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May 2017

— This Month —

Surveillance Comes Of Age

The World Of GEOINT

The Real World Of Radio Traffic Analysis

The 3250th Signal Service Company And Patton's V Corps  

- - - - -

MISSION STATEMENT

 

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Its purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you.

 



 

ArmySignalOCS Editor

Too Many INTs...

Last month we posted articles that attempted to clarify the difference between the three major intelligence gathering operations the military uses: SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT. At the time we noted that there is one other form of "INT" that has come of vogue lately, and that is GEOINT.

This month, in our column below, we explain what GEOINT is all about, and how it not only has an upside to its use, but a very scary downside too. Specifically, on the upside it provides enormous value to our military, but on the downside, if its civilian use is not tightly controlled it could end up wrecking havoc on our civilian liberties. This, sad to say, is likely to happen as the NSA, CIA and the other 14 spy agencies begin to embrace its use.

Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Interestingly, in researching this month's articles we were bemused to see just how many other forms of INT the world of technology has seen fit to define. They include everything from Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) to electronic counter-measures (ECM), electronic counter-counter measures (ECCM), "Meaconing" (intelligence gathering intended to learn the characteristics of enemy navigation aids, for the purpose of retransmitting them with incorrect information), MASINT (which focuses on unintentionally transmitted information), and several dozen more. Clearly, the world of INT has progressed far beyond that which the Signal Corps used to do in its heyday.

Our second article this month deals with the unique efforts the 3250th Signal Service Company made during WWII, when it applied its SIGINT capabilities to support General Patton and his V Corps, as it fought its way across France and into Germany. We think you will find it fascinating how well this unit performed... and the fact that it was led by two U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS graduates.

Enjoy your reading, and stop back again next month when we will have for you a history piece about Camp Kohler. Written by LTC Danny M. Johnson (USA Ret) and submitted to us for publication, it tells the story of a military camp that, "Over the course of its history... was home to a Japanese-American assembly center, an Army Signal Corps training center, a prisoner of war branch camp, an Army Air Corps overseas replacement depot, an Army branch port of embarkation, and the Walerga Engineer Depot."

Come back again soon, and thanks for your support.


 

Surveillance Comes of
Age

GEOINT Signals Intelligence 

The World Of GEOINT

Last month we brought you a story about SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT, and their evolution over time as a means to discern what some other party to the “listener” is up to. In wartime, the party the listener is interested in is almost exclusively the enemy. Today however, things have changed. Today surveillance—of these kinds and more—is performed against most any kind of entity that holds intelligence, whether the entity is a living being, or a technical concoction of some form; a military or political entity, or a mass of civilians.

It may come as a surprise but in all of this the largest intelligence gathering entity is not a military or government entity, but a commercial one. Without doubt, the largest and most famous intelligence gathering entity out theregathering up information about every living thing and then someis Google. Yes, Google.

Why Google? Because while the NSA, as an example, gathers data from plebian sources such as telephone calls and the like, the data is only used if it is relevant to its needs. If it is not, then eventually it is discarded.

Google on the other hand gathers data from every known source to man and not only keeps it but uses the n-th degree of the detail found in it for commercial purposes.

It may be that in terms of pure numbers the NSA gathers far more data than Google does Trust Government? … but as we have said, most of it is useless to the NSA's purposes. For Google, every bit of data it gathers is of use, and the data it gathers is far more personal than that one might find in a telephone call.

Think of the data the NSA gathers as a pile of dirt, a massive pile of dirt if you will—the world’s dirt. Hidden within it are small gems of gold. Without further processing however these bits of gold will just sit there, useless to all until they are dug out.

Google on the other hand already knows what bits of gold it wants to gather up, so it doesn’t waste its time gathering up the dirt, only the bits of gold. And it can do this because it knows where the bits of gold are… unlike the NSA.

How can Google know where the bits of gold are? Because the only gold it is interested in are those pieces that will help them sell information about you to advertisers, commercial enterprises, governments, and yes… even the NSA.

The NSA is only interested in those bits of gold related to violations of U.S. laws, spying, political issues, and other arcane topics not likely to be found on Facebook. Google is interested in anything... ANYTHING... that can identify you, your likes and dislikes, your income, health, sexuality, marital status, and on, and on.

Google has it easy… it knows not only where the gold it seeks is hidden, it also knows exactly what kind of gold bits it seeks. In terms of what gold bits it seeks, in addition to the content of the data being gathered, it is also interested in things like your PC’s MAC code, IP Addresses, the Apps you use, how you use them, when you use them, who you communicate with when you use them… as well as things like the sites you visit… and on, and on…. and on, and on… and on, and on. Get the point?  

It’s kind of disturbing, isn’t it? The NSA knows about the dark side of your life, while Google knows about—well—everything about your life.

Types of data trackedIn terms of how prevailing Google's surveillance and information gathering issorry to sayit is not the only commercial entity out there doing this. It's partners in crime include Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo... which together with Google are considered the big five data gatherers within the U.S.

What exactly do these companies do? They track your on- and offline activities, primarily for commercial purposes. Combined—as scary as the amount of data is that the NSA holds—it is nothing compared to what these five companies hold in the way of personal information about you

Surveillance and data gathering has come a long, long way from the days when we Signaleers were the only ones doing it. No longer is the query one about what the enemy is up to, now it’s about what YOU are up to? And just as the amount and type of data that is being surveilled and captured has increased, so too has the medium being used to gather that data and intelligence.

Today intelligence gathering has spread beyond the bounds of SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT to include something called GEOINT, or Geospatial Intelligence. As you will see, this form of INT too can be used for both good as well as nefarious purposes. It all depends who is doing the gathering, and to what purpose they are using the data they have gathered.

GEOINT

While the big boys when it comes to gathering intelligence from SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT may be in the commercial sector (Google, et al), at this point the only serious player involved in gathering GEOINT is our own government. This it does via a government agency known to only a few: the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA.

So unknown is the NGA that even Barack Obama had never heard of it. A story was published a number of years back of his first learning of it, and it goes like something like this:

While shaking hands at a Five Guys hamburger restaurant in Washington in May 2009, President Obama asked a customer seated at a table near him about his job.

“What do you [do]?” he asked.

“I work at the NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” the man answered.

Obama appeared dumbfounded. “So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial… does…” he said, unable to finish the name.

Even after having it explained to him, the President looked quizzically disbelieving, and only smiled.

That was eight years ago, and still today the NGA remains by far the most shadowy member of the Big Five Government Spy Agencies.

So what is the NGA, and what is its role in GEOINT?

The NGA is an intelligence agency, formed as a combat support institution to function under the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and provide what is called geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) to the military—and in some cases, other agencies within our government. As a body of government it has only one task: to analyze images and videos captured by American military drones. At this time, since most of America’s military drones are to be found in the Middle East, that’s where the bulk of the NGA‘s data gathering is taking place.

Despite the fact that the focus of its work is on the Middle East, and its lack of name recognition, the NGA’s headquarters is the third-largest building in the Washington metropolitan area, bigger than the CIA headquarters and the U.S. Capitol combined.

Completed in 2011 at a cost of $1.4 billion, the main building measures four football fields long and covers as much ground as two aircraft carriers. In 2016, the agency purchased an additional 99 acres in St. Louis, to construct additional buildings at a cost of $1.75 billion, to accommodate its growing workforce. At present the NGA has over 3,000 employees within the metro Washington area.

If you’re having a difficult time figuring out why the American military—or our civilian government itself—needs something like the NGA, look at it this way: the NGA is to pictures what the NSA is to voices. Its principal function is to analyze the billions of images and miles of video captured by drones in the Middle East, as well as every bit of code coming out of each and every spy satellite that the world has circling the earth.

The drone footage in the Middle East aside, one might be forgiven for asking the question, “How much of what is being captured by the NGA is data gathered from drones or satellites flying over CONUS?” How much of the data and pictures being generated by the NGA’s ultra-high-resolution cameras shows things that took place within the U.S. itself? 

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT



 
Saber Rattling


 

Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 3 May 2017. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 3 May Received a few pictures of Candidate Joseph E. Passantino, OCS Class 43-15, sent to the Association's Archivist, MAJ (R) Green, by his daughter, Ms. Beck. We've started a new "mini-bio" page for Candidate Passantino, and posted the pics we received there. Ms. Beck has promised to send more of his old pictures to MAJ (R) Green to be digitized.

As he finishes them he has in turn promised to send them on to us for posting. In the mean time, enjoy what we have by clicking here, and our thanks to Ms. Beck for providing the photos to us.

Update 1 May Candidate Dennis Bielewicz, Class 09-67, sent in a couple of dozen pictures from his days in OCS. We'll be adding them over the next few days. Be sure to check them out here, and our thanks to Dennis for thinking of us. Hooah!

Update 4 March Received an eMail and picture from a former student of OCS Candidate James Falkenstrom, Class 07-66. It read as follows: "I ran across your site while searching for Lt. Falkenstrom and wondering what happened to him. Attached is a photograph I took of him while we were stationed at Ft. Gordon in 1966-67. He was my commander while I attended avionics school (35L20). I was an honor graduate there. We were the first group to use the newly constructed barracks and facility. After training was complete, I spent 24 months at USAAMAC aircraft repair depot at Coleman Barracks, Mannheim, Germany. SP5 Thomas Goez, St. Louis, MO. You can see the pictures Tom was kind enough to sende to us on the 07-66 Class Page. Click here to jump to it    

Update 1 March It's not too early to begin planning for our Army Signal OCS Association 2017 Reunion. This year it will be held in Washington, D.C. and will celebrate the anniversaries of the WWII, Korea and Vietnam Era wars. Take the time now to pencil it into your calendar for this October... and while you are at it, check out the latest information about the Reunion by clicking on our Reunion Info link at the top of the column at left, under the heading INFO CENTER.


 2017 Army Signal OCS Reunion

Continued from left column...

Our research says that efforts by third parties to get this information have been met with vague denials by the NGA. At this point, the general view is that while attempts have been made to drag the agency into domestic “spying” matters, it has avoided such and never been involved in a domestically focused GEOINT, SIGINT, COMINT or ELINT effort. On the surface, one can believe this, as so far it has avoided the kind of headlines its two far more famous siblings, the CIA and NSA, tend to generate re. spying on American citizens.

Notwithstanding this, we should all keep our eyes on this new spying behemoth our military has created, watching to see if it turns its eyes on us.

As to how its services are used, it didn’t take long after President Trump took office for him to figure out the value of such an agency. To his credit, so far he has kept it focused on military matters. After studying up on what the NGA is all about, President Trump decided that it needed more autonomous authority to do its job than it had been given. With that in mind he gave the CIA the power to wage covert drone warfare with intelligence gathered from the NGA.

While in our opinion this “right” should have gone to the military alone, be it as it may be, the important thing is that President Trump saw the value of the GEOINT information the NGA generates, and authorized its use on those quasi-military missions the CIA loves to mount.

Yet still, it troubles us that the CIA is allowed to shield important information about such missions and operations from the Pentagon, by simply instructing the NGA to carry out its portion of a mission on the Q.T.

- - -

There is no doubt that this new form of GEOINT (as opposed to SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT) that the NGA is generating is going to change how America views both surveillance and intelligence. For one thing, with this new agency being formed to act as both an intelligence agency and a combat support agency, its role is going to extend far more into the active domain of performing missions than anything the Signal Corps ever did back when it was conducting SIGINT during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Back then, the Signal Corps provided the intelligence, while the combat arms drew from that intelligence what they wanted when it came to defining and conducting the mission. Now today, the NGA will be involved in both intelligence gathering and mission definition.

With such an expansive role, the NGA will likely quickly become America’s “spy” leader when it comes to timely, relevant, accurate and actionable GEOINT. No doubt, this will help it perform its quasi-military, CIA backed missions much more successfully, but again, it will also likely result in tremendous pressure being put on the agency to direct its intelligence gathering efforts within the borders of the U.S.—as it becomes pressured to fulfill the President’s national security priorities to protect the nation.

Finally, in case one thinks that the NGA, with its 3,000 government workers in Washington and additional 11,500 elsewhere, is sitting out there all by itself, looking at photos from satellites and drones and deciding what to do about what it sees, recognize that the agencies that perform intelligence gathering for our government and military are many and diverse. The NGA, while the lead federal agency for GEOINT work, is just one of a global consortium of more than 400 commercial and government organizations that are involved—under its auspices—in GEOINT. To this point, the NGA manages all of these relationships. It sits at the head of the consortium.

Operationally, the director of NGA serves as the functional manager for America’s entire GEOINT program. Note these important words… “functional manager for America’s entire GEOINT program”… and remind yourself that no other form of intelligence gathering­—SIGINT, COMINT, ELINT, or any other—has a functional manager in charge of all aspects of that kind of intelligence gathering… across the nation, across all disciplines, over all agencies, government and private… none. For GEOINT to be considered so important that our government has placed every aspect of geospatial intelligence gathering under this one agency is astounding.

Further to this, the director of the NGA now also serves as the head of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) as well as the coordinator of the global Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence (ASG).

By now our readers should be taking a deep breath, and asking who do these people report to. The answer, for all practical purposes, is no one. The NGA stands alone within the other spy agencies, primarily being intended to serve the DoD, but doing more work for the CIA, and reporting to no other agency. In its multiple roles though it does receive guidance and oversight from DoD, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and  through its Congress via their normal oversight committee activities.

For those of you interested in its list of deliverables, taken directly from NGA publications, they look as follows. The NGA:  

1. Delivers the strategic intelligence that allows the president and national policymakers to make crucial decisions on counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, global political crises and more.

2. Enables the warfighter to plan missions, gain battlefield superiority, precisely target the adversary and protect our military forces.

3. Provides timely warnings to the warfighter and national decision makers by monitoring, analyzing and reporting imminent threats. Often, NGA has the only “eyes” focused on global hot spots and can give unique insight into these critical areas... North Korea being a case in point.

4. Protects the homeland by supporting counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and border and transportation security. If one thinks about it, the NGA is the real "Trump Wall" that is being put in place along the Mexican border.

5. Supports security planning for special events, such as presidential inaugurations, state visits by foreign leaders, international conferences and major public events (Olympics, Super Bowls, satellite launchings, etc.).

6. Ensures safety of navigation in the air and on the seas by maintaining the most current information and highest quality services for U.S. military forces and global transport networks.

7. Defends the nation against cyber threats by supporting other intelligence agencies with in-depth analysis of cyber networks.

7. Creates and maintains the geospatial foundation data, knowledge and analysis that enable all other missions.

8. Assists humanitarian and disaster relief efforts by working directly with the lead federal agencies responding to fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes or other natural or manmade disasters.

One can only sit back in wonder at the size, role and importance of this new military intelligence gathering agency, based solely on the use of drones and satellites. One wonders most what the Signal Corps Officers that served in the Union Army Balloon Corps of the Civil War would think, seeing how far GEOINT has come from their early attempts to use height to spy on the Confederate Army.

U.S. Army Baloon Corps 

 

 


 

The Real World Of Radio Traffic Analysis

Signal Service Company SIGINT 

The 3250th Signal Service Company and Patton's V Corps

Understanding what SIGINT, COMINT and ELINT is all about is one thing, putting it into action is another. In several previous columns over the past two months we talked at length of these topics, and even provided an example of their use in the Vietnam War. Long before Vietnam ever came onto the scene however, these three methods of surveillance and intelligence gathering proved their value in war beyond the pale, making them an invaluable part of war fighting for all time to come.

The proof of concept that we speak of occurred in WWII, in the Battle of the Bulge. During that engagement the 3250th Signal Service Company used SIGINT to its maximum potential, by wrapping the idea within a structure of protocol, process, command oversight, and practice that would extract from it the kind of intelligence the front line commanders so desperately needed. In the process, the Signaleers of the 3250th turned an idea—SIGINT—into a reality.

Signal CorpsTo understand how this happened, one must first recognize that back during WWII SIGINT consisted mainly of the practice of radio traffic analysis. The 3250th, a Signal Service Company, was established to do this, and more.

One of the units that went ashore during the second wave on D-day, the 3250th was part of the V Corps. As constituted for the D-Day invasion, it had 48 vehicles and 129 men. Originally the men of the 3250th trained at Camp Crowder, Missouri, after which they were sent to Britain, where they were then broken up into several groups and reformed again into the 3250th, 3251st, 325d, and 3253d Signal Service Companies.

The 3250th was officially organized on 1 April 1944, and constituted on 12 April 1944 in England. Commanding it was 2nd Lieutenant Edward Woodruff Snowdon, from New York, a graduate of Army Signal Corps OCS Class 43-20.

Working in conjunction with him—for a short while, until assigned to another unit in need of a commander—was another Army Signal OCS graduate, 2nd Lieutenant Raymond Joseph Mondor from Minnesota, a graduate of Army Signal OCS Class 43-18. Together these two men helped bring form and substance to the practice of radio traffic analysis. In fact, so effective was their work at bringing structure to the process of RTF that the 3250th was the only SIGINT unit to be awarded an Assault Landing Credit for the Normandy invasion.

RDF EffortsOne of the more important things they did was to lay out an operational command structure where the Traffic Analysis Officer in a SIGINT company would have operational control over the entire operation of the radio intelligence company. Note here we are speaking of operational control, not command. This they felt was necessary since the Traffic Analysis Officer typically had the greatest knowledge of RDF and radio intercept communications methods, and the means by which intelligence could be extracted from signals being collected.

To add to the effectiveness of this operational command structure, they also recommended that the Traffic Analysis Officer act as the liaison officer with the unit’s correspondent G-2 section. Finally, to make sure that quality was brought into this equation, 2nd Lieutenants Snowdon and Mondor required that the Traffic Analysis Officer have extensive training and background in SIGINT and the technologies that underwrote the process, in order to successfully accomplish the mission. At the minimum, they said, the Traffic Analysis Officer must have an understanding of all problems found when it came to obtaining radio intelligence. This they felt was absolutely essential.

While their recommendations failed to be codified as policy, still, the concept of the officer-in-charge of the traffic analysis section holding overall command over the SIGINT process became the de facto routine within the Third Army, during World War II. In practical terms, since the 3250th Signal Service Company was responsible for SIGINT support to Patton's V Corps, the intelligence Patton’s men worked off of came at the behest of two young Army Signal OCS graduates doing their damndest to provide the highest quality SIGINT available. Based on Patton’s successes, it appears they met their goal.

From an operational standpoint, the 3250th, which was originally part of the 29th Infantry Division, through which it had arrived in Greenock, Scotland, on 11 October 1942, was able to set up one of the earliest SIGINT sites in the war. That site was called “intercept station LIMBO,” and was set up just outside of Greenock.

Adcock RDF shackThe traffic it gathered was sent on to the Signal Intelligence Division (SID) for processing. The SID in question was attached to Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, USA (ETOUSA), in London. This particular SID was headed by Colonel George A. Bicher, the U.S. theater’s SIGINT authority in England. Here then, in this environment, the company worked out its SIGINT kinks, before being directed to create yet another listening station.

This second listening station was built in Devon, England, to which the entire company was moved in May of 1943. Around about July the company began working to intercept low echelon German Army traffic from this station. However, since there were no traffic analysts or cryptanalysts assigned to the station, the results were spotty at best. By spring of the following year, 1944, it didn’t matter, as the company was busy preparing itself for the cross-channel invasion that was to come.

In June, as part of the Normandy invasion, the 3250th moved across the channel in two echelons. As the unit formed up on the other side, they spent several nights under sporadic enemy fire from the air. There, on the shores of France, the company received news that it was to be assigned to support the V Corps, which at that time was attached to First U.S. Army.

Specifically, Detachment A of the 3250th, under command of Army Signal OCS Class 43-20 graduate Lieutenant Edward Snowdon, landed on 7 June (the day after D-Day) at Omaha Beach. There he found himself and his men in the most fearsome, difficult and daunting of circumstances possible.

Of all of the areas along the beach head, this particular strip of beach terrain was receiving far more fire than the others. In great measure this was because Montgomery's 21st Army Group, which knew that the German 716th Infantry Division was in the area, and was concentrating fire on this particular strip of Normandy, failed to do anything about it. 

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