On January 15, 1953, Brig. Gen. Harry Reichelderfer assumed command of the Army Security Agency (ASA). A long-serving Signal Corps officer, Reichelderfer would serve as the ASA chief for almost four years, providing much needed stability in the eight-year-old organization.
The 57-year-old Reichelderfer received his Army commission just after the United States entered World War I. Before joining the Signal Corps in 1921, he served as an infantry officer with the 27th Infantry in Siberia in 1919-1920. As a Signal Corps officer, he proved a capable administrator with a particular talent for combat development. He served as the commander or deputy for the Signal Corps’ Sound Laboratory (1922-1924); Aircraft Radio Laboratory (1935-1938 & 1940); and Engineering Laboratory (1949-1951). He also served as the commander of both the Signal Corps Training Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia (1948-1949) and Signal Corps Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey (1951). On the operational side, Reichelderfer served as the signal officer for Gen. Walter Kruger’s Sixth Army in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II. In short, Reichelderfer took command of ASA with a good stock of administrative and operational experience.
When Reichelderfer assumed command, ASA was a world-wide organization of just over 13,000 uniformed personnel (1,270 officers, 167 warrants, and 11,606 enlisted). These troops were divided into thirty-six table of organization and equipment (TOE) units and thirty table of distribution (TD) organizations. The TOE units operated from mobile intercept positions and were meant to directly support the Army’s forces in the field. The TD organizations included twelve field stations that supported national collection efforts. Overall, ASA’s personnel strength was divided almost equally between TOE units, field stations, and administrative groups. The ASA history for FY53 stated: “The overall agency strength was considered satisfactory; ASA schools were at peak load; and agency recruiting activities were as a rule meeting established monthly quotas.”
To operate the agency, Reichelderfer had a budget of $14.8 million. The agency allocated just under 58 percent of the budget ($8.4 million) to procurement of cryptologic equipment. Another $2 million went to equipment for field stations and mobile units, while $2 million paid the civilians.
The agency’s responsibilities were evolving with the establishment of the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. ASA’s mission remained basically the same: support national collection with the field stations and support the Army’s field forces with the mobile units. Yet, NSA’s centralized authority required adjustments to ASA programs. For example, ASA leaders dropped industrial mobilization and other joint projects and instead concentrated on military personnel readiness. ASA also received new requirements for both TOE and TD units under NSA.
To meet the new responsibilities and to control oversea units, Reichelderfer could rely on theater and regional headquarters. The largest two of these headquarters were ASA Pacific (3,829 personnel) and ASA Europe (3,788 personnel). Both headquarters oversaw the operations of field stations, four in the Pacific and three in Germany. In the Pacific, agency leaders paid particular attention to supporting operations in Korea. While truce negotiations were inching closer to an agreement to end the conflict, ASA still maintained a heavy presence with nine tactical units (one group, three battalions, and five companies). Specifically, the agency worked toward improving its low-level voice intercept operations in Korea. ASA Europe had one group, two battalions, and nine company-sized units.
In addition to its two large theater headquarters, ASA had four smaller regional headquarters for Alaska, Austria, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. Both ASA Alaska and ASA Hawaii managed small field station operations. ASA Alaska also operated a company-sized unit to support Army commanders in the field, as did ASA Austria. ASA Caribbean was the smallest of the headquarters with about ninety soldiers operating teams in the Canal Zone and Puerto Rico.
During the ensuing four years under General Reichelderfer, ASA prospered. It expanded to an assigned strength of 18,213 soldiers. With this strength, the agency fielded thirty TOE units and fifty TD organizations, including fourteen field stations and more than a dozen other monitoring sites. When Reichelderfer turned over command, ASA was in a better position to meet the requirements of the Cold War.