Sgt Lesko – The First Intercept Operator at Shanghai

Shanghai’s allowance of one sergeant and eight enlisted Marines was basically the same as the Peiping site.  The first marine intercept operator assigned to Shanghai was then Sgt Stephen Lesko.
He reported to Headquarters Company, 4th Marines on June 12, 1935, from the USS AUGUSTA (CA 31) were he had served as part of a COMINT direct support complement.  Upon completing his early tour of duty at Peiping, then Cpl Lesko had returned to the U.S. and attended the Radio Material School at Bellevue where he was promoted to Sgt.  He was then transferred to Quantico where he served until December 1934 when he received orders back to the Asiatic Station.  He was assigned to the Marine Detachment on board the CinCAF flagship, USS AUGUSTA (CA 31), as a “Student Radio Operator.”  In reality, he performed intercept operations with CRM Fred Freeman until his transfer to HQ, 4th Marine Regiment at Shanghai.  In addition to being the first enlisted intercept operator assigned to the new Shanghai station, he was also the station’s senior enlisted Marine cryptologist.  At this time, he was promoted to SSgt.  With SSgt Lesko’s arrival, action to establish the intercept station moved forward.  The station was housed in a small wooden structure on the roof of a two story building at the rear of the 4th Marines Headquarters Compound.  It was exposed in all directions, particularly to Chinese factory roofs to the south and west.  SSgt Lesko installed the receivers which, at the time, were battery powered.  Power pack were being developed and sent to the field but none had been received at Shanghai.

Once Again Shanghai is Operational

OTRG class number 15
OTRG class number 15
l-to-r (kneeling): Randle, Carraway, Suber, Weigle, Lesko.
l-to-r (standing): Petrosky, Jones, Butler, Winborn, Crow, Capt. Zern.
Photo taken on the roof of HQ 4th Marines, Haiphong Road, Shanghai, China – 1937.

CRM Daryl W. Wigle reported for duty as Assistant Officer-in-Charge on August 4, from the Navy Radio Station, Guam.  Class No. 15 of the KANA Operator’s Course provided the majority of the Shanghai’s original complement but, to bring the site up to full strength, three Marine operators from Peiping, Cpl Harold V. Jones, Clp Charles S. Southerland, and Pfc Joseph A. Petrosky Jr., were transferred to the 4th Marines.  For security reasons the men were first transferred to the Marine Detachment, USS AUGUSTA (CA 31) for duty and then reassigned to the 4th Marines.  According to available records, the Radio Security Station, Marine Detachment, Peiping was disestablished on July 28, 1935.

During 1936, personnel assigned to Radio Security Station, Shanghai, were; Capt Shelton C. Zern (OIC), CRM Daryl W. Wigle, USN (AOIC), SSgt Stephen Lesko, Sgt  Jesse L. Randle, Cpl Cecil T. Carraway, PFC Joseph A Petrosky, Jr., Pfc Harold V. Jones, Pfc Harry L. Butler, Pfc James W. Winborn, Pfc Curtis W. Crowe, and Pfc Carl G. Suber.

Once operational, the tempo of operations at the station varied.  Initially, collection was accomplished using a five section, one man watch.  The NCO’s, Lesko, Randle, Jones and Carraway, were divided into two section working one day on, one day off.  CRM Wigle stood a day watch.  Watch section were staggered so three men were on watch during peak traffic periods for maximum coverage at any given time.  Each man was also assigned additional duties involving maintenance and administrative support.  Changes in the watch structure occurred frequency in response to personnel changes and operational necessity.

Collection Management!

There were now three fixed shore intercept stations in the Western Pacific (Shanghai, Cavite and Guam) and two mobile intercept platform (USS AUGUSTA and the SS Goldstar).   To avoid duplication of effort, the Asiatic Fleet Communications Intelligence Officer was tasked with coordinating intercept coverage.  Shanghai’s mission involved continuous coverage on the Japanese Asian Diplomatic Circuit, with particular emphasis on the Japanese Consulate at Shanghai, and, secondarily, on Japanese IF circuits except during maneuver periods.  The station’s decryption units’ normal mission was to decrypt, translate, and digest Japanese diplomatic traffic intercepted by the Asiatic Net, and perform analysis on Japanese diplomatic cryptosystems.

By James McIntire and R. D. Howell, Sr. (NCVA)
Edited by Mario Vulcano