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MacArthur relied on the Signal Corps
by Carol Stokes
Gen. Douglas MacArthur relied heavily on the Signal Corps and his area signal chief, MG Spencer Akin, who supported him within the Pacific command.
Before Corregidor and Bataan fell to the Japanese, and MacArthur subsequently retreated, Akin's radio program, the "Voice of Freedom," was broadcast to the world three times daily. It informed its listeners the two islands were holding against the Japanese.
After his withdrawal from the Philippines, through Japan's defeat and re-establishment of its government at the war's close, MacArthur relied on Akin to support the Army mission in the Pacific theater.
As MacArthur's chief of signal throughout World War II, Akin exercised strong control by being in the forefront of each military operation in the Pacific. This sometimes irritated others. For example, 6th Army troops including their commander, LTG Walter Krueger complained that mobile communications clogged Highway 3 with a long column of heavy Signal Corps vehicles during the recapture of Manila near war's end.
In another area, as chief of signal intelligence in the Far East and of Army Forces in the Pacific, Akin exploited Japan's reliance on radio communications by keeping commanders appraised of pertinent information. In one instance, an intercepted enemy radio message revealed that, expecting bomber raids, the Japanese had ordered airplanes moved from a vulnerable airfield.
The Army Air Forces, using this signal-intelligence information, attacked before the move could be made. As a result, large numbers of enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground.
During 1944, radio-relay equipment proved itself more vital in the Pacific than in Europe. By the end of that year, Pacific-theater message traffic exceeded a million groups per day.
In addition to wire communications, Akin equipped a small Signal Corps fleet a flotilla of small vessels, including schooners, ketches and barges with radios. At first they served as relay ships. They soon became forward-command-post communications sites, Army Command and Administrative Network stations and communications-supply depots. So coveted was their support that Army elements continually vied for their services.
When elevated to the Army's Chief Signal Officer in 1947, Akin was honored for his contributions, including those as MacArthur's chief signal officer in the Pacific. Among other awards, he received the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star, both for gallantry in action. He also earned the Air Medal and Legion of Merit.
Akin retired in 1951 and died in 1973. He was laid to rest among his fellow heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Dr. Stokes is U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon's command historian.
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