This site is dedicated to ALL those who served in usafss, the united states air force SECURITY service, on the nsa comint intelligence team, during the cold-war years

The headset is probably the most representative icon of our work--after all, we did a lot of listening. The photo on left was provided by Al Lorentzen (USAFSS 1956-1962). He wore this set while stationed on Shemya Island and later in Scotland. One can only estimate what intelligence came through this one set but, believe me, it was substantial. Then multiply that by the thousands that were in use 24 hours a day around the globe and you may get an idea as to the magnitude of the USAFSS MIssion.    

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Bob Shoupe


I was introduced to your website today (12/28) and found your history of USAFSS to be very interesting.  As you can guess, I served in the 12th RSM, Landsberg, Germany from Oct. 51 to Apr. 54. As you well might know I loved the work and had many interesting things happen during my tour in USAFSS. (Admin Comment:  Landsberg was also a beautiful base and was considered a choice assignment.  See photo below/right.)LaNDSBERG aIR bASE IN gERMANY
We copied morse code and I was told that I was copying a Soviet Long Range Bomber Group out of Russia. At the beginning of each month the Soviets would  change their call signs and radio frequencies. Intelligence would send me the new call signs and the frequency they would be operating on, I would tune to the frequency and sure enough they would be there and the call signs would be right. That would blow my mind. How did they know this, well I'm sure the Russians knew the same about us. and after the incident I'm about to relate to you, they upped our clearance to top secret and we were allowed to go into the room where they analyzed what we were copying and we had a little better grasp of what we were doing. (Admin Note:  The newly predicted call signs and frequencies were the product of Radio Traffic Analysis conducted by the 202's.  As Bob relates below, our operators' comments and alerts to unusual activity were invaluable in the production of sound and timely intelligence,)

   Now I will relate a real interesting thing that happened to the four operators that sat on my position. One month the intel folks from behind the Green Door sent out the frequency and call signs that our assignment was to operate on. We dialed up the frequency and our guy wasn't there. I recall the assigned name was RLEB ( with or 5 numbers)(Admin Note:  Our target communication networks were assigned pseudo identities for continuity purposes.  In this case, the "R" indicated the target was Russian, the "L" identified it as a Long Range Air Army entity, the "E: established it as an air/ground network and the "B" showed it to be Morse Code transmissions.  The five-digit suffix identified the air unit being copied.). Now is when it gets very interesting. Without thinking about it, we had copied this guy for so long that his signal became very distinctive to us without us realizing it. Let me tell you why; we would come across this very distinctive signal, but the books didn't match. Intelligence would come out and say forget about it, that is not him. We as operators, would talk about this when changing shifts. We would put notes on our sheets, telling intelligence that we thought this was our guy. They would tell us to forget about it, we were wrong. After some time, I got tired of this and frustrated at not being able to find our guy, So the next time that I came across him, I copied him externally and added a note saying, "I don't care what you guys say, this is our man." I don't remember if it was the same day or not but someone came out of the "Green Room"--it was painted green so naturally that was what we operators called it--and said, "you are right keep on copying him."  Right after this we got "top secret/codeword" clearance and we were  allowed in the green room.
   Now the second thing that happened and I believe was directly related to the last incident. In 1953 they sent a detail to Italy to look for some new listening sites. There were eight operators total picked, four from the12th RSM and four from the 41st RSM plus all the support group. From the 12th, myself and the guy that I relived from "C" Trick, a guy from "B" Trick and a guy you might of heard about, John R Cash, from "A" Trick. (Admin Note:  Since SIGINT needed 24/7, 365 days a year, coverage, four tricks, or shifts were required for the round-the-clock operation.  They were usually given an alphabetical designation of A,B,C,D.)We set up three sites at three different locations, Bari, Brindisi and Fogia in Italy.

   Now is when it gets real interesting. We started having reunions in 1999. In 2006 at a reunion in Branson, Missouri, at our banquet, a couple came in and set across the table from my wife and I. In our conversation , I mentioned that I knew Cash and in fact had gone TDY with him to Italy to look for new listening sites. After the conversation slowed a bit, the mans wife spoke up and said to me, Did you mention that you had been to Brindisi, Italy. I said yes and she then said, my husband was stationed there for 18 months. So I found out that the work we had done there must have been profitable.
(Admin Note:  These teams, called "survey teams", would test a potential site for signal strength and readability of targeted communications.  The final selection would be based on their reports.  Since Brindisi did become one of our prime SIGINT sites, Bob's and company's reports were definitely instrumental in that site being selected.)

More on theBrindisi, Italy TDY. . . .

Aircraft with TDY CadreThis picture was taken at the airport in Marsailles, France, on our return trip from Italy. Guys pictured from the left: John Cash, Herb Cannon, Myself, all fom 12th RSM. The rest were from the 41st RSM, who were in charge of mission.
   A couple points of interest. We flew out of Frankfurt Ger. In a C119 Boxcar with all of our exquipment. We flew straight to Bari, Italy. On the return trip, we had breakfast in Bari. We weren't told of any change, but at noon we landed at Marsailles, France, had lunch at airport, got back on plane and landed at Frankfurt around 5 P.M. had supper in a hotel in Frankfurt; so we had three meals that day, each in a different country. Always thought that was kinda neat

As you can see we are in civilian clothes. Italy was an unoccupied country, so we had to go as civilians. The A.F. gave us $100 dollars to buy civilian clothes.
Picture on right was  taken on site in Italy, not sure of location. Pictured, two guys from the 41st RSM, myself. and ourIn Italy Italian driver, Lujouhno.
Here is a little side story concerning him. We were just outside of an Italian military post on a midnight shift and rather than trying to sleep in the jeep , he ask permission to go to the post and sleep. (He didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian; however, as a kid, I worked for an Italian Grocer and could understand enough to get by, along with signs.) To shorten this story, wouldn't you know our portable power unit went out and we had to go to town and get a mechanic. I had to go up to the military post to find our driver so he could go get our mechanic. When I got to the Post, a young soldier stepped out of a booth with a Thompson automatic machine gun and said Halt! Believe me, I did and was able to get across to him that we needed our driver. Alls well that ends well.
   As you might expect, Don, I have tons of pics, of the base, the town of Landsberg (A beautiful little town, much like my home town, here in PA) And Munich.
An old Di dah catcher,

Bob Shoupe