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23rd Organization

On 20 January 1944, Col. Reeder has 1 officer and 57 enlisted men. By the time the unit had reached France, the strength of his command had grown to 82 officers and 1023 enlisted men. The Headquarters and Headquarter Company were new but the great proportion of men and officers came from four established units which were absorbed:

603rd ENGINEER CAMOUFLAGE BATTALION, Lt. Col. Otis R. Fitz, Commanding (later led by Major William U. Hooper). This battalion had been working with FIRST ARMY for nearly two years. It had experimented with deceptive installations in Louisiana and Tennessee maneuvers. It was composed mainly of artists from New York and Philadelphia with an average IQ of 119. After the assignment of a deceptive mission and addition of dummy equipment, the official name became 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion Special. Strength: 28 officers. 2 warrant officers, 349 enlisted men.

244th SIGNAL OPERATIONS COMPANY, Captain Irwin C. Vander Heide, Commanding. This year-old AGF unit had just come off Desert Maneuvers. It was radically modified in Camp Forrest for use as a counter-radio intelligence company. Five new officers and 100 radio operators were added and an almost equal number of wire, teletype and message center personnel were released. It was nearly a 40% turnover. The official name then became SIGNAL COMPANY SPECIAL. Strength: 11 officers, 285 enlisted men.

COMPANY A, 293rd ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION, Captain George A. Rebh, Commanding. This company was chosen from a battalion which had been activated a year before and had gone through Tennessee and Desert Maneuvers. It was a hardy, disciplined group of combat engineers, which the 23rd needed for security and rough jobs. It was lifted in toto and renamed the 406th Engineer Combat Company Special. Strength: 5 officers, 163 enlisted.

3132nd SIGNAL SERVICE COMPANY, Major Charles R. Williams, Commanding. This company was the only unit within the 23rd that was specifically organized and trained for DECEPTION. It was activated separately at the Army Experimental Station, Pine Camp, New York, in March 1944 and did not join the 23rd until August 1944 in France, This was the pioneer "sonic deception" unit in the U.S. Army. The equipment was SECRET, the mission was dramatic, the personnel young and eager. The combination was more theatrical than military. The unit name remained the same except for the addition of "SPECIAL." Strength: 8 officers, 137 enlisted men.

Since no one knew how a deception unit was supposed to operate, the training program was not easy to write. There was very little literature on the subject. Lt. Col. Clifford G. Simenson, then S-3, recently of the AGF G-3, probably contributed more than anyone else to the formation of the early SOP. He planned several field problems based upon the simulated appearance, under various tactical conditions, of units ranging from division to corps. These problems were not particularly satisfying because it was hard to make the mental transition from solider to dummy. The results looked like so much window dressing with no place to go. Officers who had once commanded 32-ton tanks, felt frustrated and helpless with a battalion of rubber M-4s, 93 pounds fully inflated. The adjustment from man of action to man of wile was most difficult. Few realized at first that one could spend just as much energy pretending to flight as actually fighting. Many useless theories, however, were exposed in these little maneuvers and the unit grew older.

During this period of experiment, gaps and fallacies were discovered in the existing T/O&E. For example, no wire was called for in the Signal Company, and only one officer was supposed to handle the mammoth 196-man radio platoon. Corrections were made and needs anticipated with as much wisdom as possible at this stage of the game. No one yet had much of an idea how large-scale deception would fare in battle.

Lt. Col. Merrick H. Truly, Executive Officer, Majors Charles H. Yocum, Signal Officer, and David E. Bridges, S-4, flew to Washington to present the modified T/O&E. AGF eased the new ideas through the War Department with practically no opposition because no none knew any more about deception there than in Camp Forrest.

By the end of March, the new T/O officers began to arrive. They were hurriedly and hazily oriented on the very strange mission of the unit. Many later admitted that it left them somewhat dizzy. This was only natural, however, because at this time, the "veterans" knew no more than the "rookies."

updated: 2 months ago

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