Military Communication WW2


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Radio today is as common as the air we breathe. But back in 1939, during World War 2, radio was the main source of entertainment and, even more importantly, the leading form of military and civilian communication. During World War 1, the radios then were bulky and under-developed. The transmissions were so weak, factors like wind or rain would make it near impossible to decipher what the person on the other end was trying to communicate.

It was shortly before the beginning of World War 2 when the military explored options in enhancing radio technology. Soon, radio was used to prompt citizens to join the war. The military, through radios, telegraphs, and wired telephones, would communicate instructions, receive orders and so on.

Owing to the rising need of moving around with the radio, it became apparent that new advancements needed to be made to make radio mobile. This is what led to the invention of the radio relay or portable radio sets, which was an integral means of communication during World War 2.

History of Military Radio

Initially, flags, horns, drums, and riders on horses were the main methods of military communication used to send messages over short distances. The limitations that came with such outdated means of sending and receiving messages is what led to the invention of the radio.

The birth of portable radio sets came about with the rising need for the military to reach their homelands and far away war zones. The portable radios were incredibly effective. Enough to send and receive clear, undistorted information overseas.

Each military tank had at least one portable radio. In fact, command tanks were known to carry up to three. This made it possible for the commanders to connect to four channels simultaneously. The German military was the first to use this form of radio communication successfully. Soon after, the US forces and the British military would catch up to use a long-range cable for simultaneous multiple communication.

These long-range communication systems were further developed into machines like the radio typewriter which was used to transmit to a designated teleprinter in a different distant location.  This is what the military commanders spread across London, Washington and other areas would use to communicate.

Some of the main uses for radio, other than back and forth communication between commanders in designated war theaters included,

  • Radio was used to guide and control military aircraft personnel on the specific points where they were to drop the bombs
  • Radio was used to rally citizens to come out and join war efforts
  • Radio also played a vital role in raising people’s spirits during the war with different programs airing during the day

It was in the mid-twentieth century when radio became a central mode of communication for the military. Here, radio made communication possible in hostile war zones on land, in the air, and underwater. As time advanced, computers were integrated into the communication systems to what we now know as the C4I model.

Military radio communication has since metamorphosized into an intricate and diverse system. Through advanced technology, computers have made it possible for satellites, aircraft, and other military machinery to send and receive communication from practically anywhere in the world.

Today, military communication isn’t only used for warfare but to help gather intelligence. Hold negotiations among adversaries and more.

Other Forms of Communication during WW2

The need to diversify and explore different ways to communicate during World War 2 is what gave birth to some of the sophisticated communication systems used currently in the military. During World War 2, the main forms of communication included the following:-

  • Newspapers and Magazines

Aimed more at informing and updating the public on current events, newspapers, and magazines were most sought after by people far and wide. Here, the writers and contributors would give their opinions through editorials and letters to the editor.

There were many newspaper publications for people to read or choose from. Some newspapers directed their attention to politics and the war while others chose to talk address controversial or common interest on life topics.

  • Radio

The radio ranks top as the main form of communication used to reach thousands upon thousands of people in real-time during the war. During World War 2, troops and generals would send communication back and forth amongst themselves. Generals and commanders would reveal their positions on the ground and come up with strategies to battle the enemies.

Radio was the only reliable mode of communication between airplanes/aircrafts and the bases/operators on the ground.

  • Propaganda

Propaganda was one of the most effective forms of communication during the war. Propaganda was designed in the form of movies, posters or commercials most of which communicated to the people to employ efforts to assist the war.

For example, women were asked to take up employment roles on behalf of their husbands who had joined the military efforts. People were also asked to refrain from talking to perceived enemies or give away crucial information regarding the ongoing war.

  • Airplanes

Anything from letters to parcels or packages would be delivered home to wives, children and friends with the help of airplanes. Planes also were used to drop messages in zones that were considered too dangerous or risky for the troops to reach or for the planes to land. This because it was considered enemy territory.

  • Mail/letters

Letters were exchanged through the mail between husbands in the military and their wives at home.  Random civilians would express themselves through letters and mail them to the servicemen and women far away. Most of the letters were messages of encouragement, updates on the wellbeing of the family, local gossip and so on.

They worked as a means to keep the soldiers connected to their community back home. It served to keep the troops motivated, to raise their spirits, and to get their minds off of the war, albeit for a short time.

  • Cryptology

To keep enemy factions from tapping into sensitive information, the warring sides came up with codes that only they would understand, as a means of communication. Only a few people were trained to read and understand these codes. The study of such codes is what is known as cryptology. A secret language where every word had a different meaning.

Cryptology made it possible for troops to know their enemy’s positions, planned strategies of attack, and when specific events were scheduled to occur.

  • Telegraph

The telegraph was a mode of communication borrowed from World War 1. Though now advanced, it played a major role as the central form of formal communication in World War 2. Generals and commanders would use the teletypewriters to send telegraph messages during conferences, briefings, and meetings.

Telegraph was a quick method of asking questions and getting feedback between commanders and troops miles and miles apart from each other.

  • Telephones

Telephones were not readily available for families and troops to use to communicate. But soldiers and troops in the military had access to telephones. They would use them to send messages, receive orders and generally communicate. The telephone came in handy when there was a bit of a distance between troops, and an urgent message needed to be passed rapidly. During World War 2, phones were far bulkier than the ones you see now.

  • Animals

Animals also played a huge role in connecting troops during the war. Pigeons and dogs were some of the viable options used to deliver handwritten notes between troops and soldiers in the military.

Different forms of communication all played an important part during world war two. With radio preceding almost all other forms of communication, it’s easy to see how, thanks to radio, military communication is now more advanced and effective.

Sources and References

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Paul Dudley

Paul is the owner and founder of . His passion for ham radios and fishing lead him to create this site. He loves playing with his radios and doing many other outdoor activities