Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Pete Carron (W3DKV) who writes:
“Thought you might be interested in the following article from Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, posted May 20, 2015. Apparently Morse Code still isn’t dead, not even in the military!”
Morse code training moving to Goodfellow
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Morse code training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, will transfer to the 316th Training Squadron at Goodfellow, allowing the Air Force to take the reins for future training.
The move stems from the Army’s redirection of training requirements, leaving the Air Force as the sole remaining branch attending the course taught at Fort Huachuca.
In the last 10 years, the Army renovated the course to cater as a secondary skill set and serve as a support function, rather than being a single source of intelligence gathering. As this happened, the Navy began teaching their own course at Pensacola, Florida.
The Goodfellow course will train 10 students annually starting July 1. Tech. Sgt. Ryan N. Kilcrease and Senior Airman James M. Gosnell, 316th Training Squadron Morse code instructors, will be the first to teach the course here.
“Morse will never fully go away as long as it remains the cheapest, most reliable way to communicate,” said Kilcrease. “Our adversaries will continue to use it, so we still need to be able to understand them if we want to be able to continue our mission successfully.”
Gosnell believes that the course still holds benefits for the Air Force.
The military recognized the benefits of Morse code for communication after Samuel F. B. Morse completed the first coded message in history by transmitting, “What hath God wrought?” from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore, Maryland, May 24, 1844.
President Abraham Lincoln relied on it during the Civil War to gather intelligence and communicate directly with his generals.
The Department of Defense embedded it heavily into all armed forces as a communication device with the Army-lead training in Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In 1993, the training moved to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where Operating Location B, 316th TRS, is located.
Thanks for sharing this article, Pete!
I like Tech. Sgt. Ryan N. Kilcrease’s quote:
“Morse will never fully go away as long as it remains the cheapest, most reliable way to communicate”
If you listen to the CW (a.k.a. Morse code) portions of the ham radio bands, you’ll hear that CW is still very much alive and well. It is an incredibly reliable and robust communications medium. As we CW operators say: “CW always gets through!”
It is good to hear from you as I have been hunting down the Pencil & Pad Speed Printing Instruction
manual for two years or so. It happens that public schools are discarding the teaching of writing
using script. This is a national educational disaster!
I f the educators were intent on adding printing to the curriculum that is great. But, it doesn’t follow
that they has to discontinue teaching script !
If children are to be taught to print, only, then it is a must that they know how to do it in the best
possible way. Morse men have figured this out >100 yrs ago!
Please let me know what you have on the topic and how I may obtain copy’s of it?
Cheers, Don Gillespie, W8GKD
I know I’m a few years late commenting on this site, but here goes… Served in the AF from JUL 81-DEC 87. After completing basic at Lackland in AUG 81 I went to Keesler AFB for 21 weeks to learn to be a ditty bopper. Completed the course at 25gpm. 1st assignment was 6913th ESS/mobile unit in Augsburg, West Germany from FEB 82-FEB 84. From there I went to the 6949th ESS/airborne at Offutt AFB, Omaha, NE flying on RC-135s until MAR 86. I was grounded from flying duty due to a bad back & took my last assignment at the 6931st ESS, Iraklion AS, Crete/Greece until getting out in DEC 87. After getting out I went back home to northeast PA then attended Penn State from AUG 88-AUG 92. Today I live near Bridgeport, WV – about 2 hours south of Pittsburgh, PA and work at the local VA hospital in Clarksburg, WV. Feel free to email if you like. Be blessed brothers & sisters! Scott (Witty) DeWitt
where can I look at morse code training do not tell me if their is a chance of compromise,
Check out the Long Island CW Club: https://longislandcwclub.org/
Looking for any radio intercept operators that served with Gerald J. Knott. Training at Kessler 1956, then stationed at Clark 57-58, then Darmstadt 59
My father served in the USAF as a morse code intercept operator in Alaska during Vietnam. He trained at Kessler AFB for a time before flying to Alaska. What years are you looking for specifically? Unfortunately, we lost my father to cancer in 2008. I’m still very interested in the secret work he did!
Hello Julie, Sorry to learn about your dad. I was stationed at Northeast Cape Air Station on St.Lawrence Island, which is located in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. I was there from September, 1966 to April, 1967. I also was a Morse Code Interceptor (X1). If you want to learn more about what we did, I suggest you GOOGLE USAFSS and click on some of the headings. The information provided is very accurate and makes for interesting reading
Julie, I was a Morse Intercept operator on Shemya, Aleutian Islands from March 66 to February 67. Hope you found the information you needed about your father’s work. Just ran across this website but thought you might still have questions. Don Kelley
I studied Morse code intercept at Kessler AFB in Biloxi back in 1968 during the Viet Nam War. If you would like a description of what it was about just send me an email and we can correspond that way.
If you’re on Facebook, try “Friends of RAF Chicksands” and there are a few other pages that would be worth checking out. I left Chix for the last time in 1991.
Jared “Jed” Handspicker
Hi sorry to the poster of the original thread but I’m looking for anyone who was stationed at RAF Chicksands from 1992-1994. I was a Morse Code Op and haven’t kept in touch with anyone and now I’m reminiscing and missing the life on the hill.
Check 6925th out of phillipines I went T D Y from Clark field in 64 to 6925th detachment 2 , when I arrived they were operating out of 2 small trailers, another search possibility check NSA
Tom (Yar) Martin
Do any of you readers recall how to speed print/copy using a pencil and paper, not a mill, that was taught in the 50’s by the Air Force? I presume the technique was also used by the other services?
Can’t say I’ve even heard of that technique (speed print/copy) and the only “penciling” we did in the 80s/90s was with a grease pencil on plexiglass. I’d have preferred pencil and paper, as those grease pencils were much like crayons and not designed for speed. Easy to wipe off, but not easy to write down. I wish you luck finding what I’ve seen listed as some sort of document/guide for that technique. Try eBay? Maybe?
Don, I found an email of yours requesting any info on David Selis who was with Det 2 6925th Security Group at Monkey Mountain Vietnam in 61, 62, and 63. He was my sister’s husband and passed away this year on Jan 2 2020 from Non- hodgkins lymphoma. She is looking for anyone who knew him in Vietnam or can vouch that he served in Vietnam during those years. I know that he did as we discussed it once when talking about mutual experiences during that time period as I was an AF pilot advisor flying with the Vietnamese AF in 1963
Any info or names who was assigned with him would be greatly appreciated. You can email me or call at 256 812-2036.
Check 6925th out of phillipines I went T D Y from Clark field in 64 to 6925th detachment 2 , when I arrived they were operating out of 2 small trailers, another search possibility check NSA
Tom (Yar) Martin
YAR Martin, I have ben looking for you for10 years. My name is Ken Carlton and I served with you from august 1964 to august 1965. bill byrd was looking for you also. I still see 2 other guys from det 2. they are Russ Harvey, and Gary Brison. Hope to hear from you. it is now 2021. hope your still with us.
Did you find an answer? I have the Navy and Army training manuals that show speed printing.
Ex- Air Force Dittbopper!!
I’m one of the “x1’s”
Darryl (last name)
What is your last name. My name is Brian Wellmeier. [email protected]
A link to Q and Z code book – all CW operators used this one.
Gentlemen, Please, do any of you read my original posting before commenting??????
There are reams of comments about personal stories, but no answers to the original
posting question. Of all the stories about whatever is on your mind, only one reply
even mentioned the core question I seek an answer to. He was interested in the technique
but had no knowledge of it.
This SPEED PRINTING technique was taught to U.S. Air Force radio operators during WW2
and the occupation. circa 1941-1950. Please, do any of you have knowledge of and reference
to the pencil and pad printing of alpha-numeric characters. I know there is an Air Force
publication on this technique as I have seen it. Tnx, Don, W8GKD.
Morse Intercept School Kessler AFB 1961 – entire class sent to Pakistan
1963-1965-6945th RSM Goodfellow afb Texas
1965-1966 Danang South Vietnam 6925th det 2 then changed to 6924th
1966-1968 6993rd Kelly afb San Antonio Texas
1969-1993 National Security Agency Intelligence operative (served many places overseas)
retired 1993 … -.-
Looking for any of you guys out there who knew David Selis in Det 2 6925th Security Group at Da Nang Monkey Mountain in Vietnam in 1961 1962 0r 1963 let me know.
Thank you for your comments. CW is not dead, it just not the main means of communication it was
in the 2nd WW..
The question I put to the organization in my first request for information asked for references to
the pencil and pad speed printing taught to (I thought), all who learned Morse Code. It is this speed
printing training manual or the like that I seek information on.
Went through Morse Intersept and Ground Radio Operator School.1961 at Keesler.BC610 Transmitter. 78 now.Remember it well.ditti da ditti dit.
I went through Keesler in 1972-73 and lived in the WAF squadron.
I was there in 1960-61, graduated first in my class, went to Misawa AB Japan
Larry, The USAFSS unit at Da Nang was the 6924th Security Squadron. It moved to Ramasun Station, Thaiand in April 1971. While at Da Nang, the unit came under rocket/mortar attack on many occasions, but only suffered one KIA; that being a newly assigned comm center airman who was killed during a 122mm rocket attack. He was not a ditty bopper.
Hi Guys, Was an X1 at RAF Chicksands from 1964 to 1966. Chicksands was a three year tour of duty but was selected for 2T after my second year. Enlisted in the Air Force otherwise I would have been drafted as a ground pounder in the Army and sent to Viet Nam. I mention this because two of us were selected for 2T at the time. I went to Northeast Cape Air Station at St. Lawrence Island, which is located in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. The other airman selected, Airman Baker, was sent to Da Nang AFB Viet Nam. I really dodged a bullet. My understanding is that the operations center at Da Nang was shelled many times and a lot of the guys were wounded and some killed. I think about this a lot and often wonder about the fate of Airman Baker.
I’m looking for information about my uncle, Mike Lenk, who was a Morse code operator of the coast of Alaska too. He would have been there early 1960’s then stationed in Brindisi Italy after his year off Alaska. Did you know of him? Where could I find more info? Thanks, Angie
How was the printing different from today? This book sounds interesting! I was a dittybop from 67-71 in SS. 2.5 years in Griesheim by Darmstadt. I lived in a German home within a mile of our site.i can still “talk” Morse code at age 70 and can still copy code well over 20 wpm
The long running comments to my original post are interesting and recall times past. However,
my original post question was;
Do any or you old timers have the training manual, or a reference to it, that the Air Force used in the 50’s
to train how to print by pencil the alpha-numerics of the received code characters?
Revival of this method of printing has become of great interest again as out schools are no longer teaching
how to write in script. (This is a real disaster). If this is going to be the way of education in our land,
the the best we can do is to teach the printing method used by the Air Force to our children.
Kindly, Gents, may we stick to the question? Who of you has this once again critical skill reference?
i was at Keesler Air Force Base in 1970 and lerned Morse code surpassing 22 gpm. I was assigned to San Vito Ar Station, followed by RAF Chicksands. Woderful assgnments!.
Morse intercept is done by a matter of spontaneous reaction to patterns of “dits and dahs”. Morse sending as was taught at the Army Fort Huachucha (and now Goodfellow AFB) is entirely different. Operating a speed-key using thumb and forefinger to send a message is on another level of consentration. I remember copying morse and carrying on a conversation at the same time! I’m sure that would not happen while sending.
Ditty bop at Kessler in 1962 and sent to the Rock” Shemya Alaska for 62 & 63. I had orders for Germany but was canceled and sent to Shemya. Long time ago.
Regarding CW communications and Electro Magnetic Pulse weapons:
During the Castle Tests our CW net was down about 20 minutes after Bravo shot due to all the free electrons in the air (static). The other shots were smaller and did not affect our operations.
Point being: Keep CW alive as a ultra reliable communications system. Our vacuum tube equipment was not affected in any way.
Does anyone have a published or net available copy of the training text used in the 1950’s for
speed printing? The manual, or the chapter of the manual, was not thick as there is only so
much that can be said about topic. Still, it is a asset to understand this technique if one is to
print at more then a few wpm.
Can/will any of you fellow CW ops forward to me a reference to the title of, and/or the U.S. Government Printing Office Pamphlet Reference Number of the hand and pad SPEED PRINTING method ? This method of copying was taught by all Grade A code training facilities in all 3 of the armed services.
My reference to it’s use is circa 1953. I presume it is still in use as at the time only Speed Hand Printing
and the ‘Mill’ were permitted to be used. Script was not allowed.
W8GKD, licensed 1950yr.
I went through Keesler Morse school Dec. ’71 to Apr ’72. Requirements were more stringent than the Army’s. To pass 18.6 GPM (minimum speed to graduate) out of 500 characters you were allowed only three errors, none in the number section, and formatting had to be perfect. My second go-round in Misawa, we had to give remedial training to the troops coming out of the Army school. Their requirement was on;y 96% accuracy, no formatting.
Training only ten per year? We were graduated almost monthly by the dozens. Talk about a really specialized AFSC.
That’s total BS. I was an Army op and graduated 05H school in 1970. We had to pass 18 with 10 blks of 50, formated in 5 char groups. I don’t remember how many errors we were allowed. I’d like to know how you came up with an 18.6 GPM unless you were on a computer. When I first went to Misawa in 71 we were still using mills and worked separate from the AF/Navy. Even when they expanded ops in 73 or so, we stayed separate. The AF was never involved in our training.
Sorry, but 18.6 was was the minimum in 1968 at Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS.
Radio School in Keesler in 1952, Korea K14, Project Castle, then to
finish up my 4 years at Carswell AFB, Texas. CW all way and every day.
Try warming up that ole key with sending “BENS BEST BET” —
The Russians “RFL” sent with a machine. T’s for Zeros, and N’s for Nines.
And, it was cold in Korea.
I, too, was at Kessler in 1952, then Okinawa for 18, then at the MARS station in the Pentagon. After a couple of hours in the early morning hours (0200 hours) of talking with civilian MARS members who were required to spend a certain amount of time on line, I would say, “Okay, let’s go to CW.” If there were 6 people on the radio, 5 would come up with an excuse and drop off. The remainder would laugh and start with CW.
My bug is rusty but still works. After 60 years of not using it, I am thinking of just practicing a little bit.
I received my ham license in 1955 at the age of 13. Since then, I’ve used CW all the way up to yesterday. I was a Navy CT, trained in Pensacola, and spent 20 years using it and teaching it. At sea, there was no better source of world news than copying KPH broadcasts out of San Francisco. I copy around 40wpm in my head and write it down later if it’s important. CW will always be there.
Yours is an illustrious life’s travel. We share a part of it as I too got my general class license when I was
13 years old. I got mine in 1950. I got it the first try……..
Bill, I am quite interested in obtaining info on how to SPEED PRINT using a PAD & PENCIL . An Old Timer
and instructor like you probably has the references I need and probably use it, too.
Cheers, Don Gillespie, W8GKD
JR Cash was stationed at Landsberg, 6912 RSM, I think He left there in 1954. His band while there was known as the landsberg barbarians.
I believe I read some time ago, that country music legend Johnny Cash was a USAF Morse Intercept Operator, during the 1950s. He definitely would have had the ear for it.
That’s right, he was. See: http://www.matthewaid.com/post/18219506281/johnny-cash-radio-intercept-operator .
For a list of other famous hams, see: http://www.qsl.net/w5www/famous.html .
He was. He was stationed in Germany at a town whose name I am not familiar with. Stationed as a ditty bop in Darmstadt 67-70 I only knew of a couple other places where the USAFSS had sites. Wiesbaden and Berlin. I am pretty sure there were others though. The 6910th (Darmstadt) moved to Augsburg a short time after I left. I went through morse intercept school at Fort Devens (ARMY) in late 1957 and early 1958. We started with over 100 in our class and ended up with 32. I believe 18 wpm was passing speed. Upon graduation we had our pick of stations we would like to be assigned too. 23 to Germany, 3 to Asmara, 3 to Okinawa 3 to Chitose (on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Two places in the states. By the time they got to me (as I was about in the middle of the class) I took Chitose which turned out to be the best tour I ever had. In 61 I went into the Air Force and had tours in Crete (Greece),Darmstadt (Germany), Misawa (Japan), Da Nang (Vietnam) and Osan (Korea). In between overseas assignments I spent time in the states. I loved being a ditty-bop!
Landsberg, 6912th RSM, I think Johnny departed there in 1954.
I was stationed in Bremerhaven – 1967-1969. USMC working with NAVSECGRU. CTR Brancher – very large operation there in Bremerhaven
When were you stationed at Misawa AB? I was there from 1961 til 1965,
Is it you that commented /replied to me, about the pencil and paper PRINTING of
MC off of the air?
I am quite interested in having information on how to speed print . I will appreciate
any help or references to this speed printing process or a reference to who may be
familiar with it?
TNX, Don Gillespie, W8GKD
Ground radio op from Keesler in 1958. Then 1st AACS at Johnson AFB. You passed your code tests or went to another form of duty for your enlistment. Could have been permanent KP? Motivation does work when facing that possibility.
As a Continental Code lover for almost 30 years using only bugs and straight keys, I can say that I am glad the military is still teaching it. No matter how fast an operator can read the code it is just as important to learn proper procedure! I mention this because so many CW ops either haven’t been taught or they just don’t care to follow it. The ARRL certainly doesn’t teach it anymore as far as I can tell so it is left in limbo. It drives me nuts to hear laughing on CW sent as hi when it is supposed to be hee ! I have this on good authority by the way. I am the only CW op I have heard in years using the correct hee and not hi ! When hi hi is used on phone it is even more silly and it is so ingrained everyone is doing it. Also, since when is an r supposed to be sent like et ? I hear this all the time! If I have stated anything here which is incorrect than I welcome anyone to correct me. Old timers who should know better are guilty of all these things and then the newbies are taught this so it just perpetuates itself. CW is A1 and the music of the air! VY 73s es Gud DX de WA1UFO-Hans
Correction to above-I meant en not et. Send an r not en !
Your statement that HEE should be used instead of HI for telegraphic laughter is interesting. I admit that it does sound logical, but I’ve never heard that before. I have been licensed for 62 years and I am the author of ?Morse Code: The Essential Language,? a book published by the ARRL that was in print for over 20 years, from 1986 to 2006. In that book I stated that HI was used for telegraphic laughter, and despite the fact that the publication eventually sold over 25,000 copies, no one ever attempted to correct me. Can you tell me what authoritative publication your information comes from? Thanks.
Hi = …. ..
He = …. .
Not much difference except the the code for He ( …. .) could be mistaken for the number 5 ( …..) if you do not detect the slight pause in the code between H and E
MM was still alive and well when I retired in 2009. Best part was with today’s technology it can be remoted just about anywhere!!
While stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Ms., one evening, while out for a walk, I heard an extremely faint modulated Morse code signal. With the many building surrounding me, it was difficult to determine where that signal was coming from.
After 20 or so minutes of walking around the Triangle area, I tracked it to be coming from a Ditty-Bobbers room in an adjacent building where by he was practicing the code with the help of his friends.
Then, in 1968 while stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, I obtained my Amateur radio license and have been having a lot of fun since. Well, ok, unless the Hf bands were crummy!!!
My Army unit included a radio-teletype (RATT) rig with an operator as part of the commo section. The individual operator held an MOS of 05C and Morse was considered a secondary career skill. You can’t imagine the whining that went on when CW training was on the schedule for all the RATT operators in the battalion. This was in the late 70s and early 80s so the use of satellites had not reached the field level and info still had to get through to support the mission. It’s interesting that the need is down to 10 operators per year.
Guess I will always be an old cw op at heart (since ’62).
It’s great that more guys are taking it up,and now
Listen in my head at every chance to keep the brain
neurons firing…two things some of the new guys really
need to work on are:
1. don’t run the characters together (likespeakinglikethis)
2. don’t come back to a guy at a faster speed-this was and
is considered poor etiquette.
CW is an art form more than anything,have a go sometime!
(These days there are tons of places on the web to get started on.)
This is amazing, the military is still training in CW, that is great! Am glad that the military still values the first digital mode invented. Thanks for sharing.
If you want to hear some challenging Morse Code, check out 4XZ,the Israeli Navy’s Morse code on HF, usually heard here on the East Coast at night around 6.605 Megs. There are other frequencies you’ll hear them on.
I have noticed an interesting increase in interest in learning Morse Code among licensed Amateurs since the code requirement was dropped years ago.
Personally I struggled with the code requirement for years, and once it went away I quickly earned my Technician license, then later my General and Extra earlier this year. Now, come January, I’ve enrolled in a two month online CW training class offered by CWOPS that involves independent study, online Skype conferences, and maybe some on-air activities. I have been told this is ‘the best way to learn morse code’ – it relies on recognizing sounds of the letters, not memorizing dit and dah patterns… We’ll see.
While in the Air Force in the early 60s, the training for Morse Intercept Operators was given at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. I was in training as a navaids technician and my roommate was there for MIO, or as we called him, a “ditty bopper”.
That’s great, Gary!
Morse training was still at Keesler AFB when I went through in 1988.
1988??? should of been at Hauchuca by that time.
Fred – The Ft. Devens school was the Joint Services school for Morse, after having served just the Army for many years. The function moved to Ft. Huachuca in the mid-1990s, actually. I was an instructor at Devens, as the move to Huachuca started. Many of my fellow instructors moved with the school, but I left Devens in 1993, shortly before the move took place.
Interesting to hear all the places it was taught in the military. For me, in early 1961 with the U.S. Army Security Agency, it was Fort Devens MA.
In 1967, I almost went into morse intercept school at Keesler, but was reassigned to aircraft radio communications school at the last minute. A lot of my dorm mates were “ditty bops.” We used to kid them about being stuck hunched over a keyer for the rest of their enlistments. In retrospect, they were probably better off than I was after two tours in Vietnam. I’m trying to learn morse code now, and, at my age, it’s a bit of a job. Old ears, you know. LOL.
I went through Morse Code training at Fort Devens. The military had decided to move all the branches there to have us all learn together. So I missed Keesler in 1987. Needless to say it didn’t work out. That post shut down and is now a federal prison
We had ditty bops mixed in with our sqdrn also. I was there 64/65 for nav aids also 30451. Beacons, Ils, tvor,tacan etc. 3397 sqdrn