On January 25,1943, the company changed locations to Camp Pinedale, Fresno, California. Radio operators and mechanics were immediately sent to the "D" stage schools. The first course in Radio Intelligence was attended at the "B" stage schools.
"The Interceptor", the official Camp Pinedale newspaper, was published once a week with stories and articles about camp personnel and activities of interest. One such article was about T/Sgt. Richard E. Thornton, a special code instructor at the camp, who had just returned after completing eighteen months of duty in Australia and New Guinea.
Upon completion of these schools, the company was divided into platoons. each platoon being sent to a different location to practice field operations. It became apparent that something needed to be done to speed up getting the RDF bearings from the platoons back to headquarters. Many different methods were attempted, but the final result was still not satisfactory. After much time and effort, a device was finally made by M/Sgt. Thomas D. Brooks. The apparatus had it's first important trial when Col. Hoppough. on orders from Washington, visited the unit. He was very pleased, when an actual bearing was gotten in twenty five seconds. This proved that the 958th was able to better his own time requirement of forty seconds. Brooks had constructed the device from spare parts taken from a scrap box.
The original mission of the 958th was to provide a group of highly specialized men for use in gathering radio intelligence for the Air Force. But at this time the unit was redesignated as a Japanese Intercept unit. This necessitated additional training, which consisted of monitoring Japanese Army nets for three months, and learning the Japanese KataKana Radio Code at the "D" stage radio school. At the same time, another group of men, who would soon join the 958th, were engaged in similiar training at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey.
When the training was completed, the unit was redesignated as the Provisional First Radio Squadron Mobile, and embarked upon a new maneuver period. In February, 1944, five groups of operators with transmitters were sent to various locations near Pinedale. They transmitted simulated Japanese A/G traffic. Their messages were intercepted by Headquarters with great success. This process was repeated at regular intervals for a period of time.
During March, 1944, the 958th was transferred from the Signal Corps to the Army Air Force, and redesignated as the 8th AAF Radio Squadron Mobile (J). The strength of the unit was increased by adding Intelligence Evaluation, Translators, and Voice Intercept Operators.
I will include the operations of the 8th AAF Radio Squadron Mobile in the personal account of my experiences during WWII.
After entering the military service at Camp Wolters, Mineral Wells, Texas on March 16, 1943, I was assigned to the Army Air Force. I was then transferred to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where I and other recruits were assigned a room in the Traymore Hotel on the boardwalk. For a few weeks I, and hundreds of other army recruits, were marched up and down the boardwalk, and were given a battery of tests. Since I had developed a skill with the International Morse Code while preparing for a ham radio license with a friend in high school, I was assigned to radio code school and transferred to Co. "O", 15th Signal Training Regiment, Ft. Monmouth, Red Bank, New Jersey in May, 1943. After this school, I received clearance and was sent to a Japanese radio code (KataKana) school on the same base. Here I learned to copy KataKana by hand, standard typewriter, and Japanese KataKana typewriter, which had a larger keyboard with more characters.
After completeing Japanese code school in October, 1943, I was transferred to the 4th AAF at Hammer Field, Fresno, Calif. and the Western Signal Aviation Unit Training Center at Camp Pinedale, Fresno, Calif. and assigned to the 958th Radio Intelligence Company (Aviation), which later became the 8th AAF Radio Squadron Mobile. Here I received further training, including Japanese code intercept.
In November, 1943, I received temporary assignment with the 140th Signal Radio Inteligence Company near Daly City, located near another government intercept station on Mt. San Bruno overlooking San Francisco to practice Japanese code intercept.
I was then sent back to Pinedale and on May 11, 1944, I went with Headquarters Platoon to Rice Air Base in the Mojave Desert to receive desert training along with more intercept training. We had Direction Finder Platoons located at Needles, Rose, Rice, Vidal and Desert Center. Radio reception was extremely poor here. Blowing sand caused static electricity and hampered radio reception. During the desert stay we slept in pup tents. We half buried our metal helmets in the sand to heat water for shaving. This tough six weeks was finally over so we packed up and were convoyed by truck back to Pinedale.
Within a week after returning to Pinedale, we were sent to Yosemite National Park in June, 1944, which proved to be our last maneuver before going overseas. I was stationed with Headquarters Platoon at Badger Pass. Three Direction Finder Platoons were located along the coast, one at Point Sur, one at Cambria and one at Half Moon Bay. The remaining platoon was set up at the emergency landing strip at Franklin Field near Galt. I spent a few days with the platoon at Half Moon Bay, where again we slept in pup tents set up near the beach. Every morning we awoke to the chill of thick fog. We attempted to swim one day but barely got wet because the water was so cold.
The time in Yosemite was an experience in the wonders and beauty of nature. On long hikes we visited the Vernal, Nevada and Yosemite Falls, the Mirror Lake and also took a trip to the Mariposa Grove of giant redwoods. On Wednesday nights and all day Sunday we were permitted to go to Camp Curry in Yosemite Valley where we could watch the impressive "Fire Fall".
In early August, 1944, the Headquarters Platoon returned to Pinedale. Within a week all the platoons also returned. At one of our routine lectures, Major Mundorff, our C.O., announced that a group of Japanese Americans would soon join us to make up our Voice Intercept Team. They arrived shortly afterward and were processed and equipped.
We received word that Sept. 29, 1944, was the date set for us to leave Pinedale. At 3 p.m. Friday, we were fed a steak dinner and were told to fall out in full uniform for the march to the train that would take us to the port of embarkation. After a few hours we arrived at Ft. Lawton, Seattle, Washington.
We were allowed pass during our short stay at Ft. Lawton, but were not allowed to tell anyone back home where we were. We left Ft. Lawton at six p.m., October 10, 1944, and were driven to the docks where we boarded the converted cargo ship S S Frederick Lykes. All available space was taken by equipment and men. Chow lines twisted round and round the decks where we were fed two meals a day in a hot, steamy mess hall. It took three to four hours to feed everyone. Some were seasick for days, although fortunately I never got sick.
On the morning of the eghth day out, we sighted the Hawaiian Islands. We passed Diamond Head and docked alongside the Aloha Tower where the clock was still stopped at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing. The next day we were told we would be in Hawaii for about a week. A truck convoy took us to the Aiea Staging Area, which was just above Pearl Harbor, about twelve miles from Honolulu. We slept in tents where we had to use mosquito nets. I didn't get much sleep because of the mosquitoes which sneaked into the net, and because of the airplanes taking off and landing nearby. During the days we hitch-hiked or rode the bus to Honolulu. This was a real treat for those of us who had never seen this tropical paradise. Wartime Hawaii was jammed with servicemen, but this didn't keep us from enjoying the sights, visiting the Royal Hawaiian and Breakers Hotels and swimming at Waikiki.
After a week, we again boarded ship and left port. Soon a small convoy was formed consisting of nine cargo and troop ships and three destroyer escorts. We had repeated practice drills for submarine, surface, air attacks and fire. A strict blackout was enforced from twilight to sunup. As the weather grew warmer, some of us would go up on deck at night to sleep to get out of the steamy, hot quarters where we slept in bunks, five deep. Ocassionally we would run into a storm so violent that the bow of the ship would come completely out of the water, the ship would quiver as the bow slammed back into the water. One night I climbed up to get a view of the deck during a storm and saw that the waves were so high they were washing over the deck. I immediately went below.
Seven days after leaving Hawaii, we anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. The next day we were on our way to what proved to be Guam, Marianas Islands. One month after leaving Ft. Lawton, we arrived at Guam on November 9, 1944.
The next day. November 10, 1944, at about 3 p.m., our duffle bags were loaded onto Higgins boats and the first group of men went over the side and climbed down the landing nets into other Higgins boats. After loading into Higgins boats, we were taken ashore, landing at Sumay. From there, trucks took us to the Suprad area.
As we passed through Agana, all of the houses seemed to be bombed out or damaged. The shoreline had been battered by Naval gunfire. The palm trees were broken and bare. There were damaged tanks, half-tracks and "ducks" strewn over the beach, as well as Japanese bunkers and pill boxes.
After dark, the entire squadron of approximately 470 men assembled at Suprad, where we were served a hot meal and taken to three large quansets and other areas which were to be our temporary shelter until regular huts could be built. We slept on our blankets on the ground, on packing crates or anywhere we could find a spot. The next morning we were greeted by Commander Howeth, the Navy officer in charge of the camp.
The next task was to bring up from the docks the huge amount of equipment we brought overseas with us. This twenty-four hour a day task took almost two weeks to complete. We were given the first operational assignment as soon as a sufficient amount of equipment had been brought up from the docks.
One platoon was sent out to try to locate a Japanese radio station that was thought to be on the island. For the first half of their mission they circled the northern end of Guam in an LCI, taking DF bearings. They also broadcast from the ship over a PA system to the Japanese hidden along the shore, telling them to come out and surrender. A small group did and were taken aboard. The platoon then went ashore and set up a DF at Pati Point. After plotting the DF fix, it was determined that the station was not on Guam, so the mission was declared over.
In preparation for actual operations, jungle was cleared and construction was begun for several Army and Navy intercept and DF stations. Guards were posted at the unfinished sites day and night. Japanese stragglers in these areas threw stones at the guards and generators, raided the food supply at night and on occasion would resort to violence. It was on one of the occasions that one of our guards was shot, and died from the wound. He was given a military funeral at the Anigua Cemetary. Construction went on in spite of the Japanese harrassment and the heavy downpours during the rainy season. Early in December the work was finished and we were ready to start operations.
Headquarters intercept section, voice intercept section, traffic center, photo lab and the communications team all worked at Baker Station; while traffic analysis, cryptanalysis and intelligence evaluation worked at Able Station.
One DF Platoon was set up at Peleliu, one at Saipan, and one at Iwo Jima after it was taken. After six months, replacements were sent to Peleliu to relieve the platoon there. Finally the Saipan platoon broke camp and prepared to move to Okinawa, but they were delayed, waiting for the island to be secured. They arrived at their destination on September 1, 1945.
Men and equipment of the Peleliu Platoon left Guam on a liberty ship and were taken to Ulithi where they were transferred to a C-1 cargo ship and carried to Peleiu. They set up camp, intercept and DF stations on Ngesebus, a little island about a mile from Peleliu. When AACS DF broke down they helped them bring in three lost planes. They were thrilled when one of the pilots called to thank them. The Japanese Americans in the platoon received a letter of commendation for their interrogation and interpretation work. One of the men in the platoon put Japanese bones all around the mess hall. When someone would ask him what they had for chow, he'd just point to the bones.
The Saipan platoon left Guam on January 12, 1945, aboard an LCI. They set up camp and operations on Marpi Point. In April, Lt. Miller's platoon stopped in for a visit on the way to Iwo Jima.
Late in May the Saipan platoon started packing for a move to Okinawa. However, the men were sent to Guam to wait until Okinawa was secure. On about August, 15, the men returned to Saipan to pick up their equipment to continue to Okinawa, where they arrived Sept. 1, 1945.
In April, 1945, Lt. Miller's platoon left Guam to set up operations on Iwo Jima. After two days, as was stated earlier, they stopped by Saipan to visit the platoon there. After a couple of days they left for Iwo Jima. In about a week from the time they left Guam, they sighted Iwo. Their impression of this sulphuric little hell-hole is not printable and was depressing, especially after Guam. It was almost completely void of any vegitation. They pitched one squad tent to sleep in the first night. The next morning they began moving the mountain of equipment they brought with them. By trading of such luxuries as beer, lumber etc., they were becoming quite prosperous in their new home. Then came the first air raid in the middle of the night. They thought it was a drill until the "ack-ack" started to roar all over the island. Then in the moonlight they saw one Japanese plane go down into the ocean and another on the air strip near by. On the next raid the Japanese dropped their bombs from about 19,000 feet so it was not so impressive. A few nights later an ammunitions dump about a mile or two away blew up but no damage was done in the area.
They had just gotten their installation set up when word came from the island authorities that they had to move. So they moved the DF, transmitter and other equipment and were shortly back in operation.
The Nisei (Japanese American) group was assigned Voice Intercept missions, and ocassionally translated documents. Ten of the men were chosen for dangerous flight missions near the Japanese homeland. They all had been trained for Combat Intelligence, but performed well in the tasks assigned.
Headquarters operations on Guam seemed to run smootly and according to plan. The intercept group did rotating shifts. Baker Station was set up in the jungle in the northern part of the island. During the night shift, ocassionally the guard on top of the building would fire off a few rounds and we would have "lights-out" in the station. Our living quarters were in the JCA (Joint Communications Activities) area near the northwest coast.
During our time off, we were allowed to swim at Tumon Bay, look for tropical sea shells in the shallow waters inside the reef, or roam the island. We roamed at will when we could get a jeep, visiting many of the small villages, talking with the friendly Chamorros. They were glad to see us and see the Japs go, as they were oppressed and mistreated during their occupation. One little boy, about 10 or 12 years old, showed me a deep scar on his leg where he said a Japanese soldier bayonetted him. He begged me to take him to the states with me. In all of our exploring, we avoided the isolated, thick jungle areas, as we knew there were still Japanese stragglers in hiding there. On one occasion, while looking for bananas and papaya, we ran across an avocado tree. Any type of fresh fruit was cherished so we filled our pockets and arms with avocados to take to our quarters for ripening. I ran across a Japanese shoe on the ground, the type with the big toe separated from the rest of the toes. I kicked it and discovered there was a foot in it.
Early in August, 1945, when I was on the day shift, I noticed that Japanese radio traffic had practically ceased. I picked up a message in International Morse Code that stated the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima on August 6. This took us by surprise. Then in rapid succession Nagasaki was bombed. This brought about Japan's surrender with the actual signing of the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
A few weeks later, for all practical purposes, we ceased operations. I was placed on a list to be assigned to a unit in Manila, but my orders were changed and I was assigned to USSTAF Headquarters, as a radio teletype operator on Guam to await my turn to be sent home.
Finally I was returned to Los Angeles on the U.S.S.Queens and was discharged at Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio on Feb. 28, 1946.