Planning Integrated Signal Communications
December 1950 Radio & Television
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.
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Planning Integrated Signal Communications
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another aspect of Signal Corps communications is shown as Corpsmen adjust military telephone wires.
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
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.
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.
This overall system may be considered
to be composed of three networks: the global network, the theater network, and the tactical network.
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 overall concept of the integrated communication system.
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.
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.