Army Signal Corps Special Event Station
by Joe Crankshaw
June 17, 2010

Radio hams to celebrate 150th anniversary of Army Signal Corps in Hobe Sound

HOBE SOUND — The Army Signal Corps turns 150 years old.

Members of the Martin County Amateur Radio Association will celebrate the milestone Saturday and Sunday with a Special Event Station from the Hobe Mountain watchtower in Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

The site of the event was once the top secret Camp Murphy, the Army’s Southern Signal School. The name of the school was a disguise, it actually trained radar specialists.

The public is invited, said Bill Laakkonen, spokesman for the association.

The Special Event Station will include two tents by the base of Hobe Mountain containing amateur radio units, plus one on Hobe Mountain Tower. They will be transmitting and receiving messages both days. Saturday is designated for children.

The Signal Corps was the brainchild of Brig. Gen. Albert Myers, a surgeon who sought to help deaf people communicate. He served in the Southwest and observed the Navajos signal with smoke and heliographs, which are mirror-like objects to reflect sunlight to send signals. He developed the “wig-wag” system of using flags to send coded messages. His innovations would help in the Civil War.

Myers also created the weather reporting system now used in the National Weather Service.

Camp Murphy was established in 1942 and named for Col. William H. Murphy, a Signal Corps officer killed in World War II. The school was camouflaged from both the ground and the air and guarded by military police carrying submachine guns.

Many Martin County residents were employed at the camp and knew of its secret nature, but not details. A young lieutenant who spoke at the Stuart Rotary Club mentioned the word “radar” in his talk and the next day found himself transferred to North Africa.

Hams celebrate

What: Martin County Amateur Radio Association celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Where: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, 16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, at Hobe Mountain Observation Tower in the park.

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday.

Special Events: Radio field station operations, visitors may talk over the radios. At 2 p.m. Saturday, Ranger Barry Richardson will talk on the history of Camp Murphy in the Else Kimbell Environmental, Educational and Research Center.

Fees: Park admission is $6 per auto with up to 8 passengers. Driver and car only $4. Bicyclists and hikers $2. No other charges.