Nine years after Harris Monroe “Red” Austin enlisted in the Navy and served as a Radioman (RM) during WWII he made a significant change in his job and became a communication technician (CT) in 1949. After indoctrination by OPNAV, CT1 Austin was immediately sent to Cheltenham, Maryland where he received training as an ELINT/ESM (electronic intelligence/electronic support measure) intercept operator.
Following his training he was assigned to the Communication Unit 32 (CU 32) located at the Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut. His first mission as a CT1 direct support (DIRSUP) intercept operator was to deploy on the USS ALBANY (CA 123). This newly minted spook flew out to the ship with crates of specialized cryptologic collection equipment that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Naval Security Group (NSG) call “Black Boxes.” Waiting for him were other spooks of CU 32 already onboard the ALBANY pier side Bizerte, Tunisia. Soon after the team installed the black boxes the ship pushed away from the pier.
Now underway, the DIRSUP team started to conduct signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations. However, after a couple of weeks at sea the team received orders to cross-deck with the equipment to the USS FARGO (CL 106) to continue with operations. At the time both ships were operating in the Mediterranean Sea.
Not long after the DIRSUP team installed the equipment on the FARGO and commenced operations a message came in from the office of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) requesting two volunteers for special duty to deploy on a submarine. This was a first! No one on the team or in the NSG had ever deployed a submarine to conduct SIGINT operations. With the unknown of riding submarines staring the team down, Austin and CT2 Robert Schaeffer volunteered. Because this request came directly from the office of the CNO, the highest office within the U. S. Navy, the FARGO made best speed and pulled into Naples, Italy where the two DIRSUP operators disembarked and flew to London via Suda Bay Crete and Morocco. Austin and Schaeffer spent the next 10 days in London receiving briefs by Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM) staff as well as receiving specialize training on equipment specifically designed for this TOP SECRET submarine assignment.
Now mid-July 1949, with their business at CINCNELM complete the two volunteers flew out to Londonderry, Northern Ireland with sealed orders and crates of equipment to be delivered to the Commanding Officer of the USS COCHINO (SS 345).
CTC Harris Monroe “Red” Austin
The Austin Family