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1917: Col. Ralph H. Van Deman becomes military intelligence chief

Friday, May 3, 2019
1917: Col. Ralph H. Van Deman becomes military intelligence chief

3 May 1917: Col. Ralph H. Van Deman became Chief, Military Intelligence Division.

Excerpted from Wikipedia:

Although Van Deman entered the U.S. Army as a surgeon, he eventually went to work for the Military Information Division (MID). Years later he wrote a history of the MID - including its rise and fall. He was convinced that the Army must have a coordinated intelligence organization if it were to avoid defeat in the near future, especially as it was now obvious that the U.S. would soon be involved in the war in Europe. Eventually Van Deman was able to get an audience with the Secretary of War to present his case. There he convinced the War Department to accept his idea of an intelligence department for U.S. forces.

As the result of these efforts, the Military Intelligence Section, War College Division, War Department General Staff, was created on 3 May 1917, with Van Deman, now a Colonel, at its head. By the war's end in 1919, it had grown to 282 officers and 1,159 civilians, most of them specialists. One of these was Herbert Yardley, a cipher clerk with the State Department who Van Deman made a first lieutenant and put in charge of codes and ciphers. Van Deman modelled his new organization on British Army intelligence, and divided it into several departments.

As well as military intelligence gathering, MID was also tasked with preventing sabotage and subversion by enemy agents or German sympathizers on US soil. Short of manpower, Van Deman relied on private groups which he organized into the American Protective League. He also provided security to government offices, defense plants, seaports, and other sensitive installations. He created a field organization in eight US cities which employed mobilized civilian policemen to perform security investigations. In France, MID provided operational intelligence to the American Expeditionary Force, and Van Deman created the Corps of Intelligence Police (forerunner of the Counter Intelligence Corps), recruiting fifty French-speaking Sergeants with police training. Thus, within a few months, he had created an intelligence organization that could support both domestic and tactical intelligence requirements.

Photo info: "Ralph Van Deman" by US Army - http://www.army.mil/article/124609/US_Army_Military_Intelligence_Section_Established__3_May_1917/. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ralph_Van_Deman.jpg#/media/File:Ralph_Van_Deman.jpg

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On This Day In History


  • In July 1993, the National Cryptologic Museum was first opened to NSA employees and their families, and to other members of the Intelligence Community. This photo is of the main exhibit room as it appeared in July 1993 - courtesy of former curator Jack Ingram.

About Us

The NCMF directly supports the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM), the first public museum in the U.S. Intelligence Community. We think you will agree it is truly a "museum like no other."

Located adjacent to the National Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland, the NCM houses a priceless collection of artifacts that represent our Nation's history in code making and code breaking, as well as a world class library of cryptologic media. The NCMF acquires the best artifacts for the NCM and supports new educational and interactive exhibits.

The NCMF provides exceptional cryptologic programs throughout the year, encourages young minds to explore cryptology and innovation through valued awards, and hosts educational, cryptology-related exhibits at various community events.

As part of the Foundation's partnership with NSA to build the Cyber Center for Education and Innovation - Home of the National Cryptologic Museum (CCEI-NCM), the NCMF also serves as a leader in the field of cybersecurity - striving to provide the best in educational resources and programs.

The NCMF and NCM share a joint three-fold mission to Educate, Stimulate, and Commemorate. Learn more about our MISSION.