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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Administrator Note: This piece was presented by Duane (Al) Lorentzen in response to a request for former USAFSS folks to share their experiences with others.



Duane (Al) Lorentzen

I was stationed at three USAFSS bases and liked the 6952nd (RSM) (RAF Kirknewton, Scotland) the best of the lot.  I thought our mission here was exciting and  quite interesting.  Though it cut into my social life in Edinburgh, I enjoyed working "Eves" the best as it was generally busy and radio signal strength was better than during a day shift.

Around 18:00-20:00 hours (6-8PM) on some nights, reception would be good and a searching radio op would pick up an aircraft  reporting his position back to a northern staging base.  Down the line another ditty-bop (morse radio op) would pick up another "bird" and pretty soon all our positions would be working aircraft radio traffic.

About then, analysts would be going up and down the line of morse operators, ripping 5-ply tear-sheets from typewriters, breaking the radar plots we had intercepted, and start tracking these Soviet Long Range Air Army aircraft as they headed up towards the North Pole on the  big map up front in our operations center.  (Admin Note: These Soviet aircraft being tracked were the TU-16/Badger, TU-95/Bear and M4/Bison of the USSR 43rd and 50th Long Range Air Armies and the Naval 6th Bomber Air Corp--see photos below)

TU-16 TU-95 M4
TU-16/Badger TU-95/Bear M4/Bison

On some shifts, these puppies would end up going  little too far north for comfort and our guys would alert SAC and probably our Air Defense Command.  Fortunately, they always turned back and, sooner or later, things would settle down.

When our shift was over we would leave the compound; no matter how tense or exiting the events that had occurred that night  had been, nobody talked about it when we left that secured area. . . . Very strange considering how young we were. When people in Edinburgh, or even our wives , asked us what we did for a living, we'd say we were clerk typists or some such thing. It wasn't easy to keep quiet about our business if you were married but I think most of us did.

About 25-30 years after I separated from the service, I picked up a magazine and there was the first of many subsequent stories about NSA and what we Airmen  did while working for USAFSS. Shocked to see it in print. Apparently, by this time, all this stuff was antiquated and de-classified.  Showed my wife that first article and after all these years, she found out what I did for a living when I was a young lad. . . .(really never uttered a peep 'til then!!!)

Duane (Al) Lorentzen---Iverness, Illinois

Intercept Radio Operator 29251 (1956-1962)

1957-1958 6981st RGW Anchorage, Alaska

1958 Detachment 3, Shemya, Aleution Islands

1959-1962 6952nd RSM, RAF Kirknewton, Scotland