Training Civilians for Wartime Radio Operating
September 1942 QST Article
There was a time when a sense of national pride accompanied an ingrained a desire to perform a civic duty,
particularly when crisis or war was upon the country. Unlike today's environment of "rights" and entitlements
promised by politicians without any authority in the Constitution, people volunteered to assist neighbors and
friends for the good of not just their immediate neighborhoods, but of their country. Rationing was imposed on
many goods by the government for the sake of the war effort, but most folks were more than willing to comply since
nearly everyone had a son, father, uncle, or good buddy serving to defeat the Axis powers. Recall the scene in
"It's a Wonderful Life," where George Bailey and family served as volunteers for the Red Cross, bottle and tire
drives, and Civil Defense block wardens, while younger brother Harry flew bombers.
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the
ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list of the
QST articles I have already posted. As time permits, I will
be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
As is their proud
history, Ham radio operators contributed mightily to the war effort by helping to train civilians in the proper
and efficient operation of radio equipment, and by joining the service to apply their own skills to the task. Here
is an article that appeared in the November 1942 edition of QST magazine on the subject of training.
vintage QST articles.
Training Civilians for Wartime Operating
Organizing Community Classes for Radio Training
In the prosecution of the war our armed forces find
themselves confronted with a great shortage of trained specialists. This is particularly true in the
communications field. Training schools by the hundreds with a prodigious total enrollment have been set up to
relieve this shortage, but they are not enough. Then, too, the flow of trained civilians into military service has
stripped essential home communications activity of personnel, creating a serious problem in finding operators to
man the War Emergency Radio Service.
Many affiliated clubs and other amateur groups have responded to this
need by setting up classes in radiotelegraph code and theory in their respective communities. Now that Autumn is
upon us and the school season returns, this is an "allout" call to every club and every amateur remaining home to
assist in this widespread training work. Let it not fall on deaf ears at "one of those meetings of hams-at which
everyone sits and suggests that something ought to be done," (as Jack Hill describes them on page 80). This is an
important job, one which we amateurs can do well since we have a supply of the necessary raw material -
instructors and equipment.
Our broad objectives should be three-fold: First, to give pre-induction training to prospective selectees so that
they may advance rapidly during their military communications schooling; second, to prepare local civilians to
fill essential communications jobs whose former holders have gone to war; and third, to train operators for the
War Emergency Radio Service. Every training class should have as its goal the acquisition of an FCC license,
amateur or commercial, by each student; such a license is about the only documentary evidence, aside from a radio
engineering degree, which military personnel officers will honor in support of a candidate's claim to radio
The new War Emergency Radio Service needs many trained operators. Sixty-nine YL's graduated June 28th from A WVS
radio classes under the supervision of Leonore Conn. W2NAZ, and are now awaiting their amateur licenses from
FCC. Reeve Strock, W2GTZ. deputy radio aide for New York City, was right on hand to sign up the gals for
participation in WERS.
The first step is to decide what scope of training you will offer - code or
theory, and to what degree. Important considerations will be what instructor material is available and what
equipment can be secured. Probably code is the better course to offer, at least at the beginning, for it is a more
interesting one to evening students and one which a greater percentage of amateurs are capable of teaching. It is
obvious that only reasonably-good operators - meaning good fists rather than high speed - should be allowed to
handle the code classes, so that no poor sending habits will be transmitted to students; we want to turn out a
product far superior to some of the mass-production nonamateur Army field operators we often hear.
will need a classroom, of course. The principals of local schools should be willing to help you out; in fact, they
may wish to offer the course as part of their regular evening-school training. If this source is not productive,
contact civic clubs, the YMCA, chambers of commerce - we're certain you won't need to go further. (You need not be
particular, but if there is a choice between classrooms choose one which has the most sound insulation.)
If your town has a population greater than 50, you need have no fear of the success of your course. If publicity
should appear in a local paper you probably will need a police guard to handle the crowds around the registration
point you name! Of course, a large number of applications is a desirable thing; you can reserve the right to
select students on your own specification, and can thereupon proceed to choose first those for whom induction is
imminent, and so on.
Adequate training literature in the form of student texts for both code and theory classes is available from Hq,
In addition, we shall be glad to send to any club without charge a mimeographed set of material containing hints
to code instructors, together with some practice material. There is also available, gratis, an outline of a theory
course based on the Handbook, though the current QST series is much more elaborate and detailed.
Above are pictured some examples of amateur-sponsored community training classes in radiotelegraph code and
theory, designed to give both stay-at-home civilians and future Army selectees preliminary knowledge of
radiocommunication. Upper and center left: The Bamberger classes are held in the WaR studios, with Ed Oberle,
W2LCA, instructing in theory. Lower left: Troop of Rock Springs, Wyoming, Girl Scouts receiving code instruction
from John Duffy, W7DIE. Upper right: First graduates of the Navy League Service radio class, instructed by
Walter Faries, who will be remembered as the winner of the Cairo Survey Award. Center right: The St. Paul Radio
Club's 15-minute radio program goes on KSTP. to teach code to Twin Cities' listeners; left to right, Leo Hartig;
J. L. Hill, W9ZWW; A. E. Swanberg, W9BHY; R. N. Runyon; Dorothy Swanberg. Lower right: Dr. E. F. Murphy, age 68,
and Glenn Still, 12, learn code from Willard Coder, W9HWS, president of the St. Paul Club. Has your club started
a training program yet?
Equipment is not much of a problem in code classes, for an adequate oscillator may be built from nearly every
amateur junk box. Procurement of new headphones and keys is not always possible, but students can be informed that
they must bring their own 'phones, along with the suggestion they scout around, inquiring of friends and
acquaintances for old pairs; they exist in many attics and cellars and usually will fill the need. Telegraph keys
can be acquired in the same manner, while early receiving practice is under way; keys may be shared, too, so that
a supply equal to the class enrollment is not necessary. As a last resort only, if sufficient 'phones are not
available, buzzer sets or a loud speaker may be used. The equipment problem becomes more complicated for classes
on theory, but here again the junk box may be source number one, for the QST-course series utilizes demonstration
units constructed to a great extent from just that type of gear.
class, but particularly in one aiming at the radiotelephone third-class operator permit, you should plan to turn
out operators, not just licensees. If you happen to be instructing members of the Civil Air Patrol, for example,
make certain they get classroom practice simulating airport control station and aircraft contacts, so they will
learn voice technique in a snappy manner. Give your code students practice operating in networks, alternating the
control station assignment, and let them handle dummy messages. Trainees should receive guidance in copying to
typewriter, ten-to-the-line. In theory classes, allow as much time for "laboratory" work as possible; nothing is
more abstract than radio technique when only a paper knowledge exists.
To any affiliated club wishing to
conduct code tests, ARRL will be glad to send a supply of proficiency certificates upon receipt of an application
accompanied by a description of how the competition will be conducted, equipment used, etc. The awards are issued
in the name of the sponsoring group, and can be used for sending or receiving ability.
By no means least, keep us informed of your activities. Let us know how many persons you are training and to what
end, so we may list you in the "Honor Roll." We want amateur radio to do a bang-up job in community radio
training, and we want to chronicle it in QST's pages.