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January 2018

— This Month —

More Than A New Year's Resolution Is Needed

–  What Happened To Integrity? 

and

Building A Signal Radio Intelligence Company

–  A Signal Corps Success  – 
Six Army Signal Corps OCS Graduates Do The Impossible

MISSION STATEMENT

 

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Its 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 WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you.

 



 

More Than A New Year's Resolution Is Needed

 ArmySignalOCS Editor

What Happened To Integrity?

What happened to integrity? What happened to thinking that one of the best things about being alive was realizing—just about the time your adolescence was coming to an end—how easy it was to be a good person… an honest person… and then setting out to be that person? What a heady idea that was back then. You, just coming into your own… a young 22 - 23 year old just coming to grips with the idea that you were truly free to live your life your own way… no more mom and dad telling you what to do, or how to act… you could now be whatever kind of person you wanted to be.

With a bar on your shoulder, living in your own Officer’s BOQ—and a damned nice one at that—people saluting you wherever you went. Your own car—and a damned nice one at that—pockets full of money… well, enough to buy just about anything you wanted, anyway… full credit at the O–Club… you were now on your own and life was pretty good.

Remember thinking it was all finally coming home to roost? How all those years of schooling, teachers, priests, rabbis, scout leaders, uncles and aunts and even the cop on the street corner in the small town you grew up in telling you how to think and act, seemed to be finally coming to an end? No more people telling you to stand up straight, mind your table manners, tuck in your shirt, don’t lie, be polite, take ownership of your actions, praise the accomplishments of others, keep it clean during an argument, put others first, ask to hear the other side of the story, volunteer, be trustworthy, be reliable, work to find a solution, be humble, be genuine, be generous, be kind, raise up others… what was it they called all those things? Was it integrity? Is that what it was? Or was it ethics, or morals? No, those were other things… nope, integrity, that’s what it was… integrity.

Which way integrity?Now, now that OCS was over, now it all made sense. That’s what military Officers are, you learned. They are people with integrity… oh, and morals and ethics too. People who lived by those kinds of values.

Strange as it was, that little stint you just completed in OCS was what brought it all together… made it all fall into place. All those years of training and learning from the time you were born until now… the constant pounding into your head of this thing called values… by everyone from your mom and dad through to that small town cop on the street corner again… finally you could see it for what it was: an attempt to turn you into a man of substance and worth… a man with integrity.

Best of all, now that you knew what integrity, morals and ethics were all about, you found that you could decide for yourself whether to subscribe to those things or not. It was up to you to decide if you were going to be that kind of person, or some other kind.

Looking back in time, it was great to walk the earth back then, knowing that—having made the choice to make integrity your byline—you represented the best of the best. Hell, there it was in black and white: by order of your own country, you were officially recognized as an “Officer and a gentleman.”

That was you. You, living life in real time, practicing a value system you finally understood and could now embrace. Not just some amorphous concept of who you were supposed to be, instead, now that you understood what it was all about, you could actually be that person… with every action you took. Someone who made it a point to be honest… tell the truth to his friends, family, fellow Officers, and the troops you commanded, no matter what the consequences… be loyal, do your duty… fulfill your obligations… show respect… perform selfless service for your country… be honorable.. display personal courage to those around you, and with every chance you had, reconfirm your integrity.

Those were good days.

Now, after so many years, you recognize that not all the men you’ve known in your life had the chance you were given… to go through a final burst of education that taught you what being a man was all about, just at that crucial period of time when you moved from being an adolescent to an adult. It’s interesting to look back and see that past life so clearly now.

It seemed to come in three phases. The First Phase took some 20 years to pass. During that phase every guiding adult around you—again, from your mom and dad through to your parish priest, scout leader and that small town cop on the street—tried to teach you about integrity, morals and ethics, and the role they played in life.

Then came the Second Phase: OCS. A short phase, it brought home to roost the practical results of living your life either by applying those values you were taught, or ignoring them. As clear as the day was long, you could see how having values helped you get through OCS, while ignoring them hurt you.

Remember Pogey Bait? Lie to your TAC Officer about having Pogey Bait in your locker, and you were out of OCS, just like that. Sure the punishment was tough if you told him the truth, but it was much tougher if you lied to him. Talk about an instant example of the value of being honest. And if you asked why such a small lie deserved such cataclysmic punishment, you likely heard something along the following lines from your TAC Officer: “Why would I want to serve alongside of you, if I can’t trust what you say to me?”

The point was made. In the heat of battle, every Officer needed to know without question that those fellow Officers he served with would tell him the truth. Period. Strangely, later on in life you would see that truth come home again in domestic life too.

Army ValuesThen came the Third Phase. This one took about 4 years to pass. It started when, with a fresh pair of new butter bars on your epaulets, you stepped into your first command and began to put into practice all of the lessons about values that life had given to you, up to that point. It ended when you either re-upped, or left the Army.

By then you had tested yourself to the fullest. You knew what values were… integrity, ethics, morals… and how your applying each one would affect your life. With certainty, you knew which ones you valued the most. Best of all, you knew who you were as a man, and what you had to do to be that man.

If, after all of these years, you turned out to be—from a value system standpoint—a man of substance and worth, then you know today that the Second and Third Phases we talked of above—two crucial periods in your life—helped you sort out the meaning of life. And that one of the primary meanings of life that you learned is that no matter what you do in your life, if you strive to live your life by not just practicing the values your parents taught you, but actually living them in real time, then you will be a happy man.

Make note of this: to bring happiness and satisfaction to you and those around you, you have to do two things. First, you have to know what values are. That is, what does integrity mean? Ethics? Morals? And second, you have to actually live them.

If you are a member of this Association, then you know what we are talking about, because you long ago made the decision to learn what a value system is, and live by it. It’s not you that this article is about, it’s about those who once learned these lessons, but have since abandoned them. They tossed them aside in favor of a never ending thirst for power, money or ideology.

What happened to our country that men of integrity—men who strived their whole life to practice honesty and those values that are important to humanity—have abandoned the value system they built for themselves and once subscribed to, in favor of power, wealth,  ideology?

Remember when your first tour of duty was up, and you were trying to decide whether to stay in the Army or leave and pursue a civilian career? Remember how these values worked their way into your decision making process? Remember thinking that if you stayed in the Army you knew with certainty that you would have the pleasure of working beside men you admired? Men who knew what integrity was, and practiced it. Remember thinking “I could do this the rest of my life… these guys are good people.”

Remember comparing working with men who subscribed to social values—like those fellow Officers around you—to working in civilian life with the money grubbing, back stabbing people you met in business before you joined the Army? Or, God forbid, working in all of those other parts of our government that seemed filled with bureaucratic ideologs hell bent on imposing their value system on you? Or even worse, becoming a politician… someone who seemed to have no value system at all?

Scary, wasn’t it. The thought of leaving the Army—Army Officer Corps—for civilian life, where so few people seemed to hold any value system to speak of?

But what choice did you have? By then everyone knew the Army was going to down size. The war was over, and while staying in the Army meant working with good people… people you could trust to do their damned best for the country… it also meant that your career would not be going anywhere. Promotions in the post-war U.S. Army were going to be few and far between.

And so it was: stay in the Army and stagnate, or get out and make a real living.

There was one civilian occupation however that almost all of us Lieutenants and Captains that decided to leave the Army thought of as an option. It was a job that we felt sure would be filled with people of integrity. The guys who worked in this company—well, actually a government agency—were above the norm. They were honest, truthful, patriotic, moral, ethical, and displayed an integrity at least as good as that we found in the U.S. Army Officer Corps. It was the FBI.

Leaving the Army and joining the FBI seemed like a perfect alternative, if working with men of integrity was important to you. The FBI… and perhaps the CIA too, and maybe even the NSA. Yup, these three agencies seemed like the perfect place for an ex-Army Officer to end up.

Back then, for us young Officers, these three agencies seemed to replicate in civilian life most of the values we learned of, subscribed to and practiced as Army Officers.

Not today though. Not today.

As we asked at the beginning of this article: what happened to integrity?

Today the world of ethics and morals has disappeared. Generals letting their mistresses read their Top Secret files. Other top level generals getting drunk and spouting off profanities about their Commander in Chief… in public, and to the press. Still other generals repeatedly subjecting subordinates to sexual harassment… over, and over and over again. Others lying to the Vice President and FBI.

Let's look at some of them: Brigadier General Sinclair charged with sexual misconduct. The same with Major General Joseph Harrington. Major General Wayne Grigsby, found to have spent nearly his entire career having extramarital affairs and compromising security in the process. Brigadier General Michael Bobeck… the same thing. What’s the matter with these guys that they can’t keep it in their pants? Or how about this: an average of over 500 cases a year of career Officers at the highest level being investigated for misconduct.

That's not the Officer Corps I belonged to.

Then there’s Patraeus, a fool if there ever was one. One of the most gifted men to ever command troops caught letting his mistress read confidential government files—never mind the fact that he had a mistress. What was that man thinking? Did he not know any better?

Then there’s Flynn. God what a sad example of humanity. Michael Thomas Flynn, a retired United States Army Lieutenant General who served our country for 33 years… 33 years! Caught lying to the Vice President and the FBI. He’s the reason logic like “Why would I want to serve alongside of you, if I can’t trust what you say to me?” exists.

Some of these men shouldn’t be pardoned, they should be hung for treason.  

These men were not lowly Lieutenants just learning about the responsibility of command and the need for integrity… these were men who were supposed to represent the best of the best. The best America has to offer. Now they appear as just another example of a country whose leaders have gone south… whose integrity is up for hire, who likely had no integrity to begin with.

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Serves you right...


 

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This page last updated 01 January 2018. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 1 January – Missed this year's Reunion? Now is the time to focus on next year's. It'll be held in Charleston, South Carolina, from October 5th to 7th, 2018. Plans are underway for hotel accommodations and event rooms now. Announcements will be made about the details of the event soon. Keep an eye on our Reunion Info page to learn more.

 

 Building A Signal Radio Intelligence Company

Officers 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company

A Signal Corps Success: Six Army Signal Corps OCS Graduates Do The Impossible

This author built five companies in his civilian business career. Two were exceptional successes, which this young-at-the-time businessman eventually took public on Wall Street, NASDAQ. Before those two successes however came three failures. Civilian communication companies all, building them proved to be less than an optimal experience. Of the three failures, the first two didn’t make it due to lack of money. But the third was the real killer. It fully tested this author’s mettle. By the time It was put to bed it had taken a marriage with it, and left behind over $350,000 in personal IRS tax obligations to be paid.

Building a company ain’t easy… not a successful one, anyway. To build a successful company what you need is money, equipment, talent and a purpose (read: product) that the rest of the world believes is impossible to attain. After all, if just anyone can achieve the purpose (read: mission) your new company sets for itself, then that “anyone” would have already done it and taken the market’s profits along with them in the process.

Duy Tan Hotel, Nha TrangIn many ways, living the life of a Junior Grade Officer in the Signal Corps is much the same. It’s all about building a Company.

Look at it this way: One day you’re sitting in your BOQ in lovely Nha Trang, getting ready to go down to the Duy Tan Hotel (Khách sạn Duy Tân Nha Trang) and have a beer, and the Colonel comes in and says “Lt. Ski, we need a Signal Site up on top of Lang Bien Mountain, outside of Dalat. Get a team together and go out there and build one… and Ski, get it done or don’t come back.”

Signal SiteOf course, he doesn’t tell you that up on that mountain sits a V.C. encampment that needs to be pushed off, 40 acres of trees that need to be cleared, a 360 degree, 500 meter deep free-fire zone that needs to be created, two in depth sets of perimeter trenches that need to be dug to encircle the entire 5 acre site, three single-story barracks to house the Signalmen that will run the new site, another two to house the Infantry boys that will man the perimeter defense bunkers (and run the search and clear patrols that will have to be mounted every third day), a mess hall, an HQ building, a bunch of “communication shacks” to hold the microwave, VHF and tropo gear that will be set up, and of course, a mission to accomplish. That, plus a “team” of some 120 odd men all dressed in olive drab and armed to the hilt, and what you will have at your disposal is a Company… one that applies money, talent and equipment to the task of accomplishing its purpose… that is, its mission.

When you look at it this way, it’s really not that much different than what is done in civilian life when one sets out to build a company, except that with the Army the tough part involving finding the funds to build a Company does not exist. Neither does the problem of paying taxes, or of finding the equipment needed to do the job, be it backhoes to dig trenches, bulldozers (or C4) to level the trees, or any of the equipment needed to erect half a dozen AB-577/GRC Antenna Masts to get your commo equipment up and running.

An example of building a "Communications Company"
Vietnam War Style

US Army Communications Vietnam 1966
US Army Staff Film Report 66-43B

Nope, the tough part in building an Army Company, like in civilian life, is finding qualified people able to do the job—to achieve the mission. Qualified people is what it is all about, and whereas in civilian life if you can’t find the people you need you can simply raise the salaries you’re offering until they come along, in military life that isn’t the case. In the military you take what they give you, or train your own.

Looking back on World War II, that’s exactly what most Junior Grade Signal Corps Officers ended up doing. Back in those days—in 1942 especially—Signal Companies were few and far between, which as a result caused the War Department to order them to be stood up at the rate of a dozen or so a week when the war started. To command these new Companies, fresh out of school 2nd Lieutenants were finding themselves being assigned to do something they had absolutely no training in… putting together a fully staffed U.S. Army Signal Corps Company, in record time. Their purpose: organize the Company, train its men, and take them to war... all under your command, Lieutenant.

If you think your tour in Vietnam was tough, figure out how you would have handled that mission: you, a well meaning but still wet behind the ears 2nd Lieutenant Signal OCS graduate, being ordered to bring online a newly formed Company of 250 or so Signaleers, ready and able to take to the field in Guadalcanal or New Guinea, or someplace else, and accomplish its mission.

Recognize… we’re not talking here of being sent from Signal OCS to some already existing Signal Corps Company with a seasoned Major in charge, a staff of Officers to support him, and an existing complement of trained men. Instead, we’re talking of you, a fresh Second Lieutenant, being tasked to build such a company yourself—from scratch.

That’s what happened with a Company called the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company. For those of you who have forgotten, during WWII Signal Radio Intelligence Companies had the task of intercepting messages sent by both our side and the enemy and locating the sending apparatus through the use of direction finding equipment. Mostly, this was done through triangulation of the signals being intercepted.

Once a signal was intercepted, its strength measured, direction and source identified and station identifiers either determined or assigned, the message was analyzed, and the info gleaned reported to those branches of service and units likely to need the info. This might be ships at sea, local friendly ground forces or armored units, or—as in the case of the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company—the Army Air Corps unit they were assigned to support.

Typically, units like this were organized to operate as individual, fully self-supportive Companies in the field… under combat conditions. As a result, they maintained their own motorized equipment, mess and field kitchens, as well as headquarters and service platoons.

The Company we are talking of, the 138th, was a classic radio intelligence company of the type one would have seen during the early WWII period. It was constituted on 7 Feb 1942, at Fort George Wright, near Spokane, Washington. Of interest to us is that it’s first Officer, as well as nearly all of the Officers that eventually commanded it, were no more than lowly little Army Signal Corps 2nd Lieutenants at the time; most fresh out of Army Signal OCS, with no command experience to speak of. While newly formed, the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company went on to earn Campaign Streamers for its work in World War II. They included streamers for the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, New Guinea from 1943-1944, Leyte from 1944-1945, and Luzon during 1944-1945.

It’s very first Officer was 2nd Lieutenant Felix M. Marshall. A regular Army soldier of some thirteen years before coming to the 138th, he had served with the engineers in Panama for three years and received intensive training in communication in the Coast Artillery Corps. He gained his commission in the Signal Corps Reserve in 1941, prior to which he had been a radio operator in fixed stations and a member of combat crews in the Army Air Corps. This, the Department of War thought, qualified him to set up a radio intelligence company.

Fortunately for Lieutenant Marshall, he didn’t have to do it alone. On 1 May, 1942, only three months after he was assigned command of the then newly formed 138th, he found himself welcoming the first of many Army Signal OCS graduate helpers to come.

This first to arrive was 2nd Lieutenant Harold G. Harbin, from Army Signal OCS Class 42-03. Having graduated from Signal OCS on February 27th, less than 3 months earlier, Harbin originally hailed from Arizona. His addition to the company proved critical, as although his time with the unit was to be short, during his time there he defined for Lt. Marshall the training programs the Company would need to set up if it was to bring its as yet mostly unassigned men up to speed.

Training in a constituted field unit, you ask? Doesn’t training come before you are assigned to your field unit and sent into combat?

Usually, yes. But at this time, at the beginning of WWII, there were more Signal Companies in existence and staffed with untrained men than there were Companies with trained men. So, while the 138th had a defined mission—radio intelligence gathering—the men being assigned to it had no training in doing that kind of work. Just as in civilian life, where running a company with unqualified personnel means failing at the company’s mission, so too in the Army. The only difference is that in civilian life a company’s failure means bankruptcy (and likely tax debts too…), while in war it means your side loses the war.

2nd Lieutenant Harbin understood this, and readily took to his task of quickly training the men that were beginning to be assigned to the unit to do their job.

Manpower wise, from its inception in February 1942 to the day Signal OCS graduate Lieutenant Harbin arrived on May 1st, the Company had grown with fits and starts. It seemed that no matter how many men were assigned to it, nearly as many men were transferred out of it to other active units already in combat.

When Lt. Harbin arrived he brought with him 93 additional men, and for a while it looked like things would settling down. By the end of May, the Company’s total strength stood at 202 Enlisted Men and 2 Officers.

Yet that wasn’t to be the case. By August of 1942 the Signal Corps’ need for trained men—Officers included—had increased even more. Across the entire Signal Corps, the need for more men now greatly exceeded the available supply, no matter what the MOS.

In part this need was driven by the rapid growth of the Army Air Force, which in those days fell under the jurisdiction of the Signal Corps. The result of this was that all signals work required to keep the Air Force in the air and both finding and fighting the enemy fell to Signal Corps support units. These units, normally a constituted part of the Signal Corps itself, ended up being assigned to the Army Air Force. In terms of type, they included everything from communication Companies to radar tracking, plotting and signals intelligence units. It was this need that forced the formation of the 138th in the first place.

As said above, the problem was that for the 138th, as fast as men could be brought into the unit they were being pulled out and reassigned to other companies located in the actual theaters of war, where they were needed—whether adequately trained or not—to do the fighting.

This is what happened to 2nd Lt Harbin. Within a few short weeks of his arriving in the 138th on May 1st, he found himself being promoted—on 11 August—to the rank of 1st Lt., at which point, within two more weeks—25 August, to be exact—he found himself receiving orders to report to duty at the 955th Radio Intelligence Company.

Just like that, the first Army Signal OCS graduate to join the 138th found himself being reassigned, albeit this time to a unit already in combat in the Pacific Theatre. The sad fact is that in this capacity he eventually gave his life for our country. Within little over a year after he graduated from OCS. 1st Lieutenant Harold G. Harbin was KIA.

And the war went on…

For the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company, the men arriving still needed training, and the Company formed, organized and structured to accomplish its mission. To that end, on 26 September, 2nd Lieutenants Gilmore, Turner and Belth joined the company. All graduates of Army Signal OCS Class 42-08, each must have felt some comfort in taking on his first command with a couple of trusted friends at his side.

2nd Lt George W. Gilmore was given charge of the Wire Platoon, while 2nd Lt Francis J. Turner was given charge of the Intercept Platoon, and 2nd Lt Ira Belth assigned to the Finding Platoon. Along with these new Officers also came 12 enlisted men, some of whom were immediately sent out to the National Schools, Los Angeles, for urgent signal intercept training. The remainder were sent along to the Headquarters Infantry RTC, at Camp Roberts, California, for basic weapons training, before being returned to the 138th.

For the most part, up to this point the enlisted men coming in were fresh Army recruits, with only the most basic of military training, and little to no Signal training. In most cases they were assigned to the Signal Corps as Enlisted Men because they had some sort of radio experience in their civilian life… usually as Hams.

At the same time as this was happening the Signal Corps was furiously building out its training programs at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. It was at about this time then that the Signal Corps enlisted men training programs began to spit out results. On 27 September 1942 the first small contingent of properly trained enlisted men arrived from the SCRTC facility in Fort Monmouth. While only 5 men, their arrival nevertheless signaled that the U.S. Army Signal Corps was beginning to catch up with its demand.

Work wise, in these early days of the Company’s existence, the men were kept busy with typical military “make work.” When not learning what an Army Signal Radio Intelligence company did, and what their role within it was, they found themselves marching around the parade field. As an example, on 13 May, the company participated in a Post Parade, in competition with other units. Proudly the unit’s history files tell today of the fact that the Post Adjutant at the time announced that the First Platoon of the 138th Signal Radio Intelligence Company took honors for the parade, and “that the organization as a whole made an excellent appearance.”

Little did they know how easy this life would turn out to be when compared to the combat they would later face in the Pacific

   

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