Ominous developments in the latter part of the 1930s finally woke the Army out of its long torpor. The Great Depression, which had ravaged the economy of the United States and focused the interests of the American people on domestic problems, had also profoundly rearranged the international order and set the stage for the rise of totalitarianism and the advance of aggression. Adolf Hitler was sworn in as chancellor of Germany in January 1933. He quickly turned his country into a one-party dictatorship. Under Nazi rule, Germany rapidly rearmed and entered into alliance with Fascist Italy and militarist Japan. International crises developed with monotonous regularity. Germany occupied the Rhineland in 1936, swallowed Austria in the spring of 1938, and humiliated Czechoslovakia with the disastrous settlement at Munich in the fall of that year. Meanwhile, its junior partners were also active. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935, and Japan, having seized Manchuria in 1931, went to war against all of China in 1937.
Britain and France responded with massive rearmament programs, but in the short run they relied on a general policy of appeasement to avert a European war, while ignoring Soviet attempts to resurrect their old World War I alliance with Russia. The American reaction was guarded. At President Franklin D. Roosevelt's direction, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating Nazi and Communist subversion in 1936, and Congress authorized modest steps to rebuild the nation's neglected defenses. l The size of the Army was increased, and the Military Intelligence Division was allowed to enlarge its attache system. Slowly, it also edged back into the counterintelligence arena, setting up a small Counterintelligence Branch in April 1939. That summer, concern about foreign espionage caused the Army to issue its first regulation dealing with the security of military information.2 At the same time, the Army and
the Navy formed the Interdepartmental Intelligence Committee with the FBI to coordinate the handling of espionage cases. However, the real threat to America's national interests would not be from within, but from without.
On 1 September 1939, the armed forces of Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, in response to previous treaty commitments, Britain and France declared war on Germany. World War II had begun. President Roosevelt proclaimed American neutrality but indicated that he did not expect American citizens to be neutral in their thoughts. On 8 September he declared a state of limited national emergency.
The U.S. Army of 1939 was unprepared for conventional warfare. As Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall later confessed, "We had no field Army. There were bare skeletons of three and one-half divisions scattered in small pieces over the entire United States." 3 Army troop strength was a little less than 174,000 men, and much of the equipment was still of World War I vintage. Although the Army Air Corps had received the lion's share of Army appropriations and attention, the planes of its sixty-two squadrons were obsolete by the standards of European combat. The restrictions imposed by the National Defense Act of 1920 on the size of the War Department General Staff were still in force.
The structure of the Army's intelligence element reflected the weakness of the whole. The Military Intelligence Division's small staff, still headed by a colonel, consisted of 20 officers, 3 enlisted men, and 46 civilians. Its elements were dispersed among four office buildings in the Washington, D.C., area. Intelligence collection was limited largely to what could be derived from the attache system. Although this system belatedly had been expanded, the representational nature of the attaches' mission necessarily limited the intelligence value of the product. Worse, only 16 Corps of Intelligence Police agents were available to provide counterintelligence support to the entire Army. The Signal Corps' Signal Intelligence Service had just 14 civilians and 1 Army officer on its Washington staff when Europe went to war, and they were not yet in a position to generate substantive intelligence. Efforts to rectify this situation were slow. In October 1939 a new intercept station was set up at Fort Hunt, Virginia. In November the Army authorized 26 additional civilians for the SIS. The headquarters of the 2d Signal Service Company moved to Washington, D.C., that same month, allowing it closer proximity to the Signal Intelligence Service which it supported.
In the spring of 1940 the deceptive tranquility of the "phony war" in Europe ended. In April Germany invaded Denmark and Norway and in May Hitler launched his main offensive in the West. When it was over, a little more than a month later, France lay prostrate, Germany controlled Western Europe, and only a beleaguered Great Britain and the broad reaches of the Atlantic
Ocean stood between the United States and the triumphant forces of totalitarianism. Meanwhile, in the East, Japan threatened to take advantage of the situation by incorporating the orphaned colonies of the beaten Western democracies into her "Greater East Asia CoProsperity Sphere." The world had been turned upside down.
At this point the United States at last began to look to its defenses. The Regular Army was now rapidly increased in size, Congress passing no less than three Supplemental Appropriations Bills for 1941, funding an Army of one million men. The legislation instituted a one-year draft, federalized eighteen National Guard divisions, and placed Reserve officers on active duty, while the Army organized a wartime General Headquarters. By the fall of 1940 the United States had negotiated a Destroyers-for-Bases deal with Great Britain, securing strategic military bases in British possessions in the Atlantic and Caribbean in exchange for fifty overage destroyers. More important, during the second half of 1940 and throughout 1941, the Roosevelt administration labored strenuously to clear away or bypass neutrality legislation that impeded American support to Great Britain. This process slowly paved the way for American entrance into the war well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
All these events had a great effect on Military Intelligence. Brig. Gen. Sherman Miles, the former military attache to Great Britain, took over the Military Intelligence Division, and the organization began to grow rapidly. As always, however, its initial priority was domestic, and its planners fretted tirelessly about German espionage and sabotage on the home front. In June 1940 MID, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the FBI signed a formal delimitations agreement. Under its provisions, the FBI would take the lead in domestic intelligence; there would be no repetition of the World War I scenario in which Military Intelligence had assumed responsibility for surveilling American civil society. The agreement did give the Army responsibility for conducting investigations of those civilians employed or controlled by the military in the continental United States and of all civilians in the Canal Zone and the Philippines. That same month, the Military Intelligence Division sent out confidential instructions to intelligence officers, ordering them to set up a countersubversive program that would bring potential hostile agents on military installations to its attention. To handle these efforts, the Corps of Intelligence Police was expanded to an authorized strength of 42 agents in July and 188 in November.
MID planners were also concerned about the possibilities of German penetration into Latin America, where there were large ethnic German communities and important German business interests. Although the delimitations agreement had given intelligence responsibilities in this region to the FBI, the Army's Military Intelligence Division, with its existing attache system and military missions in Latin America, would not be denied a role. Thus, in July 1940 it moved to strengthen its capabilities for collecting foreign intelligence on Latin America by setting up a branch office in New York City. It seemed that the location
would provide both better access to reference material and improved relationships with American corporations doing business south of the border. About the same time MID was relieved of its responsibilities for supervising Army public relations, a function that would have diverted it even further from its primary missions, had it not been moved elsewhere.
While the Military Intelligence Division worried about domestic subversion and Fascist infiltration of Latin America, the more prosaic and demanding intelligence tasks were performed elsewhere. The Army Air Corps wanted an independent role in the field of intelligence, even though Air Corps officers were serving on the MID staff. Largely as a result of Air Corps initiatives, in September 1940 all the Army's technical services were directed to form their own intelligence staffs to collect information on foreign equipment and techniques, areas in which MID appeared to have little interest.4 In addition, intelligence staffs were created for GHQ, for the new defense commands that sprang into existence, for the Army Air Forces when they gained autonomy in July 1941, and for subordinate tactical formations. The Engineer Reproduction Plant of the Corps of Engineers was transformed into the Army Map Service, laying a foundation that ultimately would provide indispensable cartographic intelligence for the American military. 5
Even before it was assigned responsibility for technical intelligence, the Signal Corps was deeply involved in intelligence- and security-related activities. Its major contribution was in cryptanalysis. In August 1940, after twenty months of effort, a team of SIS civilians succeeded in breaking the Japanese diplomatic machine cipher. The unraveling of the riddle of the socalled Purple machine was accomplished by purely cryptologic means, without any access to the machine itself. The Purple analog built by STS experts allowed the United States to read Japanese diplomatic messages as fast as their intended recipients. The strains of this intellectual accomplishment ultimately sent William Friedman, the senior cryptanalyst, into the hospital with a nervous breakdown. However, the feat allowed the United States to follow the tortuous workings of Japanese diplomacy starting in the fall of 1940.6 Within a short time, the Army shared intercept and exploitation of the Purple material with the Navy on a daily rotating basis. The resulting decrypts of Japanese diplomatic communications were assigned the code name MAGIC, and their contents were closely controlled. At times, however, the arrangement led the
services to become rivals in rushing juicy tidbits produced by cryptanalysis to the attention of high officials.
The success of the SIS against Purple facilitated its expansion, and another hundred persons were added to its headquarters. Additional personnel were needed not only to perform cryptanalysis and translation, but also to meet the cryptographic needs of a much larger Army especially since the SIS was now introducing important technical innovations in this area. The organization procured two new devices to improve the security of Army communications at both the tactical and strategic levels. For the first purpose, it acquired the rights to a small compact machine cipher designed by Swedish inventor Boris Hagelin. Under the designation M209, this became the mainstay of Army tactical communications. For high-level communications, SIS adopted the M134C electromechanical cipher machine from the Navy, assigning to it the short title SIGABA. Friedman and Rowlett had originally designed this machine, but prewar budgetary constraints had made it a Navy project. The SIGABA used rotors instead of one-time tapes for enciphering, and this gave communications arrangements much greater flexibility. 7
The Signal Intelligence Service was not the only Signal Corps element involved in intelligencerelated activities. The Signal Corps also had responsibility for radar. By May 1940 the corps had successfully developed fixed and mobile early-warning radar sets. The first radar-equipped aircraft warning company began operations in Panama a month later. This would have a substantial long-term effect on the evolution of Army Intelligence. Some Army officers defined radar itself as "another highly specialized type of signal intelligence. "8 But radar would also become an intelligence target, and its widespread use by all major powers would ultimately lead to the development of what is sometimes called the electronic battlefield.
1941: MID on the Brink
During 1941 the Military Intelligence Division grew to a strength of 200 officers, supported by 848 civilians. In addition to its New York branch, the organization now maintained regional offices in New Orleans and San Francisco to collect foreign intelligence. The changing nature of the international situation had finally refocused collection activities on Germany and Japan, as well as Latin America. However, MID's traditional primary information source, the attache system, had only limited capabilities against wartime Axis powers, even though it had grown to encompass 136 attaches on duty in 50 countries. In February 1941 Brig. Gen. Sherman Miles, the assistant chief of staff, G-2,
concluded that it was "imperative that the Army develop an efficient espionage service that can function independently of any nation," but nothing was done to implement this concept.9
The perceived inadequacies of American Military Intelligence in a situation of growing crisis caused deep concern. In April Miles fretted that "this Division has expanded considerably since last May, but always in a piecemeal manner," and admitted that "the work being done by the division is still far below what should be expected of the military intelligence of a great power in our present situation."10 Others agreed, notably the president of the United States. In June 1941 Roosevelt appointed prominent lawyer and World War I hero William J. Donovan as coordinator of information, with a large mandate to establish an organization to collect intelligence and conduct radio propaganda. 11 But such an edifice could not be constructed overnight and its early efforts were, not surprisingly, somewhat amateurish. An agent dispatched to the Pacific, for example, reported that there would be no war that year, while Donovan's central staff estimated the combat strength of the German Luftwaffe at 29,000 war planes when in fact it was only 3,100.12 Given the lack of urgency that characterized MID's own approach to collecting foreign intelligence on America's most probable enemies, Donovan's organization filled a vital need. But this did not preserve it from the enmity of MID, which resented the intrusion of a civilian organization with powerful political backing into what it regarded as its own preserve.
The clash between the two organizations was exacerbated by MID's having acquired an interest of its own in the area of propaganda in 1941. Unfounded credit had been given to German proficiency in manipulating public opinion and the subsequent role of propaganda in bringing about the defeat of France. Moreover, since the United States was not yet a belligerent, a radio war was about the only one in which it could participate actively. In July 1941, therefore, MID set up a special study group on "psychological warfare" under conditions of strict secrecy. Rivalry between MID and Donovan's office in this area thus began almost immediately and continued unabated even after America entered the shooting war and it became clear that it would take more than slogans to defeat the enemy.
Although MID's role in foreign intelligence and propaganda provided a matter for dispute, coexistence with the FBI in the field of domestic intelligence was less of a problem, as the delimitations agreement gave the Army its own secure sphere of activities. However, Army Intelligence developed growing pains as it sought to fulfill its responsibilities. The Corps of Intelligence Police had expanded elevenfold by the beginning of 1941, and this expansion changed the nature of the force. Until then the appointment of CIP personnel had been centralized at the War Department level, but in January of that year appointment authority for agents was decentralized to the corps area and overseas department level in an attempt to gain more manpower. At the same time, MID authorized the creation of the Office of Chief, Corps of Intelligence Police, and the establishment of a CIP training school. The Army also approved the detail of officers to the Corps of Intelligence Police. In addition, to conduct specialized investigations, the Army attempted to recruit African-American and Asian-American agents for the first time in the organization's history.
The Corps of Intelligence Police continued to expand during the course of 1941. In April it was authorized a strength of 288 enlisted men, and this figure was raised to 513 in May. The growth was accompanied by renewed disputes over the degree to which the recruitment, assignment, and promotion of CIP agents should be centralized and who should supervise investigations. Traditionally, the G-2s of the various corps areas and departments had carried out the latter function. But the reserve officer who became the first head of the Corps of Intelligence Police, Maj. Garland Williams, wanted a centralized organization structured along the lines of the FBI, with its chief responsible to the secretary of war for "detecting and investigating" all matters pertaining to espionage, sabotage, and subversion.13 He also believed that the decentralized personnel arrangements impaired the quality of his manpower. However, all proposals to strengthen the powers of the chief, Corps of Intelligence Police, were vigorously rebutted by the commanders in the field, and these arrangements remained unchanged. Williams protested in vain that this meant he would have to deal with "14 different policies, 14 different practices, 14 different methods of work, and, in general, 14 separate and distinct units."14 The unhappy officer was soon reassigned to the Infantry School.
Lack of adequate central control over operations in the field thus presented a serious problem for the entire investigative effort. Agents too often were misused by commanders unfamiliar with counterintelligence work. On the other hand, the investigative work load in some commands resulted in agents' being pressed into service without ever undergoing basic training. And as the Army
adjutant general later explained to one of the corps area commanders, delegation of personnel procurement authority to the field had resulted in the recruitment of "a larger percentage of agents whose character, education, adaptability, and experience in no way qualified them for the duties they would be called upon to perform." 15
Another type of problem presented itself when a rival organization emerged in the counterintelligence field. In September 1941 the newly created Provost Marshal General's Office took over the function of conducting all personnel background investigations of civilians applying for military or defense-related employment. Ninety CIP agents were transferred to the new organization, further intensifying both the shortage of manpower and the lack of centralized direction. For a time, the demands of the work load forced the Army to hire civilian investigators to supplement its force of CIP agents.
The Road to Pearl Harbor
Manpower problems were not restricted to the Corps of Intelligence Police, but were pervasive throughout the Army Intelligence community in 1941. The vast expansion of the nation's intelligence apparatus threatened to outstrip the supply of qualified people in all services. Although the Army reservists of the prewar Military Intelligence Officers Reserve Corps had been called up, only 573 existed, many of whom were actually public relations specialists rather than trained intelligence officers. Reserve intelligence training had not been an Army priority. Although the Corps of Intelligence Police and the Signal Intelligence Service now had specialized schools, located respectively at Chicago, Illinois, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, there was no institute to train intelligence personnel in other disciplines. The Operations and Training Division stubbornly refused to give the Military Intelligence Division any authority over intelligence training in general. Only in the area of language instruction was there some progress: a handful of officers were enrolled in language programs overseas, and the Fourth Army established a language school at the Presidio of San Francisco in the fall of 1941. By the end of the year, ninety students were learning the Japanese language.
But even if trained intelligence personnel had been available, there would have been little for them to do besides manning the traditional tactical intelligence staffs. The need for communications intelligence personnel and cryptanalysts was serious but limited, and there was no organization for gathering human intelligence or for acquiring information on a large scale. At the initiative of the State Department, both the Army and the Navy had briefly posted a handful of undercover agents in French North Africa in 1941, but these men were transferred to the control of Donovan's new agency soon after it came into
existence in the summer of that year.16 The entire intelligence apparatus thus seemed too disparate and too disorganized to pull itself together for the great contest ahead.
On the positive side, Army Intelligence could draw on the resources of an experienced ally for the first time since World War I. In 1941 secret staff talks between the top military leaders of the United States and Great Britain were accompanied by an intelligence liaison between the two countries. In February 1941 a party from the Signal Intelligence Service visited Great Britain and established a limited collaboration in the field of cryptology The Americans brought with them a Purple analog for the British Government Code and Cypher School, the British cryptanalytic organization, thus furnishing the British with the solution for a cryptanalytic problem that had baffled their best efforts. This marked the beginning of a cooperation that would bring the United States unparalleled benefits. In the summer of 1941 a permanent British liaison officer was assigned to SIS. The British also helped out in other intelligencerelated areas. In September 1941, for example, the Army dispatched an Electronic Training Group of 300 second lieutenants to England to study British developments in radar.
By the end of 1941 the Army had also put together a tactical signals intelligence organization. Seven signal radio intelligence companies numbered in the 100 series were now active, including the original 1st Radio Intelligence Company, now redesignated the 121st Signal Radio Intelligence Company. Additionally, there was a signal radio intelligence company, aviation, designed to provide communications intelligence to the Army Air Forces. 17
However, there were still grave deficiencies in battlefield intelligence capabilities. Apart from the success of the Signal Intelligence Service in decoding Japanese diplomatic communications, the Army had only limited sources of intelligence collection and no way of moving intelligence down to commanders in the field, who still tended to rely on their own resources, much as they had done in the nineteenth century. The use of MAGIC, the Army's most valuable intelligence source, highlighted the problem. The cryptologic success of the SIS was simply not matched by intelligence exploitation of the product. Because the decrypts were so sensitive, they were closely held-only a few individuals within MID and the highest military and political figures in the administration were aware of their existence, and intelligence analysts were kept out of the picture for security reasons. As a result, although policy makers were exposed to individual messages, there was never an attempt to put the flow of the material into an ordered framework. As Friedman later put it, "each message represented only
a single frame, so to speak, in a long motion picture film"; unfortunately, nobody was in a position to see the whole movie. 18 The same security considerations denied key Army and Navy field commanders any knowledge of the existence of the material.
And so, in the end not even MAGIC could save the United States from military surprise at Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked at dawn on 7 December 1941. High-level Japanese diplomatic messages had simply not contained any mention of Japanese military plans; consular messages had contained clues, but resources had not been available for the timely exploitation of lowlevel traffic. The Japanese Navy codes were still unbroken, and the Japanese fleet that struck Pearl Harbor had approached its target under strict radio silence. Although radar manned by the Signal Corps' Air Warning Service Company Hawaii, had detected the Japanese attack formation 130 miles away, the reports were misconstrued at the operations center and no alert had been given. Pearl Harbor was both a military disaster and an intelligence failure. 19 Confronted by attack in the Pacific and a German declaration of war, Army Intelligence prepared to set matters right and bring victory out of defeat.
1 Richard G. Powers, Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (New York: Free Press, 1987), p. 229.
2 The Army Regulation, AR 380-5, much revised, is still in effect.
3 General George C. Marshall, Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, July 1, 1943, to June 30, 1945, to the Secretary of War (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1945), p. 117.
4 Bidwell, History of the Military Intelligence Division, p. 305.
5 Blanche D. Coll, Jean E. Keith, and Herbert Rosenthal, The Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, United States Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1958), pp. 441-42.
6 Ronald William Clark, The Man Who Broke PURPLE: A Life of the World's Greatest Cryptographer, Colonel William F. Friedman (Boston: Little Brown, 1977), is the only full length biography of Friedman. Its worth can perhaps be gauged by the fact that there are two errors in the title: Friedman was a cryptologist, not just a cryptographer, and his highest rank in the Army Reserve was lieutenant colonel.
7 SRH 349, pp. 43-44, 46-47.
8 Memo, Air Communications Division, Signal Corps, 26 Nov 41, sub: Recommendations on Signal Intelligence Manual MID SR 30-60, Army Cryptologic Records.
9 History of the Counter Intelligence Corps, vol. 4, U.S. Army Intelligence Center, 1960, p. 125.
10 Memo, Brig Gen Sherman Miles for Chief of Staff, 12 Apr 41, sub: Project for the Expansion of the Military Intelligence Division, MID Documents.
11 Troy, Donovan and the CIA, pp. 63, 74.
12 To be sure, the Army's estimates of Luftwaffe strength were almost equally exaggerated. See David Kahn, "U.S. Views of Germany and Japan," Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment Before the Two Wars, ed. Ernest May (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 492-93.
13 History of the Counter Intelligence Corps, vol. 4, p. 123.
14 Ibid., p. 122.
15 Ibid., p. 110.
16 Ray S. Cline, The CIA Under Reagan, Bush, and Casey (Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Press, 1981), pp. 64-66.
17 War Department, Adjutant General's Office, Directory of the Army of the United States and War Department Activities, July 1941 (Washington, D.C.: War Department, 1941), p. 32, and August 1941, p. 33.
18 SRH 125, Certain Aspects of "Magic" in the Cryptologic Background of the Various Official Investigations into the Pearl Harbor Attack, p. 63.
19 The best study of the intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor remains Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962).
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