By Michael E. BigelowJuly 26, 2016
In July 1942, the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) was activated under Gen. Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters (GHQ). The AIB was one of several intelligence organizations formed in the spring and summer of that year to support MacArthur's forces in the South West Pacific Area.
Combining several existing Australian groups into a single organization, GHQ gave the bureau a two-fold mission: to obtain and report information on the enemy and to weaken the enemy by sabotage and lending assistance to local resistance. To fulfill its mission, the AIB used a combination of long-range patrols and isolated observation posts that were hundreds or even thousands of miles behind Japanese lines.
Eventually totaling more than 3,000 personnel, the AIB was a multi-national and multi-service organization with Australian, British, American, Dutch and Asian elements from 10 different military services. Its command and control reflected this polyglot nature.
With Australians making up the bulk of the organization, it was natural that an Australian, Col. C.G. Roberts, headed the bureau as its controller. Australian, British and Dutch officers headed the field agencies. At his headquarters, Roberts' two primary deputies -- Lt. Col. Allison W. Ind and Maj. Bobb B. Glenn -- were Americans. Also, Roberts reported directly to Americans Lt. Gen. Richard Sutherland, MacArthur's chief of staff, and Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby, MacArthur's G-2.
Initially, the bureau was organized along functional lines, with sections for subversion and sabotage, surveillance and coastwatching, and propaganda. This arrangement proved far from perfect and overlapping responsibilities led to duplication of effort. Moreover, the GHQ and AIB leadership argued -- sometimes vehemently -- over whether intelligence gathering or subversion warfare should take precedence. Many of the bureau's field leaders stressed sabotage and special operations, viewing the AIB headquarters simply as a logistics center to provide them with the means to execute their own plans and operations. Meanwhile, Willoughby and Roberts wanted to concentrate on intelligence collection to help win on the battlefield. They also saw the need for centralized direction of operations to ensure that requirements were met and supported the theater's military objectives. Throughout his time as AIB chief, Roberts was forced to exert his authority over the section chiefs.
Despite the organizational discord, the AIB had laid the foundations for further intelligence operations by the end of 1942. The Dutch contingent established a radio network that became the mainstay of the AIB's remote area communications. Meanwhile, the Americans established a small but secure communications system to broadcast information gathered by the guerrilla forces fighting the Japanese in the Philippines.
The most important AIB element in late 1942 and early 1943, however, was the Australian "Coastwatchers." Established as a network of observation posts along the coast of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands before the war, the Coastwatchers had become highly effective at tracking Japanese naval and air activity along the coast and had begun to push out long-range patrols to track Japanese Army movements.
Building on this foundation, Willoughby and Roberts decided to improve the AIB's efficiency by reorganizing it along geographic lines with a subordinate regional section for the Netherlands East Indies, Papua New Guinea, adjoining islands and the Philippines. This reshuffle gave each section chief tactical control over both intelligence gathering and special operations in the regions.
Beyond the reorganization, both Roberts, and his successor, fellow Australian Brigadier K. A. Wills, continued to look for ways to better coordinate the bureau's resources and activities. They simplified operational planning by moving the advanced AIB headquarters close to the general headquarters (GHQ) and channeled proposed projects through Willoughby and Sutherland for approval. In addition, the AIB acquired long-range transport aircraft and a considerable fleet of coastal shipping to support the bureau's far-flung operations.
As the AIB improved its organization and procedures, MacArthur's forces required intelligence as they advanced further north from Australia and clashed with Japanese forces. To help meet this need, the AIB launched hundreds of long-range reconnaissance patrols and observation posts behind Japanese lines. These teams gathered valuable information on both the enemy and the terrain the Allied forces faced in 1943 and 1944. Meanwhile, the Philippine Regional Section inserted more parties and increased supplies and support for the guerrilla movement; in fact, the section expanded so greatly that it obtained semi-independent status from the AIB.
By the end of the war, the AIB had emerged as an effective organization that could operate almost anywhere in the South West Pacific Area. While suffering more than 400 casualties, AIB agents or native contingents killed over 7,000 of the enemy and captured 1,000 more.
Through the efforts of the AIB, more than 1,000 allied ground, air, and Navy personnel were rescued from behind enemy lines. More importantly, the AIB's 264 long-range reconnaissance parties gathered invaluable intelligence for MacArthur and his headquarters. Taken together, these parties developed an interlocking network in the areas north of Australia that was so efficient the Japanese could make few movements that were not eventually detected and relayed to GHQ.