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Radiophoto or telephoto techniques were introduced during WWII to transmit photographs by electronic means. The equipment was developed for the Army Communications Service by Acme Newspictures and was first field tested in June 1942. The first operational system was commissioned in Algiers in early 1943. This technology was the forerunner of the later Fax or Facsimile machines. Other radiophoto stations were commissioned in Brisbane in July 1943, Honolulu in February 1944 and Manila in January 1945. Other temporary stations were established in battlefield areas.

The 832nd Signal Service Battalion, US Army was responsible for the Brisbane Radiophone Station located at Cintra an old house at 55 Boyd Street, Bowen Hills.

The photo to be sent was clamped to a drum at the transmitting station and a similar drum at the receiving station was covered with sensitized paper. The drums ate each end revolved at 100 revolutions per minute. A bean of light scanned the transmitting drum laterally, covering a band of about an inch wide every minute. The intensity of the beam, varied with the black, white and grey tones of the photo, which then modulated a radio wave which was transmitted and the varying light intensity was then recreated at the receiving station. This beam travelled over the sensitized paper and reproduced the photo that was scanned at the remote end.


Photo:- Popular Mechanics April 1945

A typical Radiophoto set


Prior to the use of Radiophotos, fast air courier services were used by the military. For example General Marshall in Washington D.C. was able to receive the first D-Day photos using air courier within 24 hours.

Each black and white picture, map or page of text took seven minutes to transmit. Towards the end of the war the first colour photograph was transmitted. It was a photo of President Harry S. Truman, Prime Minister Clement R. Atlee and Marshall Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam conference.

Signal Center Station W-A-R in Washington D.C. (known as Station W-A-R) comprised a number of 1 to 40 kilowatt transmitting and receiving stations connected to remote receiving and transmitting stations in the various theatres of war. This system allowed General Marshall and his General Staff in Washington D.C. to communicate with theatre commanders using Radiophotos.



The Signal Corps - The Outcome Mid-1943 through 1945
by George Raynor Thompson and Dixie R. Harris


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This page first produced 19 December 2014

This page last updated 31 August 2018