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Well naturally there is no "Real" Private Snafu! He is a War Department approved cartoon character created by Dr. Seuss artist Theodore Geisel, with Phil Eastman and Frank Capra at Warner Brothers Studios.

Everyone knows what S.N.A.F.U. stands for:


So who in H - - L dreamed this up? Here's the real skinny on SNAFU.

With Panzers swarming over Europe and Bushido Samurai lopping heads off in China, many smart kids out of High School decided to join "The Guard."

In 1940, the California National Guard 160th Regimental Band needed a trumpet player. 18 year old Donald H. Taylor answered the call. "We met four Mondays a month at Exposition Park in L.A., and we got paid 4 bucks a month, which was good money for a kid", Taylor recalls.

Taylor, already an amateur (HAM) radio operator (W6UOF) met Johnny Paup (W6TRD) and they hit it off. Paup recruited Taylor into the 160th Infantry Radio Headquarters Section. There was a great need for young men trained in Morse.

Soon Taylor and Paup were off to Fort Lewis, Washington for training and maneuvers (now called "Basic").

After returning to L.A., President Roosevelt rolled the Guard into the 40th Division, U.S. ARMY (California, Nevada and Utah) in March, 1941. Taylor and Paup then moved into HQ. 40th Division Signal Company, and everyone moved to the new camp at San Luis Obispo, California.

What a site to behold! Luxurious plank sided tents as far as the eye could see. There was even an airfield with piper cubs, a movie theater, hospital and outdoor latrines. It beat shoveling S - - T in Louisiana!

Beside the radio training classes, PT, KP etc., furlough included visits with childhood sweetheart Betty M. Baker, who he would wed in 1944.

Radio network training was held in the hills around the camp. The "Box" radios in use at the time were the SCR-131 or 161 (BC 148 and 151). These sets used the same "Quad" loop, LP-7, with the GN.35 crank generator. Power output was a remarkable 5 watts! The 131 frequency range was 3.96 to 4.36 MC. The 161 was 4.36 to 5.10 MC.

The M209A Converter unit was used to scramble the predetermined 5 letter "code groups" assigned for the day (sort of a crude Enigma Machine).

At the end of the day after a fine meal of "S - - T on a Shingle," Taylor would decipher the code groups from Paup and others.

According to Taylor (who to this day maintains his cynical sense of humor), for fun they would assign humorous words to the 5 letter groups. For example, C.S.I.A.M. would become "COLONEL SMITH IS A MORON," or O.T.I.L.A. became "OUR TENT IS LEAKING AGAIN." Other more explicit examples have been "bleeped out".

One day, as he recalls, he received a code group S.N.A.F.U. from Johnny Paup.

"It was instantaneous, inevitable, and there was no question," the words came to him; "SITUATION NORMAL, ALL F - - - - D UP! To Taylor and other enlisted types, this perfectly described the military growing pains before and just after Pearl Harbor.

Eventually S.N.A.F.U. spread like V.D. in an off base W - - - E house. It went everywhere there was radio communication. The Pentagon literally survived on various levels of "SNAFU" until Warner Brothers picked up on it for their training film star!

After Pearl, the 40th shipped out to Hawaii and Makin Island to set up enemy listening posts. After the war Taylor never mentioned much of his experiences as he raised his little family.

Forty odd years later he mentioned S.N.A.F.U. to his son Greg. Greg suggested he write up the story.

Time dims some memories but helps others re-emerge, and the S.N.A.F.U. subject came up again.

Meanwhile, Greg, now a World War II buff and military vehicle collector found an early field manual on "Identification of Aircraft" (FM 30-30) dated 1940 at a gun show in Reno.

What caught his eye was that it was stamped "40th Signal Company" inside and out. On the inside cover was hand written: "Radio Intelligence is a Gentleman's Game".

But remarkably, 5 lines were penciled on the rear cover:


There it was, S.N.A.F.U. again, but with a strange variation of words.

The manual once belonged to a Sgt. F. C. Brauner, who Taylor believes was in charge of Company Transportation.

It was time to bring out the old photo albums and for Taylor to assign some captions and dictate this story.

He and his son are hoping to find more information on S.N.A.F.U. with the help of other collector's and historians.

Greg Taylor     greg@pahrahdiseonline.com
Don H. Taylor

Don and wife Betty reside in Northern California. Their son Greg and wife Sharon Lee reside in Reno, Nevada. Greg restores tanks and other military equipment as a hobby and business.

Our thanks to:

Hank Brown (W6DJX), Lancaster, California
Bjorn Forsberg (SM5UR), Los Altos Hills, California
Tom Horsfall (WA6OPE), Richmond, California
Paul Thekan (N6FEG), Redwood City, California





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