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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The South Pacific island approach to-
ward Japan had its counterpart in the
north, where the Signal Corps was provid-
ing Army communications through the
northwest reaches of the North American
mainland and outward into the Aleutian Is-
lands chain. All the military activity going
on in the area had a twofold purpose: to
lay foundations for strong permanent Alas-
kan defenses and to provide facilities for
American landings in the Aleutians to dis-
lodge the Japanese entrenched there. To-
ward the first of these objectives, the Signal
Corps was devoting special effort to com-
plete the telephone pole line which paral-
leled the Alaska Military Highway (or Al-

Guadalcanal. Rpts, South Pacific Area, SigC Hist
Sec File.

165

Ltr, Ankenbrandt to Lanahan, 2 Feb 43. SCIA
File 8, Ankenbrandt-Newhouse Rpts 1.

166

Ltr, Ankenbrandt to Lanahan, 3 Mar 43. File

cited n. 165.

167

Ltr, Ankenbrandt to Lanahan, 5 Jun 43, p. 1.

File cited n. 165.

168

25th Div After-Action Rpt. Operations of the
25th Infantry Division on Guadalcanal, 17 Decem-
ber 1942-5 February 1943, p. 167. General Collins
no doubt had in mind such maneuver reports as
those of 1939 and 1940 which indeed brought out
the weaknesses in Signal Corps units and equip-
ment of those militarily emaciated prewar years.
Terrett, The Emergency, pp. 160, 176ff.

264-211 O - 78 - 32

482

THE SIGNAL CORPS

can, as it was popularly called) across
Canada to the Alaskan subcontinent.

Alcan Highway Pole Line

The telephone pole line project had got
off to a slow start. Building the line was not
considered to be a tactical project and, in
any event, the Signal Corps had too few
construction troops available to handle such
an assignment.169

Therefore the Corps of
Engineers had contracted with a civilian
construction company to build the line on
a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to be adminis-
tered by the Engineers, with the Signal
Corps' Maj. Ora F. Roberts, as resident en-
gineer, to supervise the technical aspects of
the work. The Signal Corps felt that this
arrangement left it without any effective
method of enforcing its standards of work-
manship and complained of unsatisfactory
progress and poor quality of work. The con-
struction company retorted that it was Sig-
nal Corps changes in plans and specifica-
tions which accounted for much of the de-
lay, and that Signal Corps methods of pro-
curement had added excessive costs to the
project.170

It was certainly true that delivery of ma-
terials was long-delayed, but not all the dif-
ficulty was due to Signal Corps negligence.
All the materials were purchased through
the Office of the Chief Signal Officer and

the Plant Engineering Agency. Require-
ments for the pole line were superimposed
upon a mountain of communication equip-
ment needs for other areas, and it was very
difficult to force through the priority ratings
necessary to get material. Furthermore, the
initial plans had failed to include electric
power supplies. The planners had assumed
that the Corps of Engineers would provide
them, but by February 1943 it was plain
that the Signal Corps would have to accept
full responsibility. Trucks, too, had been al-
most impossible to get in adequate num-
bers. On at least one item, the Signal Corps'
own procurement procedures had been at
fault. In August 1942 all the requirements
for crossarms and hardware had been filed
with the Philadelphia Signal Corps Pro-
curement District, with a request that the
entire job be turned over to the Graybar
Electric Company, which possessed the nec-
essary raw materials and could begin de-
liveries within thirty days. In the course of
placing the contract, the Office of the Chief
Signal Officer's Purchase Branch, anxious
to spread the work, let the contract to six
separate companies, including Graybar.
None of the other five had the necessary
material on hand. New orders had to be let,
and practically no pole line material was
available by November, when it was to be

used.171

Thus amid a number of initial fumbles,
the pole line project got under way. The
line was built in three sections, each sub-
divided into smaller segments. The first 500-
mile section from Edmonton, Alberta, to
Dawson Creek, British Columbia, probably
offered the most difficulties. The adminis-
trative pulling and hauling was still going
on, and the supply situation had not yet

169

(1) Capt Sidney L. Jackson, Stringing Wire
Toward Tokyo: A Brief History of the Alaska Mili-
tary Highway Telephone Line (1944), SigC his-
torical monograph E-l, p. 45. SigC Hist Sec File.
(2) See above, pp. 136ff.

170

(1) Ibid., pp. 68-72, 80-81. (2) Hist of ACS,
p. 233. (See Bibliographical Note.) (3) Ltr, Rob-
erts to Miller Construction Co., Inc., 19 Dec 42;
(4) Incl 8, Ltr, Miller Construction Co. to Rob-
erts, 12 Jan 43, with Ltr, Miller Construction Co.
to Col Henry, 15 Jan 43. SigC 676.1 Alaska Mili-
tary Highway 1942-43.

171

(1) Hist of ACS, pp. 234-35. (2) Jackson,
Stringing Wire Toward Tokyo, pp. 29-35.

GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

483

shaken down, when on 10 November 1942
the Office of the Chief Signal Officer in-
formed Major Roberts that this first sec-
tion of the line must be finished by 1 De-
cember. Some 400 miles of poles were set,
but they lacked crossarms. Almost no hard-
ware had yet arrived. The War Production
Board's disapproval of the amounts of cop-
per necessary for all-copper wire had com-
pelled substitution of copper-coated steel
wire. Since the substitute wire could not
provide the same long-distance transmission
characteristics, the builders had to provide
more amplification, relocating the repeater
stations and placing them closer together.
Actually, though, none of these stations had
yet been built. The civilian contractor had
the plans, but the lumber, though on order,
was not yet delivered.
In the next few days, everything went
wrong, engendering one frantic emergency
after another. A heavy snowstorm closed
the lumber mills, and no lumber for the re-
peater stations could be obtained. But just
then, the contractor received some Yaku-
tat huts, and started placing them at the re-
peater station sites. Washington flew tem-
porary repeater equipment in by air, and
speeded special shipments of hardware by
express. The Northern Electric Company
of Canada sent ten of its best men to install
the repeater equipment in the Yakutat
huts. They were to be assisted by enlisted
men assigned from the 843d Signal Service
Battalion. But when the soldiers arrived
from Seattle on 17 November, there were
no quarters for them and hurried arrange-
ments had to be made to house them in
Canadian barracks. Meanwhile, the con-
tractor (the Miller Construction Company)
continued to set poles. Then fifty of its
workers were isolated north of Peace River
when a chinook (a warm wind) broke up

the ice in the river and swept away the
bridge, and two days later a heavy snow-
storm further ensnared the men.
All hands agreed to emergency measures:
the pole-setting crews would set only every
other pole, and place crossarms on every
second pole only. Instead of stringing wires
one and two, nine and ten, the men would
string wires three and four because of the
fewer transpositions required on the latter
circuit. Special crews of American Tele-
phone and Telegraph Company men from
the United States would string the wire,
and ten crews of ten men each from the
Canadian Bell System from Montreal would
be sent to reinforce them. Roberts asked
Washington to send 100 miles of twisted-
pair copper wire to close the gaps where
poles were not set, and he obtained per-
mission from the Northern Alberta Rail-
road to place this wire on its poles. It was
now 19 November; more than 500 circuit
miles of wire had to be strung, and there
remained but twelve days in which to do it.
Then came another order from Washing-
ton: radio communication between Ed-
monton and Dawson Creek must also be
activated by 1 December. That meant more
crews, more housing, more supplies, and
more transportation. The whole route from
Edmonton to Dawson Creek became a
bloodless battlefield, with more than 500
soldiers and civilians fighting local engage-
ments against time and the elements. Men
drove three-ton trucks over half-frozen riv-
ers and felt the ice dip and sway under
them. They floundered in five-foot snow-
drifts, drove cars over roads that were
sheets of glassy ice, put on crossarms and
strung wire by oil lamps, flashlights, and
automobile headlights in temperatures
thirty degrees below zero. They slept and
ate when and where they got a chance. In

484

THE SIGNAL CORPS

the early hours of 1 December trouble shoot-
ing crews were still at work along the pole
line making emergency repairs and tests.
Finally, at 1940, Washington time, a
call came through from Dawson Creek to
Edmonton and thence by commercial tele-
phone systems to Washington. General
Stoner in the Office of the Chief Signal
Officer talked briefly to Col. Heath Twitch-
ell of the Corps of Engineers at Dawson
Creek. The deadline had been met. When
the conversation was completed, the line
went dead, and stayed out for two days
while weary crews tried to put it in more
orthodox working order. As for radio com-
munication, it too met the deadline with
only a few hours to spare. The transmitting
equipment for the radio stations at Edmon-
ton and Dawson Creek had been delayed
in transit from Seattle. It arrived in the rail
yards at Edmonton on the night of 30 No-
vember. Signal Corps crews unloaded it
and had it in operation in the stations by
the next morning.172
The telephone line so hurriedly "finished"
to meet the deadline was but an impro-
vised circuit. The real task lay ahead: first of
all to make it into a reliable telephone line,
and next to extend it through the wilder-
ness to Fairbanks. The work lagged during
the next three months. Civilian workers and
the extra telephone company crews went
home for Christmas—and stayed there. Of
the 500 men on hand 1 December, there
were now only 150. The schedule called for
completing the line as far as Whitehorse,
Yukon Territory, by 1 May. Correcting de-
fects in the original line and pushing it 50
miles beyond Dawson Creek took until
the middle of February. The Miller Com-

pany had subcontracted to the Onan-Smith
Company the portion of the line between

Fairbanks and Watson Lake, and crews
worked toward each other from each end
of the line. The work progressed slowly.
By the last of January Colonel Henry,
Chief Engineer of the Army Communica-
tions Division in the Office of the Chief Sig-
nal Officer, who had been sent to Alaska
as a trouble shooter, was warning that the
only way to meet the deadline was to use
Signal Corps construction troops after all.
A Signal construction battalion to take over
approximately 300 miles of pole line con-
struction would be necessary, he thought,
and it would have to be on duty by 1

March.173

The 255th Signal Construction
Company got the assignment, leaving San
Francisco on 1 March. Since the 255th
would arrive in Alaska somewhat behind
Colonel Henry's schedule, 300 Engineer
troops were pressed into temporary duty to
clear the right-of-way, dig holes, and place
poles in the section between Whitehorse and
Watson Lake, until the Corps of Engineers
required their services.174
There had been repeated delays in lo-
cating and building the repeater stations, a
responsibility of the Corps of Engineers.
On 5 March Colonel Henry reported that
only about half of the stations had been
built, and in these the floors would not be
able to support the heavy load which the
equipment would impose. The equipment
and the crews to install it, provided by the
Western Electric Company, were due to

172

(1) Hist of ACS, pp. 234-43. (2) Signal
Corps Technical Information Letter, No. 25 (De-
cember, 1943), pp. 23-24.

173

(1) Memo, Henry for Stoner, 23 Jan 43, sub:
Telephone line, Alcan Highway; (2) Ltr, Henry
to Asst O/C ACS, 26 Feb 43, sub: Telephone line
along Alcan Highway. SigC 676.1 Alaska Military
Highway 1942-43.

174

Memo, Chief of Army Com Sv, OCSigO, for
Prog and Stat Br, 2 Mar 43, sub: Digest of prog
and problems, p. 3, Item 2. Digest of Prog, 11 Feb
43-10 Mar 43. SigC Central Files.

GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

485

arrive the very next week (between 8 and 17
March). This was but one of many points
of disagreement which caused strained re-
lations between the Signal Corps and the
Engineers on the Alcan project. Partial re-
lief came in the form of an agreement by
the Commanding General, Northwest Serv-
ice Command, and the Officer in Charge,
Army Communications Service, which al-
lowed the Signal Corps to deal directly with
the construction contractor on engineering
questions.175

On 31 March Colonel Henry was forced
to tell the Chief Signal Officer that the com-
pletion date of 1 May for permanent con-
struction could not be met, mainly because
the repeater stations were not ready by the
dates promised. He urged that the comple-
tion date for the pole line be advanced to 21
May.176

Already the enemy was changing
from winter to the spring thaw which melted
the frozen rivers and turned roads into
quagmires. As soon as each repeater station
took form, crews of Western Electric men
were waiting to swarm over it, installing the
repeater equipment. Civilian and soldier
crews set poles and strung wire. On 22 May
1943 a second call went through to Wash-
ington, this time from the chief of staff of the
Northwest Service Command in Whitehorse
to the chief of staff for the Army Service
Forces in Washington, and to General Olm-
stead.177

The line was not yet complete, but

already it served a valuable military pur-
pose : linking the headquarters of the North-
west Service Command directly with Wash-
ington.

In early summer the contractors swung
northward in the final phase of work that
would bring them into Fairbanks. The
weather was favorable, daylight lasted 18
to 23 hours, and the work progressed rap-
idly. The civilian workers bypassed one par-
ticularly bad fifty-mile stretch of line just
east of the Canadian border, leaving it to
a twenty-man detachment of the 255th Sig-
nal Construction Company to string twisted-
pair wire to close the gap. Engineers
had graded the highway in that sec-
tion in the winter when the ground lay
perpetually frozen beneath a protective two-
foot layer of muskeg. It had been possible
to scrape away the muskeg, and grade the
icy ground into an excellent road. But when
the thaws began in the spring, the ground
that had been frozen for centuries thawed,
for it was no longer protected by an insu-
lating blanket of muskeg. The road became
a bottomless bog over which no vehicle
could travel, and which sucked bulldozers
down like quicksand. With two Indian
guides, twenty pack horses, and a supply of
K rations, the detachment of the 255th
started into the swamp. It took four weeks of
dirty, muddy, fatiguing work to put in that
section of the line. By the middle of October
1943 the whole job was finished—more than
2,000 miles of gleaming copper wire stretch-
ing across the Canadian and Alaskan wil-
derness, a vital link in the westward
movement of the war.
The telephone system served three pur-
poses : (1) it provided a direct and secure
line of communications between the United
States and the armed forces in Alaska; (2)
it provided telephone and teletype commu-

175

(1) Memo, Henry for Col Strong, 5 Mar 43,
sub: Const of repeater stations for telephone line
on Alcan Highway. SigC 676.1 Alaska Military
Highway 1942-43. (2) Jackson, Stringing Wire
Toward Tokyo, p. 68.

176

Memo, Henry for Dir of Army Com Div
OCSigO, 31 Mar 43, sub: Com facilities, Alcan
Highway. SigC 676.1 Alaska Military Highway

1942-43.

177

Memo, Chief of Sig Operating Sv, for Olm-
stead, 20 May 43, sub: Wire com along Alcan
Highway. File cited n. 176.

486

THE SIGNAL CORPS

nications between the principal military
airfields and weather stations on the north-
west staging route, thus permitting up-to-
the-minute weather service and better
control of air operations; and (3) it per-
mitted direct and immediate communica-
tions between various points along the
Alaska Highway and oil distribution pipe-

lines, thus facilitating administration and

control of all operations in the Northwest
Service Command.178
The Alaska Military Highway pole line
was not the only rugged telephone work
completed during the winter of 1942-43.
There was intense Army activity at Alaska
Defense Command Headquarters at Fort
Richardson, Elmendorf Field at Anchorage,
the new air base being built at Ladd Field,
and Fort Raymond which was under con-
struction at Seward. Telephone and tele-
graph traffic in these areas overloaded exist-
ing ACAN and Alaska Communication
Service facilities and called for new wire
lines. The one circuit of the Alaska Rail-
road between Seward and Anchorage, and
between Anchorage and Fairbanks, would
obviously be unable to carry the load, even
if it were in perfect condition, which it was
not. It had therefore been decided to re-
habilitate the whole line from Seward to
Fairbanks, and to build a new line be-

tween Seward and Whittier, traversing two
mountains. In June 1942 Signal Corps
crews had started work that continued
throughout the winter. The drenching rain
of summer gave way to howling blizzards,
to temperatures hovering between 20° and
40° below zero, and to snow 6 to 14 feet
deep. By January of 1943 circuits to Whit-
tier were complete. By July C carrier equip-
ment between Anchorage and Fairbanks
was put in service, giving the Army two
voice channels and twelve telegraph cir-
cuits between Anchorage and Fairbanks.179

Aleutian Action

The first sizable American amphibious
operation in the North Pacific theater of
war was known merely as the "Umnak Dis-
persal." It involved occupying uninhabited
Adak and Atka Islands of the Andreanof
group in the Aleutians in order to prepare
bases from which to strike at Japanese-held
Kiska and Attu.
The Japanese had bombed Dutch Har-
bor on 3 June 1942. By mid-July the first
plans for the Umnak Dispersal were taking
shape. On 23 August 1st Lt. Lauris S.

Parker at Fort Richardson was told to get
together enough radio equipment to set up
a small station, and to have it ready by noon,
25 August. On 26 August Parker and five
of his ten men joined the motley fleet which
was to comprise the landing force. Parker's
equipment, including a receiver, a trans-
mitter, a hand key, and antenna parts, was
stowed aboard an old four-masted fishing
schooner, the Sophie Christiansen. Four
days later the amphibious force anchored in
Kulak Bay on the northeast side of Adak
Island. Precariously far from a base of op-
erations, the task force had to have com-

178

(1) Hist of ACS, p. 256. (2) ASF Control Div
Rpt 175, The Alaska Highway, 1 Jun 45, pp. 45-
46. (3) Signal Corps Technical Information Letter,
No. 25 (December, 1943), pp. 25-27.
Troops of the 258th Signal Construction Com-
pany, a Negro unit, arrived at Dawson Creek in
April 1943, both in order to widen existing rights-
of-way and repair and improve the telephone lines,
and in order to put in new stretches of line and
additional facilities along the Canadian section of
the highway. The 258th was on duty in the area
until January 1944. Ltr, Capt Frederick N. Mose-
ley, CO 258th Sig Const Co, to CG ACS, 15 Feb
44, sub: Hist records. SigC 000 Hist Diary, File
1—ACS, 1934-Dec 1943.

179

Hist of ACS, Pt. Ill, "Anchorage," pp. 16-25.

GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

487

munications, and the Alaska Communica-
tion System station, which it was Parker's
job to install, got third priority, preceded
only by an airfield and the installation of an
SCR-270 radar for air warning. There were
of course no landing docks on Adak. The
radio station equipment got roughly han-
dled amid sea spray, rain, and sand, as it
was loaded and unloaded several times be-
fore it could be set up. At first the men op-
erated only the receiver, copying Japanese,
Russian, and American signals. Radio
silence prevailed until 7 October, when the
Japanese discovered the Adak landings.
Thereupon the men switched on the trans-
mitter and established Adak in the ACS
network. From then on they never lost radio
contact with ACAN. This was particularly
important, because there were periods when
all tactical nets in the area failed, including
the Aircraft Warning System, the Navy,
and the Eleventh Air Force nets.180
As more and more troops funneled into
Adak late in 1942, the ACS on the island
followed the usual pattern of development,
putting in better facilities and enlarging its
activities. The men built a new and better
station, put in a remote receiver station,
started installing first a field telephone sys-
tem, and then permanent lines for the is-
land, together with switchboard facilities
serving the air base, harbor, and other in-
stallations. They also began work on a
VHF direction-finding project, which
called for a fighter control center, equipped
with receiver, transmitter, and homing
direction-finding stations on Adak, Atka,
and Ogliuga. A temporary plane-to-
plane and ground-to-air AACS facility was
in operation by early November 1942, with
a much more elaborate installation planned.
Cryptographic and censorship duties began

early in October. Adak was slated to be the
net control station (NCS) for an inter

is-

land

radio net embracing stations on Atka,

Fort Glenn, and Amchitka. Stations on
Attu, Kiska, and Shemya were to be added
when those islands were occupied.181
Atka Island, an hour's flying time to the
east of Adak, was not expected to become a
major base, but with the decision to gar-
rison some troops there communications be-
came a vital necessity. The Alaska Com-
munication System's 1st Lt. William E.
Morris received instructions to go to Fort
Glenn on 20 September to meet a ship
carrying materials for a new radio station
on Atka. Atka was off the beaten Aleutian
track, shunned by ships and airplanes alike.
The ship which Morris was supposed to
meet never arrived. He "hitched-hiked"
passage to Atka, but his Signal Corps sup-
plies and men were three weeks late. The
Quonset huts to house them, expected in
September 1942, finally arrived in May
1943. In the meantime, by dint of almost
superhuman effort, communication instal-
lations went up. Of all the Aleutian bases,
Atka required relatively the greatest use of
human motive power. All the equipment,
material, and supplies had to be brought in
by manpower alone because the swampy
tundra would not support motor transpor-
tation, not even the lightest of tractors. A

100-

man

infantry unit hauled the heavy

power plants on skids up the hills to the op-
erations site, each man sinking ankle-deep
at every step. There were no laundry fa-
cilities, no lumber to winterize the tents,
and not even the proper kind of boots to
protect the soldiers' feet from the soupy
tundra. The 10-man crew of the radio sta-
tion nicknamed the place "Atkatraz," and
referred to themselves as the "Atkatraz

180

Hist of ACS, Pt. III, "Adak," pp. 1-11.

181

Ibid., pp. 13, 15, 28-31, 41-43.

488

THE SIGNAL CORPS

Rats." The Atka station joined the inter-
island net on 23 April 1943, relaying
through Adak.182
The Umnak Dispersal into the Andrea-
nofs had shortened the distance between
American bombers and the Japanese. It was
about 800 miles from Dutch Harbor and
Fort Glenn to Kiska. From Adak to Kiska
it was only about 350 miles. In January
1943 the next step, to Amchitka, brought
the bombers even closer: just 66 miles away
from Kiska.

A task force went ashore on Amchitka on
12 January 1943. Japanese reconnaissance
planes discovered the landing eleven days
later, and dropped their first bombs, where-
upon the task force commander broke radio
silence. Immediately the Amchitka radio
transmitter went on the air and within
twenty minutes established contact with
Adak. The Amchitka base was intended to
provide fighter and bomber facilities, and
therefore one of the first demands upon the
Signal Corps was for the installation of
modern and effective aerial navigation aids.
While the Signal Corps men of the ACS
were still operating in tents in February
1943, a construction crew under civilian
engineer Elwood Philbsen was siting the
radio range. Philbsen was to co-ordinate the
construction of facilities for aircraft warn-
ing, for the AACS, and for associated
VHF installations. His installation crews
were mostly Air Forces men, with a leaven-
ing of soldiers and radio engineers from the
ACS. Temporary systems were operating by
the end of April, and more elaborate per-
manent construction was well under way.
Meanwhile, other Signal Corps crews had
strung a field wire and field telephone sys-
tem for the island, to be replaced later by

permanent installations. By July the ACS
had sixty-six men and seven officers on

Amchitka.183

With advance bases secure, the Western
Defense Command and the Alaska Defense
Command were ready for the first phase of
the assault upon the enemy garrisons on
Attu and Kiska. In March 1943 Col.
George L. Townsend, Signal Officer of the
Western Defense Command, had told the
ACS that it must furnish three complete
radio stations and three "teams" to man
them. Each team would consist of an en-
gineering officer, an operations officer, and
from five to twenty enlisted men serving as
engineers, radio operators, maintenance,
men, cryptographers, and censors. Every
piece of equipment had to be complete
down to the last bolt and nut, and every
man on the team had to know his job so
thoroughly that he could perform it with
split-second timing and accuracy. The ACS
had the material, and it had excellent tech-
nicians, but its men lacked field experience.
Like other Signal Corps organizations it had
sent its technicians out to stations to perform
desperately needed technical work, at the
expense of basic field training. Now, with
less than six weeks remaining before the first
tactical assignment began, the ACS worked
frantically to teach the men at least the
rudiments of self-defense. At the same time
it drilled them constantly on the technical
details of the equipment.184
Team A, fifteen enlisted men, led by 2d
Lts. William C. Greene and Lawrence W.
Bucy, left the embarkation point at San
Francisco for Attu on 24 April on board
the transport Perida. On 11 May the assault
began. On 12 May the Perida, edging closer

182

Hist of ACS, Pt. III, "Atka," pp. 1-17.

183

Hist of ACS, Pt. III, "Amchitka," pp. 1-17,

25, 27, 29-30.

184

Hist of ACS, Pt. III, "Attu," pp. 2-3.

GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

489

to the rocky shores of Massacre Bay,
rammed a pinnacle of rock. Water gushed
into the Number 1 hold where the Signal
Corps equipment was stowed. Pvt. G. I.
Counter, guarding the hold, rallied the sig-
nal team to save its equipment. Within fif-
teen minutes, nineteen feet of oil and water
had flooded the hold, but most of the sig-
nal equipment had been dragged to safety
on deck. On the morning of the 13th, half
of the team went ashore and picked out a
temporary station site, a half mile from the
front and a short distance ahead of the
task force artillery. That afternoon the re-
maining men brought the cryptographic
material and packs ashore. With the bed-
lam of a landing going on all about them,
amid the comforting boom of 105-mm.
shells from two nearby batteries and dis-
comforting shellbursts and ricocheting bul-
lets from the enemy, the men set up their
station, dug in their operations tent, and
erected the antennas. As soon as the an-
tennas went up, they turned on the radio
to establish contact with Adak. But Adak
was not yet listening, supposing that Team
A was still on board ship in Adak Harbor.
Finally, after sending a coded message to
Adak through Navy channels, contact was
made. Attu, Station WXFR, was on the

air.185

Of the three cipher machines which had
been assigned to the task force, only the
one with the ACS unit got ashore and into
operation promptly, the others being mis-
directed in the landing.186

For five weeks
the team handled all the cryptographic mes-
sages for the task force. The battle for the
island went on. On 29 May the Japanese
counterattacked with the remnants of their
force. During the night they had infiltrated

positions near WXFR. When the attack
broke, the ACS men turned out with full
battle equipment to defend the station. The
Japanese were stopped about 500 yards
away.187

While the battle for Attu was in prog-
ress, Team B (Capt. Richard Murray, 1st
Lt. Donald Beyer, and sixteen technicians)
was on its way to nearby Shemya. Actually,
Team B had been slated for Attu, but an
error in code designators had sent them to
Shemya instead, leaving the rigors and com-
bat of Attu to a team considered relatively
inexperienced.188

Team B was a well-or-
ganized, well-equipped outfit, accompanied
by eighteen tons of equipment packed
into three 6-ton caterpillar trailers. No one
knew whether Shemya contained enemy
units. As it turned out, the landing was
unopposed. Captain Murray and Lieuten-
ant Beyer went ashore with the first units
on 2 June. The next morning the equip-
ment was unloaded, a site selected, and
within four and a half hours, Shemya Sta-
tion WXFT was on the air and in contact
with Attu and Adak. Shemya, only two
miles wide and four miles long, was slated
to become a large air base. This meant that,
as on Adak and Amchitka, Signal Corps re-
sponsibilities for air warning, a VHF sys-
tem, and AACS installations would have
very high priority. In addition, Shemya and
Attu would be linked by ocean cable. There
would follow many telephone projects, and
finally a much-improved and permanent
radio station.189
Thus, by mid-1943 the Aleutian cam-
paign was entering the third and final phase.
There remained only bypassed Kiska to re-
claim. The members of the team training

185

Ibid., pp. 10-17.

186

Ibid., p., 20.

187

Ibid., p. 24.

188

Hist of ACS, Pt. III, "Shemya," p. 1.

189

Ibid., pp. 7, 12-26.

490

THE SIGNAL CORPS

for the Kiska assignment did not yet know
that when they landed on Kiska in August
they would find an island abandoned by
the enemy without a fight. But already the
pattern was clear: Alaska was stronger than
ever before. A major contribution to that
strength was the communications network
which the Signal Corps had provided from
the Alcan pole line to the Aleutian radio
nets. At war's end, the Alaskan circuits,
probably to a greater extent than any other
Army-installed networks in the design for
global communications, would remain a
source of strength in the defense of the
United States. Signal Corps soldiers would

leave evidences of their labors and ingenu-
ity in the Caribbean bases, on small Ascen-
sion Island, across Africa and Iraq and
Iran, in China, Burma, and India, and
throughout the islands of the southern Pa-
cific—and most of all in the European areas.
But nowhere else would military communi-
cations systems be retained entire and in-
tact, as they would remain in Alaska, not
only for Army use, but also, in the tradi-
tion of the Alaska Communication System,
for the use of the civilians of the territory,
providing them with such ready and far-
flung communication as they had not en-
joyed before.

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