Listening to the Rumrunners

Title:                      Listening to the Rumrunners

Author:                  David P. Mowry

Mowry, David P. (2014). Listening to the Rumrunners: Radio Intelligence during Prohibition. Fort George G. Meade, MD: Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency

LCCN:    Not available

HV5088 (no library holdings)

Date Updated:  August 24, 2015

This brochure is available at the NSA Cryptologic History web site.

Most Americans are aware of the era of lawslessness in this country that began with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. The institution of Prohibition brought with it major law enforcement problems, whose effects continue to be felt today. Few people, however, are aware of the major role played by communications intelligence in the enforcement of the Prohibition laws. The files of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including the files of the Radio Division of the Department of Commerce, show that radio was used on a large scale in connection with rum-running activities. The radio operations of the rum-running organizations were, in fact, comparable in size, technical skill, and organization with the radio operation that would be conducted by enemy agents in World War II.

David Mowry, the author of this brochure, served as a historian, researching and writing histories in the Cryptologic History Series. He began his Agency career as a linguist in 1957 and later (1964-1969) held positions as a linguist and cryptanalyst. From 1969 through 1981 he served in various technical and managerial positions. In the latter part of his career, he was a historian in the Center for Cryptologic History. Mr. Mowry held a BA with regional group major in Germany and Central Europe from the University of California at Berkeley. He passed away in 2005.

In 44 pages the role of the Coast Guard in intercepting and breaking up rumrunners is beautifully described. The material is very well documented as well. It is a worthy publication for those interested in SIGINT.

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One Response to Listening to the Rumrunners

  1. Pingback: Masked Dispatches | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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