Chiefs of Signal
Major General Dawson Olmstead
1941 - 1943
As Chief Signal Officer during the major portion of World War II, MG Dawson presided over a momentous buildup of the Signal Corps. With as budget that grew from nine million in 1941, to more than five billion in 1943, Olmstead turned to both the Signal Corps laboratories and the private sector to meet the demands of total war.
Advancements in military technology led to the birth and phenomenal growth of the civilian communications-electronics industry. Mass production of electronic components became commonplace. In spite of radar being in its "billion dollar baby" stage, the Signal Corps needed massive amounts of wire and radio communications, the providers of the heavy-duty voice traffic that assured reliable communications for the war effort.
Innovations such as the crystal-controlled FM radio, with its thirty mile range extended by truck-mounted radio relay equipment and automatic coding devices, that ended time consuming hand enciphering and deciphering, made American communications far superior to those of its allies and enemies alike.
With the assistance of an advisory council of reserve officers and a civilian advisory board comprised of key figures in the communications industry, Olmstead brought the Signal Corps to wartime footing. Accomplishments included activating hundreds of Signal units and training thousands of officers and enlisted personnel in a reorganized Signal School.
Olmstead's illustrious career blossomed in the anti-war 1920s and flourished during the depression years of the 1930s. However, it was during World War II that Olmstead's talent and vision won him the Distinguished Service Medal. Shortly before his retirement on 16 January 1944, Olmstead was awarded this decoration. The citation sums up his wartime contributions to the Signal Corps: "...he directed the expansion and training of the Signal Corps with impressive speed and instituted radical improvements in communication equipment and methods of modern tactics."