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Wartime Chiefs of Signal

by Carol Stokes

It was World War II. Mobilized armies rolled across Europe. Troops island-hopped in the Pacific in pursuit of the Japanese.

In the Aleutians .. Burma ... China ... Europe ... the Americas — all over the world — the Signal Corps exerted every effort to provide communications for the most rapidly moving army in our nation's history. The three World War II Chiefs of Signal, called Chief Signal Officers in those days, set an example for their successors — who manage the Army's information of the future, in times of war and peace.

MG Joseph Mauborgne

Although MG Joseph Mauborgne, the 12th Chief of Signal, retired shortly before World War II's onset, his contributions would have a tremendous impact on the Signal Corps. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mauborgne pursued communication advancements in his numerous research-and-development assignments.

These assignments included his stint as chief of the Signal Corps Engineering and Research Division and as commander of the Signal Corps laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.

As a technology-minded Chief of Signal, Mauborgne supported technological development and oversaw the mass production of the SCR-268 and SCR-270 Army radars. Just a few months after he retired (Sept. 30, 1941), two Signal Corps soldiers — using an SCR-270 radar at Oahu, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941 — spotted Japanese aircraft on their way in to attack Pearl Harbor.

MG Dawson Olmstead

As Chief of Signal during the major part of World War II, MG Dawson Olmstead presided over a momentous build-up of the corps. With a budget that burgeoned from $9 million in 1941 to more than $5 billion in 1943, the branch's 13th leader turned to both the Signal Corps laboratories and the private sector to meet the demands of total war.

Although Olmstead's distinguished career blossomed in the prewar 1920s and flourished during the Great Depression 1930s, it was during World War II his talent and vision won him the Distinguished Service Medal.

As Chief of Signal, Olmstead oversaw momentous changes in military communications technology — advances which gave birth and impetus to the phenomenal growth of the civilian communications- electronics industry. Mass production of electronic components became commonplace.

In spite of radar being its "billion-dollar baby," the Signal Corps also procured massive amounts of wire and radio communications — the providers of the heavy-duty voice traffic that assured reliable communications for the war effort.

Signal Corps innovations during the period were many. For example, automatic coding devices were introduced during the war, ending time-consuming hand-enciphering and -deciphering. These advances and others made American communications superior to those of both its allies and enemies alike.

Assisted by an advisory council of reserve officers and a civilian advisory board made up of key communications-industry figures, Olmstead brought the Signal Corps to wartime footing. His accomplishments included activating hundreds of signal units. More than 30,000 officers and 400,000 enlisted soldiers trained in Signal Corps schools during World War II.

Shortly before his retirement June 30, 1943, Olmstead was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Its citation summed up his wartime contributions to the Corps: "... He directed the expansion and training of the Signal Corps with impressive speed and instituted radical improvements in communication equipment and methods to meet the demands of modern tactics."

MG Harry Ingles

MG Harry Ingles, Chief of Signal from 1943 to 1947, directed a wartime program that led to developing state-of-the-art communications equipment — including the FM crystal-controlled pushbutton radio, with its 30-mile range extended by truck-mounted radio-relay equipment. This device allowed untrained soldiers to become communicators almost instantly.

Other accomplishments included the establishment, under Ingles' auspices, of a radio-relay link system which bridged inaccessible terrain. The system's highly secret cryptographic systems ensured wartime communications' security.

A West Pointer, Ingles' career spanned the years of World War I, where he saw border patrol and instructor duty in Arizona and Texas. During the lean Army years of the 1920s and '30s, Ingles served in the Philippines and as an instructor at the signal school at Fort Monmouth, N.J., but it was World War II that elevated him to his prime.

After brief service in Panama and as the deputy commander of the European Theater, Ingles was acting chief and then Chief Signal Officer from July 1, 1943, until January 1945. As Chief of Signal, he directed a vigorous program of procurement and research that ensured our enemies would not surpass us in developing the world's most advanced signal equipment.

Under Ingles, training was instituted and perfected, enabling the Signal Corps to produce technically skilled soldiers for all World War II's theaters of operations.

Among Ingles' military honors were the Distinguished Service Medal with oak-leaf cluster and Command Order of the British Empire. His accomplishments include founding the Armed Forces Communication and Electronic Association, an organization of military and civilians in the communications-electronics industry.

As the Signal Corps remembers World War II, it honors its wartime chiefs: Mauborgne, Olmstead and Ingles. Hail to the Chiefs.

Dr. Stokes is U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon's command historian.


Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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This is an offical U.S. Army Site |
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