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September 2014

— This Month —

Iran and Our Nuclear Option

To Nuke or Not...


How Two Signal OCS Officers Kickstarted The Korean War
Combat Signal Support in Korea – The Early Days


What Rank Is Your Wife?

- - - - -


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.                       


Iran And Our Nuclear Option

To Nuke Or Not

The Shadow of God on Earth

Consider if you will the problem of deciding to use a nuclear bomb for the first time in the world’s history. How do you make that decision? Consider too, what will happen if President Obama’s entreaties towards Iran fail, and Iran gains a nuclear bomb of its own.

What will we do then? What will Israel do? What about Saudi Arabia? Is there a precedent for what will likely happen?

Leaving aside how the past several President’s have mishandled negotiations with Iran regarding ceasing their endless trek towards development of their own nuclear weapon… the world’s first Islamic Nuclear Bomb, if it comes to fruition… the question we are asking is what will we do once they have one—because by our reckoning, they soon will.

One way to answer this question is to look back in time at the U.S.’ decision to use the world’s first atomic bomb, and how that decision was made. Perhaps in looking at that situation… over four days in May, 1945… we can draw from it some inkling as to how America should go about making the decision this time: to nuke Iran to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon, or not.

One of the questions that has troubled historians was when, exactly, President Harry S. Truman decided to use the bomb. We know when the bomb was used (in August 1945) but how the decision to use the bomb was made and when that decision was made is less clear… even today.

What we do know is that the closest thing to a Presidential Directive that ordered the use of the bomb was a directive sent on July 25, 1945, from Acting Army Chief of Staff Thomas T. Handy. He sent the order to General Carl A. Spaatz, commander of the United States Army Strategy Air Forces (yes… “Strategy” Air Forces, not Strategic). Yet while the directive exists, his actions do not seem to be the trigger that released the bomb for use. The reason for this is that the wording was, well, loose and imprecise.

Secretary of War Henry L. StimsonAnother thing we know is that from Spaatz the order found its way to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. He in turn personally approved the bomb for use… but even then, based on the way in which Stimson worded his approval of its use, one cannot say for certain that his actions were the ones that sent the bomb on its way. Be that as it may be, most historians today credit Stimson with the decision to “use the bomb,” not Truman.

As we look today at the potential of a President discussing with his National Security Advisor use of a nuclear bomb to “take out” Iran’s nuclear production facilities, one wonders how a decision of this kind would be made. Could, say, a McNamara or Rumsfeld or Gates or Hagel cause a nuclear bomb to be used on Iran because the President was less than precise in wording a directive from his office? Is the President’s approval really necessary, or is all that is required is for the President to receive a signed decision statement from the Secretary of Defense, on which he would then place his initials? Do all Presidents really deliberate on decisions of this type… thinking long and hard and then making a decision on their own, sitting by themselves, in a quiet room empty of advisors and scapegoats to whom the blame can be attached if the decision turns out to hold bad political repercussions? Or do they merely rubber stamp decisions presumably well thought out by the Secretaries of the various agencies that run this country? What would this President do? Phone his decision in from a golf course or fund raising event?

To see how easy it is to have critical decisions like this made by underlings—powerful underlings, of course, but underlings nevertheless—all one need do is read the directive Stimson issued. Read it closely and what one sees is that the order “authorized the delivery” of the “first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945. . .”   

Precise, or imprecise? You be the judge. Either way, those who read it thought it precise and clear enough to fuel up Enola Gay and send her on her way.





How Two Signal OCS Officers Kickstarted The Korean War

Signal Corps - Korean War

Combat Signal Support in Korea
- The Early Days -

For Korea, 1950 was a year of brutal invasion and savage fighting, with catastrophic consequences on the lives of those who lived in that country. Before daylight on Sunday, June 25, 1950, the North Korea People's Army attacked south across the 38th parallel.

Stars and Stripes - Korean WarKim Il Sung, the North Korean Premier, had an army 135,000 strong, far larger than that of South Korea. More important however, what Kim Il Sung had on hand when he began his escapade were eight mostly battle-hardened divisions with a large reserve force, spear-headed by 120 Soviet T34 medium tanks, supported by extensive mobile artillery, and an air force of 180 Soviet fighters and bombers.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Army had only 95,000 men and four combat-ready but lightly-armed infantry divisions, supported by a total of eighty-nine 105-mm howitzers. The ROKs had no tanks.

As we all know today, the North Koreans quickly crushed South Korean defenses and butchered a path down the peninsula until they were eventually stopped by United Nations forces under General Douglas MacArthur, at the Pusan Perimeter.

North Korean Advance

Reinforced by the powerful and resolute 5th Marine Brigade, America’s embattled forces held at the Perimeter until MacArthur had built up an Air-Ground-Naval force able to land on the beaches of Inchon, far to the northeast and behind North Korean lines, and hit North Korea's supply routes as well as break its column of advancement. This was arguably the most astonishing amphibious assault of the twentieth century. The enemy was routed, Seoul was recaptured, and the pre-war borders were—seemingly at least—re-taken.

But that wasn’t the end of the battle.

At this point High Command made a fatal miscalculation. Up until the North’s invasion the 38th parallel had formed an official yet artificial line of separation between the two Koreas. And because of this… because it had once been the line of demarcation between the two countries… High Command set about trying to rebuild a defensive line along it.

A better DMZ for KoreaWhat they should have done instead was build a much more defensible, robust boundary between the two Koreas—further north, perhaps at the 39th parallel. If they had done this they would have given the South both a more secure place from which to hold off any future incursions from the North, provide more room around Seoul so that the line of demarcation itself wasn’t sitting so close to the South’s capital, and teach the North a lesson for having invaded the South in the first place.

But they didn’t. Given that the North had demonstrated an intent to destroy the South, one can only wonder why our side never thought of moving the line of demarcation further to the North, into a more unassailable location that would provide improved early warning if the North tried to invade again.

To a great extent MacArthur was to blame for this, because rather than focusing on setting up a new line of defense, what he did was take the war to the North. He did this by launching a full scale invasion of the North, with America’s Eighth Army doing the dirty work, supported by the ROKs. Not surprisingly, with MacArthur in charge the campaign was a success, with some elements of the ROK and a few units of the X Corps even reaching the Yalu River.

But that still wasn’t enough for MacArthur. Being the peacock that he was, he naturally thought that anything he touched would turn to gold. And so he presumed that his successful offensive to date would simply continue until the North Koreans sued for peace. What he had drastically underestimated in this grand thinking however was that China was housing serious concerns over the possibility of America winning the war in such a manner that we ended up sitting on their—China’s—doorstep… at the Yalu river. To alleviate this possibility, in November, 1950, China sent her veteran guerilla armies into the war… in force we might add.   

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT


Time in grade...


Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 1 September 2014. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 1 September 2014 Regular readers of our website know that we often provide "linkable" reference documents as background material in support of some of our articles. Beginning this month you can gain access to an archive of these documents by clicking on the "Document Library" link in the menu list in the upper left margin. You'll be surprised, some of these documents are more interesting than our original article!  Check them out! New documents will be added as we publish more stories. Enjoy!

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.




Continued from left column... 

The strange thing about China’s entry into the Korean War was that hardly anyone saw it coming. Certainly not MacArthur. For one thing, China’s army, having just survived its own famous Long March to escape Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s attempt to obliterate them in their fight to take over China, was well versed in making long marches under difficult combat conditions… undetected mind you. For another, Mao Zedong was determined to take on America and either drive the U.S. back to the 38th parallel, or lure American troops deep into China where Stalin could, at Mao’s urging, incinerate the U.S. military on the plains of the Loess Plateau in northern China.

How was this to come about, you ask? With a USSR launched atomic bomb being dropped on what was presumed by Mao and Stalin to be U.S. troops chasing, into the hinterlands of northern China, what we would have been tricked into thinking was China's retreating army. Imagine that.[1] 

CCF enroute to Korean WarThere was only one thing standing in the way of this happening: China had to first get into the war, and that meant it had to move its troops from its own territory into that of North Korea—and it did this with style. What Mao did was send an army of three Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) divisions on foot from An-tung, in Manchuria, on the north side of the Yalu River, to North Korea.

The distance they had to march was some 286 miles. Their goal was a pre-designated assembly area in North Korea, which, incredibly, sat in the middle of an existing combat zone that the U.S. occupied. Even more incredible, Mao’s CCF made the march and reached their targeted zone on time, with their early contingent arriving after only 16 days, and the full complement of men arriving over the next 3 days. Most strange of all, they did this fully undetected.

The Chinese were nothing if not hard driving, especially considering that most of the troops made the march in the equivalent of light canvas sneakers. Chinese text books tell today how one Division of this army marched at night along a circuitous route involving barely existent mountain roads, yet still averaged 18 miles a day for 18 days straight. One can trace the route this unit took by looking today at hand drawn maps of the time, stored in Tú Shū Guăn (Beijing’s massive Central Library). They show that most of the roads were impassable to vehicles.

For this Division, the day's march began at 1900 hours (by which time it was dark) and continued until 0300 the next morning. At that time the men stopped to eat and bivouac before the sun came up. During this period they were ordered to stay under camouflage until it got dark again that night, and they could set off once more for North Korea.

Chinese Communist Forces - 334th RegimentA read of the official orders issued to the unit by Central Command shows that the commander was to have his defense measures against aircraft in place and ready by 0530 hours, and further that he was responsible for assuring that “every man, animal, and piece of equipment” was to be concealed and camouflaged during the daylight hours. The only movement that was to take place during the day was that of one small scouting party, whose job it was to search ahead and select the next day's bivouac area. If, for some reason, the unit had to move during the day, standing orders were that if aircraft appeared overhead every man was to stop dead in his tracks and remain motionless. He was not to dive for cover, drop to the ground, or do anything other than stop and stand motionless. Officers were given orders to immediately shoot any man who violated this order.

With this kind of discipline and determination one can understand why then U.S. and U. N. aerial observers failed to discovered the CCF’s deployment to Korea… until they were already there, their bugles sounding, and hordes of them rushing towards U.S. defensive positions. The simple fact was, as good as the U.S. Air Force was, during October and November the Chinese Communist Forces were able to move some 300,000 men into position without their being discovered prior to actual combat being launched... by them, against us

Modern CCF communication systemWhile a big part of the reason that CCF forces were not discovered had to do with a failure on the part of the Air Force to spot them, some of the blame (… or credit) lies with the fact that the Chinese used a form of communication that was hard to detect. That is, normally an enemy’s troop movements can be detected both visually as well as via signals intercept and signals intelligence. Not so with the CCF. With the CCF communication was conducted visually and audibly… with flags and bugles. Without radio transmissions then, it was nearly impossible to tell that the Chinese were even communicating, never mind what they were saying.

Although better, the communication system the U.S. had at its disposal at the beginning of the Korean War did little more than what the Chinese bugles and flags were able to do. Part of the reason for this is that the U.S. communication system that was set up was based on technology that came out of World War II. And while certainly better than that which the North Koreans and Chinese had, it still wasn’t up to the level of the civilian communication systems available in the U. S. at that time.. nor was it up to the needs of the Korean War.

Essentially, the communication infrastructure used to support the Korean War, coming on the heels of WWII, was built along the same lines as that used in Europe during WWII. And while this was adequate in WWII the kind of signals architecture laid out in during that period proved challenged by the unique terrain that Korea threw at war fighting, the ad hoc military structure that the U.S. and U.N. assembled to fight the Korea War battles, and the rapid forward, backward and sideways movements the front lines kept taking.

 Read more... 



What Rank Is Your Wife?

I remember walking the perimeter of my Signal site in Vietnam, thinking of my newlywed wife back home, wondering how she was doing. While I was away she stayed with her aunt, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Being just outside the gate of Westover Air Force Base, it was relatively easy for me to patch a call through from my AN/TRC-24 microwave equipment atop my mountain lair outside of Dalat to the switchboard at Westover. From there I was usually able to con one of the switchboard operators into patching me into an outside line, and ringing up my wife’s aunt’s home phone, so we could talk.

It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it brought me great relief to know she was o.k. and hear her voice again. The calls were painfully short, as the operator stayed on the line to monitor the patch, and after allowing no more than a few minutes for us to say our hellos and make sure we were both o.k., she would pull the plug. Now, all these years later, thinking back on those phone calls, they seemed to have served a good purpose.

For one, they reinvigorated me and helped me though the war. Yet as much as they did for us by holding us together for that year, tragically, they didn’t do enough. Our marriage didn’t last long and we eventually separated.

The truth was that Vietnam was the problem. During my year over there I grew up and so did she. By the time I came back I had  changed dramatically and she had too. More to the point, unbeknownst to me, through all of the years we had dated before we got married, she had been holding her natural strength and independence back, holding it inside, acting like the dutiful wife that all women were supposed to be back then. Vietnam released that from her. By the time I came back, having lived and survived for herself for the year I was away, as I had, she was now no longer in need of a man’s arm to hold onto, a man’s hand to open the car door for her, or a man’s paycheck to feed her. Her strength and independence had come forth and blossomed—she had lived and taken care of herself without any help from anyone—and there was no putting that fact back into the bag.

Army WifeIt’s that independence that comes to my mind now, as I remember how in the early days of my being a raw Second Lieutenant at Fort Hood she struggled to figure out what role she had and needed to play as an Officer’s wife in the U.S. Army. What I remember most is the difficulty she had in figuring out the pecking order of the other Officer wives in our unit. Clearly, she knew that my career depended on my C.O. being happy with me, and so even though his wife was younger, less well educated, flighty, a bit of a drunkard, and less poised than mine, my wife deferred to her in just about every way. She also went out of her way to become friends with her, with the result that by the time I received my orders to ship out to Vietnam they were best of friends… or so that’s the way it looked to most everyone. To me, I recognized my wife’s actions for what they were: back scratching… but I didn’t complain, because she was helping me gain the recognition I needed in my Company… and considering how wet the space was behind my ears, I needed all the help I could get.

With my C.O.’s wife she was fine, but with the wives of other military men she seemed less secure. During a New Year Battalion dinner, when all of the other wives were kissing up to the Colonel’s wife, mine held back. It didn’t hurt me that I can recall, but even so it was clear to me that she was trying to figure out what role to play with the Battalion Commander’s wife, the wife of the Captains in the unit, First Lieutenants, Sergeants and even those Second Lieutenants that technically outranked me because they received their commission before I did.

The poor woman. How difficult it must have been to be married to a fresh out of Signal OCS Second Lieutenant back then.

Why was it difficult for her, you ask?

Because in her case—as I know now—her natural character traits of strength, intensity of purpose, independence and leadership had to be stifled and made subservient to the career needs of her newly commissioned husband. While I was at work struggling daily to figure out what leadership was, she was sitting at home stifling a natural ability to lead anyone anywhere. It’s almost as if she should have had the rank, and I should have been the lowly spouse sitting at home.

It was with great pleasure then that I recently read that the Department of Defense is considering implementing a new policy to help wives figure out what their true place is in the military. Apparently, what is under consideration is a new system whereby spouses of military members will be assigned a rank.

While this move comes 45 years too late to help my ex-wife, it will be a Godsend for the spouses of U.S. military members worldwide. 



e f

Military tradition

September Crossword Puzzle

Army Signal CorpsTheme: European WWII 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] Contemporary Chinese history books today tell stories of how Chairman Mao approached Joseph Stalin and asked for three things: A) Air support for both the Chinese Communist Forces and the North Koreans that were fighting the U.S. military in Korea. B) Entry into the Korean War of Soviet troops, who would fight alongside of Mao’s CCF. C) A nuclear attack on U.S. troops, if Mao could lure them into crossing the Yalu and pursuing his own CCF troops deep into Chinese territory. The premise he put to Stalin was that Mao was willing to sacrifice his own forces if in the process he could incinerate the American Army. To do this, all he had to do was tease MacArthur into chasing after his retreating army. Under Mao's own orders he would cause his own CCF to "flee" northeast into the Chinese hinterlands until they were close to the Russian border, at which time Stalin could then claim that he had to act in order to stop the U.S. from invading Russia. Stalin granted Mao’s wish for item A, but politely declined to get involved in the other two. - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text


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