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systems was vital.
The solution was to be found on the moon. Scientists determined that
Tall King radar signals, traveling in a straight line, would eventually
collide with the moon at least part of the day. The trick would be to catch
the signals as they bounced back to earth. To accomplish this, a complex
"catcher's mitt" was built. Near Moorestown, New Jersey, a giant sixty-
foot satellite dish was aimed at the lunar surface. Attached to it were
very sensitive Elint receivers tuned to the Tall King frequency. Over time,
as the earth and moon revolved and rotated, all of the Tall King radars
eventually came within view and were charted.
Still other listening posts rose like desert flowers in the African sands.
At Wheelus Air Base in Libya, a thousand miles of sand surrounded
American eavesdroppers on three sides, with 500 miles of Mediterranean
to the north. "Even though we were on the coast," said an intercept
operator who was assigned to the Air Force 6934th Radio Squadron
Mobile during the 1950s, "temperatures reached 110”120 degrees when
a sandstorm (or ghiblis as they are called) rolled in. All air stopped
blowing and you're burning up." But the desert listening post was an
excellent place to eavesdrop on Soviet high-frequency communications.
"In my time in Libya, we copied most everything out of Russia," he said,
"all the way to Vladivostok submarine pens in the Sea of Japan."
Antennas also sprang up where Allied bombs once fell. In Germany
and Japan, dozens of listening posts were built amid the ruins of former
enemy naval and military bases. In Berlin, the rubble from the war was
bulldozed into an enormous manmade mountain outside the center of
the city, in the Teufelsberg district. On top of that mountain, the highest
point around, the Army Security Agency built a listening post that
became one of NSA's most important ears on Soviet and East German
communications throughout the Cold War. Known as Field Station,
Berlin, it held the unique distinction of twice winning NSA's prestigious
Travis Trophy for best worldwide listening post.
For several years in the mid-1980s, intercept operators were mystified
because during the same two weeks every year they could pick up key
East Bloc signals unobtainable at any other time. Eventually they
realized that those two weeks coincided with the American cultural
festival. Suddenly someone noticed the giant Ferris wheel. "It was acting
as a great big antenna," said Bill McGowan, who was an Army captain
working at the listening post. "We got excellent reception. One year we
went and asked them to leave it up for another month."
Once the North Sea port for the German navy's mighty fleet,



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Bremerhaven became another major eavesdropping site targeting Soviet
bloc ships and submarines. Aubrey Brown, an intercept operator there,
still remembers straining to hear every sound. "You're trying to pull out
just the slightest thing you can hear. And sometimes it's very, very weak
so you put these things directly over your ear and turn the volume up as
high as you can get it."
Inside the listening post's operations building, intercept operators
would work "cases," as the larger Soviet ships”cruisers and
battleships”were known. Once a Russian signal was captured, the
intercept operator would type out the five-letter code groups on a
typewriter with Cyrillic keys. "Every operator there had an assignment
and they had a particular frequency they were listening to ... ," Brown
said. "Each operator there had a particular case they were listening to.
And in Bremerhaven it was all Soviet and East German and Polish”
mostly Russian”communicating with their homeport."
Not only did each person have his own case to work, but also three or
four intercept operators were assigned to search positions. "What they
did was sit there and continuously go through frequency after frequency,
just scanned the entire spectrum listening and copying it and looking it
up in books and seeing what it was," said Brown. "Because at times there
were frequency changes and you could catch them early if you had this
kind of scanning going on. Or sometimes there were things that went on
that no one knew about and you would find them. So the best operators
in the group generally manned the search positions."
To monitor East German naval activity in the Baltic Sea, a listening
post was built in the tiny village of Todendorf, a name that roughly
translates to "Village of Death." Located near the northern city of Kiel, a
port on the Baltic, the fog-shrouded base was home to about 150 naval
intercept operators. There the "Merry Men of Todendorf," as they called
themselves, lived in a barracks warmed by a coal-fired stove and dined
on schnitzel sandwiches and three-egg Bauernfruhstücke.
To better monitor the Communists, the technicians frequently drove
mobile intercept vans and trucks to a remote stretch of Fehmarn Island
in the Baltic Sea. There, under difficult conditions, they would set up
their temporary listening post. "One would have had to experience
manhandling a bulky antenna system to the top of a two-and-a-half-ton
van in freezing rain," said one of the Merry Men. "And enduring days . . .
spent warming hash, soup, or canned spaghetti on a hot plate and trying
to cook eggs in a coffee pot, napping in a sleeping bag inside the freezing
cab of the van. Or accompanying a five-ton equipment truck while
listening to the never ending roar of the portable generator, and suffering
the indignities of life without a restroom. Fresh water was limited to what
could be carried in jerry cans, the nearest toilet was ten miles away, and
showers were out of the question until the mission was terminated and


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they returned to Todendorf." Later, another small listening post, made up
of vans the size of semitrailer trucks, was established at Dahme on the
German Riviera. One telemetry intercept operator described Dahme as "a
target-rich environment."
Other listening posts in West Germany snuggled close to Soviet bloc
land borders or hung on the edge of steep cliffs.
Following massive Warsaw Pact maneuvers in an area of
Czechoslovakia that NATO considered a major invasion corridor, the
Army Security Agency quickly established a monitoring base on a nearby
West German mountain. Long white vans packed with sensitive
eavesdropping, recording, and transcribing equipment were airlifted
3,500 feet up to Eckstein, a peak on Hoher Bogen mountain in the
Bavarian forest. Elint towers, odd-shaped antennas secured in cement,
warning signs, and radomes that looked like giant Ping-Pong balls were
erected. "At night, one could see the lights of Pilsen and Prague," recalled
F. Harrison Wallace, Jr., a former Sigint specialist assigned to Eckstein.
"Eckstein was chosen because there was a clear view eastward from the
top of the cliff”twelve hundred feet straight down." Eventually the site
began to look like a parking lot for eavesdropping vans. Eckstein was
home to about a hundred personnel, including Russian and Czech
linguists and a dozen traffic analysts.
For those assigned to such remote border listening posts, life could be
very rough. Seventy-mile-per-hour blizzard winds tore at Eckstein's small
trailers and Quonset hut and buried them in snow up to eight feet.
"There was no running water on the mountain," said Wallace. "Water for
coffee, hot chocolate, and washing had to be carried to 'the Hill' in five
gallon Jerry cans." Sanitation consisted of a single, two-hole wooden
outhouse, covered with heavy icicles in the winter, that simply sent the
waste down the side of the cliff.
Despite the isolation of Eckstein, there were moments of excitement.
"The finest hour for Eckstein," said Wallace, "was the 'Prague Spring' of
1968," when the Soviet army brutally invaded Czechoslovakia to crush a
budding rebellion. Eckstein was able to provide NSA with minute-by-
minute details of the invasion. The remote listening post also played a
key role in eavesdropping on Soviet involvement in the Israeli-Egyptian
Yom Kippur War of 1973. Communications intercepted at Eckstein
indicated that the Russians were planning to consolidate Warsaw Pact
supplies in Prague before airlifting them to Egypt.
Another rich source of Soviet bloc communications was overflights of
East Germany. To facilitate the transportation of personnel and supplies
to West Berlin, which sat like an island in a Soviet sea, negotiators had
agreed on three narrow air corridors connecting it with West Germany.
For NSA, these air corridors became veins of gold. The twenty-mile-wide



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paths together covered about one-sixth of East Germany. Masquerading
as routine cargo flights through the corridors, U.S. Air Force C-130E and
C-97G aircraft packed with eavesdropping gear would secretly monitor
Communist bloc communications as they flew over the corridors.
These missions were conducted by the secretive 7405 Support
Squadron which was located at Wiesbaden Air Base in West Germany.
Operating under codenames such as Creek Rose, Creek Stone, and Creek
Flea, the squadron flew 213 signals intelligence missions during the first
half of 1967, clocking more than 915 hours in the air and snaring 5,131
intercepts. On their slow transits to and from West Berlin, the "back-
enders" operated a variety of receivers, recorders, signal analyzers, and
direction finders. Specialized NSA equipment, a part of Project Musketeer
Foxtrot, was also installed. The goal was to pinpoint hostile radar
systems and dissect their electronic pulses so that, in the event of war,
American fighters and bombers would be able to avoid, jam, or spoof
anti-aircraft weapons.
With the ability to look deep into East German territory, intercept
operators picked up enormous amounts of intelligence on the Russian
systems. NSA's Project Musketeer Foxtrot, said one intelligence report,
"provided precise measurements of the Tall King radars. Numerous
intercepts of 'unusual' Tall King modes during this project indicated
more sophisticated operation than previously suspected." Other
intercepts revealed the parameters of Soviet Fan Song radars, used to
guide surface-to-air missiles, and the exact location of a new Fire Can
radar associated with Russian 57- and 85-millimeter anti-aircraft
cannons. In June 1967, as Israel launched the Six-Day War, the Ravens
were able to detect East German missile equipment being moved close to
the West German border.
Turkey also became prime real estate for NSA, especially because of
its proximity to Soviet missile testing areas. In 1957, a listening post was
built near the village of Karamürsel on the Sea of Marmara, about thirty-
seven miles southeast of Istanbul. Eventually, a giant elephant-cage
antenna dominated the horizon. In the outdoor cafes nearby, Turkish
farmers sipped §ay from glass cups and inhaled bitter smoke from
waterpipes and the local Yeni Harmen cigarettes.
At 9:07 A.M., on April 12, 1961, activity inside the listening post grew
frenzied. At that moment, far to the north, a giant Vostok 1 rocket rose
from its launch pad. Sitting within the massive spacecraft was Colonel
Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin, twenty-seven, the son of a peasant family from
the rural village of Klushino near Smolensk, and now dubbed by his
fellow cosmonauts the Columbus of the Cosmos. For the first time in
history, a person was being sent into space. But the Soviet government,
out of fear of a mishap or disaster, kept the liftoff enormously secret.
Only after Gagarin had returned safely was an announcement made.


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Despite the secrecy, however, intercept operators at Karamürsel were
able to monitor the liftoff and flight moment by moment, including the
conversations between Gagarin and mission control.
"We couldn't listen [directly] to the spacecraft because it was
encrypted”the back-and-forth between [it and] the space station," said a
former intercept operator at Karamürsel. "But by satellite we would be
able to eavesdrop on their [Russian] local, unencrypted lines within the
space center and over those lines we could hear the conversations with
the cosmonauts because they would have an open speaker in the
background. They would be using a frequency that no one else was and
we were able to just lock in on that."
Among the very few Westerners to have listened to the world's first
manned space mission as it was happening was Karamürsel intercept
operator Jack Wood. "Our mission," he said, "was the number one
mission in the world”to monitor the Russian manned space program.
After nearly forty years, I still remember the excitement of hearing Yuri
Gagarin's voice over my headset. . . . We were all tuned in for that
historic moment. Loose translation: 'I see you and hear you well, OK.' "
The flight nearly ended in tragedy, however. As the spacecraft was
about to reenter earth's atmosphere, two parts of the vehicle failed to
separate as planned and the capsule began spinning out of control.
"Malfunction!!!" Colonel Yevgeny Karpov, Gagarin's commander, scribbled
angrily in his notes at the space center. Karpov saw disaster. "Don't
panic! Emergency situation." But after ten minutes the parts broke away,
the spacecraft steadied, and the landing was successful.


In Japan, the dust from World War II Allied bombing attacks had
barely settled when American eavesdroppers began setting up shop. In
charge of finding an ideal location to eavesdrop on Russia, China, and
North Korea was Navy Captain Wesley Wright, a pioneer cryptologist,
who was based in Tokyo as chief of NSA Pacific. Wright remembered the
tunnels at Corregidor in the Philippines and had heard of similar tunnels
in a place called Kamiseya, an area of rice paddies in the shadow of
Mount Fuji. The tunnels were used to store torpedoes for air attacks
against American ships. Wright decided that the tunnels could now be
turned against the Communists as a secret listening post. The low
ambient electrical noise in the rural area made for good reception.
At the time, the tunnels of Kamiseya were a mess. The floors were
covered in three inches of water, and the rusty overhead rails used for
moving torpedoes were still in place. Gradually the tunnels were made
livable, lighting was installed, SP-600 high-frequency receivers were
brought in, guards were assigned, other buildings were built or restored.
Dozens of rhombic antennas, arranged in rosette patterns, were


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constructed to sweep in the Communist communications. A rotating
switch allowed the intercept operators to choose the antenna that best
received their target. Along the walls of the tunnel were columns of metal
racks with thick black cables snaking from the receivers. Soon, long
ribbons of seven-ply fan-fold carbon paper, covered with rows of Russian
words and code groups, were flowing from Underwood typewriters
twenty-four hours a day. More intercept positions were built in an
adjacent building. Known as the pantry, the windowless room there had
cream and green rubber tiles on the floor and globe lights above each
"posit."
By 1965, Kamiseya had become the largest Navy listening post in the
world, with over a thousand people raking the ether for Soviet and other
Communist communications. Some of the intercept operators went on
temporary assignment aboard one of the many ships sailing in the
waters near the target countries. Others would fly aboard EP-3B ferret
aircraft that eavesdropped near the massive Soviet port of Vladivostok
and elsewhere. After their sea and airborne missions, the intercept
operators would return to Kamiseya with 7 ½ -inch magnetic tapes
containing captured signals. Linguists in headsets would then spend
hours sifting through the data, listening for nuggets of useful intelligence
to be sent to NSA. The base had an extensive library, bursting with
foreign-language dictionaries, other books, and magazines. It was also
"net control" for the entire Pacific, receiving direction-finding reports from
listening posts stretching from California to Okinawa. Kamiseya would
then triangulate the exact location of Soviet ships and submarines over
millions of square miles of ocean.
Among many other listening posts set up in Japan was one at Misawa
Air Base, 400 miles north of Tokyo. It had originally been built by the
Japanese with the idea of establishing a northern base from which long-
range bombers could be launched toward Alaska. The facility was
eventually used to train Japanese teams to sabotage Allied aircraft
during the final months of the war. But as U.S. forces closed in on
Japan, carrier-based Hell Cats raked Misawa's buildings and runways for
several days. B-29 raids followed, virtually demolishing the base.
Nevertheless, following Japan's surrender the Army Corps of Engineers
quickly moved in and turned the former sabotage base into a major
listening post for eavesdropping on China and western Russia.
Also to eavesdrop on China, a listening post was built on the

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