Conclusions and Lessons Learned

The magnitude of Army communications in the war in Vietnam has exceeded the scale of their employment in any previous war in history. These communications have increased in the same proportion' as has the extraordinary mobility of troops and of fire­power, often delivered from aloft, whether by Army helicopter gunships, Air Force bombers and fighters, or Navy and Marine jet aircraft. In fact, the mobility and firepower of our Army would themselves have been unmanageable without the hitherto unheard­of mobile and fixed combat communications facilities and the skilled communicators that have evolved in this conflict.

As a professional soldier and communicator, I have developed my own conclusions and feel we have learned certain lessons concerning the Army's communications-electronics during the Vietnam War. The more important of these have been set down here, along with some ideas of what must be done in the future.

               Control and Organization of Communications

The elimation of the fragmentation of control over the Army's communications-electronics efforts during the early stages of the buildup in late 1965 and early 1966 was most important in the provision of an effective and efficient communications service for the numerous and diverse customers in South Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia. This was accomplished by the marriage of elements of the Army's Strategic Communications Command, with its highly qualified personnel, capable of engineering, installing, and operating large fixed communications systems, and the combat theater signal troops, at that time consisting of the 2d Signal Group with its highly flexible mobility. From this marriage emerged the 1st Signal Brigade, a part of the United States Army Strategic Communications Command's global organization, but operationally under control of the United States Army, Vietnam, the Army component command in the Republic of Vietnam. Our Vietnamese experience, incidentally, has firmly convinced me that this


worldwide organization must be more properly named the "U.S. Army Communications Command."

The 1st Signal Brigade operated the relatively fixed assets of the Defense Communications System. At the same time it had a highly mobile surge capability, that is, on short notice it could pour equipment and men into its Corps Area System in response to the needs of the commanders in each of the four corps tactical zones. The brigade's Corps Area signal groups also provided the base camp communications services in their tactical zones.

The last and of course a vital element in over-all communications support was the Combat Systems operated by the organic signal companies of the separate brigades and by the organic signal battalions of the divisions and corps-equivalent field forces. A basic decision for the control and direction of these systems was made simultaneously with the organization of the 1st Signal Brigade. This was the "dual-hatting" of one individual, a general officer, to serve as both the brigade commander and the U.S. Army, Vietnam, communications-electronics staff officer.

Such was the situation when I arrived in Vietnam in 1968. Wearing the staff hat, I could project Army-wide policy and guidance to both the combat signal elements with the fighting troops and the 1st Signal Brigade. Wearing the 1st Signal Brigade command hat and using the brigade's diversified capabilities, I could weld the entire Army communications-electronics effort into a harmonious whole. There is no doubt in my mind that "dual-hatting" allows for the best direction up and down the line through one individual, and is the way to assure effective command, control, and direction of the U.S. Army's communications-electronics.

Our signal organizational structure in Vietnam is sound and will serve as a model for the Army's future war zone communications structure. The major elements of the structure are the mobile Combat Systems, the Corps Area Communications System serving the theater of operations, and the Defense Communications System.

The mobile Combat Systems should continue to be provided by signal units organic in a division, a corps, and a field army. Our division signal battalion organizations in Vietnam are sound, as is the dual-hat arrangement in the division wherein the division's signal staff officer serves also as the division's signal battalion commander. At the Army corps level the present, relatively large, corps-type signal battalion, which in all cases in Vietnam has needed significant additional resources attached, should be reorganized into at least two battalions under a group headquarters. The


Corps Signal Group commander should wear two hats, serving concurrently as Corps Signal Officer. Communications support for field armies should also be provided by organic, highly mobile, and flexible signal organizations. In order to provide diversified mobile support to our field army, this organization must consist of more than one group under a signal brigade, with the commander also serving on the Army staff.

Behind these combat communication elements there should be a single organization to operate the Defense Communications System within and from the theater of operations and to provide at the same time a flexible, mobile, surge capability in support of the combat forces. Further, there should be a separate theater area system much like the system we have logically dubbed "Corps Area" in Vietnam. In a large theater this organization would be a command, consisting of several brigades. The commander of such an organization should also wear two hats. The organization must include skilled communications systems managers and be capable of engineering and installing major systems. It should be the point of contact with contractors and should directly manage all communications-electronics contracts. It should provide for the rehabilitation and operation of any existing commercial systems, and establish in the theater any required signal training facilities. In summary, the organization should be the focal point in communications expertise, providing and operating the Defense Communications System, operating a flexible area system, and providing a reserve throughout the theater of operations. Finally, I believe focalization of the diverse pieces which make up a viable communications-electronics system is a must at the General Staff level of the Department of the Army.

The Integrated System

To the man of business, time is money. To the professional soldier, time is lives. The time required to provide the high quality fixed communications system in Vietnam was too long. Fortunately, because we could use available mobile equipment of lower capacity and lower quality that had been employed during the years of readying the fixed system, communications-electronics did not fail the soldier in battle. But I believe that in the future we can do better by planning and programming for modularized high quality and high-capacity fixed and mobile long-lines systems that include the associated voice, message, and data traffic switches and terminals.


Completely modularized systems should be shipped as a package, to be assembled on the site. I refer to a complete system with groupings of equipment that can go on a mountaintop, including the shelters or buildings for the equipment, the air-conditioning and power units, the antennas, the compatible cryptographic equipment, the test equipment, the repair and maintenance gear, the housing for the contractors and soldiers who will install them and the soldiers or civilians who will operate them, and the necessary bunkers, sandbags, and weapons. There should be basic components, standarized in type and in technical characteristics, and completely compatible with the mobile communications equipment of the combat and area support signal units, capable of being put together in a building-block fashion.

For example, a modularized site of a certain capacity, say 60 channels, could be expanded to 100 or to 1,000 channels. It should be capable of being expanded further to include automated message and data traffic communications centers, local or long-distance automatic telephone exchanges-all from basic building blocks. All the equipment-the housing, the air conditioning, the power -must be of a fixed variety that can last in place for as long as five years without major overhaul. And everything must be so designed that the modules can be lifted to the sites by means of medium or heavy helicopters. There should be no need to build expensive access roads to mountaintops for the purpose of site construction.

Modules must be completely planned and engineered so that, even if they are not in the military inventory, their production can start as soon as approval is obtained. Production and procurement should be going on concurrently with the preparation of the sites in the area where they are required. To my mind, we can design such a building-block system within the next few years, and have the system reasonably available without going into production until it is actually needed. Basic ordering agreements could be made with the vendors, the radio equipment firm, the multiplex equipment firm, the air-conditioning firm, the tower unit firm, the building firm, and the power firm. If the modular system is too complex for the Army to install, then contracts must be let to firms capable of installing the complete package. On the matter of acquiring modularized systems, it is important to deliver equipment early to the Army service schools in the United States and to the war zone so that soldiers can train on the actual equipment to be used.

All the various transmission means, be they tropospheric scatter, microwave, satellite, cable, laser, or infra red, should be con-


sidered by the planners of the future when determinations are being made as to what best fits the military needs in a given situation. In Southeast Asia the undersea cable systems have provided some of the most reliable high quality communications within and to that area. The use of undersea cable connecting points along the coast of Vietnam was a significant innovation, and the opinion of some that the cables were not important because of the number of tropospheric scatter and microwave systems programmed at the same time was completely in error. Undersea cable has proved relatively inexpensive to maintain and is fairly simple to operate, even though it has a tremendously high initial cost. Within Vietnam, it provided backup to the remainder of the system and supplied very important dual routing for critical circuits. It is beyond question that military communications systems require diverse paths in order to provide the over-all reliability needed on the modern battlefield. The undersea cable served this purpose in Vietnam.

Requirements for the modular system would be based on the plans of the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military departments. And determining the needs-how much in the way of communications, how many circuits-can be very difficult. As General Abrams once said while talking to our combat signalmen in Vietnam: "You fellows belong to something that is almost a bottomless pit. No matter how big you make the system, there are more people going to want to talk over it and more people going to want to send things over it . . . . "

General Terry, who commanded and organized the 1st Signal Brigade during the big buildup years of 1966-1967, later had a study made called "Communications in Southeast Asia," for the purpose of finding out how requirements for future theaters might be determined. This valuable piece of work, in which many people cooperated, has fairly well documented the requirements of Vietnam at that time and is the first serious study of this type ever attempted during wartime. Although the study did not come up with all the answers, it should serve as a valuable tool for our planners, assisting them to develop requirements based on contingency plans. However, the entire area of communications requirements forecasting certainly needs more study in the next decade so that the Army, in any future war, can determine all of its communications requirements rapidly in order to assure equitable consideration by all levels during the decision process.

In summary, I believe the "Modular System," the Basic Ordering Agreement, and early detailed planning are the ingredients


for the timely provision of a single integrated telecommunications system in a war zone in the future.

Automation of the Telephone System

The extensive use of dial telephone exchanges, eventually tied together with automated tandem switches providing direct distance dialing throughout Vietnam and Thailand, has been a significant development during the conflict in Vietnam. The manually operated telephone system, which we used and improved over a number of years, aside from being costly in the number of operators required, simply could not provide the needed services. One can imagine how expensive and how poor the service would be in the United States if our commercial telephone system was not highly automated. Because of the original poor manual service in Vietnam, 85 percent of the total voice channels were tied up as sole-use circuits, passing the most critical traffic, but unavailable for general use.

As one means of improving the telephone service when it was a manual system, the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, had allowed only 30 percent of the thousands of telephone subscribers in the country to have direct access to the long-distance network. With the advent of direct distance dialing and the significant increase in long-distance calls made, we found that in order to provide the needed service a further reduction to 20 percent of the subscribers was necessary-a reduction that may seem to contradict the benefits of long-distance dialing. We were never able to perform adequate traffic analysis when the manual telephone system was being used; however, with the automatic long-distance telephone equipment, traffic loads could be accurately forecast. I am convinced that our experience in Vietnam proves that the number could be reduced to 15 percent of the subscribers and still not deny long-distance calls to any important customers. I also believe that the allocation of long-distance users by a predetermined percentage is the only means of providing the needed service throughout a theater at a reasonable cost in equipment and man­power. This percentage must be made a matter of policy at the joint Chiefs of Staff level so that the communications planners can determine the size of the long-lines system in any future theater of operations.

The dial telephone exchanges and the long-distance automatic switches of the future, as I indicated before, should be modularized and installed as a part of the over-all integrated system. And


they must be reasonably mobile, as were the 600-line van-mounted dial exchanges which the Army used in Vietnam. These mobile exchanges were employed in a number of different locations in Vietnam and were very important in crucial periods after the mid­1960s in providing a flexible dial telephone capability as needs shifted in Vietnam from one combat area to another.

Besides the demonstrated need for automatic telephone switching in the large camps and base areas, where this equipment was used in Vietnam, there is also a need for the combat telephone systems to be automated in the future. Manual telephone switchboards, now so prevalent at the division, brigade, and battalion command posts, cannot provide the speed of service required by our highly mobile fighting men. Besides providing automatic local telephone service, the combat communications systems, particularly at the corps and field army level, should be able to provide direct distance dialing. Automation of the mobile telephone switching systems is a must for the immediate future.

Communications Security

The vital matter of securing our communications against enemy interception and intelligence has been discussed, particularly with reference to the technically difficult area of scrambling telephone or voice traffic, especially the voice communications of the combat battalions and company-size units. Studies have shown the absolute necessity for communications security, whether the information is passed by message or voice. We know that the enemy listens in because we have captured some of his listening devices.

Voice security equipment has been available for some time in fixed communications installations at major headquarters and bases in the form of the Automatic Secure Voice Communications System. Secure voice gear is now available also for mobile radios. These first fixed systems were welcomed and used by higher headquarters. But it took a great deal of persuasion and training to get mobile combat users to employ voice security to the utmost with their field radios. We found that the most persuasive, effective way to insure its use was to provide proof that a given enemy action­an ambush of one of our patrols, for example-was the result of the enemy's intercepting our radio talk.

Good training in voice security-awareness of its necessity and a compulsion to use it-is the key. The training of officers and soldiers in the use of voice security needs command emphasis; it needs the assistance and insistence of commanders and other senior officers. I would say the only excuse for voice communications in


the clear, that is, not secured or scrambled, is its use on an occasion when the information being passed is extremely current, say within ten minutes of action as in emergency situations. Anything more than this is unacceptable if we are to achieve success in any future battle.

We must be careful to develop and design security equipment that is completely compatible with the radios or other communications equipment and systems being used by our Army in the field. This was not the case in all instances in Vietnam. For example, the man-packed combat voice radios, used so extensively by almost all units in Vietnam, needed major modification before they could be used with our new man-packed voice security equipment. In the future we must guard against this by closer coordination and direction of our developmental programs to insure that all of the elements that make up a system are compatible.

Communications security devices, along with such practices as changing radio frequencies and call words, must be extensively employed in the future. They must be used for all combat orders, and all multichannel links must be completely secured. We could do a great deal, I am sure, to increase the security of our voice traffic and to improve the quality of transmission by following fixed-station standards. Whether in fixed or mobile applications, we must learn to use the security equipment we have, improving it technically and procedurally, improving also administrative matters and regulations relating to its use. All this will take practice and time, but it can and must be done to deny the enemy any knowledge of our plans and our commands.

Precedence and Classification of Messages

Two related matters in message traffic are security classification -Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret- and precedence, such as stamping a message "Immediate" or "Priority" if it is to be handled ahead of others. Such a message, if over one page long and if it includes a long list of information addressees-those addressees who must know the message content but do not need to take action or respond-causes problems and delays. In 1970 we were handling about 100,000 messages a day, of which about 60 percent had both action and information addressees. These could have been handled much more efficiently if the "Immediate" or "Flash" precedence applied only to those addressees who needed to take action and not to the copies which were for information only. The information copies could have been sent later by the communications center, during slack periods. Establishing such procedures is a


must if we are to be "cost effective." These procedures could be further enhanced by both mobile and fixed automated message systems for terminal operation, such as the automated communications and message processing system activated in the Pacific near the end of the period covered by this study.

The same is true of much classified traffic initially stamped "Secret" and "Top Secret." If the traffic bore a notation to declassify at the end of one year, or two, this would be a great help. Again, it is in the matter of the information addressee messages that the overclassification becomes a problem-extremely lengthy messages require a teletypewriter tape to be reproduced, which amounts to typing the whole message over a second time. This happens at both the transmitting and the receiving end. In short it would be significantly helpful to reduce the size of messages, reduce the precedence, or at least reduce high precedence from information copies, and shorten significantly the effective periods of classification.

Physical Security at the Sites

Another kind of security, much more open and obvious than communications security, increasingly concerned the Army Signal Corps in Vietnam-physical security, the defense of our many sites. Defense measures were essential, as on some distant mountaintop sites, from the start of our operations in Vietnam in the 1950s. And security measures became necessary at more sites in 1969 and 1970, when troop units formerly based in the area around the signal installations left as a result of the redeployment of U.S. forces.

Our communications sites in Southeast Asia totaled from time to time between 250 and 300, and by no means were they all located in military compounds. Instead, these sites were often remote. Our combat signalmen provided for their own defense and at several sites fought off enemy attacks.

Obviously, the average signalman can be trained to serve well in site defense. He can be trained as an infantryman, both to defend his site and to patrol in depth around it. To this extent he needs to be a soldier first, and a soldier-technician second. But there is need for day-to-day use of artillery support in defense of our sites, for mortar and machine gun support, and for direct air support. There is need as well for security companies, whether U.S. troops or local nationals, trained as infantry. These troops are needed at the isolated signal site, whether run by a signal brigade,


Picture: Tank and Antenna Dish

Signal soldier-artist's conception of strong tie between Infantry, Armor, Artillery, and Signalman.

division, corps, or field army, so that an integrated defense can be organized and maintained effectively.

The ground requirement was clearly apparent in Vietnam. While air defense, both active and passive, was not necessary in Vietnam, it probably will be required in the future. The active measures are obviously the ultimate responsibility of the U.S. Army's Air Defense Artillery; yet the communications planners must assure that, just as the engineer is notified for power requirements, the air defense artilleryman is made aware of all existing and planned communications sites when he is establishing his integrated air defense system. Passive air defense protection is equally essential. Methods must be developed to conceal and even cover our fixed communications sites. We cannot afford to take the chance in the future of building million dollar communications sites that can be "seen" visually and electronically by an attacking aircraft at great distances. The Army must investigate the areas of antenna and structure designs to be more in line with the principles of concealment. Thought must be given to "dummy" sites, again both visual and electronic, to protect against missiles as well as piloted aircraft.
A final note regarding security of our communications sites of


the future is that the precedent established in Vietnam of providing the people of the country with circuits on our communications systems must be continued. The armed forces and government of the host country must be encouraged to use and share our communications systems, since the local populace has been and will undoubtedly continue to be a vital factor in the defense of our fixed communications facilities.

The Audio-Visual Mission

Photographic responsibility in the Army has traditionally been assigned to the Signal Corps. This responsibility has expanded over the years to include far more than merely providing the photographers and photographic support. Today called the audio­visual mission, the responsibility encompasses not only the Army's pictorial services but the photographic history of the U.S. Army, and the operation and maintenance of a vast number of film projectors, magnetic tape recorders, and other audio and visual aids used extensively in command briefings and presentations. The Army Signal Corps today uses the most modern and advanced film laboratory equipment available in satisfying the Army's worldwide requirement for film and photographic services.

This audio-visual responsibility has not been emphasized in the past with the same fervor as have the Army's other communications services. In Vietnam it lagged, for example, in the 1st Signal Brigade until more pressing communications priorities and problems could be met. It was not until mid-1967 that the photographic effort was strengthened with the equipment and men of the 221st Signal Company.

The 221st Signal Company was provided with "off-the-shelf," commercial photographic equipment when it went to Vietnam because the Army's standard line of photographic equipment was not capable of doing the job in Vietnam. This one-of-a-kind signal unit created problems for the Army school system. The U.S. Army Signal School was fully capable of providing excellent and complete training in the audiovisual skills using standard equipment, but it could not teach maintenance and operation of the commercially purchased cameras, automated laboratory processing equipment, or projectors. These skills were taught in Vietnam by the expedient of on-the-job training. It was, of course, not feasible for the Army to reorganize its entire training program in order to satisfy the needs of one specialized unit equipped with commercial items, but attention must be given to training signalmen in the use of the


most modern equipment in order to have them available for the Army's Audiovisual Program in war zones.

In the future, efforts must be made to establish early a completely equipped and trained audiovisual support base in the combat zone. Even the full strength of the 221st Signal Company did not provide all the audiovisual support the Army needed in Vietnam. We need to be able to make pictures in both color and black and white and we need more magnetic tape voice equipment for our movies. We should make greater use of film strip projectors and audiovisual devices for briefings at both combat and the highest levels. We should be able to produce a motion picture within at least a week in the theater of operations. Further, the over-all direction of photographic collection must be improved, particularly the effort to record historical events on film. Our officers and managers of the Audiovisual Program must have a sense for the history that is being made.

Personnel and Training

All of the most modern and sophisticated equipment available will not insure workable communications unless the commander has an adequate number of trained communicators. This portion of my conclusions will deal with the soldier-communicator.

It is essential that significant efforts be made by all Signal Corps officers to acquire an intimate knowledge of the Army's personnel acquisition system, its personnel authorization system, and other essential elements of personnel management. With this preparation, the career Signal Corps officer at any level of command will be better able to cope with the intricacies of the Army's personnel system and insure that the approved authorizations are in the hands of the signal unit in the war zone and that the authorized soldiers are in fact assigned and working.

In regard to the personnel system and signal units, it is most important that 100 percent of the men authorized be on the job. I am not referring to a select group of signal units, but to all signal units at all levels. Communications from top to bottom is a team effort, and this effort can succeed only if the signal soldier is available at all levels to provide the required communications. To attain 100 percent of authorized strength on the job, I believe that we must staff the signalmen in the combat zone at 110 percent of the authorized level. It has been my experience that in this war, as in World War II and Korea, an allowable overstrength is the only sure way of attaining the 100 percent assigned strength so essential to complete the job.


One of the significant personnel lessons the Army's Signal Corps learned in Vietnam was that it is extremely cumbersome and slow to attempt to transfer into a combat zone the personnel system used for the processing of authorization documents in a peacetime environment. The system I refer to is The Army Authorization Documents System, known as TAADS in Army jargon. From late 1968 to mid-1969 the 1st Signal Brigade and divisional units submitted new proposed authorization documents through regular channels to the Department of the Army. It took about a year and a half for these documents to be approved, and meanwhile the war continued with great intensity. I feel we must speed up the process for authorization approval to less than three months. Immediate steps need to be taken to reduce document-processing time at intermediate headquarters and at the Department of the Army. Consideration should be given to standardized automated programs that can be used at all command echleons for annotating and processing authorization document updates. The automated outputs could be accompanied by written justification for changes, that is by additions or deletions to current authorizations.

After spending almost twenty months to complete a major reorganization cycle necessitated by changing operations in a war, I feel that decentralization to the heads of major commands in the Army of the power to approve changes within their personnel and equipment levels is a requirement, a must, if the Army's authorization system is to survive during a war.

While still on the subject of personnel, I would like to discuss Signal Corps officers as professional communicators assigned to all organizations down to all types of maneuver battalions. It was proved to all the division commanders, corps commanders, and theater commanders that it was a necessity to have a professionally trained Signal Corps officer assigned to each battalion, group, and brigade of the Army's combat arms. It was necessary in order to create a vertical chain of communications officers from the bottom to the top-officers whose professional training and interests had dedicated them to the accomplishment of the communications-electronics mission. Each of these officers was able to translate his commander's needs into actual working communications. Through these officers, the commander was made aware of the capabilities, the limitations, and the peculiarities of his own communications system. The Army training program, like the Communications Officers Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, should be used extensively to produce such trained Signal Corps officers for combat battalions; and the officers who attend the course should be assigned immedi-


ately to combat battalions in order that the Army can take full ad­vantage of their capabilities.

I have strong convictions on the kind of training base we should have in the United States and on the matter of maintaining a pool of trained signalmen with the necessary skills to meet contingencies such as the Vietnam War. Early in the 1960s, the Army had decided that the use of cable was dying out, if not already dead. Instead, radio was the word. We in the Signal Corps "thought radio" from the infantry squad level up to the theater level. As a result, the specialty of cable-splicer was deleted from the Army's schooling program.

The fallacy of this decision became apparent when we were installing the high quality, fixed wideband system in Southeast Asia. We found we did not have the trained soldiers available to splice in the final few feet of cable, for example, from the electronic equipment building of a big fixed tropospheric scatter terminal to a dial telephone exchange a half-mile away. A pool of cable-splicers, trained at our own U.S. Army schools with the same equipment the soldier will use in the field rather than with makeshift equipment and materials, is necessary if the Army ever expects to build again as elaborate a communications system as that installed in Vietnam.

I do not isolate cable-splicing as the one critical skill required. I consider essential the skills of the technical controllers, microwave and tropospheric scatter operators, communications chiefs, radio teletypewriter operators, cryptographic and secure voice equipment repairmen, dial exchange and automatic switch operators and maintenance personnel, and switchboard operators. Army signalmen with these skills are so essential that they should be part of a trained pool, available when needed. Ideally these soldiers should work in their specialties throughout their careers. But if this is not always possible, then we should at least know where the trained communicators are and be able to deploy them when the situation dictates. And there are needs for these trained soldiers within the United States at the communications facilities the Army is allowed to operate within the franchised area of U.S. common carriers.

The critical skills mentioned above do not of course extend across the complete spectrum of skills required for Army communications. Communications is a team effort, as I said before, and without the trained bread-and-butter signalmen, without the combat and fixed-type communications skills, the over-all job cannot be done.


In the matter of the Army's training centers in the United States, I believe these centers must receive new equipment that is to be introduced into the combat theater at about the same time as the Army's new equipment introductory teams receive it. For one reason or another this did not take place in the instance of Vietnam. The mistake should not be repeated. The prototype equipment must go to the signal schools or other electronic training centers. Military instructors should be with the manufacturer when the manufacturer's plans and equipment are being developed. If this procedure is not followed, major problems will arise. Repeatedly during the Vietnam War, new major equipment was introduced into the war zone and we had to train ourselves to operate and maintain it. The training base in the United States was operating months behind in new procedures and new equipment. Our solution, of course, was to establish a signal school, the 1st Signal Brigade's U.S. Army Training Facility.

This school was not unprecedented; such schools had existed during World War II. Training schools should be established in all overseas theaters to teach refresher courses for soldiers previously trained in the United States. The average signal soldier spends from two to nine months learning his specialty, then usually receives a month's leave before departing for his initial assignment. If he is assigned to an active war zone, the signal soldier needs a review of his specialty, just as the infantryman needs and gets a review of his trade before he is subjected to combat.

The 1st Brigade's training school in Vietnam was staffed by officers and men assigned to the brigade. Though the quality of instruction presented was continually outstanding, the short 12­month tour of the instructors posed a problem. A far more appropriate arrangement in the future would be to staff the school with civilian instructors under contract. The contractor would be responsible for school operation and instruction as long as the need existed and signal units would not have to draw from their own assets to man the school. Consideration should also be given to establishing the contract on a contingency basis so that valuable time will not be wasted while the contractor trains his own staff of instructors.

The preceding observations are not meant to detract from the tremendous job which the Army's school system in the United States-the best in the world-did in preparing the soldier to be a communicator in Vietnam; I was one of its "Commanders and Commandants" and intimately knew the entire training system.


Rather, I offer my observations in the hope of easing the burden of future communicators.

Supply and Maintenance

When the Army organized the U.S. Army Materiel Command some years ago and, in turn, its varied commodity-oriented subordinate commands, one of the key decisions was to place field representatives from these "commodity" commands with the Army's major overseas commands. I believe this was a correct move for all the elements of the Materiel Command, but in this instance I will restrict myself to the communications-electronics sphere and will discuss only the U.S. Army Electronics Command. I consider it very important that the Electronics Command, dynamically commanded by Major General William B. Latta during this period, be represented in any future combat theater, and, further, that it be closely aligned in every way, from the research laboratory to the field representative, with the communications-electronics staffs at the various commands, to include the combat unit level. To support communications-electronics maintenance operations, this commodity command must, at the very minimum, be represented in the field maintenance facilities at the logistics and signal commands in all theaters. These representatives may be Department of the Army civilian employees, technicians from the civilian company that made the equipment, or men hired by contract. The essential point is that Electronics Command representatives must be closely aligned with the various communications-electronics staff divisions and signal commands. It is entirely possible that further inquiry into this matter will reveal a firm requirement for Electronics Command liaison to reach down to and include the Army's combat brigades. As the communications for a division become more sophisticated I can foresee a real need for technical representation at that level and below.

It will not be enough merely to place technical representatives all over the world and advise the communicator in the field that an "area representative" is available for technical advice. The representatives in the field must physically be with the operating units, and the organization must be such that the field representative is in continuous communication with the laboratories and headquarters in the United States. Without this intimate interrelationship, it would have been impossible for us to do our communications job in Vietnam, and such an interrelationship will be more and more important in the future.


Earlier, I went to some length to present the evolution of the 1st Signal Brigade's area maintenance and supply facilities and the problems of trying to maintain and stock repair parts for unique, commercially procured communications equipment through the use of the Army's common supply system. I did this because I consider the matter to be one of our most important communications lessons from this war. That is, the general supply system, which processed and delivered millions of gallons of oil and gasoline and millions of tons of "beans and bullets" to Vietnam, is just not geared to satisfying a request for one small transistorized module, made only by XYZ Electronics Corporation, which is needed to put a key million dollar network back in operation. The Army's general supply system rightfully deals in volume and frequency of requests, whereas the fixed-plant communications system in Vietnam did not need frequent or large quantity resupply; as a result the computers in the supply system did not recognize infrequent demands as valid.

The instances of difficulties in obtaining unique communications-electronics items through the general supply system were many. The following example illustrates the rigidity of our general supply system, and while the matter did not seriously deter our efforts, it certainly was aggravating. The 1st Signal Brigade and the combat signal units installed hundreds of miles of multi­pair cable on U.S. bases during the war. They used a massive amount of cable-splicing and sealing material. As I recall, the cable­splicing material, which was used by only a limited number of signal units in Vietnam, was categorized in the Federal Stock Number System as an item under "Office Stationery." If the suppliers had been familiar enough with our classification system to look under "Office Stationery" for splicing and sealing material, we could have avoided the incongruous situation that resulted. For it was determined that the Army in Vietnam was ordering far too much office stationery, and therefore it was directed that requests in this category would not be honored unless they were personally signed by an officer of senior rank. For some time, try as we might, we could not get one item of cable-splicing material unless the request forms were personally signed by senior personnel. The problem was solved by setting up a special direct supply organization for cable material in the brigade, which was the only major user­a solution that must be credited to Lieutenant General Joseph M. Heiser, ,Jr., at the time the aggressive and able commander of logistics in Vietnam.
Our answer to the problems of maintenance and of obtaining


Photograph: General Rienzi Talks To Helicopter Crew Member In The Mek Ong Delta


repair items for the unique, fixed-station communications equipment was the establishment of the Area Supply and Maintenance Facilities within the Army's general supply system, and I believe that without them the relatively low density, yet high level, fixed communications installations would not have continued to operate in the highly effective manner so necessary for immediate command control.


I am convinced that aircraft must be organic to every signal battalion in the Army, just as it is organic to many comparable organizations in the Army. At the height of the Vietnamese conflict, the 1st Signal Brigade was authorized 45 aircraft: 9 twin-engine, turbo-prop, fixed-wing aircraft; 12 light observation helicopters; and 24 utility helicopters. These aircraft were listed as organic on the authorization tables of each signal battalion in the brigade;


however, we pooled the aircraft in three provisional aviation units. One was based at Bearcat, near Long Binh, to support the 2d Signal Group in III and IV Corps Tactical Zones; the second in Nha Trang supported the 21st Signal Group in II Corps Tactical Zone; the third supported the 12th Signal Group, which was originally at Phu Bai and later at Da Nang in I Corps Tactical Zone. We learned that by pooling the aircraft we could accomplish by ourselves one-third of the maintenance that otherwise would have had to be done by aviation general support maintenance personnel. Without this organic airborne transportation, we could not possibly have supplied some 300 separate signal sites twenty-four hours a day, on the shortest notice.

Monetary Requirements

Establishing and operating a modern communications system for the U.S. Army today is a massively expensive proposition. In order to assure that the money being spent on communications was spent properly and that the civilian contracts were administered correctly, I feel it was important that we had comptroller staffs at both U.S. Army, Vietnam, and the 1st Signal Brigade, as well as completely up the command lines to Department of the Army and U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command Headquarters at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I would even go so far as to recommend that comptroller positions be established even at the signal group level so that the money required to provide communications-electronics can be watched in some way and audited, regardless of whether the support is provided by the military or by civilian contract. The comptroller function should be part and parcel of any command function in future communication operations since the commander needs the comptroller in order to manage effectively the assets of his command and provide an auditable trail in short­tour war areas.

My final point in regard to money is that I take issue with the dollar limitation on the funding of communications projects. In mid-1969 the Secretary of Defense placed a $50,000 ceiling on communications projects that could be approved by the theater commander. Any project whose costs exceed that amount of money must receive approval from the Defense Department. That the process can take a long time is witnessed by the many months that passed before the Integrated Wideband Communications System project was approved. I feel certain that during war this $50,000 threshold is far too low. A more realistic ceiling would be


$1,000,000 to $2,000,000 for the theater Army commander or any major U.S. Army commander to approve. This higher threshold would allow flexibility in the management and operation of a billion dollar communications-electronics plant such as the Army possessed in Vietnam.


Finally, we come to a matter of paramount importance and a major objective of the United States in recent months in Vietnam the Vietnamization of communications. Training the Vietnamese to take over the systems we have built in their country has, of course, been a matter of deep concern to all of us. Since it began in the mid-1960s the "Buddies Together" program paired together officers and men of both the U.S. and South Vietnamese Armies -battalion commanders and executive officers, company commanders, officers and men at every level-in order to improve the communications know-how of our Vietnamese allies. Throughout the last half of the 1960s this program bore good fruit, notably in turnover to the Vietnamese of the Dong Tam Integrated Communications System site when the 9th Infantry Division departed in early 1970. It bore fruit also in the achievements of the Vietnamese divisions that 'replaced U.S. divisions.

The entire program now becomes extremely important during our phase-out from Vietnam, as the systems which the Vietnamese can use are turned over to them. These communications are first to be operated by U.S. civilian contractors. Later, they will be turned over to the Vietnamese who have been trained in the Vietnam signal school, or in the new U.S. contractor-operated Signal Training Facility, both at Vung Tau. The contract school also will be turned over to the Vietnamese to help them build a viable communications system for the future.

Eventually, a Single Integrated Telecommunications System­nicknamed SITS-will be welded together, serving the Republic of Vietnam armed forces, and serving civilians through an autonomous agency at the top level of the South Vietnamese Government. The foundations for all this are now in being, and the work continues to progress under the 1st Signal Brigade commander in Southeast Asia. If we go on at the current pace, the Vietnamese should soon have a communications system adequate for the nation's needs. We must press ahead energetically in the training program in communications-electronics in order to enable the South Vietnamese to unite their country.


The Great American Soldier

"Man is the measure of all things" has been a concise statement of a fundamental fact of life since the days of ancient Greece. And unquestionably the degree to which Army communications-electronics in Vietnam surpassed all military signaling ever known until now reflects precisely the degree to which the American military signalmen of this war surpassed their predecessors.

It has been my experience, as it was the universal experience of my predecessors in the divisional and field force signal battalions and in the 1st Signal Brigade, that the quality and performance of our enlisted men and officers in combat in Vietnam have notably excelled the levels attained in our previous conflicts. The number of men who failed to "measure up" has been far less; the levels of bravery, morale, dedication, intelligent and aggressive application, technical aptitude, and leadership have been very noticeably higher.

Many a youthful second lieutenant or sergeant found himself in complete command of an isolated signal site, fully responsible for a small self-contained city of signalmen, support troops, security guards, and often civilian contract personnel. Almost without exception the young officers met the challenge. One of them, Second Lieutenant Roberto Rivera, so impressed General Abrams when he and his party landed in their helicopter on a brigade site in Thai­land near the Laotian border that General Abrams promoted the young Signal Corps officer to first lieutenant on the spot.

For whatever reason, whether because of the American heritage, family and school background, military training, or the opportunities and challenges encountered in Army communications in Vietnam, I found the overwhelming majority of our soldiers to be dedicated, purposeful, knowledgeable, and brave. Not only is our combat signalman intelligent, eager, and trainable in any skill, but he is also a man of great feeling and empathy in his relations with his own fellow soldiers, with his counterpart in the Vietnamese Army-the Vietnamese signalman-and with the Vietnamese people.

Our signalman may be little known or seldom recognized, but day in and day out, night in and night out, he keeps the circuits humming, be they mobile or fixed. He keeps communications in and operating around the clock, however adverse the conditions of weather or combat. He improvises ways and means when trouble develops. He learns quickly the idiosyncrasies of the equipment, whether new or old, whether relatively simple or amazingly com-


plex, often to an extent beyond the imagination of those skilled in the art of electronics. In Vietnam he has defended his sites and truly achieved the goal of "Keep the Shooters Talking."

Furthermore, our signalman can fight off the enemy. He knows his weapons and the security and combat skills of the infantryman, for he must build bunkers around his exposed equipment, lay out and man perimeter defenses, and fight-as he did notably in Tet, when the casualties of the 1st Signal Brigade mounted into the hundreds and the combat death toll was twenty-two. There is, for example, the case of Private, First Class, Thomas M. Torma, a Silver Star winner of the 86th Signal Battalion, who was badly wounded in an attack on the signal relay site atop Black Virgin Mountain-Nui Ba Den-near Tay Ninh, on the night of 13 May 1968. A satchel charge blasted his weapon from his hands, but he met an oncoming enemy and killed him with his bare hands.

In conclusion, I cannot overemphasize my profound regard for the greatness of our officers and men as I saw and worked with them in Vietnam: the enlisted men, the lieutenants and the captains, and the senior leaders, who learned from our military training system and who further trained themselves on the job for whatever tasks and whatever team efforts were required to build and operate the gigantic communications-electronics network in Vietnam while the U.S. Army was fighting a war.

"May it be said well done.

Be thou at peace."


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