Communications of World War I

By Ben Stugelmayer

Communications made a huge difference during WWI. They helped in sending messages from the front lines to the commanders. Communications greatly helped soldiers that were living in the trenches during trench warfare. In modern day warfare thanks to the advances in technology we have new and advanced forms of communication like texting and cell phones.

Issue #1 Non Electronic Messaging
Carrier pigeons were the main form of communication during world war 1. They were sent from the front lines and carried status reports back to HQ. they were only trained to sent messages to known 
Locations on the battlefield such as from the front lines to a group of troops. They were deployed on warships and airships. carrier pigeons were used by all sides.
An Airplane pilot is sending a message with a carrier pigeon.

Today the military uses sign language to communicate and also uses the military alphabet. The alphabet is used mostly by soldiers who are transmitting or receiving radio or telephone messages. The first internationally recognized alphabet was adopted by the ITU in 1927. In the military, British and American forces developed their own military alphabet before both forces adopted the ICAO alphabet in 1956. Some of the letter meanings are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Morris Code is rarely used. The image below is a table of the military alphabet.

Issue #2 Telephones and Radio
The telephone was a great improvement in communicating with each other in WWI. The telephone made it a lot quicker for a commander to contact his troops and give more detail about what to do next. The wireless radio was very useful in the trenches for both commanders and troops. In fact more people liked the wireless radio over the telephone. The wireless radio was also used in airplanes.

This is what the radios used in the trenches looked like.

Communication is critical on the battlefield in many ways. It has helped in winning many battles and saving the lives of many soldiers and commanders. The WIN-T which stands for Warfighter Information Network-Tactile it is the newest communication to be used by army personnel. The WIN-T can provide communication even when all other forms of communications are not working. The current military uses satellite phones and computers with secure wireless communication to talk to each other.

Issue #3 The Telegram

In January 1917, British cryptographers translated a telegram from a German foreign minister named Arthur Zimmermann to the German minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt offering the ULS. territory in Mexico if they join the German cause. The telegram had a major impact on American opinion and according to David Kahn author of the codebreakers "No other single cryptanalysis has had such enormous consequences." The British waited until February 24th to present the telegram to Woodrow Wilson. On march 1st the American press published news about the telegram. The Zimmermann telegram was also called the Zimmermann Note.
The coded message.
The decoded message.

The military today does not use telegrams. The military now needs instant messages between the front line soldiers and the commanders in the rear. The telegrams have been replaced by cell phones and wireless communications that use satellites. Western Union sent its last telegram in January, 2006.

Overall communications were very important in WWI. It took a lot longer to send and receive messages in WWI than it would today. It is also a lot easier to stay in contact with each other today. Some ways of communication are still used on the battlefield today.

Sources for information

Duffy, Michael. "First World - Encyclopedia - Carrier Pigeons." First World - A Multimedia History of World War One. Web. 18 Feb. 2011.

Wireless in the Trenches (1917)." Popular Science Monthly May 1917: 795-99. Print.

Alexander, Mary and Marilyn Childress. "The Zimmerman Telegram." Social Education 45, 4 (April 1981): 266
Sources for images