1958-1962 Investigations of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Russian Connections

Prior to shooting President John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald had married a Russian woman, traveled to Russia and renounced his U.S. citizenship.  As a former Marine and Marine Reservist, he was investigated by the Marine Corps, Naval Intelligence and the FBI.  His half-brother was interviewed by AFOSI.  See the investigative documents.

Rise and Fall of Naval Counterintelligence – 11 November 1918

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, ONI policy was to limit collection to technical information that would assist the Navy in improving the capabilities of the fleet rather than to gather intelligence of an operational nature.  ONI had eight officers and eight civilians, and 75 percent of their time was spent in clipping and filing newspaper articles.

Beginning in 1916, the war in Europe induced a rapid expansion in ONI.  Counterintelligence, in which ONI had not previously been involved, received the greatest emphasis.  It was reasoned that the Allies were already producing intelligence for the support of operating forces, but that the U.S. Navy was very vulnerable internally to German acts of sabotage. Strong security measures were needed quickly.

When the Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, there were 306 naval reservists plus 18 civil service clerks and messengers serving in ONI.  [Beyer comment:  It is believed that these numbers do not include the contract special agents assigned to branch intelligence offices.]

Following the war, ONI dropped back to an office force of forty-two in 1920 and returned to its prewar interests in all maritime countries.  Most of its counterintelligence responsibilities were terminated.

(Source:  Packard, Wyman H., Captain, USN (Ret.), A CENTURY OF US NAVAL INTELLIGENCE, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1996.)

1919 – Canceled Credentials Issued to Departing Special Agents

The practice of war-time military bonuses began in 1776, as payment for the difference between what a soldier earned and what he could have earned had he not enlisted. Breaking with tradition, the veterans of the Spanish–American War did not receive a bonus and after World War I, they initially received only a $60 bonus.

In the attached letter, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt responds to the request of an ONI special agent for a $60 bonus and World War I service pin.  Benjamin Gardiner was a civilian special agent assigned to the Branch Naval Intelligence Office, New York.  According to the NY office’s accounting records for April 1918, SA Gardiner was paid a salary of $125 for the month.

In lieu of the bonus and pin, the Office of Naval Intelligence instituted the practice of canceling the identification cards held by representatives of that Office during the war, and returning them to their original holders as a memento of their service.

This practice continues in the current Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), whereby special agents are presented,upon their retirement, a shadow box containing their canceled credentials.

Naval Counterintelligence – 100 Years Ago

The two memos below are evidence that the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was conducting counterintelligence investigations, including physical surveillance of investigative subjects and personnel security (background) investigations on communications specialists during World War I.  The third element of the NIS mission (criminal investigations) was not formalized until 1945.

Early evidence of ONI conducting counterintelligence investigations September 17, 1918

Early evidence of ONI conducting personnel security (background) investigations October 26, 1918

TBT – Intrepid 4 and the NIS CI Operation

The year was 1967 and four sailors from USS Intrepid deserted in Japan and showed up in the Soviet Union.  Read about how NIS identified and neutralized the Japanese anti-war protest group that supported and encouraged the Intrepid 4 at NIS Operation Gold Filling.


TBT (Turn Back Time) – NIS Activities in 1966

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was one year old.  The backlog of personnel security (background) investigations was eliminated for the first time since World War II after the resources of the Army, Air Force, and Civil Service Commission chipped in.  Automated work hour and production reports were developed but accurate data input was an issue (sound familiar?).  Command inspections were conducted by the Director.  Autovon high speed teletype network installed – reducing the previous total reliance on mailing leads).  DoD National Agency Check (NAC) Center and Central Index of Investigations (DCII) created.  Read about this and more at Naval Investigative Service Activities Report 1966

Over 150 New Additions – March 2018

Explore the history of NIS/ONI – over 150 documents acquired from the National Archives have been uploaded this month.  Here’s some of the gems:


  • A brief on the confession of H. T. Thompson, the first American convicted of espionage in peacetime who began spying for Japan in 1934.
  • The coded messages containing U.S. fleet locations sent to Japan by the Pearl Harbor spy Otto Kuehn, who was convicted and sentenced to death by a military commission.
  • Reporting on Nazi saboteurs who landed on Long Island, Florida and Canada.  Go to the World War II page and scroll down to “German Saboteur Landings” for more reporting from ONI, FBI and Coast Guard.
  • Visit http://ncisahistory.org – Your Gateway to an Amazing Past.

What’s New – December 2017

This site is devoted to preserving the accomplishments and history of NCIS, NIS and ONI.   Although build out continues, the site already contains over 800 items including:

  • 500 documents, many formerly classified, such as:
    • 100+ ONI/NIS/NCIS Bulletins dating back to 1957
    • CI/intelligence manuals such as: the Duties of Naval Attaches (1919); Notes on Espionage, Counter-espionage and Passport Control (1935); and the Naval Intelligence Manual (1949).
    • Extensive reporting on Japanese espionage activities and ONI counteractions during WWII
    • Photos and personal accounts of NIS personnel serving in Vietnam
    • Charter documents such as General Order 292 which created the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1882; President Roosevelt’s 1939 letter which gave jurisdiction for espionage cases to FBI, ONI and Army Intelligence; SECNAV James Forrestal’s 1945 letter which expanded ONI’s investigative mission; and SECDEF McNamara’s letter which directed creation of a naval investigative service
    • 300+ photos including 40+ official leadership photos.