This is the 39th letter P.f.c. Lester L. Zornes wrote home to Spokane, Washington while in the service during World War Two. By this time, he had been in the Army Air Forces for seven months and in Radio Operator and Mechanic Course at Army Technical School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
I have inserted the text below the images:
Saturday, September 4, 1943
Dearest Mom, Dad, and kids,
Well, here it is, Fall already, at least it seems that way from the weather. It’s cold and rainy today. Seems kinda swell though, at that. The nights as so a person can use both blankets comfortably, nice and cool, you know. I’ve got a feeling the winter is going to be nice and cool. It has a good reputation, anyway, -40º. Brrrr. I hope to be out of here by then, though.
I passed my 14 word check last night [Morse Code], so I’ll be working on 16 words per minute. We have to have credit for 18 words before graduation, so that means I have to pass two more checks.
Well there’s nothing new from here, except tonight is my last night of school for a while. We go on days tomorrow, Sunday.
Today is gas mask day. The first Saturday of every month we have to wear our gas masks all day. Gosh I hate to lug the darned thing around, even to school. We have to wear them, even to chow.
How is the old Buick? Is it still running? I miss having it here to overhall every other day. It used to be lots of fun. Maybe I’ll overhall it again, some day. Are you guys careing for the tires? They are precious things, you know.
How is the top of the Cad? Does it still leak? How is the Gas situation? How about the truck gas? Does the twin horns still work on the Cad?
I think I’ll be qualified for Combat Duty, ‘fore I get out of here. I wouldn’t mind it, being Radio Operator and Gunner (or as it is called, Radio Gunner) on a B-17 or something of the like.
Lots of others are going off to combat and are coming back. Lots of them have gone over and came back, so why shouldn’t I be able to get back okay. Some times I feel as though I’m anxious to go across and help get it over with, but think of the extra money I’d get. I’d get my 20% over seas pay, and flying pay, with a Staff Sgts rating. Gosh I’d draw down way over $130 per month. But don’t worry about it though, that’s a long way off yet.
Thanks for keeping the Cad shined for me. Tell Betty if her Ford worked like a Radio, I’d fix it for her. I’ve forgotten how to hold a wrench, it’s been so long.
Well, I’d better close for now. Write real soon please, and if you see Harold, ball him out for me for not writing.
Bye for now, Love as always P.f.c. Les. The Italy news looks mighty good, huh?
After reading “Not Forgotten: A Pacific Northwest Family Brings Their Soldier Home” Col. Brian Newberry, USAF ret. 2012-2014 92 ARW Commander, Fairchild AFB wrote:
“Not Forgotten: A Pacific Northwest Family Brings Their Soldier Home” heartwarmingly penned by Dave Reynolds, is a poetic remembrance of a Greatest Generation patriot. What I enjoyed most is how it chronicles a young soldier who raised his hand, did his job, and — collectively with millions of others — changed the world and preserved American freedom. Corporal Lester LaVerne Zornes’ story reminds us of the heroic feat they achieved. We will not forget them or the country of freedom we have today.“
Thank you, Sir, for these kind words and for your continued service to our community and country.
Here is the 51st letter our uncle P.f.c. Lester LaVerne Zornes mailed home during his training in WWII. At this point he was nearing completion of Radio Operations and Mechanics program at Army Technical School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He would go on to serve as Radio Operator on board a C-47 troop transport plane with the 306 Troop Carrier Squadron, 442nd Troop Carrier Group. The first image is of the Radio Operator patch he mailed home.
As he did in nearly all of his letters, he had to check on the 1928 Cadillac his father purchased for him. His father had been working for the ALCOA Aluminum smelter in Mead, Washington for six months.
[Envelope postmarked Nov 10, 1943, 10 AM; Sioux Falls, S. Dak.]
P.f.c. L.L. Zornes
804 T.S.S Bks. 1235
Army Technical School
A. A. F. T. T. C.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Mrs. L.O. Zornes
R.F.D. # 1
Dear Mom, Dad, and kids,
“Beautiful, beautiful Texas” that’s what I’m singing now. I never realized how swell Texas was till about three days ago. Yes, siree, they don’t have blizzards in Texas. This was the first (Real) Blizzard I’ve been in. Honestly, it was terrible!!!!! Two days and nights straight the wind blew at rates of about 50 m.p.h. It quit snowing after the first couple days, but even after the skies were blue, there were so much snow in the air all the time that you couldn’t see but a few feet ahead of you. Some places the ground is bare, and other places its piled up several feet high in drifts, especially around the buildings.
Today the wind is down and its fairly nice now. During the storm, it was almost impossible to walk against it, the wind would blow you backwards on the ice, no kidding. It blew so hard cars and busses couldn’t stay on the roads. Here on camp along a strip of road on the windward or northern side of camp, 4 busses and 1 or 2 trucks were ditched, within the distance of 2 blocks. All the trains were tied up and roads blocked and schools closed, businesses shut down. It was really a severe storm.
We may not get to fly this week because of bad weather. I’m hoping we can fly, though.
Well, next Monday, I’m graduating I hope. Graduation excercises are going to be held in town. They are sure keeping us busy, gosh, aint got time to do anything.
Did I tell you how much I enjoyed them thar cookies and cake? I devoured them the first day and night. Gosh, they were sure good. They were sure good. Thanks ever so much Mom. Say Mom, I won’t send any money home till after I ship from here and get settled at my next camp, just in case I should need something unexpectedly. Okay?
So, the Old Cadillac is getting cranky, huh? Are you treating her good? Tell her to be good and not act up like that or I won’t like her any more (so it says here). Oh, well, if the Cad don’t run, Rich [12 year old brother] can drive Dad to work in the Ford (again it says here). How is the weather back in good old Spokane? I sure hope you don’t get any blizzards like the one we had. The wind even ripped off a lot of our storm doors on the barracks.
Say Mom, I’ll send you a graduation patch when I graduate, the kind I’ll wear on my sleeve. I think they are pretty.
How’s the kids and school and so on? Does Lois [sister] still like High School as well as she use to? Tell her I’m ashamed of those low grades. Gosh, she could at least get keep up the great tradition of high grades I left there at L.C. [Lewis & Clark H.S.] Be quiet, Mom. Nuff said. No remarks.
Well, Mom, I’m running out of news so will close for now. Tell the Foreman of the Pot Room (to be) to keep the old Cad running good, cause ‘twould seem mighty funny if the foreman should be late, would be a very poor example to set up for his men. Tell him also that if he’d [get rid of] some of that tummy of his, the Cad wouldn’t have to work so hard and might work better. I’m proud of that tummy of his’n anyhow, cause it’s not every man that can have a ‘white coller” job and get a Pot Room Pot Belly (or is it Beer belly) huh?
I’ll try to write sooner next time, but you know how it is. I owe everybody a letter. Lottie. Harold [buddy]. Lena and Doris and Pauline and Johnny and Kiku and every body, but I just ain’t got time right now. If you see Harold, tell him I’ll try and write him soon.
Bye for now, As always Love and Love and Love P.f.c. Les.
About 40 of our friends, both established and brand new, came to the official launch of “Not Forgotten: A Pacific Northwest Family Brings Their Soldier Home” on October 12 at Sans Souci West (former location of Old Natatorium Park).
We had lots of memorabilia and photos that were not in the book, and lots of food and drink.
“It gives a guy a funny feeling inside him, when the Band is playing ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and the Flag slowly is lowered on the sinking sunshine on the Stars and Stripes. It makes him forget his grudges against the Army, for the time being.”
This is from the 41st letter our young uncle P.f.c. Lester LaVerne Zornes wrote home during his one year and one week of service in WWII. Is he being patriotic? Or poking a friendly elbow into the side of the military? Or maybe a little of both? You decide.
I can’t imagine jabbing at my parents over their weight the way he does in this and other letters. Actually, this was just one volley in a teasing game they played back and forth over the months.
He was learning Morse Code in the Radio Operations and Mechanics program at Sioux Falls. He would go on to serve as Radio Operator on board C-47 # 43-15143 with the 306th Troop Carrier Squadron.
I spent more than 25 years learning everything I could about the life and death of this young man, who passed away 16 years and six days before I was born. This letter, along with 66 other letters, one post card and the one Government Issued Mother’s Day card that he mailed home during his one year and one week of service, have really helped our family. Not only did we get to know and, in some cases, remember him, we were also able — 70 years after his death — to celebrate his life, and honor his service and sacrifice, and the sacrifice of those who loved and lost him.
Our book, “Not Forgotten: A Pacific Northwest Family Brings Their Soldier Home,” which includes the story of my adventures getting to know my uncle, along with the text of all of his letters home, is available now through our website (No. not Amazon) www.InonitPublishing.com
[Envelope postmarked Sept 16, 1943 6:30 PM; Sioux Falls, S.D.]
P.f.c. L.L. Zornes 804 T.S.S Bks. 1235 Army Technical School A. A. F. T. T. C. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Mrs. L.O. Zornes
R.F.D. # 1
Dear Mom, Dad and kids,
Just a line for now as still no news or nothing of interest from these here parts. Received your letter today. Also one from Jim [neighbor] and Harold [buddy].
You know, Mom, strange as it seems, the time seems to fly by. It seems as though the days just drag by, but when I look back a month or two, I can’t imagine where the time has gone to. It’s hard to realize I’ve only got a few more weeks till graduation (unless I ‘wash back’, which can happen, though I’m not worried about it.) This is my 15th week of school. I have 5 more weeks to go before I graduate for good, but this is my last week of Theory. The next couple weeks we have maintenance of Radio Sets and etc. In my second week of maintenance I get the “Quiz Kids”, then I’ll know if I ‘wash back” or not. Although, I’m not worried (not much anyway). I’m still working on 20 words per [minute] in code. In code class we are getting Tach. Pro (Tactical Procedures).
So we have only about 20 minutes a day to work on code. Oh, yes, we also take code by “blinkers” (lights).
Say, Mom, I was just thinking about the insurance on the Cadillac. Is a payment due yet on it? As long as we have it we may just as well keep it up, huh?
Well, my watch tells its time for lights to be out, so will finish this in the morn before school or tomorrow night.
Here I am again. Well, I missed my 20 word per minute check by 1 character. We are allowed 7 errors and I had 8.
We had a big Retreat Parade today for a 2 star General. It was rather nice. It was awful hot standing out there at attention while the Flag was coming down and the Band playing “Star Spangled Banner”. (It gives a guy a funny feeling inside him, when the Band is playing “Star Spangled Banner”, and the Flag slowly is lowered on the sinking sunshine on the Stars and Stripes. It makes him forget his grudges against the Army, for the time being.)
I’ve been going over to the shows at one of our Post Theaters quite often lately. 15¢ for a full length show is cheap entertainment. We get the Modern or new films out here at camp. Then the big expensive theaters in town get them. Good Deal, huh? I’ve seen “Sahara” with Humphrey Bogart, and “Claudia” (that was a real good show) and “My Kingdom for a Cook” starring Charley Colburn, and oodles of others. When I go to a show, it takes up all my spare time for the day. So if I have anything to do, I can’t go to a show.
How’s the old Cad? Does the fog lights still work? Good gosh, we’ll have to put ‘over-load’ springs on it to carry Dad around if he keep gaining more weight. (How much do you weigh?) I weigh 159 lbs now. Gosh, my waist line is awful. Can Dad still wiggle into his suit? Are you guys fixing the Cad up for winter? Have you made any more plans about selling the Buick?
(Gary Moore is just now on over the radio, with Jimmy Durante) I’ll send some money home soon.
Tell Rich [brother] to take good care of the Ford for me. Got to keep it in good shape, you know. How is the gas situation now since the last gas cut? Does it still allow you plenty of gas? I hope you don’t have to ‘diet’ the Cad.
Well, Mom, I’d better sign off for now. Write soon and next time I write I’ll tell you about passing my 20 wpm check (I hope).
Bye for now.
Oodles of Love to every one,
P.f.c. (Radio-operator and mechanic and future gunnery and ex-foreman and hill billy and mechanic and ‘Cad’ skinner and Ford herder – whew) Les
“The weather forecast is a military secret, but a rumor has been going around that the Devil has been seen in a real estate office looking for some land near here (I can’t figure out what they mean.)”
That’s one of my favorite lines from this July 24, 1943 letter our uncle Pfc Lester LaVerne Zornes wrote home to Spokane, Washington describing the weather in Sioux Falls, SD. By this time he had been in the Army Air Force four months, and Radio Operations and Mechanics school for about one month. He would go on to serve as Radio Operator on board a C-47 with the 306th Troop Carrier Squadron.
The pictures are of his mother showing off her new outfit, complete with open-toed shoes, which our uncle chose to mercilessly tease her about — in a loving way that only he could get away with.
I never saw Grandma smile like this. Never.
Letter dated Saturday, July 24, 1943
P.f.c. L.L. Zornes 804 TSS Bks. 1212 Army Technical School A. A. F. T. T. C. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
To: Mrs. L.O. Zornes R.F.D. # 1 Spokane, Washington
Dearest Mom, Dad and kids,
Just a note for now to let you know I received your most welcome letter and pictures. I sure treasure those pictures, no foolin’.
You look mightly “classy”, by golly. Were you chopping wood or what happened that you cut the toe of your shoes off? Did you hurt your foot during that ‘accident’? It is a shame to ruin a good pair of shoes like that. No foolin’ though, I think they are cute. Wait till I get home and buy me a new suit and we all go parading the streets together. We will really show the town some “class”.
We have a fiddler and a guitar player in the barracks here. Gosh, can they ever play. The fiddler is an expert, almost as good as Roy Acuff. I sure love to listen to them.
Darn it, stop talking about our berries. You’re making me hungry. Gosh, the first year our berries do good, and I gotta be away from home, so I can’t help “pick” ‘em. Gosh, the first thing I want when I get home is to sit down at the table and eat a big mess of fried spuds and open up a jar of preserves or berrie jam. Yum yum.
Yep, I want to see that cellar “full”, and I do mean full, when I get home. And I want to see a “smoke house” that is full of pork, too!!! (And I want to see the Cad full of gas, too!) Gosh, I sure want a lot, don’t I? I’m always getting into arguments about cars, down here. Nobody agrees with me, darn it. But I still think the Cad is my “one and only”. They can have all their Fords. Have you got the ‘new’ tires on yet? How are the “points”, are they still bad?
A lot of signs are going up all over, reading like this, “Have you heard the latest rumor? Well, forget it.” And “The difficult we will do right away, the impossible will take a little longer.” More rumors can start in an army camp than anwhere else. It’s actually funny to hear some of the silly rumors some guys make up.
School is still getting more interesting all the time, but the weather is so darned hot that it’s actually ‘misery’ sitting in a stuffy room. The weather forecast is a military secret, but a rumor has been going around that the Devil has been seen in a real estate office looking for some land near here. (I can’t figure out what they mean.)
Well, in another week or so we start building our own little receiving sets in school. It’ll really start getting interesting then.
Well, I guess I’d better stop boring you with all this stuff, so will close for now. Thanks again, Mom, for those pictures. I sure treasure them. Write real soon again. Bye for now.
Our uncle Pfc Lester L. Zornes mailed it home on July 14, 1943. He was in the U.S. Army Air Forces for four months and in Radio Operations and Mechanics School for about three weeks. In this letter, he tries to sell his parents on his plan to join Aviation Cadet school to become a pilot.
Scroll down to see the original images of this letter
[Postmarked July 14, 1943, 1:30 p.m.; Sioux Falls, S. Dak.; Postage free; letter not dated]
P.f.c. L.L. Zornes
804 TSS (Technical School Squadron)
Army Technical School
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Mrs. L.O. Zornes
R.F.D. # 1
Dear Mom, Dad and kids,
Well here it is. My day off and no pass to go to town. Next week, I hope the barracks pass inspection and we’ll all get our passes again.
Saturday was pay day, and immediately this barracks was one big gambling joint. Craps, poker, Blackjack, and everything that pertained to gambling. Some of the boys played craps at a dollar a throw. Some of the boys don’t like that I won’t even play for 5¢ a hand Blackjack. Some of the boys were ‘out’ about $20 in one night. A few boys came in drunk. Everybody is getting broke now, so it’s quieting down a little.
Here comes the mailman with the mail. Hope I get one. “Zornes”. “Right here”, and I got a letter. Ahah! Just guess where (Spokane) and who it’s from (Mrs. L.O. Zornes). Just a shake while I read it.
You know, I’ve got that same feeling, too, that South Dakota isn’t very far from home, just on the east side of Montana, but it is a long way.
Yep, we get lots of rain, too, in fact it’s raining now, or trying to. But the last few days has been very hot.
Gosh, would I love to see the garden. Doggone. I’d love to eat a good vegetable dinner right now. Once in a while we get some lettuce, onions or radishes, but they are usually wilted and old.
Say, Dad, do you still like your job? Do you still have your passengers? If you do, how do they like the Cadillac? (I’m always thing about the “Cad”, all the time. I just can’t help it, I guess).
Did you guys go bowling Sat. night? I hope so. If you did, tell me about it.
I’ve got my stripes sewed on almost all my clothes now. I wish you pin some “bars” on my shoulders instead of stripes on my sleeves, which reminds me, Mom. I have been thinking rather serious about trying out for “Cadets”. “Aviation Cadets”! That is one of the toughest “fights” in the army, to make Cadets and graduate. That also is one reason I’d like to try out for it. Only about 10 % or less have been making the ‘grade’ out of all the ones that tried. I’d like to challenge myself. It’s a long hard, tiring grind. Fifteen long months of it. If I’d put in my application for Cadets in a month or two, I’d be called about the time I graduate from here (I’m taking 8 words per minute in code). I’d have to take my physical over again, because as they say, the Aviation Cadets are carefully picked and examined, and are the “Cream of the Crop”. It would be an honor to just be picked for Cadet Training.
Here’s what would happen to me if I could go straight through. I would appear before Aviation Cadet Board and interviewed. Then sent to, possibly, Sheppard Field, to be shipped to College from there. Five months college then to Primary training, then Basic. Graduate from basic as a “Flight Officer” or 3rd Lt., and then to Advanced Training. By that time, 15 months have gone by, and the war would possible be over. I’d have my ‘silver wings’ and gold, and maybe ‘silver’ bars.
From the “washed out” Cadets I’ve talked to they’ve all told me to try it. I’ll quote some of them, Quote: “From the time you start College you are treated like a man instead of a soldier. You are ‘mister’ and ‘sir’, instead of ‘Hey soldier’ or ‘Hey you, yes I mean you, you ignoran.”
“The uniforms are the same as worn by officers and soldiers respect you very highly, and some times salute you”.
“That $75 a month comes in mighty handy.”
“Oh, there is no life in the Army compared to it. Hotel rooms with 4 in a room, restaurant meals, expensive silverware. Lots of free time, with no passes required.”
“It’s tough. Very tough. They’ll ‘gig’ you for the slightest little thing, shave once a day, a clean suit of clothes a day, etc. But I’d go through it again if my eyes would let me.”
One of my classmates here served 9 months in Cadets during the old 9 to 12 month Cadet course. Seven weeks before he was to have received his commission, he was “washed out” because of a slight defect in his eyes. He’s told me time and time again that the most foolish thing for me to do is to stick it out here when I could be going to Cadets. He says I’d kick myself for not going as soon as possible. The two main reasons for “wash outs” is Horseplay, which will not be tolerated, and physical defects, which wouldn’t hold me back, I don’t think. Even the slightest detection of nerves be jittery or anything like that will “wash you out”. He says if a man goes in there determined and with everything he’s got, he can usually make it. He says also that it is very tough, tougher than can be told, but he says you don’t mind it, because you’re working for something, getting ahead.
Well I’d better quit this sales talk, but I’d like to have your advice on it. I’ve painted the sunny side of it, but you can get some idea of what it’s like. I’d sure like to fly and wear my silver wing and bars. It’s something to fight for, huh?
Well, say, I’d better close for now as it’s getting pretty late. Write soon.
With Love to all. Your loving son P.f.c. Les.
P.S. Will send some money home as soon as I can get to a post office where I can get a money order. Okay?