126 SIGNAL RADIO INTELLIGENCE COMPANY
US ARMY SIGNAL CORPS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

Four US Signal Radio Intelligence Companies, with detachments and D/F units, served in the South West Pacific Area during WWII. They were as follows:-

111th Signal Radio Intelligence Company
112th Signal Radio Intelligence Company
125th Signal Radio Intelligence Company
126th Signal Radio Intelligence Company (started as One Operating Platoon, 121st Signal Radio Intelligence Company)

These units through their huge intercept capacity made a massive contribution to the overall war effort. Their intercept traffic usually exceeded that of the Australian Army Wireless Sections and RAAF Wireless Units combined.

One Operating Platoon (45 men) of the 121st Signal Radio Intelligence Company returned to Fort Meade, USA on 25 February 1942 and was placed under the command of 1st Lt. W.R. Menear. The Platoon moved to Fort Dix in New Jersey to await orders for an overseas posting. The Platoon's equipment comprised:-

The Platoon sailed from Brooklyn Port on the USAT Uruguay on 1 March 1942. They arrived in Melbourne on 10 April 1942. They set up camp at Camp Pell where they trained in intercept and direction finding operations until 6 June 1942. On 19 May 1942, the Platoon was redesignated and became the First Operating Platoon, 126th Signal Radio Intelligence Company.

The Platoon moved to Mount Macedon in Victoria on 6 June 1942. The Platoon established independent operations, performed its own house-keeping and cooking chores. Intercept facilities, consisting of three positions, were operated in the van of a 1 1/2 ton truck. One direction finder, 206-C, was placed in operation on top of Mount Macedon at a location about 3/4 mile from their camp.

On 1 July 1942, T/Sgt. Messer of the 823rd Signal Service Company was attached to the Platoon for temporary duty to instruct the Platoon's intercept operators in ROMAJI and Japanese KANA telegraph code.

On 10 July 1942, the Platoon moved to Townsville in north Queensland by motor convoy. They arrived in Townsville on 2 August 1942. 1st Lt. Menear reported to Captain Brown, the GHQ radio intelligence officer. Captain Brown assigned two GHQ Officers, Lt. Phelan and W/O Card to work with the 126 SRIC. The Platoon was assigned to monitor Allied Air Reconnaissance frequencies, copying clear and coded messages during the attacks on Guadalcanal and reporting by TTY to GHQ.

The Platoon's 206-C direction finders were set up to work with No. 1 Wireless Unit, RAAF which was also located in the Townsville area. The DF's were located at Townsville, Cairns, Charters Towers, and Cloncurry. They communicated back to Townsville by wire. Their mission was to work with No. 1 Wireless Unit, RAAF to secure bearings on enemy aircraft. This work however was not that successful due to:-

The DF Operators were unable to readily distinguish between the various transmissions they intercepted.

The Platoon moved to Brisbane by train on 15 November 1942. M/Sgt Nurss had travelled to Brisbane earlier to arrange for the establishment of a radio station and antenna equipment. He reported directly to Captain Brown and GHQ, SWPA during this time. The Platoon arrived in Brisbane on 18 November 1942 where they set up a new operational site at Northgate on the north side of Brisbane. They began to intercept Japanese Army and Diplomatic radio traffic. Captain Brown and Lt. Phelan and W/O Card directed the operation of the Platoon from this point in time.

 

Direction Finding Antenna at Northgate site

 

The rainy season in Brisbane led to the radio station site at Northgate being flooded. The Platoon moved to Stafford in Brisbane on 10 January 1943. They established an independent camp at Stafford and a temporary radio station which was housed in two tents. The radio station utilised very simple antenna equipment.

Work started on a new GHQ radio station not far from their tents. The radio station building was constructed by Australian workmen. Grounded V-antennas were installed to cover directionally the arc from northwest through northeast of Brisbane. Fifteen antennas were set up for this purpose, arranged in groups of three, each group covering the same direction with spacing for diversity use if necessary. The new radio station was operational by the beginning of March 1943. T

The camp was located to the east of Trouts Road, Stafford and straddled today's Bertram Street. See the aerial photos below. Corporal Warren Errickson of the 126th SRIC said that the camp was located at the end of the Tram Line at Stafford and that they used to catch the Tram into downtown Brisbane about 4 miles away.

It is believed they located their Direction Finding Station on the hill at the end of Florentine Street, Stafford. It was known by the locals after the war as "Radar Hill".

It is believed that the RAAF may have taken over the Wireless Station after the 126th SRIC moved out.

 


Photo:- BCC PDOnline 1946

The Stafford Wireless Station is shown in the middle of the photo

 


 

A year 2009 view of the area with the 1946 view of the camp overlaid.
Trouts Road is running north to south at the west of the camp site.

 

In April 1943, the First Operating Platoon, 126 SRIC, was merged with the rest of the 126th Signal Radio Intelligence Intelligence Company which had arrived in Brisbane on 25 March 1943. The 126 SRIC had its origins at Camp Crowder, Missouri, where it was activated on 14 August 1942 with a strength of 5 officers and 85 enlisted men. 2nd Lt. Joe L. Thurston was the first Commanding Officer. The other officers were:-

2nd. Lt. Swomley
2nd Lt. Dibos
2nd Lt. Wilson
2nd Lt. Hadd

The Table of Organisation at that time showed that the 126 SRIC included a group known as the First Operating Platoon which had already been activated. Its whereabouts were apparently unknown. 

A Detachment left Brisbane by air on 3 May 1943 and arrived at Port Moresby on the same day. Their mission was to locate Japanese aircraft spotter stations suspected of being in the area. The Detachment moved to Dobodura, New Guinea on 8 June 1943 to carryout a similar mission. Their mission was extended to take bearings on enemy aircraft and Japanese main line stations. This Detachment was augmented by additional personnel and equipment and moved to Finschhafen in March 1944 and established an Intercept and Direction Finding Station there. The Detachment was again augmented and on 15 May 1944 a portion of the Finschhafen Detachment proceeded to the Aitape area, where it performed Intercept and Direction Finding operations.

By the end of 1943 the Intercept Station at Stafford came under the control of Central Bureau at 21 Henry Street, Ascot. All their intercept traffic was handed over to Central Bureau for analysis. It was necessary to train more men as intercept operators.. All men, regardless of their present assignments with the Platoon were trained. The best became intercept operators. No direction finding work occurred during this period.

Detachments of the 126th SRIC were also in operation at Adelaide River in the Northern Territory and at several locations in New Guinea during 1943 and the first half of 1944. A Detachment left Brisbane in June 1943 and proceeded to Darwin, Northern Territory, where a Direction Finding Station was established. This Detachment shortly moved to Adelaide River, where intercept was well as Direction Finding operations were performed. This Detachment was enlarged in October 1943 and Intercept work became the primary mission of the Detachment.

The October 1943 Brisbane Military telephone Directory shows a Captain W.B. Menear working in the Wire Section of the Signal Office, GHQ, SWPA in Room 65 of the Old Courier Building, in Brisbane.

The May 1944 Brisbane Military telephone Directory shows a Major H. W. Brown of the 126 RI Co. at Stafford who was in charge of Direction Finding and attached to the Signal Office, GHQ, SWPA.

In July 1943 a Detachment left Brisbane for Merauke, New Guinea. Their primary mission was to obtain direction finder bearings on enemy stations. The Detachment moved to Horn Island in January 1944 and in May 1944 it proceeded to Finschhafen and joined the Detachment there.

Company Headquarters left Brisbane for Hollandia on 8 July 1944 leaving a small Detachment in Brisbane at Camp Stafford.

The Brisbane Detachment of the 126th SRIC was discontinued on 18 December 1944 and part of the personnel joined the Adelaide River Detachment and the rest rejoined the Company at Hollandia.

The Stafford Radio Site was possibly used by the RAAF as a Wireless Receiving Station after the 126th SRIC had left the site.

 


Photo:- NARA SWPA-SC-44-413

Five operators at their radio receivers at Camp Stafford on 2 February 1944

 


Photo:- NARA SWPA-SC-44-420

Section of the Operation Room and Charts at Camp Stafford on 2 February 1944

 


Photo:- NARA SWPA-SC-44-420

Close-up view of one of the wall charts

 


Photo:- NARA SWPA-SC-44-420

Close-up view of another one of the wall charts

 


Photo:- NARA- SWPA-SC-44-414

Interior of the Radio Repair Shop at Camp Stafford

 


Photo:- NARA-SWPA-SC-44-416

Rear view of patch panels and receivers at Camp Stafford

 


 

Lois Vanacore's father, Andrew J. Vanacore, Intercept Operator 739, was in the 126th Signal Radio Intelligence Company. Andrew Vanacore intercepted Japanese Morse Code and his company was honoured with a citation for a very important interception. Another person in his Andrew's troop was named Tobey ? who lived in the mid-west of the USA.

Lois has a copy of an Honourable Discharge Card for Andrew Vanacore dated 3 December 1945 from the 126 SRIC. His father also operated out of Brisbane and Luzon.

Lois Vanacore is trying to locate anyone who might have been in his father's company. Lois has some papers on the 126th. 

Ralph R. Thadeus, Editor/Treasurer of the Army Security Agency Alpi, told me that the SRIC's were the WW2 counterpart of the post-war (US) Army Security Agency and today's (US) INSCOM. Ralph said that the 114th and 116th SRIC's were in the European theatre but current military reunion groups from the Pacific theatre can trace their history back to the 126 (etc) SRIC's.

The ASA Alpiners web site is at:

http://www.asa-alpiners.com

Contact Person for the 126th Signal Radio Intelligence Company is:-

Robert L. Drury
PO Box 182
Archie, MO 64725
USA

US Telephone number is: 816 430 8802

E-Mail:  JnDrury@aol.com

Robert L. Drury was a member of the 126 SRIC in New Guinea during WW2.

 


 

Wayne Errickson contacted me in November 2003 and advised that his father, Warren Errickson served in the 126th SRIC as a Corporal in the U.S. Army during WWII. He spent much time in Australia and New Guinea, especially Hollandia. He met and married Wayne's mother, an Australian from Brisbane, during that time and she returned with him to the U.S. after his tour was over.

Wayne has a whole other family "down under" of whom Wayne has only met a cousin, aunt and uncle.

Wayne's father's experiences, along with those of other men from his home town who went off to WWII, were recently published in a book called "Marching Home". The author is Kevin Coyne. In researching his father's time in the service, Mr. Coyne was able to obtain a fairly complete unit history of the 126th from the military archives in Washington D.C.

 

REFERENCES

"On Ultra Active Service - The Story of Australia's Signals Intelligence Operations during World War II"
By Geoffrey Ballard

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Russell Miller, Wayne Errickson and Lois Vanacore for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help Lois and myself with information
on Andrew J. Vanacore and the
126 Signal Radio Intelligence Company?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 11 July 1998

This page last updated 16 April 2015