In order to repair and maintain the thousands upon thousands of crypto machines produced over the decades, it required the services of dedicated groups of technicians and maintainers. Acquiring the necessary skills to qualify as a crypto machine technician was no easy feat. To salute those individuals who made this job choice and served quietly behind closed doors, I have dedicated this portion of the Crypto Machines web page in order that they can tell their story for one day, that too, will become history.
For reasons of security, everything was compartmentalized, and it was rare for any one person to have intimate knowledge of more than three or four devices. For the old KW26, KY3, KG12-13, KY9 and KW8 machine types, it took between 16 and 32 weeks to train on each piece of gear - 6 hours a day 5 days a week. Then there was an additional 6 months or so of training in the real world before personnel were productive.
Once in a particular career path (compartment) , one tends to stay there. If you reenlist, convert to a civilian slot or sign on with one of the several private companies providing contract support for government crypto systems, you generally pick up a new piece of equipment every four or five years. However, after eight or nine years you invariably move up to management and the younger personnel train on the newest gear. Today, the syllabus has changed. After a short course in board swapping and systems operations a person is good to go.
I was a U.S. Air Force Electronics Communications and Cryptographics Equipment Systems repair technician (30670) from March 1972 until April 1979. From May of 1973 until January 1976 I was assigned to the 2044th Communications Group Headquarters Department of Defense ( Pentagon ).
During this time I worked on NBST ( KG13, HY2 or HY11) KY9, KY3, KW 26, KG37, KW7 and call directors for the KY3's. In January of 1976 I went TDY to Lackland for school on the KY8, KY28, KY38.
After school went on to a two year tour of duty on Guam, first in the 1958 Comm Squadron AFCS then with the 27th Comm Sq SAC for 3 days. The 1958th was retired to a Texas Air Guard unit in the summer of '76 and the SAC Comm Sq became the 27th Communications Sq AFCS. While on Guam I worked on KW7, KW26, KG13, KY3 and KY8's.
In January 1978 I went PCS to the Air Force Crypto Logic Depot located on Security Hill on Kelly AFB in San Antonio Texas. While at AFCLD I was the Air Force's only ComSec Engineering Technician. I worked for two Engineers building specialized one of a kind test equipment to be used in trouble shooting problems in the field with the KG40, KG30 family, KITs/KIRs, KY3 and special projects.
In April of 1979 I left the Air Force to go to work for Honeywell in Tampa Florida. I started at Honeywell as final device level test tech on the KG30 program. For the next 3 years we built over 200 KG30 devices of every configuration known each month. During this time I was also working on the KG40 and KW7 programs.
While working for Honeywell for the next 15 years I was on the design and development team for the DTD (Honeywell became Group Technologies in the spring of 1989 ), in addition to the KG30, KG40, KW7 we built the KG194/194a, KG94/94a, KY90, HYX58, KY58, KY57, TD660, UGC144, UGC27, spare boards for the KITs and KIRs, KGV8 and KGV-11.
In the late 80's we were asked by NSA to design and build special replacement boards for the KG30 family, KW-7s to fix security problems caused by the Walker family with these types of equipment. I was the only Comsec technician employed by Honeywell that had experience with these units both in the field and in the manufacturing environment and as such was made the lead manufacturing engineering tech for these programs. Thanks to the Walker's I had a lot of overtime money for the next 22 months.
In July of 1994 I was cut loose from Group Technologies due to a down turn in the Military programs that Group Tech was winning. I am now a computer systems technician for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Central Engineering Services Department. I found your web site and have enjoyed reliving my days as a Crypto Tech.
I am a former 30670, served at the 2045th (Andrews), on the E-4 NEACP, other locations (can’t say) and went through the over one year Crypto School at Lackland AFB in the late 1970s, also trained in Georgia and at contractor locations in Greenville, TX, other places. The first portion of the Lackland training (approx. 2 months) was fantastic and provided us electronics components theory and troubleshooting and covered the then “state of the art” waterfront on components (transistors, diodes, resistors, etc) – this in-depth training of components and their behavior allowed us to troubleshoot to the specific discrete component level on the malfunctioning boards – something few in maintenance are even capable of doing today.
KY-9s were fun as long as your were careful physically opening the machines up (those of you who have worked on these can appreciate what I’m saying) . KG-13s were super reliable – unless of course the other end suddenly “drops sync” like we had happen when the Iranian Embassy was overrun and the devices are subjected to emergency destruct procedures. KW-26s were what I’d call “brute force” type machines –vacuum tubes and for those of us who worked on them using those “alligator” clamps to find Pumping With / Pumping Against Logic was, for lack of a better, “LOL- historic” when one compares today’s maintenance techniques to past practices. My personal fav machine was the KY-3 – once you “tuned” all its “drawers” (and cards) these puppies would run and run without problems. We often “super cooled” these to extend component life and I got really good at using IR Tech to isolate components/cards that were close to failing.
As for “fun and excitement days” while I served I’ll never forget the day one of our 30630s lost a device and several pieces of HP test equipment somewhere between the Vice President’s residence and our shop or the day I came home to my house on Andrews, opened one of my flight suit pockets and found “something” (that I should have left on the plane) -- quickly called back to the shop / reported the problem, then promptly fired up the barbecue and did an “emergency destruct” before putting the burgers on the grille.
I also lived / worked through the John Walker (US Navy) Espionage episode where he and his family sold some of our maintenance items to the Russians which then required us to modify most, if not all, of the devices at our locations. I only spent five (5) years in the field but really loved it and the Air Force. When I served in the field, the Air Force had a problem retaining its people as the finance/banking industry would hire techs away frequently --- at 3x the salary the Air Force could pay.
Aston, Charles; Ellicott City, Maryland.
I joined the USAF at age 17 immediately after graduating from high school. I attended the 40-week Communications and Relay Center Equipment Repairman, Electro-Mechanical, Other (363X0B) course at Sheppard Technical Training Center, Sheppard AFB, near Wichita Falls, Texas from 1960-61. The course covered a wide variety of electromechanical (A/N-TGC-XX) equipmentincluding variants of Kleinschmidt and Teletype ASRs and KSRs. The "Other" in the AFSC designation referred to the KL-7.
We received a very thorough security indoctrination prior to being allowed to enter the secure area in which the classrooms and labs were located. We were told that absolutely nothing, including paper of any sort, was allowed to be removed from the area. We couldn't take any material out to study. The briefing officer told us that a student received ten years at hard labor for producing a KL-7 tape with his name on it, which he smuggled out of the area. He did not explain why anyone would do something so foolish. The briefing officer also told us he would appreciate it if anyone who intended to take an identification tag from a crypto unit for a souvenir would simplify his life by kindly contacting the FBI immediately after doing so. I think all of us got the hint that security was no laughing matter.
[Editors note: When a class concluded, course materials (CAMs) for that particular class were swapped with other students, the pages were counted then signed off so as to attest to a good page count. Then the CAMs would go back in the safe The security office would on occasion, instruct students to remove a page from a CAM to make sure the student(s) found it. If they didn't the whole class would be in trouble].
Still remember some of the security slogans they drummed into us: "Loose Lips Sink Ships"; "What You See, What You Hear, When You Leave, Leave It Here."
I believe the term COMSEC (communications security) was classified for some time. COMINT (communications intelligence), ELINT (electronic intelligence) and SIGINT (signal intelligence) definitely were.
One incident about security comes to mind and it dealt with my metal NSA identification badge. Badges had to be worn in plain view on a strong chain around one's neck at all times. One evening while working on a large, unclassified, rotating memory device I was doing some trouble shooting while bending over an extended logic bay mounted on slides. Fortunately, I'd turned the power off. Unbeknownst to me, the badge slipped down into the equipment and snagged on something. It felt like it almost broke my neck when I straightened up. Luckily, the chain snapped before it caused me any injury. I visited Security and requested that they install a snap clip on my badge to replace the chain. They obliged with a stout clip but the chain rule remained in effect. From that time forward, I wore my badge clipped to my clothing with the requisite chain hanging loosely around my neck.
I was a Sgt USMC 1967-1970 MOS 2817 – KG-13 KW-7 and Teletype.
I went to Basic Electronics Telephone/Teletype and KW-7 Schools at San Diego Ca. then the 3276th School Squadron Lackland AFB TX for the KG-13. The Air Force Instructor was M/Sgt Sullivan an excellent person.
They never sent me to any modem school. It would have been helpful. I saw the KG-13 with the Stelma slow wire modem and the Linkirk 26C modem.
I then went overseas to the 3rd FSR Okinawa and the 1st MAW MWHG-1 MWCS-1 Danang Vietnam 1968-69.
I saw no problems with the KG-13.
On Okinawa there were KW-26 KG-13 and Model 28 Teletypes. A Marine trained on the KW-26 showed me how to adjust the teletype 60ma line current. You had to be careful not to get shocked. A new KG-13 installation had problems the Stelma slow wire modem terminal board was wired wrong the retimed clock was not sent to the IBM 360. The modem clock and the IBM 360 clock were drifting apart. An IBM SE watch it on the O-Scope. A simple terminal board wiring change fixed the problem.
Then the emergency generator was hooked up wrong. The Comm Center was burned up and the KG-13 power supply no longer worked. I had no power supply parts. I was in trouble for a 20 year old. The Army at Camp Butler Long Lines BN fixed it for me. I always adjusted the KG-13 power supply voltages. I remember the -6 volts.
The MWCS-1 Danang had an Univac 1004. The Model 28 Teletype floor had banks of printers and paper tape perforators. The Crypto Room was in the back with racks of KW-7’s several KW-26’s and a KG-13. The Teletype Shop was a side room. The Marines Teletype Repair were excellent.
The Communications Center did the Communications for the MAGS at Danang. Quang tri. Phu bai. Chu lai. Nha trang and Cubi Point PH.
We took care of the crypto equipment and changed the codes every 24 hours. The crypto security warrant officer dropped off the code cards. The Koken Logic would produce binary codes that were never repeated. The KG-13 code cards were signed for when they were removed from the code book the card reader would cut them in half so they could not be used again. The U.S. Army at Nha trang would wave the KW-26 meter needle when they were ready to change codes. The KW-7 code blocks were checked out on a patch cord test set up before they were place on the KW-7’s. After a code change we would go back to back in the communication center with a telephone patch panel and portable teletype to make sure the equipment worked. Then we would go online again.
The KG-13 had the Stelma slow wire modem. It had problems. Never knew what they were. They even flew it down to the Army at Nha Trang to look at it.
The Operators and Technicians were the finest in the United States Marine Corps.
I am now retired went to college after the Marines 25 years Mainframe Computer System Analyst / Programmer.
Bucks County Pennsylvania
Csordas, Andy Spec 5, Rome GA
Andy provides a narritive of his experiences with Special COMSEC Support Detachment -Tan Son Nhut, Vietnam.
I spent one year in Crypto School at Lackland AFB and the next seven, teaching many of those systems. My favorite was the KY-3. I used to teach trouble analysis to the component level. I remember dearly, the security we had to enforce every day. Many funny stories from the classroom: Sending a student for a fallopian tube for the '26 or have someone drain the bit bucket when we had a system crash on the '3. Got a few students "cleared and preset" with the crab grabber probes on the bi-mags on the '26. The card readers on the '7 were the pits, literally.
This web site brought back lots of memories, while perusing the various pages of equipment. The story about the KY-3 and President Kennedy was true. He sounded like Donald Duck talking in a barrel on the HY-2. His voice was so nasalized, that there were not enough pitch pulses and too many hiss pulses to get a good playback.
The KY-3 was a nine week course in the 1970's. This one separated the men from the boys, as it was the first piece of equipment taught once you completed basic electronics. I also had the first classes of WAFS in crypto training. Too many funny stories to tell about them. But my favorite is the Monday that they showed up just on time to be admitted to the building. They had spent the weekend at Port Aransas and made a mad dash to be back on time. Once in the classroom, one of the WAFS dumped her purse on the table and a camera fell out. I carried it to the course chief and snapped a flash picture. He looked at me and said the student's name. He took the film out of the camera and gave it back to the student with a harsh rebuke that would make any politically correct individual, today, cringe, then file a lawsuit for harassment and abuse.
What a wonderful surprise to find your site. I held the 306XX designation for 24 years. It was a fascinating career field! And we always felt unique.
I started Crypto school at Lackland AFB in 1964 and graduated 8 months later in 1965. The title of the course was Electronic Communications and Cryptographic systems Equipment Repairman (Encrypted Teletype Data-Facsimile) ABR30630C 972 hours. Graduated 17 June 1965.
They taught us 8 weeks of basic electronics (SERIOUS THEORY that no one seems to get today), 2 weeks on the HN-1, then sent us home for two weeks for leave while our clearances finished processing. Back to finish up on the KW-26 and KG-13 and then the system's block. I only saw one HN-1 in the field and that was at RAF South Ruislip in the 1969th Comm Sq about 1969. No idea what it was being used for.
Next, I attended the 3275th Technical School, USAF, Lackland AFB, TX. Here, I studied (and nearly forgot to mention ) the TSEC/HY-2 and the Narrowband Subscriber Terminal (NBST). It worked with the KG-13 and replaced the TSEC/KY-9. It could be adjusted to pretty darn near voice recognition quality!.
I also found my certificates for the TSEC/KY-57/58. Did you know that the KY-57 is marked with a spot where it is supposed to be shot if there is the potential for enemy capture? The TSEC/KY-65/75 was definitely not my cup of tea. It was a useless piece of junk!
First crypto I worked on in the field was the TSEC/KW-26B and C. I think the primary difference was that the C was designed so that you could drop the front panel for maintenance on the rotary switches but the B's were a
bear because you had to dismantle everything to get to the switches. Still recall the 6197 and 6550 tubes - oh do I remember them well! And the pot on the frequency oscillator that was metal and "hot". Always had the new kid that would try to adjust the pot with a jeweler's screwdriver and pick himself up from across the room! One thing I always said about a KW-26 was that they ran long enough so that you didn't hate them and broke often enough so you couldn't forget them.
Remember the big monster solder tip for removing the bi-mags. Of course if you ever used it, you generally cut a nice square hole in the board because the center of the iron hit the board before the lip hit the bi-mag pins. Only good bi-mag remover was a heavy set of dikes to chop the thing up and then pull the pins one-by-one. Had some schooling on the KY-585. First piece of equipment I ever saw with integrated chips. They had spider legs and laid flat on the circuit board. Worked on KW-7s. Took them from patch boards to punch blocks to card readers. And I too have a set of keys for the KW-7. I also have keys for the KG family card readers. Would give my eye-teeth for photos of a 26 or a 13.
Didn't see much of anything about the KY-9. I worked with that monster for a few years. The KL-7s bring back some funny memories. Had schooling on the KY-75 and took a correspondence course on the KG-84's. Again, at 54 pushing 55 years old, your site brought back some astounding memories. THANK YOU!
Harry D. Eyre, Jr., SMSgt, USAF (Retired)
Lackland AFB, TX
Hick AFB, HI
Clark AFB, PI
WRAF Welford, UK
RAF South Ruislip, UK
RAF Croughton, UK
RAF Mildenhall, UK
TUSLOG Det 16 (Incirlick, TK)
Offutt AFB, NE
Mt Home AFB, ID
Ft Monmouth, NJ
I was a 30670 ( crypto maintenance tech) in the USAF from 1968 to 1975. Trained on the KW -27, KW -7, KG 13 ,KY-3, and KWR-37. Of all the machines I was amused by the use of miniature pentode tubes used in the KWR-37. My assignments were maintaining fixed comm centers, and being in a mobile communication unit. I had the best 7 year enlistment and wouldn't trade my time as a Crypto tech for anything.
Thanks for your web site
John Forsythe, San Antonio,Tx
I was in Crypto for my entire twenty years in the U.S. Air Force and was an Air Training Command Master Instructor at the Crypto School, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas (KG-13) for almost five years. Throughout my career I served in SAC, AFCC (formerly AFCS), TAC, USAFE, and (indirectly) NATO, working Crypto in Comm Squadrons, Command Posts, SAC’s 24-hr Airborne Command Post, “Looking Glass”, Minuteman Missile launch control facilities, Air Defense and TEMPEST in Iceland, and finished up in the Pentagon.
On a lighter side; CRYPTO is one of the few U.S. military identifiers that isn't an acronym; the letters never stood for anything and the word just comes from the word cryptography. But, while going through Tech School at Lackland in 1972, our dormitories were next to those used by Security Police trainees who were forever trying to get us to tell them what Crypto meant and what went on in the funny shaped, tall, building with no windows and surrounded by a guard fence. Of course, getting security and proper clearance and such pounded into our young heads constantly, we knew we couldn't tell them anything. I thought about this for a while and figured out something we might just get away with. I was greatly amused many years later to hear the same thing from a young, first-term airman; looks like I left a bit of a legacy.
We told the SP trainees that CRYPTO stands for Counter-Revolutionary Yankee Participating in Tactical Operations! We also told them the Crypto School (three stories on a concrete slab-base) had four floors up and seventeen down, that every environment on Earth was simulated in there, and that we trained in them using exotic weapons and technologies. But we swore them to secrecy, telling them that we were all on the same team. So much for them telling us they had orders to shoot the Crypto Techs if the base was ever over-run by enemy forces.
I joined the AF in early 1973, went through tech school and got stationed at Carswell Tech school then covered basic electronics, KY-3, KW-7, KG-13, KW-26 and Sebit 24c MODEM. Volunteered for the middle east during that crisis, and got interviewed for a job with the White House Communications Service (which expedited my clearance and got me SCI).
Used to do support to outlying maintenance for NBSTs and AUTODIN. Dallas NAS used to have a Plan 55 installation (KW-26). The fun stuff was going out to E-Systems in Greenville Tx to work on stuff for ABNCP (KNEECAP and the like). Went back to Lackland TDY for HY-10 and KG-30, got orders for a classified location in the Middle East and went to tech schools again. I got put on hold until the Shah fell and went Keesler for some ancillary stuff, then to Ft. Gordon Georgia where we went through the Army's 32F course because of SECORD, AUTOSEVOCOM, a GTE MODEM. One of the things at Keesler was a Forward Error detection and Correction device (FEC) designed using DTL and a mercury vapor delay line. Goes to show some of the technology is older than generally thought in the civilian world. During my spare time at Carswell I ran a Technical Library and currently have a copy of the T.O for a KY-585. (Saw them on the 747s). I still have my HY-2 class notes and workbooks too. Did a lot of work on KG-13s including doing mods with some of them backlogged for 5 or 6 years. Had one that still had shortening relays in the KGs. Used to change wafer switches on KW-26s a lot too.
When they finally decided where to send me, it was to Turkey, where nothing was happening. We had a one acre room that had originally been a Plan 55 switch, and was still half filled with KW-26s, KG-13s, KW-7s and an NBST. The Turks had shut down activity there (there was an Elephant cage antenna), over the Cypress incident, The most excitement we got when the Army guys at Sinop got chatty during an HJ. I got: "Guess What!!!!" (followed by lots of case shifts and a few carriage returns. When asking what I got back: "The Turkish Air Force strafed our chow hall!!!". Seems someone did a practice run in an F-4 with weapons hot. Also used to chat up a Wave on Rota, who would count down the days till her tour was up. Used to gossip with the Army at Vint Hill, all of this was via TTY. I helped troubleshoot a KG-13 by phone with an Army guy in Ankara. It is a startling contrast when the Army Crypto guy was completely puzzled by references to test points and the like. I could still troubleshoot a KG-13 today, 20+ years later. I got a couple of awards over the years for going N number of months without error on data entry to the maintenance data collection system (MDC). Tells you where peace time priorities are. I used to do my own key punch just to keep the entry errors down.
At Carswell we used to fight for who was going to do it, and whether or not it we were going to use the IBM Model 026 or a Univac DCT key punch (which read in program cards instead of using a reference card drum). I used to do the equivalent of depot level maintenance on the equipment, so it would eventually go out yellow tagged. I've always thought it would be embarrassing to pass junk off to someone who might need it. Found a socket wrench in the compartment with the big muffin fan on a KG-13. One day when inspecting the filters in the back of the big compartment in a KW-26 I came across a christening plate from Burroughs with a date of November 1954 (serial number 10). The month I was born. It had been modified to a C model.
I got orders for Sunnyvale AFS, when I got there I found I was NCOIC in COMSEC maintenance and we got special orders and a clothing allowance. Seems who and where we worked on crypto gear for was classified for the most part, although there was an AFSSO, the Navy's Trident program, and an Autodin remote site. We used to do AUTOSEVOCOM for Sunnyvale AFS, KY-3s in the FTFDs (Flight Office/Flight Director) because of our clearance. There were two more Comm groups crawling around, one of which did the comm center there. They even did the KG-28s for downlinks, although they didn't do key changes.
We used to go to lots of sites, government offices and the like. (Even today I have a certain reluctance to talk about the NRO). I got to pop an EPROM into a reader and send a command to a tactical satellite once. Couldn't tell what happened from the ground. Used to go to Camp Parks, which was accessed through Santa Rita jail. We'd have to drive through the common area through milling prisoners. We had one guy who would demand all the windows were rolled up and lock all the doors. We used to kid him about it. We always wanted to do the evasive driving course there. We would have had to clean the oil off the GSA vehicle ourselves though. I remember some of the sites had the funniest ideas about security. You'd exchange badges and go in somewhere then look up safe combinations on rolodexes. I used to have enough controlled area badges, sometimes I'd have to linger and let someone else pass as a prompt to see which one to use. We sort of had blanket access across lots of compartments.
One of the things we did sort of unofficially after talking to our security officer, was to let some of the satellite designers blow off steam. You'd make the mistake of asking how it was going, and the next thing you know someone would be breaking out the binder with the top secret pictures of the satellites they had worked on (all with girls names). It was like being in a secret club and lots of fun except for the paranoia. We'd end up doing sweeps of cable troughs looking for bugs, even checking phones. There were only two places we could discuss some things, a SCIF or a moving vehicle. The euphemism used to be, "step out into my office...". We maintained this one secure voice system with a commercial CVSD digitizer and a KG-13 that went to a dedicated rotary switch on the east cost. (One of these little relay based systems you would see for in house red phones in secure installations). The KG-13s were used for link encryption. There were 5 stations on this phone system. One day I got a call from a program manager at the contractor where this phone was installed, with a complaint that people were hearing crosstalk on the phone. Turns out it was KGO Newstalk radio on 610 AM. Seems a ground connection had been made at both ends of the cable running to the phone (a regular 501 keyset) and there was a colder solder joint working as a rectifier - an accidental crystal radio. The solution was to break the ground loop. I went over the engineering package for the install and found that it didn't match to well. How embarrassing.
I got notified for overseas assignment, there were only a limited number of places they'd send me in the U.S. because of the extensive training I'd had. The 5th Mob in OK, the puzzle palace and the like. I'd heard stories about the deployments with the mobilization group and didn't really want to do that. I got offered a 4 year stabilized tour doing the same job I had after I put in for the lottery on the latest reduction in force. I remember sneering at guys who wanted out in the 1974 rif, and put in letters disagreeing with Air Force policies. I couldn't get promoted for several years and would have had to extend to get a line number. The retention rate for 306X0s was somewhere around 30 percent for first termers. They required high test scores to get into the career field, and there wasn't enough challenge or room for growth in a peace time shrinking military. A couple of months before I finished the basic 306X0 course at Lackland, they'd deleted our specialty pay. I remember some of the married instructors really grumbling, sure were a lot of them working in Radio Shacks part time in San Antonio after that.
I got out of the A.F. in 1977 on an early out as a 30670 with SEIs for AUTOSEVOCOM, AUTODIN and COBRA LIME. I Spent half of my time going through tech schools.. I used to spend a lot of time going through the KAMs, especially in Turkey (new paperback books would show up at exchange one a month, and the base library only took a half a year to read through). I remember seeing some of the first KG-80 equipment and one of the first DSP based vocoders and realizing that the career field would die. There were lots of interesting times, too. I once came around the corner of a hanger at the Greenville International Airport and ran into the time the chief of staff of the Air Force. He helped me pick up everything I dropped. It just goes to show 4 star generals are mortal too. There was another general who insisted everyone call him by his first name (we were all working in civies). I can still remember, "Just call me John." I really remember the anxiety of being suddenly out of the military after getting the early out (9 days between notification and separation). The day I left I cleared the pool table in the rec center on my last game.
David Koontz <koontz(at)allegronetworks.com>
I enjoyed looking over your web site, it took me back to San Antonio and the early 1980's. I attended the "crypto" school from June 1983 to Feb 1984, I remember the KG-13, KW-26, HYP-2, KY-3 and the KW-7. Later I attended the KY-67/75 and KY57/58 and did the TRI-TAC series and KG-84 as Specialized Training Packages (STP's). I remember the saying that the old school building sank at night and all you could see was the swimming pool, and the lie the Security Police trainees were told about being able to shoot us if we were ever over-ran. I remember nights at the Skylark club, and page-checks of the books, 6 tough weeks of fundamental electronics, and no homework after we got to the equipment portion.
The old 306X0 AFSC was converted in the late 80's/early 90's to 2E3XX and within the past couple of months merging with the old 305XX/2E2X1 Electronic Switching. There are no longer any "fix it in the field" Crypto units most everything is "Limited Maintenance". The days of the Crypto guy are gone, replaced with the limited maintenance philosophy.
Douglas Lambert, PBX Engineer, SBC DataComm
I served 20 years in the USAF as a crypto tech. I went to school at Lackland on the KY-3, HY-2, KW-7, KG-13 and the KW-26. That was along time ago, back in 1968 and 1969. I have one story you might find interesting
In 1970 while stationed in Saigon, VN as part of the 485th E & I I had to go to the SVN comm center to see a friend. When I walked in I was shocked at the loud noise the machines were making and commented about it
to my friend. He quickly took me outside and told me not to say anything about the equipment. You see the SVN had been told the equipment we had given them was state-of-the-art, even though it was WWII vintage.
I don't know how true this was but I believe I saw rotors on some of the equipment. I was there to install two DSTE systems in the new comm Center. While uncrating the KW-26's we found a dead rat in a power supply drawer. It had been fried.
Fun and State Secrets in Darkest Chigwell
I was at RAF Chigwell for much of my National Service from about 1958-59. It was an extraordinary time. Only now do I realise how thrilling it was, and why.These are some notes for my grandchildren that refer to RAF Chigwell. It starts in an anonymous small hut, number 66 on the site. Few realised what was going on. The hut looked drab enough. It contained a workbench and a large safe with a revolver in it. There were just three or four 4 x 3 x 2 foot sealed packing boxes labelled 01/BID/10 and a couple of green aluminium carrying cases about 8 x 15 x 18 inches. So what?
The large boxes contained British Typex, five-rotor, cipher machines based on the famous wartime Enigma machines. The smaller ones were our spare KL7 cipher machines of the latest US design. On the wall, there was a large sledgehammer. In the event of atomic war (thought likely at the time) our orders were to wait until we had smashed the machines! Typex machines were growing old. They were used for communicating secrets that only needed to be kept secure from the USSR for twenty-four hours. New electronic replacements were being developed and someone claimed to have already seen one working at Bletchley Park.
The more sophisticated US KL7 machines were then still in service. They had 'life expired' by 1969 but soldiered on a little longer.The last KL-7 message in Canada was sent in 1983. The Walker spy ring consisting of father and son passed on a working machine to the Russians. That ring was exposed by 1985.
A regular sergeant and corporal ran the hut with two national servicemen who made most of the visits to check or repair the equipment. Our routine work centred on the Colonial Office and the many High Commissions in London such as India House, Australia House, Rhodesia House and so on.
One morning I had gone to see the film, Monsieur Hulots Holiday at a cinema in St Martin’s Lane. The newsreel announced that the country was waiting to read about the Devlin Report. That was the May 1959 enquiry into the British mal-administration of four detention camps holding Mau Mau followers in Kenya (It was then July). It was an example of British colonial rule at the time when the Empire was collapsing. The subject of Mau Mau detentions was causing a big fuss in Parliament.
Outside the cinema the newspaper boards said “Devlin report still not released”. Then the penny dropped! I raced to the Colonial office in Westminster. The cipher room floor was covered in paper tapes. People were in a state of some panic. All six Typex machines had broken down. A couple were quickly repaired and the Devlin Report went for approval. It appeared by the next morning.]
We also looked after the Foreign Office where they used the "Rockex" machine. Rockex was derived from the German High Command, “Lorenz”, cipher machines and was built by the people at Bletchley. I also remember they used a kind of early fax machine which sent photo images of texts. Recent TV programmes have claimed that Lorenz machines had all been destroyed at the end of war. I know it not to be true!
Rather oddly, the commercial Shell Mex House in the Strand also had use of Typex machines. All fuel supplies were then nationalised and tied up with national security. Our oil supplies relied heavily upon Iraq, which had been run like a colony. I was, originally, posted to Habaniya in Iraq, but was unable to go. The pro-British King had been killed in a Baathist uprising that meant the British had to leave. Eventually Saddam Hussein was to emerge as leader of the Baath party.
Out of London we were responsible for cryptographic equipment at Command HQs, for instance, NATO HQ at Northwood and Fighter Command near Medmenham. All the key coding books for the world were issued from another small hut at Fighter Command. The Command bunkers were entered through small, bombproof doors. They opened onto concrete stairs guarded by a soldier with a rifle. The walls were lined with thick cables; often water would run down into the caverns below.
At Northwood, there were uniforms from the many different arms of each NATO country. Data was hung on files reading “Confidential” to “Most Secret” and “NATO Only” to “UK Eyes Only”. Northwood, being centre of NATO operations in those days, was like the set of Dr Strangelove! The most memorable feature was the giant screens, ready to set out the progress of battles. There was also an element of farce as water regularly flooded the Battle Room floors and the smart uniforms waded around in their bare feet.
A high priority for us was food. The dining arrangements at command HQs seemed so good in those drab days, far better than RAF food in general. Usually there was a cheerful self-service restaurant, an innovation of the time.
We also had some out-of-the-ordinary places to look after. The weather-forecasting HQ, near Dunstable needed secure communications in case war broke out again. They had no less than twelve Typex machines and presumably an army of forecasters to use them.
We also looked after Aldermaston’s ciphers during the UK atom bomb tests. CND anti-nuclear weapon protesters usually ringed the gates. Apart from pushing leaflets through the car windows, there was no trouble.
There was an occasional trip to the British Embassy in Dublin. The C.O. told me I must keep my head down and carry no identification. Not only the IRA, but the Irish Catholic Church, too, was very active.
[Arriving in Ireland on the overnight ferry, I was stopped by an earnest Irish Customs Officer. I thought, what is he going to ask me? He said “What’s in that there bag? Are ye carryin’ any ‘contri-ceptives’ now?”
A quick visit to the embassy, a Typex machine repaired and I would be parked at the Montrose Hotel to ‘’keep my head down’’.]
We normally carried ‘H’ passes. Looking at them in the light from shop window displays, we noticed they had ultraviolet writing on them. In those days, it was thought very ‘scientific’, even ‘exciting’! Much later we found people who had been questioned by ‘ministry men’ about our interests and political views. I suppose it was a security vetting.
The ‘H’ passes were marvellous and could get us in anywhere, even to see the US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile sites and A-bomb stores near Alconbury. I remember coming across a huge ICBM, laid on its side, stretched along the wall of a hanger.
RAF Chigwell was a much more relaxed sort of place. The radar people were considered ‘very bright’: they even knew how to build television sets. Most of us slept in the billets illustrated in the book. Conditions were a bit primitive. The beds sagged, but we made ourselves comfortable.
The Crypto unit’s special cachet was that we went everywhere in ‘civvies’. Nobody knew who we were or what we did. It was rare for us, National Servicemen, to be around when a uniform parade seemed at all likely.
We did wear uniform (well, a greatcoat, hat and boots, with civvies underneath) for hitchhiking. It was very efficient: people were very sympathetic to National Servicemen. I could leave for Yorkshire on a Friday evening and stay for the weekend. Only when “Bilko” had finished at five thirty on a Sunday evening was it time to return. After three or four lifts I would be down the Great North Road and back in Chigwell, in time for supper.
There was one awful interlude of six weeks. I was posted to RAF Compton Basset, in uniform, and stuck out on the Wiltshire Downs. I was in a barbed wire compound inside an RAF camp. It was a new school to teach officers how to use KL7 cryptography. I was stuck there, day in and day out. I tried going round whistling L'Internationale. No one seemed to notice.
Most mornings in Chigwell, I took the tube from Buckhurst Hill station into Westminster. We found out that they gave away free theatre tickets to servicemen at the Nuffield Centre off Trafalgar Square. It was marvellous!
We went to see shows like Brian Rix in the Whitehall Farces, Peter Sellars in “Brouhaha” and David Niven in “Blue Moon” [?] at the Strand theatre. We couldn’t get into the “Mouse Trap.” It had started its record- breaking run that continues today. There were many other entertainments; among the best were orchestral concerts at the Festival Hall where we also saw Sir Fredric Ashton’s farewell ballet.
Soho was great! Coffee bars were all the rage and suited our pockets. The Raymond Review Bar was ‘exotic’ but beyond our means. So was the Windmill Theatre, nevertheless it seemed 'glamourous' to work in the West End..
The other great attraction was Old Crompton Street. In those days it was lined with shops selling surplus, military, electronic equipment. We found it all very intriguing, even more so when we recognised a solenoid from a Typex machine. That find resulted in a police raid on the premises.
The Nuffield Centre in Albemarle Street (?) also served inexpensive food. Food was a preoccupation when you had to get by on 35 shillings (£1.75) a week! A good lunch of bacon and tomatoes could, with luck, be had for 2 shillings and six pence by mixing with the market porters in Floral Street, near to Covent Garden. If a late night show meant a night in London, we stayed at the Union Jack club opposite Waterloo station. Though basic, it was clean and cost only 10 shillings (50p) for a bedroom and breakfast.
Walking from Leicester Square Station to work at Africa House, I noticed a gathering on a bomb (?) site next door to St Martins in the Field. People had marched down the Strand and were standing there, talking noisily, about the closure of a theatre.
The main speaker turned and offered me a cigarette. It was (the, then) Sir Lawrence Olivier with his wife Vivien Leigh. The poor young lady, who was not to live much longer, looked so glamorous when she smiled. They chatted with me briefly and asked about my job!
I have a notion the great actors, besides lobbying for London’s theatres, were also involved in the promotion of “Strand” cigarettes!
When I needed to carry equipment, say a spare KL7 machine, I was, to my amazement, issued with a large Standard Vanguard car. Not many people had cars then. I could not believe my luck.
I parked the car in the Foreign Office car park, opposite 10 Downing Street. No one seemed to mind as I was there on official duties. In those class-conscious days, all a National Serviceman needed to pass as a Senior Officer (undefined), was ‘civvies’, the ‘right’ accent and an H-pass if all else failed.
[Downing Street had no gates and you could walk up to the door and have your picture taken. Indeed, some years before, my father had taken me into the F.O. and sat me on the chair Winston Churchill had used during a meeting they both attended. It was all very relaxed.]
One memorable day I invited a nurse, a friend from home, to the theatre. Keen to impress, I picked her up from the Westminster Hospital in my swish RAF car and parked in the F.O. Little did I realise this outing was to become the talk of our hometown when the story got back, and what a fuss it did cause!
After the show we drifted back to pick up ‘my’ car and drove through the archway into Downing Street. Suddenly the street filled with policemen. Endless questions followed and telephone calls were made. Even waving my ‘H’ pass didn’t cut much ice. Eventually, though they did let us go.
Back at RAF Chigwell I tried to creep past the Guard Room. The military policeman said “The Transport Officer will see you promptly at 08.00 hours.” The T. O. said he knew I had been arrested in Downing Street whilst in possession of two top-secret machines. But, worst of all, I had been cavorting around London with a young lady in one of his vehicles!
The C. O. was a decent sort of chap. He told me that my actions had been so utterly awful, and the consequences so unthinkable, that he had decided it was safer to forget about the whole matter. I did not argue.
Life at RAF Chigwell was as congenial as it could be for a conscripted serviceman. Two years of enforced military life was not what we wanted. But, having quickly learned to live with the system, it was a happy time. When I was due to leave, and had declined a career in the RAF, a highly skilled radar technician warned me “You’ll never make £15 a week in Civvy Street.”
To do this job I had had to sign the Official Secrets Act, which most people did anyway. Somehow I never did discuss what I saw and read on the machines. Much of the technical side of Typex and KL7 is now out on the Internet but, before writing this, I checked with the Cabinet Office who looked into the work of the Chigwell Cipher Hut.
They said I could write about anything to do with the cryptography other than matters relating to “atomic weapons”. That is a pity. However, it does mean there is still at least one more story about RAF Chigwell worth telling.
Terry Lister; 08 June 05 e-mail: TerenceTMOL(at)aol.com
I spent 22-1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force, all of it in the 306X0, Cryptographic Maintenance career field. In fact, today, May 1, 2008, marks 18 years from the day I retired. Among my assignments was a three year stay at the Crypto School at Lackland where I taught the five week basic electronic fundamentals class ("fundies"), the KW-26, and writing course materials. Other assignments were at March AFB, Wildwood AFS, Scott AFB, Shemya AFB, RAF Mildenhall, Kelly AFB, and Elmendorf AFB. It's interesting to note that four of the eight bases are no longer active.
Dick Morris, Anchorage, Alaska
E-mail : rmorris(at)alaska.net
Papin, Peter SSG, USA 1987-Present (29S/35E Crypto Repair)
I graduated from high school in May, 1987 and joined the Army five days later (originally as a medic). A screwup after Basic Training was to forever change my life...no medic slots available at school, "would I prefer to stay at Fort Jackson, SC for two additional months, or go to Fort Gordon, GA for Crypto Repair school?". Needless to say, I was walking around on Ft Gordon two days later. My course was for Military Occupational Specialty (29S), Field COMSEC Repairer and lasted 19 weeks. We had not only a multi-service class with many Jarheads and Squids, but also civilians and a few International techs. The course was divided into Basic Electronics, Basic
Soldering, Electronic Theory, Power Supplies, Advanced Theory, KAM Page Counting (a personal favorite), and instruction on the actual equipment. I qualified (limited maintenance pluck and chuck) on the KG27, KG30 family,
KIR1A/KIT1A, HN1, KW7, KG84, KY57/58, KY65/75, KG81/TRITAC family, ST34, ST58, USM481, and some others that escape memory at the present. I was assigned to Fort Bragg, NC (Home of the Airborne!) and settled into the exciting world of COMSEC. Spent most of my time on KW7's (still remember what 20ma "feels" like).
Some memorable moments are being awoken at 2AM December 18th, 1989 to help issue equipment and Keymat to an advanced party leaving for an "OP". (This later turned into the invasion of Panama). I also went Temporary Duty to Honduras to be a Crypto Repair guy and got caught up with the 7th Special Forces as a temporary radio operator while they were busy "playing" with El Salvadorian Sandanistas (saw some bullets fly, but was generally safe myself). I pulled a tour in Panama (post-invasion) at the CMDSA in the Gunn Hill Bunker on Ft Clayton. We were the first unit to successfully transition from the KG27's to the SHF KG194A in the 84/93 vans. From Panama, went back to the schoolhouse (Ft Gordon) to pickup "Full Maintenance" (actually GS level stuff that I should have picked up the first time) enroute to Ft Hood, TX. Spent some time at 1st CAV Division and the Specialized Repair Activity (SRA) at Hood doing mostly KY57 mods. Since then (1995), pulled a recruiting duty tour, re-visited Panama, and am currently a COMSEC Custodian at Ft Hood, TX.
Oliver, Phil E-mail: Phil_Oliver(at)intuit.com
Phil provided these two photos from his collection
Main gate of Lackland AFB circa 1969-1970. (Photo courtesy Phil Oliver)
This was the Crypto Maintenance Training School at Lackland AFB in 1969-1970. (Photo courtesy Phil Oliver)
Rutledge, Richard B.
I thought you might be interested in knowing that the USMC went away from depot level maintenance several years ago. Now, they allow any tech to do limited maintenance without a NSA approved training program. I was the last depot level maintenance tech in the Corps when I retired 10-01-2005. Even as a depot level tech, I was only "depot" on one piece of equipment, For the rest I was limited. Maintenance didn't even consist of board swapping any longer...now its just re-programme it, and if that doesn't work, send it to the bone yard. Everything else that I had been depot level trained on was long gone -- replaced by high tech items. There were even pieces of equipment that you couldn't close back up if you ever did decide to open them.
Thank you all for your service.
Richard B. Rutledge
Staff Sergeant / United States Marine Corps
I was stationed at the Naval Security Station on Nebraska Ave after 38 weeks of ET school at Great Lakes Naval training center (1963-64). In between these duty stations I went to KY-1 crypto school at Ft Monmouth (8 weeks). Later I went to KW-26 and tempest training at the Portsmout Ship Yards, Va.
I went back to Monmouth for 8 weeks of KY-3 when it became transistorized. I installed one of these for the Marine Commandant in the Pentagon (Gen. Wallace Green). Discharged after my 4 year commitment in August of 1967 CT(M) 2nd class Petty Officer (E-5).
I started in Crypto on 14 Feb 1965. Was a cross trainee from medics Flight surgeons assistant (later called Paramedic). Spent my first half year teaching basic electronic components course while I waited for the needed clearances for the KW-26 and KG-13 units. I also learned KY-7, KY-9, Parkhill and others.
Helped update pages, errata changes, and even re-write maintenance manuals and training manuals when I was between classes. I also served 3 years as a T30650. I Stayed in 306xx until I retired. After retiring from the AF I went to work at GSA HQ doing the same installation and maintenance thing. Then moved to Redstone Arsenal and continued doing related maintenance on KR-26, KG-13, KW-7, (until they were removed from service) STU-2 and STE-3 devices. I was depot level Trained on the STU and STE systems.
Shuster, Lee K.
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
About half-way through the 6-week-long, basic training course (at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas)our DI (drill instructor) herded us across base to some administrative offices for tech school assignment following basic training. Originally I wanted to go to RF (radio) school at Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi, but the clerks looked at my test scores and suggested "you want Crypto." What's 'Crypto'? I asked. "We're not sure but you'll get put into the longest tech school offered to enlisted troops in USAF with a good emphasis on (then) new digital electronics," was the clerk's answer. Of course, "you'll have to qualify for a fairly rigorous security check." "Hey, what the heck," I thought,"I might even get to like San Antonio." And I so I signed up for "Crypto." (And loved San Antone!)
Recently, I came across the unclassified course description of the 1,113 hours of training I got in from February to November, 1972. The USAF School of Applied Aerospace Sciences, Lackland AFB, Texas offered the Electronic Communications & Cryptographic Systems Equipment Repairman Course (AFSC 306X0). Courses were in three shifts, taught in modern (at the time), windowless, three-storybrick building, surrounded by armed SP guards and concertina ringed fences. The training was intended to provide operational theory and fault isolation to component level. The course was broadly outlined as follows:
The class focused on the repair and maintenance of TSEC/KY-3, TSEC/KG-13, TSEC/KW-7, and the TSEC-KW-26C. None of the KW-7's I ever saw had key-card readers. They were all keyed with programmable jumper blocks.
- Basic Electronic Principles: Vacuum Tubes and Solid-State Devices
- Basic Electronic Circuits: Amplifiers, Oscillators, Counters, Registers, Clocks, Memory,
- Synchronization, Alarm, Modulation circuits.
- Basic Digital Circuits: DTL, TTL, ECL, LED's, ROM and CMOS applications.
- Basic Computer Mathematics: Decimal, Binary, Octal, Hexadecimal number systems,
- Truth & Logic
- Tables, Boolean Algebra.
- Specialized Electronic Circuits: Voice & Data Encryption, PCM coder/decoders, Bi-Stable
- Ferro-magnetic Switching devices, Key Generation circuits.
Later (1974), I trained on the Teletype Corp Model 37, known as the AN/UGC-109 (KSR) and theAN/UGC-110 (ASR), also known as the TT-636. These were some of the last generation TTY's (from Teletype Corp. in Skokie, Illinois). The TT-636 used early digital integrated circuits as I/O interfaces; so they taught us "Crypto" types learn how to maintain the whole unit including the fussy mechanical keyboard, printer, and tape reperferators. In the mid-1970's, the USAF TT-636 school was taught at Sheppard Technical Training Center, Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas.
These TTY units were used by "Cold War silent-warriors" or SIGINT (signals intelligence) intercept operators as data collection terminals, feeding their electronic data output into TSEC/KW-26C's. I spend two great years (1974 -1976) at RAF Chicksands, near Bedford, England, with the Air Force Electronic Security Command 6950th Electronic Security Group (ESG). This was one of many world-wide AN/FLR-9 RF antenna installations, operated by the Air Intelligence Agency (then known as USAF Security Service).
Smith, Larry - Fort Monmouth, NJ
I finished the "Fixed Cryptographic Equipment Repair Course", TSEC/KW-26 Teletypewriter Security Equipment training in Nov 1971. The US Army Signal School was at Fort Monmouth, NJ back then. After a year in Korea, working in the 226th Signal Companys' Communications Center (COMM Center) I returned to Fort Monmouth and attended the "Fixed Ciphony Repair Course" (Secure Voice). I worked in Comm Centers at Fort Monmouth and Fort Dix, as well as a DS/GS Electronic Maintenance shop (Fort Dix). The maintenance shop also sponsored my training on the KI-1A. I also maintained a Narrowband Subscriber Terminal for the 3rd Coast Guard District, Governors Island, NY. Eventually, I found my way to the Communications Electronics Command (CECOM) at Fort Monmouth, NJ where I worked with the Communications Security (COMSEC) Division doing R&D and system integration for the Vinson family of voice encryption devices as well as the KG-84 data encryption hardware. I also spent 11 years with the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, Fort Monmouth, NJ, working on "GuardRail", an airborne intelligence gathering platform. As part of the GuardRail team, I participated in several system upgrades at various MI units positioned around the world. Experience included both COMINT and ELINT hardware.
As all the "old-timers" are aware, our heritage of field-expedient, component-level, fix-it under fire (not literally) experience is a disappearing blip on the radar screen, aka limited maintenance and contractor support; however, seeing your site and reading some of the bios, for a moment a least, sent me back to a time when "making sure your stuff worked" was as critical as "a full pot of coffee", something all of us "cryto guys (and gals)" can relate to.
Larry D. Smith
Space & Terrestrial Communications Directorate
AMSEL-RD-ST-WN-IS (Information Security)
Fort Monmouth, NJ 07703
Vanderwiel , Pete
I started the 3276 School Squadron (Crypto school) at Lackland in August 1961. In those days course 3076C was Teletype and KW-26 while 3076-D was data and KG-3/13. Was initially trained on "C sherd" as we then called the subsets but was later cross trained on D.
After finishing basic electronics, I went to SETS school. It could have served as a stage set for Hogans Heros;
ie old WWII era, one story buildings. The latrines were in separate buildings with no heat. It was not fun in January or February, not even in Sananton. Part way thru we moved the school to the "new building" now over 45 years of age in 2007. (See photo elsewhere in this document). So much for fun.
I saw comments that the drop front panel was the key difference in the KW-26 B and C. I don't recall it that way. To me the key was the B model only had 1 Sync light. Many times an airman shot a "bug" on a unit that would not sync only to find out it was a burned out bulb, Hopefully this was a "new guy mistake", but at a small site you could go a long time before you saw it. The C model had two Sync lights that went on and off alternately. It made life a lot easier.
USAF July 1961 to July 1965.
As a former Navy Radioman 2nd class, I am quite familiar with the KW-26, KWR-37 and KG-14 from an operational perspective. I thought these machines were quite reliable, with the possible exception of the output relays in the KW-26. An indication of this was easily identified by attaching an O-scope and looking at the square wave. If there were distinct vertical spikes, generally, this meant you needed to change the relay.
I was on the USS Annapolis 1967-68 in Tonkin Gulf and worked as a Circuit Controller (NEC 2318). Another interesting bit of operational expediency was the idea of going "hi and blind". We used to encounter jamming or SIDs and had several crypto channels crash on us at once. We would (via tty orderwire, or voice) instruct the other end to go "hi and blind, you lead, I'll follow". What this meant was that the other operator would start with his transmitters and sequentially load the key cards. We would load the same sequence in our receivers and vice versa. When he had all transmitters ready, he would lock down and send BIs. When we saw them we miked the receivers and then locked down and sent BIs to him. On a good day you could restart 16 channels in less than 7 or 8 minutes. I have personally done this numerous times successfully.
Good to see your site, and to be able to show my family what Dad did in the war! Keep up the good work.
I actually wanted to sign up for the Air Force in 1976 since I knew they had good electronics training. They had a really cool brainwash video at the induction center that showed a guy in a nice clean air conditioned building using some neat test equipment on a large machine with lots of lights and switches on it and I said that is for me. Since only I failed the depth perception test for radar tech, they wanted to then make me a generator mechanic. I told the recruiter that he wasn't putting me on a flight line so I walked down the hall to talk to the Army.
I looked through their MOS listings, found the longest school they had - Fixed Station Cryptographic Equipment Repairer (32G20) 44 weeks, and told the guy to sign me up. Previously I had scored extremely high on the entrance exam, I think it was a 97 in the Air Force scale of 100. That translated into a 147 GT score in Army terms so he said sure, he could fix me right up but it would be a year before the next slot opened up. Instead, he could sign me up for something just as good, namely Field Telephone Equipment Repair, or something like that. I told the recruiter I’m not going to be a pole climber then headed down the hall, all disgusted. He came running after me saying "Wait, I have a special deal that just opened up for the Crypto MOS, but you have to sign up right now". Sometimes you have be blunt with recruiters to get what you want. So I went ahead and signed up and only for 3 years instead of the 4 year commitment that the Air Force required.
During Basic Training at Fort Jackson, S.C. I was thinking, “what in the hell did I do to get into this mess?”. My dad was an Electronic Warfare Officer in the Army Security Agency for 20 years. I was not used to seeing and now experiencing the enlisted way of life. It got a little better in AIT and also at Fort Jackson, where I took the Common Basic Electronics Training (COBET). It was an 8 week course, excellent for analog theory, but I didn't understand some of it and was getting kind of worried near the end because this was a difficult subject to fully understand. When we got into the digital portion, it started making sense.
Then it was on to Fort Gordon, the U.S Army Signal School, where one of the first things that happened to me was pulling mess hall duty in the Welcome Center for not having both pairs of boots shined. I also became an expert, advanced cigarette butt "picker upper" at this time. During the last in-processing session, I was worried that my clearance hadn't been approved since I had not heard anything and asked one of the clerks about it. He said if you got this far it's approved.
The first course was on the Kleinschmidt Teletype. I think it was a two week course. This is the machine, so complicated, that it was rumored that the guy that designed it, Mr. Kleinschmidt, I presume, ended up going crazy after he finished the project. I felt really stupid after troubleshooting a “running open” problem during the final exam. That is where the teletype sits there making a lot of racket without actually typing any characters. I was going through all the wiring diagrams, tracing circuits, and having a great time using my newly acquired electronics skills to nail down the problem. After about 5 minutes of this the instructor walked over, gave me a look that I was the biggest idiot he had ever seen, picked up the “unplugged” transmit patch cable and dropped it on top of the machine.
Next came the KW-7. We had a real jerk for an instructor. When we asked him how the noise generator worked, which was the source of the random encryption key, he said “It works fine, lasts a really long time, don't worry about it, because you don't need to know that”, a standard Army answer. On to the KW-26, which I thought was about the coolest machine I had ever seen. It was big, loud with all the power supply fans running, and had lots of cool lights, switches, dials, and buttons to push. This time we had a civilian instructor who was really smart and very cool. We had fun troubleshooting the magnetic core registers with our “One Bitters” to find the shorts and opens, went through about a mile of schematics, it was the longest phase of the course since it dealt with older tube technology, and there was a lot of circuitry to cover. This was component level repair, which we almost never used later, but was fun to learn. I knew about halfway through the KW-26 course that I wasn't going to have any problem making it, and started "acing" all of the tests along the way. Next was the KG-13, which was another different world altogether with its epoxied, plastic coated modules called OMI’s and IBO’s which were really nothing more than inverters (Op Amps). The Army training method was to name them so you could tell what their function was. Examples - 1 in 0 out (IBO) 0 in 1 out (OMI) and so on. The last part was systems, where you troubleshoot circuits. We found out from the previous class what all the switches did that the instructors used to bug the machines.
I put in for Korea on my dream sheet, since had I heard some pretty great things about the local economy where you could have an off base hooch with a maid for next to nothing and decided that was for me. Most of the rest of the class put in for Europe. Of course, the Army sent “THEM” to Korea and me to Europe. Now I found myself posted to AFCENT HQ, Allied Forces Central Europe, in Brunssum, Belgium, which actually turned out to be Holland, not Belgium. It was great since I spent a lot of time in Amsterdam and Rotterdam during my tour. The Comm Center had KW-26’s and a Mode V unit, which of course I had not been trained on. The people that didn't need training received it as I found out later. The KW-26’s were great, I hardly ever had a problem with them the entire two years although I did have a transformer go defective in one of the power supplies. I had never heard of this happening. Stayed up all night testing every tube and measuring every voltage to track that one down. I finally eliminated everything but the transformer, which, I was taught “Never Goes Bad. We did have a wafer switch go bad, which I have heard of, but no problems with the card readers like you heard so much about. Replaced a few driver tubes here and there. These were 'C' models but still had the old mechanical relays that you had to adjust with a long drawn out procedure that I found fascinating They were replaced with solid state, sealed relays soon thereafter. We also had a very well provisoned tool set. I remember it well, since I had to inventory the thing in what felt like a weekly process.
During the first few months of crypto maintenance, I also found out the first rule about electronics - If it is working, leave it alone. Fresh out of school, I thought I was "Joe Technician", like we all did, and just had to perform every adjustment and test every tube (marginal checks, where you varied the voltage while looking at the scope to see if the waveform collapsed too soon.) I just had to get my hands on that Mode V, which I had been “NOT” trained on. There I was, adjusting that bad boy for peak performance, testing and dialing in all of the spare boards, ( it had been working fine before I started this), when all of a sudden after one of the final adjustments, it stopped working. Needless to say I ended up calling the guy I was replacing and we got to stay up all night fixing it.
We also had an LLSU, Low Level Signal Unit, between the Mode V and the Teletypes, Kleinschmidts, which I think were model 40’s. The LLSU I adjusted, went out of commission one day because I broke one of the board receptacles in the back of the unit. I had a fun time alligator clipping the board to the broken connector during the Colonel's inspection visit. Got it back in working order while he was there so it was not a total screw-up. We had a CEA team come in one week and tear out everything in order to transition to 100 wpm service take. They left everything in pieces in the middle of the job and took off for the weekend. Civilians get to do stuff like that. I had to stay up all night rewiring everything back together. I spent a lot of long nights in that Comm Center it seems.
One of the best places I got to work was under a mountain near the Belgian Border - 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force HQ supporting some KG-13’s. The tunneled out mountain had been used in World War II during the German invasion. It was hilarious seeing the American KG-13’s sitting next to the antiquated British “Patch Panel” variety of crypto equipment with the HUGE colored lights across the front that looked like something out of Flash Gordon. It was neat looking when you turned the room lights off. The circuit to England seemed to always go down right in the middle of an important exercise. The Tech Controller at the switch would blame it on temperature inversions over the English Channel affecting the microwave slot, or some such nonsense.
We did once actually have one problem with the KG-13 besides the phase switch. Someone at the other end of the circuit has the equipment set up incorrectly. There was sync, but no data was being passed into the network. That happened during an exercise too. The other Crypto tech that was in town for the exercise had seen that before and fixed it when he relieved me the next morning. Of course, that was after the “exercise” was over and we were all “dead”.
Newly installed KG-13’s, were fitted with CAU's, (Crypto Ancillary Units). These multi circuit boards, marvels of engineering, synced the units automatically. I did remember one problem with these. A bad amplifier in the output stage of one of the receivers was not transmitting properly. The amplitude of the waveform was wrong and the device wouldn't communicate with the Honeywell network outside of the secure area. It was funny trying to troubleshoot that one with the Honeywell tech, since he couldn't even come in the vault. My hero, the Air Force tech, from the NATO side of AFCENT, helped me verify that one.
Anyway, after my year of school, and two years in Holland, I got out because I wasn't cut out for the Army. I never could figure out how a highly skilled Crypto Repairman’s main mission in life was to “GI that floor”, because the Colonel is coming. I've been interested in Crypto Equipment ever since and appreciate the web site that you have put together.
During my tech school training Jan- July 1984, we were on night shift. We had 10 per class with 5 pieces of crypto of whichever type the class was studying. The way it was supposed to go is 2 people per piece while one did the hands on the other was doing the book work. We had one instructor assigned to us for all 3 pieces we were learning in the basic classes, which at that time were, in order, the KW-26, the KG-13, and the KY-3. That was the way it was SUPPOSED to be. However our instructor, I don’t remember his name, had a trainee instructor with him, so we opened up 2 class rooms and each of us had our own equipment. This allowed us to get WAY ahead of schedule. No one noticed how far ahead we were until the last week of the KG-13 class. At that time we were about 4 weeks ahead. The problem was the very last class we had to take was “shop block” which put all the crypto in a real world environment and we were taught things like patch panels, basic info on teletypes, etc. Shop block was only taught on day shift, and did not have a class for us until our normal scheduled time. Not only did we have to slow down to a normal training pace we had to LOSE all 4 weeks we were ahead. Some days we went in, inventoried the KAMS, and left. Other days we stayed in the break room for hours playing UNO. We got so tired of it we made up our own rules. Jungle cutthroat UNO. A lot more interesting to play. We went home early and watched every game of March Madness from the dorm day room.
At the end of training we were taken to a meeting room and given our first duty assignments. With a last name of Wyrick I was of course the last in line to get mine. As the assignments were passed out I was hearing bases like Incirlik, Minot, Offut, and most of the responses were a big sigh. Then came mine, Hickam. Boy I got a lot of grief over that. The guy going to Minot offered me $1000 and his car to trade with him, which I didn’t. No one spoke to me for several days after that.
At Hickam we had a KW-7 at the aircraft (EC-135 Command Post “Blue Eagle”) comm center that my partner (SSgt Vickie Hagner) and I could not get fixed. We tried everything we could think of but finally just swapped it out. We set it at the very back of the truck bed and started back to the shop. We were on the main road (35mph) when someone pulled out in front of us. SSgt Hagner slammed on the brakes which sent the KW-7 sliding forward and hitting the front of the truck bed so hard it dented the bed. When we powered it up at the shop and tested it, yep it worked like a dream. We tried the “slam” fix several more times. It didn’t work.
Dennis Wyrick <dennis.wyrick(at)gmail.com>
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