In designing the collar insignia that was approved for Warrant and Non-commissioned Officers in the Electronic Warfare (EW) career field in 2011, the Army used it as an opportunity to acknowledge the little heralded but nonetheless groundbreaking EW research and development work performed by civilians and Soldiers during the early days of United States involvement in World War II.

The United States Army was keenly aware that the widespread introduction of radar as part of air-defense systems throughout Germany posed a significant threat to Allied bombing and reconnaissance missions, and in response sought to harness the intellectual heft of both academics and industrialists in an effort to find ways to negate its efficacy. Leading the way was the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), formally established in June 1941 to coordinate military research efforts between private industry and universities and the military.

One of the projects created by OSRD was the Radio Research Laboratory (RRL), tasked with developing radio and radar countermeasures (RCM) to degrade or nullify German radar capabilities, as well as counter-countermeasures aimed at preventing the enemy from carrying out their own RCM against U.S. radar and other electronic assets. Heading the RRL was Stanford professor Dr. Frederick Ternan, who in early 1942 selected the SCR 587 for use as an airborne radar intercept receiver, which could locate enemy radar installations and calculate their operating specifications.

To deploy the SCR 587, however, the Army—the U.S. Army Air Force, to be more precise—had to train Soldiers in radar and radar detection, which led to the establishment of a radar school at Morrison Field in Florida in early 1942. The school created an RCM course to teach soldiers how to carry our radar detection during air operations, with the students given the nickname “Ravens.” Besides learning how to analyze radar signals, the RCM course included primers on electronic jamming and the use of chaff to confuse enemy radars.

On March 6, 1943, two Ravens, Lieutenants Bill Praun and Ed Tietz, carried out the Army’s first-ever electronic reconnaissance flight in a modified B-24 Liberator (nicknamed “Ferret I”) over the Japanese-held island of Kiska in the Aleutians. Over the next two-and-a-half years, more Ferrets, some of them B-17s, flew missions in both the Pacific and European theaters; over a 16-month period that ended in September, 1944, Ravens flew more than 180 sorties over Southern Europe that revealed the locations of 450 German radar sites.

Looking at the collar insignia approved for Electronic Warfare personnel, the color Black has two meanings. One is to symbolize their mission of blinding and confusing the enemy, while at the same time harkening back to the American Soldiers who pioneered this very type of warfare at a critical juncture in America’s fight against Germany and Japan.

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