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
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 &
See all available
vintage Radio News
.Thanks to Terry W. for providing
Planning Integrated Signal Communications
By Brigadier General Wesley T. Guest, USA
Chief, Signal Plans &
Office of the Chief Signal Officer
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.
A Signal Corps achievement - planning and operating an earth-girdling
electronic communications network geared to the speed and mobility of
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
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 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.
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
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.
This overall system may be considered to be composed of three
networks: the global network, the theater network, and the tactical
The global network is used for establishing communications
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
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;
emergency use within the Continental United States in case of disruption
of wire or radio relay circuits.
The overall concept of the integrated
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
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