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United States Army Signal Corps

United States Army Signal Corps

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The United States Army Signal Corps develops, tests, provides, and manages communications and information systems
Information systems
Information Systems is an academic/professional discipline bridging the business field and the well-defined computer science field that is evolving toward a new scientific area of study...

 support for the command and control of combined arms forces. It was established in 1860, the brainchild of United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 Major Albert J. Myer
Albert J. Myer
Albert James Myer was a surgeon and United States Army officer. He is known as the father of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as its first chief signal officer just prior to the American Civil War, the inventor of wig-wag signaling , and also as the father of the U.S...

, and has had an important role from the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 through the current day. Over its history, it had the initial responsibility for a number of functions and new technologies that are currently managed by other organizations, including military intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

, weather forecasting, and aviation
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...


Mission statement

The mission of the Signal Corps is to provide and manage communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces. Signal support includes Network Operations (information assurance, information dissemination management, and network management) and management of the electromagnetic spectrum. Signal support encompasses all aspects of designing, installing, maintaining, and managing information networks to include communications links, computers, and other components of local and wide area networks. Signal forces plan, install, operate, and maintain voice and data communications networks that employ single and multi-channel satellite, tropospheric scatter, terrestrial microwave, switching, messaging, video-teleconferencing, visual information, and other related systems. They integrate tactical, strategic and sustaining base communications, information processing and management systems into a seamless global information network that supports knowledge dominance for Army, joint and coalition operations.

Early history

Albert James Myer, an Army doctor, was the first to conceive of the idea of a separate, trained professional military signal service. He proposed that the Army use his visual communications system called "wig-wag", or "aerial telegraphy", while serving as a medical officer in Texas in 1856. When the Army adopted his system on 21 June 1860, the Signal Corps was born with Myer as the first and only Signal Officer.

Major Myer first used his visual signaling system on active service in New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 during the 1860–1861 Navajo expedition
Navajo Wars
The Navajo Wars were a series of battles and other conflicts, often separated with treaties that involved raids by different Navajo bands on the rancheras along the Rio Grande and the counter campaigns by the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments, and sometimes their civilian elements....

. Using flags for daytime signaling and a torch at night, wigwag was tested in Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 combat in June 1861 to direct the fire of a harbor battery at Fort Wool
Fort Wool
Fort Wool was the companion to Fort Monroe in protecting Hampton Roads from seafaring threats. This site was once the dumping place for ships’ ballast....

 against the Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 positions opposite Fort Monroe
Fort Monroe
Fort Monroe was a military installation in Hampton, Virginia—at Old Point Comfort, the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula...

. Until 3 March 1863, when Congress authorized a regular Signal Corps for the duration of the war, Myer was forced to rely on detailed personnel. Some 2,900 officers and enlisted men served, although not at any single time, in the Civil War Signal Corps.

Myer's Civil War innovations included an unsuccessful balloon experiment at First Bull Run and, in response to McClellan's desire for a Signal Corps field telegraph train, an electric telegraph in the form of the Beardslee magnetoelectric telegraph machine. Even in the Civil War the wig-wag system, dependent upon line-of-sight, was waning in the face of the electric telegraph.

The electric telegraph, in addition to visual signaling, became a Signal Corps responsibility in 1867. Within 12 years, the Corps had constructed, and was maintaining and operating, some 4,000 miles of telegraph lines along the country's western frontier.

In 1870, the Signal Corps established a congressionally mandated national weather service
National Weather Service
The National Weather Service , once known as the Weather Bureau, is one of the six scientific agencies that make up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States government...

. With the assistance of Lieutenant Adolphus Greely
Adolphus Greely
Adolphus Washington Greely , was an American Polar explorer, a United States Army officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.-Early military career:...

, Chief Signal Officer Brigadier General Albert James Myer, by the time of his death in 1880, commanded a weather service of international acclaim. The weather bureau became part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

 in 1891, while the Corps retained responsibility for military meteorology.

The Signal Corps' role in the Spanish American War of 1898 and the subsequent Philippine Insurrection was on a grander scale than it had been in the Civil War. In addition to visual signaling, including heliograph
A heliograph is a wireless solar telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight reflected by a mirror. The flashes are produced by momentarily pivoting the mirror, or by interrupting the beam with a shutter...

, the Corps supplied telephone and telegraph wire lines and cable communications, fostered the use of telephones in combat, employed combat photography
War photography
War photography captures photographs of armed conflict and life in war-torn areas.Although photographs can provide a more direct representation than paintings or drawings, they are sometimes manipulated, creating an image that is not objectively journalistic.-History:Photography, presented to the...

, and renewed the use of balloons. Shortly after the war, the Signal Corps constructed the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS)
Alaska Communications System (ACS)
The Alaska Communications System , also known as the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System , was a system of cables and telegraph lines authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1900 and constructed by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The communications lines were to serve both military and...

 also known as the Alaska Communications System (ACS), introducing the first wireless telegraph in the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...


World War I

For more details on this topic, see Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...

 and Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps
Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aviation Section, Signal Corps, was the military aviation service of the United States Army from 1914 to 1918, and a direct ancestor of the United States Air Force. It replaced and absorbed the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, and was succeeded briefly by the Division of Military...

On 1 August 1907, an Aeronautical Division was established within the office of the Chief Signal Officer. In 1908, the Wright brothers
Wright brothers
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur , were two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903...

 made test flights of the Army's first airplane built to Signal Corps' specifications. Reflecting the need for an official pilot rating, War Department Bulletin No. 2, released on 24 February 1911, established a “Military Aviator” rating. Army aviation remained within the Signal Corps until 1918, when it became the Army Air Service.

The Signal Corps lost no time in meeting the challenges of World War I. Chief Signal Officer George Owen Squier worked closely with private industry to perfect radio tubes while creating a major signal laboratory at Camp Alfred Vail (Fort Monmouth
Fort Monmouth
Fort Monmouth was an installation of the Department of the Army in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The post is surrounded by the communities of Eatontown, Tinton Falls and Oceanport, New Jersey, and is located about 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The post covers nearly of land, from the Shrewsbury...

). Early radiotelephones developed by the Signal Corps were introduced into the European theater in 1918. While the new American voice radios were superior to the radiotelegraph sets, telephone and telegraph remained the major technology of World War I.

A pioneer in radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, Colonel William Blair
William Blair
William Blair may refer to:*Willie Blair , baseball player*William H. Blair , American Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General...

, director of the Signal Corps laboratories at Fort Monmouth, patented the first Army radar demonstrated in May 1937. Even before the United States entered World War II, mass production of two radar sets, the SCR-268 and the SCR-270, had begun. Along with the Signal Corps' tactical FM radio, also developed in the 1930s, radar was the most important communications development of World War II.

During World War I women switchboard operators, AKA "Hello Girls", were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Despite the fact that they wore U.S. Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations (Chief Operator Grace Banker received the Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal (United States)
The Distinguished Service Medal is the highest non-valorous military and civilian decoration of the United States military which is issued for exceptionally meritorious service to the government of the United States in either a senior government service position or as a senior officer of the United...

), they were not given honorable discharges
Military discharge
A military discharge is given when a member of the armed forces is released from their obligation to serve.-United States:Discharge or separation should not be confused with retirement; career U.S...

 but were considered "civilians" employed by the military, because Army Regulations specified the male gender. Not until 1978—the 60th anniversary of the end of World War I—did Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 approve Veteran Status/Honorable discharges for the remaining "Hello Girls".

World War II

Under the major reorganization of the War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

, effective 9 March 1942, the Signal Corps was one of the technical services in the Services of
Supply (later Army Service Forces
Army Service Forces
The Army Service Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. They were created on February 28, 1942 by Executive Order Number 9082 "Reorganizing the Army and the War Department"...

). Its organized components served both the Army Ground Forces
Army Ground Forces
The Army Ground Forces were one of the three autonomous components of the Army of the United States during World War II, the others being the Army Air Forces and Army Service Forces. Throughout their existence, Army Ground Forces were the largest training organization ever established in the United...

 and the Army Air Forces.

The Army Chief Signal Officer (CSO) was responsible for establishing and maintaining communications service schools for officers and enlisted soldiers, ranging in qualifications from those holding doctorates to functional illiterates. The single pre-war Signal training site was Fort Monmouth
Fort Monmouth
Fort Monmouth was an installation of the Department of the Army in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The post is surrounded by the communities of Eatontown, Tinton Falls and Oceanport, New Jersey, and is located about 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The post covers nearly of land, from the Shrewsbury...

, New Jersey. To keep up with the demand for more signalleers, the CSO opened more training facilities: Camp Crowder, Missouri, Camp Kohler, California, and Camp Murphy
Camp Murphy
Camp Murphy may refer to:* Camp Murphy Southern Signal Corps School, a secret US military radar school* The Melbourne Cricket Ground, occupied by the US military during World War II* Murphys, California, a census-designated place...

, Florida.

The Eastern Signal Corps Training Center at Fort Monmouth consisted of an officers' school, an officer candidate school
Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School or Officer Cadet School are institutions which train civilians and enlisted personnel in order for them to gain a commission as officers in the armed forces of a country....

, an enlisted school and a basic training
Recruit training
Recruit training, more commonly known as Basic Training and colloquially called Boot Camp, is the initial indoctrination and instruction given to new military personnel, enlisted and officer...

 center at subpost Camp Wood. During its operation from 1941 to 1946, the officer candidate school graduated 21,033 Signal Corps second lieutenants.

The term "RADAR" was first coined by the Navy in 1940 and agreed to by the Army in 1941. The definition given in the first Signal Corps Field Manual on Aircraft Warning Service stated, "RADAR is a term used to designate radio sets SCR (Signal Corps Radio
Signal Corps Radio
Signal Corps Radios were U.S. Army military communications components that comprised "sets". Under the Army Nomenclature System, SCR initially designated "Set, Complete Radio," and later "Signal Corps Radio," though interpretations have varied over time....

)-268 and SCR-270 and similar equipment".

The SCR-268 and 270 were not radios at all, but for top security
Classified information
Classified information is sensitive information to which access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of persons. A formal security clearance is required to handle classified documents or access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation...

 reasons were designated as such. Although important offensive applications have since been developed, radar emerged historically from the defensive need to counter the possibility of massive aerial bombardment
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...


In 1941 the laboratories at Fort Monmouth developed the SCR-300
The SCR-300 was a portable radio transceiver used by US Signal Corps in World War II. This backpack-mounted unit was the first two way radio to be nicknamed a "walkie talkie".- History :...

. This was the first FM backpack radio. This development was an early pioneer in frequency modulation
Frequency modulation
In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation conveys information over a carrier wave by varying its instantaneous frequency. This contrasts with amplitude modulation, in which the amplitude of the carrier is varied while its frequency remains constant...

 circuits, providing front line troops with reliable, static free communications. They also fielded multichannel FM radio relay sets (e.g., AN/TRC-1) in the European Theater of Operations
European Theater of Operations
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army was a United States Army formation which directed U.S. Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. It referred to Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the...

 as early as 1943. Multichannel radio broadcasting allowed several different channels of communications to be broadcast over a single radio signal. This allows for more security, signal boosting for increased range and less crowding of the frequency spectrum
Frequency spectrum
The frequency spectrum of a time-domain signal is a representation of that signal in the frequency domain. The frequency spectrum can be generated via a Fourier transform of the signal, and the resulting values are usually presented as amplitude and phase, both plotted versus frequency.Any signal...

. FM radio relay
Radio relay
Radio stations that cannot communicate directly due to distance, terrain or other difficulties sometimes use an intermediate radio relay station to relay the signals. Examples include airborne radio relay, microwave radio relay, and communications satellite...

 and radar, both products of the labs at Fort Monmouth, are typically rated among the four of five "weapon systems" that made a difference in World War II.

In December 1942, the laboratories had a personnel strength of 14,518 military and civilian personnel. The Signal Corps Ground Service was directed by the War Department, however, to cut the total military and civilian personnel to 8,879 by August 1943. In June 1944, “Signees”, former Italian prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

, arrived at Fort Monmouth to perform housekeeping duties. A lieutenant colonel and 500 enlisted men became hospital, mess, and repair shop attendants, relieving American soldiers from these duties. Also in December 1942, the War Department directed the Signal Corps General Development Laboratories and the Camp Evans
Camp Evans
Camp Evans, New Jersey is a former military base associated with Fort Monmouth. It is located in Wall Township, although it is often said to be located in Belmar . The property overlooks the Shark River.Camp Evans is named after Lt. Col...

 Signal Lab to combine into the Signal Corps Ground Service (SCGS) with head-quarters at Bradley Beach, New Jersey
Bradley Beach, New Jersey
Bradley Beach is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 4,298. The summer population can reach 30,000.-History:...

 (Hotel Grossman).

One of the more unusual units of the Signal Corps were the Joint Assault Signals Companies (JASCOs). These companies were Signal Corps units that were made up of several hundred Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

, and United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 communications specialists specially trained to link land, sea and air operational elements. They saw combat throughout the Pacific and European theaters during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in late 1943. JASCOs were much larger than normal signal companies. The Joint Assault Signals Companies were the predecessor to the Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company
Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company
ANGLICO refers to several small units of the United States Marine Corps who specialize in coordinating artillery, naval gunfire and close air support for the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and allied armed forces. ANGLICO serve as liaison units by providing capabilities normally contained only...

 that exists today. JASCOs represented but one of many unprecedented Signal Corps' activities in the Pacific theater. Shipboard fighting was a new kind of combat for Signal Corps soldiers. Army communicators sometimes plied their trade aboard Navy and civilian ships. They also served on Army communications ships such as USS Harold
USS Harold C. Thomas (DE-21)
USS Harold C. Thomas was an constructed for the United States Navy during World War II. It was promptly sent off into the Pacific Ocean to protect convoys and other ships from Japanese submarines and fighter aircraft...

and USS Argosy.

Many film industry personalities served in the Signal Corps, including Tony Randall
Tony Randall
Tony Randall was a U.S. actor, comic, producer and director.-Early years:Randall was born Arthur Leonard Rosenberg to a Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Julia and Mogscha Rosenberg, an art and antiques dealer...

, the actor, and Jean Shepherd
Jean Shepherd
Jean Parker Shepherd was an American raconteur, radio and TV personality, writer and actor who was often referred to by the nickname Shep....

, radio storyteller, author and narrator of A Christmas Story.

In 1942 General George C. Marshall ordered the creation of the Army Pictorial Service (APS) to produce motion pictures for the training, indoctrination, and entertainment of the American forces and their Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. The APS took over Kaufman Astoria Studios
Kaufman Astoria Studios
The Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio located in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens.-History:It was originally built by Famous Players-Lasky in 1920 to provide the company with a facility close to the Broadway theater district. Many features and short...

 in 1942 and produced over 2,500 films during the war with over 1,000 redubbed in other languages. The Army left Astoria studios and film production in 1971.

Julius Rosenberg worked for the Signal Corps Labs from 1940 to 1945. He was dismissed early in 1945 when it was learned he had been a member of the Communist Party USA secret apparatus, and had passed to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 the secret of the proximity fuze
Proximity fuze
A proximity fuze is a fuze that is designed to detonate an explosive device automatically when the distance to target becomes smaller than a predetermined value or when the target passes through a given plane...


Cold War

The Signal Corps' Project Diana
Project Diana
Project Diana, named for the Roman moon goddess Diana — goddess of the hunt, wild animals and the moon — was a project of the US Army Signal Corps to bounce radio signals off the moon and receive the reflected signals...

, in 1946, successfully bounced radar signals off the moon, paving the way for space communications.

In 1948 researchers at Fort Monmouth grew the first synthetically produced large quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 crystals. The crystals were able to be used in the manufacture of electronic components, and made the United States largely independent of foreign imports for this critical mineral. In 1949 the first auto-assembly of printed circuits
Printed circuit board
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. It is also referred to as printed wiring board or etched wiring...

 was invented. A technique for assembling electronic parts on a printed circuit board, developed by Fort Monmouth engineers, pioneered the development and fabrication of miniature circuits for both military and civilian use. Although they did not invent the transistor
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and power. It is composed of a semiconductor material with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals changes the current...

, Fort Monmouth scientists were among the first to recognize its importance, particularly in military applications, and did pioneer significant improvements in its composition and production.

Everything was to change as world tensions increased with the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 and the Berlin Airlift. To sustain the Army's worldwide commitments, it again became necessary to enlarge the capacity of every activity on-post.

In June 1950, with the onset of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 quickly received the necessary authorization to call the National Guard and Organized Reserves to 21 months of active duty. He also signed a bill extending the Selective Service Act
Selective Service Act
Selective Service Act may refer to:* Selective Service Act of 1917, or Selective Draft Act, which was passed by the Congress of the United States on May 18, 1917. It was for men to go to WWI at a young age....

 until 9 July 1951. The Officer Candidate School was reestablished.

The fighting in Korea brought to light the need for new techniques in the conduct of modern warfare. The use of mortars by the enemy, and the resultant need to quickly locate and destroy
Counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire is a type of mission assigned to military artillery forces, which are given the task of locating and firing upon enemy artillery.-Background:...

 the mortar sites resulted in development of the Mortar-Radar Locator AN/MPQ-3 and AN/MPQ-10. The Communications Electronics Research and Development Engineering Center, better known as the Albert J. Myer
Albert J. Myer
Albert James Myer was a surgeon and United States Army officer. He is known as the father of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as its first chief signal officer just prior to the American Civil War, the inventor of wig-wag signaling , and also as the father of the U.S...

 Center, or simply, the Hexagon. Korea's terrain and road nets, along with the distance and speed with which communications were forced to travel, limited the use of wire. The Signal Corps' VHF
Very high frequency
Very high frequency is the radio frequency range from 30 MHz to 300 MHz. Frequencies immediately below VHF are denoted High frequency , and the next higher frequencies are known as Ultra high frequency...

 radio became the "backbone" of tactical communications throughout the war.

The development of new equipment, however, placed requirements on the Signal Corps to provide increased numbers of trained electronics personnel to work in the fire control
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

 and guided missile
Guided Missile
Guided Missile is a London based independent record label set up by Paul Kearney in 1994.Guided Missile has always focused on 'the underground', preferring to put out a steady flow of releases and developing the numerous GM events around London and beyond....

s firing battery systems. To meet this need, Signal Corps Training Units—the 9614th and 9615th—were established at Aberdeen, Maryland and Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal is a United States Army base and a census-designated place adjacent to Huntsville in Madison County, Alabama, United States and is part of the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area...

 in Alabama. These units provided instruction on electronics equipment used in the anti-aircraft artillery
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 and guided missile firing systems.

Following the arrest of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg were American communists who were convicted and executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. The charges related to their passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union...

 in 1950, two former Fort Monmouth scientists, Joel Barr
Joel Barr
Joel Barr , also Iozef Veniaminovich Berg and Joseph Berg, was part of the Soviet Atomic Spy Ring...

 and Alfred Sarant
Alfred Sarant
Alfred Epaminondas Sarant, also known as Filipp Georgievich Staros and Philip Georgievich Staros , was an engineer and a member of the Communist party in New York City in 1944. He was part of the Rosenberg spy ring that reported to Soviet intelligence...

, defected to the Soviet Union. On 31 August 1953, having received word of possible subversive activities from Fort Monmouth's commanding general, Kirke B. Lawton, the Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957...

, suspected a spy ring still existed in the Signal Corps labs. At first, McCarthy conducted his hearings behind closed doors, but opened them to the public on 24 November 1953. Extensive Congressional hearing
Congressional hearing
Congressional hearings are the principal formal method by which committees collect and analyze information in the early stages of legislative policymaking. Whether confirmation hearings — a procedure unique to the Senate — legislative, oversight, investigative, or a combination of these, all...

s were continued in 1955 under the chairmanship of Senator John McClellan
John Little McClellan
John Little McClellan was a Democratic Party politician from Arkansas. He represented Arkansas in the United States Senate from 1943 until 1977. He also earlier represented Arkansas in the United States House of Representatives.-Early life:McClellan was born in Sheridan, Grant County, Arkansas...

 of Arkansas.

In the 1950s the Army Pictorial Service produced a series of television programs called The Big Picture
The Big Picture (TV series)
The Big Picture was an American documentary television program which ran on ABC-TV from 1951 to 1964. The series consisted of documentary films produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service, showing weaponry, battles, and biographies of famous soldiers.After The Big...

that were often aired on American television. The last episode was produced in 1971.

On 18 December 1958, with Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 assistance, the Signal Corps launched its first communications satellite
Communications satellite
A communications satellite is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purpose of telecommunications...

, Project SCORE
Project SCORE
Project SCORE was the world’s first communications satellite. Launched aboard an Atlas rocket on December 18, 1958, SCORE provided a first test of a communications relay system in space, as well as the first successful use of the Atlas as a launch vehicle...

, demonstrating the feasibility of worldwide communications in delayed and real-time mode by means of relatively simple active satellite relays.

The Vietnam War's requirement for high-quality telephone and message circuits led to the Signal Corps' deployment of tropospheric-scatter
Tropospheric scatter
Tropospheric scatter is a method of transmitting and receiving microwave radio signals over considerable distances – often up to 300 km...

 radio links that could provide many circuits between locations more than 200 miles apart. Other developments included the SYNCOM
Syncom started as a 1961 NASA program for active geosynchronous communication satellites, all of which were developed and manufactured by Hughes Space and Communications...

 satellite communications service, and a commercial fixed-station system known as the Integrated Wideband Communications System, the Southeast Asia link in the Defense Communications System
Defense Satellite Communications System
The Defense Satellite Communications System provides the United States with military communications to support globally distributed military users. DSCS will be replaced by the Wideband Global SATCOM system. A total of 14 DSCS III satellites were launched between the early 1980s and 2003. Two...


Korean War and Vietnam War

During the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 the Signal Corps operated Officer Candidate Schools initially at Fort Monmouth in 1950–1953, graduating 1,234 officers, and at Fort Gordon
Fort Gordon
Fort Gordon, formerly known as Camp Gordon, is a United States Army installation established in 1917. It is the current home of the United States Army Signal Corps and Signal Center and was once the home of "The Provost Marshal General School" . The fort is located in Richmond, Jefferson, McDuffie,...

 in 1965–1968, which produced 2,213 signal officers. (The World War II Signal OCS program at Fort Monmouth, from 1941–1946 graduated 21,033 Signal Corps Officers.)

Modern warfare utilizes three main sorts of Signal soldiers. Some are assigned to specific military bases ("Base Ops"), and they are charged with installation, operation and maintenance of the base communications infrastructure along with hired civilian contracted companies. Others are members of non-Signal Army units, providing communications capability for those with other jobs to accomplish (e.g. infantry, medical, armor, etc.) in much the same way as, say, the unit supply sections, unit clerks, or chemical specialists. The third major sort of Signaleer is one assigned to a Signal unit. That is to say, a unit whose only mission is to provide communications links between the Army units in their area of operations and other signal nodes in further areas served by other Signal units.

Sending radio signals across the vast Pacific Ocean had always been sketchy and unreliable. In August 1964, radio communications across the sea were given a huge boost in quality: The first satellite terminal ever installed in a combat zone was installed in Ba Queo, near Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City , formerly named Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam...

, led by Warrant Officer Jack Inman. This enabled trustworthy communications to Hawaii, and thereby to Washington, D.C.

From north to south, communicating across the varied landscapes of Vietnam presented a variety of challenges, from mountains to jungle. The answer came by utilizing the technology of "troposcatter". A radio signal beamed up into the atmosphere is "bounced" back down to Earth with astonishingly good results, bypassing debilitating terrain. The Army had little experience with this technology, so they contracted the development of the systems to Page Engineering. In January 1962, Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

 approved the system of troposcatter units under the operational name of BACKPORCH.

The escalation of the number of troops in the Vietnam War caused an increasing need for more communications infrastructure. In the spring of 1966 the assorted Signal units were reassigned to the newly-formed 1st Signal Brigade
1st Signal Brigade (United States)
The 1st Signal Brigade is a military communications brigade of the United States Army subordinate to the Eighth United States Army and located at Yongsan Garrison in South Korea.-Vietnam War:...

. By the close of 1968 this brigade consisted of six Signal groups, and 22 Signal battalions—roughly 23,000 soldiers.

One of the very first Vietnam War Casualties
Vietnam War casualties
The Vietnam War began in 1955 and did not end until 1975, two years after all US and allied personnel had withdrawn, when North Vietnamese forces finally conquered Saigon...

 was SP4 James Thomas Davis, a radio operator.

Post Vietnam and Gulf War

A major program in 1988 was the initial production and deployment phase of the mobile-subscriber equipment system (MSE). The MSE system called for setting up the equivalent of a mobile telephone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 network on a battlefield, allowing a commander or Tactical Operations Center
Tactical Operations Center
A tactical operations center is a command post for police, paramilitary, or military operations. A TOC usually includes a small group of specially trained officers or military personnel who guide members of an active tactical element during a mission....

 (TOC) to connect mobile telephones and fax machines in vehicles with each other, sending and receiving secure information. Talking through signal nodes, MSE established a seamless connection from the battlefield even back to commercial telephone lines. Significant to the Signal soldiers, MSE was fielded on the backs of Humvee, rather than on the larger, less-mobile M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck
M35 2-1/2 ton cargo truck
The M35 family of trucks is a long-lived vehicle initially deployed by the United States Army, and subsequently utilized by many nations around the world. A truck in the 2½ ton weight class, it was one of many vehicles in U.S...

s—the "deuce and a half".

By the 1990s, most Army units had replaced their older VRC-12 series FM radios for the new SINCGARS
SINCGARS is a Combat Net Radio currently used by U.S. and allied military forces. The radios, which handle voice and data communications, are designed to be reliable, secure and easily maintained...

 ("SINgle-Channel Ground-Air Radio Systems") family of equipment. Rather than sending a signal along one signal frequency, the SINCGARS radios sent its signals across many frequencies, "hopping"
Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
Frequency-hopping spread spectrum is a method of transmitting radio signals by rapidly switching a carrier among many frequency channels, using a pseudorandom sequence known to both transmitter and receiver...

 from one frequency to another at lightning speed. This allowed many channels of talk to share an already-crowded frequency spectrum. Later generations of these radios combined the communications security
Communications security
Communications security is the discipline of preventing unauthorized interceptors from accessing telecommunications in an intelligible form, while still delivering content to the intended recipients. In the United States Department of Defense culture, it is often referred to by the abbreviation...

 (COMSEC) encryption devices with the receiver/transmitter, making a single easier-to-program unit. Most significant, the SINCGARS radios could send and receive digital traffic with great fidelity. By the advent of Operation Desert Shield
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, all Army units were deployed using the most secure FM communications in the world. Of note for the Signaleer, the SINCGARS radios have a failure rate in extreme heat of once every 7,000 hours compared to the VRC-12 series' failure rate of 2–300 hours.

Global War on Terror

Since 11 September 2001 the Signal Corps has been supporting the Global War on Terror in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Signal Corps is currently fielding the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T). It will eventually provide “On-The-Move” down to the Company level for Maneuver, Fires and Aviation Brigades, and will fully support the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program; and also provide protected Satellite Communications “On-The-Move” capability against jamming, detection and intercept and will be aligned with the Telecommunications Satellite (TSAT) program.

Military Occupational Specialties

Signal Corps military occupational specialties are:

Warrant Officer Military Occupational Specialties

  • 250N Network Management Technician
  • 251A Information Systems Technician
  • 254A Signal Systems Support Technician
  • 255S Information Protection Technician (CW3 and above only)
  • 255Z Senior Signal Systems Technician

Note 1: 250N is being changed to 255N. http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/prerequ/WO250N.html
Note 2: 251A and 254A are being merged into 255A. http://www.usarec.army.mil/hq/warrant/prerequ/WO251A.html
Note 3: 255S is new, http://www.army.mil/CIOG6/briefings/Sorenson/090528AUSA.pdf

Commissioned Officer Functional Areas (FA)

  • FA24 Telecommunications Systems Engineer
  • FA53 Information Systems Management

Coat of Arms

  • Shield: Argent, within a bordure tenne a baton fesswise or and suspended therefrom a signal flag gules charged at center with a square of the first, in chief a mullet bronze.

  • Crest: On a wreath of the colors argent
    In heraldry, argent is the tincture of silver, and belongs to the class of light tinctures, called "metals". It is very frequently depicted as white and usually considered interchangeable with it...

     and tenne a dexter hand couped at the wrist, clenched, palm affronte, grasping three forked lightning flashes, all proper, flashes argent.

  • Motto: "PRO PATRIA VIGILANS" (Watchful for the Country).

  • Symbolism:
  1. Orange and white are the colors traditionally associated with the Signal Corps.
  2. The signal flag suspended from a baton is adopted from a badge that originated in 1865 and was called the Order of the Signal Corps.
  3. The bronze battle star represents formal recognition for participation in combat. It adorned a signal flag and was first awarded to Signal Corps soldiers in 1862.

Branch Insignia

  • The Signal Corps branch insignia is represented by two signal flags crossed, dexter flag white with a red center, the sinister flag red with a white center, staffs gold, with a flaming torch of gold color metal upright at center of crossed flags.
  1. "Crossed flags" have been used by the Signal Corps since 1868, when they were prescribed for wear on the uniform coat by enlisted men of the Signal Corps.
  2. In 1884, a burning torch was added to the insignia and the present design adopted on 1 July 1884.
  3. The flags and torch are symbolic of signaling or communication.

Distinctive Unit Insignia

  • Description: A gold color metal and enamel device that consists of a gold eagle grasping a horizontal baton from which is suspended a red signal flag with a white center, enclosing the flag from a star at the bottom, a wreath of laurel all gold and at top left and right a white scroll inscribed PRO PATRIA at left and VIGILANS at right in gold.

  • Symbolism:
  1. The gold eagle holds in his talons a golden baton, from which descends a signal flag.
  2. The design originated in 1865 from a meeting of Signal Corps officers, led by Major Albert J. Myer
    Albert J. Myer
    Albert James Myer was a surgeon and United States Army officer. He is known as the father of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as its first chief signal officer just prior to the American Civil War, the inventor of wig-wag signaling , and also as the father of the U.S...

    , the chief signal officer, in Washington, D.C.
  3. The badge was a symbol of faithful service and good fellowship for those who served together in war and was called the Order of the Signal Corps.
  4. The motto PRO PATRIA VIGILANS (Watchful for the Country) was adopted from the Signal School insignia and serves to portray the cohesiveness of Signal soldiers and their affiliation with their regimental home.
  5. The laurel wreath depicts the myriad of achievements through strength made by the Corps since its inception.
  6. The battle star centered on the wreath represents formal recognition for participation in combat. It adorned a signal flag and was first awarded to Signal Corps soldiers in 1862. The battle star typifies the close operational relationship between the combined arms and the Signal Corps.


  • The Signal Corps was authorized as a separate branch of the Army by Act of Congress
    Act of Congress
    An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by government with a legislature named "Congress," such as the United States Congress or the Congress of the Philippines....

     on 3 March 1863 (Public Law No. 58 Article VIII, Section 17 and 18). However, the Signal Corps dates its existence from 21 June 1860, when Congress authorized the appointment of one signal officer in the Army, and a War Department order carried the following assignment: "Signal Department—Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer to be Signal Officer, with the rank of Major, 17 June 1860, to fill an original vacancy."

Branch Color

  • Orange with white piping. Orange was selected in 1872 as the Signal Corps branch color. In 1902, the white piping was added to conform to the custom that prevailed of having piping of a different color for all branches except the line branches.

Notable members

Notable members of the Signal Corps include General of the Army (later General of the Air Force) Henry H. Arnold
Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

, Frank Capra
Frank Capra
Frank Russell Capra was a Sicilian-born American film director. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was six, and eventually became a creative force behind major award-winning films during the 1930s and 1940s...

, Tony Randall
Tony Randall
Tony Randall was a U.S. actor, comic, producer and director.-Early years:Randall was born Arthur Leonard Rosenberg to a Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Julia and Mogscha Rosenberg, an art and antiques dealer...

, Jean Shepherd
Jean Shepherd
Jean Parker Shepherd was an American raconteur, radio and TV personality, writer and actor who was often referred to by the nickname Shep....

, John C. Holmes, Julius Rosenberg, Samuel Alito
Samuel Alito
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since January 31, 2006....

See also

  • List of U.S. Signal Corps Vehicles
  • Joint Electronics Type Designation System
    Joint Electronics Type Designation System
    The Joint Electronics Type Designation System , which was previously known as the Joint Army-Navy Nomenclature System and the Joint Communications-Electronics Nomenclature System, is a method developed by the U.S. War Department during World War II for assigning an unclassified designator to...

  • Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army)
    Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command
    Army Network Enterprise Technology Command is a subordinate command under the Army Cyber Command. Its mission is operating and defending United States Army computer networks. The numerical command for NETCOM is 9th Army Signal Command. Its heritage can be traced back to the creation of the 9th...

External links