FTV Volume III rounds out the history of Air Force Security Service ground units with the story of USAFSS in Alaska and the Far East.
Readers will enjoy the modestly told accounts of incredible perseverance and exemplary personal conduct of airmen and officers during construction of intercept stations in extreme climates. In Alaska, for example, volunteers utilized their innate skills, improvising with salvaged materials and making do with inadequate supplies. Even in primitive living conditions during stations’ early years, veterans recount the pleasant aspects of life at various locations.
Volume III also recounts specific exploits of USAFSS in wartime—operating from Pyongyang, Seoul, Taegu, Osan, PY-do and Cho-do during the Korean War and from Da Nang, Monkey Mountain, Tan Son Nhut, Bangkok, Ramasun Station and Nakhon Phanom, plus airborne operations in Southeast Asia by 6988th, 6990th and 6994th Security Squadrons in the Vietnam War. With personnel using imaginative ways to overcome obstacles, the mission came first—readers will gain new knowledge about those wars.
USAFSS operations in support of both wars are described in such depth that a brief summary here is not possible, nor is a mere listing of the innumerable small-unit designations and locations within the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Vietnam.
Likewise, given space constraints the following summarization of USAFSS organizations throughout the Far East is not complete. However, all units and locations are covered in Volume III.
Chapter Seven is devoted to USAFSS units in Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and on St. Lawrence Island.
The first USAFSS unit in Alaska was the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile, relocated from Brooks AFB, Texas, to Ft. Richardson (renamed Elmendorf AFB) at Anchorage in April 1950. The first RSM to move overseas, it did so as a fully equipped intercept unit. Activation of detachments on Adak Island and at Nome and Naknek was delayed by the lack of suitable facilities.
Despite major problems on Adak, USAFSS activated Detachment A (soon redesignated Det 1), 3rd RSM in August 1950 and Det B at Marks AFB, Nome, in November. With Det 1, 136th Radio Security Squadron, a COMSEC unit, already in operation at Naknek, USAFSS colocated with it Det C in 1951. In 1953 the redesignated Det 2 at Nome relocated to Northeast Cape AFS, St. Lawrence Island, where it joined a Distant Early Warning (DEW) line radar site; in 1960 Det 2 became the 6980th RSM.
When Security Service units were redesignated under the 69xx system in 1955, 3rd RSM (senior USAFSS unit in Alaska) became the 6981st RSM, replaced by the 6981st Radio Group Mobile in 1956. Also in 1956, Dets 3 and 4 were activated on Shemya in the Aleutian Islands and Point Barrow, respectively. In 1960 Det 3 became the 6984th RSM.
Chapter Eight relates the history of the multitude of USAFSS units in the Far East, the first of which was the 1st RSM at Johnson Air Base, Japan. In the fall of 1950 the squadron added to its Morse intercept mission that of Soviet air force voice communications.
The Security Service presence at Misawa AB, Japan, began with a site survey by an intercept team from 1st RSM in April 1950. A permanent detachment was in operation toward the end of the year. The 1st RSM relocated to Misawa AB in January 1953, was redesignated 6921st RSM in May 1955, and the 6921st RGM one year later. The 6989th RSM and 6989th Support Squadron were activated in mid-1958.
In April 1950, 1st RSM deployed a survey team to Wakkanai on northern Hokkaido. The start of the Korean War delayed activation of a permanent site at Wakkanai until August 1951, when Det 12 was set up. Initially intercepting Morse signals, the unit soon targeted Soviet voice communications and electronic signals. Designated the 6986th RSM in 1958, the unit was elevated to RGM status in 1962 and finally ceased operation in 1972. Despite severe winter weather, duty at Wakkanai Air Station is recalled fondly by most who served there, including the author.
In September 1950, Detachment B, 1st RSM was activated at Ashiya AB, Japan, replaced by the 15th RSM in 1951. A USAFSS COMSEC team also arrived in Korea in September 1950. Two months later, the 1st RSM deployed Detachment C, 1st RSM (later redesignated Det 3) to Korea. The squadron sent a team of Russian intercept operators to Pyong’taek in March 1951, and a detachment of ROK airmen served with Det 3 as Security Service’s Korean linguists during the war. In 1951, Det 4 was activated at Niigata, operating until July 1954.
Detachment 1, 15th RSM replaced Det 3, 1st RSM in Korea in January 1952. (The 15th RSM became the 6922nd RSM in 1955, with Detachments 1 and 3 located at Osan and PY-do, Korea, respectively.) Over time, Det 1, 6922nd operated as the 6929th RSM, 6903rd Security Squadron and 303rd Intelligence Squadron.
On 1 September 1951, USAFSS activated the 6920th Security Group at Johnson AB, Japan, responsible for managing Security Service operations in the Far East and performing second echelon analysis for subordinate units. The 6920th moved to Shiroi AB a few miles from Johnson in 1954 and relocated to Hawaii in 1958.
In August 1952, USAFSS relocated the new 29th RSM from Brooks AFB to Clark AB, Philippines. It later became the 6925th RSM and RGM.
In mid-1954 USAFSS activated Det 3, 29th RSM at Shu Lin Kou, Taiwan, some 20 miles from Taipei. In time the unit became the 6987th RSM and RGM and was considered by many the most coveted duty station in Asia.
Initial USAFSS involvement in Southeast Asia began with the deployment of an intercept team to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1954, followed by the command’s activation of Team 1A, 6920th SW at Da Nang, South Vietnam, in December 1961. As the 6924th Security Squadron, the Da Nang-based unit relocated to Ramasun Station, Thailand, in April 1971. USAFSS ended ground site operations in SEA with the deactivation of the 6924th at Ramasun Station in April 1976.