Voice Intercept Operator Extraordinaire *

Jakob Gotthold

Jakob Gotthold’s official military records speak volumes about his airborne combat record. He participated in 42 missions as a B-17 ball turret gunner during bombing raids over France, Italy, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Germany, Hungary and Romania between 24 November 1943 and 17 April 1944—then reached the zenith of his Air Force career as an airborne voice intercept operator and clairvoyant in the realm of airborne voice intercept. In late 1944, he proposed methods for using airborne voice intercept in SIGINT direct support operations that finally came to fruition decades later.

Jakob Gotthold

As a non-US citizen born in Danzig, Germany, in 1915, Jakob Gotthold enlisted in the Army on Valentine’s Day, 1942. Responding to a call for native-speaking German linguists, Jakob became an airborne voice intercept operator—logging eleven missions as an 11th crew member aboard B-17 bombing raids in Europe between 14 May and 31 July 1944.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lt., in Nov 1944 he submitted a proposal to Air Corps Headquarters that laid out plans for a full-scale airborne voice intercept program.

TSgt. Jakob Gotthold, Summer 1944

Although the then TOP SECRET proposal that follows is based on less than four months experience as an airborne voice intercept operator, Jakob Gotthold’s report clearly demonstrates that he was a visionary who was a couple of decades ahead of his time in understanding the airborne SIGINT mission and how airborne voice intercept could and should be used to support tactical and strategic missions in combat.

Gotthold describes the difficulties involved in getting the airborne voice intercept program off the ground in 1943-1944—the Bomb Groups did not see any direct value in supporting an airborne intercept program, and there was a dearth of compatible airborne equipment and trained native-speaking linguists. Regardless of language shredout, modern-day airborne cryptologic linguists will appreciate and relate to the insight that Jakob Gotthold held vis-à-vis airborne voice intercept in 1944.

Read Jakob's amazing TOP SECRET proposal!

* Introduction provided by Larry Tart