SOME SIS/ASA HISTORY AT HERZO
Editors note: Earlier this year I started getting some feedback about a 6th Detachment of the 2nd Signal Service Bn. beinstationed at Herzo base. Sending requests for information to the INSCOM history office and to Bob Zikowitz, who puts out a 2nd Signal newsletter, I got what I think is some absorbing information that I think our readers would find interesting. Since the information received is both narrative and chronological in format, I have taken the liberty of narrating it in my own fashion. My thanks to James L. Gilbert, INSCOM Command Historian; Albert C. Leighton of San Antonio who served with the 6th Det.; and, MG James E. Freeze (USA Ret.) who provided excerpts from his monograph "Saga of a Siginter", the Gene Beard Story. (Ralph R. Thadeus - Editor)
Early after the war in Europe ended, probably August 1945, Capt. Cletus Eugene (Gene) Beard of the 121st Signal Radio Intelligence Company (SRIC) was asked to start a fixed station. The nucleus of this "fixed station", were two newly commissioned 2nd Lt's who had been with the 124th SRIC, and 15-17 enlisted, who were located in Gross Gerau, Germany (between Darmstadt and Mainz). As originally designated, this fixed station was probably Detachment "E" of the (European Command) Signal Intelligence Division (SID).
In the fall of 1945, all units not essential to the (Theater) Headquarters were ordered to get out of the Frankfurt Area. (Note; there were three other SIGINT units remaining in Germany: the 114th and 116th SRICs (tactical units) and the 2nd Radio Squadron Mobile (RSM) - remember, at that time the Air Corps was part of the Army and was not yet a branch in itself). The CO of SID, Col. Earl Cook, was not happy with the Gross Gerau location and they started looking for a better location. Shannon Brown, CO of the 2nd RSM (located outside of Frankfurt and thus had to move) found a German airfield near Herzogenaurach. Cook, Beard and Brown all liked the location and Herzo Base was born. This was probably in the fall of 1946. Between 21 January and 4 March, 1947, the units moved down to Herzo Base. By this time the "fixed station" operation had been designated as the 6th Detachment, 2nd Signal Service Battalion. (Note: Leighton's orders transferring him from VHFS to the 6th Det. were dated 17 January 1947). Also moving from Gross Gerau to Herzo Base, at the same time, was a COMSEC unit, the 52nd Signal Service Detachment.
On 14 May 1947, the 114th SRIC was relocated from Sontra, Germany, to Herzo Base. In February of 1949 the 2nd RSM was transferred to the Air Force and it's concurrent history lost to the SIS/ASA.
On 25 October 1951 the 52nd Signal Service Detachment was re-designated as the 852nd Communications Reconnaissance Detachment and remained at Herzo until 7 July 1952 when it relocated to HQ SHAPE, in Versailles, France.
The 114th Signal Service Company remained at Herzo until 11 March 1951 when it relocated to Hof, Germany.
The 6th Detachment was discontinued on 15 May 1950 and replaced by Field Station 8606, organized in its place concurrently. Hq. and Hq. Co. 8606 held the responsibility for administrative and logistics support of Herzo Base until 10 June 1952 when the Company was discontinued and the administration of Herzo was transferred to Erlangen. On 1 January 1957, Field Station 8606 was re-designated as the 6th USASA Field Station and remained at Herzo until it was discontinued on 1 June 1959, thus ending the original SIS/ASA presence at Herzo Base.
After the departure of the 114th Signal Service Company, other tactical ASA units were stationed at Herzo Base:
In September 1956 the 302nd ASA Battalion relocated from Bamberg to Herzo. The 302nd was inactivated on 15 October 1957 and was reorganized and replaced by the 318th ASA Battalion. On 3 May 1971 the 318th was discontinued.
On 22 June 1966 the 16th USASA Field Station was organized at Herzo. It was re-designated as Field Station Herzogenaurach on 15 December 1967 and remained at Herzo until it was discontinued on 30 June 1972, ending ASA's presence at Herzo Base.
ASA'S FIRST FIXED INTERCEPT STATION IN GERMANY
From the Editor: In our 4th Quarter 2001 newsletter I wrote about the start of fixed station operations in Germany by the Signal Intelligence Service, predecessor to the ASA. At that time mention was made that the unit was probably first designated as Detachment E of the Signal Intelligence Division (SID) and was probably located in Gross Gerau, Germany - both assumptions apparently being wrong. Since then more information has come to light about the startup of our first fixed station operation.
While doing a search for Gross Gerau, on the Internet, a German web site was discovered that mentioned a unit designated as the 6811th Signal Security Detachment (SSD). This ultimately led to Mr. Robert A. Fredrickson who turned out to be the Point of Contact for the 6811/6812/6813 SSD Reunion Group. Mr. Fredrickson has contributed much of the information in this article.
The following translation, which started this quest, is an excerpt from the German web site of the city of Nauheim, County of Gross Gerau, in which the 6811th is mentioned.
"Gradually life began to normalize itself, under American occupation, in Nauheim. The combat troops had already advanced and the occupation troops needed quarters. In the Gaststätte Waldlust, on Waldstrasse, the Americans established their Headquarters. Also, many Nauheimers had to vacate their living quarters. Houses were seized, particularly those on the Bahnhofstrasse, left in the direction of Trebur. These were quartered by members of the American CIA. Also some houses on the right of Koenigstaedterstrasse, towards Koenigstaedten, were seized by the Americans. At the same time, to the right, over the railroad on the land of the Jordan Barrel Factory, a military Mess Hall was set up for the troops, replacing one that the combat troops had established in the field behind the Huegelstrasse. The unit that replaced the so-called rear guard of the combat troops was the 6811th Signal Security Detachment APO 757 - US Army."
With the surrender of Germany our SIGINT requirements began to change. Following is an excerpt from the National Archives, again provided by Bob Fredrickson:
"On 22 June (1945), a radio message was sent to all Signal Radio Intelligence Companies from this office (SID Headquarters, ETO), directing them to submit lists of the radio operators in their units who were qualified to receive code at a speed of 25 WPM. These lists were required in order to complete the T/O strength of the 6811th Signal Security Detachment, which was to become the Fixed Radio Station of SIS, Army of Occupation.
As it was necessary to have the radio station in operation by the first part of August, work went forward immediately in selecting the desired operators from the various companies."
Bob Fredrickson indicates that immediately post-World War II the composition of the "Fixed Radio Station, SIS, ETO" was comprised of 49 Enlisted Men and 1 Officer from the 6811th SSD and 33 Enlisted Men and 2 Officers from the various other SSD and SRIC units in the Theater.
As with other normal fixed station operations, Administration and Operations were separate. According to other National Archive documentation Captain Cletus E. Beard (formerly of the 121st SRIC) was the Commanding Officer of the Headquarters Group. Within the Operations Group Captain Shannon Brown (formerly of the 2nd RSM) was the OIC and the Operations Officer was 1st Lt. Aaron Brenessel (formerly of the 6811th SSD).
By Christmas of 1945, based on the heading of a December 25, 1945, personnel listing (probably part of the unit's Christmas Day menu), the unit was know as "Detachment A, Signal Security Detachment D." The heading, besides mentioning Brown and Brenessel, also name a Lt. Amzi Dudley and 1st Sgt. Donald Narcisenfeld. Although the unit was listed as being at APO 757, there is no indication, at this point, where the unit was located geographically - Nauheim or Gross Gerau. The cities, located only a few kilometers from each other, lay between Mainz and Darmstadt, southwest of Frankfurt.
Hermann Reitz, in subsequent e-mails, adds a little more to the movement of the 6811th SSD. The Fixed Station was located in Nauheim immediately after the combat troops left at the end of March and early May, 1945. In September of the same year they moved from Nauheim to Groß-Gerau where it remained until approximately December 16, 1946. In Groß-Gerau the Headquarters was located in the Wasserturm (Water tower) - the highest building in the town. The December 16th date was when the unit moved to a town near the city of Nürnberg - more than likely the movement to Herzo Base.
Mr. Reitz has a unique background to recall the relationship of the 6811th and their dates. Mr. Reitz was 15 years old when the war ended and had a basic knowledge of English. The 6811thhired Mr. Reitz to work in the Mess Hall starting on August 1, 1945. He continued to work there, through the move to Groß-Gerau, until December 16, 1946, when the unit departed the area for Herzo Base. Mr. Reitz, who was known to the GI's as "Herman the German" came from a very large family - 7 children plus mother and father. The family lived in two wooden city-owned houses which eventually became available for sale. The members of the 6811th took up a collection and gave it to Hermann's family so they could buy the houses.
Remember - those were the days of the non-fraternization policy. But then - when did SIS/ASA types every give a good G.. d... about rules and regulations? Mr. Reitz eventually became the Mayor of Nauheim and wrote the town history, after the ending of the war, for their Internet site.