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Secretive DIA began supporting US combat missions 59 years ago today

Defense Intelligence Agency Seal (DIA image/Released)
October 01, 2020

On Oct. 1, 1961, the secretive Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) began operations supporting U.S. military missions with just 25 employees working out of borrowed office space at the Pentagon.

According to a DIA history, the agency was established through Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Directive 5105.21, “Defense Intelligence Agency” on August 1, 1961. Two months later the agency began its operations under the leadership of its first director, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Carroll.

On Thursday, the DIA tweeted, “Happy 59th birthday, DIA! On this day in 1961, DIA began operating with just 25 employees in a borrowed office in the Pentagon. Nearly six decades later, we are celebrating 59 years as the Nation’s premier source of military intelligence.#HBDDIA #DiscoverDIA #DoWhatMatters

The DIA’s mission has been to focus on gathering defense and military intelligence in support of U.S. combat operations for nearly six decades. Following the DIA’s inception, the various military services transferred intelligence functions and resources over to the new agency on a phased basis, eventually giving the DIA the responsibility to manage the efforts among all DoD components in developing military intelligence and to advance the DOD’s overall capacity for collecting, producing, and disseminating intelligence information.

One of the DIA’s first major tests came during the Cuban missile crisis, which lasted from Oct. 16, 1962, to Oct. 28, 1962, almost exactly a year after the agency began operations.

According to the DIA, the agency validated and approved many U-2 spy plane missions, including ones that flew over Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and collected photographs that photo-interpreters discovered showed Soviet medium-range missiles.

Another early task of the DIA came in 1966 as the agency provided target lists for strategic bombing missions Vietnam as part of Operation Arc Light.

The early DIA assisted in intelligence gathering for various other operations throughout the Vietnam War.

In 1975, after the communist Khmer Rouge of Cambodia seized the U.S. container vessel SS Mayaguez and its crew, the DIA successfully located the captured vessel, which was later recaptured and its crew set free.

Following the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 service members, the DIA established its first all-source fusion cell for terrorism analysis.

The DIA provided intelligence in support of numerous subsequent military operations, including the operations in Grenada, Operations Desert Sheild and Desert Storm in Kuwait, and U.S. operations in Somalia.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent global war on terrorism, hundreds of DIA personnel have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of ongoing operations in those countries.

On Thursday, as it celebrated its 59th year of operations, the DIA held a change of directorship ceremony, with U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier becoming the 22nd director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.