127th SIGNAL RADIO INTELLIGENCE COMPANY



Courtesy of Mr. James Quinn

Story of S/Sgt John Dubnicki, Jr.
127th Signal Radio Intelligence Company

John Dubnicki Jr. was born in Dunkirk, NY on 6 November 1919 the second son of John and Caroline Dubnicki. He attended elementary school at St Hyacinth Church School, where his father taught music, and was the organist and choir-master for the church. John was an exceptionally talented pianist and a well known local musician before he graduated from Dunkirk High School in 1938. (In later years he studied with highly regarded pianists Pearl Lilie and Jessie Hillman and he performed in many popular night clubs and ballrooms in the Buffalo, NY area as a soloist and with his older brother Ted. He often used the stage name "Johnny Dunn".) After graduating high school, he attended the Dunkirk Business Institute, and the Bryant & Statton Business School in Buffalo, NY, and, after W.W.II, Albright College, in Reading, PA.

On July 1, 1941 John registered for the US military draft and was classified as 1-B on November 23 1941, when he took his physical examination. On May 14, 1942, he was reclassified as 1-A and he reported for induction to active duty at 8:00 AM on June 8, 1942 at the local draft board in Dunkirk, NY. He was assigned the service number 32375030.

The foregoing does not covey the flavor of those times, when a small town like Dunkirk, gave so many young men to the military. The newspapers, photographers and politicians were front and center, posturing and participating. On June 8th, John went away with dozens of other draftees on four commercial tour buses. Hundreds of relatives saw them off. The Mayor and the Draft Board posed and shook their hands as they left for the Old Post Office Building in Buffalo (at the corner of Seneca and Washington), for a medical exam and a meal "nothing short of terrible - perhaps intentionally so, in an effort to get us broken in for the vastly different army life." When, the recruits were sworn in they reboarded the buses and went to Ft Niagara for processing and training.

From 8 to 16 June 1942, John was temporarily located at "Company D, 1213 Reception Center, Fort Niagara", near Youngstown, NY for processing, uniform issue, testing and some basic training. This time included a 3-day pass. Then he was reassigned to Camp Edison, Sea Girt, NJ from June 17 to July 13, 1942 for basic infantry training. This camp was part of Fort Monmouth, which belonged to the Signal Corps. Johnny was an excellent typist who had won contests in business school. Perhaps this is why the Army assigned him to the Signal Corps, which made extensive use of teletype equipment.

From July 14 until November 9, he was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion of the 15th Signal Service Regiment at the Eastern Signal Corps School at Fort Monmouth, NJ to take the basic Radio Communications course. Upon completion, he was promoted to Corporal with the title of Technician 5th Grade, and assigned to Company M on October 1, 1942 for advanced training. From 9-16 November he went on a home furlough to Dunkirk. On November 19, 1942 he reported to the 127th Signal Radio Intelligence Company at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas (which became his permanent unit until the end of W.W.II.) for more training. From December 26 to February 6, he was stationed at Dodd Field (part of Fort Sam Houston) and then had a 14-day furlough from Feb 6-12. He left Texas on February 22 and reported to Camp Crowder, Missouri, on March 1, 1943, where he was promoted to Sergeant with the title Technician 4th Grade and assigned to Company F, 800th Signal Training Regiment, 92nd Signal Battalion. Here he received advanced training in signal intercept techniques. He also gained a Marksman certification by completing rifle training with an "03 Enfield 1917 model rifle" and scoring 153 on the range (The high and low scores of other trainees were 177 versus 90.

He returned to Fort Sam Houston from April 18 to May 19 and then went to Louisiana near Camp Polk for field maneuvers from May 20 to June 30, 1943. There they practiced intercepts of field communications. Basically, they were equipped with a variety of communications equipment and antennae, which they trucked from one location to another learning how to intercept radio signals.

They returned to Sam Houston from June 30 to October 5, 1943, during which time they had a short training exercise at Texas A&M University at College Station, TX from July 3-13. He had a 15-day furlough from August 1-15. From October 6 to November 16, they had maneuvers in Louisiana near Leesville and Alexandria. At some time during this period he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

At year end his unit began the journey to participate in the Pacific war theater and temporarily (December 19, 1943 - March 3, 1944) moved to the Two Rock Ranch at Petaluma, California, near San Francisco. The activities there involved specialized training and because of that the camp itself was well camouflaged both naturally and artificially and outsiders had no idea what they was being done there. John attended a Banquet and Dance on Feb 23. He also attended the East-West All Star Football Game at Kezar Stadium on January 1, 1944. In late February, he was assigned a permanent mailing address that changed from 127 Two Rock Ranch, Petaluma, Ca to 127th Sig Rad Int Co, APO 9730, % Postmaster, New York, NY. Then the Company left for their overseas staging point at Camp Anza, CA where they stayed from March 4-8 awaiting transport to Calcutta, India.

On March 8 they boarded the SS Mariposa at Terminal Island, Wilmington, CA. They debarked at Bombay, India on April 10, following a one-day pass in Freemantle, Perth, Australia on March 29, 1944. During the voyage, they crossed the international dateline and John duly became a member of the "Royal Domain of King Neptune" as certified by Davy Jones, royal scribe, and Neptune Rex, Ruler of the Seas. The Mariposa was a 14,000 ton, 564-foot long vessel, that after the war was used as a cruise ship in the Pacific.

April 10-20 involved the journey across India. For a while, at least, the Company was quartered at Camp Kancharapara, which is located at the Chandmari railroad stop near the city of Kanchrapara and not too far from Calcutta. By March John was located at Kanjekoah, near Doom Dooma, Upper Assam Province in the Himalaya mountains, and employed in intercepting and recording enemy military communications (Japanese and Chinese) He would subsequently serve as the senior enlisted supervisor at various intercept operating locations in India, Burma and Thailand until the war ended.

The mission of the 127th SRIC was to intercept enemy radio communications most of which consisted of pilot chatter and enemy ground force traffic. The unit was stationed in Assam near the Himalayan mountains because it was easier to detect radio waves propagated above the normal ground horizon. Once the signals were detected, the 127th would transcribe the content much as a court stenographer by utilizing special typewriters which, instead of having conventional alphabetic keys, had phonetic keys. The transcribers were trained to associate a specific phonetic sound with a particular key. Essentially they typed a "sound picture" of the conversation. The typed manuscript would then be sent to translators who would transpose the sounds into the respective language (Japanese or Chinese) and then translate that information into English. This solved the problem of needing the intercept operators who knew foreign languages.

The phonetic alphabet had 48 keys associated with different sounds plus two punctuation keys. Intercept operators typed these sounds by ear after long training that used numerous exercises in different languages. They were graded on accuracy and speed. John was particularly expert and was the best in the unit. Consequently, although he was a staff sergeant, and normally in charge of an intercept unit, he often would sit down at a monitor and perform normal duties.

The intercept units had specialized equipment that consisted of two or more antennae, plus two transcriber/operator compartments, each in its own small trailer, and a separate power/generator trailer. One transcriber trailer housed two operator stations and the other housed four stations. The trailers were designed to be easily transported. All the equipment could be broken down inside and crated. After they arrived on site, they could be quickly reconstructed and made operational.

The units moved about depending on their operational requirements. They located in India, Burma, Thailand and China depending on the enemy they were targeting. John served first in India and then in Thailand and Burma. He complained that he was often burdened with an excessive workload since he was regarded as the most reliable and productive intercept technician. In addition, he was also charged with various administrative and management responsibilities to keep the unit functioning properly.

Since the units were in remote areas there was not opportunity for off-duty recreation. John described how they would go and watch the local women wash their laundry in a nearby creek. They did, however, have the chance to visit exotic locations and meet interesting local residents.

They were stationed at Kanjekoah, Assam from April 20 to July 27, 1944. They lived in tents and tea patches grew outside the camp. Later they build Bashas, which were buildings made mostly of clay with concrete floors and thatch roofs. There was an Indian store in the rear and Punjab soldiers worked on the roads. The mud was ankle deep in the monsoons and the local people washed their clothes in ponds and creeks. Nearby was the town of Dibrugarh, on the Brahmaputra River. The 5th Radio Squadron and the 10th Air Force were also stationed nearby (with their B-29’s)

From July 27, 1944 to October 27, 1945, they were stationed at Sadiya, Assam. This was located just below the hill country and many of the hill people lived there. These included the Abor Hill men, and Mishmi Hill men, who worked at the camp doing odd jobs, and Gurkha’s who guarded the camp. Nearby towns included Duma Duma and Chabua and Tinsukia. Merrill’s Marauders had a camp nearby, with a cemetery, at Kanjejoah. The Air Corps had a base near Chabua. Some of the locations where intercept trucks operated include: Nisamghat in the Himalayan Mountains, and Mogaung, in Burma, Denning in the Himalayas, and locations in China on the Burma Road.

Originally, John was in charge of half the intercept platoon until his counterpart was reduced in rank due to inefficiency, and John took over the entire platoon. Later he was in charge of all the intercept trucks and the operations section as well. This amounted to about 75 men. Their product went to headquarters in New Delhi and to China and was cited as the main reason for many allied successes in Burma and China. Commendations were numerous. It was said that each intercept troop was worth a thousand infantrymen.

When the war ended the unit was sent to a convoy staging area at Chabua, Assam from October 27-30 and then to a Replacement Depot, also in Chabua, from October 30 to November 11, 1945. Then they went from Assam to Bengal from November 11-13. They boarded a train at Bombay and went to Tinsukia Camp and went to Tinsukia by truck convoy. There they boarded a train for Calcutta and there were put up at Camp Hjialeah (location of the Hjialeah Race Track) and then at Camp Salua, from Nov 15-21 (which had been a B-29 base during the war). From Nov 22 to Dec 6, they were based at Kanchrapara, near Calcutta. Then they boarded the USS Gen. Brooke for the trip to New York, where they arrived on January 3, 1946. They went to Camp Kilmer from Jan 3-5, and then to Fort Dix from Jan 5-13, where he was discharged and arrived home in Dunkirk, NY on January 13, 1946.

John died at home on 23 October 2001. He was buried near his parents at St Hyacinth’s Church Cemetery just outside Dunkirk, NY.


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