Everybody loves a good photo album, even the NSA! For their 60th anniversary last year, they put together this heart-warming album of top secret snaps dating all the way back to the 1930s when the nation’s most secretive intelligence agency was just a baby spy agency. So with the NSA being such a buzzword as of late, I thought this might be a wonderfully appropriate moment to share some of their fondest memories…
The original NSA team when it was still known as the “U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service” pose in front of their vault, 1935. (Bear in mind, this is four decades before America would know about the NSA’s existence, which was not publicly recognised until the 1970s).
Bombe operators, World War II. The electromechanical device was used by cryptologists to help decipher Nazi messages encrypted by their Enigma machines (so, less concerned at this point with spying its own citizens).
The M-138, a strip cipher device that allowed the use of multiple alphabets to encipher messages from the Japanese Navy, for example.
Vintage data storage? The maintenance area at Arlington Hall Station, the Army’s cryptologic headquarters in northern Virginia in the 1950s.
A segregated office during WWII. William Coffee, standing, was the first African American supervisor in the Army’s cryptologic organization.
The NSA Meademobile! (During the 1950s, the NSA was stationed at various military posts around the country. In 1957, the move to Fort Meade in Maryland was initiated, a location considered “far enough away from the expected blast zone around Washington to meet the survivability requirement”. In order to accomodate their cryptologic workforce and their families in the move, resources such as the Meade mobile were created. “Employees were offered field trips to look over the construction of the new buildings and given all the information they could use to line up housing and address the challenges associated with the transition.”)
“TSEC/KY3, full duplex, wide-band speech security equipment” – Translation: A desk.
Cryptologists in Korea. The pre-NSA “Army Security Agency (ASA)” was responsible for supplying the Army’s codes and ciphers, Korea, 1950s.
Also included in the digital photo album were these photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted and executed for treason by electric chair in 1953. Their charges were related to the passing of information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.
And on a lighter note, here are the contestants in the Miss NSA Pageant held annually in the 1950s and early 1960s. Yes, really.
Hey Mom, hey Dad, hey kids, hey everybody! Play carnival games at the NSA festival and take home cuddly teddy bears (may include hidden spy cameras). Fun times (1958).
Just another day at the NSA Headquarters, 1960s
The outline of the recruitment interview pattern from the Recruiters Manual, 1960s:
Magnetic Tape Units
President Ford takes a phone call with the NSA about plans to retake the S.S. Mayaguez and its crew during a White House dinner.
NSA supercomputers in the 1970s … (operated by suspiciously stylish employees).
Looks way more fun than the NSA operations centre today:
Hope you enjoyed that trip down memory lane with the NSA as much as I did. Until next time friends !
MORE OF MEMORY LANE WITH THE US GOVERNMENT: