[Attachment 5] Status of Telephone Operators - 1918

3 July 1918.

From: Chief Signal Officer, A.E.F.

To: Chief Signal Officer of the Army, Wash., DC (thru CG CoS, AEF).

Subject: Status of telephone operators and civilian clerks.

1. With reference to par. 6 War Dept, cablegram 1155, in which this office was advised that telephone operators and clerks. Signal Service at large, serving with the AEF, are without military status. It is recommended that steps be taken to militarize these employees to be afforded the advantages derived from a military status. These consist principally in the privileges of War Risk Ins., authority to wear War Service and Wound Chevrons, and Official recognition of their connection with the military establishment of which they necessarily form a part.

2. With reference to War Risk Insurance, many of our civilian clerks and telephone operators are serving in the zone of the advance at places subject to air raids by the enemy. Their positions thereby entail some aspects of danger as a provision against which War Risks Insurance was established.

Furthermore, a number of those young men and young women contribute to the support of dependents in the United States to whom a fatality without the protection of War Risk Insurance would prove a considerable loss.

Suppose a telephone operator, in particular, was injured in the performance of her duties. Someone in the United States was disposed to agitate the fact that she had been sent to France without War Risk Insurance which has been given to nurses and other members of the AEF. In that case, it is quite possible that the Signal Corps would find itself in an embarrassing position to explain why the Signal Corps had not remedied such a condition.

3. Regarding War service and wound chevrons, there is enclosed herewith a copy of G. O. Nb. 110 GHQ AEF, c.s. from Par 3, it would appear that since telephone operators and clerks of the Signal Corps have been sent in uniform to Europe, they are entitled to wear the wound chevrons, except that paragraph 15 limits the definition of "all uniformed personnel of authorized military establishment."

The subject has been taken up with the Commander in Chief, who has replied by submitting copies of the attached cablegrams. Because the Signal Corps telephone operators are performing their duties with the AEF with the same patriotic and devoted spirit as the Army Nurses under conditions which in general are the same, it is urged that every effort be made to obtain for them the privilege to wear the war service and wound chevrons.

The same may be said for the clerks, Signal Service at large, who are doing work identical with that of the Army Field Clerks and Field Clerks Quartermaster Corps, frequently at the same headquarters.

4. Concerning the general question of the military status, it may be remarked that the regulations covering civilian employees of the military establishment in the field appear, in general, to be written for personnel who comprise labor organizations, etc. In the case of clerks, Signal Service at Large, a literal interpretation of these regulations becomes an additional source of discontent.

For example, the present regulations require that these clerks wear issue clothing and canvas leggings. While the question of clothing is of secondary importance, the fact that Field Clerks in this respect enjoy the privileges of a cadet is productive of ill-feeling. Field Clerks are given second-class transportation on French railways, while civilian clerks are restricted to third-class passage.

5. To remedy these conditions, it is believed advisable that the Signal Corps telephone operators be organized in such a manner as will afford them the same military status as Army Nurses, and that steps be taken to establish the grade of "Field Clerk, Signal Corps," to provide clerical help in the field.

B. Russel,
Brig. Gen, N.A., C.S.O.

[Attachment 5] Status of Telephone Operators - 1918, in Hearing before the Committee on Venteran's Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session on S. 247, S. 1414, S. 129, and Related Bills, Washington DC: US Government Print Office, 25 May 1977, pp. 316-317.

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