In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army

By Edward J. Drea | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
A SIGNALS INTERCEPT SITE AT WAR

Imagine yourself in a tropical rain forest a few degrees south of the equator. You're sitting in a kunai grass hut. Your "desk" is crudely fashioned from branches bound together. Breezes provide the only ventilation, but this is the wet season, so daily downpours leave a temporary chill and a permanent mold. In this most primitive setting, however, stands a modern marvel, the Kingsley AR7 intercept radio tethering you by your headset. During your six- or eight-hour duty shift, you manually search radio frequencies in hopes of overhearing enemy radio signals. Your reward for intercepting a broadcast is the chance to listen to a static-filled, coded gibberish broadcast in a most difficult language. From a Japanese pilot's voice transmission, for instance, you might hear something utterly incomprehensible, such as "SE NO SU/ME U TE/MU KU NO/," and so forth. Or you might overhear a Japanese radio station broadcasting International Morse Code. Then you would listen to packets of numerals, such as "2345 5810 6372 1111," for hours on end. But besides listening you must copy these messages exactly on a prescribed form. Then an officer or sergeant collects your work and sends it hundreds of miles away for analysis. You may or may not ever know the importance of your effort. You might even ask yourself how in the world you got into such an operation and what possible value such repetitive, seemingly mind- dulling work could possess.

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