Army

February 21, 2014

Military Intelligence – this week in history

Tags:
Ruth Quinn, Staff Historian
USAICoE Command History Office

Radio Intelligence Service along Mexican Border

Government preparing men for radio work under direction of Federal Vocational Board. Student transmitting a message to four of his classmates in the class room at the Stuyvesant Evening High School, N.Y. April 1918.

22 February 1918
When Major (later Major General) Ralph Van Deman finally succeeded in setting up the Military Intelligence Division, or MID, in 1917, he was particularly concerned about the country’s weakness in counterintelligence. He was convinced that German agents, spies, and sympathizers were actively operating inside America’s borders, a belief bolstered by the numerous attacks of sabotage, intercept of telegrams, and arrest of spies that had already occurred in the United States before war had even been declared on Germany. In addition, the new draft meant that the Army would be filled with citizens and aliens, and he feared enemy infiltration within the Army’s ranks.
MID attacked this threat with numerous weapons. One was a chain of radio Intercept stations along the US/Mexico border. The Signal Corps operated these Radio Intelligence Service, or RIS stations, as well as a number of mobile, truck-mounted systems, in order to monitor German diplomatic and agent activity during World War I.
The messages originated in Mexico and were transmitted either in Spanish or in code.
The activity was slow to produce usable intelligence because of the technical and security qualifications required of the operators. Nevertheless, the Radio Intelligence Service eventually had a number of intercept posts on the North American continent.

Mr. Richard Egolf was a member of the RIS in 1918, operating Tractor Units 33 and 34 in McAllen, Texas. He was interviewed by the National Security Agency’s History department in 1976, giving us a first-hand perspective of this early signals intelligence activity. When asked about the specific networks he targeted, he replied, “Chapultepec was the name of one of the stations that we monitored. Twenty-four hours a day because they were communicating with stations in Germany, and I presume with German submarines in the Gulf of Mexico.” Egolf recalled that the operators, who were on rotating shifts 24 hours a day, were told to monitor what time of day the signals were being transmitted, who was being called, and what the code was. The equipment was never shut off unless something went wrong and they had to fix it.

Radio intercept and direction-finding were new technologies in 1918. So were trucks. Putting the two together created capabilities that had never before been used by the Army. Mr. Egolf was asked how difficult it was to set up his mobile station:
“Well, the transmitting equipment had already been installed in the truck so the only setting up that the personnel had to do there in McAllen was to take the spikes out (which were the center of the umbrella antenna) and raise them and put the antenna up. The tent was set up right after the equipment came up there. We had a field meter which was hung on the wall, as well as an audibility meter. When you heard a station, you took readings on its signal strength and you came up with a pattern. You would then have a big lobe which was your strongest signal and then you took a reading – that was where the station’s signal was coming from. As you rotated the loop around in the opposite direction, the signal got weaker. You took this signal bearing and passed that information on to one of the other units.”

These early radio intercept sites gained information of great value from Mexico, Germany, and Japan. They also established to what extent Mexican government radio was being used in transmitting German messages back to Germany. The success of the Radio Intelligence Service in World War I helped to lay the foundation for the future use of radio intercept by the US military and this capability would become critical during the next world war.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
haynes3_62415_lakosil

Family, faith, focus Resiliency helps Soldier heal from extensive combat wounds

Maj. Jeremy Haynes, Warrior Transition Brigade, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland, and wife Chelsea speak with Capt. Kate Degategno, Alpha Company, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, in Alvarado Hall, F...
 
 
U.S. Army Photo by Lisa Tourtelot

RWBAHC welcomes new top doc to command

U.S. Army Photo by Lisa Tourtelot Lt. Col. Edgar Arroyo, the new commander of Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, accepts the command colors from Maj. Gen. Thomas Tempel, the commanding general of Western Regional Medical Comm...
 
 
Photo by Capt. Bee Vengthisane

Signal Soldiers celebrate regimental birthday at Fort Hood

FORT HOOD, Texas– Signaleers from Fort Hood and other installations around the country, celebrated the 155th Signal Regimental Corps birthday June 22-25 here. Signal week is a time when Soldiers in the Signal Corps reflec...
 

 

Sparks fly when fireworks are lit — know safety rules

During tomorrow’s July 4th celebration, sparks will fly as people light fireworks. It’s wildfire season, and misuse of fireworks can start a fire which could have devastating effects on the community. When using approved fireworks, be cognizant of the surroundings. The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2011, fires started by fireworks caused an...
 
 
U.S. Army photo

Military Intelligence – Moment in MI history

More aerial intelligence systems used during Vietnam War During the Vietnam War, the Army possessed three distinct aerial intelligence capabilities. The U-6 Beaver fixed-wing airborne radio-direction finding (ARDF) platform was...
 
 
305thCeremony_6.26

305th Military Intelligence Battalion Change of Command Ceremony

Incoming Commander, Lt. Col. Jorge A. Arredondo, takes command of the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion during the passing of the colors at the change of command ceremony Friday.   Fort Huachuca’s 305th Military Inte...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>