ARMY HISTORICAL SERIES
Getting the Message Through
A Branch History of the U.S. Army
CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
CMH Pub 30-17-1
Army Historical Series
U.S. Army Center of Military History
Illustrations courtesy of the following sources: Frontispiece, pp. 5, 392, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon; pp. 10, 12, 24, 28 (left), 43, 57, 60, 62, 94, 97, 101, 102, 107, 109 (top/bottom), 123, 125, 129, 130, 134, 146, 148, 151, 167, 169, 171, 176, 177, 181, 183, 185, 189, 192, 195, 221, 223 (bottom), 228 (left), 234 (top), 237 (left/right), 238, 242, 243, 257, 259, 261, 267, 269, 270, 272, 273, 278 (top/bottom), 291, 294, 296, 297, 300, 307, 309, 319, 320, 325, 326, 328, 329, 331, 336, 340 (top/bottom), 343, 344 (left/right), 347 (left/right), 361, 369, 372 (top left/top right/bottom), 374, 379 (top/bottom), 381, National Archives; p. 19, U.S. Army Signal Corps Museum; pp. 21, 22 (left), Brown, The Signal Corps in the War of the Rebellion; p. 22 (right), Photographic History of the Civil War, vol. 8; p. 26, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. 3, pt. 1; p. 28 (right), Valentine Museum; p. 48, Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer, 1875; p. 50, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; p. 53, Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer, 1885; pp. 59, 137, 150, U.S. Army Military History Institute; p. 67, Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer, 1888; p. 85, Chicago Public Library; pp. 92, 198, 228 (right), Library of Congress; p. 91, Annual Report of the Chief Signal Officer, 1899; pp. 220, 223 (top), 332, 335, 366, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command; pp. 234 (bottom left/bottom right), 289, U.S. Army Center of Military History; pp. 239, 265, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command; p. 303, Army Art Collection; pp. 308, 403, U.S. Army Information Systems Command; p. 367, U.S. Army Aviation Museum; pp. 395, 405 (top), GTE; p. 399, U.S. Army Visual Information Center; and pp. 404, 405 (bottom), XVIII Airborne Corps.
This book traces the history of the U.S. Army Signal Corps from its beginnings on the eve of the American Civil War through its participation in the Persian Gulf conflict during the early 1990s. Over the course of its 135 years of existence, the Signal Corps has often been at the forefront of the revolutionary changes that have taken place in communications technology. It contributed significantly, for example, to the development of radar and the transistor. In today's information age, the Signal Corps continues its tradition of leadership and innovation on the digitized battlefields of the twenty-first century.
While accounts of the branch's service during the Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam have been published, little has been written about the rest of the Signal Corps' accomplishments. This book fills out the picture. It shows today's signal soldiers where their branch has been and points the way to where it is going. The reader, whether military or civilian, can follow the growth and development of one of the Army's most sophisticated technical branches. By telling the Signal Corps' story in a comprehensive manner, this volume makes a significant contribution to the history of the Army.
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Rebecca Robbins Raines was born in Belfast, Maine, and grew up in nearby Searsport. She graduated from the University of Maine with a B.A. degree in history in 1974. From 1974 to 1977 she was employed by the Maine State Archives. She joined the Center of Military History in 1977 as a historian in the Organizational History Branch. In 1981 she received her M.A. degree in American history from Georgetown University. Mrs. Raines is the author of several articles on the history of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
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This volume was originally conceived as part of a larger series of popular histories about each branch of the Army. To produce this study in a relatively short time, I confined the research largely to published primary and secondary sources. The focus is upon an institutional, rather than an operational or organizational, history of the Signal Corps. While the coverage is by no means comprehensive, it is designed to provide an overview of the many and varied aspects of the Signal Corps' work during its first 130 years. These range from operating a national weather service from 1870 to 1891 to becoming responsible in the 1980s for the Army's automation program. I emphasized the branch's history up to approximately 1985 and have not dealt with more recent events at length. Because much of the material on contemporary operations, such as URGENT FURY in Grenada and JUST CAUSE in Panama, remains classified, published accounts provide only a cursory overview Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM took place just as the manuscript was being finished, and I included some coverage of the Signal Corps' participation in the Persian Gulf conflict. Only the passage of time and the declassification of records will enable historians to analyze fully these most recent episodes in the Corps' history and place them in proper perspective.
The intended audience for this volume is the men and women serving in the Signal Corps, particularly students attending the Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I trust that it will help to instill in them an appreciation of the Signal Corps' rich heritage. I also hope that individuals interested in military history in general and military communications in particular will find the volume useful. The preparation of this volume would not have been possible without the support of the successive chiefs of military history, Maj. Gen. William A. Stofft, Brig. Gen. Harold W. Nelson, and Brig. Gen. John W. Mountcastle. The Center's chief historians, Morris J. MacGregor and his successor, Dr. Jeffrey J. Clarke, helped guide the manuscript to its completion. Lt. Col. Charles R. Shrader, while serving as chief of the Historical Services Division, originally proposed the branch history series and launched this volume.
Writing is a solitary task, but a writer never works alone. Any volume is a cooperative effort, and I owe many thanks to the people who have assisted me in preparing this book. From its inception, generous assistance for this project has been provided by the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, Georgia. My sincere thanks are owed to the following chiefs of signal who served during the course of this undertaking: Maj. Gen. Thurman D. Rodgers, Maj. Gen. Bruce R. Harris, Maj. Gen. Leo M. Childs, Maj. Gen. Peter A. Kind, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Gray, and Maj. Gen. Douglas D. Buchholz. The command historian at Fort Gordon, Dr. Carol
E. Stokes, and her former assistant, Dr. Kathy R. Coker, helped me tremendously. Working with them was a pleasure.
A historian's job would be impossible without librarians, archivists, reference persons, and other invaluable colleagues. Over the years the Center's librarians and their aides have performed yeoman service under often less than ideal conditions. These dedicated individuals include Carol I. Anderson, Esther Howard, James B. Knight, and Mary L. Sawyer. I particularly appreciate their patience with me regarding overdue interlibrary loan books. Hannah M. Zeidlik and the members of the Historical Resources Branch-especially Geraldine K. Harcarik-graciously provided copies of material from the Center's archival collections. The following individuals who reviewed the manuscript at various stages provided valuable guidance and many helpful comments: Dr. Graham A. Cosmas, Dr. Albert E. Cowdrey, Romana Danysh, Col. C. Reid Franks, Dr. Mary C. Gillett, Dr. Vincent C. Jones, Morris J. MacGregor, Janice E. McKenney, Lt. Col. Robert E. Morris, Col. Robert H. Sholly, and John B. Wilson. In addition, many of my colleagues at the Center, past and present, provided advice and encouragement along the way as well as the benefits of their own extensive knowledge. In particularly wish to mention Walter H. Bradford, Dr. Norman M. Cary, Terrence J. Gough, Dr. William M. Hammond, Mary L. Haynes, Dr. Charles E. Kirkpatrick, Dr. Edgar F. Raines, Jr., and Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr.
I also wish to acknowledge the following individuals outside the Center who generously donated their time to read the manuscript and furnish excellent commentary: Col. Alexander W Cameron, Lt. Gen. Thomas M. Rienzi, U.S. Army (Ret.), and Dr. John Y. Simon.
While writing about information systems, I was also learning how to use them as the Center made the transition to the computer age. I want to thank Sherell Fersner who typed the initial drafts of the first chapter in the days before each historian received a personal computer. I also extend a hearty round of applause to Lt. Col. Adrian G. Traas, U.S. Army (Ret.), for his technical assistance in directing the electrons along the correct paths.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many individuals at other agencies and institutions for their assistance-Margaret Novinger and the staff of the Conrad Technical Library, Fort Gordon, Georgia; Theodore F. Wise of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Fort Gordon Museum; Glenn Swan and colleagues in the Office, Chief of Signal; Linda Means in the Public Affairs Office, Fort Gordon; John Slonaker, Dennis Vetock, and Louise Amold-Friend of the Historical Reference Branch, U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI), who kindly let me borrow most of their library, or so it seemed; Dr. Richard Sommers of the Archives Branch, MHI; and Michael Winey and Randy Hackenburg of the Special Collections Branch, MHI. Richard L. Boylan and Wilbert B. Mahoney of the National Archives and Records Administration provided much-needed guidance in locating Signal Corps records, and the staff of the Still Picture Branch assisted geatly in securing illustrations for the volume. Thanks are also due Dr. Richard B. Bingham, command historian of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command at Fort
Monmouth, New Jersey; Dr. John P. Finnegan of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command; David W. Gaddy of the National Security Agency; Don E. MacLeod, Elaine Pospishil, and Danny M. Johnson, who have served successively as command historian of the U.S. Army Information Systems Command at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; and the staffs of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress and the Special Collections Division of the United States Military Academy Library.
My thanks are also extended to the following individuals who assisted me in my search for illustrations: Regina Burns of the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama; Mark Dunn of the history office at Fort Gordon; Robert Hansen of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce; Cynthia Hayden, Command Historian, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg; Earle M. Levine of GTE; and Barbara Tuttle of the Fort Huachuca Museum.
I reserve a very special and heartfelt thank-you to Dr. Paul J. Scheips, formerly of the Signal Corps Historical Division and for many years a treasured colleague at the Center. Without his guidance, support, and generosity, I could never have attempted to write this volume. From my earliest days at the Center he helped me learn about the Signal Corps and spurred my interest in its history. The Signal Corps owes an enormous debt to this gentleman and scholar, whose dissertation on the first chief signal officer, Albert J. Myer, is an indispensable resource. His many published works relating to Signal Corps history make him the dean of Signal Corps historians.
I am especially grateful for the expert assistance provided by my editor, Susan Carroll. Her patience, professionalism, and good humor were geatly appreciated. I am also indebted to the Center's production staff for its skill and expertise: John W Elsberg Catherine A. Heerin, Diane Sedore Arms, Diane Donovan, Arthur S. Hardyman, Beth MacKenzie, Sherry L. Dowdy, and Howell C. Brewer, Jr.
Words alone cannot convey the thanks I owe to my family. First, my parents, Carl and Evelyn Robbins, who encouraged my interest in history from an early age. Throughout the course of this project, my husband Ed and son Eddie showed enormous patience and provided much-needed support. Ed's love and enthusiasm for military history, not to mention his voluminous library, helped me over many rough spots.
If I have overlooked anyone, it was not intentional. I am not organized enough to have kept all the notes I needed to write this essay, as anyone who has ever seen my desk can testify. Finally, despite the best efforts of the individuals cited above, any errors that remain in the text are my sole responsibility.
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