Camp Alfred Vail was
originally named Camp Little Silver and was responsible for training
the 1st and 2nd Reserve Signal Battalions. In June 1917, Camp Little
Silver was established as a training site for signal troops with 25
officers and 471 enlisted men. That September, it became Camp Alfred
Vail, in honor of New Jersey inventor Alfred Lewis Vail (September 25,
1807 – January 18, 1859). Vail was a machinist and inventor, credited
with having developed the telegraph code usually known as the Morse
At that time, with a pressing need for telegraph
operators in France, the camp began a six-week intensive training
course with an emphasis on foreign codes and languages. Signal Corps
radio intelligence personnel underwent training enabling them to
intercept messages at the rate of 25 words per minute and to translate
15 words per minute from the German. Carrier pigeons, used for
communication by armies during the war, also became part of Camp Vail's
The Chief Signal Officer authorized the purchase
of Camp Vail in 1919 and the Signal Corps School relocated there from
Fort Leavenworth that same year. The U.S. Army Signal Corps developed
and tested communication equipment for the battlefield. The Corps was
founded in 1860 by United States Army Major Albert J. Myer, and lost no
time in meeting the challenges of World War I. Chief Signal Officer MG
George Squier worked closely with private industry to perfect radio
tubes while creating a major signal laboratory at Camp Alfred Vail.
Early radiotelephones developed by the Signal Corps were introduced
into the European theater in 1918. While the new American voice radios
were superior to the radiotelegraph sets, telephone and telegraph
remained the major technology of the Great War.
The 5th Telegraph Battalion, Signal
Corp was organized on July 12th, 1917 at Monmouth Park, New Jersey. On
August 2, 1917 the battalion moved to Camp Alfred Vail where it was
redesignated on October 10, 1917 as the 55th Telegraph Battalion,
Signal Corps. The battalion then deployed to France to join the
American Expeditionary Force. During the Great War, the battalion
participated on three campaigns: Lorraine, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne.
The battalion returned to New York on June 27, 1919 and moved to Camp
Vail, New Jersey. The battalion was redesignated on March 18, 1921 as
the 51st Signal Battalion.
In 1925, Camp Alfred Vail was renamed Fort Monmouth, in
honor of the soldiers of the American Revolution who died in the battle
of Monmouth Court House.