Virgil Fordham (50-51)

As summarized by Joe Covern (59-62/63-66/70-73)

In addition to the information about early operations in Berlin based on the recollections and orders provided by BIA members Bill Baker and Sam Herrin, both of whom were sent to Berlin from the 2nd RSM at Darmstadt in the early 50s, one of our newest members, Virgil Fordham, has kindly supplied additional information regarding the establishment of our unit.

As noted by Bill Baker, SSgt Virgil Fordham and 2Lt Ken Pearsall first arrived in Berlin in July 1950. Virg recalls that he and Pearsall first conducted a site survey, operating out of a small room/closet near the radar approach and control center in the control tower building at Tempelhof Airport. The two handled their own security, Lt Pearsall with a .45 on his hip and Virg with a carbine. They accumulated several days’ worth of operational data, which was forwarded to the USAFE Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, General Lewis, who was the driving force behind this project. The next month, a few more members of the 2nd RSM were sent to Berlin, and operations on the sixth floor of a partially bombed out area at the airport were established. "This", recalls Virg, "was the start of the somewhat covert" USAFSS operation at Tempelhof Airport. Before the end of the year, a few more from the 2nd RSM joined the operation as well. 

During his tenure in Berlin, Virg was the lead operations guy (NCOIC) under Lt. Pearsall (OIC) until he (Virg) left Berlin in June1951 and was replaced as NCOIC by SSgt Darrel Hanson. At the time of his departure, the unit had 6-8 intercept operators assigned. (Sam Herrin recalls that when he arrived in 1952 the unit was “well established.”) Still, until January 1953, all personnel were assigned to Berlin on TDY orders from the 2nd RSM, varying from 30 to 90 days. Afterwards, all TDY orders became indefinite.

Initially, all 2nd RSM personnel were assigned to the 7350th Air Base Complement Squadron and, as noted by Sam Herrin, were instructed not to disclose their association with the 2nd RSM. Sometime after 1951, says Virg, the operation became known as “Det. D.”

1Lt Pearsall left Berlin in August 1953 and was replaced by Lt. Clarence Blanford. Pearsall retired from the AF as a major, as did Virgil. Blanford retired as a Captain and the three have stayed in touch over the years.

Click here to visit the Pictures>Personnel>Fordham page to view a recent picture of Fordham, Blanford and Pearsall.

Early Ops Page