Matts Final Paper Edited

Submitted By mzpilot
Words: 2793
Pages: 12

Matthew Zanella
M. Branchetti
Final Paper

The war to revolutionize all wars
The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Many of the young men and women who served in it believed this. Sadly, they were wrong. This war revolutionized how wars are fought to this day. One of the major things it changed was battlefield communication. The evolution of World War One battlefield communication is very complex. To understand World War One battlefield communication, its background must first be understood. It began during the Civil War. Many of the ways that World War One soldiers communicated were influenced by the communication methods of the civil war soldiers. The Civil War started when the confederate army attacked Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861. That day set in motion the deadliest war in American history. Almost all of the battlefield communication during the war was carried out by one unit, Union Signal Communications (Staff 1). According to Mark Hageman, Union Signal Communications consisted of two groups, the United States Signal Corps and the United States Military Telegraph (Hageman 1). The confederacy also had a comparable unit which they used for their communications (Staff 1). By 1860 the use of the electric telegraph had been implemented by several European nations in small scale operations (Hageman 1). The American Civil War was the first time that telegraphs were used in a large scale (Hageman 1). President Lincoln was the first president to receive reports from the battlefields and send messages back to his generals in a matter of seconds (Staff 1). In 1861 the United States Military Telegraph Corps was officially formed. It enlisted the service of over 1,200 operators to man its telegraphs (Staff 1). Ironically, most of the men who served in United States Military Telegraph Corps were actually civilians. According to Mark C. Hageman, 15,389 miles of telegraph wires had been set from May of 1861, to June of 1866. They used these wires to communicate everything from the current state of a battle, to the casualty report (Hageman 1). A second Civil War communication form which influenced World War One communications was the use of flags. Major Albert James Myer, and Second Lieutenant Edward Porter Alexander where the men responsible for the adoption of the flag signals (Hageman 1). Major Myers was a surgeon’s assistant at Fort Duncan, Texas in 1856. While he was there he began to ask military officials if they would like to implement the system of signaling that he had invented (Hageman 1). There was no interest at first, however in 1859 a committee headed by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee approved the system for field testing (Hageman 1). Major Myer’s signaling system was later approved and first saw combat in June of 1861 during the battle of Hampton roads at Sewell’s point (Hageman 1). Major Myers and a group of men, whom he had trained, helped to direct artillery fire onto the enemy position. In order to do this, they split up into two groups. The first group stayed with the artillery battery, and the other group went onto a tug boat so they could observe where the shells were hitting. They would then report where the shells were hitting via flag signals (Hageman 1). Whether they were using the telegraph or flag signals, the enemy could intercept the message being sent. According to the Signal Corps Association, both systems of communication used ciphers or codes to protect the information in the messages (Hageman 1). Both used very simple ciphers so that they could be decoded rapidly after being received. In order to protect the ciphers, only the men decoding the messages where privileged to the codes. Many generals never knew how to decode the messages. Alongside the flags and the telegraph, civil war soldiers had a few other ways of communicating on the battlefield. According to, soldiers would sometimes go up in hydrogen filled balloon in order to spy…