FORT HUACHUCA, Arizona -- By Michael E. Bigelow, INSCOM Command Historian: On September 1, 1952, the Army activated the 500th Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Group at Camp Drake, Japan. Col. Washington M. Ives, Jr., a veteran of the Pacific campaigns in World War II, was its first commander.
During the Korean War, the Army began fielding group-sized units to direct its intelligence effort. In Korea, the 501st Communication Reconnaissance Group was formed to provide control over the increasing signal intelligence elements supporting the U.S. Eighth Army. In Japan, the Army activated the 500th MIS Group as a more permanent unit to replace the Military Intelligence Support Group, Far East, a temporary organization that provided translation and intelligence support to the Far East Command. The support group was the successor to the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, which had translated documents and interrogated prisoners to support General Douglas MacArthur’s drive through the southwest Pacific and eventually to Japan. Located at Camp Drake, in the northwest suburbs of Tokyo, Colonel Ives’ 500th MIS Group provided a translation service and general intelligence support for Army leadership in Japan. After six years and several redesignations, the group was inactivated.
In its place, the Army organized the U.S. Army Command Reconnaissance Activities, Pacific Command (USACRAPAC). The organization had performed field and source intelligence operations during the Korean War. After the war, it established its headquarters at Camp Drake and assumed the additional functions of preparing intelligence studies and performing translation service. The arrangements proved awkward and, on March 25, 1961, the Army reactivated the 500th MI Group at Camp Drake with operational control under the G-2 at U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC). The group, however, was attached to U.S. Army, Japan for administration and logistics support.
Under Col. James M. Worthington, the group absorbed the USACRAPAC’s mission and personnel. Besides these collection and intelligence support missions, the group added some counter-intelligence and photographic interpretation functions and responsibility for five technical intelligence detachments. All told, Worthington’s group had 59 officers, 8 warrant officers, 244 enlisted men, and 100 civilians. These 414 individuals concentrated on the ground forces of Communist Bloc countries in the Far East.
For field operations, the group was divided into lettered detachments stationed at various locations throughout the Pacific and Far East, including Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Thailand, and the Philippines. By 1964, however, the group’s duties were streamlined, and the photo interpretation functions were transferred and the technical intelligence detachments were inactivated. This allowed the group to concentrate on its field operations, a function at which it proved notably adept.
One of the group’s detachments, Detachment I, was one of the first Army intelligence elements to serve in Vietnam. From early 1962, it supported the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in a dual role of advising and assisting the South Vietnamese in intelligence collection and engaging in limited collection activities itself. At its peak, the detachment had 56 personnel. For contributions during the Vietnam War, the Army recognized the 500th MI Group with Meritorious Unit Commendations for operations 1968-1969 and then again in 1972-1974.
On January 1, 1977, the Army assigned the 500th MI Group to the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) where it became one of five theater MI groups. In 2010, the group was reorganized as the 500th MI Brigade. As it commemorates its seventieth anniversary, the brigade serves as the “Pacific Vanguard”: INSCOM’s direct support to USARPAC.