R.I.P. Dave Wagner & Ken Hopkins

Welcome to the new, redesigned, rewritten and 100% updated 6988th.org website!

(Pssst. Check out the new stuff!) See this!

This website is dedicated to all the airmen who served with the 6988th Security Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan (or any of its preceding organizations), from the early 1950's through 1972, as well as to their friends, family, and ... well, anyone who's just plain interested.
   It is also a commemorative site honoring all the tireless work, dedication and commitment of my fellow “Bats”, our front-end crews and everyone else who supported us not only in the 6988th, but in many other units as well.

The 6988th SS was one of many units of the United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS) — a major air command established in 1948 with the broad charter of providing cryptologic and communications security (COMSEC) and collecting ground-based and airborne communications intelligence (COMINT) for the relatively new US Air Force (USAF or simply AF).

What we specifically did "in the day" was highly classified (like genuinely top-secret-crypto-codeword-whatever kind of classified). It's only been within the last couple of decades that the general public has had the opportunity to take even a partial look behind the cloak of secrecy that concealed so much for so long. And while what we did, in a generic sense, is now public knowledge, a large part of those missions (even after 50-odd years) as well as the greatly-expanded missions our Air Force compatriots perform today, must still very much remain undisclosed.

So, no secrets here, just archiving — and perhaps even stoking — some really great memories.

Most of us back-enders in the 6988th were linguists): Chinese, Russian, Korean, a few Vietnamese ... and others from time to time. Rounding out our aircrews were were the all-important Morse code intercept operators, ELINT specialists, airborne analysts (also a linguist) and the unassuming but invaluable AMTs. Honchoing each crew was our "Bat 1", or AMS (airborne mission supervisor). In the 6988th, most Bat 1s rose from the ranks of the squadron's Chinese linguists.

After graduating from language school, we completed basic intercept operator school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas. Some of us volunteered for flying duty and were promptly sent off for "altitude indoctrination" (in an altitude chamber) at Perrin AFB, TX. Then back to Goodfellow for additional training on the airborne equipment. Then it was to Stead AFB, NV (now a commercial airport), to attend "Special Combat Survival Training" (escape and evasion) followed immediately by "Combat Survival Training" (mountain survival training). [NOTE: It appears as if those two courses are now combined and called "SERE" (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape). The mountain survival portion is conducted at Fairchild AFB, WA; recurrent SERE training is done in Hawaii at Joint Base Hickam, and perhaps other locations.] After survival school, a short hop to Travis AFB, CA, and a long couple of hops to Tokyo and the 6988th.

Our formal [unclassified] duty title had now become "Airborne Voice Intercept Processing Specialist". That, along with having attended language school, pretty much set the stage for what we did, but we were bound not to confirm or deny, and, when asked, confidently reeled off our well-rehearsed cover stories. One ludicrous rumor (from our standpoint, anyway) did have to be put to rest, however, (and in the famous words of Dave Barry) "I'm not making this up": "No, Dad. We're not going to jump out of a plane and be dropped behind the Bamboo Curtain."

The need for elaborate cover stories for linguists are pretty much a thing of the past. The US Air Force is now rather open with respect to what today's linguists are trained to do. The current job description, training outline, duties and responsibilities, etc., are laid out pretty bare in the [unclassified] "Career Field Education and Training Plan" (PDF) for what is now called an "Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst." The details, of course, are still classified.

Today's missions — the type, scope, depth and breadth — have, by necessity, evolved and expanded dramatically, driven largely by world events, national security, and, of course, the non-stop growth in telecommunications technology. Collectively these factors have forever altered — and will continue to do so — the landscape of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) not just in the Air Force, or even in our military, but within, and between, all member organizations of the United States intelligence community.

USAFSS' successor organizations have proactively reflected this evolution. Starting in 2007, the AF ISR Agency, or AFISRA, the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency (fifth in the line of organizations succeeding USAFSS) advanced its long-time focus on Signals Intelligence, or SIGINT — the integration of COMINT and ELINT (and now, FISINT, or foreign instrumentation signals intelligence) and COMSEC to include even more intelligence disciplines such as geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counter-intelligence (CI).[1] [2]

To meet the challenging and ever-expanding mission requirements, AFISRA was redesignated the 25th Air Force ("25 AF") in September, 2014 (see press release) adding and consolidating even more capabilities, as described in the following excerpt from the 25th Air Force "Fact Sheet":

"25 AF provides multisource intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) products, applications, capabilities and resources, to include cyber and geospatial forces and expertise.  Additionally, it is the Service Cryptologic Component responsible to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service for Air Force matters involving the conduct of cryptologic activities, including the full spectrum of missions directly related to both tactical warfighting and national-level operations. With the inclusion of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and 55th Wing, 25th Air Force missions expanded to include electronic warfare, airborne national command and control (C2), reconnaissance in support of nuclear operations, and some aspects of nuclear C2.

25 AF also has responsibility for SIGINT operations for "Air Forces Cyber" (24th Air Force) as well as Air Force Reserve units and Air National Guard units having ISR responsibilities.


Thank you for stopping by. We're proud to be able to share our history and legacy. If you have any comments/suggestions, we'd love to hear from you.

1. "A Continuing Legacy, From USAFSS to AF ISR Agency, 1948-2012," p.31
2. Please refer to this site's "Glossary" page for more information on most terms/acronyms.


References on this site to Yale University and/or Yale's former Institute of Far Eastern Languages ("IFEL" - shuttered in 1966) refer to where many USAFSS linguists first learned their basic language (or took an intermediate course). The languages primarily offered at Yale were Chinese and Korean. Following the closure of IFEL, almost all USAF language training was taught, as it is today, at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. (DLI also operates a small contract foreign language training program in Washington, D.C.)


The contents of this personal, independent website, including the appearance of all hyperlinks to other websites, are for informational, reference and nostalgic purposes only and are not affiliated with, or necessarily reflect the views of, the United States Government, any of its departments, agencies, other subordinate entities or their agents.

Site designed and developed by Steve Senderling
Chinese Linguist, 6988th SS May 1965 - May 1967, "Test Bat" for Combat Apple, 6949th SS, Offutt AFB, NE, May-Aug 1967