P. 1
Signal Corps the Test

Signal Corps the Test

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Published by Bob Andrepont
United States Army history of the Signal Corps during World War II, part 2 of 3
United States Army history of the Signal Corps during World War II, part 2 of 3

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Feb 06, 2011
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05/20/2013

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DECEMBER 1941

9

commission at Hickam Field, the Japanese

attack did little damage to signal installa-

tions. Soldiers and civilians working
through the second phase of the bombings
quickly patched all the important circuits
in the Hickam cable. Two hours before
midnight a third of the damaged Hickam
Field circuits were back in the original
route, and by two o'clock on the morning
of 8 December the whole cable was re-

stored.15

Word of the attack reached the Navy
communications center in Washington at
1350 Sunday, Washington time, over the
direct Boehme circuit from the Pearl Har-
bor radio station.16

In an action message
over the name of Admiral Husband E.
Kimmel, the commander in chief of the
Pacific Fleet, the broadcaster was saying
"Air attack on Pearl Harbor. This is not
drill." 17

Thus he was correcting the first
incredulous reaction to the falling bombs.
As word spread through the military
establishment in Washington, General
George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff,
wanted to know why the warning message

he had sought to send that morning had not
arrived in time to avert disaster.18

Atmos-
pheric disturbances in the vicinities of San
Francisco and Honolulu that morning had
rendered the Army radio circuits unusable.
For that reason, Lt. Col. Edward F. French,
the Signal Corps officer in charge of the

War Department Message Center, had
turned to the commercial facilities of West-
ern Union and the Radio Corporation of
America (RCA).19

When he had sent Mar-
shall's message from the Center (at 0647
Hawaiian time) he had told Western Union
that he desired an immediate report on its
delivery. Now he perspired at the telephone
trying to get it. "I was very much con-
cerned; General Marshall was very much
concerned; we wanted to know whose
hands it got into. This went on late into
the night; I personally talked to the signal
office over there." 20

French was not able
to talk to Colonel Powell, the Hawaiian
Department signal officer, who was busy in
the field, but he did talk to the Hawaiian
operator, and told him that it was impera-
tive to be able to tell Marshall who got that
message.

It was not until the following day that
Washington received a definite answer, and
learned that the RCA office in Honolulu
had delivered the message to the signal cen-
ter at Fort Shafter in a routine manner.
The warning message had arrived in Hono-
lulu at 0733, twenty-two minutes before the
attack, and a messenger boy on a motor-
cycle was carrying it out to the Army post
when the bombs started falling. The boy de-
livered the message at Fort Shafter at 1145,
long after the main attacking groups of

Japanese planes had retired.21

About an

15

Interv, SigC Hist Sec with Capt Robert Danser
(formerly O/C Switchboard Instl Sec, Hawaiian
Dept Sig Off), 7 Oct 44.

16

U.S. Office of Naval Opns, Office of the Chief
of Naval Operations: Naval Communications
(1947). First draft narrative, Hist Sec, Office CNC.

17

(1)Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 10, p. 4737; Pt.
11, p. 5351; Pt. 23, pp. 608, 935. (2) Hist of
Subsec G-2, HUSAFMIDPAC, I, 55.

18

See account in Watson, Chief of Staff, and in
Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 9, pp. 4517-19; Pt. 2, pp.
915-16 and 933; Pt. 3, pp. 1111-12.

19

Pearl Harbor Attack, Pt. 22, pp. 237-39; Pt.

27, pp. 105-15.

20

Ibid., Pt. 23, pp. 1102-05.

21

(1) Memo for Record, Col W. B. Smith, Secy
General Staff, 15 Dec 41, p. 474 of Resume of
Papers in War Department Bearing Significantly
on Events at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941,
prepared by Current Group, OPD, WDGS, 11 Nov
44. Copy in OCMH. (2) According to the Hono-
lulu office of RCA, the message arrived at Fort
Shafter between 0900 and 0930, Honolulu time,
and not 1145. The receipt for the message was

10

THE SIGNAL CORPS

hour was spent in decoding it; it had to be
processed through the cipher machine and
then played back to make sure of its ac-
curacy. At 1458 it was placed in the hands
of the adjutant general of the department,
who delivered it to General Short's aide,
who gave it to Short at 1500. The warning
was in Short's hands, then, 8 hours and 13
minutes after it had left the War Depart-
ment Message Center, 7 hours and 5 min-
utes after the attack had begun.22

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