Technical Historical Report 17th Signal Operation Battalion
The 17th Signal Operation Battalion was activated 30 November 1942, at Camp Crowder, MO per Ltr. Ag. 322.08-36 (GNMBF) 20 November 1942, Subject: Ltr. Orders No. A11 (Activation of the 17th Signal Operation Battalion), with a total or 82 enlisted men (cadre) and three officers, Capt. Edmund Carr, First Lieutenants Martin J. Hyland and Bernard P. Rosser. Three companies were activated per General Order #1, 17th Signal Operation Battalion, dated 30 November, 1942, with Capt. Karr in command of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Lt. Hyland in command of Company A, and Lt. Rosser in command of Company B.
During the month of December 1942, four hundred ninety-six (496) enlisted men and eight (8) officers were brought into the battalion, the officers being 2nd Lts. Hitt, Livingstone, Edwards, Tillis, Collins, Haskin, Halpin and Benevelli. These men were inductees and enlistees drawn from various reception stations and ten men from 2nd Headquarters Special Troops, Second Army, Camp Crowder, MO.
On 15 January 1943, Major Alf S. H. Helmer assumed command of the battalion.
From December to the end of March, the men received their basic and specialized training. Radio and teletype men went to the SCRTC, Camp Crowder; telephone, message center and I&M personnel received training in the company areas; and some of the I&M personnel attended the CSCRTC for technical courses.
On 30 March 1943, the entire battalion of 34 officers and 648 enlisted men left Camp Crowder, MO to participate in the Second Army maneuvers in Tennessee. Transportation was by motor convoy. It arrived at the bivouac area, Van Buren, MO (Big Spring State Park) at 1700. Distance traveled: approximately 250 miles, weather: excellent, morale: excellent. In bivouac this location from 1700, 30 March 1943 to 0530, 1 April 1943.
The entire battalion left Van Buren, MO enroute to the maneuver area at 0630 by motor convoy; arrived at bivouac area fair grounds, Huntingdon, TN at 1700. Approximate distance traveled: 230 miles. Left bivouac area, Huntingdon, TN at 2300, 1 April 1943 and arrived at maneuver area at 0630, 2 April 1943, having traveled approximately 138 miles.
On 3 April 1943, the battalion commander reported and was furnished instructions on the duties of the battalion, which were to furnish and maintain communications for the Second Army Headquarters in the maneuver area. By 4 April, skeleton communication system was compiled consisting of two trunks to Lebanon, TN and eighteen locals, all on a TC-4.
On 9 April 1943, Company A moved to the Manchester area to complete and maintain a communication system in the southern maneuver area. At Manchester, installation of a 6901 TGP central, two TGP at Manchester regulating station, one TGP at The QM depot, two positions of 551A switchboards was completed by 12 April.
During the next two days, a service army wire net to Manchester was tested and put into service, and established communication to the signal depot and engineer depot at Wartrace, TN.
A cadre of seventy-seven enlisted men and one officer departed 15 April 1943 for Camp Crowder, MO for the activation of the 303rd Signal Operation Battalion, per letter A.G. 322.08-11 (GNMBD) 2nd Army, Memphis, TN.
A TWX and TGP service was established at Scottsville, KY in addition to running wire from the regulating office, and from the sub-depot to the commercial central office and connecting this circuit to the Army wire terminating in Lebanon, TN (Director Headquarters switchboard). On 17 April 1943, due to the need for more TGP operators, a Teletype school was started with twenty students. Other installations included a TGP at Camp Forrest, TWX service at Transportation Officer’s Headquarters at Nashville, TGP at Shelbyville, and lines to the blue and red forces, which had to be maintained as the forces changed areas for the problems. There were also temporary installations to be maintained from one to two weeks during problems such as Donelson and Cookville. Here telephone and Teletype switchboards and message center handled the communications. The battalion received a commendation for the excellent handling of communications and was relieved from the maneuvers on 20 June 1943.
At this time, one half of the battalion personnel were given ten-day furloughs and the companies and operating teams were called back into Lebanon for transfer back to Camp Crowder, MO. The battalion moved back to Camp Crowder by train convoy. The equipment was loaded onto flat cars and the convoy was divided into two parts. Both sections left Lebanon, TN on 2 July 1943 and arrived at Camp Crowder, MO On 3 July 1943. After Arrival at Camp Crowder, the rest of the personnel were given ten-day furloughs.
After further training at Camp Crowder, the battalion was ordered to Camp Abbott, OR, departing in two serials by train on 13 August 1943 and arriving there on 17 August 1943. The mission in Oregon was the installation and maintenance of communications for the IV Corps northwest maneuvers. A telephone switchboard and teletypewriters were installed in Camp Abbott at maneuver headquarters. The greater part of these communications was handled by telephone and Teletype over spiral four cable. Some experimental work was done with TG operating over spiral four from red force headquarters to maneuver headquarters and was used as an emergency means when Teletype communication was out. During this period, only a small number of men were employed in communications work, the balance undergoing additional training while bivouaced near Camp Abbott.
On 3 October 1943, the battalion departed from Camp Abbott and arrived in Fort Lewis, WA. The battalion passed MTP tests and was prepared for overseas shipment. Clothing and equipment were checked and on 11 October 1943, the battalion entrained for movement to Camp Shanks, NY, arriving there on 16 Oct. 1943.
At Camp Shanks, the battalion received further overseas staging and on 20 Oct. 1943 embarked for overseas at the New York Port Of Embarkation. The convoy sailed from New York on 21 Oct. 1943 and arrived at Gurock, Scotland on 1 Nov. 1943. The debarkation was completed on 4 Nov. 1943 and the battalion entrained for movement to Patchway, England.
The 17th Signal Operation Battalion arrived in Patchway, England on 5 November 1943, assigned to the First United States Army. The primary mission of the battalion was the operating of communications for the First Army Headquarters and its various echelons, switching centrals and repeater stations. A total of 27 echelons were installed, operated and dismantled during the period of this report as indicated below:
OPENED CLOSED ECHELON LOCATION 10 JUN 44 2 JUL 44 Command 2 mi. East of Grandcamp, FR 2 JUL 44 2 AUG 44 Command Vouilly. FR 2 JUL 44 3 AUG 44 Supply Columbieres, FR 10 JUL 44 12 AUG 44 Rear Vologne, FR 2 AUG 44 12 AUG 44 Command Canisy, FR 3 AUG 44 13 AUG 44 Supply Canisy, FR 3 AUG 44 12 AUG 44 TAC Sept Freres, FR 12 AUG 44 21 AUG 44 Rear St. Lo, FR 12 AUG 44 22 AUG 44 Command Coulouvray, FR (near St. Pois) 13 AUG 44 21 AUG 44 TAC Lt. Teilleul, FR 21 AUG 44 23 AUG 44 TAC Near Haleine, FR 21 AUG 44 1 SEP 44 Rear Fougerolles Du Plessis, FR 23 AUG 44 27 AUG 44 Command Near Haleine, FR 23 AUG 44 26 AUG 44 TAC Maillesois, FR 27 AUG 44 1 SEP 44 TAC Auffargis, FR 27 AUG 44 2 SEP 44 Command Maillebois, FR 1 SEP 44 4 SEP 44 TAC Senlis, FR 1 SEP 44 12 SEP 44 Rear Vaux De Cernay, FR 2 SEP 44 7 SEP 44 Command Versailles, FR 4 SEP 44 8 SEP 44 TAC Villequiers Aumond, FR 8 SEP 44 10 SEP 44 Command Villequiers Aumond, FR 8 SEP 44 11 SEP 44 TAC Ham-Sur-Heure, FR 10 SEP 44 14 SEP 44 Command Phillipe Ville, FR 11 SEP 44 17 SEP 44 TAC Haute Sarte, BE 13 SEP 44 20 NOV 44 Rear Charleroi, BE 14 SEP 44 19 NOV 44 Command Huy, BE 17 SEP 44 25 OCT 44 TAC Maison Bois, BE 19 SEP 44 25 OCT 44 Command Verviers, BE 20 SEP 44 20 NOV 44 Rear Soumagne, BE 25 OCT 44 18 DEC 44 Command Spa, BE 25 NOV 44 18 DEC 44 Command Spa, BE* 20 NOV 44 20 DEC 44 Rear Chaudfontaine, BE 17 DEC 44 23 DEC 44 Supply Micheroux, BE 18 DEC 44 23 DEC 44 Command Chaudfontaine, BE 20 DEC 44 5 FEB 45 Rear St. Trond, BE 23 DEC 44 18 JAN 45 Command Tongres, BE 18 JAN 45 10 MAR 45 Command Spa, BE 23 JAN 45 10 MAR 45 Command Spa, BE* 5 FEB 45 19 MAR 45 Rear Chaudfontaine, BE 3 MAR 45 10 MAR 45 TAC Stolberg, GR 10 MAR 45 16 MAR 45 Command Duren, GR 13 MAR 45 16 MAR 45 TAC Euskirchen, GR 16 MAR 45 30 MAR 45 Command Euskirchen, GR 19 MAR 45 7 APR 45 Rear Duren, GR 30 MAR 45 1 APR 45 TAC Freilinger, GR 30 MAR 45 5 APR 45 Command Bad Godesberg, GR
- Emergency Installation
28 switching centrals were installed, operated, and dismantled as indicated below:
OPENED CLOSED SWITCHES LOCATION 23 JUN 44 7 AUG 44 Marco Le Molary, FR 1 JUL 44 8 JUL 44 Midway Valognes, FR 2 JUL 44 15 JUL 44 Master St. Laurent Sur Mer, FR 6 JUL 44 30 JUL 44 Marathon St. Sauveur le Vicompte, FR 13 JUL 44 12 AUG 44 Maidenhead Near St. Lot, in PTT Building 20 JUL 44 15 AUG 44 Matthew Lison, FR 30 JUL 44 12 AUG 44 Mainstay Near Les Champs, FR 4 AUG 44 7 AUG 44 Maisie Columbieres, FR 6 AUG 44 13 AUG 44 Midway Tesey Sur Vire, FR 7 AUG 44 21 AUG 44 Marathon Percy, FR 11 AUG 44 19 AUG 44 Marco Near Coulouvray, FR 15 AUG 44 20 AUG 44 Maisie 10 miles NE of Juvigny, FR 20 AUG 44 23 AUG 44 Maidenhead Near Le Teilleul, FR 20 AUG 44 23 AUG 44 Manhattan Near St. Pois, FR 21 AUG 44 28 AUG 44 Mainstay Domfront, FR 23 AUG 44 28 AUG 44 Marco Near Mesnil-Thomas, FR 24 AUG 44 26 AUG 44 Marathon N of La Loupe, FR 6 SEP 44 15 SEP 44 Mainstay Etreaupont, FR 9 SEP 44 15 SEP 44 Midway Near Huy, BE 16 SEP 44 24 SEP 44 Manhattan PPT Building in Micheroux, BE 20 SEP 44 13 MAR 45 Medicine Eupen, BE 5 OCT 44 24 MAR 45 Marco Verviers, BE 3 DEC 44 NOT USED Alternate CP Brand, BE 18 DEC 44 5 JAN 45 Manhattan Aywaille, BE 23 DEC 44 28 FEB 45 Marathon Huy, BE 5 FEB 45 24 MAR 45 Manhattan Aachen, GR 23 MAR 45 30 MAR 45 Maidenhead Bad Godesburg, GR 27 MAR 45 5 APR 45 Midway Bad Neunahr, GR
A total of 7 sub-message centers were operated as follows:
11 JUL 44 29 JUL 44 Marco Le Molay, FR 13 AUG 44 4 SEP 44 Marco La Coupe, FR 6 SEP 44 16 SEP 44 Mainstay La Capelle, FR 16 SEP 44 N/A Manhattan Mickeroux, BE 19 SEP 44 26 SEP 44 Marathon Huy, BE 27 OCT 44 11 NOV 44 Maisie Verviers, BE 18 JAN 45 8 FEB 45 Marathon Huy, BE
The Story of Aachen Repeater Station
Culminating the First United States Army's rapid advance across France and Belgium was the capture of the vitally important road, Rial, and the signal communications center of Aachen. Its capture put these communication facilities at our disposal for our next major objective: the drive on the industrial Rhineland. But years of Allied air attacks and several weeks of ceaseless pounding by American artillery had turned this city of 150,000 into a heap of rubble and rendered its strategic communication facilities temporarily useless. It was, therefore, imperative that these facilities be rehabilitated at once.
Because the only important underground cable facilities entering Germany over a front of almost 100 miles passed through the Aachen repeater station, it was of paramount importance to the first US Army Signal Service that the station and its underground cable network be set in operation at the earliest possible date. After a preliminary inspection of the station by Col. Grant A. Williams, First Army signal officer, he directed the 17th Signal Operations Battalion to undertake the mission of rehabilitating the station. Although under artillery fire from the enemy, still a scant 3000 yards to the northwest, work commenced on 2 Nov. 1944, less than two weeks after the capture of the city. 1st Lt. William E. Lifson and 6 enlisted men, headed by TEC 4 Edward Pospisil (all of the 17th Signal Operations Battalion), moved into the Aachen repeater station. Several days prior to this, Capt. Paul E. Griffith, PTT officer of the Aachen Military Government Team had occupied the building and had begun to hire a number of German civilians who were former employees of the Reichspost. With the aid of Capt. Griffith, two German telephone engineers and PFC H. Goldsmith, interpreter for the 17th Signal Operations Battalion team, the building and equipment was surveyed and an estimate of the situation made.
The repeater station was housed in a new four-story brick and concrete telephone building. The first floor contained administrative offices; the second floor held about half of the 10,000-line head dial telephone exchange. The other half was located in an adjoining old telephone building. The third floor housed the repeater station and the manual long distance exchange; and the fourth floor contained the telegraph office, the bookkeeping offices, and a canteen. Located in the basement was the emergency 220V DC 72 KW diesel-electric power plant, the battery charging machines, the batteries and the long distance cable terminations.
Although ceaseless bombing and shelling had reduced more than half of Aachen to rubble, fortunately there were only a few shell holes in the telephone building, and a 500-pound bomb that had lodged in the wall of the machine room failed to explode. However, there was not a single window left in the building, and the entire ground floor had been burned out by the departing Nazis. As winter was fast approaching, it was essential that building repairs be started at once to protect the equipment from the weather. Therefore, a crew of four carpenters and helpers from the 17th Signal Operations Battalion, headed by TEC 4 F. Leonetti was moved to the station to undertake the necessary repairs.
The Germans must have expected to retake Aachen shortly as evidenced by their work in destroying equipment when they left the station. The plan they followed called for the destruction of wiring only, the removal of certain small but essential parts from all of the vital equipment and the hiding of all the station plans. However, none of the more intricate assemblies were damaged. Accordingly, they rendered the emergency light and power system inoperative by removing six small fittings from the cylinder heads of the six-cylinder Dentz diesel engine, which drove the 72 KW emergency generators. They also removed about 50% of the brushes and brush holders from the motor-generator sets that charged the repeater and central office batteries. In addition, all the repeater tubes were either smashed or carried away, but most destructive was their policy of burning out all inter-office wiring. The cable terminations in the basement were blown up and burned, and all cables in the cable rooms between floors and in the repeater room, together with the main distributing frame in the repeater room were covered with gasoline and burned beyond all hope of repair. This process, however, left the individual repeaters undamaged, but destroyed all the inter-bay wiring.
From the standpoint of rehabilitating the repeater station, it was decided to proceed by the following plan. First, light and power must be restored in the essential parts of the building. Secondly, the batteries and battery charging equipment must be put in order. Thirdly, all toll cables must be reterminated, and finally the inter-repeater room must be revised and the repeaters tested.
Following this plan, Lt. Lifson and his crew first started work on the diesel power plant. A German machinist turned out the required six fittings removed from the power plant, and the engine was set in operation. Next, all the building power wiring was repaired. By the 7th of November, light and power was available whenever required.
Rehabilitation or the machine room was considerably simplified by the fact that duplicate motor-generator sets were used throughout. Invariably, the Germans left sufficient brushes and brush holders to put one set in operation. By the 12th of November, all of the 14 sets of batteries were fully charged, and 8 of the 12 motor-generator sets were usable, despite the fact that the plans for the machine room had not yet been found.
In order to speed up work in the repeater room, Col. Williams contracted with the Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company of Antwerp for two Belgian telephone engineers (later augmented by a third) and four installers (all having knowledge of German repeater equipment) to move to Aachen and assist in the rehabilitation of the repeater room. They began work on the 16th of November.
A large amount of clean-up work had to be done during the first three weeks of work at the station. For this work civilians were employed, but as work progressed it was deemed undesirable to allow the Germans access to the plant. And therefore, after the 25th of November they were excluded.
Since Aachen was the first repeater station in Germany to be captured, it was of special interest as a school for the study of enemy repeater and central office technique. With this in view, a detachment of one officer and seven men from ASCZ joined the station on the 18th of November.
Several days after the capture of the city, cable splicing teams from the 35th Signal Construction Battalion, led by 1st Lt. Rayson, began the work of rehabilitating the underground cable system in and around Aachen, and temporarily reterminated these cables on a new mainframe installed in the basement. Subsequent to this, cable-splicing teams from the 438th Signal Construction Battalion made a permanent job of the cable termination.
Capt William B. Hailo, Asst Wire Officer for the First U.S. Army Signal Service, arrived at the Aachen repeater station on the 23rd of November to assume overall supervision of the project. He was relieved several weeks later by 1st Lt. F. K. Stanley, also on duty with the Signal section.
As an increasing amount of equipment became operative, it was necessary to supplement the MP guard on the installation with a detachment from the 282nd Signal Pigeon Company. They instituted a rigid security guard for the station, beginning the last week in November.
The Belgian civilians, together with the army signal personnel, removed all the burned wiring from the repeater room and the cable runs to the basement, repaired and painted the room, ran new cables to the basement mainframe and terminated them on a new frame installed in the repeater room, ran new room cables and tie cables, rewired the repeater bays where required, and ran in a complete new set of battery supply leads from the power panel in the machine room. As soon as a bay of repeaters was completed, the repeaters were tested for frequency response and gain. In all, 71 of the 111 repeaters in the station were tested and made ready for operation when the First Army was required to turn the project over to the Ninth U.S. Army.
The problem of obtaining the necessary replacements for destroyed German equipment was particularly difficult in this case, because the location of existing stocks was unknown. The matter of repeater tubes, which was especially pressing, was solved by the use of French and Belgian substitutes. The Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company of Antwerp supplied cable forms and equipment that had to be made to order, while other equipment such as wire, cable, hardware, repeat coils, and building materials was acquired by local requisition with the cooperation of Capt. Griffith of the Aachen Military Government Team.
The unforeseen change in the tactical situation brought about by Van Rundstet's winter offensive made it necessary for the First U.S. Army to relinquish control of the station to the Ninth U. S. Army 20 on December 1944, but by this time 90% of the work on the station had been completed and 70% of the repeater capacity of the station was ready for immediate operation. Thus in the short space of 7 weeks, the first U.S. Army Signal troops had rehabilitated one of Germany’s larger repeater stations and prepared adequate facilities to handle all immediate communication needs through this main artery in the heart of Germany. Training
On December 28, 1943, construction was begun on a group of Neissen huts at Patchway Lanes, England to be used for a first U.S. Army signal school. The courses taught at this school were radio installation and maintenance and telegraph operation. Members of the 17th Signal Operation Battalion served as instructors in these courses. This school was operated until the departure of the battalion from the United Kingdom.
The need for additional trained radio operators became apparent soon after the Allied invasion of the continent, and on July 25, 1944, the First US Army signal school was opened on the continent, accommodating forty students. The battalion furnished five enlisted men as instructors. The school followed the movements of the First US Army Command echelon until September 1944, when the school was discontinued.
On November 1, 1944, the radio school was reopened at Spa, Belgium primarily to offer a refresher course for radio operators lasting two weeks. New operators were also trained, and a course in typing and copying radio code on the typewriter was instituted for more experienced operators. Students were enrolled from various first army units. Three classes of approximately forty students each had been trained in the school when the German counterattack in December 1944 made it temporarily inexpedient to operate the school. It was reopened on January 1, 1945, with an increased enrollment of 120 students for a six-week course. The curriculum was modified from the original plan, with the addition of courses in typing procedure, and equipment. Students with code speeds ranging up to 15 words per minute came to the school, and were arranged in groups by proficiency at code for instructional purposes.
On February 18, 1945, a further reorganization and expansion of the school was accomplished, and a course of instruction for field wire lineman was added. Additional instructors were supplied, and school staff then consisting of an officer in charge of the school, a headquarters section of four enlisted men, a radio officer instructor, seven enlisted men radio instructors, an officer instructor in field wire lineman, and four enlisted men instructors in field wire lineman. The school staff and radio instructors were supplied from the 17th Signal Operations Battalion. The instructors for the field wire course were supplied by the 32nd Signal Construction Battalion.
Classes were resumed on March 15. As of March 21, the total enrollment was 234 (207 men in the radio school and 27 men in the wire school).
The capacity of the radio code tables in the radio school was 170. The equipment included 12 automatic keyers and signal corps radio sets, SCR-506, SCR-508, and SC4-193.
Equipment in the wire school included wire for demonstration purposes and practical work, a demonstration switchboard, BD-71, climbing equipment, and telephones, EE-8-A.
Installation And Maintenance
The 17th Signal Operation Battalion sent its first personnel to the continent on D plus three to provide the first telephone installation on the continent for the First US Army Headquarters. The battalion installed at that time three positions of BD-110 switchboard at Grandcamp on June 9, 1944, in a building with a multitude of field wire and spiral four cables entering the building. It was soon found that three positions were inadequate to handle the load for the headquarters, as it was expanding due to the large number of units served during those early days.
The second installation was at Isigny on July 2, 1944 and also in a building with one additional position of BD-110 switchboard. These four positions accommodated one hundred and forty-two trunks and one hundred and sixty-two locals. To improve on the flexibility of the installation and reduce the tendency towards wire and cable congestion where large numbers of circuits were involved, trunks were brought into a wire head located in the building. Ten pair cables feeding the local extensions were also terminated at this inside wire head.
In the third installation at Canisy on August 2, 1944, two tents with plank flooring were used to accommodate a six-position installation. While operation from the tent was satisfactory, it was found that too much time was consumed in making a move of the installation. After two installations in tents, the six positions were mounted in ten-ton vans. This made the installation entirely mobile. The telephone switchboard, teletype, and carrier equipment were wire with five pair or spiral four stubs so that a minimum of time was required to connect trunks and locals. With this type of mobile installation moves could be made easily, and continuous communication maintained.
In order to accomplish rapid and efficient testing of wire circuits it was necessary, in the absence of a suitable test board available for issue, to construct special equipment for test purposes. The test board equipment constructed for each 6 positions of BD-110 consisted of three positions, each equipped with an EE-65 test set and forty jacks and drops. Twenty jacks were permanently wired to a jack strip mounted on the main distributing frame. Test cords, equipped with test clips on one end and a plug on the other, were used to connect circuits to the test board. Selected non-commissioned officers with lineman experience worked as testers. These men had information on the route of all cables, and the location of all test points. It was their responsibility to test all line troubles, analyze the troubles, dispatch trouble teams, and follow through to the restoration of service. These testers worked under the direction of the Wire Chief.
When the First Army Headquarters moved to Spa, Belgium on October 25, 1944, an installation of six positions of BD-110 switchboard was made in a building. At this time recall lamp relays were installed in the switchboard to provide supervision on ringdown trunk circuits and thereby materially facilitate operation of the switchboard. To effect this installation, the cord circuits of the switchboard were modified to provide a locking recall and disconnected supervision feature. The recall and disconnect feature for magneto lines in the cord circuit of the TC-10 switchboard was provided by signal lamps located in the face of the switchboard behind the plugs. This signal was non-locking and was lighted only during the interval that the ringing current was applied from the distant switchboard or local battery phone. During heavy traffic periods, or under certain conditions of lighting on the face of the switchboard, the operator might overlook short recall or disconnect signal and thus delay the disconnect and impair service.
In the modification of the cord circuit to provide locked-in recall and disconnect supervision for magneto lines, the existing signal lamp located in the face of the switchboard was utilized, but a relay was added to hold this signal lamp lighted one it had been actuated by ringing current from the distant switchboard. The signal was extinguished by operation of the talking key of the cord circuit, and did not change operating practices in any way.
Fifteen relays, 48 volts, each provided with one "made" contact and a winding resistance of not less than 500 ohms were required for each position of the TC-10 switchboard. The relays that were installed in the master switchboard were secured from the Phillips radio factory in Belgium. The modification was made in accordance with the attached drawing (#1). The relay mounting plate was installed above the existing relays in the switchboard.
The Third and Ninth US Armies requested data concerning installation of these recall lamp relays in order to put them into operation in their respective headquarters.
While in Spa and Tongres, emergency command posts were established. The communications equipment consisted of two positions of BD-110 switchboards and associated frame and test equipment mounted in a six-ton van.
In addition to the main echelon of the First Army Headquarters, there was a rear echelon served for the most part by two positions of BD-110 switchboard. This equipment was not mounted in vehicles, since the movement of the rear echelon was made more leisurely, and the installation was usually placed in an existing building.
On occasion, as indicated in the command post location summary given previously, the main echelon was divided into what was called “command” and "supply" echelons. In such cases two positions of BD-110 usually sufficed to handle communications for the supply echelon.
During the rapid move across France and into Belgium, and during moves into Germany, as indicated in command post summary, a TAC echelon was employed. The signal communication facilities for this echelon were all mobile and consisted usually of two positions of BD-110 telephone switchboard. Locals off the telephone switchboard usually numbered between 20 and 30, and frequently the number of trunks into the board exceeded the number of local extensions.
A number of telephone switching centrals were also established and operated to provide communication for isolated groupings of army troops which could not be handled out of the main or rear echelon switchboards. The largest of these, when the main echelon was located at Spa, Belgium, was at Verviers where a three-position board was operated.
Personnel from the 246th Signal Operation Company and the 6th Signal Center Liaison Team attached to the 17th Signal Operation Battalion worked on various switches along with men from this organization. The detachment from the 246th Signal Operation Company operated rear echelon communications, a function which was taken over by company B of the 90th Signal Operation Battalion (which is attached to the 17th Signal Operation Battalion). Personnel of the 246th were transferred to company B of the 90th Signal Operation Battalion to perform this work.
Under the provisions of tables or organization and equipment 11-95, 11,96, and 11-97, the 17th Signal Operation Battalion was not authorized carrier personnel or equipment except for 6 repeatermen provided in the installation and maintenance platoon. These and other men of the installation and maintenance platoon handled carrier operation during the time that the unit was in the United Kingdom. Although no carrier equipment was authorized the battalion, one 100-mile carrier system had been issued for training the Oregon maneuvers in the summer of 1943. This system was operated by repeatermen and wire chiefs of the battalion, providing the only experienced carrier men available upon arrival in England. In England this same type 100-mile carrier system was issued. The two terminals, each consisting of one CF-1-A carrier terminal, two CF-2-A voice frequency telegraph terminals, two EE101-A voice frequency ringers and associated power equipment and spares, were mounted in 6 ton trailers. Several S and D were mounted in each van, together with associated equipment. The carrier equipment was tested during a field problem entitled Exercise: Carefree, which lasted approximately one month during February 1944. In the spring of 1944, additional carrier was issued to the battalion and to the battalions operating the corps of First Army, and it became apparent that additional carrier personnel would be required if carrier operation was to be maintained on the continent after the invasion.
During the month of May, the battalion received eight carrier terminals, each mounted in a specially-built HO-17 set on a 2 ½ ton truck. Twelve CF-3 repeaters were also issued along with the terminals, giving the battalion four mobile 100-mile systems plus two unmounted 100-mile systems. The first carrier circuit in operation on the continent was a cross-Channel radio link to IV Tactical Air Command, whose headquarters remained at Wallop, England. The continental terminal was set up on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and operated back to the radio relay station on the Isle of Wight. The distant terminal was located at Middle Wallop. This provided two speech and four teletype channels from France to England, the first cross-channel circuits to be established by the Allied Army. In addition, a terminal was operated to the British 2nd Army in Bayeux.
Gradually, the number of terminals in operation increased to eight, after which it became evident that the wiring system employed between the mainframe and the carrier could be improved. A terminal board was constructed, using TM-184 terminal strips, and was installed with spiral 5 and 4-pair cable stubs. All incoming spiral 4 cables terminated on the TM-184 terminal strips through spiral 4 stubs. The required number of 5-pair tie cables between the mainframe and the Teletype switchboard terminated on TM-184 terminal strips on the terminal board with 5-pair stubs. Each van connected to the terminal board by means of 100-foot lengths of spiral 4 and 5 pair cable for the carrier circuit for each truck, one 5-pair cable for speech circuits, and one 5-pair cable for teletype circuits using this system. New terminals could thus be run in and connected by running one spiral 4 and two 5-pair cables between the van and the terminal boards. Two power units (PE-95's) were required for carrier, as the number of terminals operating often ran the carrier load up to 50 amperes.
Frequently in the operations across France and Belgium, First Army had a tactical echelon, a main echelon, and a rear echelon. The setup of the TAC echelon for carrier was as follows:
Four terminals in 2½ ton trucks were used to operate radio link circuits to the three corps and the main echelon. No landline carrier was contemplated. The personnel consisted of four carrier operators and four drivers. A small terminal board was built for this installation and used in the same manner as the board at the main echelon. In the early days the attack echelon did not attempt to maintain continuous communication while moving, all equipment being sent along to the new location. Normally, an installation could be completed in four hours’ time. After several moves, however, it was decided continuous communication should be maintained during the movement of the tactical echelon as well as the main echelon. In order to accomplish this, additional carrier equipment was needed. Therefore, two 6-ton vans each holding 3 CF-1 and 3 CF-2-B terminals were constructed. One was issued to the TAC echelon and one to the main echelon. It was also decided that wherever possible, land lines circuits from TAC to the corps and to main echelon should be installed. With the increased carrier operation in the tactical echelon, the breakdown of men and equipment was as follows:
TAC echelon: 1 officer and 8 EM carrier operators, 4 EM drivers and powermen.
Equipment: 1 6-ton van with 3 terminals, 6 2 1/2 ton trucks with 6 terminals to TAC, 1 S plus D converted for use with the TG-7B printer.
Main Echelon: 1 officer and 9 emcarrier operators.
Equipment: 1 6-ton van with 3 terminals, 2 2 1/2 ton trucks with 4 terminals total, 6 CF-3 repeaters, 1 S plus D converted for use with the TG-7B printer.
In the majority of echelons the following carrier circuits were established in the two echelons in moving across France and Belgium:
TAC echelon: 1 radio link to each corps 1 land link to each corps 1 radio link to command 1 landline to command
Command echelon: 1 landline to each corps 1 landline to TAC 1 radio link to TAC 1 land line to master rear
Almost without exception, spiral 4 cable was used on landline circuits. Several attempts were made to use rehabilitated French open wire, but this proved unsuccessful because of the heavy ground caused by faulty insulators. When spiral 4 circuits of over 50 miles in length were encountered, CF-3 repeaters were inserted every 30 or 35 miles.
When both the TAC and command echelons reached Verviers, Belgium, and later combined at Spa, the situation became static and a more permanent installation for carrier was set up. Four vans were lined up back to back, tailgates were lowered and the space above roofed in. This created a twelve-terminal compact installation, making maintenance and operation simple. A 100-pair lead tie-cable was run between the mainframe and the carrier terminal, the cable terminal being stubbed with 5-pair cable and the individual terminals plugged into the 5-pair stubs.
The carrier installation was located at the wirehead so that the spiral 4 was connected directly from the wirehead to the terminals with 100-foot lengths. With twelve terminals operating, the power supply required was 90 amperes. It was therefore necessary to run separate power units for carrier. This entire system operated satisfactorily, except for inconvenience encountered in making circuit changes. These were not made readily because each terminal was connected directly to the tie cable.
At Spa, two 6-ton vans were acquired (making a total of 6 vans available). Based upon experience during the German breakthrough in December, a new method of handling numerous circuit changes was devised. An intermediate distributing frame was constructed for carrier. This frame was built using German pinblocks for both the vertical and horizontal sides. Both vertical and horizontal sides were stubbed out with 5-pair cable stubs. The horizontal side was divided into two sections, one for telephone circuits to the CF-1 carrier terminal and the other for teletype circuits to the CF-2 carrier terminal. The frame was placed on the tailgates between the vans, and the horizontal side connected to each terminal with 100-foot lengths of 5-pair cable. The vertical side tied into the mainframe and Teletype switchboard with tie cable. Spiral 4 was run from the wirehead to the carrier terminal on 100-foot lengths.
The EE-101 voice frequency ringers gave considerable trouble, mainly due to dirty relay contacts. In order to clean the relays, the entire ringer and the relay covers had to be removed. If the relays had been mounted with covers on the front panel of the equipment, a great deal of ringer trouble could have been avoided. The CF-2-B telegraph terminals had an inherent deficiency. Unless relays were adjusted at least once a week down to 1/1000 of an inch, a large number of fuses would blow. Because of minor circuit differences, the CF-2-A did not have this fault. Unsteady and low line voltage reduced the life of the VT394-A rectifiers and tubes, but this could not have been avoided except by improving the power source.
Frequency Modulated Radio
On May 5, 1944, two civilian technicians from Camp Coles laboratory arrived in England to conduct training of battalion personnel in the use of AN/TRC-1 radio link equipment. On May 20, 1944, a circuit from First US Army To V Corps was put into operation with telephone and Teletype facsimile equipment. From that date until the invasion, a group of enlisted men was trained in the technical operation of the equipment. The first radio link after the landings in France was used for cross-channel communications between Point Duhoe and The Isle Of Wright. This was the first time that radio link had been used in the combat zone. Three corps circuits were established in the following sequence: VII Corps, June 10; V Corps, June 12; and XIX Corps. June 14. On July 13, a radio link relay was installed in the cross-channel link to England at a location near Cherbourg. This was done to eliminate cable trouble that had been experienced between the radio link site and the Army CP. This was the first relay used in the operations on the continent. The terminal was located at the Army CP. On August 20, the 980th Signal Service Company (an ADSEC unit) took over this installation.
During the moves across France, Belgium, and Germany, radio link was used alternately as a principal means of communication, a supplementary means of communication, and a standby or emergency means of communication. At each location of the command post, radio link was installed to all corps and was usually installed to 12th Army Group Tactical Echelon, and advance section communication zone. Frequently, installation was made to Third Army and Ninth Army also, and to divisions and smaller units under special circumstances.
For the continuity of telephone and Teletype communications, particularly on long and fast moves, radio link was an excellent means of communication. Several problems arose during the period of use of this equipment, and considerable experimentation was necessary during actual operation to provide for satisfactory operation. Trouble had been experienced with the radio link receiver. This was due principally to serious oscillations. Technicians from the 175th Signal Repair Company made a detailed analysis of several receivers and found that the trouble could be eliminated. In some oscillation was eliminated by bypassing the screem grid in the limiter circuits. In others it was necessary to re-ground and re-group the ground connection nearest the offending stage. All receivers within First Army were modified to correct this condition. A circuit for testing crystals for frequency and microphonics was also built, providing a valuable method for predetermining bad crystals.
One example of the emergency use of radio line was in connection with communications for the 16 AAA group at Bad Neuenahr, near the Remagen bridgehead shortly after the bridgehead was established. An AN/TRC-8 and a CF-1 carrier bay was installed in a 1½ ton truck and sent to the far end of the circuit. The circuit was set up and a relay station was placed near Odendorf, 18 miles away. The rear terminal was at Duren. An attempt was made to contact the far terminal direct without the relay, and the circuit was successful. This circuit was established March 10, 1945, and provided circuits for this antiaircraft outfit which proved essential to the proper execution of its mission. While this use of radio link was an exceptional case for this battalion, it demonstrated the flexibility and potentialities of radio link for emergency communications.
The operation of the First Army Message Center in the United Kingdom was the first assignment of the 17th Signal Operation Battalion Message Center platoon that involved the handling of tactical and administrative traffic. Prior to that, the extent of the battalion's training was acquired during maneuvers. It was found that a new standing operating procedure for all message center handling would be needed if maximum results were to be obtained. Working in conjunction with First US Army Signal Service, a revised message center operating procedure was devised and adopted.
The most complex problem that confronted the message center at that time was the clearing of Teletype traffic. This became increasingly difficult as units from the states landed in great numbers in the United Kingdom, and were assigned or attached to the First Army. As scores of small units established their command posts in remote parts of England, the problem of servicing these units became quite involved.
An ETOUSA directive was received at that time which provided that units located within a radius of thirty miles from a given Teletype station would be serviced by that Teletype terminal. Units not within that area would be serviced by the base section in whose geographical boundary the unit was located. The bulk of message traffic in the United Kingdom was cleared by Teletype since wire lines were considered secure. “Secret” traffic was transmitted without encryptographing. Because of this fact, very little traffic was handled by radio.
The cryptographic section was employed the majority of the time encoding and decoding "filler" traffic which was sent by radio. There were two reasons for this: to train the radio operators and to confuse the enemy. Because this "filler" traffic reached a volume of thousands of code groups daily, it also provided excellent training for the cryptographic section.
The message center platoons also participated in the Carefree and Candle exercises to test their ability to code with tactical traffic, which demanded the utmost speed of dispatch. Since both of these operations were with the British, procedural problems that would have developed during the actual invasion were solved.
During the actual invasion, the message center platoons were divided into five sections that operated in the following manner: one team remained in England operating the First Army Base Echelon at Bristol, with a detachment at Portsmouth to handle traffic to and from the continent from D-day to D plus fifteen. Three teams sailed on separate LST's with equipment and supplies divided equally in the event any loss was sustained. The fifth team (composed of the Sixth Signal Center team reinforced with members of the battalion) operated the Tactical First Army Message Center aboard the USS Achernar, the headquarters ship for the invasion. In addition to these five teams, a small detachment of men was sent aboard the USS Augusta, flagship for the invasion operation.
Operations on the continent were set up by the three teams from the LST's on D plus three. They were joined on D plus five by message center teams aboard the two headquarters ships. Team number five joined the battalion at D plus thirty.
The most pressing problem to confront the Message Center was the handling of traffic for units, which were literally pouring upon the continent. From Normandy to Germany, the message center worked in all types of installations. For the many moves, two M-8 tents outfitted with duplicate sets of equipment were used. The tactical echelon used a six-ton van. The cryptographic section in the command echelon used two HO-17's mounted on 2½ ton trucks, while the tactical echelon used one such setup.
Arriving at Spa, Belgium on October 26, 1944, a section of the 3137th Signal Motor Messenger Company was attached to the battalion, furnishing an additional twelve teams of motor messengers. During the German breakthrough in December of '44, most of the Teletype lines became unclassified, and code traffic as a result reached the highest levels ever recorded in battalion history. The cryptographic section averaged approximately 40,000 code groups a day. As the First Army moved back to Spa, Belgium, and thence into Germany, message center operations resumed normalcy.
One of the most successful means of handling dispatch traffic during the months of July through October '44 and in the early spring of '45 was the air courier service, which was provided by the 153rd Air Liaison Squadron.
Immediately upon landing on the continent, one of the major problems confronting First Army Signal Communications was the routing of messages and dispatches to units already in France. Units had poured onto Omaha and Utah beaches, and it was difficult to locate them in the rapidly expanding beachhead. A separate group was constituted on D plus 8 to catalog all units that were already in France and to keep track of new arrivals. This group was called the "locator section.” Staff sections of the headquarters reported daily on all units working with either Army or Corps falling under their branch of service. All Army troops notified the locator section whenever a move was contemplated. The section checked shipping lists, and notices were addressed to all units arriving on the continent. These were left at Army post office regulating stations on Omaha and Utah beaches, where these units would report in for mail, directing that all units arriving in France report in at the locator section to supply pertinent information. A card file was built up which included every unit in the American sector. This file grew steadily as American troops assembled on the continent. As of March 30, 1945, there were over 17,500 cards in the locator files. For the remainder of the war, the locator section continued to move with First Army Headquarters, cataloguing and recording changes in unit location which proved to be of great assistance.
On November 25, 1943, The 17th Signal Operation Battalion Teletype platoons were charged with the operation of Teletype service for First Army Headquarters. Six British creed-type printers and one model 19 teletypewriter converted to polar operation were used at this time. Teletype switching was handled through a 60 line, single position GPO board. During the Carefree maneuvers in England, Teletype personnel gained valuable experience working with 2nd British Army signals. Teletype equipment was set up in a 6-ton van, which held 2 positions of BD-100 switchboard and five TG-78 printers.
At the first CP in France, 2 TC-3 switchboards and 4 printers were set up with lines to V and VII Corps. In about two weeks time, the Teletype section had in operation six BD-100 switchboards, and 8 TG-7B printers. One point-to-point circuit to operate at British speed was put into 2nd British Army, and one TG-7B printer was operated over radio link to the Isle of Wright, handling mostly press traffic. By the end of July, Teletype traffic had reached a total of 1,000 messages daily, one-half of which was relay traffic.
In subsequent moves of the First Army Command Post, Teletype installations were made in tents. This was not very satisfactory, as too much time was required to arrange such an installation. Accordingly, two 10-ton vans were equipped to function as the Teletype section. One van housed the switchboard, containing 6 positions of BD-100's with 3 operating positions, a supervisory desk, and a table for repairs. The operations van contained 4 model 19's and 4 TG-7B printers and a supervisory desk for the chief operator.
When First Army established its tactical echelon, the teletype installation consisted of two HO-17's mounted on 2½ ton trucks, one containing 2 BD-100's and one operating machine, and the other containing 3 TG-7B's and one model 19. This installation required 15 operators for continuous service.
When First Army moved to Spa, Belgium, installation was made in a building. At this time First Army entered a tape relay net to 12th Army Group requiring a change in procedure. Since First Army was a tributary station, and all incoming traffic required a "hard copy" for proper filing procedure, a TG-7B was connected to the tape relay machine to provide this copy.
During the German breakthrough in December, the 10-ton vans were again utilized for the command post at Chaudfontaine, one set going to Micheroux for a supply echelon. At this time, tape relay facilities were discontinued and were not re-established until January 4, 1945 in Tongres. In this location a detachment from 21 Army Group operated two British Creed field printers direct to group HQ, and one local machine to the 2nd British Army.
At subsequent locations of the army command post in Belgium and Germany, Teletype was operated from the two 10-ton vans, the tape relay machine being mounted in the van with the local machines.
Amplitude Modulated Radio
Upon arriving in England in November 1943, the radio platoons were given refresher courses in radio procedure, theory and operation. Special emphasis was placed on new link sign call method, and simulated nets were set up to give radio operators actual experience in the use of this new method of calling. The courses were also designed to acquaint radio personnel with the equipment they were later to operate. SCR-399 and SCR-177 radio sets were issued for training.
After a month of training, the 17th Signal Operation Battalion radio personnel took over radio communication for First US Army Headquarters. Early in February 1944, a detachment of radio operators was sent with other operating personnel to take part in a three-week communication problem in the vicinity of Stains and Bambury, England. Radio personnel were divided into three echelons and operated an administrative and tactical net between the rear, command, and advanced echelons of a simulated army setup. Radio traffic was not heavy during this exercise and personnel and equipment functioned smoothly. During this time, a relay unit was developed which made it possible to operate remotely the transmitter BD-191 up to a distance of five miles. (See drawing #2)
During the month of April, experiments were carried out with SCR-399 radio sets mounted in DUKWs. A series of tests were run in the Severn River. One team of five men was sent to the Assault Training Center to take part in actual invasion practice. This was the first actual operation of an SCR-399 radio set mounted in a DUKW. Radio operation in England preceding the invasion did not reach large proportions, since the wire installation in the United Kingdom was so vast and secure that the great bulk of the traffic was handled by landline Teletype in the clear.
On the May 13, 1944, a radio team of 25 enlisted men and a warrant officer was set aboard the USS Achernar preparatory to the invasion. This ship was to be used as First US Army Headquarters. As radio men from LSTs landed on the afternoon and evening of June 9, D plus 3, operations were immediately set up and circuits operating from the Achernar and the Augusta were monitored. For the first time two small arms repair trucks, which had been equipped with six operating positions and a switchboard each, were put into operation. The circuits were operated remotely through a ten and five pair cable for a distance of approximately two miles. On 10 June, all First Army radio circuits were taken over by equipment ashore, totaling fourteen circuits.
During the early days on the continent, radio traffic was extremely heavy, for it was several days until wire circuits were established to the lower units. Not until late in June was a submarine cable in operation between the continent and England.
In the various and frequent moves across France, a leapfrog plan was devised to make use of a duplicate set of equipment. The second set of equipment was set up at the new operating site, and when everything was ready the cutover from the old command post was effected in a matter of minutes.
After wire installations were put in on the continent, amplitude modulated radio was used principally as an emergency means of communication. Traffic was exceedingly light considering the amount of equipment and personnel involved.
In Spa, the radio platoon operated a radio school, which was discussed at length in the Training section.
Telephone switching for First Army in the United Kingdom was handled by four 6-position British switchboards. As the day of the invasion approached, the master switchboard handled approximately 13,000 calls per day. This load was handled for the two months period preceding D-Day. In the final phase of the operations in England, the setup approached the operation of a small commercial exchange. Two additional positions were added to facilitate the handling of a booking service. During the pre-invasion period, the telephone platoons took part in maneuvers by operating from a mobile installation of two TC-4s mounted on a 2½ ton truck.
During the invasion, equipment and personnel were divided into three teams and crossed the channel in three separate LSTs.
On the move across France, First Army operated as many as four echelons and four switches. The most elaborate setup in telephone operations were at Spa, Belgium, where traffic was approximately 12,000 calls per day. There were 215 local extensions and trunks varied from 135 to 150.
Pre-invasion planning and maneuvers in England did not disclose any necessity for designating any agency other than the Wire Chief as responsible for the control and supervision of the termination and test of the wire communications for Army. There was also no apparent need for a central control medium for all agencies of signal communication at Army headquarters. When the initial army command post was established near Grandcamp on D plus 3, communications were somewhat limited and were installed according to plan. Later, however, the slowly expanding beachhead allowed additional units to land and the bulk of communications increased materially. Main roads became festooned with field wire and spiral 4.
The relatively small area under Allied control restricted both lateral and forward movement, and as a result units availed themselves of the communication facilities to a far greater extent than was ever anticipated in the months of planning which preceded D-Day. The mass of spiral 4 and field wire, hastily placed, soon became vulnerable to the vehicles crowding the main roads and to sporadic bombing and shelling. The Wire Chief, faced with an overwhelming number of wire troubles and also with the responsibility of terminating new circuits, was unable to cope with this problem. Circuits in trouble were lost in the maze, and some circuits in trouble lay unattended while trouble teams tried vainly to get test personnel to work with them as they attempted to find and repair breaks. The necessary coordination usually provided by the Wire Chief was lacking. A coordinating agency was developed consisting of the S-3 of the Signal Operation Battalion and two assistant S-3’s, one from each of the signal construction battalions operating with Army. This combination of three officers, each aware of the problems confronting his own organization, formed the nucleus for a signal operations office which was the controlling and coordinating agency of the efforts of the battalion wire chief and test personnel, and provided a clearing point for all wire communication orders issued by Army Signal Officer to the Signal Operation Battalion.
The assistant S-3’s from the construction battalions provided control and coordination with respect to the trouble teams. Each assistant S-3 was kept constantly informed as to the number and location of the trouble teams available and was also aware of the routes and status of both incomplete and completed construction. This information was of inestimable value to the test board. The assistant S-3 officers from the construction battalions also made it easy for the test board personnel to find a ready answer to problems involving construction troubles beyond the scope of the test facilities.
On December 6, 1944, the German army launched a counterattack on the southern sector of the First US Army front. The enemy exploited its initial successes to achieve a breakthrough and approached the First Army Headquarters, which was then located in Spa, Belgium. It was decided to move First Army Headquarters command echelon to Chaudfontaine, the location of the rear echelon of the First Army.
On December 18, 1945, due to inadequate time for planning, it was necessary to improvise during the move. The installation of the rear echelon was used until the "jump" equipment arrived from the command installation at which time a cutover to the command installation was made. During the period that the battalion was located in Spa, Chaudfontaine, and Tongres, Belgium, the Germans were using V-1 buzz bombs against Liege and Antwerp.
The above-mentioned towns were in the line of fire, and as a result defective missiles could and did fall in our area. It was such a missile which landed near the CP at Tongres. It wounded of 8 enlisted men, who were later awarded Purple Hearts for their wounds. It was during this period that the Executive Officer was killed by a buzz bomb in the vicinity of Liege. After the CP was moved to Tongres, Belgium on 22 December 1944, the tactical situation became stabilized while the "bulge" was being reduced.
On January 18, 1945, the CP was moved back to Spa. During the entire breakthrough period, communications were extremely important and all installations were manned until almost the last minute. Since many installations and switching centrals were being operated at the same time, it was necessary for the officers and men to remain on the job long hours for many days at a time, in fact, living with the equipment. When traffic became slow enough, it was possible then, and then only, for the men to take short naps right next to the equipment.
On March 9, 1945, the battalion moved into Germany, setting up the First Army Command Echelon at Duren. While the battalion was at Duren, the Luendendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen was captured. The battalion furnished radio link and carrier equipment plus operating personnel to provide communication from First Army to anti-aircraft units engaged in protecting the bridge area from enemy air activity. Since there were no wire networks, the radio link furnished all of the communication to that area. As a wire net was established, the battalion took over a divisional switching central at Bad Godesberg, Germany, and direct lines were established to the divisions across the Rhine River both from the switching central and from the First Army switchboard. On March 13, 1945, The CP was moved to Euskirchen, Germany and from there to Bad Godesberg on March 30, 1945. At about this time, a breakthrough was made by our forces and the tactical situation commenced to change hourly. Shortly after the enemy was encircled in the Ruhr pocket, the CP was moved to Yarburg, Germany on April 4, 1945. As far as communications were concerned, the situation developed rapidly and a new problem was introduced. The CP was moved to Bad Wildungen on April 14, 1945. The CP was then located to the east of the Ruhr pocket.
At this time, four corps were assigned to the First Army: the Third, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighteenth Airborne Corps. The Third and Eighteenth Airborne Corps were driving west into the Ruhr pocket while the Fifth and Seventh Corps were moving east, as fast as 25 and 50 miles a day. This meant that communications had to be maintained in two separate directions at the same time.
It soon became necessary to send out radio relays. Fortunately, the Ruhr pocket soon collapsed, allowing First Army Headquarters to move to Weimar, Germany on April 24, 1945. The advance party that set up this installation arrived early enough to see the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar. It had not yet been cleaned up at that time.
At the cessation of hostilities, V-E Day found the 17th still at Weimar. Shortly after V-E Day, First Army Headquarters ceased operations and the 17th was assigned to the Ninth Army. When the 310th Signal Operation Battalion was alerted for overseas movement, the 17th moved to Brunswick, Germany, and in three days completely took over the operation of signal communication for Ninth Army Headquarters. The signal installations were so widely separated that it was necessary to set up scheduled two-day runs to the various installations to supply rations and mail service.
The area covered extended from Brunswick to Dortmund and from Uelzen to Marburg. Due to an insufficient number of personnel, many installations were manned by one or two enlisted men with a staff of German civilians.
The battalion received alert orders in the first part of June, but since no replacement was available, the unit was forced to remain in operation and "pom" at the same time. This necessitated the constant shifting of personnel so as to make them available for processing at the unit CP.
The 17th was finally relieved of operation by two signal battalions on June 10, 1945 and left Brunswick on June 14 by motor convoy. After a three-day pause in Liege to turn in equipment, the battalion moved on and arrived at Camp Lucky Strike on June 20, 1945. The advance detachment sailed on June 26, 1945 and the battalion followed on July 2, 1945.
Camp Bowie, Texas was designated as the assembly point and August 18, 1945 as the day of assembly. However, due to the differences in procedure at the various reception stations, the entire battalion was not assembled even at the end of August. In addition, many men with sufficient points were retained at their reception stations before being eventually discharged.
Headquarters First U. S. Army Signal Service APO #230 U. S. Army 28 December 1944
Subject: Letter of appreciation To: Commanding Officer, 17th Signal Operation Battalion (including attachments)
1. The orderly regrouping of our forces during the last ten days has been dependent, to a large extent, upon the communications which you have provided. Without communications, this orderly process could have become a disorganized route.
2. To provide communications during this difficult period, your officers and men have worked day and night without rest. You have provided the necessary speed without sacrificing quality. In short—you have done an outstanding job.
3. It is my wish that this expression of my personal appreciation be published to every officer and enlisted man of your organization.
Grant A. Williams Colonel, Signal Corps, Signal Officer
1st Ind WPB/JW
Headquarters, 17th Signal Operation Battalion, APO #230, US Army 30 December 1944
To: Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Co. A, Co. B, 17th Signal Operation Battalion; Co, 6th Signal Center Liaison Team, 3137th Motor Messenger Platoon, Det. A, 246th Signal Operation Company, Det. 175th Signal Repair Company, Det. 262nd Pigeon Company, Communications Officer, HQ Rear Echelon, First US Army.
1. It is indeed a pleasure for me to pass on to you this fine compliment from the army signal officer.
2. Please have a copy of this letter posted on each bulletin board, and also supply each platoon officer with a copy which he may show to the men of his platoon in order that every man will be informed of our commander’s expression of appreciation.
Wilfred P. Burglund Major, 17th Sig. Opr. Bn. (Commanding)
Headquarters Ninth US Army Office of the Commanding General APO 339
13 June 1945
Subject: Commendation To: Commanding Officer 17th Signal Operation Battalion, APO 339, US Army
1. I wish to commend the officers and men of your organization for the splendid manner in which they performed their mission at this headquarters.
2. Your organization was called upon to assume responsibility for all signal operations on very short notice and performed its mission without delay or confusion in an excellent manner. Due to the shortage of troop units, it was necessary for your organization to continue all operations even though alerted, and carried on in key positions in the signal center until relieved of this responsibility by your successors.
3. 1 desire that this commendation be brought to the attention of all members of your command with my hearty congratulations for a job well done.
W. H. Simpson Lieutenant General, US Army Commanding