It’s Christmas Eve, 1944, and Frank Gartz just took the test to determine what his classification in the Army Air Corps would be. Pilot? Navigator? Bombardier? Gunner? Read on to find out about the tests he describes that will determine his fate. He’s now in California—Santa Ana Army Air Base, to be exact, and this next week he’ll be on pins and needles, waiting.

Frank also refers again to his at-home girlfriend, Cookie (aka LaVerne Karbach), who has his Austin High School ring, which he would like to have to wear while he’s going through training. He may consider it a bit of good luck, I’m not sure.

This is the first letter from Santa Ana and it seems that several previous ones from the month of December are lost or missing from my collection. No matter. It’s 1944 when the drama begins. Sign up for a subscription to be sure not to miss the saga of an airman in training and life on the Chicago home front.


Santa Ana Army Air Base

Santa Ana, California


Dear Mom,

We finished Classification today and I’ll soon know what I’ve been classified as until then I’ll just wait patiently.  I was a little scared about my eyes but they stood up swell.  Vision is 20/20 in each eye and an Eso 4.

They had a new one on night vision and it went something like this.  There was a large lamp with a faint light behind a black disk with a slit in it like the diagram [see original text at end for diagram].  The room was totally black and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. We got 40 chances at the thing. Oh!  I haven’t told you what we were supposed to do. We had a little wheel which had a notch in it like this [see original text at end for diagram] and we had to put the notch where the notch on the light was. The average number the fellows got was 23 and I guess I’m just lucky.  I got 36 out of 40 which is very good.

I got my first letter today and it was from you.  So you know now how long it takes for a letter to go one way. I think I should ask Cookie for my ring. It wouldn’t be nice for you to ask for it because I gave it to her. She may think you are trying to take something I gave her away from her. She loves me so much she might be hurt and that’s the last thing I would want to happen.

The watch is swell but it’s losing about a minute or two every day. That’s because of the change in altitude and climate but it will be O.K. Thanks ever so much for everything. I don’t know what I’d do without you to fall back on when I’m not there to take care of my business. I hope you understood my wire to go ahead and give Cookie the ring you bought but not to ask for mine.

Don’t let the death of that Bombardier worry you – it can happen to anyone. And there’s more people killed in autos every day than there are casualties in the air, even during the war.

We had our Christmas dinner last night and I’m sending you a menu of what we had. Also not listed we each got a package of cigarettes. Well I have to quit now so till I write again.

I’m your loving son,



Original Letter