8 Replies Latest reply on Apr 5, 2020 1:36 PM by Leonard Cizewski

    Seeking identity of WWII African-American Signal Corps Unit

    Leonard Cizewski Adventurer

      Please identify the unit in this photo on this National Archives site -- “Pictures of African Americans During World War II: Select Audiovisual Records” at https://www.archives.gov/files/research/african-americans/ww2-pictures/?fbclid=IwAR3wUgooYFyhXux0POvop_ufGXl4ouy9y2t6sAj…

      African-American Signal Corps Unit in Italy in 1943

      This is the caption:

      3. "A company of men has set up its office between the columns (Doric) of an ancient Greek temple of Neptune, built about 700 B.C." At desk, front to rear: Sgts. James Shellman, Gilbert A. Terry, John W. Phoenix, Curtis A. Richardson, and Leslie B. Wood. In front of desk, front to rear: T/Sgt. Gordon A. Scott, M/Sgt. Walter C. Jackson, Sgt. David D. Jones, and WO Carlyle M. Tucker. Italy. September 22, 1943. 111-SC-181588 (

      Based on the information in the caption, this is at the Greek temple in Paestum, Campania, Italy at the southern end of the Salerno landings on September 3. 1943.
      That is in the VI Corps, Fifth Army’s area.  The 36th and 45th Infantry Division were also serving in that area but were segregated and did not include African-Americans. That suggests that this was a non-divisional Signal Corps unit assigned to the VI Corps or Fifth Army. That should assist in identifying the unit as there were very few African-American Signal Corps units in WWII. Thank you.

        • Re: Seeking identity of WWII African-American Signal Corps Unit
          Leonard Cizewski Adventurer

          One of my WWII Signal Corps family history colleagues said they might be a unit in the Peninsula Base Section,

          That may help History Hub in your search for this unit's identity.

          Thank you.


          • Re: Seeking identity of WWII African-American Signal Corps Unit
            Jason Atkinson Ranger

            Dear Mr. Cizewski,


            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

            We searched the albums for the record series Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 - ca. 1981 in the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (Record Group 111) that includes photograph 111-SC-181588.  We located a print with a caption that included additional information on a folded under part that was not included in our online descriptions in the Catalog or on our website.  The caption identifies the unit as being Headquarters Company, 480th Port Battalion.  Port battalions were part of the Transportation Corps. The additional information also confirms that the unit was in Paestum, Italy, and lists the hometowns of the named soldiers. For access to the album or to request a copy of the full caption, please contact National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures (RDSS) via email at stillpix@nara.gov.


            We also searched the World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917-1981 (Record Group 407) that includes histories for December 1942 - May 1947 [file TCBN-480-0.1], which specifically mentions that battalion setting up headquarters in the Temple of Neptune on Paestum and  general orders [file TCBN-480-1.13] for 1946 - 1947 of the 480th Port Battalion. For access to and/or copies of these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.


            Some of the activities of the 480th Port Battalion are also mentioned in the book The Transportation Corps: Overseas Operations published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History. For example, page 204 states that “Newly arrived port personnel, including a Negro unit, the 480th Port Battalion, bivouacked amid the impressive ruins of Paestum.”   The U.S. Army Center of Military History and the U.S. Army Transportation Corps Museum may have additional resources on this unit or campaign.


            If you are interested in researching the soldiers named in the caption, we suggest beginning by searching the World War II Army Enlistment Records, ca. 1938 - 1946 available via AAD (Access to Archival Databases). Please note that there are gaps in the records.  For the most effective search technique, we suggest using a fielded search. In the name field, put last name first, followed by a hash symbol, followed by the first name.  For example, Tucker#Carlyle. If the Race and Citizenship field is not showing, click on the “Show more fields” to bring up a menu that would allow you to select the field. In this field, be sure to selection code 2 for “Negro, citizen” to help narrow down your search.


            You also may request a copy of their Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs). OMPFs and individual medical reports for enlisted men of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after October 1912 and prior to 1958 are in the custody of NARA's National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. In many cases where personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, proof of service can be provided from other records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders, and a certificate of military service will be issued. Please complete a GSA Standard Form 180 and mail it to NARA's National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO  63138-1002. For more information, see Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), Archival Records Requests.


            Selective Service records for individuals who served after World War I and were born before 1960 are in the custody of the National Archives at St. Louis (RL-SL), P.O. Box 38757, St. Louis, MO 63138-0757. Please complete Form NA-13172 to request a search of these records. For more information, see Selective Service Records. Some World War II selective service records are available through Fold3. There may be a fee for this service. Instead, you may view these records online at one of NARA's facilities for free via a NARA PC. For the nearest NARA location, please consult our web page at http://www.archives.gov/locations/. Additionally, you may check with your local public or university library as these institutions sometimes provide access to Fold3  for their patrons.


            We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

            3 people found this helpful
              • Re: Seeking identity of WWII African-American Signal Corps Unit
                Leonard Cizewski Adventurer

                Hi Justin,

                I just added the unit’s identity to our post on our African-American History Month post on The Unofficial Archive of the Signal Corps in Northwest Europe in WWII Facebook Group.

                In "Delivering Victory: The History of U.S. Military Transportation" by Richard E. Killblane I found that 480th was a Fifth Army unit and not a unit of the Peninsula Base Section as we initially speculated.

                Thank you for assisting in honoring these African-American soldiers.


              • Re: Seeking identity of WWII African-American Signal Corps Unit
                Leonard Cizewski Adventurer

                Now that the unit and its precise location have been identified, I suggest that the National Archives edit its caption on “Pictures of African Americans During World War II: Select Audiovisual Records.

                Thank you,