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39th Signal Battalion




The unit's distinctive insignia depicts a sword to stand for the battalion's service in Vietnam where it was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.  The device consisting of intersecting circles and rays symbolize a radio beam and refers to the Signal function of the unit.  The insignia's colors - red, silver, and black - allude to colors of the former national flag of Germany where the battalion saw service in the Rhineland during World War II.  The battalion's motto: "The Will To Succeed," is also depicted on the insignia.

The battalion was organized on December 11, 1944 as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 3907th Signal Service Battalion, and was activated in France on January 17, 1945.  The unit's early life was short- lived however, being inactivated on November 25, 1945 while seeing service in Germany.  At the close of World War II, it received credit for both the Rhineland and Central European Campaigns.

On July 19, 1951, the battalion was re-designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 39th Signal Support Battalion.  It was activated on August 6, 1951 at Camp Gordon, Georgia.  The 39th would remain at Camp Gordon for nearly a year when it was alerted for overseas deployment, leaving from New York aboard the USNS PATCH, arriving in Germany on August 18, 1952.  While in Europe, the unit provided depot level support to both USAREUR (U.S. Army Europe) and 7th Army units at Boeblingen, Germany.  While there, it was re-organized and re-designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 39th Signal Battalion on June 15, 1954.

The battalion would return to the U.S. as part of project GYROSCOPE departing from Bremerhaven arriving in New York on October 30, 1957.  From New York, the 39th would move back to its former home now named Fort Gordon, Georgia.  During the late fifties, it would deploy to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to support exercises CUMBERLAND HILLS and DRAGON HEAD.  During the next few years the battalion was designated as a STAF (Strategic Army Force) and then a STARC (Strategic Army Corps) unit.

In November 1961, the 39th Signal Battalion was alerted for deployment to Vietnam.  At that time, elements of the battalion were dispersed throughout the United States, consisting of the 232nd Signal Company (at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona), the l78th Signal Company (at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas) and the 362nd Signal Company along with the battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment at Ft. Gordon.  Prior to its deployment, the battalion was augmented with an engineering team, depot maintenance team, and five field maintenance teams.  Commanded by Lt. Col. Lotus B. Blackwell, advanced parties arrived in Vietnam in February 1962, with the main body arriving on March 23, 1962, making it the first signal unit to see duty in South Vietnam.

The 39th would initially make its new home at Tan Son Nhut Air Base on the outskirts of Saigon.  The unit's mission was to meet the growing communications requirements which included the installation, operation, and maintenance of the backbone signal system in Vietnam.  It provided communications in the form of message centers, manual telephone switchboards, high frequency radio, teletype and voice terminals as tails of the backbone, provided directory information service, motor and air messenger service, and photographic support to both U.S. Army and South Vietnamese units in the Republic.

Signal detachments were dispersed throughout the country - wire Teams were deployed to lay telephone/teletype cable from the DMZ to the Mekong Delta.  The 178th Signal Company (Support), with its headquarters first located at Qui Nhon and later Da Nang, provided vital communications to all Advisory Teams in I an II Corps zones in the northern part of the Republic.  Its sister company, the 232nd, headquartered in Tan Son Nhut, did likewise in III and IV Corps areas in the south (Saigon and the Mekong Delta).  The most widely dispersed unit, the 362nd Signal Company headquartered in Nha Trang, stretched over the entire country of South Vietnam as well as parts of Thailand.  The 362nd provided microwave radio and tropospheric scatter long-line communications throughout those areas.  The terminals were deployed from Nha Trang.  Six of the terminals were deployed to Thailand to give long-line support to the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group.


"Tent City" - transit area, 39th Signal Battalion, Tan Son Nhut



"Outhouse" - 39th Signal Battalion, Tan Son Nhut


In 1962, the 39th Signal Battalion (Support) began to consolidate various communications missions that were previously handled by other agencies.  It assumed the mission of operating and maintaining the U.S. Advisor's voice radio net, and also assumed responsibility for the Army's "gateway" station which accessed the worldwide Defense Communications System.  Additionally, the battalion assumed operational responsibility for the country-wide Operations and Intelligence Radio Net which supported the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG).

As the war escalated, many more signal battalions entered Vietnam.  The 39th would move its headquarters at the end of 1966 to Vung Tau, with a change in assigned companies.  There it would also provide microwave communications to Corpus Christi Bay as well as supporting Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces.  From Vung Tau, the 39th would move in 1971 to the northern edge of Long Binh near an area referred to as the Plantation.  During this time it would also provide classroom/field training to South Vietnamese signalmen in preparation for U.S. reduction in troop levels.  The following year the battalion would assume responsibilities vacated by the stand down of the 167th Signal Group.  Finally during the last stages of the war, the unit relocated to its original location at Tan Son Nhut.  During the last months of the war, members of the 39th also provided communications training to military personnel from Poland, Hungary, Canada, and Indonesia, assigned to the Four-Power peacekeeping force.  Once the fighting stopped, the battalion supported the international peacekeeping force that monitored the troop withdrawal and prisoner exchange.


1965

In 1963-64, the 39th Signal Battalion was the only signal battalion in the whole country, with 3 signal companies (178th, 232nd, and 362nd).  In 1965, the 39th and two other battalions were organized under the 2nd Signal Group.  Note the 362nd Signal Company (Tropo) was no longer under the 39th.  Three other battalions were embedded with their respective divisions.



1969

By 1969, things were going wild - signal companies and battalions had been flooding into Vietnam.  The First Signal Brigade had been formed over six Signal Groups.  Each Group had a number of battalions, and each battalion had a number of signal companies.  When we were in Nam, there were only 3 signal companies in the whole country - providing communication throughout South Vietnam, over to Thailand, and back to Washington D.C.  The 39th Signal Battalion is in the second column under the 2nd Signal Group.  The Brigade had over 21,000 soldiers scattered among more than 200 sites.  This made the Brigade the largest unit in Vietnam - the size of a large division - larger than the Infantry Divisions.


After more than a decade of service in Vietnam, the 39th Signal Battalion became one of the oldest remaining American units in Southeast Asia.  The 39th finally stood down and became the last battalion to leave South Vietnam.  It was reduced to zero strength and the battalion colors were cased at Tan Son Nhut.  Escorted by a color guard, they departed on March 15, 1973 with the battalion colors aboard Pan Am Flight I, which arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on March 17, 1973.  The 39th would be the first signal battalion in Vietnam and the last to leave, and thus they fulfilled the Signal Corps' long time tradition of "first in, last out."  During almost 11 years in Vietnam, the unit was decorated with all 16 campaign streamers of the Vietnam War and five Meritorious Unit Commendations for the years 1962-1972.  All told during the war, it would receive credit for seventeen campaigns, by far the most awarded to a Signal unit.

On March 28, 1973, a formal ceremony was held at the Officers' Open Mess in Darmstadt, Germany where the 447th Signal Battalion was inactivated and was re-designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 39th Signal Battalion.  Distinguished guests included BG Richard W. Swenson CG, USACC - Europe, and Colonel Clarence E. McKnight, Jr., Commander of Signal Group 22.  The battalion consisted of: the 128th Signal Company, Pruem, Germany; 298th Signal Company, Donnersberg, Germany; 518th Signal Company, Linderhofe, Germany; 532nd Signal Company, Giessen, Germany; and the 581st Signal Company, Bremerhaven, Germany.

The new mission of the 39th was to operate and maintain portions of the EUCOM Command and Control System and the Defense Communications System in Germany and the Benelux countries.  On July 1, 1974, the 5th Signal Command reorganized under an area concept.  The battalion would assume control of assets located in central and northern Germany, the Benelux countries, and the United Kingdom.  A part of the reorganization involved the move of the battalion to Bremerhaven, Germany; the 128th Signal Company to Schinnen, Netherlands; and the transfer of the 298th Signal Company to the 73rd Signal Battalion.  A further reorganization occurred in 1983 when the 128th Signal Company moved to Chievres, Belgium.  Additionally, the mission and assets located in the United Kingdom were passed from the control of the 581st Signal Company to a newly formed detachment status.  The 39th Signal Battalion provides strategic signal support, Information Management Area (IMA), and reach-back support throughout the battalion's area of responsibility (AOR); which includes Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, and Northern Germany.

The 39th Signal Battalion presently resides in Chievres, Belgium.




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