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Training Civilians for Wartime Radio Operating
September 1942 QST Article

September 1942 QST

 September 1972 QST  Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

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.

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.

Training Civilians for Wartime Operating

Organizing Community Classes for Radio Training

By John Huntoon   W1LVQ

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 re-spective communities. Now that Autumn is upon us and the school season returns, this is an "all-out" 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.

RF Cafe - Training Civilians for Wartime Operating, Sixty-nine YL's graduated June 28th from A WVS radio classes under the supervision of Leonore Conn, November 1942 QST

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.

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 ability.


The first step is to decide what scope of train-ing 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 non-amateur Army field operators we often hear.

You 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.

Training Aids

Training Civilians for Wartime Operating - RF Cafe

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 radio-communication. 

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?

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.

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.


In any 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.



Posted April 5, 2019
(updated from original post on 3/21/2011)

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