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[Attachment 3] Telephone Operators Creation Within Signal Corps - 1917

Cable Received AGO 15 November 1917

Acting Chief Signal Officer of the Army.
The Adjutant General of the Army.

Telephone Operators.

1. Under date of 10 November, a cablegram from General Pershing stated that the Army had experienced great difficulty in obtaining telephone operators, familiar with both French and English languages, and, in view of this, requested that this office take steps to secure the services of and send to France, the following women telephone operators:

  • 3 Chief telephone operators: $125 per month
  • 9 Supervisors: $72 per month
  • 23 Long-distance operators: $60 per month
  • 50 Telephone operators: $60 per month
  • 10 Substitutes at $50 per month

2. It is requested that authority be granted to proceed with the organization of this Unit; the appointees thereunder to be given the allowances of, and to wear the uniforms of, army nurses.

/s/ ( Illegible) Saltzman Brigadier General, Acting C. S. O.

[Document of November 1917]

Memorandum for the Chief of Staff:

Subject: Telephone operators.

1. Herewith is a letter dated 13 November 1917 (AG 231.37), from the Acting Chief Signal Officer of the Army, requesting authority to organize a unit of telephone operators (women) for service in France, in compliance with General Pershing s request in his cablegram of 10 November 1917.

The required personnel is:

3 Chief telephone operators at $125 per month
9 Supervisors at $72
23 Long-distance operators at $60
50 Telephone operators at $60
10 Substitutes at $50

The entire personnel is to be familiar with both the French and English languages. The Acting Chief Signal Officer recommends that they be given the allowances and uniform of army nurses.

2. General Pershing's request (cablegram 276, paragraph 15 B, 8 November 1917) was for 24 long-distance operators and 54 telephone operators instead of 23 and 50, respectively. His recommendation as to uniform did not specify that of Army nurses. The Office of the Chief Signal Officer (Major Bailey) states that these discrepancies were clerical errors. The intention was to supply General Pershing's wants as requested by him.

3. The War College Division believes that the personnel requested by General Pershing is reasonable and necessary.

4. It is thought that all uniforms should be sufficiently distinctive to identify the wearers with the service in which they are engaged and that the uniform for these employees should be based upon the recommendation of the Chief Signal Officer.

5. Since the allowances of the Army Nurse Corps are fixed by law and include rights not necessary or advisable to extend to emergency employees in the service of the rear, the privileges and allowances needed to female telephone personnel in France should be made a matter of contract. These necessary privileges and allowances are thought to be as follows :

a. Transportation of extra baggage when joining for duty, upon permanent change of station, and on return to employee's home upon annulment of the contract, as for Army nurses.

b. Rations and quarters as for Army nurses.

c. Commutations of rations, fuel, and quarters as for Army nurses.

d. Medical attendance as for Army nurses.

e. Sleeping car and steamer accommodations as for Army nurses.

f. Purchase of subsistence stores as for Army nurses.

6. The War College Division, therefore, recommends action as expressed in memorandum for The Adjutant General of the Army herewith.

7. The Chief Signal Officer (Major Bailey) and the Judge Advocate General (Colonel White) have been consulted and concur.

John Biddle,
Colonel, General Staff,
Acting Chief of War College.

Memorandum Dated 27 November 1917

27 November 1917

Memorandum for the Adjutant General of the Army:

Subject: Telephone operators.

I. The Secretary of War directs that the attached letter dated 13 November 1917 (AG 231.37), from the Acting Chief Signal Officer, be replied to by indorsement in substance as follows:

1. Per General Pershing's request, authority is granted to engage the following women telephone operators, all to be familiar with the French and English languages:

3 Chief telephone operators at $125 per month
9 Supervisors at $72
24 Long-distance operators at $60
54 telephone operators at $60
10 Substitutes at $50

2. These women will be civilian employees of the Signal Corps. They will have the privileges and allowances now prescribed or which may hereafter be prescribed by Army Regulations and General Orders for Army nurses as to the transportation of extra baggage: rations and quarters; commutation of rations, fuel and quarters; medical attendance; sleeping car and steamer accommodations: and purchase of substance stores. The Army will specify these privileges and allowances in detail in the contracts under which these employees are engaged since they are authorized by contract and not by Army Regulations. Paragraphs of Army Regulations will not be quoted in contracts as authority for privileges and allowances.

3. You are directed to submit a recommendation as to a suitable uniform for this service. The provision that the uniform shall be distinctive and not identical with that of the Army Nurse Corps.

4. Report of the completion of the organization of this Unit will be made to this office.

II. The Secretary of War further directs that a general order be published in substance as follows:

Female telephone operators authorized for service abroad are given the privileges and allowances now prescribed or which may hereafter be prescribed by Army Regulations and General Orders for Army nurses as to the following items: Transportation of baggage; Rations and quarters; Commutation of rations, fuel, and quarters; Medical attendance; Sleeping car and steamer accommodations; and Purchase of subsistence stores.

John Biddle,
Colonel, General Staff,
Acting Chief of War College.
War Department, Washington, November —, 1917.

General Orders, No. —

III. Female telephone operators authorized for service abroad are given the privileges and allowances now prescribed or which may hereafter be prescribed by Army Regulations and general orders for Army nurses as to the following items: Transportation of baggage, Rations and quarters, Commutation of rations, fuel, and quarters, Medical attendance, Sleeping-car and steamer accommodations and Purchase of subsistence stores.

By order of the Secretary of War.
John Biddle.
Major General, Acting Chief of Staff.

Directive from AG to Chief Signal Officer 1917

Official :
H. P. McCain,
The Adjutant General
[War Department, AGO, 28 November 1917]

To the Chief Signal Officer.

1. Per General Pershing's request, authority is granted to engage the following women telephone operators, all to be familiar with the French and English language:

3 Chief telephone operators at $125 per month
9 Supervisors at $72
24 Long-distance operators at $60
54 telephone operators at $60
10 Substitutes at $50

2. These women will be civilian employees of the Signal Corps. They will have the privileges and allowances now prescribed or which may hereafter be prescribed by Army Regulations and General Orders for Army nurses as to Transportation of extra baggage; rations and quarters; commutation of rations, fuel and quarters; medical attendance; sleeping car and steamer accommodations; and purchase of subsistence stores.

These privileges and allowances will be specified in detail in the contracts under which these employees are engaged- Since they are authorized by contract and not by Army Regulations, paragraphs of Army Regulation will not be quoted in contracts as authority for privileges and allowances.

3. You are directed to submit a recommendation as to a suitable uniform for this service. The provision that the uniform shall be distinctive and not identical with that of the Army Nurse Corps.

4. Report of the completion of the organization of this Unit will be made to this office.

By order of the Secretary of War:
P. C. Harris, Adjutant General.

[Attacment 3]: The Creation of the Telephone Operators Unit within the Signal Corps, in Hearing before the Committee on Venteran's Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session on S. 247, S. 1414, S. 129, and Related Bills, Washington DC: US Government Print Office, 25 May 1977, pp. 311-313.

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