Air Force Security Service veterans will be delighted by Volume II of Freedom Through Vigilance, which relates in extraordinary detail––rich in names of their colleagues––the history of USAFSS ground sites in Europe, Libya, Turkey, and Pakistan. Many airmen who served a single four-year enlistment received an assignment to one of these units, and many career airmen two or more. USAFSS veterans or not, readers will learn that duty in Germany could be less pleasant than anticipated, and in Libya, Turkey, or Pakistan it could be downright challenging due to the level of sophistication of base facilities, the local culture, and climate.
Irrespective of unit locations, USAFSS pioneers–– displaying exceptional technical expertise and distinguished personal conduct––placed the mission ahead of their own comfort. Their accounts of life even under adverse conditions demonstrate that these officers and airmen experienced personal growth and felt rightful pride in their work, whatever their Air Force specialty code, indeed, sometimes outside it to meet mission demands, as did their successors over several decades.
Throughout Volume II the author describes the roles and accomplishments of personnel of all ranks. In their correspondence with him, former officers and NCO’s praised the technical skills and professionalism of those under their supervision. Some stories illustrate the sincere commitment of commanders––aided at times by amusing imagination––to the welfare of their troops.
Readers who are not USAFSS veterans may be surprised to learn that the relationship between officers and enlisted personnel was based on mutual respect in an environment of close interaction and might not have been as strict in some circumstances as in other Air Force commands and military services. Almost half of USAFSS officers had previously served as enlisted intercept operators or analysts, helping to foster that relationship, and it is noteworthy that the enlisted force comprised over 90 percent of manpower.
Chapter Four covers the history of USAFSS units in Germany and also outlines briefly the organization of Germany-based units of successor commands––Electronic Security Command, Air Force Intelligence Command and Air Intelligence Agency––in the 1990’s.
When Security Service was created as an Air Force major command in October 1948 and assumed its signals intelligence responsibility, the Cold War was heating up in Europe over the Soviet attempt to force the Western Allies out of occupied Berlin.
The first operational Security Service unit in Europe was the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile located at Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach, Germany. Transferred from the Army Security Agency effective 1 February 1949, near the end of the month the 2nd RSM relocated to Darmstadt. There it began to intercept Morse code communications of Soviet military targets, and in the following year the 2nd RSM gained linguists trained in Russian to conduct the new voice intercept mission. The unit also operated a radio direction finding network with three sites.
Building on its modest beginning with one RSM, over some three decades Security Service activated a bewildering number of organizations in Germany––operating locations, detachments, squadrons, groups, and wings––all under the European Security Region. From May 1955 USAFSS units worldwide were identified by numeric designators in the 69xx series, a distinction that former Security Service members still recall with affection.
Security Service organizations were located in or near Berlin, Bremerhaven, Hof, Zweibrücken, Wiesbaden, Augsburg, and many other towns whose names are known to USAFSS veterans. Volume’s II’s numerous photographs are sure to prompt fond memories of service in Germany.
Chapter Five relates the establishment of USAFSS intercept sites in Italy, Greece, Libya, Turkey, and Pakistan in the 1950’s to cover communist targets in the Crimea and southern Russia.
After activation at Brooks AFB in 1951, the 34th RSM relocated to Wheelus Air Base at Tripoli, Libya, where it operated until 1970.
Security Service operations in Turkey were initiated in 1951 under unusual secrecy with personnel openly assigned to “logistics” organizations rather than to RSM’s. The first intercept site, known as Project Penn but officially Det 1, 75th RSM was established at Ankara. In 1953 and 1954, OL’s of the 34th RSM were operating sites on the Black Sea coast at Trabzon and Samsun, respectively, and in 1955 at Diyarbakir in southern Turkey.
In 1954 Det 2, 34th RSM was activated at Iraklion, Crete (Greece). In a third redesignation it became the 6931st Security Group in 1963 and was deactivated in 1993.
Det 1, 34th RSM at Ankara was redesignated the 6933rd RGM under the new system in 1955, and in summer 1957 it was relocated to Karamursel, Turkey. In the 1960’s, the primitive station acquired a host of modern facilities to support military personnel and their families.
After WWII Soviet missile testing in Kazakhstan prompted USAFSS to consider locating an intercept station in Pakistan. The 6937th Communications Group went operational in 1958 at Peshawar Air Station and closed in 1970.
In 1960 USAFSS activated the 6917th RSM at San Vito, some 300 miles southeast of Rome. Then the 6917th Electronic Security Group, the unit ended operations on 31 March 1993.
Chapter Six covers USAFSS operations in the UK beginning with the 10th RSM, relocated from Brooks AFB, Texas, to England in late 1950. There it took up residence at RAF Chicksands in buildings unused for the preceding five years. In the 1960’s many new facilities and an FLR- 9 antenna were constructed.
Having served at Chicksands in the late 1950’s, the author draws upon personal experience to provide much detail and interesting and funny stories about life there.
In 1951 USAFSS established DF stations at RAF Henlow and Meppershall, England, and RAF Edzell, Scotland.
In 1952 the 37th RSM was activated at RAF Kirknewton, Scotland, near Edinburgh. In 1955 the 10th and 37th were redesignated the 6951st and 6952nd RSM’s, respectively, reporting to the 6950th Security Group, which had relocated from Brooks the previous year.
Toward the end of Volume II a table displays closure dates of European intercept sites operated by Security Service and its successor commands, victims of the post-Cold War drawdown.
A Unit Locations List is provided for the years 1949-1979.