Normandy, France

The 3rd RSM's Detachment B with its large complement of German interceptors prepared to accompany Headquarters Ninth Air Force to the Normandy beachhead immediately after the start of the Normandy Invasion. For the deployment to Normandy the squadron divided Detachment B into three echelons. They crossed the English Channel in separate ships, followed by echelons of Detachments A and C. The first echelon of Det B arrived at Omaha Beach on 7 June 1944 (D Day+1) and disembarked two days later. The Ninth AF Advance (HQ IX TAC) moved from Uxbridge, England to Au Gay, France, on 10 June 1944.

Advancing with Ninth Air Force as the Allies chased the retreating German army, the 3rd RSM officially entered Paris on 2 September and installed an intercept antenna on the Eiffel Tower. Continuing the march toward the German frontier, Det B, 3rd RSM convoyed from Paris to Marbaix, Belgium, on 14 September. During December 1944 and early January 1945, 3rd RSM elements provided invaluable SIGINT that assisted in beating back the last ditch German offensive at Bastogne (Battle of the Bulge).


3rd RSM Bedford Intercept Van,
German linguists Rohman and Milberg, 1944


3rd RSM Moved into Germany

The dawning of the new year found the Allies (and the 3rd RSM) on the move again. In April 1945, Detachment A, 3rd RSM (G) said goodbye to France and moved together with SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) to Bad Vilbel, Frankfurt, Germany. V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) was just around the corner-8 May 1945. Meanwhile on 6 June 1945, Ninth Air Force Headquarters relocated from Chantilly, France, to Bad Kissingen, Germany. The 3rd RSM (G) and its subordinate Detachment E arrived in Bad Kissingen ahead of Ninth AF HQ. With the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile (G) assuming what remained of the 3rd RSM's mission, the 3rd RSM left Europe for America and deactivation on 4 September 1945.

8th Radio Squadron Mobile

The Army Signal Corps created the 8th Radio Squadron Mobile in November 1942. Activated as the 958th Signal Radio Intelligence Company (Aviation) at Drew Field, Florida, under the command of First Lt. William H. Mundorff, the company moved by train to Camp Pinedale, California, in January 1943. Trained at Pinedale during 1943-44, the 958th SRIC became the 8th Radio Squadron Mobile (J) [Japan] in the spring of 1944. The 8th RSM's cadre of linguists consisted primarily of Nisei Japanese-American soldiers who had been taught Heigo Japanese (military terminology) at Camp Savage, Minnesota.

Welcome to Guam

In August 1944, the squadron was declared ready for its next assignment as a self-contained operational unit. On 10 October 1944, the 8th RSM troops shipped out overseas aboard the USS Frederick Sykes. Debarking on Guam a month later, the 8th Radio Squadron Mobile served with the U.S. Navy as part of a Joint Radio Analysis Group in a secure Naval compound called the "Joint Communications Activity" on Guam.

Although few in number, the Nisei voice intercept operators played a major role in the squadron's intercept and direction-finding missions. In addition to the voice intercept section that operated on Guam, two to three Nisei linguists deployed with each DF team.

Direction Finding Operations

The 8th deployed direction-finding platoons to outlying islands in order to get closer to the lower power transmitters that the Japanese were using. With DF network control on Guam, the squadron set up DF stations on Peleliu (Palau), Saipan and after the island was liberated from the Japanese in March 1945, on Iwo Jima.

8th RSM - Airborne Mission

Commencing in the spring of 1945, ten of the 8th RSM's Nisei voice intercept operators participated in airborne reconnaissance missions aboard Guam-based RB-24's-earning the squadron the nickname, "The Flying Eight Ball." The Flying Eight Ball (airborne) segment of the 8th RSM history will be addressed in Volume IV-Air Force Signals Intelligence Airborne Operations.

Worthy Recognition for 8th RSM Contributions

The 8th RSM received numerous accolades from field commanders whose operations they supported throughout the Pacific. Admiral Richmond Turner commended the 8th RSM for the squadron's support during the Okinawa Campaign (April-June 1945), the Third Fleet praised the unit for its support of fleet operations in Japan's home waters, and Adm. Nimitz expressed appreciation for 8th RSM contributions to the joint radio analysis group.

8th RSM Deactivated

With surrender documents signed on 2 September 1945, President Truman proclaimed "V-J Day"-Victory over Japan. The war over, it was time to pack up and go home. The 8th Radio Squadron Mobile was deactivated in late 1945. The Army Security Agency reactivated the 8th Radio Squadron Mobile at Vint Hill Farms, Virginia, in 1949 for transfer to Air Force Security Service.


DF Position, Vint Hill Farms, VA, 1949


Radio Squadron Mobile Summary

The Army Air Forces radio squadrons mobile performed admirably during World War II and left a proud heritage for the United States Air Force Security Service. USAFSS used the radio squadron mobile as its basic field unit identifier until 1963 when RSM's became "security squadrons."


World War II ended in September 1945, but the United States and the West already faced new adversaries-Communist forces led by Russian dictator Josef Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Linguists, primarily German and Japanese linguists, played a major role in combat operations in World War II, but Air Force Security Service had no voice intercept mission and zero linguists assigned when the command stood up in 1948.

World War II veterans Capt. William P. Fife and Lt. Reginald G. M. Gilbert were among the first linguists in USAFSS. Captain Fife graduated in the initial Russian class taught at the Army Language School, Monterey, California, in 1948, and Lt. Gilbert followed a year later in the premier Chinese class at Monterey. They pioneered Security Service operations in the Far East.

The first voice intercept operators in the command were cross-trained Morse intercept operators SSgt. Walter Kenney and Sgt.'s Virgil C. Fordham and Robert E. Draughon. Assigned to the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile, Darmstadt, Germany, Kenney, Fordham and Draughon completed a six-month Russian course at the U.S. Army's Russian Liaison Agent and Interpreters School, Oberammergau, Germany, in early 1950. Divided into two job pools-translators/interpreters and intercept operators-a few linguists served in linguistic positions outside the signals intelligence area, but the vast majority of Air Force linguists served in USAFSS. That trend continues today.

The table below depicts the language mix and language identifiers that Security Service used to track its linguist force.


Air Force Language Qualification Codes (LQC's)
Language1950's1962Late 19651977 *6
Russian *1203x1-1203x1-1203x1MA208x1MA
Albanian 203x1-5203x1ME208x1ME
Arabic 203x1-6203x1MF208x1MF
Polish203x1-O *4203x1-7 *5203x1MG208x1MG
Bulgarian203x1-G203x1-8 *5203x1MH208x1MH
Spanish 203x1-B203x1MK208x1MK
Persian(Farsi)  203x1MP208x1MP
Hebrew  203x1MR208x1MR
Farsi & Viet *2203x1MV208x1MV
Other *3    
 *1   USAFSS' first voice intercept operators were Russian linguists in 1950 with MOS 267 as translator and MOS 538 as voice intercept operator. By mid-1950, 203x0 was translator and 203x1 was intercept operator.
 *2   Farsi in 1966; Vietnamese FAM: 12-week familiarization course later.
 *3  Cambodian probably 203x1MQ or MT. Japanese was 203x1-L in 1966-67.
 *4  Polish shred-out 203x1-O became 203x1-R in late 1958.
 *5  Polish and Bulgarian designators changed to numbers in 1962.
 *6  203x0 kept as interpreter in 1977; intercept operators became 208x1's.


Where less well known languages such as Burmese, Thai, and Indonesian fit in the above table is undetermined. Until the early 1990's, both ground-based and airborne intercept operators had the same Language Qualification Code identifier-203x1 or 208x1-except that the airborne operator's LQC carried the letter "A" prefix (e.g., A208x1). Today, the equivalent Air Force cryptologic linguists have two totally separate Air Force Specialty Codes: "1A8" for airborne cryptologic linguists and "1N3" for cryptologic linguists (ground-based). Other intelligence career fields have likewise been updated: 1N2/Communication Signals Intelligence Specialist, 1N4/Signals Intelligence Analyst (formerly 202x0), 1N5/Electronic Signals Intelligence Specialist (formerly 205x0 and 294x0) and 1N6/Electronic Systems Security Assessment Specialists (formerly U202x0-COMSEC Analyst). Ironically, with the advent of computers, the internet, cellphones, data systems, etc. and the disappearance of manual Morse communications, Morse intercept operators (207x1's-aka 292x1's and 293x1's), who were ubiquitous in Air Force Security Service operations during the Cold War, have been superceded by other modern-day career fields.

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