Bibliographical Note

One of the major reasons for writing this book was to provide a comprehensive one-volume history of the Signal Corps. Although scholars have given some periods of the Corps' history considerable attention, particularly the Civil War and World War II, they have devoted little if any study to other periods. This volume attempts to rectify that situation. The sources consulted were largely published primary and secondary works. While the following does not purport to be a complete listing of sources about the Signal Corps, it is intended to serve as a guide for those interested in pursuing various aspects of its history.

General Sources

The records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer comprise Record Group (RG) 111 at the National Archives. These constitute the principal primary source of information about the branch from 1860 to the 1950s. With the opening in early 1994 of the new Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland, the Archives is undertaking a major reorganization of its holdings. The Archives currently plans to house Signal Corps records that originate before World War II in its main building in Washington, D.C., while those dating after 1941 will be located in College Park. Mabel E. Deutrich has compiled a Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Preliminary Inventory 155 (1963).

The annual reports of the chief signal officer are the single most valuable published source of information for the organization and operations of the Corps. From 1860 to 1920 these are printed as part of the annual report of the secretary of war and in some instances are published as separate volumes. In 1921, in an economy move, the War Department ceased to publish the reports by most of the bureau chiefs, although the chiefs were still required to submit them to the secretary of war. Excerpts of the chief signal officer's report appear in the secretary of war's reports of 1921 and 1922. To achieve further savings, publication of even the excerpts ceased after 1922. The manuscript copies prepared by the chief signal officer and his counterparts are located in the National Archives in RG 407 (Adjutant General), Central File, file no. 319.12. After 1937 the preparation of these reports was no longer required. Perhaps to fill the resulting information gap, the Signal Corps in 1920 began publishing the Signal Corps Information Bulletin (later the Signal Corps Bulletin), which dealt with historical and technical topics. Publication ceased in 1940. Partial or complete collections are located at the Pentagon Library; the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI) at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; and the National Archives.


The following secondary sources together cover most of the history of the Signal Corps:

William A. Glassford, "The Signal Corps," in The Army of the United States, edited by Theophilus F. Rodenbough and William L. Haskin (New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., 1896). This is a historical sketch written by a prominent Signal Corps officer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Historical Sketch of the Signal Corps (1860-1941), Eastern Signal Corps Schools Pamphlet no. 32 (Fort Monmouth, N.J.: Eastern Signal Corps Schools, U. S. Army, 1942). A reliable guide to the Corps' history prior to World War II.

Max L. Marshall, editor, The Story of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1965). Contains articles by various authors on aspects of the Corps' history up to the time of its publication. This source should be used with caution as the quality of the pieces varies considerably.

Paul J. Scheips, editor, Military Signal Communications, 2 vols. (New York: Arno Press, Inc., 1980). A very useful anthology. The first volume of readings covers the history of military signal communications in the United States through World War II. The second volume focuses on signaling techniques.

Kathy R. Coker and Carol E. Stokes, A Concise History of U.S. Army Signal Corps (U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, Ga.: Office of the Command Historian, 1991). Originally published in 1988, this revised edition expands upon the original text and includes such useful information as biographical sketches of the chief signal officers and chiefs of signal, a collection of representative photographs, and significant dates in the Corps' history.

Published unit histories are another source of much valuable information. Large collections of unit histories are maintained by the Military History Institute and the New York Public Library in New York City. In many cases these volumes may be obtained through interlibrary loan. For a guide to published unit histories, see James T. Controvich, compiler, United States Army Unit Histories: A Reference and Bibliography (Manhattan, Kans.: Military Affairs/Aerospace Historian, 1983). A supplement to this guide was published in 1987.

The Origins of the Signal Corps and the Civil War

The papers of Albert J. Myer, founder of the Signal Corps, are located at the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. In addition, a small collection of his papers is located in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. These collections have been microfilmed, and the U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH) has a set of the four rolls of film. Paul J. Scheips used this material to write his invaluable dissertation, "Albert J. Myer, Founder of the Signal Corps: A Biographical Study" (Ph.D. diss., American


University, 1966), which is full of details about Myer's early career and the origins of the Signal Corps.

In addition to the Myer collection, the Military History Institute also holds papers belonging to Benjamin F. Fisher, chief signal officer from 1864 to 1866. The institute also houses the papers of several Civil War signal officers, including Luther Furst, who served with distinction on Little Round Top during the Gettysburg campaign.

The most comprehensive source of information about the Signal Corps during the Civil War is J. Willard Brown's The Signal Corps, USA. in the War of the Rebellion (Boston: U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, 1896). Brown served as a signal officer during the conflict, so he knew his subject first hand. The major drawback to this work is the author's tendency to use large amounts of unattributed material. Copies of the original volume may be somewhat hard to locate, but Arno Press published a reprint edition in 1974. Unfortunately, the reprint contains neither the roster of the Corps' personnel that Brown compiled nor an index.

Among the articles that provide a general discussion of the Signal Corps during the Civil War are: George R. Thompson, "Civil War Signals," Military Affairs 18 (Winter 1954): 188-201, reprinted in volume 1 of Scheips, ed., Military Signal Communications, and Paul J. Scheips, "Union Signal Communications: Innovation and Conflict," Civil War History 9 (Dec 1963):399-421.

Reports of the chief signal officer and the other signal officers in the field are scattered throughout the 128 volumes of the War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901). There are, however, few published operational studies of the use of signals during the war. Among those available are Paul J. Scheips, "Signaling at Port Hudson, 1863," Civil War History 2 (Dec 1956): 106-13, and Alexander W Cameron, "The Signal Corps at Gettysburg," Gettysburg (Jul 1990): 9-15, and "The Signal Corps at Gettysburg Part II: Support of Meade's Pursuit," Gettysburg (Jan 1991): 101-09. See also Cameron's A Communicator's Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: U.S. Army War College, 1989).

A number of Civil War signal officers later wrote of their experiences. Many of these reminiscences were published by the various state commanderies of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). The Military History Institute has these volumes among its collections, and their contents are listed in Louise Arnold, comp., Special Bibliography 11, The Era of the Civil War, 1820-1876 (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: U.S. Army Military History Institute, 1982). See, for example, Samuel T. Cushing, "The Acting Signal Corps," in War Talks in Kansas: A Series of Papers Read Before the Kansas Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Paper no. 5 (Kansas City, Mo.: Franklin Hudson Publishing House, 1906); Sylvester B. Partridge, "With the Signal Corps from Fortress Monroe to Richmond, May 1864-April 1865," War Papers Read Before the Maine Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, vol.


3 (Portland: Lefavor-Tower Company, 1908); and Henry S. Tafft, "Reminiscences of the Signal Service in the Civil War," Personal Narratives of the War of the Rebellion, Being Papers Read Before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society, Sixth Series, no. 3 (Providence: Published by the Society, 1903). Other autobiographical sources include Wayne C. Temple, ed., "A Signal Officer with Grant: The Letters of Captain Charles L. Davis," Civil War History 6 (Dec 1961): 428-37; and Lester L. Swift, ed., "The Recollections of a Signal Officer," Civil War History 9 (Mar 1963): 36-54. Swift edited the writings of Capt. Gustavus Sullivan Dana.

Chief Signal Officer Myer published the first edition of A Manual of Signals: For the Use of Signal Officers in the Field in 1864. Subsequent editions were published in 1866, 1868, 1871, 1877, and 1879.

J. Willard Brown devotes a chapter of his book to the Confederate Signal Corps. The foremost contemporary scholar of that organization is David W Gaddy. See his "William Norris and the Confederate Signal and Secret Service," Maryland Historical Magazine 70 (Summer 1975): 167-88. On the intelligence work performed by the Confederate Signal Corps, see William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall, and David W Gaddy, Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1988). The Confederate Army's first signal officer, Edward Porter Alexander, gained considerable renown as an artillery commander and later became a successful businessman in Georgia. He penned his Military Memoirs of a Confederate (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907; reprint, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962), which is still considered a classic. The reprinted edition contains an introduction by T. Harry Williams that discusses Alexander's work with Myer in some detail. Alexander devotes more space to his early career in his Fighting for the Confederacy, edited by Gary W Gallagher (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).

The two volumes of William R. Plum's The Military Telegraph During the Civil War, with an Exposition of Ancient and Modern Means of Communication, and of the Federal and Confederate Cipher Systems... (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg & Co., 1882) provide a full account of the operations of Myer's nemesis, the Military Telegraph. Arno Press reprinted Plum's work in 1974 as one volume with an introduction by Paul J. Scheips. Plum had been a Military Telegraph operator. Two of his colleagues who wrote of their experiences were David Homer Bates, Lincoln in the Telegraph Office: Recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps (New York: Century Co., 1907), and John Emmet O'Brien, Telegraphing in Battle: Reminiscences of the Civil War (Scranton, Pa.: Raeder Press, 1910).

The Post-Civil War Years (1866-1891)

The Corps' emphasis during this period was primarily on its weather activities. The chief signal officer's annual reports for these years are voluminous,


sometimes comprising more than one thousand pages, and are full of interesting facts and statistics.

The National Archives removed the Signal Corps' weather-related records from RG 111 and placed them with those of the Weather Bureau, RG 27. A valuable summary of the Corps' weather activities is that by Lewis J. Darter, Jr., "Weather Service Activities of Federal Agencies Prior to 1891," the introduction to his List of Climatological Records in the National Archives, Special List 1 (1942). See also Harold T. Pinkett, Helen T. Finneran, and Katherine H. Davidson, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Climatological and Hydrological Records of the Weather Bureau, Preliminary Inventory 38 (1952). There are also 564 rolls of microfilm that contain the Climatological Records of the Weather Bureau, 1819-1892, T907.

The Monthly Weather Review, begun by the Signal Corps in 1872 and published within the chief's annual report until 1884, is still being published by the American Meteorological Society.

A. Hunter Dupree's Science in the Federal Government (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1957; reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986) discusses the Signal Corps' role in the overall governmental scientific establishment. Among the secondary works that deal with the Corps' weather duties are: Charles C. Bates and John F. Fuller, America's Weather Warriors, 1814-1985 (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M Press, 1986); Donald R. Whitnah, A History of the United States Weather Bureau (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965); and Joseph M. Hawes, "The Signal Corps and Its Weather Service, 1870-1890," Military Affairs 30 (Summer 1966): 68-76.

The Signal Corps' work in the Arctic is discussed in John Edwards Caswell's Arctic Frontiers: United States Explorations in the Far North (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956). The ill-fated expedition to northern Canada, led by 1st Lt. Adolphus W. Greely during the 1880s, is well documented. In addition to Greely's two-volume official report published in 1888, Proceedings of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, he wrote a personal account, Three Years of Arctic Service, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886). A one-volume edition was published in 1894. A. L. Todd used Greely's papers to write Abandoned: The Story of the Greely Arctic Expedition, 1881-1884 (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1961). Although without footnotes, it is an excellent and compelling account. Todd discusses the controversial charges of cannibalism that cast a shadow over the expedition's real scientific accomplishments, such as the "farthest north" achieved to that time. The failed rescue attempt by 1st Lt. Ernest A. Garlington is discussed in Lawrence J. Fischer's "Horse Soldiers in the Arctic: The Garlington Expedition of 1883," American Neptune 36 (Apr 1976): 108-24. Capt. Winfield S. Schley wrote of his successful effort in The Rescue of Greely (New York: Scribner's, 1885). A considerable body of literature exists on Arctic exploration, many of which include the Greely expedition. See, for example, Pierre Berton's The


Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 (New York: Viking, 1988).

Just a few years after his ordeal in the Arctic Greely became chief signal officer. He headed the Corps from 1887 to 1906, the longest tenure of any chief, and he was one of the most remarkable men of his generation. Greely's papers are located in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and he donated much of his personal library to the National Geographic Society, of which he was a charter member. He also contributed a number of articles to the National Geographic magazine. In 1927 he published his memoirs, Reminiscences of Adventure and Service (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons). Greely has attracted considerable scholarly attention. He was the subject of a biography by William ("Billy") Mitchell, General Greely: The Story of a Great American (New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1936). See also the entry for Greely in volume 21 (supplement one) of the Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944) and Charles R. Shrader's biographical essay in volume 2 of Roger J. Spiller, ed., Dictionary of American Military Biography, 3 vols. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984).

William B. Hazen, Greely's predecessor, is less well known but not overlooked. Hazen himself wrote of his Civil War experiences in A Narrative of Military Service (1885: reprint, Huntington, WV: Blue Acorn Press, 1993). His early post-Civil War career has been studied by Marvin E. Kroeker's Great Plains Command: William B. Hazen in the Frontier West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976). A biographical sketch, "William Babcock Hazen," by Paul J. Scheips appeared in the Cosmos Club Bulletin 38 (Oct 1985): 4-7, and Hazen is also included in volume 8 of the Dictionary of American Biography (1932).

The career of Cleveland Abbe is closely associated with the Signal Corps weather bureau, and he continued his weather duties with the Agriculture Department after the transfer of the function in 1891. His son Truman later published a biography of his father, Professor Abbe and the Isobars: The Story of Cleveland Abbe, America's First Weatherman (New York: Vantage Press, 1955), and Cleveland Abbe is the first entry in volume 1 of the Dictionary of American Biography (1928).

The Corps' other major activity in the post-Civil War period was the construction and operation of frontier military telegraph lines. In addition to providing communications to the frontier, these lines were also used to send weather reports. See L. Tuffly Ellis, "Lieutenant A. W Greely's Report on the Installation of Military Telegraph Lines in Texas, 1875-1876," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 69 (Jul 1965): 66-87, reprinted in volume one of Military Signal Communications. One of the Corps' frontier operators, Will Croft Barnes, wrote an interesting account of his adventures, Apaches and Longhorns: The Reminiscences of Will C. Barnes (Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1941; facsimile edition, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982). Barnes was also one of the Corps' five Medal of Honor winners.


The Post-Weather Bureau Years and the War With Spain (1892-1903)

Having lost its weather functions in 1891, the Signal Corps returned to its original mission-military communications. During this period the branch began its venture into aeronautics, beginning with balloons. Tom D. Crouch of the Smithsonian Institution has written a comprehensive study of ballooning, The Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983). Russell J. Parkinson's "Politics, Patents, and Planes: Military Aeronautics in the United States, 1863-1907" (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1963) is also an excellent source of information. He summarized much of his research in "United States Signal Corps Balloons, 1871-1902," Military Affairs 24 (Winter 1960-1961): 189-202. The early years of Signal Corps aviation are also discussed by two of the Army's first pilots, Charles deForest Chandler and Frank P Lahm, in How Our Army Grew Wings: Airmen and Aircraft Before 1914 (Chicago: Ronald Press Company, 1943).

Along with detailed information on the Corps' service in the War with Spain, the 1898 and 1899 chief signal officer's reports contain a number of photographs taken in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. These reflect the fact that the branch had unofficially become the Army's photographer. Other sources of information about the Corps' service in the Spanish-American War are Howard A. Giddings' Exploits of the Signal Corps in the War with Spain (Kansas City, Mo.: Hudson-Kimberly Publishing Co., 1900) and Adolphus W Greely's "The Signal Corps in War-Time," The Century Magazine 66 (Sep 1903): 811-26. The Corps is probably best remembered for its attempt to use a balloon during the battle of Santiago. The unfortunate results are chronicled in John Cuneo's "The Balloon at Hell's Corner," Military Affairs 7 (Fall 1943): 189-95. The Signal Corps' work in Cuba after the war is recounted in Report of Captain Otto A. Nesmith, Signal Corps, U.S. Army, Chief Signal Officer, Department of Cuba from July 1, 1901 to May 20, 1902 (Baltimore: Guggenheimer, Weil & Co., n.d.).

In 1900 the Signal Corps began the construction of the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System. Among the signal soldiers who worked on this project was Billy Mitchell, who later became well known for his views about air power. His The Opening of Alaska, edited by Lyman L. Woodman (Anchorage: Cook Inlet Historical Society, 1982), is fascinating reading.

The Early Twentieth Century (1904-1917)

The Signal Corps participated in a variety of activities during the early twentieth century. In 1906 alone it sent units to Cuba as part of the "Army of Cuban Pacification" and helped bring order out of the chaos of the San Francisco earth quake. The Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, the Journal of the United States Infantry Association (which became Infantry Journal), the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association (later Cavalry Journal), and The National Guard Magazine are good sources for articles on the


Signal Corps during this period. One of the Corps' more unusual duties was the care and lighting of the Statue of Liberty. On this aspect of its history, see Rebecca C. Robbins' "Carrying a Torch for Lady Liberty," Army Communicator 11 (Fall 1986): 40-43.

In 1907 the Signal Corps created an aviation section in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. The United States Air Force traces its lineage to that organization. Maurer Maurer compiled and edited several volumes of documents relevant to the early history of the Air Force in The U.S. Air Force in World War I, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1978-1979). Volume 2 is of particular interest as it covers the period under the Signal Corps' auspices. Juliette A. Hennessy's The United States Army Air Arm, April 1861 to April 1917 (1958; reprint, Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1985) offers a chronological study of the development of aviation and contains some useful appendixes.

In 1909 the Signal Corps purchased the Army's first airplane from Wilbur and Orville Wright. The literature on the Wright brothers and their achievement is extensive and constantly growing. Fred Howard's Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987) is an excellent study and discusses the brothers' work for the Signal Corps. Tom Crouch's The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright (New York: W W Norton and Co., 1989) is also of great value and a pleasure to read. Besides Chandler and Lahm, whose volume is cited in the preceding section, another early Signal Corps aviator, Benjamin D. Foulois, wrote about his experiences. See Benjamin D. Foulois and C. V Glines, From the Wright Brothers to the Astronauts: The Memoirs of Major General Benjamin D. Foulois (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968). Henry ("Hap") Arnold also began his aeronautical career with the Signal Corps. He discusses this period of his career in Global Mission (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949). See also Thomas M. Coffey's Hap: The Story of the U.S. Air Force and the Man Who Built It, General Henry ("Hap") Arnold (New York: Viking Press, 1982).

The Signal Corps also took to the air by means of radio. An excellent study of early radio technology is found in the two volumes by Hugh G. J. Aitken, Syntony and Spark: The Origins of Radio and The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900-1932 (both Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985). Eric Barnouw's three volumes on the history of broadcasting in the United States, published by Oxford University Press, are also highly informative: A Tower in Babel (1966) covers the period to 1933, The Golden Web (1968) carries the story to 1953, and The Image Empire (1970) completes the trilogy. Also helpful is Susan J. Douglas' Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), which emphasizes the social and cultural aspects of radio.

Edwin W Armstrong was an early radio pioneer who worked for the Signal Corps during both world wars. Among his many accomplishments was the development of frequency-modulated, or FM, radio. See Lawrence Lessing's


Man of High Fidelity: Edwin Howard Armstrong (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1956). Armstrong is the subject, along with two other broadcasting pioneers, David Sarnoff and Lee de Forest, of Tom Lewis' Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991). This book was the companion to the Public Broadcasting System's documentary of the same title.

The Signal Corps' role in the Mexican Expedition is not well documented in the secondary literature, but Clarence C. Clendenen's Blood on the Border: The United States Army and the Mexican Irregulars (New York: Macmillan Company, 1969) provides useful background and does discuss some of the communication problems the Army faced. Foulois' report as chief of the 1st Aero Squadron in Mexico is printed in Frank Tompkins, Chasing Villa (Harrisburg, Pa.: Military Service Publishing Co., 1934). Foulois' memoirs, cited above, as well as Hennessy's Army Air Arm, also discuss aerial operations along the border.

World War I

An excellent source of information on the Signal Corps in World War I is the annual report of the chief signal officer for 1919. At over five hundred pages in length, it is full of detail, but unfortunately contains no index. Other sources include the study by the Historical Section of the Army War College, The Signal Corps and Air Service: A Study of Their Expansion in the United States, 1917-1918, Monograph no. 16 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922), and C. F. Martin, Signal Communications in World War I [Historical Section, Army War College, August 1942]. Martin's account is among the collections of the Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

The Center of Military History has reprinted, in five volumes, the Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War and the seventeen-volume compilation of selected AEF records, United States Army in the World War. Volume 15 contains the report on the Signal Corps' activities.

The Signal Corps' administration of aviation during the war became extremely controversial and led to the separation of the Air Service from the Corps in 1918. On the Air Service, see Arthur Sweetser's The American Air Service. A Record of Its Problems, Its Difficulties, Its Failures, and Its Final Achievements (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1919); Edgar S. Gorrell's The Measure of America's World War Aeronautical Effort, James Jackson Cabot Professorship of Air Traffic Regulation and Air Transportation Publication No. 6 (Burlington, Vt.: Lane Press, Inc., 1940); and I. B. Holley's Ideas and Weapons (Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983). Ideas and Weapons is a reprint of the original edition, published in 1953. Another useful source of information is Lois Walker and Shelby E. Wickham, From Huffman Prairie to the Moon: The History of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio: Office of History, 2750th Air Base Wing, 1986).


George O. Squier, chief signal officer during World War I, was one of the first Army officers to obtain a graduate degree and the first chief signal officer to hold a degree in electrical engineering. On his career, see Paul Wilson Clark's, "Major General George O. Squier: Military Scientist" (Ph.D. diss., Case Western Reserve University, 1974). See also Charles J. Gross' "George Owen Squier and the Origins of American Military Aviation," Journal of Military History 54 (Jul 1990): 281-305, and his entry in volume 17 of the Dictionary of American Biography (1935).

Assistant Secretary of War Benedict Crowell published America's Munitions, 1917-1918 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1919), which contains separate chapters on the Signal Corps and the Air Service. Robert M. Yerkes, ed., The New World of Science: Its Development During the War (Freeport, N.Y: Books for Libraries Press, 1920, reprint, Appleton-Century, 1969) contains information about various aspects of the Signal Corps' activities, such as meteorology. With the advent of aviation and long-range artillery, military meteorology gained new importance during the war.

A. Lincoln Lavine's Circuits of Victory (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1921) is an excellent account of the Signal Corps' service on the ground during World War I. See also George R. Thompson, "Radio Comes of Age in World War I," in Marshall, ed., Story of the Signal Corps. Samuel A. Barnes in "Signaling Souls on the Western Front," Army Communicator 5 (Winter 1980): 30-35, tells the story of the 325th Field Signal Battalion, a black unit. Karen L. Hillerich's "Black Jack's Girls," Army 32 (Dec 1982): 44-48, is about the women who served as telephone operators in Europe for the Signal Corps. They were also known as the "Hello Girls."

Photography, though long an unofficial function, became an official duty of the Signal Corps during World War I and has remained an important aspect of its work ever since. See K. Jack Bauer, comp., List of World War I Signal Corps Films, Special List 14 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1957).

Interwar Years

Relatively little has been published about the Signal Corps during this period. Dulany Terrett's The Signal Corps: The Emergency, part of the Center of Military History's World War II "green book" series, represents the only comprehensive source. Terrett's volume is the first of three volumes on the Signal Corps in World War II and covers the period up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It can be supplemented by the Historical Sketch and articles in Scheips, ed., Military Signal Communications, as well those in the Signal Corps Bulletin and other publications. On signal training during these years, see Helen C. Phillips' History of the United States Army Signal Center and School, 1919-1967 (Fort Monmouth, N.J.: U.S. Army Signal Center and School, 1967).

During this period the Corps developed radar, one of the "wonder weapons" of World War II. On its work in this area see Harry M. Davis' "History of the


Signal Corps Development of U.S. Army Radar Equipment" (New York: Office of the Chief Signal Officer, Historical Section Field Office, 1944), in the custody of the Historical Resources Branch, CMH. On the Navy's concurrent work with radar see David K. Allison's, New Eye for the Navy: The Origins of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, D.C.: Naval Research Laboratory, 1981).

World War II

The more than seventy volumes of the series the United States Army in World War II, published by CMH and known collectively as the "green books," provide the most comprehensive history of the Army's participation in the war. Within this larger series are three volumes that specifically discuss the operations of the Signal Corps: Terrett's Emergency, cited above; The Signal Corps: The Test (1957) by George R. Thompson, Dixie R. Harris, Pauline M. Oakes, and Dulany Terrett; and The Signal Corps: The Outcome (1966), by George R. Thompson and Dixie R. Harris. Other volumes in the series that provided essential information for this volume include: Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The Framework of Hemisphere Defense (1960); Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts (1964); Stanley Dziuban, Military Relations Between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945 (1959); John D. Millett, The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces (1954); Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, 2 vols. (1953, 1959); and Mattie E. Treadwell, The Women's Army Corps (1954).

The Center of Military History has in its custody many of the monographs prepared as background for the green books. Among the most useful for this study were: James V Clarke, "Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service in World War II (1 September 1939-16 August 1945)"; Sidney L. Jackson, "Tactical Communication in World War 11, Part 1, North African Campaigns" and "Part 2, Signal Communication in the Sicilian Campaign"; Mary-Louise Melia, "Signal Corps Fixed Communications in World War II: Special Assignments and Techniques"; and Ruth E Sadler, "History of the Signal Corps Affiliated Plan" and "History of the Electronics Training Group in the United Kingdom (1944)." A complete list of the monographs is contained in the bibliographic note to Thompson et al., The Test. The Center's library also contains typescript copies of the annual reports of the chief signal officer to the commanding general, Army Service Forces, for the years 1943 through 1946.

Signal security and intelligence can be considered a separate genre of study. From 1929 to 1944 the Signal Corps operated the Signal Intelligence Service (subsequently the Signal Security Service and the Signal Security Agency, the forerunners of the current Army Intelligence and Security Command [INSCOM]), which had responsibility for codes and ciphers. Its work paid off during World War II when William R. Friedman, the Army's foremost cryptologist, succeeded in breaking PURPLE, the Japanese diplomatic code. Meanwhile,


the British, with the help of the Poles, had broken the German cipher machine known as Enigma. The Allies benefited significantly from the use of the intelligence they gleaned from the Japanese (MAGIC) and the Germans (ULTRA). Most of the material regarding MAGIC and ULTRA was still classified when the green books were prepared. Since these records were declassified in the 1970s, the literature has been steadily growing. The INSCOM history office has recently produced a documentary history entitled U.S. Army Signals Intelligence in World War II, edited by James L. Gilbert and John P Finnegan (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993). This volume gives the researcher a sample of the material long held from public view. Among those who have written works in this area are: Ronald Clark, The Man Who Broke Purple: The Life of Colonel William F. Friedman, Who Deciphered the Japanese Code in World War II (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1977); Edward J. Drea, MacArthur's Ultra: Codebreaking and the War Against Japan, 1942-1945 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992); David Kahn, The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing (New York: Macmillan Company, 1967; abridged paperback edition, New American Library, 1973); and Ronald Lewin, The American Magic: Codes, Ciphers, and the Defeat of Japan (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1982) and Ultra Goes to War (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1978).

The Cold War and Korea

Like the interwar years, the post-World War II period presents a research problem for students of the Signal Corps. There are two published quadrennial reports of the chief signal officer, the first covering May 1951 to April 1955 and the second from May 1955 to April 1959. Comprising about 125 pages in length each, they are not full of detail, but they do cover the major developments.

The Korean War, sometimes referred to as the "forgotten war," is not as well documented as many other conflicts. Consequently, published information about the Signal Corps' participation therein is limited as well. Some information can be gleaned from CMH's official publications on the Korean War. For specific details, told in anecdotal form by participants, see John G. Westover, ed., Combat Support in Korea (Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press, 1955). Marshall, ed., Story of the Signal Corps, contains one article about Korea. It describes the Signal Corps' fight alongside the marines to protect "Communications Hill" near the Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

Information about the Corps' technical achievements, such as its involvement in the space race, can be found in such journals as the Army Information Digest (which changed its name to Army Digest in 1966 and to Soldiers in 1971), Signal, and the United States Army Combat Forces Journal (which became Army in 1956). An excellent article on the development of the transistor that discusses the Signal Corps' role in the endeavor is Thomas J. Misa, "Military Needs, Commercial Realities, and the Development of the Transistor, 1948-1958," in


Merritt Roe Smith, ed., Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives on the American Experience (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1985).

During the 1960s the Signal Corps and the other technical services were radically reorganized as a result of the reforms initiated by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. To put those changes into perspective, see James E. Hewes, Jr.'s, excellent study, From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900-1963, originally published by CMH in 1975. The new order is also discussed by David P Gibbs in "The Army's New Communications­Electronics Organization," found in Marshall, ed., Story of the Signal Corps. Gibbs was the last man to hold the title of chief signal officer and the first to be the chief of communications-electronics. He was also the son of a former chief signal officer, George S. Gibbs, who held that post from 1928 to 1931.


The Center of Military History has produced several publications that discuss communications in Vietnam. This volume drew largely upon John D. Bergen's Military Communications: A Test for Technology, United States Army in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1986). Also very useful were the following monographs in the Vietnam Studies series: Charles R. Myer, Division-Level Communications, 1962-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1982), and Thomas M. Rienzi, Communications­Electronics, 1962-1970 (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1972). John J. Tolson, Airmobility, 1961-1971, Vietnam Studies (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1973) also provided important details about the development of airborne command posts.

The 1980s and Beyond

The decades since the end of the fighting in Vietnam have witnessed incredible leaps in signaling technology, particularly the explosion in digital communications. Personal computers, fiber optics, and satellites have revolutionized communications within both the civilian and military communities. Since 1983 the Signal Corps has become the leader in the Army's automation effort with the implementation of the Information Mission Area (IMA). The evolution of this doctrine is well documented through the pages of Army Communicator, published by the Signal Center and School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. In addition, Signal, the journal of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, is an excellent source of information on the latest technological innovations.

As of this writing, much of the material on the Army's recent operations in Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf remains classified. Since this is a historical study, it is perhaps too soon to put these latest chapters of the Signal Corps'


story into proper perspective. As more information becomes available, these episodes can be fully integrated into the Signal Corps' history as it continues to unfold. There is so much to be written about the Signal Corps. I urge those with an interest in its history to continue the exploration of the branch's past as well as to follow its journey into the future.







Return to Table of Contents

Search CHM Online
Last updated 3 April 2006