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History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 3-13:
Historic Modes of Naval Communications
1. ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL TYPES
Since the time man became gregarious he has sought means of instantaneous long-distance communication with his friends in order that they might succor him when in difficulty or join him in rejoicing in his glories. Before he discovered his ability to control fire such requirements were met by the use of messengers when the distances were greater than sounds would cover. With fire he was able to increase the distance by the transmission of a limited amount of intelligence using signals prearranged with those allied with him.
Early Greek, Persian, and Jewish history records numerous instances when signal fires were used and it must be assumed that these were productive of the most spectacular results. Homer's "Iliad" tells of the chain of beacons, prearranged by the gullible Agamemnon and the beguiling Clytemnestra, whereby he foretold his return to Mycenae after his successful 10 years' seige of Troy, about 1200 B.C., thus giving her and Aegisthus time to arrange his assassination.
One of the first recorded naval usages of fire signals was in the same seige of Troy, when Agamemnon used the flare of a flame from his vessel to signal the beginning of his successful invasion. Herodotus wrote that, during the invasion by Xerxes, three Greek picket vessels off Magnesia sighted the van of the Persian Fleet and warned the Greek Fleet at Artemisium by signal fires. Thucydides records two uses of beacon fires; the first, in the year 427 B.C., when a Spartan fleet of 53 vessels was signaled that 60 Athenian triremes were headed up the coast to attack them; the second, in 411 B.C., when Sestos was warned that 73 Spartan vessels, which had eluded the Athenian fleet at Lebos, were headed for that city.
The Bible records early Jewish use of fire for signaling in Jeremiah 6:1:
O ye Children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.
Plutarch, in describing the conditions which existed in the Mediterranean before Pompey's campaign against the pirates, noted that the latter were well equipped and familiar with the use of beacon towers.
The use of artificial light as a means of warning, or calling to arms, has continued throughout the years and down to the present time. In describing the approach of the Spanish Armada toward the south coast of England, Macaulay wrote:
From Eddystone to Berwick bound, from Lynn to Milford Bay,
Still later, at the beginning of our own American Revolution, signal lights were used on the occasion immortalized by Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride":
That time of slumber was as bright and busy as the day.
For swift to east and swift to west the ghastly warflame spread.
High on St. Michael's mount it shone, it shone on Beachy Head.
Far on the deep the Spaniard saw, along each southern shire.
Cape beyond cape, in endless range, those twinkling points of fire.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
This primitive and limited mode of communication did not go unimproved. It was unreliable during daylight and its range was controlled by terrain. The advent of fire was followed by man's acquisition of the knowledge of working and burnishing metals and manufacturing crude implements of war, both offensive and defensive. He was quick to note that the polished surfaces of shields glinted in the sunlight and that this was visible for miles. Herodotus relates that, in 480 B.C., a signal was transmitted from Athens to Marathon by means of a burnished shield. However, the Persians, well aware of the limitations of the beacon by night and the reflection of the sun by day, continued the use of a well-trained courier system, for the same writer also noted;
By land or sea from the town tonight
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
The Persian messengers travel with a velocity which nothing human can equal . . . . . Neither snow nor rain, nor heat nor darkness are permitted to obstruct their speed.1
Agrippa, in a paper published in Antwerp in the 16th century, claimed that Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher of Samos, was aware of the use of the sun's reflection from polished metal for signaling purposes. The lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt, is purported to have had a reflecting mirror atop it as early as 300 B.C.2 Emperor Tiberius ruled Rome from the island of Capri for 10 years, around 37 A.D., transmitting his orders by means of the heliograph.3 This indicates that the Romans, at this time, used some form of telegraphic code in the transmission of information. In Algeria, the Moors were using a device similar to the heliograph in the 11th century.4
In the ever-continuing struggle for naval supremacy man increased the size and number of his ships and sailed them together for both defensive and offensive purposes. The manipulation of sails, the location of national ensigns or other flags or shapes upon the masts, lanterns and gunfire sufficed for signaling in the earlier loose formations. As time went on, tactics changed and tighter formations became necessary to provide mutual protection. The complexity of maneuvers increased and required more signals.
The invention of the telescope, by Hans Lippershey in 1608, and of the binocular, by Gallileo the following year, increased the range of man's vision, especially at sea. Some 40 years later the Duke of York, later James II, introduced a flag signaling system in the British Navy. This was a simple system, contained in the "Fighting Instructions," consisting of less than 25 signals which could be made by the display of any one of 5 flags from any one of vantage points; the foretruck, maintruck, mizzentruck, spanker gaff, or after flagstaff.5
2. SIGNALING DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Although, at the outbreak of the American Revolution, the English Navy was the best and most efficient in the world, there had been little improvement in its tactical signaling during the 18th century. Lord Anson, while First Lord of the Admiralty, had authorized maneuvers in addition to those contained in the "Fighting Instructions." However, there being "no means of signaling them . . . confusion became the order of the day."6 Adm. Lord Richard Howe, while engaged in leading the British against the colonists, became sufficiently provoked and aroused to attempt a revision of the signal system of the "Fighting Instructions." In his proposed revision a page was devoted to the use of each flag and its tactical meaning when hoisted in any of various specified positions. This revision was not accepted and no change was made in the basic system.7
Our Revolutionary Fleet was made up of privateers, State navies, and the Continental Navy. There was little difference between the first two groups relative to their emphasis on signaling. Usually there were simple instructions covering recognition signals and a few maneuvering signals for ships in company, issued by commanders for vessels under their command. Typical of these is an instruction excerpted from an operation order of that time:
Should anyone of the fleet discover a strange sail, he will hoist a lantern in the best place to be seen and fire a gun, if he has one.8
Although somewhat in variance with existent naval strategy, vessels of these units generally fought singly and little needed a publication such as the "Fighting Instructions" of the British.
On 5 January 1776, the Naval Committee of the Continental Congress issued its "Orders and Directions for the Commander in Chief of the Fleet of the United Colonies." These were possibly the first naval instructions issued by the Continental Congress. In these orders, Commodore Ezek Hopkins, our first Naval Commander in Chief, was instructed:
to devise or adopt and give out to the Commanding Officer of every Ship, such Signals and other marks and distinctions as may be necessary for their directions.9
The orders issued by Commodore Hopkins and "given to the several Captains in the fleet on sailing from the Capes of Delaware, February 17, 1776,"10 consisted of a few tactical maneuvers and battle orders which were signaled by the manipulation of sails or the position from which pennants, the ensign, or other national flags were flown.11 Even in comparison to the inadequate signal systems used by the English and other European navies, these must be regarded as elementary.
In January 1777, Robert Morris, a member of the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress, directed Capt. Nicholas Biddle to send him--
Signals by which you may be known, in case we should send out any of our small cruisers to look for you, also to deliver to the other frigates that may go from hence to Rhode Island, . . .12
Later in April of the same year, the committee ordered the commander of the squadron sent to intercept the British Jamaica Fleet--
Fix signals for discovering the enemy, their numbers force and number of the convoy, how they bear, . . .13
In April 1778, the Marine Committee promulgated general instructions, including the following, which expressed its policy in the matter of new signals:
As the New Signals for the Navy have been sent to the Navy Board of the Eastern Department and have been given to several Commanders we think it would be improper to alter them at this time, however as it may be necessary hereafter to change the Signals, we would be glad if you would compose a set.14
While it appears that little improvement took place during the conflict, the subject of signaling was discussed in at least 26 of the "Out-Letters" of the Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty between January 1777 and October 1780.15
It remained for Capt. Richard Kempenfelt, Royal Navy, to whom Lord Howe turned over his signal book upon retirement, to carry on the fight and lay the foundation for a future visual signal system ultimately to be adopted by all navies. A serious student of naval tactics, he determined that the "whole system of the 'Fighting Instructions' should be abolished because of their utter inefficiency."16 He developed a system for the Royal Navy, based upon that of the French tactician, Mahe' de la Bourdonnai, wherein numbers were allotted to flags. Kempenfelt faced a long struggle against custom, tradition, and the inherent inertia of his senior officers, but he seized every opportunity to use his system in squadron drills. His superior in command, Admiral Geary, once chided him:
Now my dear Kempy, do for God's sake, do my dear Kempy, oblige me by throwing your signals overboard and make that which we understand "Bring the enemy to close order action."17
Finally, in 1798, it was officially accepted. The system of allotting numbers to flags revolutionized tactics since the number of signals could be increased to whatever might be reasonably necessary. Kempenfelt's system contained a combination of 246 signals.18
3. EARLY NAVY SIGNALING
In 1797, Capt. Thomas Truxtun, USN, issued the first American naval signal book using the numerary system. This system encompassed 10 numeral pennants, made of combinations of red, white, blue, and yellow bunting, with flags for repeaters.19 It contained approximately 290 signals. During fog they were indicated by gun and musket fire and at night by lanterns and gunfire. Since these directions were indefinite, he stated:
They must have been agreed on beforehand; for example, each light to tell for one, and each gun firing for ten more or less, as may be agreed upon; so if you want to signal 27, you fire two guns, after having put seven lights in the most conspicuous place in the ship . . . .20
Truxtun's advice, as contained in his "Signal Book," should be interesting to naval officers of today:
For the advantage of dispatch, and the more convenient distribution of orders, the officers summoned by signal are to attend on board the Commodore, provided with an orderly book, wherein they are to minute down the receipt of all public letters and orders then to be delivered, to enter all verbal directions given, and all written instructions to be copied from the daybook of the ship in which the Commodore is embarked, and to sign their names in evidence of the receipt of such orders and directions when so required.
Official recognition was given Truxtun's "Signal Book" by the Secretary of War, James McHenry, but unfortunately its use was soon discontinued because of discrepancies found between the original manuscript and the printed copies.22
The establishment and organization of a navy, in an infant country, is much more difficult than imgined by people in general--for the officers in the first place are, and from the nature of their previous life, cannot be otherwise than uninformed men, who mostly have an aversion to reading and studious application, and notwithstanding there are authors to be found on the various subjects of naval science, yet they are so lame that there are many particulars essential in an extreme, that will be found impracticable to get a knowledge of from such authors or the commanders of any old maritime country; for it is but natural that nations frequently in the habit of quarrelling and going to war should be tenacious of communicating the improvements they make, lest their enemies by gaining a knowledge thereof, should turn them to their own advantage; and it is equally natural, that officers who look forward to become conspicuous in their profession, should also be very tenacious of communicating what their genius or industry had invented, except to their own nation, particularly as it is by various maneuvers, new and old, that a competent knowledge of tactics and seamanship is acquired, and that advantage are frequently gained at sea by very inferior forces over superior ones is evident. As for instance, Admiral Cornwallis's escape in 1795, with a few ships from a French fleet, as also Sir John Jervis's victory over a Spanish fleet of double his force, in February last; and again, the numerous advantages gained by Sir Sidney Smith, Sir B. Warren, Sir Edward Pellew, and many others of the British Navy, during the present European war, where their force was very inferior to that of their enemy, but the abilities of the commander of a fleet in other respects ever so great, and that of the Captains ever so intrepid, without he contrives simple and efficient signals, the success of a sea-battle even with superior force must and will be always uncertain: hence it is, that the importance of this subject must be very obvious to the war officers of our country, and to every reflecting mind, and the more so, as the outlines of signals and great naval evolutions can only be borrowed, from authors now extant, and but few of the number and sort that are necessary to form a complete code for the government of the Navy of the United States of America are attainable.21
After the withdrawal of the "Truxtun Signal Book," one compiled by Commodore John Barry, USN, and Capt. James Barron, USN, was issued in 1802, under a directive of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddart. This was commonly known as the "Barron Signal Book" and was used until it was compromised, sometime during the War of 1812. It was better organized than Truxtun's but was not basically different.23 During this period numerous special signal books were used for specific missions.
Following the War of 1812, a revision of the "Barron Signal Book" was made by Commodore William Bainbridge, USN, and approved for use by the Secretary of the Navy. This revision substituted flags for pennants and added shapes. A private number system, which was merely a simple system of encipherment, was added. From time to time new editions were promulgated, containing additional signals required by new tactical maneuvers and battle orders, with the format remaining unchanged.
Until 1842, the senior member of the Navy Board was responsible for the signal book and the private cipher. With the establishment of the Bureau system in that year the responsibility was assigned to the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repair.24 In 1853 the responsibility for the private cipher was transferred to the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography.25
Meanwhile, with the advent of the telegraph, which came into extensive use between the Navy Department and commanders of squadrons based in ports where this facility was available, the Navy, in February 1847, adopted the Rogers and Black "Semaphore Dictionary" but retained the signal book for tactical purposes.26
Illustrative of the communication difficulties existing in 1846, when the Mexican War began, Commodore Sloat, commanding the U.S. Pacific Squadron off Mazatlan, was unable to obtain news of its outbreak, since such news could only come through Mexico. Sloat was concerned that the British, who had also concentrated a sizable force at Mazatlan, would endeavor to occupy California under the pretext of protecting their financial investments there. Fortunately, one of his officers had received orders transferring him to other duty and, just before the outbreak, was traveling through Mexico on his way to the United States. Upon learning of the beginning of hostilities, he managed to get the information to Sloat, who moved in and seized California for the United States before the British commander received information that a state of war existed.27
In 1841, John Ericson, inventor of the screw propeller, was induced to come to the United States, where he designed the screw propelled U.S.S. Princeton. Following this, the transition from sail to steam was rapid. This caused many changes in tactics and the 1813 signal book, despite numerous revisions, soon became totally unusable.
In 1847 the Rogers and Black "Semaphoric Dictionary," and its included system of flag signals, was adopted additionally for tactical signals and promulgated to the service by the Secretary of the Navy.28
In 1856 Comdr. J. B. Marchand, USN, in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, discussed the shortcomings of a proposed revision of the signal book. He recommended the following: the altering of the numerical designation of the flags; that night signals be made by a series of lanterns which corresponded numerically with the day signals; explanations of the five orders of fleet sailing; diagrammatic explanations of maneuvers; the introduction of the steam trumpet for use in fogs, in lieu of the whistle; and the elimination of obsolete signals.29 The contents of the letter were sufficiently convincing to cause the Secretary to appoint a board, consisting of Marchand, Capts. Charles S. McCuley and E. A. F. Lavalette and Comdr. Charles Sterdman, USN, to compile a new signal book. The board completed this in 1858, taking cognizance of requirements resulting from changes which had occurred during the previous 45 years. The responsibility for the new signal book and the signal cipher was assigned the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, which already had the responsibility for the private cipher.30
The Rogers and Black "Semaphore Dictionary," adopted in 1847, was continued in use. It included a signaling system based upon the use of colored pyrotechnics. At this time, Gunner Costen improved the brilliancy of pyrotechnics and evolved a percussion ignition system which facilitated their use.31 In 1860 Roger's Commercial "Code of Signals" was added to the codes and ciphers in use.32
4. SIGNALING DURING THE CIVIL WAR
When officers from the Southern States resigned their commissions at the beginning of the Civil War, they took with them knowledge, and possibly copies, of all naval codes and ciphers. A new signal book was hastily compiled and issued in 1861 This action is difficult to understand in light of our present knowledge of cryptography. It would seem that a simple additive cipher, varying daily if necessary, for use with existing numeral codes, would have sufficed for tactical signaling, and that a transposition cipher of relative simplicity would have made telegraphic dispatches secure.
The sudden loss of officers, many of whom had been in responsible billets, resulted in the Navy Department becoming dominated by confusion. The failure to delegate the responsibility for code and ciphers to a qualified individual resulted in several actions which are difficult to understand. A circular, dated 12 September 1861, addressed to "the Regulars," contained a directive prohibiting the issue of the "Private Signal Book" to vessels commanded by volunteers.33 A few days later, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, directed that the Commercial Code, with an appendix of modifications "is to be used solely in communicating between the Regular and Volunteer Service."34
The new signal book, hastily prepared in 1861, was so unsatisfactory that many local changes were made to it. This soon resulted in so much confusion that the Bureau was forced to issue orders forbidding unauthorized changes.35
The responsibility for signals was transferred to the Bureau of Navigation in 1862 and that Bureau immediately installed the Myer's (wigwag) system of signaling and required all young officers to become proficient in its use.36
On 29 May 1862, the Secretary of the Navy appointed another commission to study the subjects of signals and signaling and to make recommendations for improvement. This was composed of Capt. A. W. Davis, USN, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation; Capt. A. W. Boche, USGS, and Joseph Henry, noted American scientist and first Director of the Smithsonian Institution. Excerpts from the commission's recommendations are quoted:
I. The Commission recommends the printing of the proposed new edition of the Telegraphic Dictionary.
Things moved slowly, with confusion continuing to exist, and in 1864, near the end of the war, Admiral Farragut wrote the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation:
II. It recommends the printing of a new edition of the Naval Signal Book with the reconstruction of the Naval Signal System, upon the basis proposed by the Bureau of Navigation. This improvement consists in giving to the flag and light symbols for day and night service, respectively, a unity and symmetry, which in the opinion of the Commission, would secure to these methods greater facility and efficiency in ordinary use, and, at the same time, furnish a means of confidential communication, even in the presence of an enemy in possession of the Signal Book. This is not a radical change of the present sets of Signal Flags and Lights. All the fundamental principles of the present system of day and night signals are to be retained.
III. The method, of Chronosemic Signals,37 of Mr. Greene, appears only to day and night use, in an open sky, but a matter of importance to a state of fog. The system is simple, precise, and comprehensive; while it appears to be susceptible of facility and rapidity of use.
These qualities, in addition to its apparent universality of application to all circumstances, either of weather or of situation, render Mr. Greene's method in the opinion of the Commission, worthy of a special consideration. They therefore recommend that this system be substituted for the present system of Flag Signals, and that such explanations of it be added that it may be used, if the occasion should acquire, in place of the usual system, for day and night service; a use for which it would be equally adapted, owing to its perfectly general nature.
IV. The method of Secret Signals, proposed by the Bureau was partially explained to the Commission; sufficiently so, to indicate the general principles upon which the method is based. The Commission is of the opinion that a method which promises the results thus set forth, would be highly useful to the Naval Service, and should be immediately introduced.38
You will have to do something to simplify the signals, they have been changed so frequently that we scarcely learn the flags before they are altered. I really beg that you will give this subject your attention for I look for some disaster daily.39
5. A DECADE OF STAGNATION
Following the Civil War, lethargy was dominant, insofar as improvement in signaling methods were concerned, and little of consequence occurred for several years. Finally, in 1869, effort was again made to correct conditions. A new signal book was issued and the flags were again changed.40 Commodore S. P. Lee, USN, was made the head of a newly established Navy Signal Office. He was directed to confer with the Chief Signal Officer of the Army--
for the propel teaching and organization of a signal corps in the Navy, similar to that now so successfully employed in the Army.41
Lee served in this capacity until 1870, when he was relieved by Commodore John J. Almy, USN, who was, in turn, relieved by Commodore Foxhall A. Parker, USN, in 1874. Much was done toward the furtherance of training of signalmen during this period, but no serious consideration was ever given to the establishment of a corps similar to that of the Army.
In 1869 a telegraphic office was established in the Naval Observatory with lines connecting it to the Navy Department, the Washington Fire Alarm Telegraphic Office, and Western Union, for the purpose of communicating exact time.42 This was the forerunner of the Navy's present worldwide time broadcasts.
About 1872 the Navy Signal Office issued an American edition of the International Code. This proved of great value in facilitating communications between the Navy and our Merchant Marine.43
Despite Bureau requirements and quarterly submissions of reports stating the amount of time devoted to signal exercises and the degree of efficiency attained, interest in signaling appears to have waned. In 1882, the Chief Signal Officer, Capt. P. C. Johnson, USN, reported, "the practice of signaling has been neglected."44 This condition continued, with few corrective measures being taken, until the abolishment, in 1890, of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.
6. DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTRICAL COMMUNICATIONS IN THE NAVY
Experimentation with electric lights for naval signaling was commenced in 1875. Two years later Lieutenant W. N. Wood, USN, perfected an electric system for visually transmitting the English Morse telegraphic code, which had been adopted for use the previous year. This electric system was installed in U.S. naval vessels the following year.45 In 1891 the French Ardois system of light signaling was introduced in some squadrons.46 This was supplemented, in 1897, by the Telephotos system, similar to the Ardois but having an improved keyboard.47 Electrical equipment, which had been the assigned responsibility of the Bureau of Navigation, had become so complicated that that Bureau did not have qualified technical personnel capable of dealing with its intricacies. Consequently, in 1897 it was made the responsibility of the Bureau of Equipment. Since signaling equipment had, to a large extent become electrical, all signaling apparatus was included in this transfer.48
By 1890 commercial telegraphic or cable facilities were available in practically every port frequented by the Navy. These facilities provided rapid communication between the Navy Department and the commanders of squadrons, when in port. This permitted the Navy Department to keep its commanders advised of the political situation, but lessened the amount of discretion allowed them. Many a grizzled old seadog was wont to complain, "The Navy isn't what it used to be." A senior officer, while on the China station, is purported to have commented, "Now we have become mere messenger boys at the end of the cable."
The first known naval use of any light projector, which could be regarded a signal searchlight, was on board a Union warship blockading a Confederate-held port during the Civil War.49 While this device was especially well adapted for night signaling, it is also usable, to a limited extent, during daylight, depending upon the location and brilliance of the sun.
Later the arc-signal searchlight, with its quick-closing, venetian-blind shutter, and the portable 5-pound Aldis signal light were designed and developed for signaling purposes.50 Although not a competitor of the heliograph in range, a 12-inch searchlight, under favorable conditions, may be seen as far as 9 miles by day and over 16 miles at night. It has the added advantage over this ancient predecessor of not being dependent upon the sun.51
7. WINGED MESSENGERS
In the latter years of the century a version of the "winged messenger" system was added. In this case the "winged messengers" were homing pigeons, capable of flying considerable distances over water. Prof. Francis Marion, U.S. Naval Academy, was sent to Belgium to obtain information on the care and training of these birds. Upon his return he published a pamphlet of instructions on the subject.52 Cotes were established at several shore stations and training was conducted under the direction of well-qualified persons. Only limited success was obtained because the "messengers" were subjected to too many obstacles. The advent of radio, at this time, tended to dampen interest in the pigeons. A board appointed in April 1901, to consider the advisability of adopting a radio system, recommended the immediate abolishment of the homing pigeon service. Although there was considerable retrenchment in the program, as a result of this recommendation, it did not mean the end of this service in the Navy.53 As late as 1942, orders were issued to expand the flock of several hundred birds for use between dirigibles and their naval air stations.54
8. NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS DURING THE WAR WITH SPAIN
While driving back from the Capitol to the White House after the inauguration, 4 March 1897, Cleveland remarked to McKinley, "I am deeply sorry, Mr. President, to pass on to you a war with Spain. It will come within 2 years. Nothing can stop it." 55
McKinley shared Cleveland's pessimism and, from the beginning of his administration, took action to strengthen our coastal defenses. On 18 October 1897, the Secretary of the Navy appointed a board consisting of Comdr. John Schouler, USN, senior member; and Lt. C. H. Harlow, USN, Flag Lieutenant North Atlantic Squadron; Lt. J. H. Gibbons, USN, Naval Militia Bureau, Navy Department; and Lt. F. B. Anderson, Signal Officer Naval Militia of New York, for the purpose of considering the advisability of establishing coast signal stations as a part of the scheme of naval defense. Schouler submitted their recommendations on 27 October and they were subsequently approved by the Secretary, but were not put into effect immediately.56
When, by 9 April 1898, our relations with the Spanish Government had deteriorated to the point where war seemed inevitable, Capt. C. F. Goodrich, USN, was directed to organize the coast signal system in accordance with the approved recommendations. Three days later he wrote the commanding officers of naval militia organizations, providing them with complete details as to stations to be established, station personnel, equipment allowances, and details of organization.57
Congress, on 19 April, passed resolutions recognizing the independence of Cuba and authorizing the President to employ the military and naval forces of the United States in the support of a demand for the immediate withdrawal of Spain from that island. The Navy Department, on 22 April, directed Capt. Goodrich to establish the stations of the coast signal system. Within 2 weeks the entire system was placed in operation. The organization divided the Atlantic and gulf coasts into seven districts, each under a commanding officer, reporting directly to Captain Goodrich at his headquarters in the U.S.S. New Hampshire, armory of the 1st Naval Battalion of New York. The system consisted of 230 stations, provided by the Lighthouse Board, the Life-saving Service, the Weather Bureau, or the Navy. Thirty-six of these were primary stations, manned by naval militiamen. All stations were connected to telegraph or telephone systems and were equipped with the International Code of Signals, signal flags, shapes, torches, and an improved Ardois system of red and white lights. All signalmen were capable of signaling by wigwag and were equipped with good binoculars and powerful telescopes.58
During the short period of the war, the system, while not actually sighting an enemy, since there was none along the coast to sight, gave excellent service in keeping the Navy Department advised of the movements of ships and in affording the various navy yards advance information of the arrival of ships for stores, overhauls, or repairs. Its major contribution was in allaying the usual wartime fears of inhabitants of the coastal regions.59 Following the war, this system fell into disuse and was eventually disestablished. It has often been referred to as the predecessor of the U.S. naval communications system.
On the other side of the world, events occurred which pinpointed the weakness in depending upon nonnational communication facilities in time of war. Commodore George Dewey, USN, in command of the Asiatic Squadron, was in Hong Kong when he was alerted and given instructions on 25 February 1898. He remained there in order to keep informed of the political situation and to receive further orders. The Navy Department's cable connections with him were via the Atlantic, down through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, and on to Hong Kong. The Spanish Government's communication with its commander at Manila was via the necessary portion of the same cable and a British-owned cable between Hong Kong and Manila.
On 24 April, Dewey was directed to proceed against the Spanish Fleet at Manila. His sailing was delayed until the 27th, while he awaited the arrival of the U.S. consul from Manila. On 1 May Dewey arrived off Manila, engaged and defeated the Spanish Fleet. The city was at his mercy, but he had to wait for troops being transported from San Francisco before beginning land operations.
For the first time in history the political aspect of communications became a problem. The Navy Department considered it advantageous to declare submarine cables neutral and on 25 April directed Admiral Sampson not to interfere with their operation. Although Dewey received no such order, he had not planned to sever the cable between Hong Kong and Manila. In fact, he had not even contemplated the necessity of using dispatch boats between the two cities.60 After the Battle of Manila Bay, Dewey sent a message to the Spanish commander proposing that both belligerents be permitted to use the cable between Manila and Hong Kong.61 This proposal was refused. The cable company's Philippine concession stipulated that no messages forbidden by the Spanish Government would be transmitted over it. Since it was only of value to the Spanish defenders the cable was severed, at Dewey's direction, on 5 May. No effort was made to haul its seaward end abroad ship to reestablish communication with Hong Kong. Not being able to use the cable from Manila, Dewey was forced to send a dispatch vessel with the report of his victory to Hong Kong for cable transmission to Washington, where the message arrived on 7 May. Had the cable remained intact there would have been no further fighting after 12 August, for on that date, as U.S. troops were moving in to attack and occupy Manila, the peace protocol was being signed in Washington. Dewey received this information, on 16 August, 4 days after the Spanish surrender.
The severing of the Manila-Hong Kong cable established a precedent. Shortly thereafter, the Navy Department directed the severing of cables landing in Cuba in order to isolate the Spanish commander from his homeland. This was accomplished on 4 June.
As a result of one of the lessons learned during the conflict, the U.S. Government insisted that a proposed cable between the United States and the Philippines land only on soil under U.S. sovereignty. The cable company was completely in agreement, but insisted that the Navy Department lend full assistance and backing in the acquisition of the necessary islands, either by the treaty of peace with Spain or by purchase. In order to provide one of the landings, the U.S.S. Bennington was sent to occupy unclaimed Wake Island in the name of the U.S. Government. Additional naval assistance was provided by a hydrographic survey west of Hawaii.
During this war intrafleet communications were satisfactory and little comment was made concerning them. The acute need of some means of rapid communications between the various squadrons and the Navy Department was positively indicated, since there developed a growing tendency to make naval strategic decisions at Washington instead of in the theater of operations. Communications between the Army and Navy were not satisfactory during the joint operations conducted along the south coast of Cuba.62 In view of the developing needs, the advent of radio was most timely and the Navy Department became interested in its possibilities immediately upon the conclusion of the conflict.
1 Herodotus, "Arania," book VIII, ch. 98.
2 Alvin L. Harlow, "Old Wires and New Waves" (D. Appleton-Century Co., 1936.), p. 10.
3 Ibid., p. 10. In this case the heliograph refers to an apparatus for telegraphing by means of the sun's rays thrown from a mirror or polished metal surface.
4 Ibid., p. 10.
5 Ibid., p. 11.
6 Ralph Earle, "The Origin of Our Signal Book," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 38, September 1912, pp. 1037-1038.
7 Ibid., p. 1039.
8 Gilbert Totten McMaster, "Signal Codes Used by Our Revolutionary Commanders for the Convoy of Merchantmen," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 38, Sept. 1912.
9 "The Correspondence of Ezek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy," edited and annotated by Alverda S. Beck (Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, 1933), p. 7.
10 George Henry Preble, "History of the Flag of the United States of America" (A. Williams & Co., Boston 1882.), p. 232.
11 "The Correspondence of Ezek Hopkins," op. cit., p. 17.
12 "Out-Letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, 1776-1780," vol. I, p. 65, edited by C. O. Paullin, New York.
13 Ibid., p. 119.
14 Ibid., pp. 223-224.
15 Ibid., vols., I, II.
16 McMaster, op. cit., p. 1039.
17 "Signals and Instructions" (1776-94), edited by Julian S. Corbett, printed for the Navy Records Society, London 1908, p. 40.
18 Earle, op. cit., p. 1040.
19 When the same numeral flag was required in a signal more than once, a repeater pennant was used. Thus, the display for signal 111 would be one-pennant, first-repeater, second-repeater.
20 Thomas Truxtun, "Instructions, Signals and Explanations Offered for the United States Fleet," (printed by John Hayes, Baltimore, Md., 1797), p. 29.
21 Truxtun, op. cit., pp. 35-36.
22 "History of Naval Communications 1776-1919" (unpublished manuscript), p. 26.
23 Circular letter, dated 21 Sept. 1861, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
24 Circular letter, dated 23 Jan. 1862, Bureau of Ordnance, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
25 Records, dated 16 Nov. 1863, Bureau of Ordnance, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
26 B. Franklin Greene, "Chronosemic Signals" (Washington, D.C.).
27 Files, dated 7 July 1863, Bureau of Navigation, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
28 Secretary of the Navy letter of promulgation, dated 16 Feb. 1847.
29 "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion, 1906," series I, vol. 1, p. 146, Washington, D.C.
30 Letters, dated 21 Sept. 1858, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
31 "History of Naval Communications 1776-1919," op. cit., p. 26.
32 Letters, dated 27 Feb. 1960, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, Naval Archives, Washington, D.C.
33 Records, dated 12 Sept. 1861, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
34 Circular letter, dated 21 Sept. 1861, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
35 Circular letter, dated 23 Jan. 1862, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
36 Records, dated 16 Nov. 1863, Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
37 Greene, op. cit., p. 7, "Chronosemic Signals" (chronos, time, and sema, a sign: thus, time sign) are based upon use of a series of sound signals combined with time intervals readily applicable to a code and employable during fog or any condition of weather, day or night.
36 Files, dated 7 July 1863, Bureau of Navigation, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
39 "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of Rebellion," op. cit., series I, vol. I, p. 146.
40 "General Orders and Circulars, Navy Department, 1863-69," p. 365.
41 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1869, p. 52.
42 Ibid., p. 56.
43 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1874, p. 62.
44 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1882.
45 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1878, p. 157.
46 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1892, p. 131.
47 Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1897, p. 200. The Ardois system was used for night signaling at sea with Morse code, in which a series of double lamps, arranged vertically, and showing alternate red and white lights were operated from a key-board.
48 Annual Report of the Secretary of Navy, 1890, p.110.
49 Ernest Boghosian, "History of Naval Searchlights," Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers, vol. 68, No. 3, August 1956, p. 503.
50 "Searchlights and Signal Lights," Navy Department, Bureau of Steam Engineering, November 1918, Washington, D.C., p. 115.
51 J. Heinz, "Electric Searchlights at Sea," Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, vol. 20, April 1894, p. 781.
52 Francis Marion, "Report on the Military and Private Homing Pigeon System of Belgium," Records, Bureau of Equipment, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
53 Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1902.
54 Press and radio release, Navy Department, 28 Feb. 1942.
55 David Saville Muzzey, "A History of Our Country" (Ginn & Co., Boston, Mass., 1943), p. 533.
56 Report of board appointed to consider establishment of coast signal stations, dated 27 Oct. 1897.
57 F. B. Anderson, "The Coast Signal System," United States Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 25, Dec. 1899, p. 732.
58 Ibid., p. 742.
60 H. W. Wilson, "The Downfall of Spain" (Sampson, Low, Marston Co., London, 1900), p. 157.
61 Nathan Sargent, "Admiral Dewey and the Manila Campaign," Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, 1904, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
62 Infra, 7sec2.
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