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Hometown Hero: Jim Hyde uses foreign language background to gather intelligence during Cold War

Hometown Heroes

Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – Green Bay native Jim Hyde can’t tell you everything about what he did while serving in the U.S. Army. He can’t even tell you how long he did it for. But he can tell you how he got there.

“I’ll tell you what the attorney general said, I was an ‘authorized intelligence gatherer,’ if you catch my drift,” Hyde recalled.

Hyde was a student at St. Norbert College in 1960 when he got his draft notice; Hoping to become a priest, he was now on his way into the Army Security Agency.

“I got this nice letter from President Kennedy inviting me to go to Fort Leonard Wood, but the day before I went I got a call from the recruiting office that said, ‘Jim with your background in languages, would you like to go to our language school in Monterey?'” Hyde said. “And I thought about that for about five seconds and said, ‘Monterey sounds nice.'” he said.

Well versed in German, French and Latin, Hyde went to the U.S. Army Language school in Monterey, CA to learn Romanian and then to the National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade.

But he was also learning how to be incognito as an American intelligence gatherer in a foreign country.

“They taught you little things. I’ll give you a little example; How you eat a piece of pie,” Hyde recalled. “When a European eats a piece of pie the waiter gives it to them, and you eat it just like he gives it to you. But an American will get a piece of pie and point the tip right to them and eat it,” he said.

All of this training would prepare Hyde for his duties at an intelligence base in Turkey.

“Basically it was intercepting military traffic is what most of us did,” said Hyde.

“I will not tell you exactly what I did other than maybe listening on the earphones but you know, you see the James Bond movies- You live as low class as you can be, you cannot date or anything like that. You’re unobtrusive, you don’t want anyone to know who or what you are, you want to fit in,” Hyde said.

While Jim can’t say exactly how long he spent in Turkey either, he found his way back to Green Bay in the mid 1960s and found his way back into the veteran’s community through volunteer work.

“Some friends of mine started an organization called Vets and Friends. Vets and Friends provides breakfasts and lunches for vets of any kind. And you think, ‘Well maybe that’s the best meal they’re going to have,'” said Hyde. “But the most important thing is the camaraderie, that’s meeting other vets, chatting, old war stories, things like that. They enjoy doing that and I enjoy doing that very much,” he said.

Have someone you’d like to nominate for Hometown Hero? Let us know below!

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