Army Security Agency
The United States Army Security Agency (ASA) was, from 1945 through 1976, the United States Army’s electronic intelligence branch. Its motto was “Vigilant Always.” The Agency was the successor to a number of Army signals intelligence operations dating back to World War I. As well as intelligence gathering, it also had responsibility for the security of Army communications and for electronic counter measure operations. In 1976, the USASA was merged with the US Army Military Intelligence component in a process which formed the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).
Composed primarily of soldiers with the very highest scores on Army intelligence tests, 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. ASA was directly subordinate to the National Security Agency and all field stations had NSA tech reps on site.
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 – publicly acknowledged or otherwise. In some cases such as Eritrea, it was the primary military presence. Although not officially serving under the ASA name, the cover designation being Radio Research, ASA personnel were among the earliest U.S. military advisors in Vietnam. The first ASA combat fatality in Vietnam took place in 1961. This was Specialist James T. Davis for whom Davis Station in Saigon was named. President Lyndon Johnson later termed Davis “the first American to fall in the defense of our freedom in Vietnam”. All ASA personnel processed in Vietnam passed through Davis Station. ASA personnel were attached to Army infantry and armored cavalry units throughout the Vietnam War. Some select teams were also attached to MAC/SOG and Special Force units.
ASA military occupational specialties (MOS’s) included linguists (“Monterey Marys”), morse code intercept operators (“Ditty Boppers” or sometimes “Hogs” for their 05H designation), non-Morse (teletype and voice) intercept operators, communications security specialists, direction-finding equipment operators (“Duffy’s” for their 05D designation), cryptographers (crippies), communications traffic analysts, and electronic maintenance technicians; and a 42 man Special Operations Detachment to conduct clandestine combat operations among others. ASA had its own separate training facilites, MP corps, communication centers and chain of command.
These occupations, which required top secret clearance, were essential to U.S. Cold War efforts. ASA units operated in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ASA troops were not allowed to discuss their operations with outsiders – in fact, they could not talk among themselves about their duties unless they were in a secure location. Even today, decades after they served, some of the missions still cannot be discussed. Owing to the sensitivity of the information with which they worked, ASA soldiers were subject to travel restrictions during and long after their time in service. The activities of the U.S. Army Security Agency have only recently been partially declassified.
In the National Security Agency Headquarters at Ft. Meade, MD resides a marble memorial wall listing over 150 names of members of the Army Security Agency or its comparable Navy or Air Force organizations who lost their lives during the cold war performing duties for the NSA. Freedom does not come "free".
2006 280th Reunion Speakers