Geographical and technical intelligence in the Southwest Pacific 1942-1945.
This paper seeks to outline the contribution of two of these agencies, working in geographical and technical intelligence.
We are aware of the public successes of the Allied Intelligence Bureau and some of its constituent parts including the coastwatchers. Willoughby also set about creating what was seen as the most successful support agency in the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS), responsible for translation of captured documents and the interrogation of prisoners. He claimed the second most important body was the Allied Geographical Section (AGS). Designed to collate available geographic and hydrographic material into reports for tactical operational use, it stuttered into life in June 1942. (2)
In contrast with the speed with which the AGS was begun, technical intelligence-was a harder problem to organise. While troops and commanders urgently needed any information on Japanese equipment, a coordinated approach to the issue had not been undertaken previously and it took some time before a wider approach was implemented.
Different elements of the armed forces were examining any captured Japanese item, and certainly small arms, chemical warfare equipment and ammunition were handed in for examination during 1942. (3) Perhaps the best example comes from the Chemical Warfare Section of the US Army that was given two Japanese flamethrowers at Bataan in February 1942. These were sent to the Edgewood Arsenal in the US. Scrutiny revealed the cartridge ignition system on the enemy flamethrowers was superior to the standard US issue, so all subsequent US equipment was modified. (4) Indeed, this tradition of individual elements conducting their own intelligence assessments was to continue throughout, despite the presence of a central agency. (5)
Allied Geographical Section
In March 1942, Captain FE Williams, AIF, was instructed to begin work on the collation of geographical information on New Guinea and Timor, and to create a Table of Subject Headings to be used in the future preparation of reports. By mid-June under his direction, a small and over-taxed staff produced works on Timor, Gasmata, Rabaul, and New Ireland. However, the rushed standard of the work forced a re-assessment of priorities and Willoughby issued the first of three directives on 17 June seeking to structure the agency more efficiently. The first directive outlined the formation of AGS as an inter-allied, inter-service agency, a "combined, Geographical Intelligence Section responsible to GHQ". (6) On 19 July another directive was issued, indicating that AGS was to be under the control of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, GHQ, SWPA (ie Willoughby), as well as better defining the organisation and its relationship with other bodies. The appointment was announced of Lt Col F Mander-Jones, AIF, in command; Major WV Jardine-Blake took over on 1 August 1942 and remained in that position throughout the war. By 6 October 1942, the final directive appeared, requiring all geographic information to be routed through AGS.
Initially AGS was housed in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, but by early September 1943 it had moved close to GHQ and took over a floor at 115 Queen Street Brisbane. Demands for greater output saw the unit expand so that it covered two floors, and in September 1944 it moved to the outskirts of the city at Victoria Park. In June 1945 the headquarters unit moved to Manila (although a detachment remained behind and moved back to Queen Street). Small detachments of AGS were eventually located at Melbourne, Sydney, Port Moresby, Hollandia, Biak, and Tolosa on Leyte.
Information for AGS publications came from a variety of sources. When the AGS began, the Japanese were at their zenith and resources available to the Allies were restricted. On the positive side there were good standing libraries in Australia, such as State Public Libraries and in Government Departments. These were plundered for maps, documents, photographs and manpower. (7) Informants including missionaries, planters and seafarers were questioned for on-the-ground details to supplement existing information; eventually a dossier of 10,000 names was compiled. Information was sought from the armed services with mixed results. There was a poor response from those in charge of intelligence operatives who were patrolling in little mapped territory such as New Guinea, although the individual operatives were often more forthcoming. Field units distinguished themselves by the lack of input they provided, and it was claimed that intelligence reports on target areas conducted over the previous twenty years by Naval and Military Headquarters in Australia were never found! (8) Considerable information was obtained from overseas, especially the UK, the USA (despite the 20 competing organisations there fulfilling essentially the same task), India, and after VE Day, the Netherlands. To the chagrin of AGS, they could only ever arrange a permanent liaison officer in Washington as the other countries were less willing or able to assist.
The output of AGS can be divided into distinct publication areas. The most important production was the Terrain Study, with 110 titles being published. Terrain Studies were intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of a particular geographic area, such as Wewak, but from a military perspective. Publications varied in size from a few pages up to over 150 pages plus dozens of maps and photographs. Subject headings included terrain, vegetation, military importance, ports, rivers and swamps, towns and villages, signal communications, seaplane bases, population, administration, medical problems and climate. Maps were designed to assist military activity: they showed items of military significance (possible areas for future airstrips, swampy areas that appeared to be unsuitable for tracked equipment, possible sites for bivouacs) and illustrated enemy activity (such as barracks, roads used for transport of supplies, landing areas for aircraft, tracks used by natives). Comments from informants were interspersed, so that one was told that, say, obscure tracks had been used quite recently by a miner. (9)
Derived from the major Terrain Studies were the Terrain Handbooks, about a third the physical size of the Studies, and designed to be taken into battle by officers commanding troops. As they were meant for fitting in a pocket they contained only part of the material in the larger works; 62 of these were published. The intent was to publish these closer to the actual operation, so sometimes the Handbooks included more up to date information than the parent Terrain Study. To use the comment of the official historian, they "became the Baedekers of the assault echelons". (10)
Special Reports were occasional publications designed to provide extra information, such as after a Terrain Study had been published, or for the use of occupational troops; 101 were published. Spot Reports on specific topics were usually issued with a Top Secret classification for use by planning staff, and 30 were produced.
Special Publications covered a wide net. First were the vegetation studies of eastern New Guinea and the Philippine Islands that were of interest to the troops and of value also to technical units such as photo interpreters. Second, a Timber Resource Study was conducted of the Philippines, and a set of identification cards for timber were prepared in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Third, technical reports looked at specifics such as railways in Japan and Java or roads in the Philippines. Fourth, a set of short guides was prepared for the soldier likely to be confronting New Guinea for the first time. Three were published: 'You and the Native', 'The Native Carrier', and 'Getting About in New Guinea'. They were written so that soldiers would understand them ("There's only one thing to be more careful about than village pigs and that is village women" (11); 250,000 copies were distributed. Fifth, guides were written on particular countries, including Borneo and Java. Sixth, a four volume annotated bibliography of countries in the Southwest Pacific, the Philippines and Japan was prepared. Seventh, eight Sailing Reports were produced (substituting for Admiralty charts and similar where these were not available), offering a detailed analysis of the waters in the area, the likely obstructions, navigation aids, and vegetation in surrounding land areas. (12) Finally, considerable quantities of ad hoc reports were assembled on issues of interest to the South East Asia Command (79 on Malaya, 105 on Sumatra, 28 on Siam, four on Burma, and seven on Indo-China).
Preparation of the various reports followed a path that is familiar today with anyone who has worked in a bureaucracy. When advice was received of the need for a new report on either a new military objective or a background publication on say vegetation, responsibility was given to one person as coordinator. That person discussed the task with staff members and then jobs were allocated to the different sub sections. Then the section devoted to informants selected and interviewed appropriate people, researchers sifted the libraries or institutions for information, while the photographic and cartographic sections collated all available material or if possible, arranged for new items to be prepared. In the early days the intelligence staff prepared the entire report but this soon proved unwieldy and a system was introduced whereby most information was prepared by specialists on a raft of issues including medical, transport, hydrography, and meteorology. When the document was drafted it went to the editorial section whose task was to make the mass of information readable and accurate; a special check was made on items such as map coordinates and distances. Finally, the entire report was cleared through the Director or Assistant Director. The normal time for preparation of major reports was about three weeks although of course this varied enormously. Reports were issued at the rate of about one every four days over the life of AGS.
Staffing the AGS was always difficult given the lack of qualified manpower. The intent was to recruit those with military experience especially intelligence training, coupled with a strong academic background in an appropriate discipline such as engineering, anthropology, meteorology or geology, in addition to service in an overseas country likely to be studied by AGS. Not surprisingly, the number of fully qualified recruits was low, and compromises had to be made. The Australian Women's Army Service took administrative roles while AGS remained in Australia, freeing up some men for other positions. The bulk of the staff was Australians, and the US contingent did not assume anything near equal status until after the New Guinea campaign was over. This meant that finding staff from the restricted Australian pool was very difficult. Also, despite the supposed inter-service nature of the unit, the Dutch were distinctly reluctant to participate. Specialists including engineers, railway experts, medical staff members, the RAN and the RAAF made valuable contributions. Average numbers of Allied staff varied with the years--in 1943 there were only 3 Americans and 34 Australians but by 1945, there were over 50 Americans and 100 Australians.
Technical Intelligence and the 5250th Company (13)
Technical intelligence units evaluated enemy materiel to determine what counter measures were required as well as ascertaining the state of development of enemy production. The units also prepared literature and information for troops to assist them in countering the enemy weapons, and they retained any captured materiel so that further study might be done on the objects. This required technical intelligence personnel to locate, identify, then remove the materiel from where it was (often in or near the front lines) and then evaluate the item before sending it back to a rear depot for further tests.
A joint technical intelligence approach did not occur until late in 1942. Until this stage, captured materiel was taken by supply service personnel to the special staff officers in the theatre of operations. These officers made a preliminary analysis, prepared instruction booklets for troop instruction, and then (under the direction of Australian Land Headquarters) distributed half of the materiel to the Australians and the other half to the appropriate US technical service for more detailed analysis. Reports arising from the US teams went to the Assistant Chief of Staff, to the War Department and to combat and service troops. Under the conditions of battle, however, there were very real limitations with the scheme and in December 1942 a team arrived from the USA to inaugurate the joint operation.
The first team included fifteen members of the Ordnance Corps. Following extensive training at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds at Maryland as well as in Washington DC, they arrived in Brisbane on 30 December 1942, representing the specialties of "ammunition, small arms, artillery, fire control and equipment, and tracked and wheeled vehicles". (14) The team was divided into a headquarters group, a field team and an analysis team although it was common for members of each group to alternate tasks with the others. Field teams located, collected and identified enemy materiel, prepared a preliminary report on the item and then shipped it back to Brisbane. The analysis team conducted more detailed examination then prepared considered reports and shipped the equipment either to troops in the theatre for training purposes or shipped it back to the USA for analysis and training purposes. From January until July 1943 the analysis section produced 26 reports.
Initially chemical warfare teams sent items (eg flamethrowers, smoke candles, pyrotechnics, gas masks) back either to the US 42nd Chemical Laboratory or to the Maribymong Victorian Munitions Supply Laboratory for expert analysis. But the process was not considered satisfactory and in February 1943 a Chemical Warfare unit was recruited from local personnel. As with all technical intelligence operations, it was located in the US Army Forces in the Far East HQ set up at that time.
A directive of May 1943 determined that a salvage depot of enemy materiel would be established at Brisbane, close to the Australian salvage depot. The new depot was to be used for the receipt and shipping of items, despite the technical services at this stage still being independent. This latter decision marked the beginnings of a joint operation. Also, a Joint Allied Captured Enemy Equipment Board was established, to take over from Australian Land Headquarters in making the final say on disposition of items. The Board consisted of two members from the US forces, two from Australian forces and one from Allied naval forces.
A Chemical Warfare team went to Port Moresby from June to September 1943 to establish liaison with the relevant forces there and to ensure enemy materiel flowed through channels back to Brisbane: the groups contacted were US Army Ordnance, the Fifth Air Force, Naval Intelligence, the RAAF, and Headquarters of New Guinea Forces. The fact that this mission went to New Guinea indicates the inherent problems in achieving some level of coordinated technical intelligence in the theatre. In February 1944, another team, this time of officers from the technical services, travelled to forward areas to try and persuade troops there to retrieve and send back captured items.
From early 1943 onward, field teams from the technical intelligence units operated in the battlefields. While the intention may have been to find equipment quickly, there was a considerable amount of information to be obtained by trawling through the old battlefields too, so a lot of time was spent re-examining these areas after the troops had moved on. The Ordnance Technical Intelligence Section that arrived in late December had a team at Buna-Gona by 18 January 1943 and stayed two weeks. Nassau Bay in July 1943 was next call for the Ordnance team and this time they were only a few days behind the initial assault. A Chemical Warfare team also participated at the same location, as well as spending two weeks looking at the old Buna-Gona area. The next battle was at Lae-Salamaua and again the Ordnance team was present, while the Chemical Warfare teams went to Salamaua, and then on to Lae when it surrendered. Both areas gave up large quantities of useful items such as documents, ammunition and equipment, with the Ordnance team sending 60 tons of weapons and 90 tons of ammunition back to Brisbane. Similarly at the battle for Finschhafen in September 1943 the Chemical Warfare team was active.
While some administrative changes were made during 1943 to make the provision of technical intelligence more efficient, it was not until a directive of 22 December 1943 that a more coordinated approach eventuated. This required that the technical services--Ordnance, Chemical Warfare, Quartermaster, Medical, Engineering and Signals--would be included, although Transportation was omitted. As a result, the 5250th Technical Intelligence Composite Company Separate (Provisional) was formed, to operate under the supervision of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, US Army, Services of Supply, while the various services were to operate under technical supervision of the respective Chiefs of Service. (15) Suitably qualified personnel were allocated to the new company by the Chiefs of Service. Major AC Johnston was the temporary commanding officer.
The intent from the end of 1943 was for a truly coordinated effort to be made in retrieving intelligence. However, as Schiffman politely suggested, "The 5250th Technical Intelligence Company had suffered growing pains", (16) and other than Ordnance and Chemical Warfare, the teams were not as yet ready to make the necessary commitment of men and resources. Thus, an attempt was made to have a joint force for the Saidor operation in December but it failed to eventuate, leaving the Ordnance team to work there as well as on a succession of engagements up the New Guinea coast including advising on booby traps at Goodenough Island. Also, the Admiralty Islands operation in February 1944 required a joint force, but the original teams from Ordnance and Chemical Warfare participated with a Counter Intelligence group. They brought back useful information on counter intelligence, chemical warfare, ordnance and naval explosives as well as medical and quartermaster items.
The Hollandia operation in May 1944 represented a minor turning point for technical intelligence and the 5250th. As Hollandia was one of the largest supply centres in the SWPA, it was assumed that more enemy materiel should be captured there. While it was still not possible to mount the joint operation desired, three teams were sent in--a free-lance outfit, two teams formed a combined detachment similar with that used in the Admiralties, and there was one composite team with representatives of all six technical services. Large amounts of materiel of use to the Medical, Ordnance, Signals, Quartermaster and Chemical Warfare units were discovered from the beaches onward, justifying the efforts that had been expended. Teams also went into the Wakde-Sarmi area and retrieved equipment.
Lines of communications for Captured equipment back to Brisbane proved too slow. Therefore, laboratories for the six technical services along with a new salvage depot were established at Finschhafen in July 1944. Operations continued there until February/March 1945, after which they transferred to Manila. In November 1945 the depot moved to Tokyo.
The level of coordination in mid-1944 was still not as it should have been, given the units acted more or less independently, so a liaison officer was attached to Sixth Army from early July 1944 to act as Coordinator of Technical Intelligence.
For the Biak operation, more teams were evident and their timing was better. A signals team landed on D Day, 27 May, an Engineers team on 10 June and an Ordnance team arrived early in July. Eight other teams then arrived to re-assess the battlefields to determine whether there was anything left to salvage.
Showing that not everything was easy, Ordnance, Signals and Chemical Warfare landed on D Day for the Sansapor operation on 30 July, and found virtually nothing, so left soon after. At the Moratai operation in September, Chemical Warfare, Engineers and Ordnance landed with the fourth wave and also found little.
Earlier, in February 1944, it had been agreed that name plates or name plate data on enemy equipment were required in order to gauge the output of each company making the items of equipment, and so that bombing the most productive companies might be arranged. The project was not begun until the Philippine operations. It proved a most useful exercise and took up a great deal of time for the intelligence units. A special unit known as Japlat was organised to conduct this one task. Eventually 6336 plates or rubbings of details were forwarded for later use by the Air Force. Similarly, the age and condition of captured equipment as well as the material they were made from, gave an indication as to the general economic health of the Japanese economy. (17)
The Philippines operations were larger than anything to date. Preparations were also far more complicated. In terms of landing forces, the Sixth Army was to act as the striking force while the Eighth Army acted in a mopping up role. There was a technical intelligence liaison officer with Sixth Army, a field unit was attached to headquarters to serve as salvage depot, and a liaison officer placed with intelligence operatives to assist the guerrilla units. (On occasions, captured ordnance was distributed back to the troops, or equipment such as water purification devices first used by the troops and then handed over to the 5250th. Food as well as medical equipment and repaired ordnance materiel were given direct to the guerrillas. (18))
Despite the presence of all the technical services in field teams, it was found that there was insufficient new materiel to justify keeping teams from Medical and Quartermasters involved in the field: these two services were dropped from future field teams. For the Eighth Army, coming after the assault, the need was less and the teams were consequently smaller.
Success of subsequent operations in the Philippines varied depending on the locale. In the Southern Philippines, Engineer, Ordnance and Signal teams landed on 20 October with the second wave and this was felt to be so successful that all future teams tried to land at that time. However, their finds were few. In Northern Leyte, again there was less materiel than expected. Nonetheless, 65 tons of materiel was sent to the depot and new weapons were found in the Zamboanga Peninsula and at Panay-Negros. On Cebu reports of Japanese shells emitting a greenish gas led to the Chemical Warfare group conducting some rapid trials. The gas was found to be inoffensive so the team prepared widely distributed reports to that effect. On Mindanao five tons of medical supplies were found as were two truck mounted water purification units. On Luzon there were signs of supply shortages although ordnance, chemical warfare, engineering and signals materiels were located.
The time of the Philippine operations coincided with a period of maturation of technical intelligence units. More materiel was able to be shipped back to Finschhafen and there was also considerable instruction given to troops on equipment likely to be found. Technical units began to publicise their findings more widely. Also, the new depot at Manila from early 1945 was responsible for the handling of many tons of captured equipment and an appreciation was gained there of the state of enemy technological (and economic) development, vital to the build-up for the invasion of Japan.
Manpower of the 5250th Company was never high--when they moved to Manila there were 90 officers and 185 enlisted men, although Schiffman says the total staffing was 470. (19) Their production output in terms of publications was impressive: 31 chemical warfare reports and a further 122 from the Office of the Chief Chemical Officer, 95 engineer reports, over 270 medical reports, over 170 ordnance reports, 43 quartermaster reports and 51 signals reports.
Geographic and Technical Intelligence
It is worth asking whether there are more than superficial similarities between the two groups discussed. Both were smallish (a few hundred personnel) intelligence units using inter-service personnel reporting to the Assistant Chief of Staff, and both were used as the subjects for General Willoughby's US Far East Command Intelligence Series of histories.
(a) Occupation Forces
Both groups were seen as effective during the war. When it was over and the problem of translating wartime experience to peace time occupation duties began, both groups were revived to serve again in a new capacity.
At the end of the war the AGS was dissolved. By June 1946, General Willoughby, faced with challenges in occupying Japan, requested ATIS to handle needed terrain studies; the Geographic Bureau was then formed as a substitute for AGS. The focus this time was the Korean/Manchurian/Siberian area and the process of establishing the database duplicated the experience of the AGS back in 1942--all available maps were collected, research institutions combed for reports and information, and some 37 volumes of comments from informants compiled. The name changed to the Geographical Section in February 1947 but the small size remained--five US service staff, 21 civilians and ten Japanese. Reports were provided on everything from resources to likely Russian war plans, resulting in 96 special reports and eight terrain studies of specific areas.
When the US and other forces began the army of occupation, there was a demand for technical information from Japan and the 5250th Company based in Tokyo was given the responsibility. Any intellectual property that existed in Japan was to be made available to the occupation forces--each of the technical services was instructed to make an assessment of anything in their area of expertise. Thus began an exhaustive investigation of a country, where field trips were undertaken to investigate any item of interest such as dumps of munitions, bridging equipment, radar equipment, warehouses, commercial companies or institutions such as hospitals. Also, the 5250th acted as a clearing-house for technical queries. In one of the examples of their workload at this time, a comprehensive enquiry was undertaken to ascertain any likelihood of a new drug being available at the testing stage. This required an investigation into patents, commercial pharmaceutical companies, research chemists and medical personnel.
Operations would have been much easier for both agencies if the levels of conflict experienced had been less.
Conflict experienced by the AGS was largely confined to 'turf wars'. However, as noted above, there was a distinct lack of appreciation from some of the forces it was trying to help, including indifference from intelligence officers and disinterest from field units ("the absence of criticism, constructive or otherwise"). (20) Perhaps the AGS history put its finger on one possible reason for this: it admitted the lack of qualified staff and pressure of work later in the war made it release less than totally professional final documents that would have been rejected in 1943. (21)
This conflict was epitomised by the actions of the Counter Intelligence Corps, who saw themselves as a competitor and produced twelve area studies, which the AGS history described as "stupid", "wasteful and inefficient". (22) Similarly, JANIS (Joint Army Navy Intelligence Studies) was seen as a part competitor in that JANIS material sometimes covered the same area as AGS studies although it was designed to offer strategic comment on future targets rather than tactical advice. Also, the US Army Engineers applied pressure to have the AGS under its control through 1942 and 1943, although in time the engineers worked alongside AGS. The RAAF was initially reluctant to assist, to the point where it established a counter unit that looked at geographic intelligence for air targets. A change of key RAAF personnel at the top meant that RAAF staff members were then able to participate in AGS activities from the end of 1943. On a theatre level, with the reluctance of the Dutch to help, the expertise of AGS was required for the SEAC region and accordingly AGS spent considerable time in reports on the Dutch East Indies and surrounding areas. (This was not appreciated by SWPA HQ and only Australian staff was allocated to these duties.) On the bright side, relations with mapping specialists such as the US Engineers, the RAAF Cartographic Section and the Australian Army Directorate of Survey were constructive. (23)
AGS also became a victim of its own success in that it had to expand into becoming a specialist in marine matters. For the assault on Japan, AGS was expected to handle land masses while the Joint Intelligence Centre for the Pacific Ocean Area handled the sea approaches and landing points. After complaints in 1942 from an Australian admiral about the state of hydrographic charts in the Solomons, AGS was instructed to take the responsibility for sailing charts in waters around New Guinea and the Solomons as well. (24)
For the technical intelligence teams of the 5250th Company, their problems were with the average soldier rather than conflict with other ordnance units (although on Wakde-Sarmi, the Counter Intelligence Corps had been there before the 5250th and "had already shipped out considerable Japanese ordnance equipment"). (25) To the front line soldier, confronted with a dump of equipment or munitions, there was always the likelihood of finding souvenirs or food. As a result, it was common for the 5250th men to stumble across dumps that had been scattered to the winds. Alternatively, confronted by a new Japanese piece of ordnance, front-line troops usually wanted no more than to obliterate the obstacle and move on, hence the item was not given up for analysis. The history of the 5250th has frequent comments on the issue, such as:
Modification of the regulation which facilitated legitimate souveniring was also publicised in an effort to encourage troops to turn in all captured items. Future experience showed that these efforts had little effect on the wilful looting and destruction of enemy dumps. (26)
The other problem experienced by the 5250th was that troops and officers were often indifferent to the requirements of the 5250th--as noted earlier, all the technical services had functioning intelligence units that wanted to get the same materiel that the 5250th did:
They often had to win the cooperation of men who had never heard of Technical Intelligence and had no conception of its mission. They not only had to be combat men and technical analysts, but also first class salesmen who could talk their way through. (27)
As a result, the collection of enemy equipment from near the front lines encompassed more than simply staying away from sniper's bullets (28), and a lot of materiel was lost before the 5250th and other intelligence units learned to mount a guard and only pass on the equipment to trusted truck drivers or barge captains. Some of the equipment was very difficult to find and retrieve and the anger when some of it was stolen can be imagined. (29) Additionally, the sheer number of technical experts from the service companies (Howard said that in Europe there were over 4000 people undertaking technical intelligence work (30)) meant that the 5250th was likely swamped by all the others.
(c) Missed Opportunities
Possibly because the 5250th and AGS were elite Headquarters units and linked closely with MacArthur, Willoughby and other high ranking officers, one might have expected these agencies to have achieved more. To take the AGS first, the lack of a liaison officer in Britain, where resources should have been high, is surprising--claims of the British pre-occupation with the European theatre seems to cloak the real reason for lack of assistance. It seems regrettable that the obvious areas of the services that were lacking or might have contributed further, were not called on. Thus for AGS while it utilised Navy and Air Force elements, it might have done more with the mapping capacities of its rivals particularly the Engineers and the photographic expertise of the RAAF. (31) Its inability to recruit Dutch staff, apart from one officer, meant that access to a vast storehouse of information was lost and in consequence, considerable energies had to go into mapping and examining areas previously controlled by the Dutch.
For the 5250th, it is odd that the technical intelligence was largely confined to the Army, despite the claimed integrated approach; perhaps GHQ SWPA being all-Army determined this. (32) Yet the Joint Allied Captured Enemy Equipment Board had a membership for one Allied naval person, signifying that naval materiel was expected, and we have seen that naval explosives were found in the Admiralties. Also, the liaison team that went from Brisbane to Port Moresby made contact with both naval and air force elements and urged them to facilitate the passage of captured materiel, so in mid-1943 it was clear that inter-service channels were expected. Further, air and naval equipment were collected by the 5250th and taken to their forward depots. Items of materiel forwarded to Finschhafen in an eight month period, showed three receipts for navy items and 234 receipts for air force items, and at Manila, there were some 35 shipments of air force materiels out of that base in a seven month period. (33)
The Air Forces had their own technical intelligence operations with the joint Technical Air Intelligence Unit (TAIU) formed in Australia in 1942 with RAAF, USAF and US navy members, and the later establishment of the TAIU in Anacostia near Washington DC. This group did some very impressive retrieval work, with the TAIU in Australia rebuilding a number of Japanese aircraft. (34) Similarly the Navy established its own technical intelligence units known as Mobile Explosive Investigation Units (MEIU). (35) It seems strange that with the level of materiels being retrieved from battle zones that there was not a greater effort given to achieving inter-service cooperation on a larger scale using the expertise of the TAIU, MEIU and the 5250th. (36)
It is a characteristic of intelligence organisations that they attract those who want to do things differently, and dissension seems to be a fact of life. (37) The success of the ATIS operation and some of the AIB activities tends to hide the power struggles within the organisations supposedly battling to win a war. Marchio has suggested that joint intelligence was difficult to establish because of "bureaucratic inertia and a legacy that viewed intelligence as a service prerogative" (38) (this was seen nicely in the technical intelligence area) while for the AGS at least, the personalities of MacArthur, Sutherland and Willoughby meant that congenial joint operations were difficult to establish. Marchio again: "According to the after-action report, the reason was that the chief of staff failed to realise its importance and the G-2 lacked the power to accomplish it." (39)
The different approaches of the two units, in technical and geographic intelligence gathering, resulted in some significant outcomes. Both units, the AGS and the 5250th, deserve greater recognition for the work they did. One can only wonder what they might have achieved if they were organised differently, working in a cooperative environment.
(1) References to the intelligence war in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) often include a short summation of the main agencies. See for example, Desmond Ball, 'Allied Intelligence Cooperation Involving Australia During World War II', Australian Outlook, Vol 32, No 3, December 1978, pp 299-309, at page 30; Allison Gilmore, You Can't Fight Tanks With Bayonets: Psychological Warfare Against the Japanese Army in the Southwest Pacific, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NEB, 1998, page 18; David Homer, High Command: Australia's Struggle for an Independent War Strategy, 1939-1945, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1982, Chapter 10; Allison Ind, Spy Ring Pacific: The Story of the Allied Intelligence Bureau in South East Asia, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1958, pages 9-13; and Alan Powell, War by Stealth: Australians and the Allied Intelligence Bureau 1942-1945, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1996, Chapter 1.
Note that this paper seeks only to discuss the activities of a small part of intelligence activities in the SWPA. Information has been drawn from History of the Intelligence Activities under General Douglas MacArthur, 1942-1950, The Intelligence Series G-2 USAFFE-SWPA-AFPAC-FEC-SCAP, Wilmington DEL, Scholarly Resources, 1950 (microfilm)--hereafter The Intelligence Series. Material is from Volume 1, A Brief History of the G-2 Section, Volume 6, Operations of the Allied Geographical Section, and Volume 7, Operations of the Technical Intelligence Unit in the SWPA.
(2) The AGS is not well known today as seen in a contemporary reference--see www.naa.gov.au/Publications/research_guides/guides/vic/pages/chapter2/m.htm, Collections in Melbourne, discussing Earth Science where it says of the AGS, "Little is known of this agency".
(3) The Intelligence Series, Volume 1, page 82
(4) Leo Brophy et al, The Chemical Warfare Service: From Laboratory to Field, US Army in World War II, Department of the Army, Washington DC, 1959, page 47
(5) John Finnegan, Military Intelligence, Army Lineage Series, Centre of Military History, US Army, Washington DC, 1998, page 91.
(6) The Intelligence Series, Volume 6, page 2
(7) As an example of the material that was extracted, see AWM 93 50/12/65 that lists the materials loaned by the Australian War Memorial in June 1943. It included maps, files, and a three page inventory of photographs.
(8) The Intelligence Series, Volume 6, page 15
(9) See Terrain Study # 76, Wewak, in The Intelligence Series, Volume 6, pages 32, 54. Also see AWM 54 831/3/98, Reconnaissance Reports on New Guinea, which contained a letter under General Herring's signature saying that the AGS was incorrect in claiming that the entrance to Salus Lake "has never been forded" as members of his staff knew this not to be the case.
It is worth noting that the Japanese prepared terrain studies similar with the AGS, and not surprisingly, used almost the same headings--see AWM Enemy Publications No 313, Intelligence Report File of the Kami Organisation (Special Service Organisation), 25 January 1945, section 1, Data on the Natives in the Hollandia Area and section 7, Military Geography of Area North of Ampasu.
(10) The Intelligence Series, Volume 6, page 22
(11) ibid, Volume 7, 'You and the Native', page 7
(12) See AWM 57 14/9, 'Sailing Directions Netherlands Borneo'
(13) There are few treatments of the 5250th Company, and they largely repeat the information in the Intelligence Series--see Maurice Schiffman, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific in World War II', Military Review, Vol XXXI, No 10, January 1952, pages 42-48, and William Howard, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific', www.wlhoward.com/id575.htm
(14) The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, page 2
(15) The US Services of Supply was responsible for counter-intelligence operations in the US and also took over the responsibility for intelligence operations of the technical services--see John Finnegan, Military Intelligence, op cit, page 64
(16) Schiffman, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific in World War II', op cit, page 46
(17) As an example of the work done, see AWM 54 320/4/36 Part 1 for its assessment of the clothing of Japanese soldiers and the changes that occurred as the war progressed. The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, pages 24, 25, 30
(19) Schiffman, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific in World War II', op cit, page 42; William Howard, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific', op cit, page 2 has the same comment
(20) The Intelligence Series, Volume 6, page 15
(21) ibid, Volume 6, page 26
(22) ibid, Volume 6, page 6. The confusing array of groups is seen in a diagrammatic form (omitting technical intelligence) in Homer, High Command, op cit, page 241, as well as in Powell, War By Stealth, op cit, passim
(23) While relationships may have been constructive, it is odd that in Chris Coulthard-Clark's Australia's Military Map-Makers: The Royal Australian Survey Corps 1915-96, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 2000, there is no reference to AGS
(24) See, for example, AWM 54 831/3/65, Preliminary Report on Mullens Harbour, AWM 54 721/29/8, Method of Treatment of Landing Beaches, and AWM 57 14/9, Sailing Directions Netherlands Borneo (168 pages)
(25) The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, page 17. To offer some idea of the plethora of technical intelligence activity, see AWM 54 423/13/28, Technical Intelligence Summaries (headquarters level); AWM 54 423/13/27, Australian Corps Engineers Intelligence Summaries (technical services); AWM 54 423/13/26, Engineer Technical Intelligence Bulletins (prepared by Office of the Chief Engineer); AWM 54 423/13/23 Part 3, Technical Reports (from Australian Army in Australia House in London); AWM 54 179/2/2, Extracts from Periodical Technical Summary No 2 (issued by the Military Directorate, India); and AWM 254 129, Fenton and Long Airfields, Intelligence and Technical Summaries (this reports items at unit level, such as the replacement of tyres on a truck carrying a searchlight, milling steel gears to replace fibre gears in a generator set, etc). Also see AWM 54 320/4/38 (water filters, tractors), AWM 54 320/4/36 Part 1 (comforts and knife), AWM 54 320/4/37 (comparison of haversacks) and AWM 54 320/3/35 (changes made in the packaging of ammunition).
(26) The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, page 12. Note that the TAIU had the same problem with aircraft--Archives A 9696 651, includes a report that says "souvenir hunters had completely stripped it of everything removable"
(27) The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, page 15. Apathy was not confined to those dealing with the 5250th and seemed widespread--see Archives A 9696 652: a TAIU team report said that there was an "apparent lack of interest and coordination at A-2 PAF Hqrs in regard to making available particulars of knowledge of crashed Jap aircraft"
(28) AWM 54 327/30/54 looks at the establishment of technical intelligence units and details their small arms--the men wanted to have pistols as well as rifles so they could leave their rifle and continue working, yet still have access to some weapon.
(29) For some difficult retrievals see Archives A 9696 657 (aircraft in 19 feet of water), A 9696 651 (working under shell fire), and A 9696 652 (aircraft over a cliff requiring days of work to repair a former sledway for logs in order to retrieve engine parts)
(30) William Howard, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific', op cit, page 1
(31) For a review of the Engineers and the photographic work they did, see Blanche D Coll et al, The Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, US Army in World War II, Department of the Army, Washington DC, 1958, pages 444-462. Also see Karl Dod, The Corps of Engineers: The War Against Japan, US Army in World War II, Department of the Army, Washington DC, 1987, pages 269-271
(32) Schiffman, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific in World War II', op cit, page 47 discusses the high levels of liaison in the "daily visits" between the 5250th "and naval and air force intelligence sections, and with the chief of each technical service in the headquarters of Army Forces Pacific"--but this is at Tokyo after the war ended.
(33) The Intelligence Series, Volume 7, pages 34 and 37
(34) See www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/airtechintel.htm pages 2 and 3. Also see www.j_aircraft.com/research/jas_jottings/end_of_the_jaaf_and_jnaf.htm page 1 where it says TAIU was formed in 1943; and http://home.st.net.au/~dunn/usaaf/atiu.htm for the work done at Eagle Farm in Brisbane
(35) Howard, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific', op cit, page 10
(36) MacArthur authorised intelligence teams to "take complete charge of all enemy crashed or captured aircraft or personnel" yet permitted separate agencies--www.airforcehistoryhq.af.mil/PopTopics/histechintel.htm, page 5
(37) See Horner, High Command, op cit, page 239
(38) James Marchio, 'Days of Future Past: Joint Intelligence in World War II', JFQ, Spring 1996, pp 116-123, at page 120
(39) Marchio, ibid, page 120 and Finnegan, Technical Intelligence, op cit, page 96. Schiffman, 'Technical Intelligence in the Pacific in World War II', op cit, at page 47 says the source of the quote is "an Armed Forces Staff College Study, 'The Case for the Establishment of a Theatre Joint Intelligence Centre dated December 1948."
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