Branch insignia of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, representing Myer's "Wigwag"

The U.S. Army Signal Corps develops, tests, provides, and manages communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces. It was founded in 1860 by United States Army Major Albert J. Myer, a physician by training, and has had an important role from the American Civil War through the current day. Over its history, it had the initial responsibility for a number of functions and new technologies that are currently managed by other organizations, including military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation.

Mission statement[]

The mission of the Signal Corps is to provide and manage communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces. Signal support includes Network Operations (information assurance, information dissemination management, and network management) and management of the electromagnetic spectrum. Signal support encompasses all aspects of designing, installing, maintaining, and managing information networks to include communications links, computers, and other components of local and wide area networks. Signal forces plan, install, operate, and maintain voice and data communications networks that employ single and multi-channel satellite, tropospheric scatter, terrestrial microwave, switching, messaging, video-teleconferencing, visual information, and other related systems. They integrate tactical, strategic and sustaining base communications, information processing and management systems into a seamless global information network that supports knowledge dominance for Army, joint and coalition operations.[1]

Early history[]


Click photo to enlarge for history of the wigwag.

Albert James Myer, an Army doctor, was the first to conceive of the idea of a separate, trained professional military signal service. He proposed that the Army use his visual communications system called "wig-wag," or "aerial telegraphy," while serving as a medical officer in Texas in 1856. When the Army adopted his system on June 21, 1860, the Signal Corps was born with Myer as the first and only Signal Officer.

Major Myer first used his visual signaling system on active service in New Mexico during the 1860-1861 Navajo expedition. Using flags for daytime signaling and a torch at night, wigwag was tested in Civil War combat in June 1861 to direct the fire of a harbor battery at Fort Wool against the Confederate positions opposite Fort Monroe. Until March 3, 1863, when Congress authorized a regular Signal Corps for the duration of the war, Myer was forced to rely on detailed personnel. Some 2,900 officers and enlisted men served, although not at any single time, in the Civil War Signal Corps.

Myer's Civil War innovations included an unsuccessful balloon experiment at First Bull Run and, in response to McClellan's desire for a Signal Corps field telegraph train, an electric telegraph in the form of the Beardslee magnetoelectric telegraph machine. Even in the Civil War the wig-wag system, dependent upon line-of-sight, was waning in the face of the electric telegraph.

The electric telegraph, in addition to visual signaling, became a Signal Corps responsibility in 1867. Within 12 years, the Corps had constructed, and was maintaining and operating, some 4,000 miles of telegraph lines along the country's western frontier.

In 1870, the Signal Corps established a congressionally mandated national weather service. With the assistance of Lieutenant Adolphus Greely, Chief Signal Officer Brigadier General Albert James Myer, by the time of his death in 1880, commanded a weather service of international acclaim. The weather bureau became part of the US Department of Agriculture in 1891, while the Corps retained responsibility for military meteorology.

The Signal Corps' role in the Spanish American War of 1898 and the subsequent Philippine Insurrection was on a grander scale than it had been in the Civil War. In addition to visual signaling, including heliograph, the Corps supplied telephone and telegraph wire lines and cable communications, fostered the use of telephones in combat, employed combat photography, and renewed the use of balloons. Shortly after the war, the Signal Corps constructed the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS), introducing the first wireless telegraph in the Western Hemisphere.

World War I[]

Picture No. 1881: Life in the U. S. Army - Signal Corps - Range Finding. Camp Zachary Taylor was where the 84th Division was trained during World war I. Troops from Indiana and Kentucky made up this Division.

On August 1, 1907, an Aeronautical Division was established within the office of the Chief Signal Officer. In 1908, the Wright brothers made test flights of the Army's first airplane built to Signal Corps' specifications. Army aviation remained within the Signal Corps until 1918, when it became the Army Air Service.

The Signal Corps lost no time in meeting the challenges of World War I. Chief Signal Officer George Owen Squier worked closely with private industry to perfect radio tubes while creating a major signal laboratory at Camp Alfred Vail (Fort Monmouth). Early radiotelephones developed by the Signal Corps were introduced into the European theater in 1918. While the new American voice radios were superior to the radiotelegraph sets, telephone and telegraph remained the major technology of World War I.

A pioneer in radar, Colonel William Blair, director of the Signal Corps laboratories at Fort Monmouth, patented the first Army radar demonstrated in May 1937. Even before the United States entered World War II, mass production of two radar sets, the SCR-268 and the SCR-270, had begun. Along with the Signal Corps' tactical FM radio, also developed in the 1930s, radar was the most important communications development of World War II.

World War II[]

New Guinea. Radio Operator, Cpl. John Robbins of Louisville, Nebraska, 41st Signal, 41st Infantry Division, operating his SCR 188 in a sandbagged hut at Station NYU. Dobodura, New Guinea on May 9 1943.

The term, RADAR, was first coined by the Navy in 1941 and agreed to by the Army in 1942. The definition given in the first Signal Corps Field Manual on Aircraft Warning Service stated, "RADAR is a term used to designate radio sets SCR (Signal Corps Radio)-268 and SCR-270 and similar equipment".

The SCR-268 and 270 were not radios at all, but for top security reasons were designated as such. Although important offensive applications have since been developed, radar emerged historically from the defensive need to counter the possibility of massive aerial bombardment.

In 1941 the laboratories at Fort Monmouth developed the SCR-510. This was the first FM backpack radio. This development was an early pioneer in frequency modulation circuits, providing front line troops with reliable, static free communications. They also fielded multichannel FM radio relay sets (e.g., AN/TRC-1) in the European Theater of Operations as early as 1943. FM radio relay and RADAR, both products of the Labs at Fort Monmouth, are typically rated among the four of five "weapon systems" that made a difference in World War II.

In December 1942, the laboratories had a personnel strength of 14,518 military and civilian personnel. The Signal Corps Ground Service was directed by the War Department, however, to cut the total military and civilian personnel to 8,879 by August 1943. In June 1944, “Signees”, former Italian prisoners of war, arrived at Fort Monmouth to perform housekeeping duties. A Lieutenant Colonel and 500 enlisted men became hospital, mess, and repair shop attendants, relieving American soldiers from these duties. Also in December 1942, the War Department directed the Signal Corps General Development Laboratories and the Camp Evans Signal Lab to combine into the Signal Corps Ground Service (SCGS) with head-quarters at Bradley Beach, New Jersey (Hotel Grossman).

The Eastern Signal Corps Training Center at Fort Monmouth consisted of an officers' school, an officer candidate school, an enlisted school and a basic training center at subpost Camp Wood. During its operation from 1941 to 1946, the officer candidate school graduated 21,033 Signal Corps second lieutenants. Another large training center was at Camp Crowder, Missouri.

Many film industry personalities served in the Signal Corps, including Tony Randall, the actor.

In 1942 General George C. Marshall ordered the creation of the Army Pictorial Service (APS) to produce motion pictures for the training, indoctrination, and entertainment of the American forces and their Allies. The APS took over Kaufman Astoria Studios in 1942 and produced over 2,500 films during the war with over 1,000 redubbed in other languages.[2]. The Army left Astoria studios and film production in 1971.

Julius Rosenberg worked for the Signal Corps Labs from 1940 to 1945. He was dismissed early in 1945 when it was learned he had been a member of the Communist Party USA secret apparatus, and had passed to the Soviet Union the secret of the proximity fuze.

Cold War[]

SC345199 - Korean Conflict Equipment at Repeater Station, Taegu, Korea. Quad. Cable terminal on left, testboard on right and center on 1 August 1950.

The Signal Corps' Project Diana, in 1946, successfully bounced radar signals off the moon, paving the way for space communications.

In 1948 researchers at Fort Monmouth grew the first synthetically produced large quartz crystals. The crystals were able to be used in the manufacture of electronic components, and made the United States largely independent of foreign imports for this critical mineral. In 1949 the first auto-assembly of printed circuits was invented. A technique for assembling electronic parts on a printed circuit board, developed by Fort Monmouth engineers, pioneered the development and fabrication of miniature circuits for both military and civilian use. Although they did not invent the transistor, Fort Monmouth scientists were among the first to recognize its importance, particularly in military applications, and did pioneer significant improvements in its composition and production.

Everything was to change as world tensions increased with the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift. To sustain the Army's worldwide commitments, it again became necessary to enlarge the capacity of every activity on Post.

In June 1950, with the onset of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman quickly received the necessary authorization to call the National Guard and organized reserves to 21 months of active duty. He also signed a bill extending the Selective Service Act until 9 July, 1951. The Officer Candidate School was reestablished.

The fighting in Korea brought to light the need for new techniques in the conduct of modern warfare. The use of mortars by the enemy, and the resultant need to quickly locate and destroy the mortar sites resulted in development of the Mortar-Radar Locator AN/MPQ-3 and AN/MPQ-10. The Communications Electronics Research and Development Engineering Center, better known as the Albert J. Myer Center, or simply, the Hexagon. Korea's terrain and road nets, along with the distance and speed with which communications were forced to travel, limited the use of wire. The Signal Corps' VHF radio became the "backbone" of tactical communications throughout the conflict.

The development of new equipment, however, placed requirements on the Signal Corps to provide increased numbers of trained electronics personnel to work in the fire control and guided missiles firing battery systems. To meet this need, Signal Corps Training Units—the 9614th and 9615th—were established at Aberdeen, Maryland and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. These units provided instruction on electronics equipment used in the Anti-Aircraft Artillery and Guided Missile firing systems.

Following the arrest of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1950, two former Fort Monmouth scientists, Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, defected to the Soviet Union. On 31 August, 1953, having received word of possible subversive activities from Fort Monmouth’s commanding general, Kirke B. Lawton, the Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Senator Joseph McCarthy, suspected a spy ring still existed in the Signal Corps labs. At first, McCarthy conducted his hearings behind closed doors, but opened them to the public on 24 November, 1953. Extensive Congressional Hearings were continued in 1955 under the chairmanship of Senator John McClellan of Arkansas.

In the 1950s the Army Pictorial Service produced a series of television programs called The Big Picture (TV series) that were often aired on American television. The last episode was produced in 1971.[3]

On December 18, 1958, with Air Force assistance, the Signal Corps launched its first communications satellite, Project SCORE, demonstrating the feasibility of worldwide communications in delayed and real-time mode by means of relatively simple active satellite relays.

The Vietnam War's requirement for high-quality telephone and message circuits led to the Signal Corps' deployment of tropospheric-scatter radio links that could provide many circuits between locations more than 200 miles apart. Other developments included the SYNCOM satellite communications service and a commercial fixed-station system known as the Integrated Wideband Communications System, the Southeast Asia link in the Defense Communications System.

Korean War and Vietnam War[]

During the Korean War and Vietnam War the Signal Corps operated Officer Candidate Schools initially at Fort Monmouth in 1950-1953, graduating 1234 officers and at Fort Gordon in 1965-1968 which produced 2,213 signal officers. (The World War II Signal OCS program at Fort Monmouth, from 1941-1946 graduated 21,033 Signal Corps Officers.)

Today communications systems and facilities are still evolving as the Signal Corps continues the commitment to its regimental insignia's motto, "Watchful for the Country." A major program in 1988 was the initial production and deployment phase of the mobile-subscriber equipment system. MSE, along with other innovations, in Lieutenant General Bruce Harris' words "exemplify the dynamics of the Signal Corps' ever-increasing mission and responsibilities in supporting our Army. The professional challenge that these initiatives represent in not new to our Signal Corps. Our history is dominated by rapid change. " As in the past, the Signal Corps (Regiment) "will continue to meet these challenges with distinction."

Enlisted Military Occupational Specialties (MOS)[]

A member of the Signal Corps shoots video footage of 10th Mountain Division soldiers as they search a mountainside near Shkin Firebase in Afghanistan on October 17, 2003.

  • 25B - Information Systems Operator/Analyst
  • 25C - Radio Operator/Maintainer
  • 25F - Network Switching Systems Operator/Maintainer
  • 25L - Cable Systems Installer/Maintainer
  • 25M - Multimedia Illustrator
  • 25N - Joint Network Node Systems Operator/Maintainer
  • 25P - Microwave Systems Operator/Maintainer
  • 25Q - Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer
  • 25R - Visual Information Equipment Operator/Maintainer
  • 25S - Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer
  • 25T - Satellite/Microwave Systems Chief
  • 25U - Signal Support Systems Specialist
  • 25V - Combat Documentation/Production Specialist
  • 25W - Telecommunications Operations Chief
  • 25Y - Information Systems Chief
  • 25Z - Visual Information Operations Chief
  • 32D - Fixed Station Technical Controller

Warrant Officer Military Occupational Specialties[]

  • 250N - Network Management Technician
  • 251A - Information Systems Technician
  • 254A - Signal Systems Support Technician
  • 255Z - Senior Signal Systems Technician

Commissioned Officer Areas of Concentration (AOC)[]

  • 25A - Signal Officer

Commissioned Officer Functional Areas (FA)[]

  • FA24 - Telecommunication Systems Engineer
  • FA53 - Systems Automation Officer

Miscellaneous information[]

The Signal Corps Regimental coat of arms.

  • Motto: Pro Patria Vigilans which translates to (Watchful for the Country) was adopted from the Signal School insignia and serves to portray the cohesiveness of Signal soldiers and their affiliation with their regimental home. The gold laurel wreath depicts the myriad achievements through strength made by the Corps since its inception. The battle star centered in the wreath represents formal recognition for participation in combat. It adorned a Signal flag and was first awarded to Signal soldiers in 1862. The battle star typifies the close operational relationship between the combined arms and the Signal Corps.
  • Birthday: 21 June, 1860. The Signal Corps was authorized as a separate branch of the Army by act of Congress on 3 March 1863. However, the Signal Corps dates its existence from 21 June, 1860, when Congress authorized the appointment of one signal officer in the Army, and a War Department order carried the following assignment: "Signal Department - Assistant Surgeon Albert J. Myer to be Signal Officer, with the rank of Major, June 17, 1860, to fill an original vacancy."
  • Branch Color: Orange with white piping. Orange was selected in 1872 as the Signal Corps branch color. In 1902, the white piping was added to conform to the custom that prevailed of having piping of a different color for all branches except the line branches.
  • Branch Insignia: The Signal Corps branch insignia is represented by two signal flags crossed, dexter flag white with a red center, the sinister flag red with a white center, staffs gold, with a flaming torch of gold color metal upright at center of crossed flags. "Crossed flags" have been used by the Signal Corps since 1868, when they were prescribed for wear on the uniform coat by enlisted men of the Signal Corps. In 1884, a burning torch was added to the insignia and the present design adopted on 1 July, 1884. The flags and torch are symbolic of signaling or communication.
  • Home Station: Fort Gordon, Georgia.
  • Chief of Signal: Brigadier General Jeffrey W. Foley
  • Regimental Chief Warrant Officer: Chief Warrant Officer 5 Andrew Barr
  • Signal Sergeant Major: Command Sergeant Major Michael A. Terry
  • Branch Type: Combat Support
  • Signal Regiment: All soldiers of the Signal Corps are affiliated with the Signal Regiment.



External links[]