After 60 years, Herbert Mertz, a resident at Artman Lutheran Home, can finally talk about the time he served with the United States Air Force during the Korean War.
Herbert served on the United States Air Force Security Service during and after the Korean War. “It was a very sophisticated intelligence unit,” he said.
Previously, Herbert wasn’t allowed to talk about his time with the Air Force, because it was highly classified. Recently, he received a letter telling him that the information was declassified. However, there are still many stories that Herbert cannot share due to their top secret nature.
Herbert was on the First Radio Squadron Mobile, and spent most of his time on deployment at Johnson Air Force base, outside Tokyo, Japan. He also served three months in Misawa, Japan, and did a five day temporary duty to Wakani, Japan. After the Korean War ended, he spent a year in Korea, a year on the French-German border, and two years in London.
“My job was radio traffic analyst,” Herbert said. “That consisted of taking intercepted radio messages from any foreign power that was considered our enemy. Then I’d go through the radio traffic, make an analysis of the information sent by foreign forces and report any significant intelligence information.” The information in Herbert’s reports was then sent to the National Security Agency and further analyzed. Especially pertinent information was sent to the CIA and the President.
The main duty of Herbert’s squadron was to keep an eye on the Chinese and Russian Air Forces, although Herbert said that most of their time was devoted to Russia. “The First Radio Squadron was the main reason we had superiority during the Korean War,” he said.
Herbert enlisted with the Air Force as soon as he graduated high school, when he was 17 years old. “In those days you didn’t have much choice,” he said. “I could enlist or wait a few years and get drafted.”
Herbert enjoyed his time in the military though, especially when he was stationed at Johnson Air Base. “The best part of that was that it was an hour away from downtown Tokyo,” he said. “We ate better there, the night life was better, and I was 18 years old. Those were the best two and a half years of my life.”