Extracts related to the SWPA Army Signal Corps CP fleet for Army Ships—The Ghost Fleet, Signal Corps & SWPA pages from:
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II
The Technical Services
THE SIGNAL CORPS:
(Mid-1943 Through 1945)
George Raynor Thompson
Dixie R. Harris
CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1991
VIII. COMMUNICATIONS IN THE SOUTHWEST PACIFIC: TO
Radio Relay and Communications Ships to Hollandia
By June 1944 the Signal Corps men at Hollandia were doing a rushing business; message traffic would grow to a million groups a day by November.51 The men were also hard at work on such communications innovations as radio relay (VHF antrac circuits) for mobile uses, the equipping of communications ships, and the outfitting of floating depots, installed in large seagoing barges—all for the amphibious operations looking toward the reconquest of the Philippines.
Radio relay equipment proved itself in the Pacific even more strikingly than in Europe during 1944. More often called VHF radio link in Pacific areas, in the form of AN/TRC-1, 3, and 4 (antrac for short), it was at first used in the South Pacific in several ways where quick, semipermanent circuits were needed, either in locations that forbade wire and cable, or for use until wire lines could be installed. “Temporary links” summarized the view generally taken of antrac in 1943.52 But antrac very quickly proved to be no temporary expedient. In its own right it was equal to wire lines, with some added advantages. And it was unsurpassed for maintaining communications with constantly moving tactical units, such as a division command post, or ships moving offshore or swinging at anchor. These amphibious uses were first perceived in the Pacific fighting.
The tactical possibilities of antrac began to appear at Hollandia, where rugged terrain and enemy infiltration, not to mention the ever-present menace of friendly engineer and artillery activity, made difficult the laying and maintenance of wire lines. At Humboldt Bay the 41st Signal Company had to depend entirely on radio the first two days after the 41st Division landed. And the radios which I Corps and its subordinate echelons employed were nothing elaborate—just ordinary radiotelegraph or radiotelephone types, recalled Colonel Burch, signal officer of I Corps in the Hollandia invasion. The 41st Signal Company used SCR-193, 284, and 300. I Corps headquarters at Humboldt Bay used an SCR-399 to reach the 24th Division during its first landing at Tanahmerah Bay.53 Radio relay would have been ideal in such a situation to flash its circuits over jungle morasses where the installation and maintenance of wire lines would later use up weeks of painful and costly effort.
That more time was not actually expended on Hollandia pole lines resulted from the fortunate introduction of radio relay in New Guinea. Three teams, provided with this equipment and trained in its use, arrived in the theater for the limited mission of providing “remote keying facilities of the base radioteletype installation which was not scheduled for operation for some time after D plus 30.” 54
The limited mission at once yielded to a much larger assignment—the provision of primary communications circuits interconnecting segments of the great base now developing at Hollandia. The three teams arrived too late to take part in the tactical operations but their radio relay equipment speeded base operations, upon which the Philippine invasion awaited. Thereafter it figured very large indeed in all tactical operations as well.
The three teams (A, B, and C, elements of the 989th Signal Service Company) arrived at the SOS headquarters on D plus 30, that is, 22 May 1944. They were organized under the new cellular TOE 11-500. Each team of four officers and twenty-four men came equipped with two terminal sets of AN/TRC-3.55 In less than a week the teams had set up and were operating such high-capacity facilities as only many weeks of wire line installation would have provided. One section of Team C opened up at Hollekang, the other at the Cyclops Drome. Both sections of Team A installed their equipment at Leimok Hill, and both sections of Team B were at the communications center near Joka. Together they provided six voice and five teletypewriter circuits tying together I Corps, Base G, Sixth Army, and the 310th Bomber Group. Some of the circuits were actually carrying message traffic the day after the men began installing them. The remainder were in operation within two days. From then on the antracs gave excellent service. There were no major failures, and there was only occasional interference from radars on Leimok Hill and at the Cyclops Drome. It was inescapably evident to all, and to the commanding general in particular, that the equipment provided facilities that simply could not have been obtained so readily in any other way.56
Immediately, everyone wanted antracs. Higher headquarters got sets first, as the supply grew, and the specialists to operate them. The Fifth Air Force asked for antracs to use in the Biak area, and the Navy sought and obtained sets. Captain Crain, a Signal Corps officer who accompanied the new radios to instruct SWPA in their use, reported early in 1945 “each new operation brings to light additional uses of this highly flexible equipment … its possibilities are nowhere near exhausted.” He listed four of the uses: (1) as a means of establishing immediate communications with fast-moving tactical units, the equipment being mobile mounted; (2) as a means of communication along an axis where a pole line or submarine cable was planned but delayed; (3) as a means of handling shipto- shore communications; and finally (4) as a link connecting beachheads to bases, reaching all tactical units and naval elements as well as furnishing Navy, press, and Army circuits. Radio relay blossomed into full flower in the Pacific. Island fighting placed a premium upon radio communications and so provided a rich soil in which antrac equipment quickly flourished. Amphibious warfare needs, involving myriads of ships offshore and many units and bases ashore, required the rapid, dependable, high-capacity radio interconnections, just what radio relay could provide. As a result, “a great deal of interest,” Crain reported, “has now been aroused among U.S. Navy officials and Port Command officials of the U.S. Army.”57
“Up to the month of August 1944,” reported Crain, “a total of three 100-mile VHF Radio Link Systems and twenty-six VHF Radio Link Terminals were in operation.” As he wrote his report in early 1945, he added, “At this writing in the Hollandia area alone there are a total of fourteen terminals supplying approximately sixty teletype trunks and twenty-six [telephone] trunks for both Army and Navy over an area of some three hundred square miles.”58
Inevitably the flexible high-capacity VHF antracs replaced the single circuit radio sets previously used for ship-to-shore communications in amphibious work. Antrac gave ships the high traffic capacity of pole lines carrying the multiple circuits that carrier techniques make possible—without poles, wires, or the fixed position that wire equipment compels. Only a year or so earlier, naval ships had adopted for amphibious operations the Signal Corps FM radios of the 500 and 600 series, which offered superior facilities, but only single circuits. The Signal Corps FM radio relay, using carrier techniques that provided not one circuit but many (telephone and/or telegraph or teletypewriter), found immediate acceptance aboard Navy (and Army) communications ships.59
No overseas arena in World War II required such varied movement as the far Pacific demanded. And General MacArthur could not have had on his staff a more mobile-minded signal officer than General Akin. Akin had experimented with truck- and trailermounted switchboards, teletypewriters, and message centers during Third Army maneuvers in Louisiana in 1941. The next year he exercised his mobile bent of mind in Australia, where he fitted a railroad car with communications equipment, including a 400-watt transmitter, to provide service wherever General MacArthur might travel within that continent.60
Before the end of 1942, as operations against the enemy began in the island and ocean areas northward from Australia, amphibious communications became necessary, and General Akin outfitted a Signal Corps fleet—a flotilla of small vessels equipped with radio. At first they served in a small way as relay ships from forward areas to headquarters in the rear. Their function soon expanded, however, till they took aboard the forward command post communications facilities. The little aggregation became the Army's CP fleet.61
The small communications ships proved so useful in amphibious actions that Army elements in SWPA operations continually competed to obtain their services. Army commanders preferred them to Navy communications ships, or AGC's. For one thing, Navy AGC's were hard to obtain for Army operations. For another, Navy AGC's tended to stay too far offshore, and they tended to depart from the vicinity of land combat as soon as possible. The naval commander of a large AGC was always mindful of enemy suicide boats and planes and he would generally, come darkness, move his ship out several miles from the beach, too far to provide the close communications support that Army elements ashore very much needed.62
The Navy had AGC's in the Central Pacific by the turn of 1943-44, but not in the Southwest Pacific Area at first, where General Akin turned to Australian sources for his CP fleet (until the Navy supplied in 1944 three specially equipped craft, known as PCE's (patrol vessels, escorts), for Army use). The first Australian vessels acquired by the SWPA chief signal officer were the Harold, an auxiliary ketch, and the Argosy Lemal, an auxiliary schooner. In their cramped spaces (neither ship exceeded 100 feet in length), General Akin installed Australian AWA radio sets built by Amalgamated Wireless of Australia. The vessels served at Port Moresby, at Woodlark, and in the Lae- Salamaua area through mid-1943. On 12 December 1943 the Geoanna, a 100-foot schooner, joined CP fleet.63
Experience with these specialized vessels taught General Akin and his officers a good deal about the operation and possibilities of Army communications ships. Their operation at first presented problems, not least of which was divided control. The Navy crews, in some cases Australian civilians under Navy command, took their orders from naval authorities. Yet the entire purpose of such a ship was to serve Army needs.
A graphic account of some of the vicissitudes of the Argosy Lemal and its mixed crew came from S/Sgt. Arthur B. Dunning, Headquarters Company, 60th Signal Battalion. He and six other enlisted men of that unit were ordered aboard her on 9 September 1943, at Oro Bay, New Guinea, to handle Army radio traffic.64 The commander of the ship reported to naval authorities, not to General Akin. After six months' service along the New Guinea coast, the skipper was removed for incompetence. His replacement was no better. Among other things, he obeyed to the letter Navy's order forbidding the use of unshielded radio receivers at sea. Since the Signal Corps receivers aboard the ship were unshielded and thus liable to radiate sufficiently to alert nearby enemy listeners, the men were forbidden to switch them on in order to hear orders from Army headquarters ashore. As a consequence, during a trip in the spring of 1944 from Milne Bay to Cairns, Australia (on naval orders), the crew failed to hear frantic Signal Corps radio messages to the Argosy Lemal ordering her to return at once to Milne Bay to make ready for a forthcoming Army operation. On the way to Australia the skipper, after a series of mishaps attributable to bad navigation, grounded the Argosy hard on a reef. Most of the crew already desperately ill of tropical diseases, now had additional worries. The radio antennas were swept away along with the ship's rigging, and help could not be requested until the Signal Corps men strung up a makeshift antenna. Weak with fevers and in a ship on the verge of foundering, they pumped away at the water rising in the hold and wondered why rescue was delayed till they learned that the position of the ship that the skipper had given them to broadcast was ninety miles off their true position. As they threw excess cargo overboard, “some of the guys,” recorded Dunning, “were all for jettisoning our skipper for getting us into all of this mess.” Much later, too late for the need the Signal Corps had for the ship, the Argosy Lemal was rescued and towed to Port Moresby for repairs to the vessel and medical attention to the crew, many of whom were by then, according to Dunning, “psychoneurotic.” 65
Despite such snafus (Sergeant Dunning repeatedly used the term fubar),66 the concept of a fleet of Army communications ships to serve as the signal section of a floating command post in amphibious operations proved sound. The CP fleet was needed, as Lt. Col. Dayton W. Eddy viewed the matter after the war, “to provide communications during assault phases,” to continue providing them “during the period while fixed facilities were installed ashore,” and, finally, “to function as standby or emergency facilities in case of difficulty ashore.” The Harold was employed in the latter capacity by the Sixth Army in New Guinea waters. This was the chief use of the vessels after an assault had been completed and after fixed communications stations had been built ashore. Some Signal Corps officers felt that too much effort came to be lavished upon the equipping of later additions to the CP fleet.67 But none could deny that these ships served the Army well. Their temporary use to insure communications so vital to over-all success, during the crucial hours and difficult first days of an amphibious action, entirely justified all the effort that went into them.
General Akin himself had no doubt of the value and necessity of Army communications ships in SWPA combat. On 21 March 1944, he set up in GHQ SWPA Signal Section a separate Seaborne Communications Branch to plan for extensive communications afloat and to provide a more adequate CP fleet. The first task was to obtain ships more suitable than the Harold or the Argosy.68 Such a ship was the freighterpassenger, FP-47, acquired by Signal Corps in March 1944, at Sydney. The Army had built her in the United States in 1942, a sturdy, wooden, diesel-driven vessel only 114 feet long, but broad, of 370 tons, intended for use in the Aleutians. Instead she had sailed to Australia as a tug. The Signal Corps fitted her with Australian transmitters and receivers, also with an SCR-300 walkietalkie, two SCR-808's, and an SCR-608, plus power equipment, antennas, and, finally, quarters for the Signal Corps operators. The Australian sets were intended for long-range CW signals operating in the high frequencies; the SCR's were short-range VHF FM radios for use in the fleet net and for ship-toshore channels. Armed with antiaircraft weapons and machine guns (served by 12 enlisted men of the Army ship and gun crews), navigated by a crew of 6 Army Transport Service officers and the 12 men already mentioned, the FP-47 was ready for service in June. Her Signal Corps complement consisted of one officer and 12 men.
The facilities of FP-47 were needed immediately at Hollandia to supplement the heavily loaded signal nets that could hardly carry the message burden imposed by the invasion and the subsequent build-up there of a great base. Arriving on 25 June, she anchored offshore and ran cables to the message centers on land. Her powerful transmitters opened new channels to SWPA headquarters in Brisbane and to the advance headquarters still at Port Moresby. At Hollandia, and at Biak, to which the FP-47 moved early in September, this one ship handled an average of 7,000 to 11,000 code groups a day.69
Before the Philippine invasion, the CP boats acquired shipboard antrac. Four Army communications ships, PCE-848, 849, and 850, and the Apache (primarily for use by news reporters), arrived at Hollandia on 2 October 1944, as the Southwest Pacific headquarters readied for the invasion of Leyte. They were “equipped with sufficient Signal Corps personnel and equipment to handle circuits for transmission, reception, and intercept as would normally be required in any established base,” commented Crain. He added that the original plans expected the CP boat echelon to use single circuit SCR-284's or 188's for traffic to the beaches. For such use too many of the SCR's would be needed, and the VHF radio links aboard some ships in Humboldt Bay had already shown they could work well with shore stations. Consequently, within a week, by 11 October, all four CP ships received VHF radio relay sets. Their antennas went up as vertical single dipoles radiating in all directions so as to eliminate the fading that horizontal dipoles would cause as the ships swung at anchor. Tests proved that the arrangement would provide solid highly reliable circuits, each set able to handle, by carrier techniques, several times the quantity of traffic of a single SCR of the 284 variety.70 From then on, VHF was standard equipment on communications ships for shore circuits.
Chapter IX COMMUNICATIONS IN THE PACIFIC TO V-J DAY
Apache note, p. 275:
The prisoners furtively operated the receiver in the evening, using battery power which was available in the prison hospital. The little set brought in radio programs emanating from Saigon, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Best of all was the Voice of Freedom broadcast by the Apache after the Leyte Campaign began. 11 This treasured radio receiver was left behind when the lieutenant, suddenly freed with the other prisoners, departed in the pell-mell of the daring Cabanatuan raid, 30 January 1945-12
and Ashore at Leyte and Luzon
Long before the leap from Hollandia to Leyte, Signal Corps crews in Army radio ships had proved that Army communications facilities could be both marine and mobile. They had to be, in order to meet the special conditions of island fighting in the Pacific. By mid- 1944 the Harold, Argosy Lemal, and Geoanna, three of the makeshift communications ships that had proved their value in the CP fleet along the New Guinea coast,14 were required to be returned to the Transportation Corps. They were replaced, however, by much better vessels.
General Akin's Seaborne Communications Branch in the SWPA had already, early in 1944, asked the Navy for three ships outfitted specifically for use as Army communications ships. The request specified that they provide room for adequate radio facilities and that they carry some armament, too. The Navy, co-operating, looked to its very new PCE (R)'s (patrol craft escorts (rescue) ) . Designed for the protection of convoys against air and submarine attacks, these vessels were armed with a 3-inch gun, 40- and 20-milimeter antiaircraft guns, machine guns, and depth charges. They contained extra space and berthing, intended to care for the survivors of stricken ships. The first three of these PCE's, being built in Chicago, were assigned to the Seventh Fleet, SWPA, for conversion to Army communications. Named merely PCE-848, 849, and 850, they were hurried down the Mississippi, commissioned at New Orleans, and rushed in the summer of 1944 to Brisbane.15 There, under Signal Corps supervision, they were converted to their communications function. The new versatile high-capacity antracs (AN/TRC- 1's) were installed in them, along with older single circuit radios SCR-284, 300, and 610. High-power Australian transmitters AT-20's and Australian receivers, AMR-100's, completed the conversion. The PCE-848 and 849, assigned to serve GHQ SWPA, each received 24 Signal Corps troops (2 officers and 22 enlisted men). The PCE-850, assigned to Sixth Army headquarters, got one warrant officer and 12 enlisted men. The Navy crews on each ship numbered about 100. Thus readied, the three communications ships sailed to Hollandia.16
The three PCE's constituted the CP fleet for the Leyte operation, along with two others, the FP-47 (the only holdover from Signal Corps' first communications ships in the New Guinea fighting) and the Apache. The Apache was something new in Signal Corps experience. It was a communications ship specifically and solely intended for public relations work. General Akin's Seaborne Communications Branch had gained enough experience in shipboard Army signals so that when the SWPA public relations officer asked for a correspondents' broadcast ship to send press copy to the United States (there had been difficulties getting press copy through Australian Postmaster General facilities), the Signal Corps men answered “Yes.” They acquired the Apache, a 185-foot, 650-ton ship, which had served first as a revenue cutter, then as a Coast Guard vessel. Because of her age, fifty-five years, she had been sold for scrap just before World War II. Resurrected by the Maritime Commission, she was used for a while by the Navy. Then, in the somewhat sour words of her skipper, “Like everything else that nobody wants, she was turned over to the Army.”
In July 1944 her conversion to the best known vessel of Signal Corps' CP fleet began in Sydney harbor. By dexterously combining various pieces of equipment, the Signal Corps installed a 10-kilowatt voice-modulated transmitter—a shortwave radiotelephone that could reach the United States directly. Radio relay, AN/TRC-1, was added to provide circuits to shore terminals. A variety of antenna rigs, a studio, and a control room completed the floating broadcast facility for war correspondents, who could now sail close into the theaters, pick up reports and news from shore over the VHF radio relay, and prepare and broadcast programs home quickly and directly. With a Signal Corps detachment of three officers and eleven enlisted men and with a ship and gun crew similar to that aboard the FP-47, the Apache was readied and sailed to Hollandia early in the autumn of 1944.17
Designated Task Unit 78.1.12 by the Navy, the five ships of the CP fleet were readied in October at Hollandia: the PCE-848, 849, and 850, the Apache, and the FP-47, which also served press needs. Aboard the PCE-848, General Akin occupied a cabin along with one of his staff officers who handled General MacArthur's messages (MacArthur himself sailed in the USS Nashville). Aboard the 848 also was a VHF team to operate radio relay equipment. The PCE-849 carried General Akin's assistant, more Signal Corps men, and an intercept team of the 978th Signal Service Company. The duty of the latter, a group of a dozen officers and men under Capt. Charles B. Ferguson, was to intercept enemy broadcasts and to receive messages from the guerrilla radios in the Philippines. The PCE-850 carried Colonel Reichelderfer and his Signal Corps assistants serving General Krueger's Sixth Army headquarters. Still other Signal Corps men worked communications circuits aboard the Nashville and the Wasatch serving Generals MacArthur and Krueger, respectively, using an assortment of radio relay and portable radio types.18
Such was the CP fleet as it arrived off Red Beach, Leyte Gulf, early on 21 October 1944, the day of the assault landing. As soon as radio silence was lifted, about 1100, Signal Corps operators switched on their equipment and began establishing radio contacts. While powerful long-range transmitters aboard FP-47 and 1 the Apache broadcast to the world the news that the invasion had begun, local nets were established by smaller sets—both single circuit sets of older design and the latest multicircuit radio relay or VHF antrac.
Antrac now began to figure in a new highly significant application in the Pacific, in MCU's. On the day before the ships sailed from Hollandia, a mobile communications unit had been hurriedly assembled. Signal Corps men converted a 11/2-ton truck into a radio relay terminal, complete with carrier equipment. The Navy supplied three LCM's (landing craft, mechanized) to carry all the facilities ashore. Arriving off Red Beach at Leyte, the CP fleet transferred the mobile equipment for the shore station into the LCM's, which headed for the beach at H plus 2. The communications truck landed amid mortar fire, which wounded some of the men but failed to damage the radio. Within twenty-five minutes, according to one account (fifteen minutes according to another) , this shore-based antrac established circuits with the antrac in the CP fleet offshore. At once voice and teletype connections began supporting the complex movement of men and equipment to shore.
Meanwhile, General MacArthur's headquarters ship, the Nashville, established communications with the shore station as well as with other Army stations afloat. And at H plus 5 MacArthur himself went ashore, strode up to a microphone of the mobile communications unit there, and gave his “I Have Returned” speech. Signal Corps men aboard the Nashville repeated his words in a broadcast to the Philippine people. Other Signal Corps men on the Apache picked up the speech, recorded it, and rebroadcast it later to the United States using the ship's 10-kilowatt transmitter.19
The GHQ SWPA mobile unit was not unique in the Leyte landing. Colonel Reichelderfer had provided a similar one for his Sixth Army headquarters. General Krueger noted that the establishment of his command post ashore “was materially facilitated by the foresight of Sixth Army's Signal Officer (Col. Harry Reichelderfer).” Krueger wrote, “He had mounted a complete army signal center on large vans which, together with the necessary Signal Corps men, was transported on LST's from Hollandia to Leyte.” 20 The vans were seven in number, big 6-ton semitrailers—a message center van, a manual code van, a Sigaba (machine cipher) van, a telephone central van, a transmitter van, a receiver van, and a van equipped with carrier facilities.21
These assemblages of message center and high-capacity communications equipment, mobile-mounted in trucks, vans, and ships, were thus employed extensively at Leyte, serving both GHQ SWPA and the Sixth Army headquarters. Such mobile adaptations would soon be used on a still larger scale in the Luzon and Okinawa operations. In the words of one of the participating officers, “the Signal Corps set about providing personnel and equipment that could operate on the sea, as well as on land and yet be sufficiently mobile and flexible to cope with constantly changing tactical situations.” They constituted provisional detachments that became known as the mobile and seaborne communications units.22 Their high message capacity and flexibility were attributable largely to the use of VHF antrac. AN/TRC-1, 3, and 4 sets came into the heaviest sort of demand. Within thirty days after the first landings, 18 VHF radio relay terminals were operating in the Leyte area, whereas the original plans had called for only 8—4 afloat and 4 ashore (to be installed and operated by Team K of the 989th Signal Service Company, attached to the CP fleet). By 18 December the number of these terminals totaled 22.23
During the first days when the CP fleet had to carry the bulk of the traffic load, Signal Corps men aboard the vessels moved heavy message flows. PCE- 848 handled up to 10,000 words a day (PCE-849 serving as a monitor station and a stand-by for the 848) . The PCE- 850 worked even harder for Sixth Army nets, scoring a record load of 25,000 words in one day. The Apache and the FP-47 likewise handled heavy loads of press traffic.
Meanwhile, Japanese bombers did not overlook the communications ships. Both the 848 and the 850 were bombed and suffered casualties, including three Signal Corps men on the PCE-848, one killed and two wounded. The 849 narrowly escaped. Aboard all the CP vessels Signal Corps men experienced a new kind of combat, shipboard fighting. Speaking of a Signal Corps crew manning a 50-caliber machine gun on the 849, one of the ship's officers commented, “They are absolutely unflinching. I have seen them staying at their posts without showing a sign of fear when Jap planes were coming right at their guns.” 24
Japanese aviators continued to search out Army communications nerve centers ashore on Leyte. No sooner did the Signal Corps MCU's set up large-scale radio and message center operations on the land (first located in the town of Tacloban), than the planes came in. Repeated bombing attacks occurred into early 1945, until the Army Air Forces became well established in the area. The Signal Corps took no serious casualties, but the equipment was repeatedly damaged. Much time and labor had to go to the sandbagging of equipment items, particularly the big vital electric generators. Seeking to escape these troublesome hostile attentions, the Signal Corps remoted one of the transmitters some twenty miles down the coast, but the Japanese located and bombed it the very first time it went on the air.25
Communications at the Tacloban center had other troubles. Difficulties developed in transmitting back to GHQ SWPA at Hollandia, and message traffic on that circuit piled up. Capt. John D. McKinney, who had commanded the GHQ communications center at Hollandia since November 1944, was sent to Tacloban in January 1945 to solve the problem. He found that the transmitting antenna rhombic was improperly “aimed” at Hollandia, whose distant receivers lay barely within the edge of the radio beam from Tacloban. The engineers in laying out the rhombic antenna masts had done so by map and compass right enough, but they had forgotten to allow for the considerable magnetic declination that exists in that part of the globe. The error was sufficient to throw the Tacloban-Hollandia beam badly off its target. This fault was remedied. When the whole communications center was moved from Tacloban to Tolosa later in January, communications improved perceptibly.26
During the fight for Leyte Signal Corps units and equipment experienced the usual vicissitudes of World War II combat. The pattern, long set in the Pacific, of heavy dependence on radio, applied on Leyte also. Radio sets had to carry the brunt of Army tactical communications because among other things, wire linemen were scarce and line work was sometimes almost prohibitively hazardous, so much so that at times half of the men assigned that duty had to stand guard for the other half as they strung the circuits. Infantrymen had to hand carry SCR-609's, which were normally transported in jeeps. To carry the sets over jeepless terrain, radiomen strapped the radio to one pack board, its batteries to another, and extra batteries and tubes to a third. Upon reaching a forward position, they slipped off the pack boards, connected the batteries, and were on the air. The walkie-talkie, SCR-300, designed for use on a soldier's back, was not so carried because Japanese riflemen singled the radios and their carriers out for special attention. Instead, the troops carried their 300's in jungle bags. Once, when radio interference rendered an AM SCR-284 unusable, the men used an FM SCR-300, which they set up on high ground to serve as a relay station.
Its operators were able to provide uninterrupted communications between a regiment and battalion, though the two units were twenty-five miles apart.27
The Americans invading the Philippines continued to receive information from the radio network operated by the guerrillas within enemy territory, but the guerrillas were now augmented by teams of ALAMO Scouts—one officer and five or six men to a team—specifically instructed to obtain intelligence within the combat areas. These teams, working closely together and supplied mainly by airdrop, sometimes provided the only sources of military intelligence during the advance. They provided, in Krueger's own words, “a considerable volume of extremely valuable information.” At the height of the Philippine campaign more than seventy radio stations (guerrilla and ALAMO Scout) were in operation. The Scouts used chiefly SCR-300's and the newer 694's. The other sets, especially the ones used by the guerrilla forces, were a motley assortment: SCR's- 284, 288, 300, Australian ATR 4-a, and a Dutch set having an electric generator driven by a bicycle-type treadle.28
The invasion of Luzon constituted the next and last heavy assignment for the Sixth Army. Meanwhile the Eighth Army under General Eichelberger (his signal officer was Col. Rex Corput) took over the combat tasks that remained in Leyte and adjacent islands. “We turned over to the Eighth Army all of our communications … lock, stock, and barrel …” recalled Reichelderfer. “We actually transferred the equipment in the place together with what wire and frequencies we were using, and a good part of the personnel operating it.” The PCE-85O, for example, repaired after the damage it had received as Sixth Army communications ship at Leyte, reappeared early in 1945 serving Eighth Army's communications in the Mindanao operation.29
On Luzon the pattern of ground force communications was the same as on Leyte. Such signal developments as were unique in the Pacific fighting—the mobile sea and land adaptations—continued there. On 3 January 1945, the two GHQ PCE's, the 848 and 849, together with the Apache and the FP-47, had departed from Leyte for Lingayen Gulf. Lest the enemy, who listened to the daily broadcasts of the Apache, note that the origin of the Apache broadcasts had changed position and guess the reason, a similar transmitter ashore on Leyte continued to broadcast the recorded voices of the familiar announcers. General Akin sailed in the PCE-848. A number of Australian and Philippine signalmen accompanied him on the 848, while others sailed in the 849. On the day of the assault, 9 January 1945, a VHF circuit was put ashore. Within an hour it established communications with General MacArthur aboard the Boise and with the Apache, the PCE's, the Wasatch, and the Tulsa (a cruiser in the Seventh Fleet). A channel to the rear echelon of the Sixth Army was blocked for some hours because of transmitter trouble. The Apache made contact with the RCA station in San Francisco a few moments before 0800 on 10 January.30
During the Luzon Campaign General Akin's CP flotilla increased to such proportions that it became known as Signal Corps' Grand Fleet. Its floating accommodations had more than doubled in number and had increased severalfold in capacity. Some time before the invasion of Luzon, the SWPA Signal Section had planned additional vessels, able to carry larger installations afloat than the first small ships could accommodate. General Akin decided upon OL's (oceangoing lighters), more commonly called barges. Their spaciousness allowed the Signal Corps to carry upon the sea something of a shore-based ACAN station with separate transmitter and receiver locations, extensive message center accommodations, large antenna arrays, and so on. During April and May 1944, SWPA Signal Corps men acquired 7 OL's. By the year's end they had fitted out 4—2 for transmitter functions, 2 for receiving—and they gave them the designations CBT (communication barge transmitter) and CBR (communication barge receiver). A fifth vessel, which they had converted into barracks to accommodate operating personnel, they dubbed CSQ (communications ship quarters).31 Together, the vessels constituted a major radio station able to serve the GHQ afloat.
Some weeks later, as the American troops pressed into Manila, one of the first ships to enter Manila Bay, while fighting continued in the area, was PCE- 849, on 27 February. It carried 25 tons of signal equipment, including 21/2-ton transmitters for radioteletype channels intended to reach Brisbane and San Francisco. Then on 18 March the Grand Fleet arrived. Its big ocean-going lighters carried into Manila harbor a complete ACAN-type installation, outfitted with all the facilities of an Army communications station on land. There was a signal center, complete with tape relay equipment and antrac or radio relay (the latter to establish communications between barges). In each barge were terminal frames, which permitted ready connections between the barges and between shore and barge. There were 50- kilowatt diesel power units, two to each barge, and each engine unit was adapted for salt water cooling. Within forty-eight hours after the fleet anchored in Manila harbor to serve GHQ SWPA, the big SSB (single sideband) transmitters were communing with San Francisco, using a rhombic antenna ashore. The SSB's also provided radiotelephoto service both to the United States and to Australia. The floating Signal Corps station handled a heavy load of traffic for the press over a period of nearly two months. The press traffic alone averaged nearly 23,000 groups or words a day until Press Wireless opened a commercial station ashore and took over the load.32
The floating ACAN station was not the only Signal Corps seaborne innovation in Luzon waters. There were also signal supply vessels, floating Signal Corps depots equipped with all the appurtenances of a land depot such as hand trucks, monorail cranes, and shop facilities for extensive repair work (fifth echelon repair). Each floating depot was manned by a lieutenant and crew of 5 or 6 men from the 3168th Signal Service Battalion. They serviced invasion troops first; after that, they provided the initial signal supplies for new bases being built ashore. One of the floating depots, the BCL-3O63 20,000-ton concrete barge known as the Alcatraz, was towed into Lingayen Gulf about S plus 10. It was a repair shop, and its stock included Class II material to supplement tactical supply, and also Class IV installation material. A similar depot barge was the BCL-3059, more commonly called the Rock. Still another was the concrete steamer, Francois Henebequen.33
“These ocean going barges,” subsequently concluded Colonel Toft, “proved to be excellent for signal supply operations in amphibious operations, and for general work-horse duty in alleviating confused supply conditions in the early stages of development of the bases.” A single barge, he explained, could support a corps in an amphibious operation. It could move the needed equipment (Toft considered signal supplies amounted to about 1 percent by weight of total Army supplies) right up to the scene of the assault. It could quickly send ashore, by Dukw, such equipment as might be safely stored in the open—bulk items such as wire and cable, and pole line hardware. Meanwhile, the barge could carry in its stock under cover items that required shelter. Finally, there was room in a large barge to house repair facilities.34
Late in the war the concept of a spare parts floating depot was discussed by the technical services, especially the Signal Corps, in War Department headquarters in Washington. A table of organization and equipment was authorized, and the 39th Signal Floating Spare Parts Depot was constituted in mid-1945. When the Chemical Warfare Service and the Medical Corps joined the venture, the unit became the 39th Composite Floating Spare Parts Depot. A ship, Lock-Knot, was readied in New York harbor. The depot unit went aboard in August, the hold and first and second decks were loaded, and the ship sailed on 22 August for the war in the east, scarcely ten days before the official surrender.35
Ashore at Lingayen, General Akin's mobile communications unit serving GHQ SWPA pressed toward Manila as rapidly as had his communications vessels of the Grand Fleet. His mobile land setup compared in completeness with the seaborne facilities. Containing entire message centers with all the needed radio and power equipment, it totaled 100 vehicles: 38 trucks, 30 trailers, 20 jeeps, and 12 other conveyances.36 Twenty of the trucks had first entered San Miguel, behind the Lingayen beachhead, and set up a GHQ signal center there as soon as the area was cleared of the enemy. Thereafter its advance became so rapid that when the Americans approached Manila, General Akin's mobile communications rushed into the city too soon to please Sixth Army troops who were doing the fighting. General Krueger, annoyed, characterized the Signal Corps men's zealous effort as a bit “premature.” General Akin's men, Krueger later reminisced, “clogged Highway 3 with a long column of heavy Signal Corps vehicles.” They got in the way of combat units and tanks that were still exchanging shots with the enemy. “It would have been a good idea,” Krueger tartly commented, “for the chief signal officer [Akin] to have arranged for that movement with headquarters 6th Army, but unfortunately he had not done so.” 37
Actually, General Akin was but keeping up with his commander in chief, General MacArthur, who was so eager to get into Manila that he was in the forefront of the advance, in fact ahead of it at times.38 During the advance through the central plains of Luzon en route to the capital city, MacArthur had been impatient with the rate of progress and had pressed at the head of the troops. At one point, Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. Pochyla later recalled, General MacArthur called a conference of his commanders at the forward position he happened to be occupying at that moment. It was probably the first time in history, Pochyla commented, that a theater commander in chief called his division, corps, and army commanders forward for a conference. As a consequence, the 1st Cavalry Division spearheaded an early breakthrough into Manila.
Throughout the advance Akin's mobile communications unit kept up with MacArthur. The Signal Corps men, using spiral-four cable, antrac radio relay, and some open wire lines they had rehabilitated along the railroad, maintained heavily used GHQ communications from their trucks and even at times from jeeps. General Krueger's complaint was somewhat uncalled for, since the communications vehicles were maintaining for General MacArthur the theater-level signal support that the commander in chief had to have. As for getting in the way of Krueger's Sixth Army combat elements, Signal Corps trucks and troops more than once, General Pochyla commented, fought with the enemy and cleared out resistance nests before the infantry arrived.39
To return to Sixth Army signals in the Luzon Campaign, the assault upon the Lingayen beaches was again served by the Wasatch and the PCE-850, whose Signal Corps troops under Colonel Reichelderfer provided Sixth Army headquarters communications. These seaborne facilities were more than matched by large quantities of communications equipment that went ashore mounted in vehicles. Besides the familiar truckmounted SCR-193's and 399% there were trailers loaded with telephone and teletype switchboards and associated equipment. There were Dukw-mounted message centers, and still larger message centers housed in 6-ton vans. Other 6-ton vans carried radio sets of both American and Australian manufacture. To energize it all, there were sufficient power units, also on wheels. And of course there was radio relay with carrier facilities, landed in two trucks and a van.40
With the intent of establishing rapid high-capacity communications between Lingayen Gulf and Sixth Army troops fighting down the 130-mile corridor to Manila, Colonel Reichelderfer soon after the landing mounted the radio relay and carrier terminals in six 21/2-ton trucks. Each truck included BD-71 and 91 switchboards for voice and teletype circuits. The BD-71 output wires were long enough so that the boards could be moved into foxholes if necessary. Some PE-75's mounted in trailers supplied the power, while other PE-75's stood by for emergency use. Men on detached duty from the 989th Signal Service Company operated the equipment: four VHF radio relay and carrier specialists to each truck, a switchboard operator and a power maintenance man to each truck, and an officer and two code clerks to every two trucks. Following close upon the advancing troops, they carried their radio relays forward in a series of twenty- to thirty-mile jumps: Dagupan, Camiling, Tarlac, San Fernando, Malolos, and finally Manila itself. Each location served in turn first as a forward terminal consisting of a receiver and a backward-looking transmitter, and then, when the troops progressed to the next site, as a back-to-back relay, with a forward-looking transmitter and receiver added, in order to communicate with the new advance terminal along the road to Manila.
By 10 March 1945 sixteen of the VHF radio relay sets handled three-quarters of all the voice and teletypwriter traffic that flowed in and out of the big city. “VHF radio using AN/TRC-3 equipment,” read the summarizing Sixth Army report, “proved itself to be a valuable supplement to wire communication and in certain cases formed the only possible means of voice and teletype communications.” Meanwhile, great though the use of radio was, the Sixth Army used also much more wire on Luzon than it had strung anywhere else in its Pacific campaigning. For example, about 15,000 miles of field wire W-110 were laid by tactical units. Over 9,000 miles of copper wire circuits were also built on the island by Sixth Army elements.41
On Luzon even more Signal Corps units toiled and struggled with their generally inconspicuous but essential tasks than had labored on Leyte.42 Also on Luzon, as elsewhere, there were incidents of Signal Corps men pushing forward their communications facilities amid combat, often exchanging their tools for weapons. A notable Signal Corps unit in the advance was the 52d Signal Battalion. It had originally been intended for the Philippines late in 1941, but was diverted by the events following Pearl Harbor to Australia and then fought up the island chain to the Philippines. On Luzon on one occasion fourteen wiremen of the 52d were cut off by a patrol of 100 enemy. They fought their way out, killing 20 Japanese, including the commanding officer, whose body yielded valuable papers. The 37th Signal Company wiremen had a similar experience when some 70 enemy troops came upon them from the rear as they were laying wire lines. The Signal Corps men turned upon the Japanese, routing them and killing six.43
Okinawa to Tokyo
Signal Corps' CP fleet of SWPA renown did not participate at Okinawa. The Navy provided equivalent facilities in its AGC's, on which a considerable number of Signal Corps men served for the specific purpose of handling Army circuits during joint amphibious operations.