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August 2014

— This Month —

Political Commentary: A Failure of Leadership


Army Signal OCS And The 86th Signal Battalion’s Story


More Radio Stories Of The Signal Corps


From Where Cometh War?

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Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to We are here to serve you.                       


Political Commentary: A Failure of Leadership

Herb Block was one of America's most incisive political cartoonists. Working under Katharine Graham, the Chairman of The Washington Post, few people had as unique or accurate a view on Washington politics and the President as Herb Block did. Herb fought for and earned a unique position at the paper: one of complete independence—of anybody and anything. Journalistic enterprises, no less this one than any other, run best when writers and editors have a great deal of autonomy.[1] Unfortunately, back in Herb Block's day many of the politicians being skewered thought Herb had too much. His autonomy allowed him to impale the President like no one else. During his time, his political commentary and satire was unmatched in its ferocity. More importantly, it was to the point and accurate.

One of his more famous cartoons is reproduced below. It assails the ineptness and lack of leadership of President Carter, who couldn't seem to get anything right in his administration, or manage a foreign policy effort to a positive outcome. This was put on display for the world to see when Iran invaded the American Embassy in Tehran and took its American workers hostage.

The cartoon is simple yet effective. It captures Carter’s frustration over his inability to do anything right, but at the same time questions his leadership style. Herb Block shows Carter facing, not occupying, the President's desk, holding a visitor’s guide in his hand, as though he didn't belong in the Oval Office at all. To add vibrancy and impact his drawing depicts multiple images of Carter pounding his fist, suggesting a lack of bold, confident control.

With apologies to Herb, we have altered his cartoon below to reflect what we see as the situation today. We have also added a bit of commentary overwrite to the cartoon, just to make our point. If, compared to Herb Block's cartoon, our redo seems particularly harsh or cutting to you, remember... Herb Block was drawing on static white paper with a piece of charcoal... we have the advantage of using full color, digital motion, fades, shifting text, and audio to make our point.

To see our version, click on the small arrow icon in the lower right corner of the cartoon below...and remember, it's only political humor. Enjoy.


Comments in the above video are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS Association.

If you would like to offer your view on our views, please click here...

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More Radio Stories Of The Signal Corps

Old fashioned radioLast month we posted here three old recordings of radio broadcasts by Jean Shepherd, an ex-Signaleer who went on to fame during the golden age of radio. During his show he frequently told stories of his time in the Signal Corps in the early 50s. Today his stories are priceless.

We have been lucky enough to locate a trove of them, and not finding any record off their being under copyright, are reproducing them here for your continued enjoyment.

As we said last month, "grab a beer, find a quiet place away from the kids, grandkids and wife, shut the door, turn the lights off, put your feet up, close your eyes, make believe you are punching the buttons on an old Philco radio..." and enjoy Shep's stories of his time in the Signal Corps.

Broadcast Story #1: Code School. Originally broadcast on WOR, New York, on April 13, 1965, this story talks of Shep's early experience as a 13 year old with CW code, and his achievement of a 45 word per minute output. It then goes on to talk of his experience as a Signaleer while on Regimental maneuvers, when he worked in a Signal detachment that provided coded field communication support. The humor comes out in his discussion of the level of chaos his unit took as normal operations. The segment runs 40:23 in length The entire show is broadcast here.


Broadcast Story #2: Reginald T. Edwards. Originally broadcast on WOR, New York, the day after the above broadcast, April 14, 1965, this story tells of how the nemesis of the above story, Reginald T. Edwards, catches up with Shep in a comedy club in New York that Shep was working at. How Shep deals with this "confrontation" is hilarious, as are his recollections of "Army Edwards." The show begins slowly with other talk and stories, and segues into the Army Edwards section after about 24 minutes.The segment itself runs 44:03 in length, and is well worth listening to. Enjoy!


Want more... click here Contact and drop us a note. We have more recordings available and will stream them if requested.

Note: The media streamed here was downloaded from public sources. We have attempted to find if this media is copyright protected but have failed to find any registered claimants. It is being streamed here as belonging in the public domain.


Army Signal OCS And The 86th Signal Battalion's Story


Combat Operations Support, South Vietnam

Looking through the history of war from WWII through Korea to Vietnam, one runs across Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School graduate names showing up in one unit after another, all across the globe, in each of these wars, and in almost every battle. There is no doubt that the men who graduated from Army Signal OCS, and the TAC Officers that trained them, played a pervasive and critical role in helping win these wars. Over and over again Signal OCS people show up in leading positions, working to keep communication flowing under the toughest of combat conditions.

In its most simple sense, that is after all why the Signal Corps was created … to establish and keep lines of communication open, tying those on the battlefield to support elements and Headquarter operations in the rear, in order to enable each battle to go forward. However, few realize that in working to accomplish this task, by in large, the Signal Corps Officers involved needed to be on the battlefield, in the heat of the combat. This is especially so with First and Second Signal Corps Lieutenants, who commanded small detachments located at the very apex of where the combat was happening. Without their presence on the battlefield, the Infantry and other combat units involved simply could not get their job done.

It’s because of this that the Signal Corps was designated as a Combat Support unit instead of Combat Service Support. For Signal Corps men, serving under combat conditions, achieving the mission they were given often meant the difference between the success or failure of a campaign, and more importantly, the degree to which Infantry soldiers lived or died in the fighting that took place. It is not too much of a stretch to say that without communication there would be no maneuver, find, fix, or fire taking place.

But how did these Army Signal Corps Officers and men fit into the combat units they supported? Other than simply showing up to provide communication, what role did they play, and how did they get to where they ended up? In this article we take a look at one of the units that depended on Army Signal OCS graduates and former TAC Officers to organize their combat field communications, and some of the men that filled this role: the role of a combat communications Officer.

The unit we will follow is the 25 Infantry Division, also known as Tropic Lightening. And the Combat Support Unit we will focus on that enabled the 25th to do its fighting is the 86 Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade (USA STRATCOM). The war these two teamed up in was, of course, the Vietnam War.

25th I.D. - Electric StrawberryIn Vietnam the 25th Infantry Division’s unique patch earned it the nickname the Electric Strawberry; because of where it was stationed in Vietnam, it also was jokingly referred to as the Củ Chi National Guard. For those unaware, Củ Chi is a suburb of Saigon, and is most famous for its tunnels, a labyrinth of below ground chambers, passage ways and rooms constructed during the Vietnam War to serve as headquarters for the Việt Cộng in South Vietnam. Prior to the war, going all the way back to the early 1900s, Củ Chi was a fulsome green area of intense agriculture, especially rice paddies, orchards and nut trees. The people lived well and all was at peace. However, when the French took control things began to change.

During World War I France lost control over Vietnam. Unfortunately for the Vietnamese, after World War I ended the French came flooding back again, busying themselves setting up a colonial government aimed at imposing a tightfisted but elegantly European control over the country.

Looking back on those times, most historians today feel that France’s control of Vietnam proved a disaster for the local inhabitants, in more ways than one. For the most part, any economic progress that was made during the time of French occupation benefited only the French, and to a lesser extent a very small and select class of wealthy Vietnamese… who, once the French left, took control of the country and proceeded to strip it even more of its wealth than the Frence had. Among these families were included those headed by Bảo Đại, Ngô Đình Diệm, General Lê Văn Viễn, Madame Nhu, Nguyễn Văn Xuân, Nguyễn Văn HinhLê Văn Viễn, and a few others.

The effect of French colonial rule, followed by the rule of local oligarchs intent on lining their own pockets instead of improving conditions for the Vietnamese citizenry, was that masses of Vietnamese people were deprived of the basic elements of life: food, housing, medical care, and education for the young.

The French counter this by pointing out, even today, that through the construction of irrigation works, chiefly in the Mekong delta, the area of land devoted to rice cultivation during their period of colonial rule quadrupled. What they fail to tell you however is that during this same period the individual peasant’s rice consumption decreased, and worse, no other foods became available to replace the rice that they lost. Without the substitution of other foods, starvation soon set it.

How could rice production go up, you ask, while local inhabitants saw their supply of food drop dramatically? The answer is that the new lands that were developed were not distributed among the landless and the peasants, but instead were given away at nominal prices to Vietnamese oligarchs who acted as collaborators by working with French Cochinchina government leaders, French corporations and French speculators.

In effect then, the French government’s attempt to economically develop Vietnam did little more than create both a new class of Vietnamese landlords, who were in turn supported and enriched by a class of landless tenants. These tenants lived on the land, but barely off of it. In totality, their life was based on working the fields for landlords who charged them rents of up to 60 percent of the crop they grew. The landlords, little more than French collaborators, then sold the harvested crops at the Saigon export market, for massive profits… even while local inhabitants starved.  

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT


Room for more...


Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 11 August 2014. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 11 August 2014 Candidate Rexford Davis, OCS Class 21-67, sent us a few pics of his time in Vietnam. Part of the 37th Signal Battalion, Rexford served at Hoi An and on Monkey Mountain, of all places. You can see his pics on the Class Page for 21-67. Today Rexford is a Retired Lieutenant Colonel, currently serving as a Department of the Army Civilian with the G-37 Office at the United States Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, NC.

Update 1 August 2014 The OSS Society has informed us that the chairmen and ranking members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have announced their support for co-sponsoring legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the veterans of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, for their exceptional and indispensable service against Nazi Germany during World War II.

They quoted OSS founder General William J. Donovan, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, who said that OSS personnel "performed some of the bravest acts of the war." They cited the role played by the OSS "as the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities, including the CIA, Navy SEALs, U.S. Army Special Forces, Air Force Special Operations Command, and the Marines Special Operations Command." They also recognized several of the more prominent members of the OSS, including American icon Julia Child, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, Pulitzer-prize winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Ralph Bunche (the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize). The OSS Society has asked us to ask you to please contact your congressperson and both your senators and ask them to become cosponsors of this legislation. We at encourage you to do so and thank you in advance.

Update 16 June 2014 The Association's reunion is coming up in October. To be held in Kissimmee, Florida, it'll be a grand ol' time you shouldn't miss. To get your application form jump to our Reunion Info page and download it. You can get there via the menu item in the upper left corner of this page, or by clicking here: YES! I WANT TO GO TO THE REUNION!




Continued from left column... 

In simple terms, French colonial rule policies resulted in growing export figures for rice, growing profits for Vietnamese oligarch families, and the growing exploitation of the peasantry. For those who wondered how the Vietnam war got started… that is, what drove Hồ Chí Minh and the Việt Minh to foment a revolution in the first place… this is the real story: the strangulation of the Vietnamese peasantry by the French and their southern Vietnam collaborationist families.

To make matters even worse, from 1920 on the French government made large amounts of capital available to French companies to pursue these forms of “economic development.” One of the areas targeted was that of rubber production. For French companies like Michelin, French government money flowed to it, to be used to nurture rubber seedlings, clear the land where plantations would be grown, plant the saplings, produce the rubber, and construct the roads needed to move the rubber to port for shipment.

Cu Chi Rubber PlantationIn doing this Michelin employed more than 30,000 laborers that it moved from Tonkin (Vietnamese: Bắc Kỳ, historically Đàng Ngoài) to southern Vietnam to do the work. These peasants, paid little more than a few dong a day, comprised the work force that developed the host of rubber plantations around Bien Hoa, Củ Chi, and Dầu Tiếng. It was to one of these rubber plantations that the 25th Infantry Division was sent to set up its HQ.

M1126 StrykerOriginally activated on 1 October 1941 in Hawaii, the Division was tasked with focusing on military operations in the Asia-Pacific region. And it’s because of this that when the Vietnam War rolled around in the ‘60s that the 25th was one of the first to send combat support men to Vietnam. While an aggressive air mobile Infantry unit during the Vietnam War, today the 25th generally presents itself in the form of Stryker, light infantry, airborne, and aviation units, and finds itself being deployed wherever needed throughout the world.

Back at the time of its formation in 1941, the Division was shaped from the 27th and 35th Infantry Regiments of the original Hawaiian Division. Readers might note that the Hawaiian Division was unique in several ways. For one, the unit was given a name rather than a number when it was formed; for another, it was one of the first of the pre-second World War “Square Divisions” to be formed. Composed of four infantry regiments, Square Divisions are no longer constituted in the U.S. Army.[2]

UH-1D Huey Door Gunner PositionBack in 1963, as the Vietnam War began to hot up, the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, asked the 25th Infantry Division to send over a few support men: 100 helicopter door-gunners… and with that the 25th found itself slowly being piecemealed out to Vietnam. By mid-1965, 2,200 men of the Tropic Lightning Division were serving in Vietnam, including early Signal support units as well as a unit of the 65th Engineering Battalion [Company C], sent along to assist in the construction of the port facilities at Cam Ranh Bay. In December of that year the meat of the Division, its Infantry combat forces, found themselves on their way to Vietnam.

Unique as a deployment, the Division sent 4,000 3rd Brigade Infantrymen and 9,000 tons of equipment… all delivered from Hawaii in less than 25 days. So unique was this effort, known as Operation Blue Light,  that until Operation Desert Shield it was the largest and longest airlift of personnel and cargo into a combat zone in U.S. military history.

In terms of where these men were headed, while initially most of them ended up at Pleiku in the Central Highlands, as time passed the Division found itself fighting throughout the country. One of the battles it fought was Northwest of Saigon, and was called Operation Junction City. Operation Junction City was an 82-day joint U.S. and ARVN  engagement that began on 22 February 1967, aimed at surrounding and decimating the Viet Cong west of Saigon along the Cambodian border. Surprisingly, it proved to be the largest U.S. airborne operation since Operation Market Garden during World War II. It was also the only major airborne operation of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, the operation accomplished little because operational surprise was lost. It seems that a highly placed female spy learned of the pending operation and notified the Viet Cong, who then withdrew the majority of their men before the operation was even launched.

Operation Junction CityWho was the spy, you ask? A female NVA Colonel named Dinh Thi Van managed to place one of her agents, a comely young lady with a ready smile, in social circles that included ARVN General Cao Van Vien and U.S. General William West-moreland. Yup… that’s the way wars are fought and won guys… we carry the guns and pound the ground, while the boys with scrambled eggs on their hat dally with cute little locals that giggle at their every word… and then some. The result is that when you jump on a Chopper and head out for your average day of combat the enemy likely knows more about your mission than you do.[3]


Read more... 



From Where Commeth War?

Whether you’re 21 and looking out through the concertina wire at a Fire Support Base, towards the far edge of the tree line, or nearly 70 and watching world events on TV to see where the next enemy will come from, watching to see when the fighting will begin is the same. You peer with intensity, squinting your eyes and your mind to see if you can figure out where the enemy is and spot him before he spots you.

As communicators, we do this naturally, because while our primary mission is to keep the lines of communication open for the other branches we serve, we too are one of those “other” branches, fully engaged on the battlefield, just as they are. Because of this, if we see the enemy before one of our sister branches does, it is our job to warn our fellow fighters that we have seen the enemy, and he is upon us.

Two years ago in 2012 we wrote and published a series of articles called Rebalancing Our Strategic Imperatives. These articles discussed a new enemy we thought we saw coming over the horizon; an enemy in the making if you will, one who if America didn’t act quickly enough might just be the cause of the next war.

In those articles we talked of this potential enemy, and laid out a program to help deflect the aggressiveness this enemy was exhibiting; deflect it in a way that could help prevent a future war. The primary instrument we proposed be used to stop this enemy in his tracks was a kind of soft military power, the kind that could come from creating an unofficial "alliance" between all of the militaries of the countries threatened by this new enemy, such that while action by one might be perceived as a lone effort, the enemy would know that it was in fact an expression of the views of all. We even had a name for this kind of alliance. We called it the Co-security Sphere.

Proposed Co-security Sphere

Interestingly, someone in Washington and the DoD seems to have heard our warning and set about doing just what we recommended. The result: the potential enemy we spotted is aware now that every one of their actions is being closely watched by not only us but a group of allies that have tightened—under our prodding—their military relationships with each other, in order to present a more cohesive bulwark against this enemy’s expansionist ideas.

Who is this potential new enemy whose actions portend a possible future war? None other than China. And who are these allies that we proposed should be brought closer together into a  synergistic but low key military partnership, to stop the enemy's taunting? Answer the countries of East and Southeast Asia. Primarily Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Burma, and Vietnam, and to a lesser extent Cambodia and Thailand.

Let us explain.

Our articles of 2012 began with a simple article in June about the problem the Philippines was having keeping China out of its coastal waters. As we wrote that piece we began to see that the problem wasn’t just within the waters of the Philippines, but also the waters of many of the other countries that border the South and East China Seas. And so in short order we found ourselves publishing reviews of the strategic military situations vis-à-vis China and each of the other countries in the area.

In  August 2012 we looked at the situation Burma faced with China. In September we looked at Japan. October 2012 saw us discussing South Korea, and in November we looked at Vietnam. Finally, in December 2012 we summarized all of these views and proposed that a Co-security Sphere be organized by the militaries of these countries, with the U.S. military acting as the informal head, but Japan taking the public lead.

Recognizing that there are still ambivalent feelings among some of these countries towards each other, we kept how we would see this concept implemented low key, and suggested that it be moved away from the political sphere and into the realm of the militaries of these countries. Our proposal was that they begin to work together—informally—but in a coordinated manner so that China saw that a provocative action against one would be the cause of a change in military footing by all of the others towards China.

Scarborough ShoalWhy all of this effort? Because as far back as 2012 we saw great risk of war in the bullying China was conducting as regards her attempts to possess many of the islands in the South and East China Seas. In our articles at that time we explained how a rising China was causing her to flex her muscles not in her home waters, but in waters that have been under the control of neighboring countries for centuries. And while a case could be made that perhaps some of the islands in these waters might belong to China, other cases could just as well be made that they definitely did not. Regardless of who was right, our view was that the actions China was taking by sending armed ships into these waters to patrol them and establish dominance over them had the potential to cause unintended consequences, of the type that could lead any one of these countries to confront China in a way so that shots were exchanged… which, of course, could lead to a war America found itself being dragged into. Rather than wait for this to happen, our view was that the U.S. military should proactively go forward and set up various means to negate this likely eventuality.



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On incompetent leaders...

August Crossword Puzzle

Army Signal CorpsTheme: Military TriviaArmy Signal Corps

Hint: Join 2, 3 and 4 word answers together
as one complete word.

 For answer key to this month's puzzle,
see icon at bottom of page


[1] The editors of this website are indebted to the Board of the U.S. Army Signal Corps OCS Association, Inc. for never having placed any restrictions on what we have been able to publish here. For those interested in reading our publication policy, especially as it applies to our invitation to others to submit their manuscripts, please click here:  Manuscript submission - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text

[2] A Square Division is a designation given to one of the ways military Divisions can be organized. In a square organization, the Division's main body is composed of four Regimental elements. Since a Regiment could be split into separate Battalions for tactical purposes, the natural Division within a Division would be to have two Regiments bound together as a Brigade. On an organizational chart and if the entire Division were formed up in the field, the two Brigades of two Regiments would typically form a square, hence the name. - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text

[3] Source for comments re. compromise of Operation Junction City, Wikipedia. - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text



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