Donald E. Mehl was born in 1923 in Omaha, Nebraska. Prior to World War II,
in addition to being a university student, he was active as an amateur radio
operator and radio broadcast technician, having held advanced Federal
Communications Commission amateur and commercial radio licenses. This led to
his joining the U. S. Army in September 1942. He was assigned to the Signal
Corps in June 1943. He served as a lieutenant with the 805th Signal Service
Company from 1944 to 1946, operating the secret conferencing systems for the
Army General Staff in the Pentagon and the headquarters of the Armed Forces
Western Pacific in Manila, Philippine Islands. Don also studied radio
engineering at the University of Omaha, electrical engineering at the
University of Minnesota and received a Bachelor of Science degree from
Don's connection with the U. S. Army began in September 1940 when he
enrolled at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. There two years of
basic ROTC were required of each male student. Creighton had an infantry
ROTC unit. After two years of basic students could volunteer if selected for
the final two years of advanced ROTC. In 1942 those students volunteering
for the advanced ROTC were required to enlist in the infantry reserve. After
his junior year and two semesters of advanced ROTC Mehl was ordered to
active duty in the Signal Corps at Camp Crowder Missouri, likely because he
was an amateur radio operator and had worked as a radio broadcast engineer
while attending university.
In March 1944 he went to Fort Monmouth, N. J. and completed the Signal Corps
OCS school. From Fort Monmouth he attended the high power radio transmitter
school at Press Wireless at Hickville, N. Y. Next he was assigned to the
805th Signal Service company at the Pentagon where he was part of the Army
Communications system providing world-wide communications for the General
Staff. Mehl left active duty in September 1946 and remained in the army
reserves until 1953. Following World War II, he worked as a radio broadcast
engineer and in electronic and telecommunication marketing. He retired in
1987 as a marketing director for the Telecommunications Division of Rockwell
International Corporation. He was the founder and first publisher of
Broadcast Engineering magazine and was a member of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
On December 7, 1941, I was an eighteen year old student at Creighton
University in Omaha, Nebraska. On the following Monday morning the ROTC
officer who taught our Army Infantry military class told us that the easy
times were over and it was time to get to work. As an eighteen year old I
don’t think that we knew how right that he was.
The following September in 1942 we were sworn in as privates in the Army
Infantry. We were not called to active duty immediately but were allowed to
finish the semester. However, school became like basic training in the
army. Physical training, running obstacle courses, climbing ropes
hand-over-hand about 30 feet, close order drill on the football field, rifle
practice and more ROTC classes became the order of the day. In addition we
still had our regular university courses. This went on until June 1943 when
we were ordered to active duty.
Because I had quite a bit of experience in radio I was sent to Camp Crowder,
Missouri in the Army Signal Corps.
After regular basic training I was sent to the University of Minnesota for
some electrical engineering courses and in March 1944 I went to Fort
Monmouth, New Jersey for four months of Officer Candidate School and a few
months of advanced radio school.
I was headed to the European Theater of Operations with my group when I was
diverted and ended up working for the Army General Staff in the
Pentagon. There I worked with Top Secret Cryptographic Communication systems
handling the communications of the General Staff and top government
officials with the overseas Army theater headquarters. It was interesting
duty because we were in on many strategy conferences between General
Eisenhower and General Marshall and others that determined the course of the
war. We also handled all of the communications for the 20th Air Force that
was engaged in bombing Japan.
After that tour I went to General MacArthur’s headquarters in Manila. This
is where the planning was taking place for the invasion of Japan that was
going to happen on November 1, 1945. The war ended on August 15, 1945 and
there was a change in our activities.
We had constructed a flotilla of seven ships for communications that was to
be used in the invasion of Japan. These had been used in the recapturing of
I stayed in Manila until July 1946 winding down the war effort and providing
communications between Manila and Washington D. C. concerning the
independence of the Philippines that took place on July 4, 1946.
After dismantling and packing all of the secret equipment, some 50 tons of
it, we couriered it back to the Army Security Agency in Arlington, Virginia,
and I was subsequently deactivated.
After about three and half years of active duty, I went back to school and
A few pictures from Candidate Mehl's time in service...