Information Relative to Telephone Operators for Duty in France - 1918
American Girls Serving in the Army Signal Corps as Telephone Operators in France, Colloquially Known as "Hello Girls." Signal Corps Colors Adorn Hats of these New Bilingual Wire Experts. Their Insignia, Too, Are Real and Terrifyingly Complicated. Armbands Indicate the Rank. an Operator, First Class, Wears a White Brassard with a Blue Outline Design of a Telephone Mouthpiece. A Supervisor, Who Rates with a Platoon Sergeant, Wears the Same Emblem with a Wreath around It. The Chief Operator or "top," Has a Wreath, a Mouthpiece, and Blue Lightning Flashes Shooting out above the Receiver—which Is Most Appropriate for a Top. But the Top Says Those Jove-like Lightning Flashes Don't Mean Anything in Particular. To Be Sure, She Will Insist on Discipline, If It's Required, but Thus Far, She Hasn't Had Any Occasion to Let Loose Thunderbolts at the Heads of Her Charges. No, the Girls Will Not Have the First Call at 6:15 and Reveille at 6:30, the Way the Doughboys Do. GGA Image ID # 1993c5e5c6
The telephone Unit is to be composed of young women who are physically fit, and who speak French and English languages fluently. It is preferred that these young ladies have had experience in telephone switchboard operating.
However, in the event that we are unable to fill the Unit from switchboard operators, of past experience, who answer the linguistic requirements, other who can speak both languages will be taught at certain points in the United States to operate the telephone switchboard.
No information can be given as to the locality in which this Unit will be stationed other than that it will be placed on duty abroad.
The Unit will be divided into different grades, with salaries as follows: Chief Operators—$125.00; Supervisors—$72.00; Toll Operators—$60.00 Local Operators—$60.00 ; Substitutes—$50.00.
In addition to the pay set forth herein, they will receive rations and quarters as accorded Army nurses. This allowance is ample, and on expenditure on the part of the persons forming this Unit should ordinarily be necessary in this connection.
Transportation will be furnished those selected, from their homes to Washington, and of course from Washington to what other point they are sent.
The uniform will be made of Olive Drab material, the same as that worn by officers and enlisted men of the United States Army. The uniform will consist of campaign hat, with Signal Corps hat cord, long Olive Drab cape, medium length coat, with of course, the necessary modifications, on the same general line as the present army service coat with English walking skirt and tan shoes.
The above uniform has been proposed, but has not been officially accepted. However, it is thought that it will be accepted, with a few minor changes. This will be the only unit composed of women Which will actually wear Army insignia.
This Unit will be very similar to the British Women’s Auxiliary Corps, the Signal Branch of which has gained considerable fame in France.
Should your applications meet with approval of this office, you will be sent a blank form which should be filled out and signed by the parties concerned and returned immediately to this office.
The information given on this form will be carefully considered in connection with others received, and final selection of members to form the Unit will be made from these forms.
Those selected will be furnished with further information as to the probable date that they will be required to report in Washington, and if necessary, they will be given a letter to the person in charge of the nearest telephone school for instruction.
As soon as the person is fully prepared for duty, as indicated by the report from the telephone instructor, transportation requests and travel orders will be furnished the persons concerned.
These transportation requests will be presented to the nearest ticket office, and ticket will be exchanged for same. Travel allowance entitles members to one standard lower berth, in the Pullman car, or one seat in the parlor car. depending on the length of the journey. Persons concerned should see that they get everything that their travel orders may call for.
It should be understood by all concerned that it is absolutely necessary for all to be able to speak both the French and English languages fluently.
Such persons that may come to Washington through misrepresentation of their ability to speak French or English will be rejected from the Unit, unless they have been furnished a statement, from this office, subsequent to the date of this letter, to the contrary.
By direction of the Chief Signal Officer.
E. J. Wesson,
1st Lieutenant, Signal Corps, U.S.R.
"[Exhibit A] Information Relative to Telephone Operators for Duty in France," 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. 361-362