July 5, 1943: Di-dah Morse Code Class

When our uncle Pfc Lester LaVerne Zornes wrote this letter home to Spokane, Washington, he had just wrapped up his second day of Morse Code class as part of his training to become a Radio Operator. The school was running three shifts of classes, with his class starting at 2:00 a.m. He would go on to send, receive, and transcribe an astonishing 22 words per minute, all in the form of short taps (dots) and longer taps (dashes), or as he called them, “dis” and “dahs” on a telegraph key. (He would go on to serve on board a C-47 with the 306th Troop Carrier Squadron.)

I can imagine Grandma trying to keep a straight face while reading this whimsical letter out loud to Grandpa and their three kids, including my mom, who had turned 11 years old just a few days earlier.

You try reading it out loud — fast!

[Envelope postmarked July 5, 1943; 1:30 P.M.; Sioux Falls, S. Dak]

P.f.c. L.L. Zornes

804 TSS, Barracks 1212

Army Technical School


Sioux Falls, South Dakota


Mrs. L.O. Zornes

R.F.D. #1

Spokane, Washington

Thurs, July 5 [Morse code marks over or under each character of date]

Dear Mom, Dad, and kids,

Some di-dah people say di-dah that studying di-dah Morse Code will di-dah make a guy di-dah “code-di-dah-dah-di-crazy” di-di-dah. But they are di-dah-dah mistaken. I’ve been going dah-di-dah to school for two whole dah-dah-di days studying di-di-dah code, and it hasn’t dah-di affected me a bit di-di yet.

Been going to school two days now and know a few letters in code. Believe me, it’s mighty tough, but I think it is going to be fun after I learn the code alphabet. We are also taking ‘theory’ of electricity and of radio mechanics. Our time is equally divided between “Code” and “Theory”. So we don’t get too tired of either. It seems like “good old school days” again, (all except the two hours of calethsentics and games). Code is kinda fun. There are about 150 soldiers in Code Class. We receive our instructions and teachings over ear phones. We get most of our training from phonograph records hooked up to the ear phone system. Yes, it’s going to be a mighty rough course, but I’m going to do my darnedest to make good.

How is the weather back in a good country? It’s colder than heck here now. Rather have it cold than hot though, by golly. How’s our garden? We have darned good food here, but I’d sure like to go into our garden and make me out a good meal on vegetables again. (Talking of eating, I sure can’t get used to eating supper at noon. Silly, ain’t it?) Has it ever stopped raining? I think we are getting your rain here, now. It hasn’t rained very much, but it’s always cloudy and trying it’s best to.

Well, shucks, there just ain’t no news here, so forgive me for writing such a short letter, but I just wanted to let you know I started school okay, and think I’m going to like it. (We have a few girl techettes, too! No wonder I’m thinkin’ I’ll like it”. Almost all instructors are civilians.)

Better close for now, as it’s almost bed time (4:00) and I gotta go take a shower and clean up and do a lot of ‘home work’, studying di-di-dahs, and reading about electricity (D.C. current) and so on.

Remember, I once said I’d never go to school again? Darned liar, wasn’t I? I’ll “half” addmit that I like school for a change, though.

Still looking for a letter or two from Spokane (hint-hint) so write soon please.

Bye for now.

Your di-di-dah son

as ever yours

P.f.c. di-dah-dah Les

Envelope. Notice postage is “Free”

Page 1 of letter
Page 2 of letter

July 14, 1943, Sioux Falls, SD — Aviation Cadet School sales talk

The following letter is included in the book Not Forgotten: A Pacific Northwest Family Brings Their Soldier Home.

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)
Bks. 1212
Army Technical School
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Mrs. L.O. Zornes
R.F.D. # 1
Spokane, Washington

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?

Page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4