Signalmen must be alert to respond to a flashing
light or semaphore call without delay.
At night, Signalmen must use extreme care to
avoid illuminating the ship's bridges and aircraft.
Such illumination reduces the night visual acuity of
pilots and conning officers. Whenever practicable
during carrier night-flight operations, infrared (IR)
systems should be used instead of visible flashing
LOCATING SHIPS IN FORMATION
Before you can send a visual message to another
ship, you first must know where that ship is located.
A Signalman with a message in hand, not knowing the
location of the addressee, would be in the same plight
as a postman trying to deliver a letter that has no
When operating with only one other ship, there is
no great difficulty. Operating with a large force,
however, does present a problem, and the problem
becomes even more complex at night. Infrared
communications during darken ship operations would
be impossible without some method of keeping track
of ships in the formation or locating them.
Signalmen on the signal bridge maintain an
up-to-date plot of all ships in company. One of the best
systems for plotting ships is a formation plot drawn on
a maneuvering board. The maneuvering board itself is
a compass rose with range circles, containing speed,
distance, and time scales. Your only interest in the
board at this time is how to use it in plotting and
locating other ships in formation. You will learn more
about how to solve maneuvering board problems in
Signalman, volume II.
The different formations and their component
stations are contained in Allied Maritime Tactical
Instructions and Procedures, ATP 1, volume I. Using
the formation in figure 8-1, imagine yourself as the
Signalman on USS Farragut (DDG-37) with a
message for USS Dewey (DDG-45).
By checking the formation plot, you find that
Dewey is in station No. 4 and that your own station is
No. 8. Place a set of parallel rulers so they intersect
your station and that of Dewey (single dashed line in
fig. 8-1). Move the parallel rulers to the center of the
plot (along the paths of the double lines). Where the
parallel rulers cross the outside ring of the
maneuvering board is the true bearing (330°T) of
Dewey from your ship. The formation course is 050°T,
so the relative bearing of Dewey is 280° (true bearing
less course), or just forward of your port beam. Now
that you have located the addressee, you can deliver
When operating in company, spotters are stationed
on the signal bridge from dawn to dark to watch for
signals from the OTC and other ships in company.
They must be alert at all times.
Spotters must be able to read flaghoist accurately.
They call out each flag in the signal in a loud, distinct
voice so that personnel on the flag bags and personnel
relaying the signal to those responsible for
determining the meaning of the signal can hear the
If the originating ship maneuvers in such a manner
that its signals cannot be distinguished, the spotter
should immediately inform another member of the
signal force to spot the ship from another position on
the signal bridge. Where there are obstructions such
as smoke, haze, fouled flags, or sun glare, the spotter
should be given assistance. Regardless of the effort
involved or the means necessary, the signal must be
obtained with minimum delay. Chapter 5, covered
flaghoist terminology used by the spotter.
An important duty of Signalmen and strikers is to
record signals and messages being read by another
Signalman. The date, time of transmission or receipt,
reference numbers, date-time group, means of
transmission, transmitting and receiving ships, and
relaying ships or stations all must be carefully
Messages are initialed by the operator and
supervisor at the time of receipt or transmission.
Normally, originals of nontactical messages, after
being initialed, the signalbridge messenger, usually
the same person that recorded the message, routes it
to the OOD or captain, after which a copy is sent to
the communications center for write-up and internal
distribution. The method for handling tactical signals
was discussed in chapter 5. Personnel Qualification
Standard for Visual Communications, NAVEDTRA
43354A, section 301 must be completed to perform
the duties of signalbridge recorder/messenger.