Home Page


WWII Era ('40s)
Korean Era ('50s)
Vietnam Era ('60s)
General Officers


OCS Association
OCS Notices
OCS Newsletter
Army News
Class Coordinators
Reunion Info
Other Links


Chief Locator
Web Submissions


Veterans' Salutes
Freedom Park
Brief Histories
Scrap Book
Chat Rooms
Charity Efforts



Service: Story of the Signal Corps

A Story To Tell Your Grandkids:
The U.S. Army Signal Corps

-  Edited & Condensed From The Original  -

Originally published as part of a series called G.I. Stories, by Stars & Stripes, in Paris, in 1944-1945, the booklet below was one of several that helped personnel understand the purpose and function of the various ground, air, and service forces in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).

The publication was backed by the Orientation Branch, Information and Education Services, Hq TSFET, and was overseen by Major General Francis H. Lanahan. At the time, Lanahan commanded the Signal Corps as its Chief Signal Officer. The stories in the booklet were sourced and supplied by Lanahan's staff.

We became aware of the booklet though MAJ (R) Richard Green, who dropped us a note this past month, pointing us to a website where some of the content of the original G.I. Stories was reproduced. Fortunately for us, the part that was reproduced was the part about the Signal Corps.

After reading it, we contacted the website and requested their permission to condense and reprint what they had posted on their site. To date we have not heard back from them, and, being the leaders that we are, especially because of the applicability of the subject matter to our own website’s goal, we made a command decision and decided to press on and reproduce it regardless.

Reproduced below then is a condensed version of the story as found on the Lone Sentry website. If you find what follows interesting, when you finish reading it click on the Lone Sentry icon at the end. That will take you to the website itself, where you can read the Service: Story of the Signal Corps reprint in its entirety.

Our thanks to both Major Green and the Lone Sentry website for this chance to retell here a bit of our own history.

[Editor's Note: What follows is a condensed version of the original. It has been edited and shortened to make it more readable and fit the space available. To read the entire story, please follow the instructions aboveit's well worth the read.]

U.S. Army Signal Corps - OCS Service: Story of the Signal Corps  U.S. Army Signal Corps - OCS

Story of the U.S. Army Signal Corps - WWIIFor more than 80 years, U.S. Army Signal Corps personnel have dedicated their lives and abilities to the famous and indomitable motto: "Get the message through." Destinies of millions of American soldiers depended upon the skill of Signalmen to live up to this proud pledge. Many Signalmen made the supreme sacrifice to assure its utter dependability.

From the days of smoke and wig-wag signals, through years of pioneering, research and constant development, the Signal Corps advanced with science to perfect the ultra-modern organization which today employs telephone, telegraph, radio and radar to direct and guide the operations of America's military forces.

The story of the Signal Corps' activity in the European Theater started long before actual U.S. entry into the war. In addition to the military attaché in England, a Signal Officer was assigned to the Special Army Observer's staff in May, 1941. During this same period, some 500 Signal Corps officers were in the U.K. receiving training from the British in electronics.

The U.S. declaration of war resulted in even closer British-American cooperation. On Jan. 3, 1942, U.S. Army headquarters was established as United States Army Forces in the British Isles, commonly called USAFBI. By mid-year, 1942, the U.S. started its buildup of troop strength in the U.K. for the coming invasion of Africa and ultimately, Europe. From a few local switchboards and motor messengers, Signal communications expanded into a large and complex network of telephone, teletype, radio and messenger services. Telephone switchboards were installed in Ports, Base Sections, SOS Headquarters at Cheltenham and at ETO Headquarters in London. The main London switchboard consisted of 108 operating positions serving approximately 3,300 subscribers.

Shortly before D-Day, teleprinter traffic on the SOS network reached a peak of 8,000,000 words per week and overseas traffic reached a high of 2,000,000 groups per week. Radio facilities were readied for the invasion and VHF stations were installed to provide communication facilities across the Channel. Overall, approximately 520,000 tons of Signal equipment and supplies were sent from the U.S. to the European Theater.

The history of the Signal Corps in the ETO is a record of constant work around the clock, 7 days a week. Wherever battles raged, wherever armored and infantry forces advanced, the Signal Corps installed essential lines of communication. Signalmen dug holes, planted poles. They climbed poles, placed wire, repaired breaks. They operated so close to the front that Signal Corpsmen often were atop poles stringing wire as infantrymen plodded through the hedgerows.

A few examples:

– Working in mine fields, under constant enemy mortar fire and occasional strafing, wire teams of the 32nd Signal Construction Bn. placed 14 miles of Spiral-4 cable between 5th Engr. Special Brigade Hq. and a British unit on the left. This was accomplished in 48 hours although work was delayed because of mine fields and booby traps.

– The 35th Signal Construction Bn. supplied most of the wire communications for First Army across France, Belgium and into Germany. From D-Day to the end of June, 1945, First Army used more than 5,000 miles of a single type of field wire.

– The 211th Signal Depot Co. was typical of the supply and repair outfits that landed with assault troops. Men who first set up shop on the beaches were overwhelmed with the quantity and complexity of supplying and repairing Signal Corps equipment. More than 100 tons of equipment was First Army's daily requirement. The superior services of this outfit earned its members the Meritorious Unit Plaque.

– Signal supplies arrived on the Continent at the rate of 6,000 tons weekly, and were composed of approximately 31,000 separate items.

While the work of installing new stations for radio and telephone was in progress, Signal Corps Motor Messenger Cos. filled the breach. Messengers traveled day and night through areas covered by exploding mines. Casualties were suffered, vehicles knocked out. It sometimes was necessary to destroy documents to prevent their falling into enemy hands.Signal Corps Motorcycle Motormen

Red BallWith the opening of the Red Ball highway, trucks loaded with Signal supplies and equipment rolled forward in a steady stream to the front. Not only did the Signal Corps make full use of the highway, but Signalmen played a large part in the operational success of the route. The communications system set up by the Signal Corps in August, 1944, enabled the Motor Transport Bn. to control the flow of traffic. Directing convoys to destinations were accomplished by a six-station radio net using SCR-399 radio sets, which were mounted in 2 1/2 ton trucks. The 990th Signal Service Co. installed and operated the system until relieved by elements of the 3159th Signal Service Bn.

Signalmen Jump Off With Assault Troops

As Third Army joined First Army in the drive across France, the speed of the advance became so great that wire communications proved inadequate. To meet this problem, a system of VHF radio relay equipment was installed. 

With this equipment, each station had to be beamed or sighted like a rifle on the next station. Communication was only possible when there were no terrain features obstructing the line of sight. To test the concept, an area in Maine was chosen where water paths and elevation factors were nearly identical with those of Normandy. The final radio relay link system was developed to the point where it provided four tele-printer circuits in addition to three radio telephone circuits.

The march across France was a nightmare to the hard-pressed technicians in the 143rd Armd. Sig. Co., attached to the 3rd Armored Division. By the time the Argentan-Falaise gap was closed, they had laid more than 1,200 miles of wire lines. In the sweep across France, these Signalmen handled an average of 1,000 radio and messenger messages daily. Mileage rolled up by the Signal crews was eight to 10 times that covered by the division in attack.

To save time, wires were strung along hedges and through fences. In more open country lines were built of a type known as "rapid pole line constructions," using small poles made of 2 x 4 timber which didn't require digging large holes for placement. Temporary lines were strung on lance poles, even tent poles.

When the 80th Infantry Division established the Moselle River bridgehead against some of the stiffest opposition encountered in the entire battle of France, Signalmen used assault boats to reel wire across the flooded river. Clamping wires to the piers of a blasted bridge, Signalmen tied cables to the initial strands installed above the raging waters by engineers. This work was accomplished under constant artillery fire by the enemy who tried desperately to knock out the bridge.

American and French forces landed in Southern France—in what was called "Operation Dragoon"—Aug. 15, 1944. Once more, Signalmen were among the first to go ashore. These initial elements included the 1st Sig. Bn., which had supplied communications while the invasion force was afloat, and the 71st, 72nd and 74th Sig. Cos., which handled the initial communications ashore. Other elements were the 207th Sig. Depot Co., 177th Sig. Repair Co. and three additional Signal repair teams accompanying the three assault divisions.

Signalmen participated in the assault waves, simultaneously setting up equipment under heavy fire. As US forces pushed north, increasing use was made of French (telephone) lines, which were tied into Signal Corps circuits. Much of the rehabilitation of the French telephone systems was accomplished by American Signalmen who showed unusual aptitude and ingenuity in rebuilding lines and switchboards destroyed by bombs, land warfare, and German demolition.

Probably the first Signalman to enter Paris was Sgt. Earl J. Spoon, Lamont, Okla. Driving a jeep carrying a powerful two-way radio (SCR-193), Sgt. Spoon accompanied Col. Otto M. Low, First Army Intelligence Officer. Their job was to report progress of operations to First Army headquarters. Despite constant sniper fire, Spoon transmitted the required information from the high ground adjoining the St. Lazaire railway station, within 30 minutes of his entry into the capital.

By the end of 1944, the American wire system comprised approximately 3,500 long distance underground cable circuits, rehabilitated from the French. These totaled 125,000 circuit miles or 250,000 wire miles. The Signal Corps also installed 1,200 miles of new pole lines constituting 20,000 miles of open wire.

By V-E Day, 1,916,187 wire miles of French cable and 30,968 wire miles of French open wire pole lines had been rehabilitated. The Signal Corps had constructed 2,995 miles of open wire pole lines, constituting 52,778 miles of wire.

In addition, 12,968 miles of pole lines were rehabilitated for use of the Military Railway Service for operational control of rail movements. This constituted 51,871 wire miles. Three pole line systems were constructed for the Military Pipe Line Service, comprising 3,997 miles of construction and 4,652 miles of wire.

- - - - -

Editor's Note A Reminder: The above is a condensed version of the full story as originally published in 1945. The original story is several pages longer, and well worth the read. To read the full story, click on the Lone Sentry icon at right, below. The Lone Sentry website is where we originally found this story, and we wish to give full credit to the folks there for letting us share this condensed version with you. While you are at it, enjoy the many other interesting military articles they have.Lone Sentry


This page originally posted 1 September 2011 

Top of Page


Original Site Design and Construction By John Hart, Class 07-66. Ongoing site design and maintenance by WebSpecks Incorporated, courtesy Class 09-67.
Content and design Copyright 1998 - 2011, by WebSpecks, Incorporated.