The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Military Science >> Military Signaling
United States Army Signal Corps

The mission of the Signal Corps is to provide and manage communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces.

U.S. Army Signal Corps patch

Major Albert James Myer, an Army doctor, was the first to conceive of the idea of a separate, trained professional military signal service. He proposed that the Army use his visual communications system called "wig-wag" -- a semaphore system incorporating red and white flags -- while serving as a medical officer in Texas in 1856. When the Army adopted his system on June 21, 1860, the U.S. Army Signal Corps was born, with Myer as the first and only Signal Officer. During the Civil War, the Signal Corps operated air balloons and telegraph machines. By the time the United States entered World War I in 1917, the corps had integrated the airplane and more advanced technology into its communications systems.

In addition to its primary role in military transmissions, the Signal Corps has also played a key role in producing training films for army and civilian personnel, and documenting combat missions. During World War II, noted Hollywood producers, directors, and photographers (including Darryl Zanuck, Frank Capra, John Huston, and others) all served in the Signal Corps. They applied their talents in the motion picture studio to the field of battle, while dozens of others provided instruction to the personnel. Signal Corps photographers and filmmakers documented every major military campaign in the European Theater. They were also among the first to document evidence of Nazi atrocities, including the concentration camps.

The U.S. Army Signal Corps is headquarted at Fort Gordon, Georgia, which can be located online at

Important Dates in the History of the Signal Corps

1860-1861 Myer first used his visual signaling system on active service during the Navajo Expedition in New Mexico.
June 1861 Wig-wag was tested in Civil War combat to direct the fire of a harbor battery at Fort Wool.
March 3, 1863 Congress authorized a regular Signal Corps for the duration of the Civil War.
1867 The electric telegraph became a Signal Corps responsibility.
1870 The Signal Corps established a congressionally mandated national weather service. The Weather Bureau became part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1891, while the Corps retained responsibility for military meteorology.
1898 During the Spanish-American War, the Corps fostered the use of telephones in combat and employed combat photography. Shortly after the war, it introduced the first wireless telegraph in the Western Hemisphere.
August 1, 1907 An Aeronautical Division was established within the officie of the Chief Signal Officer. Army aviation remained within the Signal Corps until 1918, when it became the Army Air Service.
1918 Radiotelephones developed by the Signal Corps were introduced into the European Theater.
1937 Colonel William Blair, director of the Signal Corps laboratories at Fort Monmouth, patented the first Army radar.
1941 Signal Corps laboratories at Fort Monmouth developed the first FM backpack radio.
1942 The War Department directed the Signal Corps General Development Laboratories and the Camp Evans Signal Lab to combine into the Signal Corps Ground Service, with headquarters at Bradley Beach, New Jersey.
1946 The Signal Corps' Project Diana successfully bounced radar signals off the moon, paving the way for space communications.
1948 Researchers at Fort Monmouth grew the first synthetically produced large quartz crystals.
December 18, 1958 With Air Force assistance, the Signal Corps launched its first communications satellite, Project SCORE.

Civil War
World War I
World War II
Spanish-American War
United States Air Force

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Military Science >> Military Signaling

This page was last updated on 10/07/2017.