United States Army Security Agency

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Army Security Agency
Country United States
BranchUnited States Army
RoleCommunications Intelligence
Electronic Intelligence
Signals Intelligence
Communications Security
Motto(s)Semper Vigiles
Vigilant Always
Shoulder Sleeve Insignia[1]

The United States Army Security Agency (ASA) was the United States Army's signals intelligence branch from 1945 to 1984. The Latin motto of the Army Security Agency was Semper Vigiles (Vigilant Always), which echoes the declaration, often mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson, that "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."[2][3]

The Agency existed between 1945 and 1976 and was the successor to the Army Signals Intelligence Service, operations that dated to World War I. ASA was under the operational control of the Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA), located at Fort Meade, Maryland. It had its own tactical commander at Headquarters, ASA, at Arlington Hall Station, Virginia. Besides intelligence gathering, it had responsibility for the security of Army communications and for electronic countermeasures operations. In 1977, the ASA was merged with the US Army's Military Intelligence component to create the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).


Composed of soldiers trained in military intelligence, the ASA was tasked with monitoring and interpreting military communications of the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and their allies and client states around the world. The agency was established after World War II, when the Soviet Union and the US had been allies. In the postwar years, after the Soviet Union and communist governments gained power in eastern Europe and China, they became enemies in the Cold War between Communist states and allies, and the US and western nations. The ASA was directly subordinate to the National Security Agency, and all major field stations had NSA technical representatives present.

All gathered information had time-sensitive value, depending on its importance and classification. Information was passed through intelligence channels within hours of intercept for the lowest-priority items, but in as little as 10 minutes for the most highly critical information.

ASA personnel were stationed at locations around the globe, wherever the United States had a military presence. They were sometimes publicly acknowledged. In some cases, such as Eritrea, they constituted the primary US military presence. A former field station outside Harrogate, England, in what is now North Yorkshire, was a primary listening post that the US turned over to the British in the postwar years. They adapted it as a Royal Air Force (RAF) station. It is called RAF Menwith Hill and has been the site of peace protests.

During the height of the Cold War, personnel from the 326 ASA Company stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, relocated classified mobile communications equipment to Homestead Air Force Base in Miami–Dade County, Florida. In 1962, they developed the precursor to the 6th USASA Field Station (Seminole Station). U.S. overflights photographed and discovered offensive nuclear weapons placed in Cuba by Soviet allies. Cuba became a live mission before, during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The US forced the Soviet Union to remove the weapons.

Vietnam War[edit]

ASA personnel of the 3rd Radio Research Unit were covertly designated as Radio Research and were among the earliest U.S. military personnel in Vietnam. The 3rd later expanded to become the 509th Radio Research Group.

The first ASA soldier to be killed on the battlefield in Vietnam was Specialist 4 James T. Davis (from Livingston, Tennessee). He was killed on 22 December 1961, on a road near the old French garrison of Cau Xang. He had been assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit at Tan Son Nhut Airport near Saigon, along with 92 other members of his unit. Davis Station, at Tan Son Nhut, was named after him.[4]

Most ASA personnel processed "in country" through Davis Station. Others attached to larger command structures prior to transport to Vietnam processed in with those units. ASA personnel were attached to Army infantry and armored cavalry units throughout the Vietnam War. Some teams were also attached to the Studies and Observation Group of Military Assistance Command Vietnam and special forces units. Assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) based out of Nha Trang was the 4O3rd Radio Research Group, Special Operations Detachment (SOD). SOD forces were deployed to Operational Detachment base camps throughout South Vietnam. Other teams, such as the 313th Radio Research Battalion at Nha Trang, were independent of other army units. ASA personnel were kept in Vietnam after the 1973 pullout of US Army combat forces; they were finally withdrawn with other US personnel at the Fall of Saigon in April 1975.

List of ASA memoirs and novels[edit]

  • Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior (1999), novel by Dean Barrett
  • The Hiroshima Agenda (novel) by Robert Clemons (2015). Set in 1969 at 509th Radio Research Group at White Birch in Saigon, Vietnam.
  • #1 Code Break Boy: Communications Intelligence in the Korean War (memoir) by John Milmore (2002). ASA in Korea.
  • Baumholder 1961 (a novella, 75 pages) by Charles Deemer (2009).
  • C Trick: Sort of a Memoir (memoir) by Don Cooper (2000). Republished and expanded in 2003 in soft-cover as Worth the Trip. Re-republished as C Trick in 2010 with a prologue, new epilogue, and four new chapters.
  • McCurry's War (novel) by Chuck Thompson (2012). Adventures atop Teufelsberg in the 1960s.
  • Death On Devil's Mountain (novel) by David Von Norden (pen name) (2009).
  • Involuntary Tour: Book I of the ASA Trilogy (novel) by Robert Flanagan (2009).
  • Dragon Bait: Book II of The ASA Trilogy" (novel) by Robert Flanagan (2011)
  • Falloff: Book III of The ASA Trilogy" (novel) by Robert Flanagan (2011) (Three linked novels feature ASA in the 1960s, from Kagnew Station to Vietnam to Rothwesten, Gartow, and Bad Aibling, to Vietnam.)
  • Kagnew Station (novel) by Paul Betit (2005). Set at the 4th United States Army Security Agency Field Station in Asmara, Eritrea in 1968.
  • Lübeck: A Wonderful Moment in Time (memoir) by Don E. Johnson (2004). At Lübeck in the mid-1950s.
  • My Detachment: a Memoir (memoir) by Tracy Kidder (2005). ASA in Vietnam.
  • One to Count Cadence (novel) by James Crumley (1969). ASA in Vietnam.
  • Phubai: A Vietnam War Story (novel) by Paul Betit (2006). Set in South Vietnam in 1967.
  • Potsdam Mission: Memoir of a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer in Communist East Germany (memoir) by James R. Holbrook (2008). There is a chapter on ASA Russian linguists in Berlin.
  • Reunification: A Monterey Mary Returns to Berlin (novel) by T.H.E. Hill (2013). Published on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary (1963–2013) of the first permanent buildings on Teufelsberg, the operational home of Field Station Berlin.
  • The Sentinel and the Shooter (memoir) by Douglas W. Bonnot (2010). The story of the 265th Radio Research Company (Airborne) in Vietnam.
  • Snapshots on the Road to Peace (memoir) by H. Palmer Hall, in Coming to Terms (Austin, TX: Plain View Press, 2009). Pleiku, Vietnam, area in 1967–1968.
  • Soldier Boy: At Play in the ASA (memoir) by Timothy James Bazzett (2008). Turkey and in Germany in the mid-1960s.
  • Stay Safe, Buddy (novel) by J. Charles Cheek (2003). ASA in Korea.
  • Tales of Ramasun (2 volumes of short stories) by M H Burton (2012, 2013). ASA at Ramasun (Thailand), the 7th RRFS.
  • TANS (That Ain't No Sh*t) by John Klawitter (2002). A collection of short stories written by members of the ASA who served in Southeast Asia recollecting their experiences.
  • "Threads of War" ASA aviation adventures in the Vietnam War novel by Glenn Fannin
  • Top Secret Missions by John E. Malone (2006). ASA in Vietnam.
  • Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of a Monterey Mary by T.H.E. Hill (2008). An ASA Russian linguist in Berlin.
  • "Vignettes, Memories from Three Years in SE Asia with the Army Security Agency" (2012) By Richard McCarthy
  • The Waldenthal Gasthaus by Ron McGraw (2008). ASA detachment on Schneeberg, West Germany, during the Cold War.
  • We Served In Silence, by Glenn K. Fannin Jr. A novel of Army Security Agency activities in the Vietnam War. Recently categorized as Unclassified by NSA.
  • "Menwith Hill Station: A Case Study in Signal Intelligence Gathering During the Cold War," by Kenneth L. Bird - Monitoring Times magazine, February, 1997.
  • Unlikely Warriors: The Army Security Agency's Secret War in Vietnam 1961–1973 by L.M. Long and G.B. Blackburn (2013) 475 pg
  • What Did You Do In The Cold War, Dad? by Kevin Trainor (2015)


  1. ^ "Berlin Skyline Monuments". Voices Under Berlin. 2 December 1991. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  2. ^ "pre-Field-Station ASA in Berlin". Voices Under Berlin. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  3. ^ Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 56
  4. ^ "THEY SERVED IN SILENCE – The Story of a Cryptologic Hero: Specialist Four James T. Davis" (PDF). National Security Agency.

External links[edit]