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KD8EZP
06-02-2011, 11:46 AM
Hello All,

I was wondering if anybody had information on how the military (US or UK) went about training their Morse operators? How much time would radio operators spend on learning Morse, typical syllabus, expected level of proficiency upon completion, etc. Any information is appreciated.

Thanks

Dave Warner
KD8EZP

AG3Y
06-02-2011, 11:51 AM
This might give you a clue. Also look for pt.2 etc.

I remember a story from Jean Shepherd of WOR fame, about how he and a bunch of cronies refused to "learn" Morse Code in a class they had been mistakenly sent to. They were already very proficient morse operators !

Very funny !

K2DN
06-02-2011, 01:27 PM
My father was a radio operator in Vietnam; 8th Radio Research field station in Phu Bai. He said they went to class 8 hours a day 5 days a week. They started at 5 WPM and had to get to 13 WPM.

AG3Y
06-02-2011, 01:33 PM
I understand that a lot of Morse Code in WWII was encrypted. Things like 5 number groups, etc. How would you like to have to copy THAT perfectly? NO THANK YOU !

AD5MB
06-02-2011, 01:42 PM
In the Army Security Agency you put headphones on and learned how to type and copy code simultaneously. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. random numbers and letters - they wanted verbatim copy, did not want anyone finishing words that might be wrong.

people would iron their fingers, or slam a car door on them, trying to get a day off. didn't work. "looks painful, dude. put on the cans..."

a friend - an electronics tech, not a "ditty bopper" - built a Morse code practice oscillator and fed it to his stereo. Started tapping out code. I heard people shouting "Make it stop! Make it stop!". looked out the window - people are "typing" on car fenders. Pavlovian behavior.

W0VYE
06-02-2011, 01:59 PM
My uncle, now SK, was a US Navy radio op during WW II. He didn't talk about it much, but he did tell me the first thing they had to learn was typing. I don't remember exactly, but I think the CW requirement was 18 wpm with very good accuracy. He was eventually stationed on a destroyer in the Pacific.

My uncle never became a ham despite his naval experience, or maybe because of it. He wasn't inclined to talk about the war, at least not with me, but he did tell me once that he was on deck during an attack and watched a bomb drop down one of the ship's stacks. It didn't detonate.

A quick Google search pulled up these links: 73

http://jproc.ca/rrp/nro_ww2.html

http://www.units.muohio.edu/mcguffeymuseum/student_exhibits/site/public%20history%20web%20site/CampusPage.htm

http://www.navy-radio.com/flory/id9.html

K8ERV
06-02-2011, 02:00 PM
One of my SK friends was a Morse operator during the Great War. Said he had to learn on a typewriter, with a Dvorak keyboard.

Probably depended on which service you were in, think he was Navy. Doubt if a mill was used on an airplane.

TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo

KI4WCQ
06-02-2011, 04:46 PM
This link has the code training used in about 1942. I found it to be very helpful with its structured approach and the fact you record on paper to check yourself. The instructor gives you the correct answer after each drill. I tried some of the computer programs and while they were very good, I didn't like typing my response so the computer could grade it. Too often I knew a letter and typed something else, followed by the mental "aw crap", which then caused problems for the next letter or two!

Looking at this training program, I'd say they did it in about three to four weeks.

http://www.archive.org/details/U.S._Armed_Forces_Institute_Basic_Radio_Code_ca194 2

AC0FP
06-02-2011, 06:40 PM
In the USAFSS the code operators course was for 5 weeks, copying code on a typewriter. I never took code training myself but I worked with many who did.

G0GQK
06-02-2011, 09:34 PM
During WW2 many hundreds of thousands of people had to learn Morse Code and after the war they were pig sick of hearing it and that was it. I was told they had signallers at it eight hours a day, many developed glass arm and it drove them nuts. Some had difficulty sleeping because their heads were pounding and I can quite believe it. The RAF fella's were trained with noise and were supposed to be able to send perfectly, all numbers, while the Rolls Royce Merlins in Lancasters were roaring away over Hamburg and flak was coming from all directions and the morse key was strapped to your knee. John Wayne never did that !

N8CPA
06-02-2011, 11:04 PM
During WW2 many hundreds of thousands of people had to learn Morse Code and after the war they were pig sick of hearing it and that was it. I was told they had signallers at it eight hours a day, many developed glass arm and it drove them nuts. Some had difficulty sleeping because their heads were pounding and I can quite believe it. The RAF fella's were trained with noise and were supposed to be able to send perfectly, all numbers, while the Rolls Royce Merlins in Lancasters were roaring away over Hamburg and flak was coming from all directions and the morse key was strapped to your knee. John Wayne never did that !

I can believe it might drive some folks bats. Many contesters talk about a persistent after-effect of CW contesting. After so many continuous hours of focusing on the din, when the contest is over, many participants keep hearing Morse patterns in all manner of things; tire bumps, ventilation fans, washers, driers, etc. It can take days for the effect to diminish, after even a single weekend. I can imagine what days and months of active listening to it might do to some folks.

KC8VWM
06-02-2011, 11:48 PM
Many participants keep hearing Morse patterns in all manner of things; tire bumps, ventilation fans, washers, driers, etc. It can take days for the effect to diminish,


Many of my home appliances including my PC and microwave oven sends morse code.

N4AJZ
06-03-2011, 12:07 AM
My father was a radio operator in Vietnam; 8th Radio Research field station in Phu Bai. He said they went to class 8 hours a day 5 days a week. They started at 5 WPM and had to get to 13 WPM.
Exactly........at the U.S. Army Signal School at Ft. Gordon, Ga. they used cassette recordings, mostly random
characters and numbers in five character groups, with very little plain text. You passed at 13 WPM. If you could type on a manual
typewriter, you could increase your proficiency to 25 - 30 WPM(and they made an instructor out of you,ha)

N4AJZ

KA9VQF
06-03-2011, 12:25 AM
One of the fellows who Elmer’ed me in the by gone days {now SK} had been a navy CW operator on a ship in the pacific during the second world war.

He copied to a mill and used a Vibroplex bug on the ship.

He did not become a amateur radio operator for around 20 years after he was out of the service. He said when he finally decided to get a ticket and be a ham it was because he could hear code in everyday sounds like someone else mentioned.

He figured that since he could detect code in everything, all the time anyway, that there was no getting away from it so,… he may as well try to enjoy it.

K7KBN
06-03-2011, 01:35 AM
When I went to Navy Radioman "A" school in 1963 (San Diego), the curriculum was code for 4 non-consecutive hours each day, interspersed with basic electronics, message format, procedure and so forth. The code was sent from "Code Control" to the various classrooms on different circuits at different speeds. On the very first day we were sitting with the cans on our ears in front of typewriters with blank key caps. The instructor, a tall, skinny guy, told us that we'd hear some "really fast code", which we were to disregard, and then we'd hear each character sent twice (starting with the "home row" keys on the typewriter.)

The first thing I heard was "DOUBLE BASIC REEL NUMBER 1", sent at about 16 WPM. Since I didn't consider this "really fast", I went ahead and typed it as it was coming over the phones, right at my max typing speed. Next thing I recall was the instructor looking down at what I'd typed. "You've copied code before, Bailey?" I admitted having a 25 WPM certificate, so he sent me to the back row of desks and connected me to the max speed they had available at that time, which was 20 WPM. I tried copying on the typewriter but it was too fast, so I just started using a pencil.

From that time until graduation, I was to report to Code Control whenever a code class was scheduled for my class. There were usually four or five students in Code Control at any time, along with the Chief in charge. All of us, Chief included, were hams who couldn't quite type as fast as we could copy by stick. Well, okay - the Chief could. He could do anything! Scratch golfer, calligrapher - told us some great sea stories about learning Japanese calligraphy from a Zen monk.

W7KKK
06-03-2011, 11:28 PM
I was an instructor of radio operators from '67-68 and then again off and on until 1972 at various duty postings.
We had a code control room with what must have been some 24 reel to reel recorders going all the time. The tapes at various speeds were piped into the many code classrooms and the instructors in the classrooms could select the speed that was sent to a particular student.
At the 05B schools during that time you spent the first 3 of 10 weeks in a code room listening at 5 WPM. Just random letters and numbers a few at a time at until you knew them all. After 3 weeks you did the same thing building speed on receive for 4 hours a day and went to school learning about antennas, radios net procedures the the like the remainder of the day.
When you got around 10-13 WPM They let you try a telegraph key out once in awhile to let you get the feed for it.
When you could copy 15 WPM~~well a note here, it was not words. It was random letters and numbers in 5 character groups. There were never any words in training at that time. This made it impossible to "fill in the blanks" if you fumbled on a character or two. And it was all sent at the rate of the speed at the time. For many, 13 WPM was the difficult speed and it was considered non rhythmic in nature. When a student got stuck there they would have him listen to the 15 WPM tapes for a couple of sessions and just told him to copy what he could. After 30 minutes or so on 15 all the sudden 13 sounded a lot slower and most passed it then pretty quickly.

Once you hit 15 on receive you were taken out of the code room for the most part and your training could be accelerated if they wanted to do that as Radio Operators were hard to come by during that era. Some stayed that had talent and we had tapes that went upwards of 35 WPM as I remember right. Some students that were really good got assigned intercept duty which to me would have been boring.
We had some 500-650 students at the training facility at Fort Huachuca, AZ where I was stationed.
If you could not hack the CW and did not make the grade you were taken from the course. Some were sent on for infantry training but they did not do that at Fort Huachuca so mainly they made them clerks, cooks, supply clerks, drivers, field wireman (pole climbers) or one of many draft MOS skills at the time.
By the way, when I served the radio operator's course was the longest training you could get in AIT as a draftee.
By the way, for me the worst duty at the school as if you were assigned to teach code. Grading those 5 letter group from all those students all day long got old in a hurry. For me they found a vacancy teaching the various radio sets operations which made me happier than hell at the time.

N8CPA
06-06-2011, 09:47 AM
I was an instructor of radio operators from '67-68 and then again off and on until 1972 at various duty postings.
We had a code control room with what must have been some 24 reel to reel recorders going all the time. The tapes at various speeds were piped into the many code classrooms and the instructors in the classrooms could select the speed that was sent to a particular student.
At the 05B schools during that time you spent the first 3 of 10 weeks in a code room listening at 5 WPM. Just random letters and numbers a few at a time at until you knew them all. After 3 weeks you did the same thing building speed on receive for 4 hours a day and went to school learning about antennas, radios net procedures the the like the remainder of the day.
When you got around 10-13 WPM They let you try a telegraph key out once in awhile to let you get the feed for it.
When you could copy 15 WPM~~well a note here, it was not words. It was random letters and numbers in 5 character groups. There were never any words in training at that time. This made it impossible to "fill in the blanks" if you fumbled on a character or two. And it was all sent at the rate of the speed at the time. For many, 13 WPM was the difficult speed and it was considered non rhythmic in nature. When a student got stuck there they would have him listen to the 15 WPM tapes for a couple of sessions and just told him to copy what he could. After 30 minutes or so on 15 all the sudden 13 sounded a lot slower and most passed it then pretty quickly.

Once you hit 15 on receive you were taken out of the code room for the most part and your training could be accelerated if they wanted to do that as Radio Operators were hard to come by during that era. Some stayed that had talent and we had tapes that went upwards of 35 WPM as I remember right. Some students that were really good got assigned intercept duty which to me would have been boring.
We had some 500-650 students at the training facility at Fort Huachuca, AZ where I was stationed.
If you could not hack the CW and did not make the grade you were taken from the course. Some were sent on for infantry training but they did not do that at Fort Huachuca so mainly they made them clerks, cooks, supply clerks, drivers, field wireman (pole climbers) or one of many draft MOS skills at the time.
By the way, when I served the radio operator's course was the longest training you could get in AIT as a draftee.
By the way, for me the worst duty at the school as if you were assigned to teach code. Grading those 5 letter group from all those students all day long got old in a hurry. For me they found a vacancy teaching the various radio sets operations which made me happier than hell at the time.

That was more or less how I trained for the 13WPM test. A friend of mine and I spent lunch hours listening to a tape of the "Story of Tesla," or some such title sent at 22WPM. I reinforced that by listening to W1AW's practice sessions when they sent them QRQ to QRS. Also, VE groups used to administer code tests 20, 13, 5, so candidates could accustom their ears and increase the chance they'd pass.

KD8EZP
06-06-2011, 10:40 AM
All very informative and very interesting.

Thanks all for replying and for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Hats off to you OB's that were military operators.

73

DW
Kd8EZP

W1GUH
06-06-2011, 01:51 PM
Here's a quote from a book I picked up at the Melbourne, FL airport, US Naval Air Station, Melbourne, Florida, Fighter Pilot Training Base World War II, Copyright 2000 by William Barnett



Ground school was added to the waiting time of two weeks while uniforms were tailored. It was something to do to keep cadets busy. One of the classes was in Morse code training. That training had been done before at the Primary flight training base, but this was different. It was a last attempt to wash out cadets. The ground school instructors increased the Morse code test requirements to 16 words per minute instead of the former eight words per minute the cadets had learned earlier at the Primary Training Base. This put a tremendous stress on the cadets to learn Morse code at twice the speed and in only a few days!

That's on page 87

That was a very interesting book to read -- WWII Navy Pilot training was totally rigorous!

W1GUH
06-06-2011, 01:56 PM
I understand that a lot of Morse Code in WWII was encrypted. Things like 5 number groups, etc. How would you like to have to copy THAT perfectly? NO THANK YOU !

My general test (Detroit, MI, August, 1960) had lots and lots and lots of numbers. Wasn't exactly encrypted, and I remembered very little of the content except the first two words were "The captain". Must've really been in "the zone" when I took that test -- the characters went stright from my ear to my writing hand with little intervention in my brain.

W1GUH
06-06-2011, 01:58 PM
'CPA said:


Many contesters talk about a persistent after-effect of CW contesting. After so many continuous hours of focusing on the din, when the contest is over, many participants keep hearing Morse patterns in all manner of things...

That's how I know I've had a successful contest. If I heard morse for "CQ SS" or CQ FD" in my head afterward without even the help of extraneous sounds, I know I had a good contest!

AG3Y
06-06-2011, 01:58 PM
Remember this great line from "The Hunt for Red October" ?

Capt. Bart Mancuso: "That's all right, Mr Ryan. My Morse is so rusty, I could be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the Month"

N8CPA
06-06-2011, 03:23 PM
Sure. I don't mind posting again, this old, true FD story. 15 years ago, my wife and I had a pop-up camper that saw most of its usage during Field Day while we had it. After site tear-down, we were driving home, towing the trailer, Explorer loaded with camping and radio gear.

I still had FD echo syndrome, being the only CW op at the site that year, still floating on the afterglow of such a good time. As we're tooling down the freeway, I suddenly started hearing figure 0, interspersed with the EI sound made by the wheels going over the expansion joints. It wasn't constant, just every minute or so a single zero sent at about 15WPM.

At first, I dismissed it as phantom echo, the Morse hangover in my own head. Then my wife asked if I had forgotten to turn off the keyer. How could she hear an echo in my head? Up until then, I thought was the only one who heard it.

It took a few miles to triangulate the source since it was not constant. I was finally able to isolate it to the passenger footwell. From under her feet, my wife picked up her overstuffed purse, swearing she didn't have anything that would send Morse. And just as she set it on her lap, it sent a zero.

She had a taken along a Radio Shack Merlin (Simon?) clone. It had worked its way into the gravity well of that singular universe that is my wife's purse. The weight of the other constellations in that canvas universe were pressing and holding the power button. So, every minute or so, it kept sending the gameover signal:
__ __ __ __ __

:D

N8XE
06-06-2011, 05:12 PM
Sure. I don't mind posting again, this old, true FD story. 15 years ago, my wife and I had a pop-up camper that saw most of its usage during Field Day while we had it. After site tear-down, we were driving home, towing the trailer, Explorer loaded with camping and radio gear.

I still had FD echo syndrome, being the only CW op at the site that year, still floating on the afterglow of such a good time. As we're tooling down the freeway, I suddenly started hearing figure 0, interspersed with the EI sound made by the wheels going over the expansion joints. It wasn't constant, just every minute or so a single zero sent at about 15WPM.

At first, I dismissed it as phantom echo, the Morse hangover in my own head. Then my wife asked if I had forgotten to turn off the keyer. How could she hear an echo in my head? Up until then, I thought was the only one who heard it.

It took a few miles to triangulate the source since it was not constant. I was finally able to isolate it to the passenger footwell. From under her feet, my wife picked up her overstuffed purse, swearing she didn't have anything that would send Morse. And just as she set it on her lap, it sent a zero.

She had a taken along a Radio Shack Merlin (Simon?) clone. It had worked its way into the gravity well of that singular universe that is my wife's purse. The weight of the other constellations in that canvas universe were pressing and holding the power button. So, every minute or so, it kept sending the gameover signal:
__ __ __ __ __

:D

Great story Steve! Thanks for bringing that story out of the family archives. It never gets old.

Jason N8XE

WM3O
06-09-2011, 04:38 PM
I can believe it might drive some folks bats. Many contesters talk about a persistent after-effect of CW contesting. After so many continuous hours of focusing on the din, when the contest is over, many participants keep hearing Morse patterns in all manner of things; tire bumps, ventilation fans, washers, driers, etc. It can take days for the effect to diminish, after even a single weekend. I can imagine what days and months of active listening to it might do to some folks.

back in my rave DJ days, we have a name for the "persistence of sound" - raveitious. the parallel with 48 hour CW contesting is there - your brain has become adjusted to finding patterns in noise. i feel like i did back in the rave days after some contests, kind of in a different place, almost drunk. very weird.

W1GUH
06-09-2011, 04:41 PM
back in my rave DJ days, we have a name for the "persistence of sound" - raveitious. the parallel with 48 hour CW contesting is there - your brain has become adjusted to finding patterns in noise. i feel like i did back in the rave days after some contests, kind of in a different place, almost drunk. very weird.

And add to that the sleep deprivation that FD can cause!

N8CPA
06-09-2011, 06:02 PM
Jason can tell a story about paddles, a lighthouse and blackflies. It was enough to make him work SSB, though that was not FD.