ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. –The U.S. Army Electronics Command (ECOM) was officially established Aug. 1, 1962, under the newly stood-up U.S. Army Materiel Command, which took many of the responsibilities formerly performed by the Army’s seven technical services and directed the activities of depots, laboratories, arsenals, proving grounds, test ranges, procurement offices and transportation terminals throughout the United States.
In the words of AMC’s first commanding general, Lt. Gen. Frank S Besson, Jr., “The Army Materiel Command’s mission, stated in its simplest terms, is to equip the Army to take the field – whenever, wherever, and however it is called upon.”
Lead by Maj. Gen. Stuart H. Hoff, ECOM, headquartered at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, was one of seven subordinate commands functioning in designated commodity fields under AMC. ECOM’s mission was the execution of the research and development, procurement and production of electronics materiel required by the U.S. Army.
These functions were previously performed by the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. There were originally four major activities under ECOM: the Electronic Research and Development Activity at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; the Electronics Materiel Agency in Philadelphia; and the Electronics Research and Development Agency and the Electronic Materiel Support Agency, both located at Fort Monmouth.
The command was created to ensure the efficient management of a major research, development and production program, to provide a logical point of contact between the Army and industry, and to provide a point of control for the AMC to delegate authority and assign responsibility.
ECOM and its many laboratories provided extensive support during the Vietnam era, supplying and supporting the most advanced radios, switches, teletypewriters, and telephones.
The world’s first operational satellite communications system was established in 1964, connecting Tan Son Nhut to Hawaii. New transistorized FM radios of the AN/VRC-12/PRC-25 families were shipped to Vietnam in 1965, and soon became the mainstay of tactical communications. ECOM supplied combat troops with a number of other high-technology commodities during the war, including night vision devices, mortar locators, aerial reconnaissance equipment, surveillance systems, sensors, and air traffic control systems. ECOM supplied, managed and supported nearly half of the line items in the Army’s materiel inventory during the 1960s.
In the 1970s, ECOM was supplying the new AN/PVS-5 night vision goggles, developing lithium batteries to provide a more reliable and longer-lasting power source for tactical field radios, designing a new family of min-laser range finders, fielding the Proximity Warning Device in more than 2000 Army helicopters, and readying the AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37 mortar and artillery locating radars for production and fielding.
ECOM continued as a command until 1978, at which point the suggestions of the Army Material Acquisition Review Committee were enacted, splintering ECOM into various commands to include the Electronics Research and Development Command (ERADCOM), the Communications Research and Development Command (CORADCOM), and the Communications-Electronics Readiness Command (CERCOM), all under the re-designated U.S. Army Material Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM, previously AMC). This separation of functions lasted only a few years; CORADCOM and CERCOM merged to become the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command in 1981.