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From Our Home Page Archive

       Home page as originally published in January 2014 

— This Month —

Signal Corps Successes The Mukden Cable

And a new 4 part series begins...

Part I — in·tel·li·gence – /in’telijəns/ noun

Signals Intelligence – Gentlemen Do Not Read Other Gentlemen’s Mail

- - - - -

MISSION STATEMENT

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's 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.                       

          Happy New Year - 2014      


With this article we add a new concept to our website – the telling of stories of Signal Corps Successes. In the history of our branch there have been many engagements the Signal Corps has been part of, including engagements where it if were not for the aggressive efforts of Signaleers the battle would have been lost. These and other stories about how the Signal Corps goes about its business make engaging reading, and they are worth archiving, especially when we know the people involved. Starting this month we will begin collecting stories about Signal Corps Successes, and when we have one ready for publication we'll post it here.

Take a moment both before and after you read the following story, and think back and see if you have a story of your own to tell. The story doesn't have to be about heroism... just about the Signal Corps and the effort the people in it made to win the war. If you have a story, please drop us a note. We'll call you and set up a short telephone interview to ask a few questions and gather as many details as you remember. Then we'll fill in the background, write the story, and send it to you for your final changes and approval. Once you say go, we'll post it online.

Enjoy what follows - our first Signal success story...

- - -

Signal Corps Successes

The Mukden Cable

Japan invades KoreaSuccess at war is made up of three parts: brains, brawn and assets. One of the Signal Corps’ jobs is to make sure that when it comes to communications at least, we have the brains to figure out what assets are needed, the brawn to put them in place, and the ability to add to the assets as required to keep the lines of communication open. In the Korean war one of the assets that needed to be taken care of and kept operating was the Mukden Cable, a communications link that stretched from Mukden (known as Shenyang in Chinese) in China, down the Korean Peninsula and then across the Korean Strait/Sea of Japan to Japan.

As most know today, the Mukden Cable provided the backbone needed to link Japan to Korea and China during that time when Japan occupied both Korea (1910 – 1945) and northeastern China (then called Manchukuo, or “Manchu country”). The Mukden Cable was designed to provide the key communication link between Japan and these fledgling members of its new empire, so that she could maintain both economic, military and political control over these newly occupied territories.

Originally built by the Japanese through slave labor from both Korea and China, on its opening on September 30, 1939, it was the longest communication cable in the world, stretching some 2,700 kilometers along its full length. Interestingly, it took the Japanese only 4 years to lay the cable, install the repeater stations, and make the whole thing operational. To honor their accomplishment the cable was put into service with a celebration hosted by Japan’s Minister of Communications, Nagai Ryutaro. Speaking from the terminus of the cable in Tokyo, he described the accomplishment as a “revolutionary invention” and went on to say:

“As the longest cable in the world, completion of the Japan–Manchukuo connection telephone cable has become the focus of all the countries. This cable is not an imitation of the West but was completed with the unique technology on the basis of the Ministry of Communications’ research and invention; it is significant as the pride of a scientific Japan. In today’s world, full of uncertainties, I believe that as the only leading country of colored people firmly established in the corner of East Asia, Japan has a cultural mission that is both real and grave. Considering the great mission of building the new East Asia that has now fallen on the shoulders of the Japanese people, we are more acutely aware of the responsibility of constructing an East Asian telecommunication network as the first step.”[1]

The reader can see that as far as Japan was concerned, the Mukden Cable was to play an important part in helping Japan create its much heralded East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, and was destined to support Japan’s efforts to mimic British, French and German imperialism as it took control of China and Korea. As Japan so clearly said, it was time that it, as the leading nation of the “colored people… of East Asia” got on with making East Asia as powerful as the countries of the West.  

Read More

 


 

Boy do we have stories
to tell you...

This is how it works

Army Signal OCS EditorRegular readers of our website know that we often take on topics that can’t be adequately covered in one article, and so post a series of articles on the subject, over a series of months. We did this in the past when we wrote a series of three articles that covered the hottest part of the fighting in Vietnam, which we called “The War Begins In Earnest.” Those articles began in February 2013 and finished in March. In June 2013 we did it again when we published a three part series that we called “U.S. Army Communications - Vietnam“. In July we offered a series that looked at how the Signal Corps changed the outcome of WWII and made America the superpower it is today. That series we called “America Between The Wars” and it ended four months later, in October 2013.

This month in honor of our clumsy footed friends in the NSA we begin another series. This one will run in four parts too. In the last part, to be published in April 2014, we will talk about our NSA buddies and consider the mistakes they made along the way… the mistakes that made them the most hated government agency in the world and the laughingstock of professional signals intelligence and communication interception people everywhere. However, before we start tossing our weight around on that subject, it’s probably best if we start at the beginning… by understanding how the NSA got to where it is today, and what role our beloved Signal Corps played in the process. With that intro then—before we start taking pot shots at the current rudderless leadership of the NSA and their inept handling of the worldwide crises they caused, let’s first learn where this whole notion of signal intelligence (SIGINT) and communication interception (COMINT) came from.

On Secrecy...

Now for the good stuff

Much of what we write on SIGINT and COMINT in this, and the articles that will follow in the coming months, will seem as new information to most of our readers. Even many within our own group of Signal Corps Officers, men who clearly know more about America’s intelligence gathering efforts than they will tell you, will find some of what we disclose here new. And inevitably, some will question whether what we are publishing is classified or not. This will especially be the case when our last article in this series is published in April… an article in which we will take the NSA to task for its sloppy handling of the Edward Snowden affair.

National Security Agency, great at code, lousy at PRNot to worry. Everything you read in this and our subsequent articles has been declassified. For those of you who doubt us, we admit that the majority of what you will read here was once highly classified, and much is still not generally available to the public. Even so, we assure you, what appears in these articles is no longer classified.

As to how it came to be that way, in the 1970s the government began a series of initiatives, under the auspices of the National Security Agency, to clean up the tons of classified documents our government and military maintained. The objective was to declassify those whose release would no longer pose a threat to national security. That was nice. However, what the public was not told was that among the heaps of documents that were being declassified a few special ones were being stamped “declassified” but were being spirited away and put into a special section of the National Archives and Records Administration. And there they sat; declassified but essentially out of sight.

Most were what were called “Special Research Histories.” Written by people from within the group whose history they told, they were originally intended for internal use to both archive the agency’s history and to help new members grasp the honor and tradition of the group they were joining. Because of the story they told, these Special Research Histories were highly classified and kept from public eyes. Until, that is, someone in the NSA realized that by publishing their own history they could reinforce in Congress’ eyes the importance of the work the NSA was doing, and possibly avoid the budget cuts Congress was threatening back in the 70s and 80s. From that moment to where we are today it was just a short skip and a hop to the point where every clandestine arm of the government and military had its own Special Research History declassified and made available to Joe America, either to boost its own PR image, or to reinforce its need for more money.

It’s a strange thing, the ego that infests our government’s agencies. It’s all Rah! Rah! for the work we are doing, and 'keep your nose out of our business,' until it’s time to cuddle up to Congress for more shekels. Then it’s national security be damned, we need more money.

NSA Declassified

At any rate, the 70s and 80s have come and passed and today all manner of government information has been declassified, weather to boost an agency’s ego, to help them capture more money, or for some other reason. Not surprisingly, the Special Research Histories we talk of are in that group. Today they represent only a small fraction of the material that is now in the public domain, but even so, they represent some of the best stuff there is to read… and it is from this treasure trove that we have gathered much of what you will read here.  

Our interest in this series of articles is on that portion that deals with signals intelligence and communication interception and the impact the need for these capabilities had on the evolution of U.S. Army Signal Corps military signal gathering efforts—from the formation of the very first U.S. Army Signals Intelligence Section to today’s NSA.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT


 

Military turtles 


 

Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 2 January 2014. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 2 January 2014 We've uploaded the class pictures Candidate Bob Warner sent us for his OCS Class 52-21. You can find them on his class page. Just click on the old, tired, torn (sounds like us, right?) photo album at the bottom of the page, and enjoy. Bob's still working on identifying the people in the pics. When he sends that along, we'll update the album and post a new note here. Thanks Bob! View Class Page for 52-21

Posted 1 January 2014 A couple of new documents and an update on his continuing story of fixing the military communications network along the German railroad, post- WWII, were sent in by Gerry Katz (OCS Class 44-40). Click Gerry's underlined name here to get to his bio page, and scroll down to the bottom to see the newly posted info.

Posted 1 November 2013 A Long lost Candidate Stephen P. Curley has finally checked in after 40+ years. A member of Class 16-66, you can check on him and his classmates on their Class Page. Click on Steve's last name to read his short update. Click HERE to reach the Class Page for OCS Class 16-66.

Got some information about yourself that you want to pass on to your classmates? Have an update for your bio? Send it to us and we'll update your status on your class page.

 

Continued from left column... 

In trying to gather information on this topic we have had to dig long and deep, because as of the moment, while all of the material we talk of here is available to the public, only two correlated portions of the information that is out there has been published in any readable form. Back in 1977, the Department of Defense released a multivolume compilation entitled The "Magic" Background of Pearl Harbor; more recently, Dr. Ronald Spector edited and released a publication he titled Listening to the Enemy: Key Documents on the role of Communications Intelligence in the War with Japan. Other than these two, the rest of the historical glory of what is contained within the Special Research Histories housed in the special section of the National Archives and Records Administration still remains essentially hidden from the public… waiting to be mined by historians like us… which as you will see in the story that follows, we did.

So let us begin... here is Part I of our four part series:

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- click icon above to play video -

WITH LITTLE DOUBT, the story of signal intelligence came of age in World War II. However, it did not begin there. Instead it began in June of 1916, when from then until May of 1918 various attempts at cryptanalysis were conducted by a civilian who undertook the effort for purely patriotic reasons. At his own expense, a Mr. George Fabyan organized a small group of highly skilled cryptanalysts to work at his Riverbank Laboratories, in Geneva, Illinois, on the task of trying as best they could to break the codes and ciphers forwarded to them by the War, Navy, State, and Justice Departments.

Their efforts were laudable, and they succeeded. So well that sometime around June 1917 the War Department took notice of the importance of what they were doing and decided that this work should be more formally brought under its own jurisdiction. On the surface, this idea seemed fine… except for two problems. First, while the War Department wanted to control the work, the only agency benefitting from it was the State Department, whose cipher messages were being forwarded to the group for analysis from State Department offices around the world; and second, the War Department had no funds to cover the cost of the exercise.

1st Lieutenant H.O. Yardley, MI-8Being the good brothers that they were in those days, the two colluded such that the War Department took on the responsibility for the work to be done while State provided the funds. To assure that discipline and secrecy was maintained the War Department assigned a Colonel Van Deman as G-2 for the operation, placing him in the unique position of reporting both directly to the War Department as well as to the Signal Corps (Chief of Signals). This in effect made this group of cryptanalysis a branch of the Signal Corps, without giving the Signal Corps direct responsibility for its supervision.

At the same time that Van Deman was appointed, the War Department commissioned Herbert O. Yardley as a 1st Lieutenant, and put him in charge of operations. A civilian with no military training, Yardley was thought to fit the bill as he had been a telegrapher at the State Department, the group that spurred the creation of the unit in the first place. That, plus his keen interest in cryptography, and two civilians to support him, comprised America’s first ever effort to initiate cryptographic signals intelligence.

By late 1917 the amount of work requests flowing from the State Department to this group overwhelmed the group. To make sure that no signal information fell through the cracks the War Department increased the group’s staff while at the same time it reorganized it as a “section.” It’s name? The much vaulted MI-8, a legendary name today, if only in Hollywood.

Subdivided into 6 subsections the duties it took on included:

(1) A subsection that focused on code and cipher solutions. Today we would call this work crypto analysis or cryptanalysis.

(2) A subsection that handled code and cipher compilation. Interestingly, at this point the semi-involvement of the Signal Corps in MI-8 began to show itself, as under Army regulations of the time the compilation and revision of codes was a function of the Chief Signal Officer. It appears that when the Chief Signal Officer became aware that the Germans possessed copies of the War Department’s Telegraph Code, he felt it better to move this function out of the Signal Corps proper and into MI-8, rather than continue to risk code compromise from within the Signal Corps itself. There in MI-8 the group that ran the code and cipher compilation subsection began working on producing several replacement codes for the ones that had been compromised. Among these were the very early codes known as Military Intelligence Codes No. 5 and 9, as well as a series of small pocket codes to be used by the American secret agents that were roaming the world at the time.

(3) A training subsection was established, not only to train MI-8 personnel but also to train most of the personnel being sent overseas to handle field force cryptanalytic duties, including those stationed with the U.S. Army in its Allied Expeditionary Force group, as well as those U.S. military personnel supporting White Russian military efforts in Siberia of all places.[2]

(4) A secret inks subsection was set up to create invisible inks for use by secret agents. This group also examined letters for secret ink writing. Not simply a ‘nice to have,’ the work this group did was absolutely essential in those days. At times over 2,000 letters were examined and decoded each week.

(5) A shorthand subsection was also added, with the people in this group doing decipher work on texts produced in various shorthand systems, such as the ones used in Germany.

(6) A communications subsection was established to handle messages to and from military attaches and intelligence officers around the world. As in the secret inks subsection, traffic here too was voluminous, with over 33,000 messages typically being processed every 12 months … nearly all of which were in code and had to be decoded by hand.  

 


 

 

Is that fear creeping again through the wire? I look out at the perimeter and see again the phantoms that come with the failing light, the infinitesimally small movements of minuscule shadows… shadows that I’m suddenly sure are Charlie taking his place along the perimeter. Or are those movements merely bushes, quietly rustling as the day’s heat gives way to the sticky sweatiness that comes with twilight in the jungle. Is that Charlie looking back at me? Is that him? Or is it just my own fear that I see?

No, it can’t be him. It’s too soon. He’s there, but he won’t be taking a position on the wire until maybe 0300. If I see the movements then, then I know it will be him. Now though… this time… it’s just fear taking hold.

It’s a funny thing, this fear thing. I’ll tell you a secret about it, something I learned from having met it so many times: fear is an absolutist. When it comes it comes completely. It never comes by measures. It either comes or it doesn’t. And when it does, it’s there in full force; all or nothing. It takes control of every pore of your body… of your very being… leaving your brain in charge of a corpse, a cadaver, a set of remains that while the heart still beats it cannot find one cell within that will respond to its command. Yet strangely, stiff though you are, every scintilla of your creature is shaking. Fear overwhelms you and bullies you like a tyrant, ruling your presence with the same crushing omnipotence that, as a child, you were told only God had the power to exercise.

And it stays with you until you conquer it.

But how to conquer fear?

Listen and I will tell you, for I have seen Charlie come through the wire many times, and with every coming fear has preceded his arrival.

Fear cannot be conquered with courage. I have tried courage and it does not work. Forget what they told you in training. Courage is a weak six if you are looking for protection from fear. Instead you need to look to the limits of your life… the limits fear puts on it when it forces you to play its game… when it muscles its way into your mind so tightly that it and it alone determines when you can resume living.

Because it’s at this exact point—the point when fear has its most control—that fear is at its weakest; for when it controls your ability to resume your life you can—at that moment—take back control of that same life. So pay no attention to fear. Instead, watch for the frustration.

What frustration you ask? The frustration you will begin to feel when you suddenly realize that something is stopping you from getting on with our life, and it’s about time that that something get out of the way and let you get on with life again.

Watch for the frustration, and be prepared… because if your feelings are true then at that very moment the fear you feel will disappear. Like a puff of smoke, it will be gone. Like a child’s soap bubble that bursts in the air, faster than your eyes can blink or your heart can beat, it will be gone and leave no trace of its past. It’s as simple as that.

The next time you see Charlie coming through the wire know that those who have beaten the fear you feel understand something you have not yet learned. That with or without fear you must live until you die, and the worst part about having a life still to live… even if it’s for only a few seconds more until that bullet that was just fired hits you… is not being able to get on with it. When you become frustrated and angry that fear is stopping you from getting on with your life, your fear will end.

e f


 

Hong Cong mountain under attack


January's Crossword Puzzle

Army Signal CorpsTheme: NSA SecretsArmy Signal Corps

Hint: Join 2 and 3 word answers together as one complete word.

 For answer key to this month's puzzle,
see icon at bottom of page




Footnotes:

[1] Japanese publication: Nichi-Man renraku denwa koji shunkosu; TKZ 375, November 1939, pages 120-126. To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text

[2] From August 1918 to July 1920 the U.S. Army as well as the Entente powers and Japan sent troops to Russia in what was called the Siberian Intervention or the Siberian Expedition (in Japanese (シベリア出兵 Shiberia Shuppei). Their task was to support White Russian forces against the Bolshevik Red Army during the Russian Civil War.  To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text


 

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