NYRAMBLA, Australia – A lone house sits on top of a hill amongst a suburb of Brisbane. It is a house like any other house on the block; one where you would expect a small family to reside. But inside the house lies a secret history.
Six members of I Corps intelligence community took a break from Talisman Sabre 15 to visit the Central Bureau Headquarters for Australian and American cryptologists during WWII under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
More than 70 years later, several veterans who served under McArthur traveled back to the headquarters to watch the unveiling of a plaque, marking the original location where the Japanese code was cracked.
“It was really great to see a place that holds so much history in my field,” said Spc. Luis Aviles, an intelligence analyst with Company B, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. “I didn't know we had operations here in WWII. I also didn't know that was the house where they cracked the Japanese code or the biggest turning point of the war.”
Soldiers and Marines assigned to I Corps for Talisman Sabre 15 exchange experiences with Australian army soldiers about the differences in each others' jobs before the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the service of Australian and American cryptologists during World War II at Nyrambla, Australian, July 9, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)
Today, the cryptologists' headquarters have moved from the house, but the history and memories of the veterans still remain.
“I used to identify the Morse code signals from the Japanese,” said Colin Brackley. “The building itself is well preserved, still the exact same as I remember it 73 years ago.”
Before July 1942, the Australian signals intelligence personnel were scattered throughout the country. When MacArthur arrived in Brisbane, he brought all the signals intelligence personnel under one headquarters.
“When it was first set up, it was half Americans and half Australians,” said Australian Capt. Dennis Magennis, manager for Museum of Australian Military Intelligence, Australian Army History Unit. “By the end of the war in 1945, the Bureau consisted of approximately 4,500 people. We had the manpower, land and location for something like the Bureau, but MacArthur's headquarters structure and knowledge made the Bureau a reality.”
The location, manpower and structure provided the military intelligence personnel and cryptologists of the Bureau the best opportunity to intercept and decipher their adversary's' coded messages.
“Having the Bureau here gave (cryptologists and analysts) a decisive edge,” said Magennis. “Once you know your opponent's thought process, you can stay one step ahead of them. The Bureau's success of cracking the Japanese code provided MacArthur with an accurate assessment of their strengths. That level of knowledge was essential, a combat multiplier.”
Brackley and his co-workers continued to work at intercepting and translating the Japanese code until one day, they received word that it was time to go home.
Brackley remembered how excited he was to be returning to his family now the war was officially over. Before being released, however, the cryptologists were asked to remain silent.
“After the war, we had to sign a document stating not to talk about what we did,” Brackley said.
The Central Bureau veterans remained silent about their experience and job for more than two decades.
“It was hard to remain silent during those years, not talking about our contribution to the war,” Brackley said. “In the 1970s, we were allowed to talk about our job and experiences publicly.”
The people in attendance listened to the history and hardships of the Central Bureau's veterans, never really knowing what they endured due to those years of silence.
“Being an intelligence analyst makes me relate to the veterans, not talking about what we worked on,” said Aviles. “We can talk about our basic job description and that's it, but not talking about it period, I couldn't even begin to how hard that was for them during all those years.”
Aviles and the rest of the audience gave the veterans a standing ovation after the commemorative plaque was unveiled, showing their appreciation to the veterans.
Gordon Gibson, retired Central Bureau Australian army service member, unveils a plaque commemorating the service of Australian and American cryptologists during World War II during a ceremony at Nyrambla, Australian, July 9, 2015.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)
“It was an honor and privilege to be a representative for the U.S. Army in honoring the veterans' service,” Aviles said.
Aviles and the other I Corps Soldiers in attendance continue the partnership started when Brackley first began working with the U.S. The partnership has grown now including permanent representatives in each military working with the other and a biennial exercise called Talisman Sabre.
Talisman Sabre consists of U.S. and Australian forces with a contingent of 30,000 participants. I Corps is using Talisman Sabre as a certification exercise to validate as a Combined Forces Land Component Command.
“I thought Talisman Sabre was our first partnership, not a continued partnership,” Aviles said. “It is great to be a part of Talisman Sabre 15 that continues a strong partnership from WW2 with the Australians.”
“We should never forget our history,” said Magennis. “We can repeat the successes of our history. Success breeds further success. We should build on that and not forget it.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
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