In the April 21, 1972, edition of the Corry Station base paper called the NCTC Log, an interesting article was discovered about an Advanced Non-Morse Operation Course that was taught at the technical training command.

The article gave details such as course length and training focus areas such as communications systems and methods, electronic theory, equipment operation, and techniques. The purpose of the article was to recognize the 69th class that completed training since its creation and to give a brief history of the course.

The first class of the Advanced Non-Morse Operations Course convened on April 11, 1955 at the 1st U.S. Army Security Agency (ASA) Field Station, Vint Hill Farms, Warrenton, Virginia.  The purpose of the course was to provide advanced instruction in the field of Non-Morse operations to senior enlisted personnel of the Army, Navy and Air Force cryptologic agencies.  In December 1959, the course moved to the National Security Agency (NSA), Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland, and in 1966 it moved to NCTC Corry Station. 

At the time of the article, the course was one of the oldest tri-service courses in the communications field.  

The 452 Course

Today, after 54 years and several revisions later, the course is now called the Advanced Communications Signals Analysis (452 course) and continues to be taught to joint members of the armed service at Corry Station. Considered to be the most advanced signals analysis course in the Department of Defense, the course objectives are to train experienced signals analyst collection personnel to function as subject matter experts in the fields of signals search, analysis and development; provide the knowledge and skills necessary to perform fine grain analysis and reporting of known, new and unusual signals, in any signals research equipment configuration.

Entrance to IWTC Corry Station Command Building (building 503)

The course includes in-depth instruction in the Linux operating system, advanced modulation techniques, digital communications analysis, advanced reporting techniques and advanced bitstream analysis.

Instruction also cover advanced multiplexing techniques, satellite/VSAT communications, cellular communications, PCM analysis, advanced MODEMS, advanced spread spectrum and computer networks.

During extensive laboratory periods and the final examination, students display, analyze, demodulate, classify, record and report virtually all types of complex non-Morse signaling methods and their users. 

Vint Hill Farms

Why did the course start at Vint Hill Farms, a nondescript farm in the county of Warrenton, Virginia?  And what role, if any, did it have with the intelligence community?

Aerial view of  the station in 1956.  Note the white silo and barn in the upper left.
This barn was where the intercept operation was established in early July 1942.

Vint Hill Farms Station (VHFS) was established during World War II in 1942 by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service (SIS). The 701-acre facility was built because the Army needed a secure location near SIS headquarters in Arlington Hall to serve as a cryptography school and as a refitting station for signal units returning from combat prior to redeployment overseas.  The unit on station had a World War II Monitoring Station Designator of MS-1. VHFS was one of the U.S. Army’s most important intelligence gathering stations during the war, playing a pivotal role in eavesdropping on enemy communications. In 1943, the VHFS intercepted a message from the Japanese ambassador in Berlin to his superiors in Tokyo. It also provided a detailed description of Nazi fortifications along the French Coast, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower later said the information made a significant contribution to the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

Vint Hill operations, undated

After the war, VHFS became the first field station of the Army Security Agency (ASA), a subordinate to the NSA, and the facility conducted signals intelligence operations and served as a training center for radio-intercept operators, cryptanalysts, and radio-repair technicians.  During the Cold War, VHFS intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communications sent over FISH teleprinters (A). The Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to VHFS in 1961 and managed signals intelligence and electronic warfare equipment and systems maintenance for the Army Security Agency and other signals intelligence and electronic warfare units worldwide.

Direction finding operator at Vent Hill, World War II

In 1973, the VHFS’s mission changed to research, development and support of intelligence and electronic warfare for the Army, Department of Defense and foreign allies of the United States. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took over operation of the facility’s photographic interpretation center from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the center was renamed the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center. In the late 1970s, VHFS was put on the military base closure list, and all maintenance and construction at the facility was halted. In 1981, the facility was removed from the closure list and funding for maintenance and construction was restored.

A VHFS employee told a House of Representatives subcommittee in 1977 that the facility had a bank of machines designed to intercept foreign communications, including those of U.S. allies, such as communications between United Kingdom’s Washington embassy and London. The Associated Press reported in 1989 that VHFS served as a “giant ear” operated by the NSA, with its likely target being foreign embassies in Washington, D.C., as well as international communications coming into the United States.

In 1987, control of the facility was transferred from the Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), the successor to the Army Security Agency, to the Communications-Electronics Command, which was based, at the time, in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.  The base took on a support role, developing and testing signal equipment and supporting the operations of agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of VHFS, which would produce savings of $10.5 million annually. At the time there were 846 military personnel, 1,356 civilian personnel and 454 contractors based at the facility. Most of the personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth, while others went to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The intelligence equipment maintenance and repair personnel were relocated to Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania.

Vint Hill Farms winery

In 1999, the land was sold to the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority and designated for commercial use, though the main barn where the Army operated remained. A winery opened in 2009, with a Cold War museum following 2011.

The upper level of the old barn (now Vint Hill Craft Winery) that was the former monitoring station for the U.S. Army during World War II.

(A) Fish (sometimes FISH) was the UK’s GC&CS Bletchley Park codename for any of several German teleprinter stream ciphers used during World War II.

NCTC Corry Log, Vol 11 No 8 Edition, April 21, 1972
Cryptologic Quarterly (NSA)