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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.                         

To Signal Is To Be Alive

But what does it mean: to signal?

And how do you build an organization to do it?

Maj. General Orlando Ward, the Chief of Military History in the 1950s, once said that “the more mobile an armed force becomes, the more rugged the terrain it encounters, or the more widely the force is deployed, the greater becomes the difficulty of securing and maintaining rapid, completely linked communications.” Securing and maintaining rapid, completely linked communications, that’s the problem. It’s the problem the Signal Corps faces today, and it’s the problem the Signal Corps has always faced since its inception.

Yet while today the advance of technology has helped the Signal Corps keep pace with the needs of the troops in the field, at the beginning of World War II this problem of securing and maintaining rapid communications was more acute than it had ever been. The reason is that back at the beginning of WWII U.S. combat forces were gaining mobility faster than the Signal Corps was in terms of its ability to rapidly deploy the communication systems needed. In WWII everything from motorcycles to airplanes were hitting the field, while communication technology was still operating at a level little changed since the days of WWI. For the Signal Corps, then as now, the challenge was to resolve the dilemma that is created when combat units can get to the field faster than the Signal Corps can get its field communication systems up and running.

WIN-T CommunicationsToday WIN-T, because of the technology and architecture it borrows from the civilian mobile (cellular) telephone network  concept, is able to nearly match the speed of deployment of communication capabilities with that of the troops (click picture above to see how the Army is still struggling to accomplish this seemingly simple goal). But back at the beginning of WWII cellular communication didn’t exist, and so on a practical basis matching the speed of troop deployment to that of communication was impossible to do. The result: the only thing left was for the Signal boys to ride shotgun with the grunts as they stepped out on their missions and engaged the enemy, doing their best to provide some form of communication along the way, then getting the bulk of it up and running once everyone arrived and hit the ground. As a matter of fact, that’s why portable radios were developed… to help fill the communication void that existed as the troops were being deployed, not just as they were engaging the enemy.

VHF Shotgun MountBack in the mid 60s when this author was stationed at Ft. Hood with Old Ironsides, just prior to being posted to Vietnam, cellular phones were still a long way into the future. Back then to accomplish the WIN-T capabilities seen today we developed our own solutions. Practical as our solutions were, they flew in the face of SOP and caused no end of difficulty for this blossoming butter bar, as I struggled with the learning lessons of my first command. To solve the problem of getting our communications up and running as fast as we could once everyone arrived at the battle site, in my platoon I gave orders to tie a spare fly swatter antenna, fully assembled but not fully raised, to the side of each of our M109 deuce-and-a-halfs. By doing this I was able to reduce our actual deployment time to near instantaneous once the truck stopped rolling. All each crew needed to get the links up was jump out, pivot the antenna so that it was vertical, aim the antenna, power up the gear and start communicating. If it turned out we needed to raise the height of our antenna a bit more, so what… we were already half way there.

We called it a shotgun mount, and I’ll bet you can guess why we called it that? Because as far as my platoon was concerned we were riding shotgun for the Abrams units we provided communication for. While I got my tail chewed many times by my C.O. for my non-standard approach to antenna deployment, he never directly ordered me to stop using our home made shotgun mount approach and I never did. The result: we were always the first to have our communication links up and running, long before the other guys had even unpacked their antennas.

M1 Abrams

Ingenuity, it’s something a rock farming Yankee takes pride in.

Back in those days the ability to beat my fellow Officers in getting my lines up and running was like a drug to me. A fresh out of Army Signal OCS Lieutenant, being first to get my signal out gave me a high for the rest of the training exercise. What I learned then was that to be able to communicate—to signal—was to be alive. And I still feel that way today.   

What Does It Mean To Signal?

Going back to WWII though, things were different then. This was especially true at the start of the war.

As it has always been since the first field of battle was taken at Meggido in 1500 BCE, every margin of efficiency able to be gained in battle is a vital prize armies contest for. And so it was in WWII, and always is with communication.

When it comes to military communication, the need for speed, efficiency and efficacy in getting it in place and operating is one of the most valuable prizes to be gained, as not only must the message get through but it must get through in all of its forms: from the spoken word to the ability for those words to be heard, written, and read.

What this means is that the communication methods employed must enable the messages transmitted to be received without interference from others, be communicated over long distances, arrive both when expected and when needed, be so precisely transmitted that they leave no room for doubt as to what they mean, as well as allow for messages to be deliberately garbled and obscured, when desired, so that interception will be without value for the enemy. And while it has always been this way, during WWII when the mobility of troop deployment was pushing its envelope in terms of speed, the form of communication the Signal Corps was able to provide proved less than ideal for these very factors. Ideally what the Signal Corps was striving for back then was swift, strong, adaptable, simple, and secure communication… based on a standard that could be replicated in each theater of war. In the early days of the war though, that wasn’t to be had.

Read more about the Signal Corps in WWII


Rebalancing Our Strategic Imperatives: Vietnam

Turn up volume and click icon above to play.

This is the fifth in our series of articles on the changes the U.S. Army should make in order to throw its support behind the State Department's new Pivot Strategy. In each article we try to understand the lay of the land of the countries the U.S. military will need to embrace more closely if it is to achieve the strategic military imperatives that the Pivot Strategy creates. Enjoy each one, and let us know what your views are.

–  Vietnam  –

In case you missed it, the Vietnam War is over.

From what we hear, it turned out to be a draw of sorts. Some people say we lost it, others we won it, still others say that what our military won our politicians tossed away either to burnish their place in history (Kissinger and McNamara) or for their own political gain (Nixon). All in all, if you ask me, considering that America goes to war at the behest of the Executive and Congressional branches, you can blame the result of any war where the military’s efforts are successful but the end is still less than satisfactory on a complete lack of understanding in those two branches of government as to how to achieve a successful outcome in a kinetic war.

Just in case the lessons from Vietnam still have not come home to roost, let us tell you here: in today’s world to have a successful outcome from a military engagement between two nations you need more than just military success on the ground. You also need to change the means, methods and principals that determine how the enemy government runs the target country after it has been defeated militarily, as well as the mindset of the people of that nation in terms of the role they see themselves playing in the world writ large.

As to how long such an effort takes, unfortunately this is where the real problem lies, because while it can take anywhere from one day to ten years to achieve the military goals desired, changing how a nation governs itself and what role its people see themselves being stewards of among the nations of the earth when the fighting dies down takes between one-and-a-half and two generations.

For a nation like America, accustomed to taking a pill to instantly stop any discomfort it feels, the idea of staying engaged with a country like Vietnam (or Iraq or Afghanistan for that matter) for a couple of generations is simply not in the making. Or put another way: bomb a country into the dark ages, yes, we can do that; but help it come back to the world from those dark ages, no thanks. We the people, with our politicians leading the charge, don’t have the patience for such a lengthy undertaking.

Which makes the outcome of the Vietnam War all the better for Vietnam. That is, since it was never in the offing that the U.S. would have stayed around for a generation to help the government of South Vietnam acquire the necessary means, methods and principals to become a modern country playing a constructive role in the world, or work to educate the people of North and South Vietnam on their role as a people in governing their own nations, it’s probably for the better that we walked away when we did, leaving the North Vietnamese to their own devices to figure these things out for themselves.

And that’s where Vietnam is today. It’s nearing the end of its own first generation of effort to establish itself as a successful country, able to meet the needs of its people as well as play a constructive role in the world.

So how have they done?

Surprisingly, the answer is: not bad. After a few fits and starts they seem to have finally figured out how to build a modern nation, albeit with communist characteristics.

Before delving into our objective in this article of understanding what the military imperative are that the U.S. Army must work towards in order to support the objectives of the Pivot Strategy, it would be useful to reflect on what has happened inside of Vietnam since we left it in 1975.

    From Chieu Hoi to Doi Moi

Chieu Hoi - Vietnam WarWhile it’s clear that Vietnam is today emerging as a key player in Southeast Asia, the question is why? One of the reasons is that it sits strategically in the heart of the Asia–Pacific region, a region that continues to play a major role as regards how peaceful the rest of the world is. With a population of 88 million today, and a growing economy showing an annual growth rate of 7% for the past 10 years, neither the country of Vietnam nor its economic strength can be ignored. But how, considering the state it was in at the end of the war, did Vietnam get to where it now has enough economic clout to warrant the world’s attention? What magic did the country use to drag itself from the sorry state it found itself in during the 70s to a vibrant and increasingly important member of the world community?

Doi Moi - VietnamPart of the answer lies in the success of its ‘Doi Moi’ (‘renovation’) program. Instituted in the late 1980s, Doi Moi was a set of policies that outlined how the government would go about pursuing a practical approach to foreign policy, one aimed at diversifying the number and ways by which it approached the world at large, building new multilateral relations with a number of western and democratic countries along the way. Whether it learned this lesson from watching the results of China’s opening to the west, or came up with this approach on its own, the result has been both a broader and deeper international economic integration with the world for Vietnam, as well as the gaining for itself of a greater political role in how the region it lives in operates. Simply put, Doi Moi brought this once pariah state out of the dark and into the sunshine, giving it a chance to engage with countries that could do it good for both the purpose of increasing the quality of life of its people as well as contributing to building a peaceful, stable and prosperous regional order.

With a new attitude on life, a growing and stable economy, close relations with China, and considering its physical location in Southeast Asia, whether we like it or not Vietnam will soon be playing a significant role in the future regional security architecture that evolves in this region, especially with respect to China’s muscle flexing and the contestation of the disputed islands of East and Southeast Asia. Against this backdrop an understanding of Vietnam’s strategic thinking and policymaking is critical to helping the U.S. military develop a set of strategic imperatives and tactical programs able to achieve America’s goals… goals focused on maintaining regional peace and security in the Pacific.     maintaining regional peace and security in the Pacific.    

Continued at top of page, column at right

  This page last updated 1 November 2012. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

New pictures!Posted 1 November 2012 – Those of you who haven't read our Chaplain's writings in a while should take a moment to do so this month. It won't take you more than 1 minute to read the entire page. It's good stuff. Good pause for thought. Best of all, following his advice will make you a better person. Click here to get to our Devotional Page. Gerald Katz - Class 44-1940



Vietnam Campaign Ribbons


Continued from left column... 

To be clear our military, especially the Navy, has worked hard to develop closer ties to the Vietnamese military over the past 15 years, as has our State Department with the Vietnamese government. Yet while these efforts are to be lauded, in our view they fall far short of leveraging to our benefit the lessons the Vietnamese learned from their own failures over the past 40 years. That is, if one looks at what Vietnam wants today in light of how it failed to attain these goals through their own misguided efforts of the past, one can find a way to work with Vietnam today that reflects and leverages the new policy goals Vietnam has, as well as utilizes a set of new practical and pragmatic tools that Vietnam is making available to those members of the world community that want to engage with it. In this regard the U.S. military, and the Army in particular, can help.

New Policies Call For New Rationales and New Policy Methods

Everyone knows that following the reunification of Vietnam in 1975 the Vietnamese Communist Party ("VCP," also, interchangeably, "CVP" - see paragraphs below) excitedly rolled out a series of efforts to transform the country along the socialist path that underwrote its war effort. Unfortunately, while the dogma that it tried to follow sounded good as rhetoric in support of a war effort, serving well to recruit fighters to stand up against America, the ideas they espoused failed to show any value in terms of running and managing a country in today’s modern world.

Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam Poster

With dramatic consequences these socialist policies caused people’s living standard to actually deteriorate after the war, in noticeable and occasionally spectacular ways. Stubbornly standing behind its socialist path doctrinaire, the VCP only made things worse when it undertook (after America went home) two wholly unneeded new wars: one against China in 1979 and another against the Khmer Rouge, this latter one lasting from 1979 to 1989. A key result of this political mismanagement was that the people began to doubt the legitimacy of the VCP itself. Throughout the mid-1980s the Vietnamese people’s belief in their government fell sharply, at such a rate that the legitimacy of the socialist approach to government itself was beginning to be called into question by the Vietnamese people.

As any student of socialist/communist government orthodoxy knows, the primary purpose of a socialist/communist government is to keep itself in power. That is, the people exist to serve the needs of the central government, which in turn exists to serve the needs of the people. Thus, as long as the people of a country continue to keep the central socialist-cum-communist government party members in power, the members of this group will continue to use the assets at their disposal to serve the people. But woe be told any population that turns against its socialist/communist inspired government. That government will then turn with vengeance on its people, using all the assets it has to obliterate any dissenters, as it strives to maintain itself in power.

Replica of Goddess of Democracy - Tian An MenWant an example of how this works in the real world? Think back on the Communist Party of China and its actions in re. the Tiananmen Square Massacre (承天残杀).

This author was in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and can tell you without equivocation what a communist inspired government will do to stay in power. Crushing a few thousand students under the tank treads of its Army, in full view of the world, is nothing compared to what they were prepared to do if the local people of Beijing rose up in revolt.

In Vietnam’s case this same determination came to the fore as it crafted its policies from 1975 through the late 1980s. With little compunction for consequence or world opinion it tried everything from centralized asset allocation to reeducation and resettlement to kick start its economy. Unfortunately, nothing worked… the economy did not As year after year passed, it began to become clear to the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) (Vietnamese: Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam; the 160 member group that runs the country) that communist inspired central planning was proving to be a failure. More to the point, by the late 1980s they could see that this approach to governing and managing a country had failed many other countries too, like the USSR, China, Cuba, the former Eastern Bloc countries, Cambodia, Laos, East Germany, and Yugoslavia to name a few. In fact, what the CPV saw was that there were some 29 other countries that had tried socialism and/or communism as a practical form of both government and economic management, and they had all given up on it… eventually turning to either straight capitalism or some modified version of it in order to move forward.

Eastern Bloc Countries - A Failed Experiment 

The fact of the matter was that while in some areas central planning worked, in most areas it proved to be a drag on economic growth. More specifically, what was seen was that in Vietnam’s case what it failed at was a) creating the economic means to address the reconstruction needs of the country post the Vietnam, China and Cambodia wars, b) creating the infrastructure of people, capital, and market dynamics needed for Vietnam to produce goods that the world wanted to buy, and c) addressing the aspirations of its people to live a better life. ) addressing the aspirations of itsThis failure of socialism/communism as a form of government drove Vietnam’s leaders to try to find a way to modify the socialist inspired policies it was implementing, soon enough to avoid a revolution from within. Their solution was the Doi Moi program, a set of new policies officially put in place at the country’s sixth national congress, in late 1986.

What Doi Moi did was rewrite socialism so that in all practical aspects it worked, looked and smelled like a market economy, but was spoken of with words that were normally reserved for socialism. Under Doi Moi an effort was undertaken to develop a series of multisector market‑based economies, an effort to reorganize the underlying economic structure of the country so that it more closely approached that of free enterprise, use of a series of investment schemes designed to stabilize critical areas within the socioeconomic environment, a new emphasis on promoting scientific and technologic thinking as an acceptable form of expression for the young, and the opening up of the country to foreign relations with countries previously considered as dangerous to orthodox communist thought… i.e. democratic, free enterprise oriented western nations… like America.  

Vietnam literacy rateStarting slowly in 1986, by 1991 Vietnam was proudly touting to the world its new outlook of promoting economic reform that facilitated the use of foreign resources (e.g. capital, markets and technology) to attain better education and a higher standard of living for its people. By 1995 Vietnam had normalized its relations with the US, established diplomatic relations with 172 other countries and become an important member of nearly every major international or regional governing or trade organization. major international or regional governing or trade organization.

Has this coming out party on Vietnam’s part diminished the need of its central government to protect their monopoly on power? Probably not, but it has transferred an immense amount of power to the private enterprise sector and the people themselves… so much so that one doubts whether, as in the case of China, the government retains either the ability or the will to stand up to a real internal revolution hell bent on throwing communism out… if it ever comes to that. Either way, because of the changes made, the country’s strategic policy is no longer restricted to ensuring national security and the maintenance of the communist party power base, it is now focused on economic development and international prestige.

How successful has Vietnam been over these past 30 years? Its GDP has increased sevenfold since 1985 to US$103 billion in 2010, bringing Vietnam into the ranks of what are called the ‘low middle income’ countries. Its poverty rate has been reduced from nearly 60% (1980s) to 10.6% (as at 2011). For a country that won the war but lost the peace, stumbling around in the dark for some 10+ years trying to figure out how to rule the unified people of this dualistic, split thinking and still bifurcated country, these are impressive gains.


Read more about the U.S. military strategy for Vietnam 



Editors Note: This month we are adding this new column to our Home Page. It won't appear every month, just on occasion when we have something interesting for you to think about. It's purpose is to stimulate your thinking about how the military world is changing, and what your position should be regarding those changes. Please enjoy these little snippets and if you have a few military morsels of your own send them along to us. Whether you are civilian, ex- or current military, or simply a curious surfer of our website, if have an interesting and unique fact or two about our military, something that will stimulate all of us to think, send it along and we'll be glad to broadcast it to the world. Just mark your eMail with the subject "Military Morsel."

Where Does The Money Go That We Borrow From China?


Consider whether our form of government functions well or not, and our beloved DoD too. Bob Woodward recently published a book called The Price of Politics. We encourage you to buy a copy and read it. In it a series of comments from Senator Kent Conrad were quoted. Conrad said that if the veil was lifted over the Defense Department's spending it would be possible to reduce their budget in a way such that "savings could be found that would not compromise the military's real capacity an iota."

He said that while serving on the Simpson-Bowles commission he heard witnesses "testify that 51 percent of all federal employees, including uniformed military, were at the Department of Defense [and] that did not count the Defense contractors..." When he asked how many Defense contractors there were he was told between 1 and 9 million... an astounding range by his reckoning, and an equally astounding number. He said that the people testifying said that the Defense contractor program was so out of control that they were unable to get a more accurate number, and admitted that the DoD had "a huge contractor problem."

That's an understatement. Nine million contractors and 51% of all federal government employees in the DoD?


God Bless America



Army Signal CorpsNovember CrosswordArmy Signal Corps

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