• American photographers Sgt. Morriss and Pvt. Persse going into the battle lines on a British Army Tank.  On a battlefield in France between Villeret and Bellicourt September 29, 1918 (Signal Corps # 24533).

    Hitching a ride on an iron horse.

    American photographers Sgt. Morriss and Pvt. Persse going into the battle lines on a British Army Tank. On a battlefield in France between Villeret and Bellicourt September 29, 1918 (Signal Corps # 24533).

  • Photographers of the 163rd Signal Photo Company rush development of negatives of the fall of Rome pictures in a portable lab on the front lines. Left to right: Sgt. Irving Liebowitz, T/4 Harry Jorgensen, T/5 Jerry Franklin, T/5 Mike Polito and Capt. Smith.  These and others provide combat pictures of the war in Italy from the front lines. Fifth Army, Rome area, Italy; 6/11/44 (WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    Field Conditions!

    Photographers of the 163rd Signal Photo Company rush development of negatives of the fall of Rome pictures in a portable lab on the front lines. Left to right: Sgt. Irving Liebowitz, T/4 Harry Jorgensen, T/5 Jerry Franklin, T/5 Mike Polito and Capt...

  • A laboratory technician of the 4th Signal Battalion, U.S. Eighth Army, washes prints in a river in Korea, using a fine weave screen basket.  The sand bag pier was constructed in order to reach water of sufficient depth and rate of flow to wash prints properly.  No other means of washing prints was been available;18 April 1951(Korean War Signal Corps Collection).

    Down to the River!

    A laboratory technician of the 4th Signal Battalion, U.S. Eighth Army, washes prints in a river in Korea, using a fine weave screen basket. The sand bag pier was constructed in order to reach water of sufficient depth and rate of flow to wash prints...

  • A student of the Signal Corps School in NewYork, undergoing a part of the "Camera Obstacle Course". This represents only one of the many obstacles the trainees are required to over come. Training with the gas masks on develops chest and stomach muscles;1942 (WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    No obstacle to tough for the intrepid photographer.

    A student of the Signal Corps School in NewYork, undergoing a part of the "Camera Obstacle Course". This represents only one of the many obstacles the trainees are required to over come. Training with the gas masks on develops chest and stomach...

Article Audio

  • This Week In Army History - Combat Camera
  • This Week In Army History - Combat Camera

Aca,!A"The departure of our boys to foreign parts with the ever-present possibility that they might never return, taught the real value of photography to every father and mother. To many a mother the photograph of her boy in his country's uniform was the one never-failing consolation.Aca,!A?
~Louis Fabian Bachrach, American portrait photographer, 1881-1963

It was during this week in Army history on June 21, 1860, that the Signal Corps became a branch of the United States Army with Congress approving the appointment of a single signal officer to the War Department. While the Signal CorpsAca,!a,,c modest beginnings lay in a wigwag form of communication, it was not long before the importance of photography as a tactical and historical medium was recognized and soon employed as a Signal Corps function by the end of the nineteenth century.

In the early 1880s, while on a climatology expedition, Lieutenant Adolphus Greely realized the informational value of photography as he witnessed Sergeant George W. Rice (regarded as the first Signal Corps photographer) document their journey. In 1894, Greely (by then a Brigadier General and Chief Signal Officer of the Army) added photography to the Signal CorpsAca,!a,,c curriculum at Fort Riley.

With the addition of photography as a Signal Corps function, the corps published a Manual of Photography, written by First Lieutenant Samuel Reber in 1896. ReberAca,!a,,cs manual described in great detail the photographic process, but what is most interesting was his assessment of the qualifications necessary to be a military photographer: Aca,!A"adaptability to surroundings and resourcefulness in difficulties.Aca,!A? He described that in training photographers the importance was in cultivating technical rather than artistic skill due to the conditions under which military photographs are produced: quickly with no conveniences and very little apparatus, as images were used as a tactical tools and sources of information.

By the Spanish-American War, the Signal Corps staff had grown to eight signal officers, one of whom was a photographer. But it was during World War I that photography became an official function of the Signal Corps when in 1917 the Photographic Section responsible for ground and aerial photography was established. World War II saw an increase in the scope of combat photographersAca,!a,,c responsibilities in every major military campaign.

By the Korean War, signal battalions became responsible for combat photography at the army and corps level and included photo sections comprised of seven still and two motion picture photographers as well as six laboratory technicians who processed images in the field. In Vietnam, where field force-level signal battalions contained photographic sections, the South East Photographic Center at Long Binh became the most elaborate photographic facility ever operated in a combat zone up to that time; it had the capability of developing and processing color film. In present-day operations, joint combat camera teams comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel perform combat photography.

For over a century the photographers of the US Army Signal Corps have told the ArmyAca,!a,,cs story by allowing people everywhere a glimpse into the experiences of the Army soldier. Here at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, our photograph collection includes hundreds of thousands of Signal Corps images plus hundred of thousands of soldiersAca,!a,,c personal photos and snapshots which have served veterans, researchers, scholars, students and military enthusiasts for decades and which remain available to this day.

Page last updated Thu June 5th, 2008 at 10:13