978TH SIGNAL SERVICES COMPANY
BASED AT CAMP TABRAGALBA
NEAR BEAUDESERT, QLD
The 978th Signal Services Company was activated on 1 July 1943. About 200 radio operators were selected and left the United States arriving in Australia on 17 November 1943 for training in jungle survival and jungle warfare skills at the Allied Intelligence Bureau's secret camp known as Camp " X" or Camp Tabragalba, near Beaudesert south of Brisbane in southern Queensland. The last group (rear echelon) of radio operators arrived in Australia on 7 March 1944.
The 978th Signal Services Company was created to handle secret underground radio communication with the Philippines. It functioned as the net control station for all the Philippine traffic, operating both the radio station and message center, and sent secret "Mission Men" into the islands mainly to build and operate radio stations through which military intelligence would be sent into the islands prior to the invasions. The radio and message center sections went in with the invading armies. With the close of operations, all sections of the company came together and lived at Camp San Miguel on Luzon.
It is believed that the 978th was part of the Allied Intelligence Bureau's Section C - Coast Watch Organisation or Combined Field Intelligence Service. This evolved from the pre-war Naval coast watching system. The role of Section C was "obtaining all possible information about the enemy, his disposition, movements, strength, etc. through such agencies as the coastwatchers, native agents and civilian operations".
On 8 October 1943, the 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion (Prov) was formed by authority of General Orders #58 Hq USAFFE APO 510, 1943.
The battalion included:-
- Hq Co
- Hq & Service Co
- 5218th Rcn Co (Prov)
978th Signal Service Company (which was considered the "heart of the 5217th') was placed on attached status to the 5217th Rcn Bn (Prov.) for administration purposes.
Almost half the members of the 978th Signal Service Company were smuggled behind Japanese lines in the Philippines by US Navy submarines. The job of the 978th operatives was to work with the Filipino guerrillas, supply them with weapons, ammunition, medicine, victory money, other essential equipment and inform the guerrillas and the local inhabitants that General Douglas MacArthur would be returning to the Philippines. Their job was to maintain radio contact with GHQ in Brisbane and provide them with intelligence on the location and strength of the Japanese forces. They would report back on Japanese shipping and airfield activities.
Members of the 978th Signal Service Company were trained by Colonel Lewis Brown III and the experienced officers of the 5218th Reconnaissance Company. They were trained in jungle survival skills and hand to hand fighting techniques required in jungle battlefields.
The unit slogan "Bahala Na" is Tagalog which can be loosely translated into English as "Come What May", "So Be it", "We Don't Give a Damn", "Whatever the Outcome."
The 978th provided 13 landing parties from 12 November 1943 until 22 October 1944 for insertion into the Philippines via submarines out of Brisbane, Darwin, and New Hollandia. Twelve of the 13 parties were successfully inserted. Party Eleven was lost on 3 October 1944 when the USS Seawolf (SS-197) was sunk with all hands off Morotai Island, Indonesia. Unfortunately the cause was friendly fire - USS Rowell (DE-403) and aircraft.
These landing parties, however, were not the first to be inserted into the Philippines. There were at least six parties of Australian-trained Filipinos that made landings in the Philippines (14 Jan - 27 Jul 1943). These Filipinos were mainly survivors of the original Philippine campaign that were able to escape to Australia. The first party was led by Major Jesus Villamor (namesake of Villamor Air Base, Philippines). Major, Captain, Villamor originally gained fame as a Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) pilot flying a P-26 Peashooter during the initial air battles over the Philippines. He apparently shot down a Japanese bomber on 12 December 1941.
In August 1944, Rufino F. Cacabelos, and 2nd Lt Edmondo Marfori and 2nd Lt. William Davis of the 978th published an Anniversary Book at Camp Tabragalba documenting the first year of occupation for the 978th at the camp. Julius B. Ruiz was Editor-in-Chief for the Anniversary Booklet. (Does anyone have a copy of the Anniversary Booklet?)
On 20 November 1944 the 5217th was disbanded and the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Special) was activated at Hollandia, in New Guinea.
On 15 August 1945 the 1st Rcn Bn (Special) was disbanded in Manila
General Order No. 115 dated 17 August 1945 awarded the 978th Signal Services Company with the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque Award by command of General MacArthur.
GHQ, SWPA, Brisbane
NOTE:- Tony Garcia, US Army (Retired), is after some assistance with their project. The Filipino-American Historical Society is interested in knowing the names of personnel for each of the 10 missions sent from Darwin by the 978th Signal Services Company.
NOTE:- David Refuerzo's grandfather was in the 1st Filipino Infantry US Army.
I'd like to thank Gene 'Duke' Duque for his assistance with this home page. Gene was a Sigint Chief Petty Officer US Navy from 1974 - 1998. Gene's father was a member of the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment, Army of the United States.
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© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 19 November 2000
This page last updated 14 January 2015