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Planning Integrated Signal Communications
December 1950 Radio & Television News

December 1950 Radio & TV News
December 1950 Radio & Television News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

The U.S. Army's Signal Corps was set up to "exercise supervision over signal communications literally from the Pentagon to the foxhole." Created in 1860 at the suggestion of a military doctor, the Signal Corps originally used a system of flag waving for messaging dubbed "wigwag" and graduated to overseeing the nationwide telegraph network six years later. By 1870, members were tasked with establishing and operating a weather forecasting service, so in 1907 when they created an aeronautical division it was just in time for facilitating the nation's rapidly growing cadre of aircraft pioneers (recall the Wright brothers had flown four years earlier at Kitty Hawk) by providing en route weather information. Having already mastered the state of the art that was radio and telephone by 1937, the Signal Corps then undertook the challenge of a sophisticated new technology called "radar." Their motto is "Watchful for the Country." This is the first of four articles on military communications from the December 1950 edition of Radio & Television News.

Planning Integrated Signal Communications

Brig. Gen. Wesley T. Guest, USA  - RF Cafe

Born in Sliver Creek, N. Y. in 1900. Entered Regular Army in 1921. Received MS in communications engineering from Yale in 1929. Commander of Aircraft Radio Repair section (San Antonio) in 1937. Become chief of Communication Liaison Div. in Office of Chief Signal Officer in 1939 and in 1942 was named assistant director of the Plans and Operations Div. He went overseas In 1942 as director of Communications Div. of Communications Zone HQ in European Theater. Returned to U. S. in 1944 to become chief of Plans and Operations Div. Named director of that division in the southwest Pacific Theater in 1945. He become chief of the Army Communications Service Division in the office of Chief Signal Officer in 1947.

By Brigadier General Wesley T. Guest, USA

Chief, Signal Plans & Operations Division

Office of the Chief Signal Officer

A Signal Corps achievement - planning and operating an earth-girdling electronic communications network geared to the speed and mobility of modern warfare.

Communications, the means of coordinating the fighting team, are, in fact, an indispensable element in creating a team from separate and often widely dispersed forces. No amount of force can be effective in repelling an enemy unless there are brains and nerves to direct it. Communications are the nerves of fighting power.

Communications do not just grow; they are planned. In the Army, the planning is the responsibility of the Signal Corps. That planning is largely guided by a concept which we call "integrated communications." The planning, engineering, and operation involve the development of equipment that will fill the tactical requirements of the integrated communications system.

It is well to remember that as technical developments have made warfare more complex, communications have grown more complex to keep pace. When the Signal Corps was created during the Civil War as the only branch of its kind in a modern army, wig-wag flags were quite new and modern and the magnetic telegraph was just appearing. Today, military communications are geared to the speed of light by earth-girdling electronic systems.

That is the extent to which communications can be integrated. Integration is required by the speed and mobility of modern war. Delay can be fatal. The relaying of information takes time and causes delay, unless it is accomplished swiftly through the integrated system.

The Signal Corps is responsible for maintaining many different types of communications - RF Cafe

The Signal Corps is responsible for maintaining many different types of communications both in war and peace. In the top photograph Corpsmen are shown at their job of keeping transmission lines and antenna towers in good condition. The antenna is a beam. 250 feet high and supports five two-element v.h.f. antennas. By means of these antennas, this station transmits signals from all over the world to the Signal Center in the Pentagon.

This thinking, it may be noted in passing, closely parallels that of the major civil communications systems. In private affairs it is necessary for efficient service. In military affairs it is a vital necessity for survival.

In each of the last two wars, the Signal Corps was confronted with an emergency situation in the development, procurement, distribution, installation, operation, and maintenance of a military communication system. In the First World War, the situation was relatively simple. There was only one theater of operations and that in a friendly country where communications had been established by both the British and French Forces after several years of military operations. The American Forces engaged in the First World War were relatively small compared with those of the Allies and, consequently, the organizational structure was relatively simple. In that war, Air Force communications were negligible, radar was not employed, communications for amphibious and airborne landings were not required, and major reliance was on wire and cable.

The problem during the Second World War was far more serious than it was in the first. Not one theater of operations had to be served, but many. The increased geographical coverage and the accelerated speed at which operations unfolded created difficulties never before experienced by any signal organization, either commercial or military. The need for a system concept - for integration - became immediately apparent.

Let us consider the organizational aspects of the Signal Corps System Concept. We feel that the best type of organization for a communications system is one that is established on a commodity basis. By that we mean one organization that is responsible for all aspects of the "commodity of communications," including research and development, training, procurement and distribution of signal supplies, and plans and operations - all under the control and direction of one man, the Chief Signal Officer. This is true of the Signal Corps today, and administration of the Army's far flung communications activities is centered in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.

The reason the Chief Signal Officer must have his finger on all activities of the Corps is that those activities are closely interrelated. For instance, training must be geared to delivery of equipment, both the newly developed equipment and the old. Likewise, research and development are closely related to procurement.

Signal Corps personnel install, operate, and maintain communications from the Department of the Army to the Theater of Operations; and from the Theater Headquarters down to the regiments. Regiments and lower units to which no organic Signal Corps personnel are assigned, are responsible for their own communications, for tactical reasons that will be explored presently. However, the Signal Corps is responsible for providing signal equipment and supplies for use between and within all tactical and service echelons. Thus, it may be said that the Signal Corps exercises supervision over signal communications literally from the Pentagon to the foxhole.

Signal Corps communications is shown as Corpsmen adjust military telephone wires - RF Cafe

Another aspect of Signal Corps communications is shown as Corpsmen adjust military telephone wires.

This overall system may be considered to be composed of three networks: the global network, the theater network, and the tactical network.

The global network is used for establishing communications circuits:

1. Between the Pentagon and the Theaters of Operations, occupation zones, bases, etc.;

2. Within the Theater where wire or radio relay circuits are not feasible, as in the case of a large ocean area;

3. Within the Theaters as the first established circuits, until supplemented by wire and radio relay, and then as emergency supplements to the wire and radio relay;

4. For emergency use within the Continental United States in case of disruption of wire or radio relay circuits.

The Theater network is the network which provides the circuits from the Theater Command down to the senior commanders of tactical ground, air, and naval units. This network functions under the control of the Theater Commander and serves as the vital link between the global network and the tactical networks.

The combat or tactical networks are the parts of the communications system by which the commanders of tactical units control and direct their commands. In the field army we envision two general types of combat networks, one down to approximately regimental level, which is more or less of an administrative type of network; and the other at approximately the regimental level and below, which is a fire and maneuver type network at all times directly under the control of the combat commander. No combat commander is placed in the position where he is dependent on someone outside his command for his unit communications.

The overall concept of the integrated communication system - RF Cafe

The overall concept of the integrated communication system.

Principles of integration, however, are applied to the combat network. The concept envisages, for example, that each switchboard serving a command (battalion or higher) may have a radio set connected to it. This radio station can be operated so that it will be possible:

1. To talk over a wire or radio channel, from any telephone connected to the switchboard, to another switchboard, and to any user connected thereto;

2. From any telephone user's position, to call a mobile or fixed radio station at any point within range of the calling radio-switchboard;

3. From a mobile or fixed radio installation, to cause a signal to appear at a called radio-switchboard, bringing the operator on the line and thus enabling the calling radio station to communicate with anyone connected to the communications system.

The general idea is to avoid using such huge amounts of field wire as were used in Europe during the last war; to augment and replace cable and wire to a much' greater extent with radio.

That, briefly, is what the Signal Corps means by an integrated system of communications - in terms of planning. The concept must come first, of course, but to carry it out we must have the equipment which, because of its versatility, makes integration possible.



Posted April 28, 2023
(updated from original post on 5/1/2013)

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