Army

May 16, 2014

Military Intelligence – Moment in MI history

Tags:
Ruth Quinn, Staff Historian
USAICoE Command History Office

3rd Radio Research Unit arrives in Vietnam

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit conduct intercept of Morse code transmissions from both fixed and mobile stations.

May 13, 1961
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. sending combat troops to Vietnam. However, there had been U.S. personnel in the troubled region for many years prior to that.

Americans had been sending supplies to South Vietnam and had assumed responsibility for training its army when France pulled out of the country in 1954. John F. Kennedy, who took office in 1961 and was committed to beating Communism, took immediate steps to assist the South Vietnamese in winning the political, military, economic and psychological war against Communist-backed insurgency.

It wasn’t long, however, before the Republic of Vietnam needed more specific assistance. For example, the South Vietnamese army was trying to monitor the communications of the North Vietnamese-backed guerilla forces but needed help. The U.S. Army supplied radio receivers and AN/PRD-1 direction-finders to support this effort. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Army intelligence personnel began planning for a deployment to Southwest Asia to conduct small-scale communications intelligence, or COMINT, operations.

The Army Security Agency, or ASA, was tasked with this mission. The agency quickly put together two operation plans: WHITEBIRCH, which established a 78-man ASA operational element to target local Communist guerillas, and SABERTOOTH, which would field a 15-man team to train South Vietnamese COMINT specialists.

Troops and equipment were identified and assembled at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, within three days of presidential approval of the plans. The ASA contingent organized itself into the 400th USASA Operations Unit (Provisional) with a cover designation as the 3rd Radio Research Unit, or RRU.

The 3rd RRU’s operating area was renamed Davis Station in January 1962, after the death of ASA Soldier Spc. James Davis who was killed during an ambush on a direction-finding mission.

The ASA personnel were required to carry U.S. passports and wear civilian clothes. For the latter requirement, the Fort Devens Post Exchange remained open late one night so the Soldiers could select their “civvies.” Since the exchange had only a limited variety to choose from, it became a standing joke that they might as well have been issued uniforms since they were all wearing clothes of similar style and color.

On May 13, 1961, the 92 personnel of the 3rd RRU arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, just west of Saigon. Its deployment marked the first time that an entire Army unit had deployed to Vietnam — previously, individuals had been assigned to the Army’s advisory group individually.

Within two days of arrival, the 3rd RRU had operations up and running. The unit established its headquarters in an empty warehouse on the air base. In nearby vans, RRU Soldiers tuned their receivers in search of manual Morse signals.

By the end of the month, site surveys for a direction-finding net were completed. Stretching along the South Vietnam coastline, this net was fully operational by the end of June. In July, the unit began training South Vietnamese soldiers.

The 3rd RRU’s monitoring mission quickly moved from 17 hours per day to round-the-clock coverage. An additional 52 spaces were authorized.

The direction-finding mission took on greater urgency, especially after the death of Spc. James Davis in December 1961. The 3rd RRU mourned the loss of their brother-in-arms, named their area of operations at Ton Son Nhut Air Base “Davis Station,” and looked for a better way to find the elusive enemy.

The answer turned out to be airborne radio direction finding. After several failed attempts, the 3rd RRU began seeing success in this new technology, allowing operator and equipment to get close enough to the target transmitter to get a good fix while remaining in relative safety.

Airborne radio direction finding would become one of the most important intelligence assets of the Vietnam War and in February 1963, the 3rd RRU became the first unit in Vietnam to receive the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its contributions during the escalation of the ground war.

The 3rd RRU continued to grow in numbers in response to expanded requirements. A mobile detachment was established at Da Nang, much further north, manned by 21 officers, four warrant officers, and 356 enlisted men.

When the mobile detachment relocated to Phu Bai, even closer to the northern border, it became known as Detachment J. Phu Bai became a second permanent base for air operations — 450 miles north of Davis Station in Saigon.

ASA began plans for a major field station to be constructed at the new location that would accommodate nearly 1,000 personnel and 100 operational positions. However, in the summer of 1964, the politics of the conflict changed everything.

On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress to approve a joint resolution that gave him broad authority to expand the U.S. military’s role in Vietnam beyond an advisory and into a defensive one. Specifically, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution stated that, “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression.”

The Resolution became the legal basis on which Johnson, and later President Nixon, based their military policies in Vietnam. In the short term, it meant a massive build-up of troops, one consequence of which was the 3rd RRU ceased to be the only ASA asset there.

By mid-1965, ASA had a total of 1,487 personnel distributed among three units: the 3rd RRU, the 7th RRU and the 8th RRU. The 3rd RRU served as the command element over all three.

However, over the next nine months, the creation of direct support units forced the 3rd RRU commander into the untenable position of having to divide his attention between his own operational mission and ensuring the direct support units were meeting the needs of their field commands. Therefore, ASA discontinued the 3rd RRU on June 1, 1966, and redistributed its mission and resources among four new organizations under the administrative control of the 509th Radio Research Group.

Within six years of the 3rd RRU’s initial arrival, ASA’s in-country strength would be nearly 6,000 personnel, divided into 20 to 30 units that were further broken down into detachments and teams located at remote sites and fire support bases. At any given time more than 100 such elements could be scattered throughout South Vietnam — all commanded by the 509th Radio Research Group.
Following the cease-fire in October 1972, the 509th RR Group was discontinued on March 7, 1973, and the handful of its remaining Soldiers boarded the last plane for home, bringing ASA’s 12-year tour of service in Vietnam to a close.




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


 
 

 
Cyber-Security-Scout-Article-06OCT2014

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

U.S. Army graphic by Lawrence Boyd “You Are the First Line of Defense.” That is the message those who are responsible for the defense of the Army’s networks wants to get out to the rest of the Army during National Cyber S...
 
 

Depression awareness showcased during month of October

Stand To! In observance of October as National Depression Awareness Month, the U.S. Army will join several organizations across America to inform the public about the signs and symptoms of depression. The public will learn the importance of seeking treatment and will be provided information about the availability of free online anonymous behavioral health screenings....
 
 

Robin Williams — could someone have helped?

I haven’t been able to talk about it until now, but I was really angry that Robin Williams committed suicide. I have been a fan of Williams since the Mork and Mindy days and always admired how much he had going for him. I knew he had problems, but somehow never considered that suicide could...
 

 
DoD

DOD recognizes commitment to prevent sexual assault

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department Wednesday honored exceptional groups and individuals from each military component who contributed an innovative idea or approach to positively impact sexual assault prevention and response programs. The Sexual Assault Prevention Innovation Award recognizes Service members and DOD Civilians whose work in support of service members has been particularly notew...
 
 

Trick-or-treat hours set for Fort Huachuca Oct. 31

Fort Huachuca Halloween trick-or-treating will take place Oct. 31 from 6 – 8 p.m. for children under 14. Children 9 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Standard access requirements for the installation remain in effect. This includes the requirement that everyone 16 and over entering the installation provide a valid picture identification and...
 
 

VA processes more than 1.3 million veterans’ claims in FY14

WASHINGTON — More than 1.3 million veterans received decisions on their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal year 2014 — the highest number in VA’s history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims. This second year of record-breaking production comes as VA continues to transform the...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin