Sept 16, 1943 – Star Spangled Banner & “How much do you weigh, Mom?”

“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)

[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
Spokane, Washington

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.

Friday P.M.

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

P.S. Am looking forward for them pictures.

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