Below is a brief overview of the US Army Corp from its inception in 1860 through World War I:

 

Albert J. Myer

Albert J. Myer

The US Army Signal Corps has always quickly responded to the communication need of the US military since the Civil War.  Though the Corps first became active in March of 1863, its anniversary goes back to June of 1860 when Albert Myer proposed the US Army use his ‘aerial telegraphy’ - a form of visual communication.  His system – which used flags for daytime and a torch for nighttime signals - was adopted by the Army and Myer became the first and only signal officer of the Signal Corps.  It was first used during the early part of the 1860s during a Navajo expedition in New Mexico.

 

 

The Early Years

Throughout the Civil War, Myer was involved in a number of innovations, which not only included a failed balloon experiment but also a successful electric telegraph machine, which quickly antiquated the in-sight communications of the wig-wag (flag) system.

 

Radio used both pre and post WWI

Radio used both pre and post WWI

Eventually, Myer set up an office in downtown Washington DC for the Signal Corps School.  He had to make three moves in a relatively short period of time, as he quickly outgrew each place.  Eventually, he settled at Fort Whipple, which is on Arlington Heights and overlooks the National Capital.  With its remarkable size and outstanding location, the school remained at this location for more than 20 years.  Eventually, it was renamed “Fort Myer”.

 

In 1870, the US Signal Corps was mandated by the congress to start the national weather service.  Within the next ten years, Myer, with the help of Lt. Adolphus Greely, would command an internationally acclaimed weather service.  Before his death in 1860, Myer achieved the rank of brigadier general and Chief Signal Officer.  In 1891, the US Department of Agriculture assumed responsibility for the weather bureau while they Signal Corps remained responsible for military meteorology.

 

US Army Signal Corps and World War I

Car used by the Signal Corp back in 1904

Car used by the Signal Corp back in 1904

During the early part of World War I, Ryan Squier – a Chief Signal Officer – began working close with various private industries in perfecting radio tubes.  During this time, he was also constructing a signal laboratory at Camp Alfred Vail.  The first radiotelephones the Signal Corps developed were initially used in 1918 in the European theater.  Even though the newly developed American voice radios were far more superior at the time, the telephone and telegraph remained one of the major technologies of the war.

 

Women known as the ‘Hello Girls’ served as switchboard operators during WWII.  They were officially sworn in by the US Army Signal Corps, they were required to wear US Army uniforms and were subject to regulations set forth by the Army.  However, they were still thought of as civilians who were employed by the Army.  As a result, they were unable to receive an honorable discharge.   At that time, the US Army only accepted the male gender. On the 60th Anniversary of the ending of WWI, Congress finally approved honorable discharges for the hello girls.

 

World War I was just the beginning of the advancement of the US Army Signal Corps.  The Signal Corps would go on to play a vital role in World War II as well.

 

 

World War I was just the beginning of the advancement of the US Army Signal Corps.  The Signal Corps would go on to play a vital role in World War II as well.