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32nd Signal Battalion
V Corps

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.


322nd Sig Bn History

32nd Sig Bn History
 

201st Sig Co




 
322nd Signal Battalion History
322nd Signal Bn DI
 
1951-1955
(Source: STARS & STRIPES, December 4, 1951)
The 322nd Signal Battalion is a California Army Reserve unit that is now stationed in Frankfurt (Gibbs Kaserne). The Bn provides a complete communications setup for V Corps.

CO of the Bn is Lt Col Charles E. Roberston.

The battalion operates a radio relay network, teletype, and telephone facilities, augmented with carrier equipment, message center, and heavy signal construction.

MISCELLANEOUS
Hq & Hq Co, 322nd Sig Bn
Co A, 322nd Sig Bn
Co B, 322nd Sig Bn
Co C, 322nd Sig Bn
Telephone & Teletype Co, 322nd Sig Bn
Radio & Message Center Co, 322nd Sig Bn
CO of 322nd Sig Bn (Oct 1952), Lt Col Charles E. Roberston, was replaced by Lt Col Edward C. Coffin.
The 322nd Sig Bn or elements of the Bn moved from Gibbs Kaserne, Frankfurt, to Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne in Darmstadt sometime in 1952.

 
(Source: Email from John Raquet, 322nd Sig Bn)
I’ve sent you a picture I took at the entrance to the Giessener Strasse Kaserne in Frankfurt, Germany. We called it the Giessener Strasse Kaserne but it might be known by another name. I don’t seem to find it in your web site. I do find a Clarke Kasserne located on Giessener Strasse. Can’t find a picture of that one but that could be where I was. No such sign existed then, only the one in the picture. The year would have been 1953. Of the men in the picture, I can only identify one of them. The tall guy in the back row was my roommate, Gerald Lanham. I’ve got names for the others, I think, but can’t match the faces.

A little background on the 322nd Signal as I remember it.

The 322nd served as the communication facility for the US V Corps. In part, V Corps consisted of the 4th Infantry Division, in Frankfurt; Second Armored Division in Mainz. There were others, of course, but these are the only ones that come to mind. The battalion itself was stationed in Darmstadt, Germany.

Darmstadt was the base of operations for the people that climbed poles, strung wire, set poles, took care of our vehicles and whatever else was necessary to maintain the service to V Corps and the message center in Frankfurt. Except for the maintenance, everything else was pretty much outside. Especially the wire stringing. If we were on the move, the wires were just laid on the ground. The tankers loved to drive over them and wind them up. This is the part of the battalion that laid/strung the wires that got the messages from point A to point B. No easy task.

The picture of the Farben building. I don’t know whether you can see it or not but there was shrapnel damage to the outside of the building. We were told that the building was deliberately spared because the allies knew they would be using it at some later date.

Inside the building they have a very unusual type of elevator. What it amounts to is cubby holes a little bigger that a telephone booth that are mounted on some kind of mechanism. Inside dimensions are about 5 feet square by 7 feet high. These cubby holes go around and around. They are open on the side that faces the floor you are on. No door. As they floor of the box comes about even with your floor, you simply step in. When you arrive at the floor you want, you simply step out. They never stop moving. I know a fellow that was over there in the last few years and he told me that they still use that system. He says a lady was killed trying to get on the thing. Things are different in Germany. (Webmaster note: for more info on the paternoster lift see the Wikipedia entry for the IG Farben Building.)

The Message center was in the basement. It consisted of the message center itself and the code, or cryptography, room. This room was a locked room and only authorized personnel were allowed in it. You had to have at least a top secret security clearance to get in there. That is where I worked.

I came back from Europe on a ship named Clark. I think it was the William B. Clark. When we got off the train in Bremerhaven, they marched us down the wharf and as we looked at the ships in port the first one we saw was the “SS United States.” Everyone was thinking that we were going home on the States. That would have meant about a 5 day trip. We just kept on marching and ended up on the Clark. It took the Clark 2 weeks, almost, to make the same trip. At sea on the Clark, Thanksgiving Day, 1953, we were in the most terrible storm. They said later that the waves were 61 feet high. They put the turkey and dressing in trays that were put on steam tables and kept warm with hot water. We rolled so bad that the water pushed the trays off the tables onto the deck. We ended up with baloney and cheese sandwiches for thanksgiving dinner.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The Code Room
The Code Room: A heavy metal door with double locks lets you into a room about 10 feet deep by about 20 feet across. In the door is a slot about 2 inches by 10 inches. A heavy metal slide covers the opening when not in use. The slot does two things. It allows the message center personnel to get coded messages into the room and allows the people in the room to identify incoming personnel before unlatching the door.

The room contains a couple of desks with typewriters, gun racks and the necessary chairs. The most unusual equipment are the code machines. There are two of them. Each is contained in a heavy metal file cabinet with two doors. The cabinets weigh as much as a small safe. They have two doors, top and bottom. Each door opens with a combination lock. Opening the top door give you access to the machine which is mounted on slides so we can pull it out and use it without taking it out of its safe. When not in use the door is closed and the machine secured. The bottom compartment is for related equipment, rotor sets, SOI’s and another machine used for a different system. The cabinets are heavy and difficult to handle when we deploy to the field.

The main system we used was code named “xxxxxx”. If you have ever seen a picture of the “German Enigma” code machine, you have an idea of what we where using. It is an updated version of that machine. At least that what it seems to me. The machine itself is about twice as big as the German machine. You type in clear text and it spits out a tape with five letter code groups. You type in code groups and you get clear text. Hopefully.

To set the machine up, it is necessary to pay attention to the date and time the message was encrypted. We then go to the SOI, look up the date/time and this tells us how to set up the machine. It tells us which rotor set to use as well as the key. The key is a five-letter code group. There are 5 slots on the top of the machine. These are meant to receive the rotors that come in sets of five. Each rotor has the alphabet stamped around the outer edge. The rotors are dropped into their slots. There are benchmarks on the machine at the slots. With rotors in place, they are aligned with the key letters to the benchmarks. A metal axle is inserted from the right side to lock them in place. The machine is ready.

In breaking a message, you have to be very careful as you type in the clear text and the code groups. Especially the code groups. You can hit an “R” instead of a “T” and all you get is a misspelled word. No big deal. If you leave out a character or a space, you will garble. A garble is a worthless string of letters and the cause of lots and lots of swear words. Typing code groups requires a lot of concentration. If you are smart you will check your tape every so often to be sure you are not in garble. It is very easy to forget to check. Code groups have no known groups. By this I mean when you see the word “the” and you type it like it was one character. There are no such sets in code groups.

The message comes out of the machine on the left side. It is on a ¼” tape that has a gum substance on the back. We take the message tape and tear it at the appropriate places, wet them, stick them on a message form. That’s it.

A couple of things I can mention. The second machine mentioned above is used when we go into the field. We deploy in steps. The first step is the forward crew. They leave first and go to the location and establish contact with the base in the Farben Building. Then the jump teams leaves with the second machine and gets set up to handle traffic at the location. When that happens we shut down in the Farben and move out with the main body.

The second system that I mentioned was called “xxxxxxx” This is used in the most forward units. Maybe as far down as company level. The machine is like a tape writer. After the machine is set to a key, you rotate a knob to a given letter. You push a lever and the machine prints a character on a tape. Doing this you can encode and decode. A really tedious procedure and not loved by all.

I have decided not to name the systems. Even at this late date I am not comfortable mentioning those names.

The Message Center
Well -- let’s go inside the message center. We are in the basement of the I. G. Farben Building in Frankfurt. While the battalion itself is in Darmstadt, about 40 of us have been detached to Frankfurt. The personnel include drivers, clerk typists, and the crypto people in the code room. We receive all of our traffic by landline teletype, or RTT (Radio Teletype), and by mail bag. Several teletype machines are located in the message center. All tied into a net consisting of the various units in V Corps, as we called it, and the feeds from other units all over the world.

Incoming messages are received either in the clear or in code. Incoming clear messages are sorted according to the addressee and staged for delivery, they might go into an envelope and sent upstairs or staged for a mail run to the various units up near the border or wherever. Two men would be assigned to take a jeep, and a specific mail bag, drive a predetermined route to a given location. The one that sticks in my mind was the run to Wildflecken. Up near the border with East Germany, about 50 miles more or less. I think there was a Constab unit there as well as a Dog Platoon. Each morning a crew would be assigned to a specific run. They would go the Farben, pick up a bag and take off. Code people, not on duty, would volunteer to go on these runs. We got to see a lot of the country that way.

I remember one messenger run in particular that included an incident that I will always remember. It would have been early winter 1952 and I was assigned to accompany a mailbag on one of the runs. Any material classified secret or higher requires an armed guard. I was that guard, in a jeep with a driver. We were on one of those tiny German roads that wander from village to village. Snow was on the ground and the roads were quite slick. Ahead of us was an accident that completely blocked the road. Two German cars, one was in the ditch, the other was crosswise blocking the road. Six men were out of their cars and engaged in a very animated discussion, which included some pushing and shoving. We waited for a few minutes but nothing was being resolved. They ignored the jeep waiting in the road. The guy driving my jeep got out and walked up to see if he could get the one car moved so we could get through. He was ignored and the anger seemed to escalate. I was beginning to get a little scared and got out of the jeep to tell the driver to get back in. I wanted to turn around and get the hell out of there. I said one word. ‘HEY’. That’s all I said. The effect was dramatic. Things got real quiet. You could have heard a pin drop. All eyes were on me. One guy even put his hands behind his head. Now—I am a dumb farm boy from Indiana who has never heard a shot fired in anger. I had completely forgotten the M-3 Grease Gun hanging from my shoulder. I was moving classified material and the weapon was hot. Needless to say, cooperation was suddenly the order of the day and we soon were on our way. The presence of two American soldiers did not deserve any respect. The weapon made all the difference.

Deployment
It’s two o’clock in the morning and whistles are blowing, doors slamming, people are yelling and running up and down the hall. Oh no!!! We are headed for the boonies again. We just got back 8 days ago and here we go again. Field pack is all made up and on top of my locker. In it is everything I can take with me. If this was the real thing and not a practice field deployment, everything left behind would belong to the Russians.

I head to the motor pool and get the tractor trailer that I will work in for the next week or so. At the Farben Building I back the trailer down a sloping driveway to a basement level loading dock. The message center is few yards down the hall and we load the heavy safes and other in the equipment into the trailer and away we go.

We are in a truck convoy of hundreds of trucks and do not have the slightest clue as to our ultimate destination. All we know to do -- follow the lights of the truck ahead of you. As usual, we are headed up the autobahn in a northerly direction. At some point we turn off and head east, away from the Taunus mountains, and into Fulda Gap. The road is just slightly wider than my tractor and when I go through a village, there is little clearance between the houses and the trailer. The villages are centuries old and the second floor extends out to the edge of the walkway creating an overhang. Clearance is tight, very tight.

We are traveling in a north to south direction through the town and at the north end the convoy is making a hard left turn. I find later that the actual turn is something greater than 90 degrees. The smaller trucks have no trouble with the turn. I am almost 40 feet long. When I get to it, I have to make several attempts to get around. Finally, by backing up and putting a bunch of wheels on the sidewalk, running over some brush and some sort of a small wooden enclosure, through a garden, I manage to get around the corner. This has taken several minutes and as we get straightened out, we realize that there no lights ahead of us. The convoy didn’t wait.

We continue on and as you might expect, we come to a fork in the road. Still no lights ahead of us. There is a sergeant with me and we look at each other and shake our heads. Remember, there are lots of trucks behind us. Where we go, they go. I don’t know who called it, but we went to the right. A narrow road that was getting narrower. I had a bad feeling. Sure enough, after about three-quarters of a mile we end up on top of a hill and in some farmers beet field. Looking down into the valley to the west we can see the convoy stopped and waiting on us. I did the only thing I could do. Drove into the field and made a U-turn. All the trucks behind me are doing the same thing. I go back down as far as I can and have to wait. Finally, someone has the presence of mind to break the line and have them wait until we clear. I have often wondered how much money our government had to pay that German farmer for all those beets we destroyed. All because of the lack of a road guard.

COMMENTS by Eduard Witzmann
As always, great, great site. Happy to see your recent addition and entry of the 322nd Sig Bn in the 7th Army, Signal Corps section, with photo and text submitted by John Raquet. This is a great article with detailed descriptions, especially for many of us who were there at the time, 1949 to 1953. The photo, of course, is GIBBS Barracks, on Giessener Strasse, Frankfurt. The time should be 1953, just prior to relocation of the entire 322nd unit to Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne in Darmstadt. Background in the photo (#2) is the officers club, dining hall and administrative offices in the upper floors. (Note, the classic, oversized German Eagle.) On a recent trip back to GIBBS and CAMBRAI-FRITSCH, my wife and I took some photos, that really bring the difference of 50 plus years to life. Great memories, thanks John Raquet and thank you Walter.


322d Sig Bn
Frankfurt

 

1. Bn sign, Giessener Strasse Kaserne (KB)

2. IG Farben Building (KB)

3. (KB)



4. (KB)

5. (KB)

6. Message Center in the field (KB)
 

7. (KB)

6. (KB)

6. John Raquet in the field (KB)
 

 
Battalion History
1955 - Present
(Source: 32nd Signal Battalion website)
32nd Signal Bn DUI

On 28 January 1955, the 32d Signal Battalion (Corps) was reactivated at Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne, Darmstadt, Germany under V Corps, USAREUR. The old 322d Signal Battalion, a reserve unit which had been serving as the corps signal battalion for V Corps ever since the Corps arrived in Germany during the augmentation period, was inactivated and the men and equipment were transferred to the newly activated 32d Signal Battalion (Corps). Since that time, the 32d Signal Battalion has provided critical communications support for every field exercise in which V Corps has been involved.

When the Battalion was re-organized under the Delta Series TOE, in October 1961, the Battalion's cable construction capability was eliminated. The Battalion increased in size from 3 to 5 companies under USAREUR General Order 381 on 21 May 1961.

In March 1964, after spending nine years in Darmstadt, USAREUR moved the Battalion to McNair Kaserne in Hoechst, Germany, just outside Frankfurt.

On 26 June 1969, the 201st Signal Company was attached to the Battalion by V Corps General Order 139, bringing the number of assigned personnel over 1000.

On 16 March 1981, the 32d Signal Battalion (Corps) was split into a Command Operations Battalion, designated the 17th Signal Battalion (Command), a Corps Radio Battalion, designated the 32d Signal Battalion (Radio) and a new Brigade Headquarters, the 22d Signal Bde, under whose command structure the two Battalions now fall. The 32d Signal Battalion (Radio) had four companies which provided the command multi-channel radio systems, radio-teletype and FM in support of V Corps.

In June 1986, the 32d Signal Battalion (Radio) was re-organized as a corps-area Battalion and re-designated the 32d Signal Battalion (Area). In addition to providing command multi-channel and radio-teletype support, the Battalion now also provided three Corps Area Signal Centers, complete with automatic switching to support V Corps' tactical area of operations.

From September through December 1990, the Battalion was re-organized as a Corps MSE Battalion, conducting a 100% swap-out of its equipment and re-activating D Company. The 32d Signal Battalion (MSE) consists of five companies, authorized over 600 personnel. The radio-teletype and cable installation capability of the Battalion was eliminated, but the capabilities gained with Mobile Subscriber Equipment are enormous.

The Battalion's primary mission is to provide six MSE node centers for the Corps Area Support Network, one large extension node, and up to 40 small extension switches to support Corps units.

In January 1992, the 32d Signal Battalion moved back to Darmstadt, to Kelley Barracks.

From April to July 1999 the battalion deployed to Albania in support of Task Force Hawk and Operation Joint Forge during the Kosovo crisis.

It continues to provide communications support for V Corps from the city where peacetime support began in 1955.

On 22 March 1993, the 32d Signal Battalion was presented the United States Army Superior Unit Award for meritorious achievement.
 
If you have more information on the history or organization of the 32nd Signal Battalion, please contact me.

 
(Source: 32nd SIGNAL BATTALION (CORPS), 25th Anniversary Yearbook, 1955-1980)
 
The 32nd Signal Battalion's Mission:
To install, operate, and maintain reliable tactical signal communications for V Corps Headquarters and to the V Corps' major subordinate commands for command and control, fire and manuever, and administration and logistics.

Organization of the Battalion:
Six companies make up the organization of the 32d Signal Battalion (Corps). These include: Headquarters and Headquarters Company; Company A, Company B, and the 201st Signal Company, all command operations companies; Company C, a command radio relay and cable company; and Company D, a command artillery radio relay company.

The mission of Headquarters and Headquarters Company is to provide planning, coordination, and staff supervision for all of the operation's, training, administration, maintenance and supply function's within the battalion.

The three command operations companies (A, B, and 201st) provide tactical communications facilities for Corps Headquarters at main, alternate, and SUPCOM respectively.

Multichannel communications systems from echelons of V Corps Headquarters to headquarters of its major subordinate commands are provided by Company C, the command radio relay and cable company.

Company D, the command artillery radio relay company, provides multichannel communications systems between V Corps Headquarters and the V Corps artillery groups as well as the corps tactical command post.

32nd Sig Bn Organization, 1980

 
1955
(Source: Email from Lonis Wendt, D Co, 32nd Sig Bn, 1955-56)
I spent about 17 months in Delta Co. doing radio-teletype, field problems, and TDY duty with the French.  I really liked my job there, as I was able to see and learn a lot about life which, at that time, I may never have experienced. We were headquartered at Darmstadt for my entire time there.
 
Our son is a Lt. Col. in the USAF and currently on active duty.  While he was stationed at Rhein-Main in 1994, we took a 3 week vacation to Germany, combing a visit with our son, a return to Darmstadt and there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.  We visited the old barracks and the Kaserne, he and I had our picture taken looking out of my old room on 2nd floor.
 
I was kind of lucky, arrived as a PFC and was promoted to SGT (E-5) about two months before returning to the States.  I received a commendation from the Colonel before leaving, and I still have it stored away in the bank lockbox, I do not know why I saved it.

A couple interesting things happened there while we were on one particular field trip.  Some of us guys rigged up a method of long distance wireless voice communication by using two transmitters and two receivers whereby one of the Corps commanders calling from a great distance (much farther than the average 2-way radio communications of the day) could talk to another using wireless connections, heretofore we needed telephone lines, to make it operational for that distance,  one guy had to flip a couple switches which controlled which receiver/xmitter was doing the transmitting or the receiving.  At the time we thought it quite ingenious.  And it was! The cellphone is a lot simpler!!!  

Another thing that happened there was the arrival of Elvis and Johnny Cash upon the stickbuddie scene.  I was just trying to learn to pick the guitar a little, along with several other guys, and we had a lot of fun picking and grinning.  Some of them guys became lifelong friends, TJ Stobbs to name one.  I ended up picking well enough to have my own band for almost 40 years.

We played a lot of basketball there, Gerry Lauford, Jerry Wilmot, Dave Parker, Ray Panirio, and several others were very good.  Some of us were called to tryout for the V Corps team.  I didn't go, I thought I was too short to make the team, however Gerry and Jerry both made the squad.

Several guys were special friends, Jim Jones, Ray Wellman, Chuck McCollum, Ray Southern, Max Jones, and the little guy from NYC, Ron B. Rose, who did imitations of several famous people and kept us laughing a lot.

I remember a little German waitress, "the Mouse" we called her, she was everybody's
hearthrob and also quite friendly but it was strictly "hands off." I remember lots of pingpong tournaments and felt a lot of pressure to uphold my South Dakota country hick reputation.

I suppose there were many other interesting events, but time has let them slip away, but really appreciate your keeping a history of the great 32nd. Sig Battalion.  I always though Delta Co. had some very elite and capable, college educated GI's, I would think nearly everyone of them should have gone on to a reasonably successful life.

 
(Source: Email from Jim Noble, D Co., 32nd Signal Bn. (Corps))
In Feb. 1956 our entire class (#29) of the Southestern Signal School, Camp Gordon, GA. disembarked at Bremerhaven and soon joined DOG Company of the 32nd as teletype operators. We were the teletype relay center stationed at Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne, Darmstadt while our message center was in Frankfurt.

While there we transitioned from the "brown boot Army" to the "black boot" and gradually from the old OD's to
Army Green. We also became DELTA Company when the phoenetic alphabet was revised.

Participation in many NATO field maneuvers was not exactly our most fun times as they always seemed to include winter snow or spring mud.

After thirty months and twelve day (who counts?) I was happy to "ZI" and become another "PFC" at home in Chicago. Lake Michigan never looked so good! Anyoneone serving in the 32nd from 2/56 thru 7/58 is welcome to contact me as I am now a retired telephone company (SBC/Ameritech) guy.

When I served the 32nd Signal Battalion was comprised of
Headquarters Company
A & B Companies (pole line companies)
D Company (CW radio, radio teletype and land-line teletype)
E Company (our "carrier" unit)

We, Co D, had a relay center in the basement of E company.

The 1st Inf. Div. had gone home (that's where I had my basic - Ft. Riley, Kansas) and was replaced by the 10th Inf. Div. The 4th Inf. went home and replaced by the 3rd Armored Div. Also had 2nd Armored.

Our relay center in addition to the above interfaced with 7th Army Hq., Northern Area Command, 37th Engineer Bn., a medical company, (I forget the number - 35th or 39th ?) and V Corps Hq., and Corps Artillery.

We were there during the "Hungarian Revolt" and sent some signal equipment to the 14th Armored Cav. Rgt. at Fulda Pass, swapping out any of their faulty items.

Also stationed at Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne were a company of MP's and an Air Force Unit doing hush-hush monitoring of Soviet Bloc radio messages.

We had an aviation section in D co. also, utilizing an L-19 Bird Dog, an L-20 Beaver, an H-13 and an H-19 Rotary Wing types.

What else can I tell you, I arrived in Darmstadt on 26 Feb. 1956 and ZI'd home in July '58. I came as a Pvt. E-2, made PFC E-3, promoted to Spc-3 E-4 when I transferred from the teletype platoon to the company supply room. Promoted again to Sgt. E-5 giving up company supply for teletype platoon supply when an E-6 with the MOS came on board.

 
1957
(Source: Email from Veral DeBoer, 32nd Sig Bn, 1957-59)
I was assigned to Signal Repair shop In Darmstadt. My company commander was Martin Tinker, 1st Lt.

On the 23 of April 1958  I received a Letter of Appreciation from John Raleigh Lt Col. for helping bring up the 9th Engineers from not passing an IG inspection to a superior rating the next time they were inspected. A letter was sent by Col John Raleigh to the Commanding General of V Corps.  It was signed by Lt Colonel Daniel A Mac Donald. Headquarters V Corps had forwarded it to my Co it was signed by Col Winfield L Martin, the head of the Signal Corps of the V Corps.

WO 4 Mr. Finney was the officer in charge of the repair shop. We repaired two way radios, radar, and multi-band repeaters for telephones.  Also most other electronic such as mine detectors,Geiger counters. We were a 4th and 5th echelon shop.  Over half of the men in it were graduates of Radar repair. I graduated from Fort Mammoth, New Jersey as a Radio repairman.

I was there for 18 months and went from Sp3 to Sp2 than a rate change was made and I was then Sp5 all which in the E 5 rate. I was ranking enlisted man in the shop for 8 months. My main job was repairing the AN/GRY-26 which had a BC 610, R 390 receiver along with the equipment to run the Teletype machines.

While there, we went from using scrip money to American Dollars. Also from the Brown uniforms to the newer Green Dress ones. I left Germany in time to be discharged by March 26,1959.

32d Sig Bn - 1957-59
CFK, Darmstadt

 

1. CFK Main Gate (KB)

2. CFK barracks buildings near main gate (KB)

3. EM Club (KB)


4. Dispensary (KB)

5. Signal repair trucks (KB)

6. Signal Repair Section (KB)


7. (KB)

8. H-13 (KB)

9. Sign next to main gate (KB)


10. 280mm Gun (KB)
11. Nike-Ajax on display (KB)
12. 32nd Sig Bn motor park (KB)


1958
(Source: Email from Kenneth W. Brown)
I served with 32nd Signal, E Company, VFH Platoon from Feb. 1958 to Apr. 1960. There was A, B, D, & Headquarters Companies.

We had permanent teams with 3rd Infantry Div., 3rd Armored Div, 14th A/C, with two sites on the East border. And at times, we had at least two relay sites. Also, there was a site at Corps Headquartes in the Farben Bldg. in Frankfurt.

All companies, other than E, had a unit citation patch. The story we were told was that Company C had lost their colors in the war, and E company was created to replace C. Do you know the story?


 
1960
(Source: Email from Tom Senuta, A Co, 32nd Sig Bn, 1960-1961)
I reported to the 32nd Signal Bn. at Cambrai Fritsch Kaserne in April of 1960. I was transferred from the 16th A.O.D. at Echterdingen Army Airfield. I had already been in Germany since Feb. of 1959. I was assigned to A Company as a wireman. My commanding officer was 1st Lt. Frederick R. Dart and the exc. officer was 2nd Lt. Donald Webb. The 1st Sgt. was a Msgt. Hennesy. I don't think the 1st Sgt. owned a pair of civies as I always saw him in uniform. He was a veteran from WW2 and the Korean war. He was a career soldier.

Life at the 32nd was boring at the kaserne. We would spend every day in the motor pool cleaning our equipment and maintaining the trucks. We had all kinds of equipment such as platform trucks, Augers to dig holes to set the poles, pole trailers, wire trucks etc.

We would have an alert at least once a month and we did some some time in the field on maneuvers. It was not great duty in the winter.

The 32nd had two line construction companies (A & B). I do know we had a Hq's company and I believe we had a C Company which was a Radio Relay company and a teletype company. If someone knows if we had a D Company please let me know.

I know Hq's company had the clerks, cooks, mechanics, and the switchboard operation. We supported V Corps with all their communications. We had a company tailor which we paid so much a month to have. He had a small shop in the basement of the barracks. We also had paid German national KP's. I believe the mess hall was a consolidated mess hall feeding other units that were at Cambrai Fritsch kaserne. I know there was a air force unit also at the kaserne. I later became the company truck driver until I rotated back to the States in Feb. 1961.


32nd Sig Bn used the same type of 3-position switchboard as this one from the 97th Sig Bn
 
(Source: Email from Robert Long)
I took my training at Fort Gorden, Augusta, Georgia. Training was right on very good.

I was assigned to the 32nd Signal Bn as a switchboard operator and stationed at Darmstadt in 1960. The sergeants were Sgt Black & Sgt Young.

In garrison we were Victor Base and in the field we were Victor Switch. The switchboards were the same on base as in the field and also the same at Gibbs (just like the one in the photo above). The switchboards in the field were installed in the front of 18 wheeler trailers. The linemem would bring telephone lines to the guys in back of the trailer I believe. There were three of them (switchboards). We went on maneuvers on Winter Shield 1 and Winter Shield 2. While we were in garrison, the 18 wheeler was kept in the motor pool on base.

I was in Darmstadt for about a year then went TDY to Gibbs in Frankfurt. I worked at the IG Farben complex up on the 7th floor. Our switch boards were along side the German civilian switchboards. We had to ride the strassenbahn to get to work from Gibbs.

On base (Gibbs) there was a german civilian in the back room to take care of the mainframe for our boards. .

When we had guard duty, if you were outstanding in your appearance, spitshined boots, clothes neat, etc the CO would dismiss you from guard duty and you would get a 2-day pass.

I don't remember the name of the building but like the others we had a German tailor downstairs. There was a pizza place outside the fence that we used to order and they would bring it to the fence. We had a barber shop on base. EM club - at the EM club we would see great entertainment. Lose money to the one armed bandits (slot machines).

Always stood in a long line to eat (at the mess hall). Food was great though. We used to eat at different mess halls just to check them out to see if the food was better or not. The was a transit mess hall by the IG Farben building along with others. Air Force also had one in Darmstadt

At the IG Farben, when we first arrived at Gibbs, we were told to tell the tram conductor where we wanted to go. We would say I G Hochhaus. All I remember about the 7th floor (IG Farben Bldg) is where I worked, nothing else. I was a 19 year old kid just going to work. Worked one day and you got one day off; worked two days got two days off; worked three days and you got three off. It was a good job. Throw in a two day pass and you could take a vacation.

From there I was at the end of my enlistment leaving as a short timer in Oct 1962.


 
(Source: GUARDIAN, Aug 27, 1960 - submitted by Tom Senuta)
Operation 'Broadcast' - The Voice of Command

Text by Sp4 Kenneth R. Miller; Photos by Sp4 Huey E. Nichlos

In an age of missiles and machines, communication systems provided by Army signal units have become increasingly important in extending the "voice of command" necessary to control the combat elements of the Modern Army. There is, however, a problem involved, the systems must be born dependable and mobile.

One solution to this problem in V Corps is provided by the 32d Signal Battalion's VHF (Very High Frequency) Radio Platoon. This platoon, with its highly trained men and expensive 2
½ -ton truck-mounted radio equipment, provides the backbone of Corps field communications.

The Seventh Army-wide Signal Field Exercise "Broadcast" provided valuable training for Lt Harlon F. Peterson's platoon in field communication skills.

The problem began with an alert. Men scrambled for their trucks, and convoys were soon headed for the battalion's various assembly areas. From the assembly areas, VHF teams were dispatched to field locations which would soon be transformed into operating VHF sites.

After arrival at the sites, trucks were positioned and equipment unloaded. VHF team members, each with a job to do, began the exacting job of contacting other sites and lining up equipment.

Line crews from the battalion's construction companies connected the vans with carrier equipment in the Command Post area some distance away. From the carrier vans the wires were strung to telephone switchboards and teletype machines, and if everything went well, the system was in business.

Keeping the equipment lined up and operating smoothly requires patience, but the operators can relax a little. The pressure diminishes until the team is ordered to "jump" to a new position, and the process of establishing and maintaining the system begins again.

Despite the long hours of concentrated effort often required, the work is not without compensation: pride in a job well done. And the work is not without its purpose: extending the "voice of command."

(Also, see Tom's email on his service with the 16th AOD in the late 1950s)

32d Sig Bn - 1960
VHF Radio Pltn

 

1. "A" Co Wire team (KB)

2. Assembly of a VHF antenna (KB)

3. Trucks transport signal equipment (KB)


 
(Source: Photo album from unknown member of Co E, 32nd Sig Bn, early 1960s)
Photos displayed below are from a photo album of an unidentified member of the 32nd Signal Bn and appear to have been taken in the 1960-61 timeframe. Anybody with information pertaining to the photos - kaserne, personnel, equipment or events - please contact me.

32d Sig Bn - early 1960s
CFK, Darmstadt

 

1. (KB)

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8. (KB)

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26. (KB)






 
(Source: Email from Ray Roberston)
I served in D Co., 32nd Signal Battalion from 1960 to 1962 as a radio teletype operator and as company armourer. As I remember we were in Gibbs Barracks in Frankfurt before moving to Cambrai Fritsch Kaserne in Darmstadt.

I joined the Army in 1958. I did basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. The barracks were WWII temporary buildings. The heating system leaked so bad that we didn't use it. We preferred the cold to the smoke. The walls had cracks large enough that when it snowed we woke up with snow on the floor.

Next the Army sent me to Ft Devens to radio direction finding school (MOS 059) with the Army Security Agency. More WWII barracks but at least the heat worked. We used to supplement our $77 per month pay by picking apples at $.10 per bushel. I could make $40 on a good week end. The school lasted almost a year and graduated top in my class.

After spending all that time and money on my education, the Army in their infinite wisdom sent me to Germany to be a radio teletype operator. This was a job for which I had no training, but not much was needed. I was assigned to D Company, 32nd Signal Bn. More WWII barracks, but these were German and far superior to the ones stateside. But still the same double deck bunks, with 2" thick mattress, and the scratchy OD wool blankets. A welcome relief was no more KP (Kitchen Police), this was handled by German nationals. We also got 2 16" lockers. One was military, one civilian that was not subject to neatness inspection, only to an occasional shakedown inspection.

The 32nd had 4 main missions. Pole line companies that strung WD4 to connect the EE8 field phones, armed courier service, land line teletype service, and mobile radio teletype service. I was the latter. We used deuce and a half's (2.5 ton trucks) with a radio van permently affixed with a 10 KW gas generator in a pull behind trailer. The equipment in the van was WWII vintage, BC610 400 watt transmitter, a pair of R388 radios, a FSK modem, and 50 baud Baudot teletypes. When you consider that the Baudot code is 5 bits as opposed to 8 bit ASCII, this corresponds to less than 32 bytes per minute. My present 3 mbit internet service delivers 20 megabytes per minute, or about a half a million times faster. The truck full of equipment would fit in a suitcase.

While in the ASA Morse intercept school I had met some people who could send and receive Morse code at over 50 WPM, equivalent to all the sophisticated equipment in the truck. In fact I meet one individual who could receive Morse code at 90 WPM while smoking a cigar and reading a book. Some of the TTY operators claimed they knew people who could decipher the 50 baud FSK signal. I only got up to 35 WPM in Morse. While I could certainly decipher the RYRY test signal and some others I never learned to decode Baudot in my
head.

In garrison our mission was to keep a network up and running by passing test messages once an hour. We were net control with some infantry and armored divisions completing the rest of the net. Being low man on the totem pole I got the night shift. The radio operators from the infantry and armored divisions were not dedicated operators, but EM with other duties. After working all day they tended to nap on the night shift so a lot of test messages were logged on the landline after the fact.

Every winter we did training. FTX (Field Training exercise) Winter Shield was one. We got in our trucks and drove a few hours to somewhere in southern Germany. We set up in the woods next to some farmers tree plantation. Setting the camouflage nets up over the trucks in the snow was a physically challenging duty. Then I had to dig an area to set up my tent. At least I had the assistance of the air brakes on the trucks to blow up my air mattress. The sergeants got to sleep in the trucks. The generator had enough power to run the electric heaters in the radio van, but not enough for the tent. When we left the tree farmers inspected the area and were compensated for every tree that was run over for the total value that tree would have obtained over its expected lifetime.

I was interested in electronics and radio as a hobby also. I used to fix the electronic equipment of the newcomers who plugged stuff into the 220 volt circuits without using a step down transformer. I obtained a German ham radio license (DL5BL). I also became a MARS (Military Affiliate Radio Service) operator. They gave me a SP600 receiver and a Rosen Swartz transmitter. The receiver was American; the transmitter was captured WWII equipment. The SP600 was on par with the R388; the transmitter was equivalent to the BC610 but much better built. It was all neatly built in a 5 foot tall relay rack with each of the individual modules easily serviceable. The power resistors were a work of art made by Rosenthal.

In spite of my interest in radio and electronics the Army in their infinite wisdom decided to make me company armourer. This is another occupation for which I had no training. After leaving the Army I became an Electronic Engineer, so the former MOS was more suitable for me. As armourer I was in charge of the "gun room". I had to check out guns to three EM going on guard duty, check in the three from guards coming off shift, and issue one to the armed courier who drove down to the IG Farben building every morning. In the afternoon the courier returned his weapon. This totaled about a half hour's work per day and I had an assistant who did the afternoon "work". Since I was on duty during critical times I was exempt from formations. On the next FTX my job was to see that there was enough diesel fuel for the stove in the headquarters tent. The sergeant major liked comfort on his camping trips. This was more comfortable than the pup tent.

In addition to the routine duties I had to issue the weapons once a month for cleaning, issue weapons for training exercises and once I had to issue the guns in anger. This was the time when the Berlin wall was erected. We had a president who was receiving OJT (On the Job Training) as an international diplomat and was failing miserably with the Russians. So one day I gave the guns out so our guys could stare at the Russians in East Germany, who were staring back and probably just as interested in not starting anything as our guys were. This was the same time that we had a large influx of Reservist's on base that were very unhappy that their careers as civilians were being unfairly interrupted.

The guns I took care of were mostly M1 and M2 carbines and M1 Garrand rifles. There were a 6 M1911 45 caliber pistols, 4 Bazookas (3.5 inch shoulder fired rocket), 4 50 caliber machine guns, and 6 grease guns (45 Caliber hand held sub machine gun). Some of these guns saw service in WWII. It was interesting to see the difference in the quality of the weapons that seem to depend mainly on who made them. The Rockola (a juke box manufacturer) carbines were rough and ill fitting, IBM turned out a quality product. One of the Garrands had a serial number 1187 which made it among the very first to be manufactured. It was a work of art, and I managed to issue it to someone who had an appreciation of weapons. The Bazooka were fun to fire, the 50 cal MG was awesome to fire with every fifth round being a tracer. It was also a challenge to take apart for cleaning and to reassemble it. My personal favorite was the grease gun for its amazing simplicity and function. It was also nice because if you left the bolt in the gun room it was the lightest. The bolt was probably about one third of its total weight.

The biggest morale booster on base was the USO club. They had a double deck pinochle tournament once a week. It drew about 20 teams every week. I had a particularly good partner, a master sergeant; we won the tournament 14 out of 16 weeks. They sponsored bus trips most weekends to nearby towns, to castles, wine festivals, museums, etc. The cost of the round trip transportation was $.25. It provided an environment that was much more home like than the barracks. I was sad to see the USO eliminated, probably some cost cutting measure by the OJT president.

The other entertainment for the GI's was the EM club, which had booze for $.25 per mixed drink, good German beer for as little as $.05 on nickel beer night (Friday). They also had slot machines at which I was lucky and managed to win a couple of dollars. They were the ruin of some others. They occasionally had live entertainment from the states. Another favorite among some of the GI's was 20 mark alley (4.20 marks to the dollar = $4.67) near the Frankfurt Bonnhoff. This was practically popular on payday. Payday was the best day of the month to eat in the mess hall because very few GI's were left for the evening meal and they had very good steaks. Good food was in short supply so that was the only day when there was enough supply to meet demand.

While in Europe I did some traveling while on leave. On one trip four of us visited Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. We had wanted to do France, but the whole country was "Off Limits" to GI's due to the Algerian crisis. As a guide book we used Frommers "Europe on $5 a day". We weren't sure if that was for each of us or for all of us. We averaged $3 or 4 each. SP4 Powers had a small British car, I think a Morris Minor. It was a tight fit but we had a good time. At that time the Germans liked the Americans fairly well. The rest of the countries we were treated with emotions that ranged from indifference to outright hostility. I am not sure if we, who were all just past being teenagers, did much to endear ourselves to the locals. The worst German / American incident I can remember is the night when some GI got drunk and decided to drive his tank downtown.

The Army experience was an interesting one. I was not a particular sharp soldier. I managed to keep out of trouble, but was never recommended for promotion. As a result I was the highest ranking PFC in the company with 32 months time in grade as a PFC. My final salary was $125 a day, once a month. I am glad I went through it but I am not sure if you could pay me enough to do it again. It taught me about how people operate and that the Army was not my career choice. This motivated me enough that I was able to do very well in college.


I have a number of color slides that I took while stationed in Germany that I have digitized if you are interested.

32d Sig Bn - 1960-61
Gibbs Bks, Frankfurt

 

1. HHC V Corps sign (KB)

2. Main street on post - main gate in at end of the street (KB)

3. Ray Roberston (KB)


4. Painting barracks buildings (KB)

5. Poker game on pay day (KB)

6. Field inspection (KB)


7. Another view of preparations (KB)

8. Close order drill (KB)

9. Trinkhalle across from Gibbs (KB)


32d Sig Bn - 1960-61
CFK, Darmstadt

 

1. Motor pool (KB)

2. Repair shop building (KB)

3. Parade field (KB)


32d Sig Bn - 1960-61
Wintershield

 

1. FTX Wintershield (KB)

2. FTX Wintershield (KB)

3. FTX Wintershield (KB)


4. FTX Wintershield (KB)






 
1978
(Source: Email from William R Meaney, HHC, 32nd Sig Bn, 1978)
I was stationed at McNair Kaserne with C Co, 32nd Sig Bn and HHC, 32nd Sig Bn from 1974-1978. In 1978 I rotated back to the States for 18 months and then returned to the same job at HHC, 32nd Sig Bn in May of 1980. I was with the Battalion when it reorganized into the 22nd Signal Brigade. Also served with 19th MMC, 3rd SUPCOM, at Gibbs Bks, Frankfurt (Sept 1981-March 1983) and Wiesbaden AB (March 1983 - August 1988).

I was the NCOIC of HHC Engineer Shop. I was an Sp/5 52D30 generator mechanic. During all major field exercises, all of the generator mechanics in the Bn fell under my control. We provided maintenance, and back up support for HQ V Corps and the Bn/Bde.

The 32nd Sig Bn consisted of A, B, C, D, 17th and 201st Signal Companies. It was the largest signal battalion in the US Army at the time. We provided communications for V Corps.

(Webmaster note: Companies A, B and the 201st were command operations companies that provided tactical communications facilities for Corps Headquarters at main, alternate and SUPCOM respectively. Co "C" was the command radio relay and cable company, providing multichannel communications between echelons of V Corps Headquarters and headquarters of the Corps' major subordinate commands. Co "D" was the corps artillery radio relay company and provided multichannel commo between V Corps Headquarters and the V Corps artillery groups as well as the corps tactical command post.)

The Battalion had numerous types of communications vans; 1.5KW through 100KW power generating equipment; 5, 10, and 100KW utility power transformers; and the usual military wheeled vehicles.

The 201st Signal Company was partly located in the Abrams Building at V Corps HQ and provided inter-corps and theater commo; the Rear element at McNair Kaserne provided back up.

The 17th Signal (Detachment) was located somewhere in Darmstadt with a back up element at McNnair. They provided high security commo.

The pictures I took (see below) were taken in the middle of REFORGER 78 (Aug-Oct 1978). I rotated to the States in the second half of REFORGER.

32d Sig Bn - 1978
McNair Bks, F.-Höchst

 

1. Main gate (KB)

2. "Quad" looking east towards main gate (KB)

3. "Quad" looking west (KB)


REFORGER 1978
Fliegerhorst Ksn







1. Airfield tower (KB)

2. Airfield tower (KB)

3. Signal center (KB)


4. Airfield operations during REFORGER (KB)

5.
(KB)


6.
(KB)



7. (KB)

8. (KB)

9. (KB)


REFORGER 1978
near Friedberg







1. POL point (KB)

2. (KB)

3. Field site near Friedberg (KB)


4. (KB)

5. SGT George White, Co "C" (KB)

6. (KB)


7. (KB)

8. (KB)

9. (KB)


10. (KB)

11. (KB)

12. SGT Robert Tripp, HHC Tanker Driver (KB)


13. (KB)

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17. (KB)




Add'l Unit Members
32nd Sig Bn







1. Sp4 Bill Meaney

2. Sp5 David Seals, HHC Engineer Shop Generator Mechanic

3. 1st SGT Santerre, HHC, 32nd Sig Bn

4. Sp4 Cindy Copeland, Co "B" 32M

5. Sp4 Nomie Rodriguez (Bill Meany's wife)

6. CW2 Richard Spanton, OIC HHC Engineer Shop

7. CW2 Gary Cavender, OIC HHC BMO

8. SGT Steven McWilliams, NCOIC Co "C" Engineer Shop

9. SGT Stanley McDavid, Co "C" Generator Mechanic



 
1982
(Source: Email from Michael S. Cunningham, Bravo Co, 32nd Sig Batt., 1982-84)
The site brought back a lot of memories. I was there from June 1982 to Sept 84. I was in Bravo Co. 32nd Sig. We were at McNair. I guess from what I read they are not there anymore? Is this true and if so what do they do with that building now?

I was a light wheel, generator mechanic there, so we worked down the street from the actual barracks. I can remember the first time I got there and thought "Oh my god, they sent me to prison," because that's what it looked like. But I got to love the place over time and had a great time there.

I was wondering if you get any mail from other people who were there at the same time I was? If you ever hear from anyone else from Bravo Company I would love to hear from them.

Thanks a lot. You brought back a lot of great memories.
Michael Cunningham

 
201st Signal Company
1971-73
(Source: Email from George Lopez, 201st Sig Co, 1971-73)

Three buddies
 
I was assigned there from April 1971 to Oct 1973. I still have alot of pictures and memories, however when I was on my way out in Ft. Dix , one of the female clerks ask me if she could have my unit crests for her collection. I did not care at the time and now I have looked everywhere for those unit crests for my class A's, which I still am proud to show off to my family and friends.

My main job, when I was assigned there was 32F Radio Teletype Operator. We were a mobile unit and not a very big company, the 201st Signal Co, 32nd Signal Battalion. I was assigned a 2-and-a-half ton truck with a radio shack tied down to the bed. We had maybe ten or so trucks and other support vechicles, to maintains us once in the field, which we only went out maybe once per month or so.
Each trip out of McNair we would drive directly to the outskirts of Rhein Main Air Base, and set up shop. Nowadays, the area has been off limits since a lot of the terrain has been destroyed from all the years of the military going there.

During the rest of the time was spent working at the motor pool, making sure all the vechicles were up to par. I remember I got pulled over by some MP's to check out my truck and was awarded a letter of commendation for not getting any strikes, by my CO in formation soon after.

 I would also like to let everybody know that my late father, who just passed away this April was a decorated WWII soldier, who saw action in the North Africa and Silicy campaigns. He was wounded before D-Day and missed out on the action. I have copies of his DD214 and he was awarded seven medals.

201st Sig Co - 1971-73
McNair Bks, F.-Höchst

 
1. 201st Sig Co trucks (KB)






 
(Source: USAREUR STATION LIST, 30 Dep 1971)
201st Signal Operations Company (Medium Headquarters), MTOE 11-127G, Höchst, APO 09757

The 201st Signal Company provided communications support to the V Corps Support Command. (Another signal operations company on the VII Corps side, the 472nd Signal Company at Nellingen, provided similar communications support to VII COSCOM. This unit was attached to the 34th Sig Bn.)

 
Related Links:
32nd Signal Battalion - official website of the active unit in Germany
McNair Kaserne - Late 1970s - Doug Otoupal's website dedicated to his tour with the 32nd Sig bn at McNair Kaserne