Wire and Linemen for messages

By Fred Carl

One of the keys to victory in modern warfare is making sure information about battle conditions gets to command.  This way command can direct reinforcements of soldiers and supplies where they can help most.   This is the mission of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, getting the message through.  During the civil war flags, scouts and horse mounted messengers were the carriers of communications.  During WWI wireless and telephones were employed.  During WWII radio, radar and telephones were used.   During the Gulf wars radio, radar and satellites were and are the cutting edge communications tools.
As a WWII Signal Corps laboratory Camp Evans supported the Signal Corps mission with “phenomenal” radio, radar and countermeasures developments.   As important as radio and radar were to victory, the bulk of WWII communications were done over telephone wires.   Camp Evans played a roll in telephone wire equipment development worthy of being recounted in volume III of the official history of the Signal Corps in WWII: “The Signal Corps – The Outcome”.
The device developed in Wall was the MX-301/G.  It is described as “indeed one answer to wireman’s prayers”   It was a high-speed telephone wire dispenser.   It could lay wire silently, rapidly and without dangerous rotating reels.  It was originally designed for laying wire from an aircraft at speeds up to 110 miles per hour.  In the field linemen found they could adapt the device to lay wire from a backpack, vehicles traveling 60 miles an hour or even shoot wire out using bazooka rockets.
The rapid dispensing of wire was very important.  General Eisenhower expected to need 500 miles a day of “assault” wire or 67,000 miles a month of all types of wire just in Europe.  In reality, after the D-day invasion breakout the troops were advancing so quickly there was no time to recover used wire.  75,000 miles of assault wire and 200,000 mile of all wire was used a month.  Without excellent devices to quickly dispense the wire, like the MX-301/G, communications could not have kept up with the troops.
In the Pacific theater the dense jungles made a formidable barrier to easy communications setup.   Once the wire was dispensed the wire had to be elevated onto poles or palm trees to prevent vehicles or tanks from cutting the wires.
Wall resident, Mr. Warren Cochran, was a lineman in the Pacific.   He was one of the Signal Corps men who made sure the message got through to help bring about victory.   He was warned by his commanders not to use safety equipment when he climbed a pole to repair a line.  Often the Japanese soldiers would cut the telephone lines, position a sniper, then wait for the U.S. soldier to climb the pole to repair the cut.  Your safety equipment would save you from a fall but would keep you from getting down quickly if the sniper missed on his first shot.   Years later as a Bell System employee Mr. Cochran would not face this type of occupational hazard when he helped maintain the secure telephone system at Camp Evans.
Besides snipers and surprise attacks the WWII Pacific theater soldiers had to defend themselves against Japanese soldiers who hid in deep caves.   One night the camp Mr. Cochran was sleeping was attacked  by a Japanese soldier who possibly hid in a cave waiting to attack U.S. troops.
Right beside, not behind, the soldier in every war in the 20th century was the Signalman.  He was installing or maintaining telephones, radio or radar in the thick of battle.  These devices were as essential to victory as bullets. Many of these devices were designed right in Wall at Camp Evans.
Camp Evans was called upon to help eliminate the problems of Japanese hidden deep in caves.  The solution was classified, messy and shows the desperation of the problem.  This is a story for another day

page created January 20, 2004.