Some Details of Babe’s Training as a Radio Operator

Dated April 17, 1943; postmarked April 18, from Camp Wheeler.

Dear Folks,

As you can see, I am printing this letter, but I don’t think I’ll do very well with it because I never did much printing and it has to be done a certain way. I am going to radio school now and all messages I receive will have to be printed. I am on the third lesson now, which means that I am learning 21 characters of code now. When I say characters, I mean Morse code, but not the way you think of it.

We don’t use dots and dashes, but we use dits and da’s. For instance, instead of saying dot-dot-dash-dot for “F,” we say dit-dit-da-dit and we say it as fast as we can so that we learn the letter by the sound as a whole instead of learning the letter by each individual dot and dash. That way, we can take code much faster than we could if we did it the Boy Scout way.

We also have a phonetic alphabet we use when we want to spell out a word when we use voice transmission. Here is the phonetic alphabet, the way each letter is written and the order each stroke is made.

With a little practice, you’d be surprised how much speed, accuracy and legibility you can obtain by this method. Legibility is our main purpose in printing.

This radio buiseness business is good stuff and I like it. I’m perfectly satisfied where I am right now and I wouldn’t voluntarily leave here for anything. I just came to realize that I am sitting on top of the world right now. Why, I don’t even want to get in the air corps anymore. All we do all day is sit in school all day with a pair of earphones on and listen to dits and da’s all day long. Pretty soon, however, we will go on night problems and then we will have the fun.

I’m through printing for awhile for the simple reason that it took me about an hour to print the last page because I had to stop to think of the correct way to make certain letters.

I neglected to tell you of something we did just before we started school. We went on an overnight hike and we pitched tents and slept out. It was bitter cold that night and everybody slept with all their clothes on, some of them with their shoes and leggings on too. After we got up in the morning and rolled our packs, we went on to the overhead firing problem. That is, we, the platoon, went down the side of a hill firing at enemy positions on the opposite hill.

While this was going on, machine guns started firing at us so we had to drop down and crawl with the machine gun fire about two feet above our heads.

I got my first guard duty a couple of days ago from 5 in the morning to 7 in the morning and it was cold then too.

Right now, I am writing this letter on the porch of our barracks because it’s late and all the lights inside are out. Almost everybody else from the platoon is out here too singing. Even our sergeant who is sergeant of the guard tonight is here and a couple of the corporals of the guard. We are the only platoon that does this every night and it really is nice. We have a darn good guitar player in our platoon who provides the accompaniment. Tomorrow is Sunday and I may write another letter then, so I’ll say so-long until I do.


PDF: Intro to Radio Training, Printing Letters

One thought on “Some Details of Babe’s Training as a Radio Operator

  1. Kurt,

    This is such fun. My husband Ken was in the Intelligence Corp of the army. ( this is in the late 60’s) He too had to learn Morse code. It was fun for us to read Babe’s experience. What a beautiful project this is.

    Blessings, Jeanne King


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