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Veteran’s Day: The Path from Signal Lamps to SATCOM

Every year, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month we honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. This specific moment in history symbolizes the end of World War I, after more than four (4) years of combat from June 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918. This period in time was a huge contributor to major advancements in communication, both on and off the battlefield.

Communications during The Great War were vital for efficient command and control between commanders and their platoons, coordination with allied troops, and the interception of enemy plans. In the early stages of the war, rudimentary forms of communication were used. Electrical signal lamps and flares were utilized to transmit predetermined messages, while carrier pigeons, dogs, and human dispatch messengers were used to carry physical letters to and from the front and rear.

The need to improve communications quickly became apparent to the Allied forces. This lead to a network of cables being laid throughout the trenches, allowing for telegraph and telephone communications from command headquarters to the front lines. While this form of communication was more advanced, it had its own challenges. Heavy artillery fire often cut the telephone lines strung in the trenches, causing communication to go dark at the most essential moments. Meanwhile, the introduction of airplanes and naval ships to the war made the need for wireless communications essential.

Therefore, the Allied forces relied on their radio engineers to develop small, portable, wireless radios to be used on the battlefield, and permanent fixtures transmitting wireless radio in airplanes and naval ships. With each advancement, came its own challenge though. While these radios didn’t have wires to be cut, the messages were more easily intercepted by the enemy, requiring the need for cryptographers and coded messages.

Despite the setbacks and challenges the military faced, World War I laid the foundation for the advancement in communication technology and sparked the demand for post-war research and development in the telecommunications industry to improve the quality and quantity of military communications over the years, leading to communication capabilities today that are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available during The Great War.

Presently, satellite communications (SATCOM) remain the most efficient form of communication for the U.S. and its allies. SATCOM devices, such as those in NAL Research’s SHOUT product line, can reliably get signal anywhere in the world at any time, have anti-jamming/anti-spoofing capabilities, have long-lasting rechargeable batteries, and provide a variety of additional features to help service members track, connect, and communicate.

For more information on NAL Research’s satellite communication devices, please click HERE.

USMC Museum – WWI Military Communication Resource Packet

military communication – World War II and after | Britannica