General presides over first USAICS MI Officer Advanced Course graduation
March 23, 1972
When (then) Maj. Gen. Phillip Davidson gave the graduation address to the first Military Intelligence Officer Advanced Course in 1972, he told his attentive audience, “You are among the first military intelligence officers to start out in this field. You’re not retreads from other specialties. You will be moving in programs your predecessors only dreamed of.”
Davidson should know, as he was one of their predecessors. His remarks were referring to the fact that MI had only been a recognized branch for 10 years, at which time the Army wasn’t recruiting officers and Soldiers into MI, but re-branching them from others.
Prior to this time, there were no “professional” intelligence officers in the active Army. When asked to speak at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, or USAICS, graduation, Davidson was the assistant chief of staff for Intelligence. But he hadn’t always been an intelligence officer.
Entering West Point in 1935, Davidson’s first unit was a horse cavalry unit at Fort Riley, Kan. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in command of the 43rd Squadron of the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Group (Mechanized) at Camp Gordon, Ga.
When the squadron went to war in August 1944, Davidson experienced combat as both squadron commander and group executive officer. As a combat veteran, he had earned quite a few medals and more than a little valuable experience. After the war, Davidson attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and was held over as an instructor in the School of Intelligence.
During this time, Lt. Col. Davidson and a fellow instructor, Robert Glass, wrote a book entitled “Intelligence is for Commanders,” named for a lesson learned in the war they had just fought.
In the introduction of the book, the authors write, “Intelligence is not an academic exercise nor is it an end in itself. The prime purpose of intelligence is to help the commander make a decision, and thereby to proceed more accurately and more confidently with the accomplishment of his mission. This thought is the keynote of tactical intelligence.”
Davidson believed intensely in the criticality of the relationship between commander and intelligence officer; he would not have to wait long to put his theories to the ultimate test.
In 1948, Davidson became the chief, Plans and Estimates Branch, in the Intelligence Section, or G2, of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Command, a position he held throughout the Korean War. In this role, Davidson briefed MacArthur daily at 6 p.m. on what the enemy had been up to during the previous 24 hours.
As he explained in an interview with Jeanette Lau for the INSCOM (Intelligence and Security Command) Journal in 1995, “He wasn’t interested particularly in our interpretation of intelligence, although he was quite willing to read it. Once you gave him the facts of the enemy situation, MacArthur was his own intelligence officer.”
Davidson may have been a reluctant intelligence officer but, as his career progressed, he took on more and more intelligence responsibility. In 1963, he became the commandant of the Army Security Agency (ASA) Training Center and School at Fort Devens, Mass., and in 1965, the assistant chief of staff, G2, for the U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
His third combat tour came in 1967 when he became the J2 for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, working for both Generals William Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams.
Westmoreland initiated a Weekly Intelligence Estimate Update, held every Saturday morning and attended by a number of general officers. At this meeting, the intelligence on the enemy for the previous week was presented by regional experts.
Of the venue for briefing the commander, Davidson said, “It was an open and free discussion. People certainly disagreed, and this was a good thing. All the principal actors in the theater saw the intelligence. They got interested in intelligence. It was an excellent way to disseminate intelligence to a small leadership group.”
When the command shifted to Abrams, Davidson found himself with a new command relationship. Of Abrams he said, “Abe was an intelligence officer’s dream. Abe thought intelligence was the most important factor in the conduct of his operations.”
One can only imagine that as Maj. Gen. Davidson looked out at the audience of 81 fresh young faces of new MI Advanced Course graduates, he was thinking back on some of his own experiences that had brought him to the point of being their guest speaker. He must have spoken with pride and even some nostalgia when he said, “The day of generals like myself is over. The day of the specialist is upon us.”
This was particularly true of this first class of Fort Huachuca graduates. When the Intel School moved from Fort Holabird, Md., to Fort Huachuca, USAICS worked hard to improve every element of the Officer Advanced Course experience – from student housing, to the physical classroom environment, to the level of academic instruction.
These graduating students had just completed a rigorous 35-week schedule of more than 1,150 hours of instruction aimed at preparing them for command and staff duties from battalion through division. The MI segment of this instruction included specialized study in cryptologic intelligence, combat intelligence, counterintelligence, area intelligence, combat surveillance and strategic intelligence. In addition, the students received general classes in military science and tactics, Army management and leadership.
Guest instructors from other the Combat Surveillance and Electronic Warfare School and ASA units at Fort Huachuca enhanced the training. With added electives available through local colleges, these graduates were starting out on a whole different plain than Davidson had.
Noting the “knowledge explosion” available to MI officers in 1972 versus at the turn of the century, with 10 times more books being published per year in the United States, Davidson told the graduates, “Military intelligence, especially, will feel the impact of this change – change that has come more rapidly in the last few years than ever before in history. … You’ll be there.” He could scarcely have imagined how prophetic these words were, coming as they did two decades before the “technology explosion” of the 1990s.
(Editor’s note: Davidson’s book, “Intelligence is for Commanders,” and the INSCOM Journal article are both available at the MI Library or through the MI Command History Office.)