832ND SIGNAL SERVICE COMPANY, SIGNAL SECTION, USASOS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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In 1944, Ken Osterberg was a member of Detachment 3 of the 832nd Signal Service Company, Signal Section, USASOS. The group later became known as Detachment 3 of the 997th Signal Service Battalion and finally as Detachment 3 of the 4025th Signal Service Group. Ken went overseas as a replacement from San Francisco on board the ship Monticello, and landed at Milne Bay, New Guinea. He was then sent from there to Brisbane via Sydney. His group from the 832nd worked on the 7th floor of General Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area (GHQ, SWPA) in the AMP Building in Queen Street, Brisbane.

Ken and his unit were initially billeted in an old orphan's home in Brisbane (where was this?). They then moved to a camp which he believes was Camp Moorooka on the southern side of Brisbane where they lived in tents. They then moved to a camp at Camp Yeronga consisting of small huts made of white or grey mineral siding (3 men to a hut) and finally, they moved Camp Victoria Park not far from the central city area of Brisbane.

 

Ken Osterberg on the right in front of the small huts at Camp Yeronga

 

Ken Osterberg remembers a pub they used to visit about a block down Edward Street going toward the Botanical Gardens. Since they were a long way from their Camp, they ate in restaurants a lot for which they had an allowance. He remembers that instead of rationing, there were "Austerity Prices" which meant they could only charge so much for a meal. 

 

The pub in Edward Street (Which Hotel was it?)

The American soldiers L - R:- John D. Stewart, Douglas Womack, Harvey Zacharias,
Ken Osterberg, Henry Oppenheimer, Floyd Armstrong, Edwin Copeland, Clark Siebels

 

Close-up of the above group at the pub in Edward Street, Brisbane. Ken Osterberg is 4th from the left

 

Douglas Womack had the nicknames of "Wombo" & "Young Tom Edison". Ken Osterberg was initially not sure whether Douglas Womacl worked in the code room or the teletype section, but he has since found two miliary orders, one showing Doug and Ken receiving Good Conduct medals and the other showing Doug and I being promoted to T-4's.  The promotion order shows both Doug and I with the same MOS number 806, which means he worked in the code room on the same shift as I did.  The pub picture was taken after we got off of the 8:00AM to 4:00 PM shift.

 

Ken Osterberg has asked if I can help identify this street.
Is this in Albert Street opposite City Hall? Is that the old T&G building behind the statue?
That looks like one of the statues outside City Hall on the plinth.
Note the Air Raid Shelter sign. 

 

Ken Osterberg advised that another part of Detachment 3 was the men who operated the overseas radio station. They were billeted near the radio station. It is possible that this was the US Army Signal Corps' Radio Communications (Telecommunications) site which was established in 1943 at Cotton's Farm, Capalaba near Brisbane.  Ken said that the radio station was connected by land line (teletype) to the Signal Center at the GHQ, SWPA in the AMP building in Queen Street, Brisbane. The teletype section was also connected to other installations like Sydney, Townsville, etc.

In June 1942, a Detachment of the 832nd Sig Serv Co (Rad) was located in Darwin in the Northern Territory. Their old designation was Radio and Code Team F.

Detachment 3 of the 832nd Signal Service Company used a Sigaba Machine in the Signal Center on the 7th floor of General Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area (GHQ, SWPA) in the AMP Building in Queen Street Brisbane in southern Queensland. General Douglas MacArthur was located on the 8th Floor and the Navy HQ was on the 6th Floor. Ken Osterberg was assigned there in 1944 until February 1946 and operated the Sigaba Machine in the Signal Center. 

 

Sigaba Machine

 

Ken remembers that there were four or five cryptographic technicians on each of three eight hour shifts that rotated each week in the Signal Center in the AMP building.

Ken Osterberg also remembers the Sigtot machine, a secure teletype conferencing system, which was used in the Code Room on the 7th Floor of the AMP building by Detachment 3 of the 832nd Signal Service Company. He used Sigtot to decode incoming messages. There was a code group (which changed frequently) that denoted that the message was for McArthur's eyes only. When that happened, there was a Lieutenant on McArthur's staff who was summoned. He had the necessary scrambled teletype tape to decode these messages.

Ken Osterberg said that the Teletype Section gave them Sigaba messages in printed form of five letter code groups. The Sigtot messages were in the form of a teletype perforated tape.

In May 1944, the Military Telephone Directory for Brisbane shows the following details for the 832nd Signal Service Company which was located at USASOS Headquarters at Camp Victoria Park in Brisbane, in southern Queensland:-

SIGNAL SECTION (Building No. 8)
    832ND SIGNAL SERVICE CO.:
        Major Swanson, C.A.
        Capt. Green, M.J.
        1st Sergeant
    SIGNAL CENTER (Building No. 1):
            Capt. Rose, O.
            Lt. Peters, D.W.
        Message Center
        Duty Officer
        Teletype Station
        Teletype Conference Station (Bldg. No. 9)

BASE SECTION THREE
    SIGNAL OFFICE (Somerville House)
        832nd Signal Service Detachment, A.P.O. 923:
            Commanding Officer:
                Capt. Ankrum, A.M.
            Executive Officer:
                Lt. Glenn, W.A.
            Supply & Mess Officer
            Orderly Room

In February 1945,  the Military Telephone Directory for Brisbane shows the following details for Detachment 3 of the 832nd Signal Service Company which was located at Yeronga Park in Brisbane, in southern Queensland:-

SIGNAL OFFICE: (Building No. 2)
Det. 3, 832 Signal Service Battalion: (Yeronga Park)
    Commanding Officer:
        Capt. Sanders, R.W.
    Personnel Officer:
        Lt. Drucker, A.
    Supply & Transportation Officer:
        Lt. Drucker A.
    Chief Clerk
    1st Sergeant
    Post Exchange

A Detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company, Signal Section was also located in Townsville attached to Base Section Two. (Can anyone tell me about this Detachment in Townsville?)

Photo Unit 1, a photographic detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company was firstly based in Sydney. Initially Photo Unit 1 took over several offices on the sixth floor of the Bank of New South Wales building in 15 Wynyard Street, Sydney. Ovid Di Fiore, a member of Photo Unit 1, also lived for quite a few months in the Hotel Imperial in King's Cross

Ovid told me that the entire Imperial Hotel was used by the Americans to house detachments of various army groups. He does not remember the exact street address of the Hotel. Ovid returned to Australia in 1999 and tried to locate the hotel but without success. Ovid said that Kings Cross was far more sedate then, than it is now. Ovid indicated that he was one of ten men and two officers that comprised their Photo Unit 1. 

Each of them had his own private room in the Hotel Imperial in King's Cross. They would get up and head for a local luncheonette for breakfast before taking the tram downtown. They ended up always going to the restaurant run by the Church of England Emergency Fund. It catered only "For Men of the Fighting Forces and Women of the Auxiliary Services". (Ovid still has one of their menus.) They were welcomed with open arms by the ladies, all volunteers, who did the cooking and served the patrons. 

Ovid told me "They were truly wonderful, so much so, that we called the head our 'Mum' "

They also occupied a building in the south-western part of Sydney near the General Motors Holden assembly plant for a few months. (Does anyone know which building this was?). The entire complex consisted of a few buildings one of which was their processing lab and another was their sleeping quarters. There were additional buildings on the property which Ovid believes was used as a warehouse for cigarettes.

While in Sydney, Ovid Di Fiore would occasionally visit the Grace Building, which was Base Section 7 Headquarters.  Ovid's first recollection of that building was photographing IDs of all civilian employees being hired by the newly established American presence in August 1942. Ovid indicated "This was a great and exclusive opportunity to meet loads of young ladies, Believe me, we made the most of it since we could pick and choose whom we were attracted to and getting plenty of dates!"

Ovid Di Fiore then moved to Brisbane where the photo unit used Newstead House as their Barracks. The unit was attached to the Photo Laboratory for the Army Pictorial Service, US Army located in the historic house "Cintra" in Boyd Street, Bowen Hills, adjacent to Luna Park (Cloudland). The 832nd Signal Service Battalion, was responsible for the Brisbane Radiophone Station located at Cintra. Radiophone equipment allowed the transmittal of a photograph to a remote location by a radio link in about 7 minutes.

After a nine month tour of duty in Port Moresby Ovid returned to Sydney, rented a flat with two other men and worked in the Cinesound Studios cataloguing and editing combat footage from the north.

 

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A PIECE OF HISTORY - 2 SEPTEMBER 1945

This message announced the signing of the formal surrender by the Japanese on that day on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay

This message came into the Signal Center used by the 832nd Signal Service Company on the 7th Floor of GHQ, SWPA in the AMP building in Queen Street, Brisbane. It was received at the overseas radio station (probably the one at Capalaba) and was transmitted to the Signal Center via teletype. It was received in "Clear" Classification.

It was the first message to pass between Japan and the United States over an Army Circuit since Pearl Harbor. It was sent from Radio Station WVLX on USS Teton in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. It was a message from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ken Osterberg of the 832nd Signal Service Company for his assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Russell Miller and Dave Spethman for their assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Douglas Womack, son of Douglas Womack of the 832nd Signal Service Company for his assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Ovid Di Fiore, a member of the Photographic Detachment who worked in the Photo Laboratory at "Cintra" at Bowen Hills.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 13 March 2003

This page last updated 27 December 2016