World War II Radios Got the Message Out

World War II Radios Got the Message Out

In this video clip of History's Mail Call, host R. Lee Ermey, along with Andy Miller of the Military Radio Collectors Club, takes a look at what kind of radios they used in World War II including the handie-talkie, walkie-talkie and TBX8 radio set.

Communication During World War II

There were many forms of technology during World War II. Many, but not all, of these were new developments, never used in previous wars. The types of communication during World War II included: Propaganda, Newspapers/Magazines, Radio, Airplanes, Telegraph, Telephones, Mail, Animals, and Cryptology. Each one specializing is specific situations allowing Americans to be more connected with one another than ever before.

There were many forms of propaganda used. Movies, commercials, and posters were the most popular. They all had the same general message though, which was to do whatever you could to help win the war. Whether it was women helping in the workforce while their husbands are away fighting the war or Americans remaining loyal to their country and not talking to possible enemies, which is where one of the slogans “Loose lips might sink ships” comes from. An example of a movie that was a form of propaganda was “The Best Year of Our Lives.” “Almost immediately, the film attracted large crowds, eager to understand the ways in which the war had changed American society.” (Mintz & Kellogg, 170)

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers and Magazines now gave a sense of opinion to the public with the idea of editorials and letter-to-the-editors along with their initial role which was just to spread news to the public. “Letters-to-the-editors of various newspapers throughout Arkansas reflected strong feelings against the employment of married women in the nation’s defense industries.” (Smith, 21) People would now write in about what their stance was on specific, and at times, controversial topics. “Newspapers and magazines gave enormous publicity to stories of wives who had been unfaithful to their servicemen husbands. “(Mintz & Kellogg, 171)

The radio was “split second communication among all members.” (Britannica) It served as a way for troops and generals to communicate between one another. This could be between generals discussing strategies or it could be between soldiers to generals discussing positions of themselves or enemies. Radio was also another form of propaganda. It helped “to explain to Americans what their country was fighting for and to make the war their own.” (Gerd, 43) Lastly, the radio was the only possible form of communication between the ground and the air for airplanes.

Airplanes served as a way to quickly deliver something. This included care packages or letters from back home. It also helped to deliver messages that couldn’t be delivered on the ground because the trip would be too dangerous since it dealt with the enemy and their territory.

Telegraph was still a popular form of communication during World War II. However it had evolved since the last war. The teletypewriter was a device for transmitting telegraph messages as they are keyed and for printing messages received. With these teletypewriters there were conferences which were called telecons. “A commander or his staff at each end to view on a screen the incoming teletypewriter messages as fast as the characters were received. Questions and answers could be passed rapidly back and forth over the thousands of miles separating them.” (Britannica)

Telephones helped to connect the nation to almost immediate communication between one another. It also served as a way for troops to communicate between one another. However, it wasn’t always available between families and troops so mailing letters was still the most popular form of communication between families and their troops.

Mail served as a way for the troops to get caught up on what was going on at home. “Civilians were encouraged to write their service men and women about even the most basic activities. Daily routines, family news, and local gossip kept the armed forces linked to their communities.” (Smithsonian) It helped to boost troop’s moral and keep them from getting lonely. This is also when V Mail became extremely popular. V Mail was a way to quickly deliver a lot of mail to troops.

Animals were even used as a form of communication during World War II. They helped to deliver hand written messages among troops. Dogs and pigeons were the most effective animals the military used.

Cryptology is the study of codes. Depicting enemy codes was a big part of World War II. Those who depicted were “sworn to secrecy. The penalty for discussing the work outside of approved channels could be death, as it was considered an act of treason during a time of war.” (Wilcox, 8) Cryptology was a whole new language. There were different meanings to every word. Both sides would receive messages through radio of their enemies and they would have to try and decode it. Once they decoded it they would then know their enemy’s positions and/or times of their attacks.

Each form of communication played a unique role in World War II, yet they were each dependent on each another in order for success. Airplanes were one of the main forms of transportation to deliver the V Mail to the soldiers and the only reason airplanes worked was because of the radio. Communication and all of the forms it had to offer during World War II helped to connect the nation as a whole.

Text Sources:

Mintz, Steven, and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: The Free Press, 1988—Ch. 8: Families on the Home Front.

Smith, C. Calvin, “Diluting an Institution: The Social Impact of World War II on the Arkansas Family,” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring, 1980), pp. 21-34.

Horten, Gerd. Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda During World War II. 2003

Wilcox, Jennifer. Sharing the Burden: Women in Cryptology during World War II. Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency. 1998.

World War II

Psychological operations were used extensively by all sides during World War II. Adolf Hitler rose to power by exploiting the dissatisfaction of supporters of the traditional left and right wing parties, by dwelling on the failure of these parties to solve the problems created by the conditions imposed on Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. He then presented National Socialism as the one movement capable of uniting conservative nationalists with international socialists, the professional classes with the working classes in the service of the nation. The speeches he delivered urged national pride and unity and placed the blame for all of Germany's problems on others. His oratory techniques and use of propaganda gave him a truly hypnotic grip over the German masses. After taking over as dictator, the Germans continued to use propaganda both to unite Germany and to intimidate their enemies.

Radio broadcasts became a major means of passing propaganda to the enemy. Japan used the notorious "Tokyo Rose" to broadcast music, propaganda, and words of discouragement to our allied forces. The Germans used Mildred Gillar, better remembered as "Axis Sally". The Americans used deception and psychological operations to convince the German high command that the D-Day invasion was not going to be launched at Normandy but at Calais.

However the best and most innovative use of psychological warfare must be attributed to a radio broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). During the period May through September 1940, when the German invasion of England seemed imminent, a regular BBC radio program, easily heard and often listened to by the Germans, began a series of English language lessons for the would-be invaders. These broadcasts of course were presented in flawless German. The British announcer stated the purpose of these broadcasts like this:

"…..and so it will be best if you learn a few useful phrases in English before visiting us. For your first lesson, we take ‘DIE KANALUEBERFAHRT’. The channel crossing."

"Now, just repeat after me: ‘DAS BOOT SINKT.’ The boat is sinking. The boat is sinking"

"DAS WASSER IST KALT. The water is cold. SER KALT. Very cold"

"Now I will give you a verb that should be very useful. Again, please repeat after me. ICH BRENNE. I am burning. Du Brennst. You are burning. ER BRENNT. He is burning. WIR BRENNEN. We burn. IHR BRENNT. You are burning. SIR BRENNEN. They are burning."

This was rather crude material: but it proved effective. The phrases about burning in the English Channel seemed to confirm the intensive rumors already being spread by British agents on the continent that the British had perfected an apparatus with which they were going to set fires in the Channel and on the English beaches whenever Hitler launched his invasion. Although not true, the rumors were so well planned and cleverly spread that to this day, many Germans believe them. Documents found after the war confirmed that the German High Command believed that the British had a workable plan to set fire to the English Channel.

Cover and deception operations are complex and intricate affairs, invariably involving many talents, techniques and resources. Perhaps the most ambitious and spectacular cover and deception operation of modern times was the effort of the Allies to convince the German high command that the upcoming Allied invasion of Europe would occur across the beaches near the Pas de Calais, rather than the narrow sand strips and cliffs of Normandy nearly 100 hundred miles away.

Through imaginative employment of psychological operations the Allies created the fictitious "Army Group Patton," which was poised to strike across the English Channel at the Germans 15 th Panzer Army defending the Pas de Calais. This ruse convinced the German strategists and planners that the Allied assault would be spearheaded at the Pas de Calais by an army under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton, whom many considered our best combat command. As a result, the heaviest concentration of German combat power in France was positioned at the Pas de Calais, waiting for Patton.

Even after the Allied invasion came at Normandy, Hitler would not allow for the deployment of the 15 th Panzer Army from the Pas de Calais. Hitler was still convinced that the Normandy invasion was only a prelude to the real invasion. The 15 th Panzer Army waited in vain at the Pas de Calais for nearly seven weeks for Army Group Patton, an invasion that was never to come. General of the Army Omar Bradley later referred to this operation as "the biggest hoax of the war". As for the German Army, they never fully recovered from the reversals set in motion by their delay in releasing the 15 th Panzer Army.

The next example concerns the fourth objective of psychological operations, that is, its use to promote cooperation, unity and morale within friendly units and people as well as within resistance forces behind enemy lines.

During World War II, the very survival of the Soviet Union was due in large part to Stalins ability to appeal to and mobilize the emotional patriotism of the Russian people. With his regime reeling under the blows of the German blitz in 1941, Stalin sensed that the ideological abstractions and Communist platitudes, which the Party had driven into the minds of its captive domestic audience since its take over in 1918, were relatively barren and did not have the emotional and spiritual impact necessary to fortify the Russian people for their struggle against Hitler’s armies. Therefore, in one of the most dramatic policy turn-abouts in modern history, Stalin systematically set about identifying his Communist regime with "Holy Russia" (and "Mother Russia") its ancient heritage and its accompanying symbolism.

The two Russian institutions with the deepest roots in the past, the Army and the Church, were cultivated by Stalin’s propagandists as never before in Soviet history. The historic accomplishments of Russian armies were glorified. The church hierarchy and class distinctions were returned to pre-revolution standards. Even the official newspaper, "PRAVDA," dropped its Marxist motto, "WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE," and substituted the openly nationalistic slogan, "DEATH TO THE GERMAN INVADER." The ensuing struggle became and is still officially known in Soviet history as "The Great Patriotic War".

Thus we see how even Josef Stalin, one of the most hard-headed dictators of the 20 th Century, realized that his conventional military weapons alone, were not enough to meet the challenge of the German armies. In retrospect, we can see that his choice of utilizing psychological operations to augment his conventional military forces, would prove to play a major role in maintaining the survival of his communist regime for so many years.

Ham: a poor operator a 'plug' (G. M. Dodge The Telegraph Instructor)

The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession. In those early days, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other's receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs, working each other across town, could effectively jam all the other operations in the area. Frustrated commercial operators would refer to the ham radio interference by calling them "hams." Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared.

The Q Code came into being internationally in 1912 to overcome the language problems involved in communications by radio among ships and shore stations of all countries. The original list of 50 adopted by international agreement in London contain many which are still familiar to amateur operators-QRN, QRM, QSO, the traffic operator's QRK, QSY and QRV - are now nearing the century mark of continuous usage. QSL still has the official 1912 definition despite the changed informal usages it is subjected to in amateur parlance.

The QN signals for amateur net operation were introduced in the late 1930s by E. L. Battey W1UE (W4IA-SK) to lighten the burdens of net control operators.

The telegraph call CQ was born on the English Telegraph over a century ago as a signal meaning "All stations. A notification to all postal telegraph offices to receive the message." Its meaning was close to the present meanings of QNC and QST. Like many other telegraph terms which originated on the landlines, CQ was brought over into radio and used as a general call to all ships by the Marconi Company. Other companies used KA until the London Convention of 1912, which adopted CQ as the international general call or "attention" signal. CQ still means, literally, "attention" but in amateur radio its meaning is perhaps more accurately described by Thomas Raddell who compared it to yelling "Hey, Mac!" down a drain pipe.

But why the letters CQ? From the French, sécurité, (safety or, as intended here, "pay attention"). Later, the origin of the abbreviation was changed to the phrase "seek you."

The traditional expression "73" goes right back to the beginning of the landline telegraph days. It is found in some of the earliest editions of the numerical codes, each with a different definition, but each with the same idea in mind--it indicated that the end, or signature, was coming up. But there are no data to prove that any of these were used.

The first authentic use of 73 is in the publication The National Telegraph Review and Operators' Guide, first published in April 1857. At that time, 73 meant "My love to you!" Succeeding issues of this publication continued to use this definition of the term. Curiously enough, some of the other numerals then used have the same definition now that they had then, but within a short time, the use of 73 began to change.

In the National Telegraph Convention, the numeral was changed from the Valentine-type sentiment to a vague sign of fraternalism. Here, 73 was a greeting, a friendly "word" between operators and it was so used on all wires.

In 1859, the Western Union Company set up the standard "92 Code". A list of numerals from one to 92 was compiled to indicate a series of prepared phrases for use by the operators on the wires. Here, in the 92 Code, 73 changes from a fraternal sign to a very flowery "accept my compliments," which was in keeping with the florid language of that era.

Over the years from 1859 to 1900, the many manuals of telegraphy show variations of this meaning. Dodge's The Telegraph Instructor shows it merely as "compliments." The Twentieth Century Manual of Railway and Commercial Telegraphy defines it two ways, one listing as "my compliments to you" but in the glossary of abbreviations it is merely "compliments." Theodore A. Edison's Telegraphy Self-Taught shows a return to "accept my compliments." By 1908, however, a later edition of the Dodge Manual gives us today's definition of "best regards" with a backward look at the older meaning in another part of the work where it also lists it as "compliments."

"Best regards" has remained ever since as the "put-it-down-in-black-and-white" meaning of 73 but it has acquired overtones of much warmer meaning. Today, amateurs use it more in the manner that James Reid had intended that it be used --a "friendly word between operators."

The amateur distress call, QRRR, grew from the purpose of the first organized amateur emergency nets. They were set up in cities along the Pennsylvania Railroad to aid the "Pennsy" (and later other railroads) with train communications in the event of failure of the railroad telegraph landlines--which were frequent. The signal QRR came to be used to indicate that the calling station had railroad traffic related to some emergency. ARRL eventually adopted this call for use by any amateur who had distress traffic and later the call was changed to QRRR because of a conflict in definitions with the international Q signal QRR.

One of the first distress calls was CQD, coined by the Marconi Company about 1904 from the "general call" CQ and the letter D for "distress." The main problem with CQD was that it was supposed to be used only by ships which subscribed to the Marconi radio system and ships of one system were discouraged from communicating with ships or shore stations of other, competing, companies. The problem got so bad that it was taken up in the international radio conference in 1906 where a new universal distress call was proposed.

The American delegation suggested the letters NC which were already recognized in the International Signal Code for Visual Signalling. The German delegation proposed its own SOE which was already in use on German ships as a general inquiry signal similar to CQ (which was then used only by the Marconi system). The British delegation, of course, wanted to stick to the Marconi signal CQD.

The convention found SOE acceptable except that the final E could easily be lost in QRN so the letter S was substituted, making it SOS. The convention decided that SOS should be sent as a single code character with a sound unlike any other character, thus arresting the attention of anyone hearing it. So was officially adopted, but CQD remained in use for some years, particularly aboard British ships.

It wasn't until 1912, after the Titanic disaster, that SOS became universal and the use of CQD gradually disappeared. Titanic radio operator Jack Phillips sent both CQD and SOS to be sure that there couldn't possibly be any misunderstanding.

Incidentally, another distress call is used by aircraft in trouble throughout the world. We have all heard the term "mayday" at some time. This, of course, has nothing to do with the first day in May. As it turns out, in French, the word "m'aidez" means "help me". Is it possible that American aviators in World War I picked this up from their French comrades and mispronounced it as the easily recognized "mayday, mayday"?

Many of the expressions and procedure signals still in use in radiotelegraph had their origins in the early days of the landline telegraph--long before Marconi sent his letter "S" across the Atlantic.

In sending formal messages by CW, the first thing a beginner hears is "don't send punctuation. Separate the parts of the address from each other with the prosign AA." This is ironic, because in the American Morse Code the sound didahdidah is a comma and was doubtless the origin of our prosign. Originally, a correctly addressed letter was punctuated with commas following the name and the street address, each of which was (and still is) on a separate line although the commas have been dropped, even in mail addresses on letters. The comma was transmitted by Morse operators and thus, AA came to mean that the receiving operator should "drop down one line" when sent after each part of the address and it is so defined in the operating manuals of the time.

Our familiar prosign SK also had its origin in landline Morse. In the Western Union company's "92 code" used even before the American Civil War, the number 30 meant "the end. No more." It also meant "good night." It so happens that in Landline Morse, 30 is sent didididahdit daaah, the zero being a long dash. Run the 30 together and it has the same sound as SK.

The amateur message form comes to us from a long tradition. The earliest telegrams were very formal, in the florid style of the last half of the 19th century. Even the train orders of that time began with Dear Sir and ended with yours truly. However, since telegraph companies charged by the word, the text soon changed to the present style.

The preamble, however, has changed greatly. At first, the date and the number of words were the only two items listed in this country. The European telegram included the time and the office call, but it was not until after the Civil War that Americans began using these as well. The main reason for using the group count was to be able to calculate charges for the messages, as well as to insure accuracy. This provision was printed on the earliest Western Union blanks as well as those of the Electric Telegraph Company in England, but the idea is far earlier than either of these. It was used by the French semaphore system before the wire telegraph.

The amateur preamble, of course, is derived from the early wireless forms. The printed Marconigram blanks have much the same information which is required for the heading of amateur messages, including the service information at the bottom of the blanks.

Those ARL numbered texts have an interesting and even longer history. In 1844 Alfred Vail was concerned about preserving the secrecy of the message and therefore prepared a series of numbered messages which could be selected for use by the public. Numbered texts are no longer used for secrecy, they facilitate the rapid transmission of messages.

Two of our most commonly used service abbreviations --ASAP and GBA-- date back to the 1840s when the early press telegraphers cut everything to the most abbreviated form in order to bypass the exceedingly high rates imposed by the telegraph companies.

Although Samuel F. B. Morse's code achieved nearly universal use on the landline telegraph systems of America, the Europeans never did like it. They felt that the "space" characters were likely to cause errors in receiving. (The letter "O," for example, was sent "dit dit" and the "I" was sent as in the now familiar International Code: "didit.") The Europeans developed a number of binary dot-dash codes to suit their own needs. The code in use on the wires of the Prussian Empire in 1852 bore a strong resemblance to the present International Code, but it used the American Morse numerals. Seven years later the "European Code" was formulated, using the Austro-Prussian alphabet and adapting the numerals we now use. This was adopted for use by all European countries and the name was changed in 1912 to "International Code," although it is also known, even today, as the "Continental Code."

The numerals themselves are interesting. No known code of the European continent shows anything which resembles them. They just showed up in the European Code. However, the Bain Code, used on many lines in the U.S. circa 1846, had numerals which closely match those of the International Code. From one through five, Bain and International are identical. Reversing the Bain Code numerals six through zero produces the International numerals. There is nothing to prove that the Bain Code was the basis for the International numerals, but the conclusion is almost inescapable that someone at the Vienna conference at which International was adopted, was familiar with Bain's numerals. Bain's code was a modification of the Davy code of 1839, so it is possible that the numerals we now use are older than any of the alphabets.

A Wouff Hong is a fictional tool used to "punish" Amateur Radio operators, who demonstrate poor operating practices.

Legend has it that the Wouff Hong was invented by Hiram Percy Maxim (founder of ARRL) under the pseudonym, "The Old Man," just as amateurs were getting back on the air after World War One.

Early in 1919, "The Old Man" wrote in QST "I am sending you a specimen of a real live Wouff Hong . . . Keep it in the editorial sanctum where you can lay hands on it quickly in an emergency." The "specimen of a real live Wouff Hong" was presented to a meeting of the ARRL Board and the Board voted that the Wouff Hong be framed and hung in the office of the Secretary of the League.

On display at ARRL HQ today, the Wouff Hong is a constant reminder to Amateur Radio operators to be mindful of their operating etiquette.

Golden Age of Radio in the US

"Receiving set for trench radio," 1914-1918. Courtesy University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Illinois Digital Heritage Hub.

Radio during WWI

At the onset of World War I, radio was still in its infancy. Army equipment was primitive, had a very short range, and often negotiated atmospheric interference. A 1913 aircraft with a radio, at the time considered cutting-edge equipment, had a maximum range of 2,000 yards. Military radio equipment also used vacuum tubes, which were heavy and bulky. As a result, the equipment was difficult to tote around on the battlefield, even on mules and horses, which were still the military’s primary mode of equipment transportation. The American army made some adaptations with the development of a "horse-pack set," which used a hand generator and was strapped to the side of a horse. The entire radio transmitter and receiver, in size and design, resembled a saddle.

Radio on the Homefront

Not everyone could go fight or be involved directly in Wolrd War related industries. Commercial radio was still a business. War related content found its way into regular programming. The day-time Soaps would often lose a character who had joined the military, or add one who had returned home to convalesce from battle injuries. The bad guys in Kiddie Shows and some detective dramas changed from gangsters and rustlers to Japs and Nazis, or at least worked for them.

One type of program that seemed to take WWII in stride was the Situation Comedy. The teenage girl in the family program would become a sucker for anyone in uniform, and the Smart-mouth kid suddenly knew enough Military and War jargon to open a new front in the backyard.

Marjorie from The Great Gildersleeve was constantly writing to WWII servicemen, or organizing dinners or shows for the troops. Early in the show's run, just before America entered the War, the Gildersleeve household organized Thanksgiving dinner for the Troops at the local Army post. Gildy was often involved in War bond drives and even helped to christen a Liberty Ship.

Fibber McGee and Mollybecame a darling of the Office of War Information. Finding spies was a favorite plot device on many programs, including Fibber and Amos 'n Andy. Fibber writer Don Quinn was well known for subtly incorporating the sponsors message into the fabric of the program, and this same talent was even better showcased in messages for the OWI. Fibber McGee and Molly was so good at getting OWI's message out that they were occasionally given exclusives" the day following a program showcasing the need for Merchant Mariners was the single most successful recruiting day for Merchant Mariners.

War time rationing was a common complaint on sitcoms, but Fibber managed to get the message across better than others by getting it beat into his own head. Several episodes dealt with gas rationing and meat rationing, with Fibber chagrined as he learns the necessity of the sacrifices. One of the most poignant of the lessons came on the Dec 1, 1942 episode. The nation is approaching its second Christmas of the War, and not only does Fibber get a lesson about gas rationing, but he gets it from a beloved member of the company, Mayor LaTrivia played by Gale Gordon, as both the character and the actor are leaving to join the Coast Guard.

No gathering of more than ten sets of civilian ears would have been complete without an appeal for War Bonds, and entertainment radio was no exception. Not only were the Treasury Department programs popular, but almost every show had a appeal in the closing dialog. Bob Hope even made Bye bye, and buy Bonds" a personal trademark.

World War II and after

In communications electronics, World War II was in one sense similar to World War I: the most extravagant prewar estimates of military requirements soon proved to represent only a fraction of the actual demand. The need for all kinds of communication equipment and for improved quality and quantity of communications pyramided beyond the immediate capabilities of industry. An increase in manufacturing plant became vital, and research and development in the communications–electronics field was unprecedented. The early German blitzkrieg, with tank and armoured formations, placed a new order of importance on reliable radio communication.

The development of the air, infantry, artillery, and armoured team created new requirements for split-second communication by radio among all members. Portable radio sets were provided as far down in the military echelons as the platoon. In every tank there was at least one radio and in some command tanks as many as three. Multiconductor cables were provided wire communications they could be reeled out rapidly and as many as four conversations could take place on them simultaneously through the use of carrier telephony. The Germans were the first to use this type of military long-range cable, and their example was followed promptly by both the British and the U.S. forces. High-powered mobile radio sets became common at division and regimental level. With these sets telegraph communication could be conducted at distances of more than 100 miles (160 kilometres) with vehicles in normal motion on the road. Major telephone switchboards of much greater capacity were needed. These were developed, manufactured, and issued for use at all tactical headquarters to satisfy the need for the greatly increased number of telephone channels required to coordinate the movements of field units whose mobility had been expanded many times.

Radio relay, born of the necessity for mobility, became the outstanding communication development of World War II. Sets employing frequency modulation and carrier techniques were developed and used, as were also radio relay sets that used radar pulse transmission and reception techniques and multiplex time-division methods for obtaining many voice channels from one radio carrier. Radio relay telephone and teletypewriter circuits spanned the English Channel for the Normandy landing and later furnished important communication service for General George S. Patton, after his breakout from the Normandy beachhead.

The need for communication between the homelands and many far-flung theatres of war gave rise to the need for improved long-range overseas communication systems. A system of radioteletypewriter relaying was devised, by which a radioteletypewriter operator in Washington, London, or other capitals could transmit directly by teleprinter to the commander in any theatre of war. In addition, a system of torn-tape relay centres was established so that tributaries could forward messages through the major centres and retransmit quickly by transferring a perforated tape message from the receiving to the transmitting positions. In addition a system of holding teletypewriter conferences was developed. These conferences, called “ telecons,” enabled a commander or his staff at each end to view on a screen the incoming teletypewriter messages as fast as the characters were received. Questions and answers could be passed rapidly back and forth over the thousands of miles separating the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for example, from the supreme Allied headquarters in Europe or General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in the Far East.

During the latter years of the war, new and improved communication and electronic devices came forth from research and development in ever-increasing numbers. A new long-range electronic navigation device, known as loran, used for both naval vessels and aircraft, was developed, as were short-range navigational systems, called shoran. Combinations of radar and communications for the landing of aircraft in zero visibility were perfected. One such system was the GCA, or ground-controlled approach system. Combinations of radio direction-finding, radar, and communications systems were developed and used for ground control of intercept aircraft—the system called GCI ( ground-controlled intercept). Radio-controlled guidance of falling bombs enabled an operator in a bomber to direct a bomb to the target. Electronic countermeasures made their appearance in the form of jamming transmitters to jam radio channels and radar, navigation, and other military electronics.

The military services learned well from their wartime experiences the importance of scientific research and development in all fields, including communications electronics. Advances were made in the communication capacity of wire and radio relay systems and in improved electronic aids for navigation. Measures to provide more comprehensive and more reliable communication and electronic equipment continued to be stressed in the armies, navies, and air forces of the major powers.

After mid-century, accordingly, military efforts in all the many facets of signal communication continued to intensify almost as extravagantly as during World War II. Two major additions in the U.S. Army were television and “electronic brain” equipment. The latter, in many forms of digital and analog computers and of such data-processing devices as punch-card machines, were applied increasingly to personnel record handling and to depot and supply operations interconnected over wide areas by signal-communication networks.

Television proved a valuable training aid in military schools, where mass instruction, especially in manual skills, was needed and where instructors were few. A single instructor could teach many small classes simultaneously, each grouped before a TV set where they could watch demonstrations closely. Two-way communication permitted the instructor to call and question any student in any classroom and enabled any student to put questions to the instructor. Portable television equipment in the field proved valuable for sending back to headquarters, by antenna radiation or coaxial cable, a picture of any scene of operations such as a river crossing. Equally valuable was a television camera in the hands of a forward scout or in a reconnaissance aircraft, whether piloted or remotely controlled, to scan enemy territory.

7 Phrases You’ll Want To Keep Using After The Military

If you’ve served in the military, live with a veteran, or work with one, you know that jargon is a part of their vocabulary. While some of their military slang or abbreviations are practical in the civilian world, others are perfect for everyday use. In fact, a number of these words or phrases are more clever and politically correct than certain civilian words or phrases.

Here are seven phrases from military jargon that you can use to replace your everyday vernacular.

1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

In civilian vernacular, this translates to: “What the fuck.” Except “whiskey tango foxtrot” is a much more poignant and acceptable phrase for use both within the military and among civilians. If you’re looking for a phrase to substitute expletives at home or in the workplace, whiskey tango foxtrot is the way to go. The phrase is also being popularized by the upcoming Paramount Pictures movie of that name starring Tina Fey.

2. Lima Charlie

Lima Charlie is typically used over the radio to denote that a message has been received. In the civilian world, this abbreviation can be used to affirm that you’ve heard something and understand. Whether you employ it sarcastically or seriously, this is one phrase that you can hold on to when something comes over “loud and clear” in your everyday life.

“Fucked up beyond all recognition” is a military favorite. It originated in World War II and has already made its way into the civilian vernacular. So when something breaks beyond all measure of repair, you might say it’s “FUBAR” if you’re not in the right setting to drop an f-bomb. It’s also been used to name a new and depraved card game modeled after Cards Against Humanity.

4. Pop Smoke

To “pop smoke” means to leave or retreat. In the field, it means “you throw out a smoke grenade and vector in on it for extraction from a hot area,” Army Staff Sgt. Adam Dillon told Public Radio International. Whenever you find yourself in a situation and are looking to get out, just tell your party it’s time to “pop smoke,” and then get the hell outta there.

5. Zero Dark Thirty

Essentially the crack of dawn, “Zero Dark Thirty” implies a generally unpleasant hour of the morning. It is also the title of a popular movie about the capture of Osama bin Laden. For those of you that like to get up before the sun, you can estimate your waking hour to be at “zero dark thirty.”

6. Got Your 6

If your body was a clock, 12 would be your front face, and 6 would be your backside. In combat operations, you literally need to have your back covered. In the civilian world, sometimes people like to know that you’ve got their backs in a manner of moral support. Whether it’s your family or your new coworkers, it’s a sentiment that everyone can appreciate.

7. Bravo Zulu

Bravo Zulu has a long history within the military. The term originated from the Allied Signals Book. Signals are sent as letters and numbers, which when combined certain ways have specific meanings. The letter “B” indicates a “doing” action and becomes a more specific instruction when paired with a second letter or number. “BZ” roughly translates to “well done.” Regardless of its history though, it sounds much cooler than just saying “good job.”


Before the advent of radio, carrier pigeons were frequently used on the battlefield as a means for a mobile force to communicate with a stationary headquarters. In the 6th century BC, Cyrus, king of Persia, used carrier pigeons to communicate with various parts of his empire. [3] In Ancient Rome, Julius Caesar used pigeons to send messages to the territory of Gaul. [4]

During the 19th-century (1870–71) Franco-Prussian War, besieged Parisians used carrier pigeons to transmit messages outside the city in response, the besieging Prussian Army employed hawks to hunt the pigeons. [3] The French military used balloons to transport homing pigeons past enemy lines. [5] Microfilm images containing hundreds of messages allowed letters to be carried into Paris by pigeon from as far away as London. More than one million different messages traveled this way during the four-month siege. They were then discovered to be very useful, and carrier pigeons were well considered in military theory leading up to World War I.

Homing pigeons were used extensively during World War I. In 1914, during the First Battle of the Marne, the French army advanced 72 pigeon lofts with the troops.

The US Army Signal Corps used 600 pigeons in France alone.

One of their homing pigeons, a Blue Check hen named Cher Ami, was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre with Palm" for heroic service delivering 12 important messages during the Battle of Verdun. On her final mission in October 1918, she delivered a message despite having been shot through the breast or wing. The crucial message, found in the capsule hanging from a ligament of her shattered leg, saved 194 US soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division's "Lost Battalion". [6]

United States Navy aviators maintained 12 pigeon stations in France with a total inventory of 1,508 pigeons when the war ended. Pigeons were carried in airplanes to rapidly return messages to these stations and 829 birds flew in 10,995 wartime aircraft patrols. Airmen of the 230 patrols with messages entrusted to pigeons threw the message-carrying pigeon either up or down, depending on the type of aircraft, to keep the pigeon out of the propeller and away from airflow toward the aircraft wings and struts. Eleven of the thrown pigeons went missing in action, but the remaining 219 messages were delivered successfully. [7]

Pigeons were considered an essential element of naval aviation communication when the first United States aircraft carrier USS Langley was commissioned on 20 March 1922 so the ship included a pigeon house on the stern. [8] The pigeons were trained at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard while Langley was undergoing conversion. As long as the pigeons were released a few at a time for exercise, they returned to the ship but when the whole flock was released while Langley was anchored off Tangier Island, the pigeons flew south and roosted in the cranes of the Norfolk shipyard. [9] The pigeons never went to sea again. [8]

During World War II, the United Kingdom used about 250,000 homing pigeons for many purposes, including communicating with those behind enemy lines such as Belgian spy Jozef Raskin. The Dickin Medal, the highest possible decoration for valor given to animals, was awarded to 32 pigeons, including the United States Army Pigeon Service's G.I. Joe and the Irish pigeon Paddy.

The UK maintained the Air Ministry Pigeon Section during World War II and for a while thereafter. A Pigeon Policy Committee made decisions about the uses of pigeons in military contexts. The head of the section, Lea Rayner, reported in 1945 that pigeons could be trained to deliver small explosives or bioweapons to precise targets. The ideas were not taken up by the committee, and in 1948 the UK military stated that pigeons were of no further use. During the war, messenger pigeons could draw a special allowance of corn and seed, but as soon as the war ended this had been cancelled and anyone keeping pigeons would have to draw on their own personal rationed corn and seed to also feed the pigeons. [10] However, the UK security service MI5 was still concerned about the use of pigeons by enemy forces. Until 1950, they arranged for 100 birds to be maintained by a civilian pigeon fancier in order to prepare countermeasures. [ clarification needed ] The Swiss army disbanded its Pigeon section in 1996. [11]

A member of the crew of an RAF Coastal Command Lockheed Hudson holding a carrier pigeon, 1942

WWII-era Broadcasts

provides news analysis and commentary about the changing world of the late 1930's and early 1940's.

Norman Corwin's visits to England during WWII. It documented war-time conditions in England from the perspective of the citizens of England, instead of those in power or of handouts from the war department.

Entertaining fifteen-minute Treasury Dept spot featured a Patriotic Sketch and a Patriotic Song.

Rare chats between American journalists and their British colleagues in London.

Born in the US, Mildred Gillars starred in the 1942 Nazi broadcast, "Home Sweet Home" where she used stories about cheating girlfriends and wives to sow discontent and homesickness in American G.I.'s listening to the radio.

Presented by Uncle Sam and directed by Captain Glenn Miller.

Created by the United States Navy during WWII, this old time radio program was created to "report to people of the United States on the progress of its navy in the war being fought in five oceans."

includes news reports and speeches on the german invasion across Europe as the atrocities unfolded.

top-rated network of its day was where millions were tuning into on daily basis to find out the latest from the battlefront or who was making the daily headlines

Hear the news of the day from around the world with the CBS News of the World, Morning Edition

one of the first news shows to send famed correspondents, Edward R Murrow, John Charles Daly, and William L. Shirer, around the world to give American eyewitness accounts to some of the most dramatic events in history.

Orson Welles originally starred in and wrote for Ceiling Unlimited after returning from Latin America in 1942. It was a Patriotic drama series and recounted the heroic efforts of the Allied service men of WWII.

Charlie and his Orchestra was a Nazi Propaganda jazz group specifically aimed at demoralizing Allied Forces during World War II.

There was no way for the GI's to come home for Christmas, so the Radio Networks tried to bring Home to the GI's. Take a magical sleigh ride back into World War II Christmas celebrations with this incredible collection of radio shows from every genre.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of United Kingdom during WWII and great orator, wrote his own speeches and delivered them on many radio broadcasts.

Hailed as "the poet laureate of radio", Norman Corwin created this WWII collection featuring his brilliant writing on topics that mattered the most in his day.

The day the Nazis invaded Poland is seen as the beginning of the Second World War. The staff of WJSV recorded the entire days broadcast, so we can learn about the events as they unfold.

complete broadcast day recordings of the Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.The Japanese attack changed the history of the world and officially brought the United States in World War II.

The invasion of Europe was to be the turning point of The War, but no one back home knew when or how it would happen. CBS recorded their entire broadcast day on June 6, 1944, so we can learn about the events as they unfold.

original full day broadcast from the day of the invasion June 6th, 1944 including news bulletins, comedy and variety shows. These recordings illustrate the response on the American home front to the Normandy Landings called "the greatest invasion in the history of the world."

Although Victory was practically assured by the time "Crisis in War Town" debuted, the program highlights the small victories that contributed to the Over All Victory.

is a series of six narrative letters based on real letters written by Americans to Adolf Hitler during WWII.

Live through the adventures of doctors on the front lines of World War II in the battlefield anthology series

One of the greatest American journalists in broadcast history, he pioneered the reporter on the scene reporting during WWII.

During the months before Pearl Harbor, FDR appointed Elmer Davis to head up the Office of War Information. From this bully pulpit, Davis helped to whip the Nation into a fury over the aggressions of the Nazi's in Europe.

This collection includes news stories and radio shows The US Air Force Bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Writer/Producer Arch Oboler and Actor Ronald Colman pull out all the stops in this morale boosting effort as they give Everything For The Boys during WWII.

Who knows whether or not the enemy could be flying towards the West Coast for a sneak attack on the American mainland? Our first line of defense was the volunteers of the Aircraft Warning Services who were dedicated to keeping their Eyes Aloft.

With his Fireside Chats, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the power of radio to speak directly and intimately to the American people through some of the darkest periods of the Nation's history.

The Battle of Wistful Vista may not have made the history books, but WWII was won as much on the Home Front as the Front Lines.

Broadcast in 1945, this old time radio show focused on the technological achievements of the Army Air Forces (AAF) including: dropping the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima, radar defenses, blind landings, hydroponics, the GI Bill, and much more. With dramatic reenactments and jazzy music interludes, this show featured interviews with the principal officers and pilots involved.

written by Arch Oboler and William Robson: this WWII propaganda old time radio program helped advertise US Bonds to fund the war effort.

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