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From Our Home Page Archive

          Home Page as originally published in October 2014


— This Month —

So You Think You Know Everything About
The Development of The Telegraph?

Then check out this trivia trove...


Does Dutch Treat Work In War?
The reality of "degrade and destroy"


Tactical Warfare On A Signal Site

Is this how we lost the Vietnam War?

- - - - -


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.

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So You Think You Know Everything About The Development Of The Telegraph?

Check out this trivia trove...

Five Needle Telegraph

As Signaleers we have all heard so much about the early history of the development of the electric telegraph that by now we think we know the full story. Not so, Kemo Sabe.You would be surprised the trivia and little known facts behind this most early form of communication, the one that got all of us started in the direction of becoming Signal Corps Officers in the first place.[1]

Take, for example, the development of the very earliest form of communication, the “semaphore telegraph line.” What’s a semaphore telegraph line, you ask? Just what you would think it would be … a method by which a line of people station themselves on hills and other areas where each can see the person sending them a signal, as well as the person to whom they must repeat the signal they just received… who then set about using semaphore flags to “telegraph” signals from one to the other.

Isn’t that basic semaphore signaling, you ask? Yes it is, but the correct name for this kind of signaling is “semaphore telegraph line.”

Why is this important? Because it’s from this early terminology that the word telegraph came into existence, and eventually made its way into the realm of electronic signaling where we all first ran across it.

O.k., so that’s interesting … but is that all you have to offer in the way of historical telegraph trivia?

Nope. Not by a long short.

We’ll bet you didn’t know that “semaphore telegraph line” signaling was so popular, reliable and wide spread that by the early 1800s there were literally hundreds of these “telegraph lines” spread across Europe… linking one country to another, up and down the continent. While nothing more than a manually operated visual telegraph line composed of men stationed on every hillock available, frantically waving flags at each other, this method of sending both private and commercial messages was so popular that it became quite common in Europe.

What about the U.S., you ask?

Not so much. Only a few simple links were ever built in the U.S., and these quickly fell out of favor and disuse. Part of the reason was that the territory of the U.S. was vast, compared to, say England. This made visually telegraphed signals able to cover only limited distances… between two towns, or at most along the length of one of the new toll roads then being called “turnpikes” because of the gate mechanism that controlled who was allowed to ride their horse or carriage over the road. All in all, with slow signals transmission covering limited distances, and only able to be used during good visibility, the concept of the semaphore telegraph line never took off in the United States, as it did in Europe.

The solution, as we all know, was for someone to invent a similar system that relied on visual signaling that could cover longer distances, in all kinds of weather, including the dark, without a need for high hills or the ability to see from one relay station to the next.

Notice that we said “visual signaling.” Those of you who have, in your own mind,  moved on to expecting us to talk here about electrical signaling using Morse Code or the like are a bit ahead of us. Yes, electricity was involved, that’s true, but Morse Code wasn’t. In fact, not only was Morse code not involved in early electrically based telegraph signaling, but the means of receiving the signal being sent was still based on visual signaling.

For the men of the time trying to invent a better way to communicate over long distances, visual signaling still sat at the top of their list. Thus, while electrical signaling via currents came into use, the means of signaling did not involve the “audible” realm, but instead continued to rely on converting the electrical signals involved into... one more time... visual signals.  




Does Dutch Treat
Work In War?

Does Dutch Treat work in war?

The Reality Of "Degrade And Destroy"

There is something positive about President Obama’s policy with respect to “degrading and destroying” the so called Islamic State (IS, ISIL, ISIS or whatever you want to call it). The positive thing is that he appears to be attempting to build a consensus among other countries for them to do the on-the-ground fighting that will be needed… when the war against ISIS gets to that stage … rather than us.

Don’t think any on-the-ground fighting will be needed? Think he can do everything he needs to with just airpower... drones? Surely you jest. Every good military strategist knows that you cannot win a war with airpower alone, or naval power either for that matter. While you may be able to debase and wear down an enemy’s capacity to wage war against you, you cannot defeat him without the proverbial boots on the ground.

Why? Because for a war to be concluded the warring society that existed has to be replaced at the conclusion of the war with a functioning society based on a stable form of government, able to govern the citizens of the war zone in question.

…and to build a functioning society peace must reign throughout a land.

…and for peace to reign throughout a land that still houses a bunch of disgruntled dead enders that used to be fighting against you and still probably harbor some nasty feelings about having been defeated, and are therefore likely inclined to do all they can to resurrect themselves in the form of an insurgent force, someone’s army is going to have to occupy the country in question and keep the peace until the new government is up and running, and the economy is back to normal.

In other words, a drone war may look good on paper, but no war can be won with airpower alone, nor can an enemy be “defeated” after he is “degraded”... not without an army on the ground.

So where is President Obama going to get the army on the ground he needs? The one he will eventually require to put an end to ISIS?

Judging by his words on the topic of degrading and destroying the Islamic State, he seems to be planning on getting his army from the coalition his Secretary of State is busy trying to put together.

We wish him well. Many President’s before him have established coalitions of countries to follow us into war, but none to our reckoning have established such coalitions solely for the purpose of having our coalition partners provide the ground troops needed, instead of us. If President Obama succeeds in this new and creative approach to war, he may just set a precedent that will not only give future U. S. Presidents a new tool in their arsenal of international power politics and relations, but also  usher in a new way for America to fight its wars.

Imagine that: we provide the air power, you provide the soldiers.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss it… it just might work.

For it to work however, our coalition partners’ armies will have to approximate in capabilities those of the good old U.S. Army. Unless they can, a drone war is likely going to go nowhere… just droning on, if you will (sorry, we couldn’t resist that).

So let’s pick an Army to fight alongside of us against ISIS: how about the Jordanian army as our fighting partner? Or Iraq? Turkey? Bahrain? The Kurds? Or better still, Saudi Arabia?

In the case of fighting ISIS, if, say, Saudi Arabia provided the troops and fought with American air power above its head, the idea of a coordinated yet bifurcated force (instead of a combined force operation), with the Saudi’s providing the foot soldiers and America the airpower might work. Why? Because the Saudi’s have a damned good army, predominantly outfitted with U.S. military equipment, communication systems, et cetera.

That’s pretty much true for Jordan too; although it’s anyone’s guess if Iraq has either the skill or the stomach to fight a modern war.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT


Dear John...


Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

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

Update 1 October 2014 COL (R) Earl Tingle, Class 09-67, sent along a picture of our fellow classmate Kent Sterling, who passed away in April of this year. In it Pete Bradley is also shown. Pete died in 2009. How young our fellow classmates are, to die so soon! Such good men all. Honesty, integrity, intellect, kindness, compassion, true friends never to be forgotten, true American heroes. The kind of men we all long to be, even in these advanced years of ours. Honorable beyond measure. See their picture here: Army Signal OCS Class 09-67 - Sterling & Bradley

Update 1 October 2014 Don Mehl, OCS Class 44-35, dropped us a note to let us know he can’t produce hard copies of his book anymore, so you folks that haven't bought one will just have to settle for spiral bound copies. They are still excellent quality prints, so be sure to  buy one from our PX. Look for TOP SECRET COMMUNICATIONS OF WORLD WAR 2 BY DONALD MEHL      $49.50 PLUS $6.50 S & H. Sales are good and the response from readers is good too, so get your copy today. SUPPORT YOUR FELLOW CLASSMATES!  BUY NOW BY CLICKING HERE Link to PX

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.



Continued from left column... 

Which brings us to our point: Let’s call President Obama’s new war fighting policy the Dutch Treat War Policy.

In a traditional Dutch Treat lunch you pay for your share, I pay for mine, and we both enjoy our lunch, walking away happy and content that we each did our part to enjoy our time together and have a positive outcome. Under an Obama led Dutch Treat War Policy, you would provide the army, I would provide the air force and/or navy, and we would both fight the war. And when it’s all over we would then sit back, slap each other on the back, and congratulate ourselves for a campaign well waged and successful.

Does Dutch Treat Work In War?

By now some of you readers are rolling on the floor laughing. A Dutch Treat War Policy! Are you crazy?

Not really. If looked at from afar this concept of two or more partners joining forces towards a common goal but keeping their individual contributions separate is only slightly different than what NATO does today.

In NATO’s case, if a new war comes along there will be multiple “coalition partners” fighting alongside each other… men from the armies of multiple NATO member countries, fighting arm in arm towards a common goal. Most likely the format for combat will take the old WWII form, where a supreme commander is appointed, thus causing the forces from multiple countries to fight under his direction and control… as a common, unified army.

Revolutionary War AlliesBut what would happen if a modern day Montgomery stepped into the picture… and insisted that his British men come under his command and his only? Would NATO throw this hypothetical Monty and his men out, or instead would it carve out a special spot for him so that the Brits could contribute to the war, yet still retain the autonomy they might insist on?

And what if that autonomy was not commander related, but related to the type and kind of fighting that the allied army provided? Think, for example, of this hypothetical modern day Monty offering to provide a tank corps... tanks and only tanks... no infantry. Would NATO turn it away? If he said he would provide it only under his local command, would NATO turn his tanks away just because that's all he would provide?

Isn't this the essence of President Obama's Dutch Treat War concept? Each country provides what it will... with some force other than the U.S. providing the ground troops while we provide the air cover?

A similar situation to this played out in Afghanistan. There the Japanese offered to fight alongside of us… but couldn’t. Their constitution forbid them from doing so—sending armed troops to fight in a third country. How then could the Japanese show America, who today carries the bulk of the task of defending the Japanese homeland, that Japan stands beside America, is appreciative of the fact that our military protects their country, and that while they might be precluded (for the moment) from providing armed military support in our cause, are desirous of contributing what they can, as they can, towards any war we may fight?

As we all know, the answer is that what Japan can provide is logistical support… to a level and degree that puts their own men in harm’s way without requiring them to carry a weapon. And so we see Japan in nearly every war America gets itself involved in, sending all manner of equipment from thousands of Toyota Hilux trucks, to road building machinery, artificial legs, and whatever else they can offer to help win the war. It’s true that the Japanese men sent to distribute this equipment and train the locals in its use end up having to be protected, and that draws troops away from the fight itself, but so would be the case with any group of people working to support the civilian side of a war effort.[2]

Small potatoes you say? True, but the model works. That is, the “war model” of one country providing the soldiers while the other provides the logistics, tools and materials works. And if it can work in such a situation, why not in one where one country provides the troops on the ground while the other provides the air cover?

 Read more... 



Tactical Warfare On A Signal Site

Looking down from the perimeter of our signal site, Lang Bien Mountain, a dozen miles outside of Dalat, you could see where the area we cleared of trees and brush ended and the jungle began. Well, jungle is a bit of a misnomer. The truth is, up in the Central Highlands where our signal site sat, atop a 7,800 foot mountain, the terrain looked more like the woods of Eastern Massachusetts where I grew up than the steamy jungle of the Delta. Walking through it on patrol I could almost imagine that I was 7 years old again, patrolling the line of stone walls that snaked through the woods of our farm, hunting squirrels with my .22 and a pocket full of shorts, down near the back pasture where the cows tended to gather.

The only thing was, on Lang Bien Mountain we weren’t hunting squirrels, although we were definitely hunting varmints and vermin.

As a Signal Officer, one of three assigned to the signal site as OICs for the three separate Companies that ran commo facilities up on the mountain, in addition to making sure my own men kept our radio relay UHF systems up and running I was also given the additional duty—by the Infantry Captain that commanded the site—of supervising a squad of his Infantry guys, who themselves had various duties.

With the responsibility I was given for his men, plus my own, I ended up with four key jobs that, along with my normal Signal Officer tasks, kept me pretty busy. Among them was responsibility for the perimeter defense for the most vulnerable of the 4 sectors of the site, commanding a squad of Infantry men that manned one of the three 60 mm mortar pits that ringed the signal site, commanding both my own Signals men and another squad of Infantry boys during any attack by the VC, and keeping the site’s tree line unobstructed so that we had a clear field of fire out to at least 300 meters.

Of the four tasks, that last one, keeping the site’s tree line unobstructed out to 300 meters, was the most difficult. To keep our tree line clear we used two tricks: C-4 and Agent Orange.

The part I liked best was the C-4 part… where we suited up like we were on patrol, went down to the tree line below us, and then spent the day blowing up trees. The part I liked least was the Agent Orange part. Even then, not knowing what was inside of those drums with the orange stripe around them, the idea of coming back from a day’s work along the perimeter, drenched with the slick, oily chemicals that we drew out of those barrels to spray over the brush line, was not something I savored.

Still, it brought me and my Infantry boys closer together.

Me, a young Signal Corps Second Lieutenant, in command of an Infantry Captain’s squad of seasoned jungle warriors. Together we traipsed the perimeter of our Signal Site day after day, pushing the tree line back little by little, knowing with deep satisfaction that during the next Sapper raid or early morning attack everyone on the site would be safer for our work.[3]

One thing that always puzzled me though was exactly how far back we needed to push the tree line. My orders said 200 - 300 meters, but having watched my own Signaleers fire on the enemy when our site was under attack, I knew that their accuracy with M-14s wasn’t up to that distance. The Infantry guys I commanded were better, but not that much better. Out to about 100 meters everyone could hit just about anything. But from 150 meters out to 300, very few of the VC that we shot at seemed to fall. Since in most places we had driven the tree line back to between 250  and 300 meters, at that distance, my Signaleers not only could barely spot Charlie moving along the line, but they couldn’t hit him with a rifle shot if he was waving a barn door over his head.

Lang Bien Mountain - Vietnam War



e f

Vietnam War Facts 

October Crossword Puzzle

Army Signal CorpsTheme: Afghan War AcronymsArmy 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] The original Lone Ranger show was created at Detroit radio station WXYZ in 1933. The phrase that Tonto called the Lone Ranger “Kemo Sabe”, is said to have derived from the name of a boys' summer camp in Michigan, owned by the director's uncle. Some say that Kemosabe in the Navajo language means "soggy bush," or "soggy shrub." That may be the case, but investigations show that in the 1930's, when the Lone Ranger show got its start, there was indeed a camp in the northern part of Michigan called "Ke Mo Sah Bee", and the name is reported to have stood for "trusty friend" or "trusty scout." We’re not sure which explanation is behind the phrase, but we’ll stick with the latter. - To return to your place in the text click here:tyle931"> - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text

[2] In Afghanistan the Dutch military contingent was assigned the responsibility of protecting Japanese civilian engineers, humanitarian aid staff and construction workers. For a more detailed discussion showing the kind of contributions countries like Japan provide in America’s wars, see the attached PDF file. It was produced by the Japanese government, and accordingly presents its information in a form biased in the country’s favor. Still, it does portray facts and provides a good overview of the kind of non-combat logistical support wars require. Link to PDF File: Japanese Aid During Afghan War  - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text

[3] Sapper: PAVN (People's Army of Vietnam) and Viet Cong Sappers are better described as commando units. The Vietnamese term đặc công can be literally translated as "special task". Thousands of specially trained Sappers served in the PAVN and Viet Cong commando Sapper units, which were organized as independent formations. They were armed with various types of bombs, mines, explosive charges, grenades and even steel-pellet mines. They are famous for breaking through perimeter defenses at forward operating basis (FOBs) and Signal Sites, running through the base, setting off explosive charges near buildings and equipment, and then exiting the base on the other side from which they came.  - To return to your place in the text click here: Return to text



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