The 56th Signal Battalion is arrayed across the United States and Central and South America in direct support of U.S. Army South and U.S. Southern Command with the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Army Signal Activity in Miami, Florida, and smaller elements supporting in the Colombia MilGroup and JTF-Bravo in Honduras.
56th Signal Battalion History
Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 56th Signal Battalion, was first constituted on 18 October 1927 and allotted to the 4th U.S. Corps Area. On February 1, 1941, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the battalion was reactivated and spent the next seventeen months training in the United States. In accordance with signal doctrine of that time, units such as the 56th Signal Battalion were assigned the mission of providing communications for U.S. Army Corps Headquarters.
July 1, 1942, the battalion embarked from New York aboard the transport ship “Argentina” en route to Northern Ireland. The battalion initially landed in Scotland on 12 July 1942 and remained there until 14 July 1942. From 15 July until 20 November 1944, the unit conducted training in Northern Ireland.
The 56th Signal Battalion arrived in England on 24 November 1942 and remained there for over eighteen months until 5 June 1944. While there, the battalion underwent additional training with the British Army Royal-School-of-Signals. This training assisted the battalion in establishing solid communications between American and British forces as they prepared to battle their way across Europe.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, assigned to the Fifth U.S. Corps, the battalion participated in initial amphibious landings on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. During this period (from 6 June 1944 through 8 May 1945), the 56th Signal Battalion supported combat operations in: France (from 6 June – 6 September 1944,) Belgium (from 9-11 September 1944,) Luxembourg (from 15-23 September 1944,) Belgium (from 4 October 1944 – 26 February 1945,) Germany (from 8 March – 7 May 1945,) and Czechoslovakia (from 8 May until Victory in Europe Day 1945). The 56th Signal Battalion was awarded battle streamers in recognition of participation in combat operations during the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns. The battalion was also awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for notable World War II service. On February 24, 1946, subsequent to the close of the war, after more than forty-three months in Europe, the battalion departed from LeHarve, France en route to New York City, aboard the ships “Elizabeth B. Stanton” and “Rockhill Victory.” On March 8, 1946, at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, the battalion was inactivated for the second time.
September 20, 1988, the battalion emerged at Corozal, in the Republic of Panama with the reorganization of U.S. Army Information Systems Command South into the 1109th Signal Brigade and the 1190th Signal Battalion (Provisional). This reorganization was necessary in order to facilitate a more streamlined command, control, and communications architecture needed to support United States Southern Command. During this period, the country of Panama was under the stranglehold of a military dictator, General Manuel Noriega. Operation JUST CAUSE, a joint military U.S. operation, was conducted in Panama from 20 December 1989 through 31 January 1990. JUST CAUSE removed General Noriega from power and returned order and democracy to Panama. The 1109th Signal Brigade and the 1190th Signal Battalion were awarded “Panama” battle streamers for their roles in supporting this campaign.
October 16, 1991, the 1109th Signal Brigade was re-designated as the 106th Signal Brigade, and the 1190th Signal Battalion (Provisional) as the 56th Signal Battalion. From there, in Corozal, Panama, the 56th Signal Battalion provided vital strategic and sustaining base communications to organizations and installations of the United States Southern Command.
June 20, 1997, the 106th Signal Brigade inactivated leaving in place only the 56th Signal Battalion. Two weeks prior to this date, the 154th Signal Battalion inactivated, leaving only one company to join the ranks of the 56th Signal Battalion. This made the 56th Signal Battalion the most unique signal battalion in the Army; one comprised of both tactical and strategic companies. That battalion was responsible for maintaining tactical and strategic communications in support of U.S. Army South, Joint Task Force-Panama, and other subordinate task forces.
June 18, 1999, the battalion furled its colors in Panama and on June 24, 1999 unfurled its colors in Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. The battalion’s mission in Panama was to provide long-haul, tactical, and base operations communications support to the U.S. Army South Headquarters as well as units deployed in the Central and South America. In 2003, upon the relocation of U.S. Army South to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the battalion established a detachment with U.S. Army South and relocated to Fort Gordon, Georgia.
In April 2011, the 56th Signal Battalion moved its headquarters from Fort Gordon, Georgia to Fort Sam Houston, Texas to be collocated with U.S. Army South. The battalion supports strategic, tactical and executive communications for U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Army Southern Command. Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD) is located with the battalion headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and the 525th Signal Company is located in Miami, Florida, with the U.S. Southern Command.
In April 2015, the battalion was tasked to stand-up five new Commanding General Communications Teams supporting U.S. Army North, U.S. Army Central, U.S. Army Cyber, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and the U.S. Army Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. Currently, the 56th Signal Battalion has elements permanently arrayed across five states and three countries. The higher headquarters, the 21st Signal Brigade, is located at Fort Detrick, Maryland.