12th RSM, LANDSBERG
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.)
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
(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. . . .
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
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 our
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,