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 & Television News
Thanks to Terry W. for providing this
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
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
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 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
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 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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.