A History of the 3104th Signal Service Battalion

United States Army


February 1, 1944 to August 17, 1945
 
Compiled By Frank H Grubbs
Revised May 21, 2007


The 3104th Signal Service Battalion was activated on February 1, 1944, at Ft. Monmouth, NJ, and stationed at Camp Charles Wood, NJ. Consisting of 13 officers and 135 enlisted men, it was originally commanded by 1st Lt Robert J. Sommer.

The unit moved to Ft. Monmouth on April 7, 1944 and on May 6 moved to Camp Edison, NJ. On May 15, 1944, the battalion again moved, this time to Ft Slocum, NY, to prepare for overseas movement.

On May 20, 1944, the unit boarded the "Brig Gen Yates" bound for Hoboken, NJ, arriving at the Holland-America Lines pier from which it sailed for Europe at 7:30 am on May 21 aboard the MV Rangitata, a 16,737 ton, diesel-driven ship built in 1929 in Clydebank, Scotland. With a length of 552' 5" and a beam of 70' 2", it was designed to carry 2,616 passengers and capable of 14 knots. Of Australian Registry, it had been operated prior to the war by the New Zealand Shipping Co, Ltd. Click here for pictures and some historical notes about the Rangitata.

At this time the battalion was commanded by Lt Col Marshall D Barr, with Maj James B Kirkpatrick, ExO; Capt Joseph E Venables, Adjutant; 1st Lt John W Eaves, Battalion Supply and Motor Officer.

Company A was commanded by Capt Lewis E Horn and the supply and motor officer was 2d Lt Russell T Crews. Company B was commanded by Capt Lewis S Johnson, and the supply and motor officer was 2d Lt Frank H Grubbs. Company C was commanded by Capt Kent R Stone, and the supply and motor officer was 2d Lt William R Higley.

The battalion had an authorized strength of 66 officers and 633 enlisted men organized into a headquarters and Headquarters Company and three operational companies. Each company consisted of a number of "teams", each comprised of four to ten highly trained enlisted men and two officers. Each team was custom designed to provide a specific signal service in European Theater of Operations at headquarters ranging from Communications Zone Headquarters down to Corps and Army units.

Companies A, B and C consisted of teams designed to

Operate Radio Teletype Centers

Operate long range VLF radio transmitters

Operate the European end of Transatlantic and Cross-Channel Undersea Cables which had been severed by the Germans

Provide cryptographic services and cryptographic equipment maintenance

Operate Message Centers

(The Battalion Table of Organization is included with the Fulkerson papers attached.)

Sailing in a convoy of 35 ships, the HMT Rangitata arrived at Liverpool on the thirteenth day out of New York. After debarkation at the Princess Landing in Liverpool early on Saturday, June 3, 1944, the unit entrained at Riverside RR station and travelled by train to Subdepot G-25 just west of Toddington, Gloucestershire, about 30 miles from Cheltenham. The unit was quartered in Nissen huts in front of Toddington Manor, an early 19th Century mansion near Tewksbury. At that time the Manor was vacant except for a small medical unit. An interesting history of this estate, both before and after the 3104th's brief stay can be seen at the Adam-Stanford.co.uk web site. Click here to see that website which is devoted to the history and use of this beautiful property which is now being restored. Toddington Manor has had long and interesting history, much of which took place after WWII.

During this period final preparations were made for departure to the continent, and on July 17, 1944, the battalion moved to the Marshalling Area at Hiltingbury Hants near Southampton, boarding the SS Neuralia (from Glasgow, of the B.I.S.N. Co. Line) at 1300.Click here for pictures and some historical notes about the Neuralia. (Page Down 19 times for the Neuralia.) Use "Back" button to return. The ship sailed for France at 0300 on July 21. Also on board ship and landing at the same time were the staff of 12th Army Group.

The 3104th Sig Serv Bn transferred to LCT's and landed on Omaha Beach at 9:00 pm on July 22, 1944. It was transported to Valognes, on the Cotentin Peninsula, and bivouaced in an apple orchard just south of the town. The apple orchard has now been replaced with houses.

During this period the various teams of the battalion were deployed to their assignments as the units which they were to serve landed in France. Company B, for instance, sent teams to Rennes, LeMans, St. Brieuc, Lannion, Landivisieu, Lanhourneau, Chartres, Etampes, Paris, Versailles, Caen, Reims, LeHavre, Paris, Brussells, and Antwerp.

The history of the various teams constitutes the history of the battalion because the battalion was simply an collection of teams designed to perform various functions and to service higher command units...hence the designation "Service Battalion." This work began immediately after landing in Normandy. It is therefore useful to examine the work of these teams.

One team, a part of Company C, was among the first teams to go into action. Led by Lieutenants Alfred L Reich and Robert A Castrignano, it included the following enlisted men:

T Sgt Fred D Kerridge S Sgt Harry O Brunn, Jr S Sgt Gordon F Osterhaus Tec 3 George C Everett
Tec 3 Leo A Ratterman Tec 4 Joseph W Bowlds Tec 4 John W Darby Tec 4 Henry L Gagne
Tec 4 Edward J Lanaham Tec 4 Martin W Pearlstein Tec 4 Gerald D Walk Tec 4 Leo Silverman
Tec 5 Orlando C French Tec 5 Chester S Friedman Tec 5 Benjamin F Myers Tec 5 Warren W Roberts
Tec 5 Harold Sanders Pvt Daniel Althoff Pvt Herbert E Housman  

Working with a small detachment of the 980th Sig Serv Co, this team selected sites, constructed buildings, installed a complete 15-kilowatt Press Wireless radioteletypewriter transmitter station in an apple orchard near Valognes, erected a rhombic antenna oriented towards England, and established a cross-channel radio relay circuit. They also installed two Federal 1-kilowatt transmitters and fifteen SCR 399A 300-watt transmitters. They had communications services available when COMZ headquarters opened at Valognes on August 7, 1944.

Shortly after the breakthrough at St. LO, the team disassembled and packed all of the equipment and moved to Laval to await further orders. The team was next moved to Trappes, about 15 miles southwest of Paris where it operated the French Commercial Radio Station transmitter.

Early in January, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, the team was moved to Namur, Belgium and assigned temporarily to the 999th Signal Company as a part of Advance Section Communications Zone (ADSEC) and worked with the Radio Division of ADSEC. Following the Battle of the Bulge, the team moved along with ADSEC from Namur to Bonn, Germany, thence to Frankfurt, and finally to Fulda, Germany where it remained until early June, 1945, when it rejoined Company C, 3104th Sig Serv Bn, near Paris for movement to the Pacific Theater. For its work with ADSEC, the team received a commendation for their contribution to the "establishment and maintenance of superior radio Communications" for that headquarters.

On September 11, 1944, Detachment F, a Company B radio teletype team consisting of 19 enlisted men and led by Lt William O Zimmerman, Jr, and Lt Frederick G Boege was ordered to proceed to Hq, Oise Base Section, at Fountainebleau, France. This Base Section was subsequently redesignated Channel Base Section. Detachment F was attached to Headquarters Company, Hq, Channel Base Section.

Detachment F accompanied the advance section of the Hq to LeHavre on 18 September and set up an SCR 309, establishing contact with JEAR as Station JEEG-2. This radio telegraph station (a CW station, not radioteleype) initially provided the only channel of communication other than courier, for Hq, Channel Base Section. The detachment was among the first United States troops to enter LeHavre after the British had captured it. After setting up the station it was discovered that the whole hillside surrounding it was mined with bangalore torpedoes wired for electrical detonation. The station was promptly moved to another location.

On 10 October 1944, two officers and ten enlisted men of this detachment, augmented by six enlisted men, crypto and message center personnel of the 830th Signal Service Company, moved to Antwerp, Belgium, and set up an SCR 399 as station JEEG-3, establishing contact with JEAR. This station initially provided the only channel of communication other than courier, for Advance Section, HQ Channel Base Section, and subsequently remained as an emergency channel.

Upon arrival in Antwerp, the city had been in British hands for about two weeks and the front lines were only 8 miles across the Albert Canal which borders the city. During the three and one half months of operation in this city, it was continually under attack by V-1 robot bombs and V-2 rocket bombs. The station was frequently shaken but never damaged by these attacks.

On January 31, 1945, Detachment F moved to Lille, France where it set up an SCR 399, station JEGI, establishing contact with JEAR and an SCR 188, which was NCS for the Channel Base Section Port Net. Initially an SCR 188 which had been installed by this detachment in Antwerp was the only other station in the Port Net. Later, enlisted men of this detachment set up additional stations in Charleroi, Ghent, and Brussels, to be operated by other teams. The five operators of this detachment operated both station JEGI in the JEAR net and NCS in the port net during this period.

On 11 April 1945, Lt Zimmerman and Tec 3 Daniel were ordered to Paris where they joined a recon party and proceded to Bremen Germany to select sites for radio teletype transmitter and receiver stations. Detachment F, under the command of Lt Frederick G Boege, was ordered to Depot S-858 at Courcelles, Belgium, where it assembled four radio teletype projects for use in Germany

On 9 May 1945 the detachment moved to Bremen, Germany, with a complete radio teletype project. With the aid of line crews from the 275th Signal Construction Company two receiving rhombic and one transmitting rhombic antennae were erected and the transmitting and receiving equipment was installed. Initial contact of radio teletype station JEJO of Bremen Port Command with JECJ, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces at Frankfurt, Gemany, was established on 30 May 1945. The circuit was a solid 5x5 channe and provided Bremen Port Command with its first teletype circuit.

Detachment F was attached to the 526th Signal Installation Company for administration and to the 29th Signal Company and subsequently to the US Navy contingent for rations. The enlisted men were quartered in a private dwelling which had been taken over for a transmitter building. The nonfraternization policy was still in effect.

On 7 June 1945 Detachment F was ordered to report to the Commanding Officer of the Processing Center at Villacoublay, France, not later than 10 June 1945. The detachment departed from Bremen on 8 June and arrived in Villacoublay on 9 June where it rejoined the 3104th Signal Service Battalion to process for shipment to the Pacific Theater.

Two teams had been trained to operate the land terminus of trans-oceanic submarine cables for long-range communication between the US and the ETO. They were assigned to Company B, and each team consisted of one officer and twelve enlisted men (8 operators and 4 technicians). One team was led by 1st Lt Meihoff and the other by Lt Ludwig Nobauer. All the names of the enlisted men are not now available, but those presently known were

T Sgt Mark L Hare T Sgt James R Madigan Tec 4 Robert G Conway
Tec 4 Frank G Cronin, Jr Tec 5 Bernard L Ford??  

The assignment for this team was classified "Secret" and to maintain security the members were housed together, ate together, trained together, and when assigned to the 3104th Sig Serv Bn were not permitted to associate freely with other members. Under strict security, their training was conducted in the Western Union Building in lower Manhattan. It was here that the operators learned to send and receive a special type of Morse Code that could be transmitted over the long underwater cables. The signal had to overcome very large resistance and capacity and so it was not like the usual dots and dashes in earphones. Rather, it appeared on special equipment as an ink line on a moving roll of paper. This line had to be interpreted by the operators and typed on a typewriter.A further description of how the equipment operated may be seen by clicking here.

Upon arrival on the Cotentin Peninsula, the team travelled to the coast near Cherbourg where the eastern end of the submarine cable had been brought ashore by the Navy. However, the cable had been cut by the Germans so it was not possible to restore the continental terminus.

Since the cable for which the team was trained no longer existed and since each undersea cable was unique the training could not be applied elsewhere, so the team members were reassigned to other duties. The technicians became teletype operators at the Le Mans message center and the technicians became telephone/teletype carrier maintenance personnel at a repeater station supporting COMZ headquarters. The group was quartered in the Paxson Barracks, a former French Army barracks, for the remainder of the war. Some of the technicians were responsible for maintaining teletype equipment that linked all the Sections of ComZ, other technicians worked in the message center, and others serviced the telephone long distance carrier amplifiers and teletype carriers at the repeater station. Prone to freezing up and burning the special relays, they required twenty-four hour a day surveillance and servicing.

Near the end of the war the Germans were sending in units of English-speaking, American-accent soldiers to sabotage anything they could to create chaos in the rear echelon. An important target was communications. The LeMans center was crucial at that time to the operations of ComZ, and one of the members of this team, Gregg Cronin, had an encounter with one such German team, narrowly escaping.

After VE day, the teams were transferred to Reims to support SHAEF, operating a message center and AM radio transmitting station for Supreme Headquarters. They finally rejoined the battalion for shipment to the Arles Staging Area.

Another team in Company B was led by 1st Lt Hughes and 2d Lt Robert Thing. The personnel assigned to this team were:
Tec 4 Raymond E Clauss Tec 4 George Woltring, Jr Tec 5 Joseph A Bruno
Tec 5 Theodore R Christy Tec 5 Charles B Gardner Tec 5 Sidney D Levinson
Tec 5 Ashley C Carter Tec 5 Bernard L Ford Tec 5 Thomas A Schierman
Tec 5 Gabriel Gruber Tec 5 Earnest L Fulkerson Tec 5 Till M Huston
Tec 5 Henry E Donald Tec 5 Roy J Vorlick Tec 5 Eugene R Banks
Tec 5 George A Arquette Tec 5 Edmund C Cleary Thompson
Vogel    

One of the Message Center teams in Company A was led by Lt Wilfred D Sampson and Lt Hussey. This was a 20-man team consisting of Teletype Operators and Cryptographic Technicians. The Cryptographic group did their classified work under tight security behind closed doors (with a peep hole in the door), using the highly secret  SIGABA  cryptographic machine and later a more advanced version called the SIGCUM. Occasionally, however, when in the field where no power was available, the Crypto technicians utilized the ssmall, highly portable, hand operated mechanical M-209 cryptographic machine.

After landing in Normandy and a short bivouac in the Apple Orchard near Valognes, this team moved to LeMans and was assigned to the Oise Base Section Headquarters Message Center. It subsequently moved to Paris, and in late August or early September the team went to Reims and set up the Oise Base Signal Center in a former telephone company building in downtown Reims. The unit was billeted in a Chateau on the property of the House of Pommery Greno Champagne. Located in a huge underground concrete bunker that had been used by the Germans as a communications center, the signal center men soon discovered a tunnel leading directly to the Pommery Greno caves which were still full of champagne. Needless to say it wasn't long before the tunnel was boarded up.

During the Battle of the Bulge, some of the teletype operators were transferred to the Infantry to fulfill urgent troop requirements. However, cryptographers were not eligible for transfer to any unit subject to capture by the Germans and so they remained with the unit.

Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) moved into Reims and occupied the red school house on the other side of town, and on May 6, 1945, Tec 4 Hal Tately was on the 11:00 pm to 7:00 am shift in the code room when a Confidential message came in from SHAEF. When he deciphered the message dated May 7, 0141 hours, he found it was the announcment of the unconditional surrender of the German High Command and that all offensive operations were to cease active operations on May 9, 0001 hours, 2 days later, with no release to the press. Other than the code room GI that sent the message and the others that received it, he was among the first to know that the war was over.

A number of the Cryptographic Technicians were in the Minnesota National Guard and had been called up and sent to Alaska a year or more before the 3104th was formed. Reassigned, they joined Company A, 3104th Sig Serv Bn, in Sea Girt, NJ, adding valuable experience to the unit. At the end of the war, they had more points and were therefore discharged for return home before the unit moved to Arles. As it turned out, the rest of the unit got home first and were discharged before this group had even left Europe.

CRYPTOGRAPHERS
Tec 4 Truman Malchow (Minneapolis, MN) Tec 4 Harold E Tately (Harwich, MA)1 Tec 5 Alafred Salisbury (Mankato, MN)
Tec 5 Robert M Rehor (Leominster, MA)2 Tec 5 Marbert Tunstall (MN) Tec 5 Tunstall (MN) (Marbert's brother)
Tec 5 Merle Urey (Grove City, PA) Tec 5 Charles Rebstock (Mankato, MN)3  
112 Jasper Moore Trail, E Harwich, MA 02645 (ph 508 430-2676)
2Commissioned as 2d Lt for a labor battalion in France after German surrender. Stayed in Reserves and was called back to active duty in infantry. Killed in Korea, one of the first casualties.
34813 Canyonbend Circle, Austin, TX 78735

MESSAGE CENTER
Tec 4 Richard J Buckley Tec 4 Edgar Mundy (West Roxbury, MA) Tec 4 George Caffery (Mattapan, MA)
Tec 5 Chester Lansing (Scotia, NY)1 Tec 5 Fred S Austin, Jr. Tec 5 John Buckley
Tec 5 Harold Molyneaux (Fall River, MA) Tec 5 Phillip Morganstein Tec 5 Harry Scott
Tec 5 Abbot Widdecomb (Washington, DC)    
11042 Tomahawk Tr, Scotia, NY 12302 (ph 518 399-3110)

By the end of September, all the teams had been deployed, with only battalion and company headquarters remaining in the apple orchard. On November 4, 1944, these units moved to Paris and were quartered in the Hotel Ermitage, 29 Avenue MacMahon, Paris XVIII.

By November 24, 1944, Company B had moved to the Hotel D'Iena on Avenue D'Iena, a much larger hotel, housing over 600 men, most of whom worked in the "blockhouse" on Avenue Kleeber. Company B operated the hotel and mess and handled supply and administration for the men who worked in the Paris Signal Center, or the "Blockhouse" as it was commonly called. Company C was located at Livry Gargan, on the outskirts of Paris, but the location of Company A headquarters at this time is not known.

Until June of 1945 the various teams of all three companies performed their assigned duties with the units to which they were attached. Company headquarters personnel traveled to each team every month in order to pay the officers and enlisted men and to see to their welfare. Lt Col Barr was transferred to become Commanding Officer of the 3348th Signal Service Group and Maj James B Kirkpatrick was promoted to Lt Col and became Commanding Officer of the battalion.

Toward the end of this period, the Chief Signal Officer, ETOUSA, took over an unfinished project originally commissioned from a French firm by the Luftwaffe to build five completely mobile radio stations, called Sigcircus and Sigcircus Junior. Sigcircus was a completely mobile and self-sufficient 60-kw radio station carried in seventeen large trailers. Responsibility to maintain and operate this large radio station capable of direct communication with the United States, was assigned to Company C.

On June 10, 1945, the units in Paris moved to an old German airfield at Villa Coublay just outside of Paris. During the ensuing week all the teams were recalled, the battalion once more brought into one location for P.O.M.

On June 18, 1945, the entire battalion boarded a train at the Gare de Lyon in Paris and departed at 11:30 pm for the Arles Staging Area for shipment to the Southwest Pacific Theater. Arriving at the Staging Area on June 20, the unit made further preparations for overseas movement.

In early July, while at the Arles Staging Area, Company C under the command of Capt Stone was detached from the 3104th and became a separate unit, the 3376th. The exact designation is not known. The new unit was assigned to operate the SigCircus.

On August 17, 1945, the unit moved by truck to St. Martin de Creu, boarded a train (in gondola cars, yet!) and was transported to the Fulton Railhead at the Marseilles docks where it boarded the U.S.A.T. Henry Gibbins. Click here for pictures and some historical notes about the Henry Gibbins. During the nine-day trip across the Atlantic, the destination was changed from the SWPT to Boston, and at 6:45 pm on August 27, the shipped dropped anchor in Boston Harbor. The following morning saw the unit back on U.S. soil after 15 months and 6 days (464 days) of foreign service.

During its overseas deployment, the 3104th Sig Serv Bn participated in the following World War II campaigns:

     Normandy, 6 Jun - 24 Jul 1944.

     Northern France, 25 Jul - 14 Sep 1944

     Rhineland, 15 Sep 1944 - 21 Mar 1945, campaign, Co. A and Co. C only

     Central Europe, 22 Mar - 11 May 1945, campaign, Co. C only

The Battalion also received The Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for Exceptional Work from 28 Jul 1944 to 31 Oct 1944