History of the First Signal Brigade
The First Signal
Brigade was activated on April 1, 1966, in the Republic of
Vietnam. Its mission was one of the most complicated ever
given to any signal unit in the history of warfare: to
originate, install, operate, and maintain an incredible, complex
communication system that fused tactical and strategic
communications in Southeast Asia into a single, unified command
The creation of the
brigade brought together three signal groups already in
Southeast Asia along with other units into a single unified
command, except those organic to field forces and divisions.
The mission in
Southeast Asia meant providing communications to forces
scattered over more than 60,000 square miles of torrid jungle,
mountain ranges and coastal lowland - much of which was
under-populated and enemy-infested.
One of the innovations
that circumvented the difficult terrain and enemy situation was
the introduction of an extensive, tropospheric scatter radio
relay system, which provides numerous communications channels
over distances of several hundred miles between sites.
Other firsts include,
first use of satellite communications in a combat zone and first
use of automatic, digital message and data switches.
At its peak, the
brigade had more than 21,000 soldiers, with six signal groups,
22 signal battalions, and a large number of specialized
communications agencies. This made it, at that time, the largest
single brigade in the U.S. Army.
The stand-down of 1st
Signal Brigade was almost as significant as its buildup. Caught
by the U.S. reduction-in-forces that affected our pullout from
Southeast Asia, 1st Signal Brigade reduced its strength from
21,000 in 1968 to less than 1,300 by November 1972.
The departure of
American forces from the Republic of Vietnam was accompanied by
a decline in communications facilities needed to support them.
Whole signal sites,
from delicate communications gear to the buildings that housed
them, had to be dismantled, packed and shipped to destinations
around the world.
More than $50 million
worth of communications equipment and facilities were recovered
between 1970 and 1972.