District Communication Officer
The District Communication Officer assisted the Commandant in the conduct of Naval communications and, as additional duty, served as Commanding Officer of the U. S. Naval Radio Station, Eighth Naval District, which command included the Transmitting Stations, Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, the Visual Station at the Port of Embarkation Building, New Orleans, and the Remote Receiving Station at Kenner, Louisiana. Originally, he was also the Commandants representative as regards the functioning of the Office of Radio Material, but upon the establishment of the Office of Industrial Manager, that activity assumed operational and administrative control of the Radio Material Office - an arrangement which proved entirely satisfactory to the District Communication Officer.
When the district was inactive, the main radio station was at Pensacola. On the reactivation of the district and the Naval Station at Algiers, the Naval Radio Station at Algiers became the communications center for the Commandant. Its radio call was changed from NCD back to NAT - its call in earlier days. In the beginning, the emergency transmitter and some of the main transmitters were "radio ham" outfits. The other equipment at that time consisted of one Western Union and one Postal Telegraph printer of the tapepuller type and one TWX. The main branch offices were located at Pensacola, Corpus Christi, and Galveston, where the Coast Guard had a Radio and Direction Finder Station. The traffic then, in December 1940, was about 100 messages
a day. In December 1943 the traffic reached its peek load of 5,738 messages in one day.
By that tine, of course, the communication facilities had been vastly improved. There were leased teletype circuits connecting the important ports and Naval activities in the district and leased circuits connecting the Commandant with the Gulf Sea Frontier and the Navy Department in Washington. Radio Headquarters station included the Secondary Fox circuit, two ship-to-shore circuits, a ship-to-shore port circuit, a district craft circuit, an O-1 circuit with the Naval Air Stations, and a W-3 circuit to Washington (maintained as a standby in the event of landline failure). High speed transmitting and recording equipment was available for use on all circuits, and standby power equipment was ready in case of emergency. To improve the efficiency of radio circuits, a receiving station had been located at Kenner, Louisiana, from which signals were transmitted by wire to receivers at headquarters. Sixteen transmitters were in use at the transmitting station in Algiers.1
In carrying out the function of inspecting, supervising, and coordinating communication activities, the District Communication Officer was assisted by several officers. Among these were the District Postal Officer, the Communication Security Officer, the Registered Publication Issuing Officer, the Custodial of the Commandant's Personal Library, and the Landline Officer.
The District Postal Officer made quarterly inspections, and
investigations, as necessary, of the various District Postal Offices.2
This officer took up his duties on 20 February 1942, having at first the title of Senior Postal Liaison Officer. He was given the later title on 4 February 1943.
The most important activity which came under his cognizance was Fleet Post Office, New Orleans. In accordance with a directive of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet,3 the Fleet Post Office, New Orleans, was activated on 23 March 1942. As adjunct thereto, the Fleet Post Office, Mobile, was activated in July 1942. That office was discontinued, however, on 30 April 1943, as a result of decrease in the amount of business handled.
The original functions of the Fleet Post Offices were to accept from the civilian post office system mail addressed to units of the Fleet and activities outside the United States. On 1 January 1943, the Merchant Marine mail was added to this, with the Fleet Post Office, New Orleans, as one of the three offices designated to handle such mail.4 A year later the handling of Armed Guard mail was added.5 The Fleet Post Office was also responsible for the shipping of international mail from district ports between May 1943 and the end of the war with Germany.6
The Fleet Post Office, New Orleans, was housed in the Federal
Building, headquarters of the Commandant. Its expansion necessitated the increase of floor space from 400 square feet, in the beginning, to 5500 square feet in March 1943. By May 1944 the personnel assigned had increased to five officers and seventy-eight enlisted men. To provide Headquarters, Eighth Naval District, with postal facilities, Navy post office was established under the District Communication Office in the latter part of 1941; but the office was discontinued on 30 April 1943 and its functions were assumed by the Fleet Post Office.
Under the administrative supervision of the District Communication Officer, the Registered Publication Issuing Officer was responsible for the issuance to authorized holders and activities of secret and confidential registered and confidential non-registered publications, non-registered communication publications, and such other publications as were incorporated in the Registered Publication System. In addition, he corrected the publications in his charge insofar as was practicable, and disseminated information relative to them to district activities concerned. In carrying out these and various other duties connected with his office, he operated directly under the Chief of Naval Operations.
The Registered Publication System District Library was under the Registered Publication Issuing Officer, Sixth Naval District, until the Registered Publication Issuing Office, Eighth Naval District, was established in July 1941. The original personnel consisted of one officer, one chief yeoman, and one civilian, none of whom had had any previous experience in the duties of the office. Four hundred square feet
of space in the Federal Building, including one vault, was considered more than adequate. At the end of the first quarter some 865 registered publications were on hand. In October 1944, when the publications numbered some 425,000, there was completed in the basement a concrete vault which provided stowage for a half million publications for war reserve issue. In addition to one whole wing of a floor in the Federal Building, office space finally had to be acquired in the Queen and Crescent Building.
One important change in the functions of the office came in the spring of 1942, when the Chief of Naval Operations directed all Registered Publications Issuing Officers to correct publications for issue to ships.7 Six civilians and one officer were assigned to the new task, which later developed into one of the most important performed by the office. The two major problems in the history of the office were the lack of trained personnel in the early years of operation and the lack of space at the end which prevented housing all the Registered Publication Issuing Office in one building.
The Office of the Custodian, Commandant's Registered Publications was organized in the Eighth Naval District as the Commandant's Personal Library in July 1941, to operate directly under the Registered Publications Issuing Officer. Three years later the title was changed to "Custodian," and the office was put under the direct supervision of the District Communications Office.8 The functions of the office remained
unchanged: to distribute classified publications, both registered and non-registered, to local custody holders in Headquarters, Eighth Naval District.
The Communications Security Office, which was established in August 1941, became a very busy organization with the transition from peacetime to wartime activities. One, of its principal functions became the establishment and promulgation to local shipping interests, the Federal Communications Commission, and others concerned, of instructions for the use, control, supervision, inspection, or closure of coastal and marine relay radio stations under the jurisdiction of the United States, in accordance with authority vested in the Secretary of the Navy by the Defense Communications Board. This involved compilation of approved lists of ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship users of coastal and marine radio-telephone and telegraph systems. The Communications Security Office was likewise responsible for disseminating Naval instructions governing sealing of radio apparatus, inspection and service of radio equipment, provision for physical security of radio transmitters, and rules governing tests of transmitters. The Commandant's directives on these natters were transmitted by this office to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the District Coast Guard Officer, the Federal Communications Commission's Inspectors, and the Cable and Radio Censors. This office prepared the Communications War Plans and Communications Emergency and Disaster Plans for the district. It prepared directives and instructions on communication publications and tests for the use of officers assigned to vessels to be commissioned or converted
in this district. It had supervision of the drill circuit which was inaugurated for the benefit of radio operators aboard new vessels. It maintained files of publications on communications of Allied Navies, other Government departments, commercial radio communication companies, and various other agencies.
The Landline Office was established as a component part of the District Communication Office in the latter part of 1941. The functions of the office were to handle all the district telephone, telegraph, and teletype business for the Commandant. The personnel of this department were very efficient in the execution of duties from the first because of the fact that experienced telephone company employees were available for key positions. The scope of the office expanded continually from its inception to over three hundred major accounts in July 1945. Landline facilities largely replaced radio in district communications. The administration and office details were handled at that time by two officers, three enlisted men, and fifteen civilians. The officer-in-charge had the authority to sanction installation of local Navy telephones, but installation of accounts throughout the district required permission from Washington. (There were over 15,000 Navy telephones in the district.) The vesting of more authority in the Commandant in the latter of the district installations would have been desirable.
The District Communication Office served the Air Functional Training Commands in the district in regard to landline communications, radio communications, and inspection of post offices and distribution of postal affairs bulletins.
In addition to the communications service it gave, the District
Communication Office also performed the function of a training school. Many officers trained in communication schools were sent to headquarters for temporary duty under instruction before further assignment. To give such personnel planned training under actual operating conditions, a training section was established. The advantages of this training were open to the officers of ships temporarily in port. The Training Officer, as additional duty, also instructed in the use of recognition signals and issued such signals to ships.
The Headquarters Communication Office began to function with a very limited number of personnel who had had any experience in communications. The majority of the complement had just entered the service and had been assigned to communications with no previous indoctrination or training. As could be expected, errors were made, but efficiency came relatively soon with the actual standing of watches. The complement was very small until augmented by the introduction of Waves in late 1942 and early 1943. The office was adequately staffed, however, to handle the peak of traffic which occurred during 1943. The use of NTX, with the corresponding decrease in encrypted traffic, resulted in the reduction of personnel.
The District Communication Officer, as the Commandant's representative, had no direct authority as regards the complement for communication offices within the district. The Bureau of Personnel established and supplied the complements for such offices. As a matter of practice, however, the District Communication Officer, acting for the Commandant, at various times furnished headquarters personnel to
outlying activities whose complement was short or whose traffic load was burdensome because of illness of personnel.
Since the District Communication Officer is in a position to make a continual check on communication work loads at each activity and can usually determine in advance the likelihood of increasing or decreasing requirements in personnel at the various activities, it would be desirable for him to have the authority to determine the over-all complement of communication personnel for the district and to control this personnel to the degree of making assignments to individual offices and changing such assignments when a change was warranted by the trend of traffic. Under the proposed system, all communication personnel would receive orders from the Bureau to report to district headquarters, and then would be sent to outlying activities by orders of the Commandant. Without the necessity for approval from the Bureau, transfers within the district could be made at any time so as to maintain the proper proportion between traffic load and personnel.
1. War Diary, 8ND, Dec. 1943. 2. In accordance with NAV-650-ELH, Ser. MX3042, dtd. 12 May 1942. 3. FFl/A6-4/F-05/HN, Ser. 172, dtd. 11 Feb. 1942. 4. All Ships and Stations Ltr., S.O. 12231030, dtd. 23 Dec. 1942. 5. CNO Ltr., Ser. 3488120, dtd. 24 Nov. 1943. 6. CNO ltr., Ser. 2107120, dtd. 17 May 1943, and CNO Ltr., Ser. 3092720, dtd. 19 Jun, 1945. 7. VCNO Ser. 195820, dtd. 21 Apr. 1942. 8. CNO Ser. 3122520, dtd. 15 Jul. 1944.
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