835th SIGNAL SERVICE BATTALION



Excerpt from "Confusion Beyond Imagination"

(Courtesy of Mr. Tom Carr, Natick, MA)

The 835th Signal Service Battalion was the oldest signal outfit in CBI, was probably the biggest, was the most widely dispersed, and without a doubt, performed more varied duty than any of the others.

835th men became convinced that crossed flags meant they might be called upon to service anything from an electric toaster to a radio station. The 835th signal wallahs maintained that they swapped their sacks for lanterns, as they didn't get any time to sleep, even at night.

The 835th was activated in Washington in 1942 as a company, with Capt. W. A. Muir as commanding officer. Its later commanders were Lt. Col. Joseph E. Heinrich, Maj. James H. Caddess, Lt. Col. Charles G. Eubank, Lt. Col. Charles T. Cabrera, and Lt. Col. Morris S. Schwartz. The company's objective was to set up communications in the Orient, the outfit docking at Karachi in March 1942 to begin the job. A signalman heaved a roll of toilet paper to an Indian on the dock and watched as he fashioned a turban with it. That was the 835th's introduction to India.

The original aggregation consisted of seven radio teams, various sections, and a detachment of Company B of the 52nd Signal Battalion. All these signal wallahs left Stateside to provide communications in Java, but the Japs got there first.

Team H of the 835th hit the Karachi dock first, John E. Seifert of De Witt, Iowa, later signal center chief at Delhi, being the first down the plank. After waiting in Karachi two weeks, Team H went on to Delhi, the men living in the Marina Hotel and setting up offices at British General Headquarters, later moving them to the Imperial Hotel till they got signal quarters of their own.

One radio jeep operator covered 13,000 miles of back-country China in eight months of radio jeep service, getting no mail from any source for more than four of those months.

When Chennault's air operation retreated from Kweilin, the radio jeep units became the nucleus of supply dumping grounds, which added supply loading, unloading, and guarding to their communications duties.

The 835th signalmen, as part of their service in China, worked with Air Force secret mission to the Chinese Communist government at Yenan, later supporting American military intelligence at Yenan and deep into north China. This assignment lasted nearly a year.

It's hard to name anything that went on in CBI at which the 835th was not present. The 835th was there when the short route from Burma to China, the Tengchung Cut-off or Marco Polo Trail, was surveyed. Porters and mules brought in the signalmen's portable radio sets so they could pound out their messages from their high camps across the Kaolikung Shan.

The 835th had 1,415 officers and men at its peak strength; its detachments, units, and teams are uncounted. When the war came to an end, the 835th found itself back in Karachi, where it began, there to supply communications for the swift evacuation of India and Burma. It closed shop in April 1946 when India-Burma headquarters left New Delhi for Calcutta.

No one will ever be able to sum up better what the 835th accomplished in CBI than one of its veteran non-coms did at the end.

"First in, last out, scattered from hell to breakfast, but doing a job - that's the 835th."


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