United States Army Intelligence and Security Command

Korean War

The troubled peace that followed World War II came to an end when Soviet-backed North Korean forces launched an invasion of South Korea in the summer of 1950. The advent of the Korean War confronted US Army intelligence with daunting problems. The Army Security Agency (ASA), whose mission was communications intelligence and communications security, did not begin to have a major impact until both sides settled into a stalemate in 1951. To meet the communications security needs of the Republic of Korea and Eighth Army troops, ASA distributed M-209 cipher machines.

Photo intelligence was indispensable to the intelligence collection process. To target the enemy’s positions, the Army developed hand-held spotting cameras for use within the L-19 aircraft. CIC detachments did invaluable work in screening the rear areas of their units against sabotage and espionage and countering the enemy’s aggressive propaganda campaign. Counter Intelligence Corps agents also conducted prisoner-of-war interrogations. Among the prisoners were high-ranking North Korean political operatives who had deliberately allowed themselves to be captured for the purpose of taking control of the large POW camps. They organized and armed inmates with crude weapons and threatened the lives of any who disagreed with their plans. Besides creating disturbances, they hoped to undermine any attempts by the UN to identify prisoners who did not want to be repatriated to the North.



M-209 Converter

M-209 Converter: A compact, portable, hand-powered, tape-printing mechanical cipher machine. Its usefulness lay in the fact that it provided a secure and rapid method of encrypting tactical messages and could be operated by personnel without extensive training.


KE-20 Polaroid Spotting Camera

KE-20 Polaroid Spotting Camera: This particular camera was developed during the Korean War, but was later successfully used during the Vietnam War for photographing supply trails from a helicopter.



Propaganda: Communist propaganda disseminated to US troops during the Korean War. The multicolored handkerchief is decorated with drawings of US and Chinese personnel, a peace dove, and the greeting “Merry Christmas from the Chinese People’s Volunteers.” A handmade cigarette holder is inscribed with the message “Demand Peace Stop War.”


Knife Made by North Korean POWs

Knife Made by North Korean POWs: A hand-made knife with a 5-inch blade and 4-inch wooden handle confiscated by CIC personnel. The knife handle and the sheath were covered in Army wool-blanket material, making it easy to hide in bedding supplied to the prisoners.

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Site Last Reviewed/Cleared/Updated on July 27th, 2012