Army

July 26, 2012

US Army establishes Military Intelligence Branch 50 years ago

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USAICoE History Office

Gen. G. H. Decker, chief of staff, U.S. Army, signs General Order No. 38 establishing the Intelligence and Security Branch. The branch was redesignated as the Military Intelligence Branch in 1967. The ACoSI, Maj. Gen. Alva Fitch, stands on the far left.

Military Intelligence has been a part of every American conflict since the American Revolution, but it was not until just 50 years ago, on July 1, 1962, that it was recognized as a basic branch of the U.S. Army. This event culminated a 45-year effort to recognize the vital role of the Army’s intelligence specialists in national defense.

The first steps towards an intelligence branch came during World War I. In the summer of 1917, as the Army was expanding to fight in France, it created two groups of intelligence personnel: the Corps of Interpreters and the Corps of Intelligence Police. The former provided competent linguists to perform intelligence functions, while the latter conducted counterespionage activities in France and the United States. After the war, the COI was dissolved, but the CIP continued to maintain a presence in the Army for the next four decades, becoming the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II.

In 1921, the Army established the Military Intelligence Officers Reserve Corps to retain the services of officers who had served in intelligence positions during World War I. The MIORC would provide a pool of trained manpower if the Army needed to mobilize for another war. During World War II, as anticipated, many MIORC officers did provide valuable intelligence expertise. Once mobilized, these reserve officers served under the auspices of other branches, as did every officer performing intelligence functions.

After the war, the MIORC evolved into the Military Intelligence Branch in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1952. It was joined by the Army Security Branch, which consisted of cryptologic specialists. As with the MIORC, only reserve personnel not on active duty could be assigned to these branches, and when called on active duty, these officers were “carried” by other branches. These reserve branches continued to provide the majority of intelligence personnel throughout the 1950s. Smaller numbers of officers were detailed from one of the existing Regular Army branches. The Regular Army remained without an intelligence branch.

By the 1960s, many of the reserve officers trained in intelligence had begun their service in World War II and were facing mandatory retirement in the coming years. This would leave the Army without an adequate pool of trained intelligence officers by 1965. The result of not having a branch for the discipline was that officers failed to view intelligence as a viable career option. As Maj. Gen. Alva Fitch, the Army’s assistant chief of staff for Intelligence from 1961-1964, stated, “Many high-potential, high-quality career officers rightly or wrongly were reluctant to jeopardize their careers by intelligence assignments while at the same time attempting to maintain branch proficiency.”

Fitch successfully argued that the best solution and the only way to ensure the availability of qualified intelligence officers was the creation of a new branch. On July 1, 1962, as a result of Fitch’s efforts, the Army formed the Army Intelligence and Security Branch, which for the first time included both regular and reserve officers. The Army finally had a permanent cadre of professional intelligence specialists. At that time, it consisted of approximately 5,000 personnel in 25 different Army Intelligence and Army Security officer military occupational specialties. Five years later, on July 1, 1967, the branch was redesignated the Military Intelligence Branch.

This year marks not only the 50th anniversary of the Military Intelligence Branch, but also the 25th anniversary of the Military Intelligence Corps. For more information on the 25th and 50th anniversary commemoration, go to https://www.ikn.army.mil/apps/mi_comm/.




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