Thanks for all your replies everyone.
Mr. Spock, thanks for the idea. I always forget about using the sort program and it is so easy to use.
Robert, I am indeed talking about the first byte of the line, basically mainframe carriage control, and so misled y'all by confusing my terms.
Basically, I am creating a dynamic file in cobol that contains what used to be a printed report (it was dynamically sent to the printers) that then executes a java program (still on the mainframe) that executes another java program on the server side that is a restful web service and ends up on a feed that proviced the report in both .txt and .pdf formats.
The first character is travelling along and shows up in the 'txt' and 'pdf' files as extended ASCII special characters in the first byte of the lines.
I am only directly responsible for the main program that produces the report and the subroutines that do the dynamic allocation and ftp (the cobol part). The Java programmer on the server side is having some trouble with some special characters that are showing up. He just changed over to SQL server 2005 so all of the prior examples of the problem characters have wiped out.
I believe we may be close to a solution though.
Wherever you go, there you are - Buckaroo Banzai