THE TERM "SNAFU" ORIGINATED
April or May of 1941 (before Pearl Harbor)
WHERE: 160th Infantry Regiment of the 40th
Infantry Division at Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif..
HOW: By the transmission of a practice
encoded radio message from radio operator John
to another radio operator named Don.
Don Taylor and John Paup, both members of the
California National Guard in Los Angeles had been
ordered to active duty in March of 1941. While
in training at Camp San Luis Obispo they spent
their daylight hours out in the hills surrounding
the Camp sending practice radio messages to each
This is the radio they used
Headquarters Company of the Regiment was the entity
responsible for all communications within the
regiment and to other entities. Telephone circuits
using wire on the ground was the preferred method
of the time but radio had to be used when distances
were too great.. Most communications by radio
was done using the International Morse Code as
opposed to voice and was far more dependable and
communication had the disadvantage of being intercepted
by the enemy, and to overcome the problem messages
were "scrambled" or converted into five
letter code groups by a mechanical device shown
original "clear text" message.
Bootlikker requires more artillery support.
being scrambled or converted, it would then be
transmitted in five letter groups..
OTILA IHTDA SNAFU DWXBR POOPO
the end of the day and a delicious military meal,
Don and John would sit in their spacious five
man tent and, having nothing better to do, would
sit and convert all the messages they had received
back into intelligible words. In the process they
would make a game of creating sentences out of
the meaningless coded groups.
= (Colonel Smith is a moron)
OTILA.... = (Our tent is leaking again)
IHTDA.... = (I hate the damn army)
SNAFU.... = (Situation normal, all f-----
recalls that even though this all happened 63
years ago, he vividly remembers the message he
had received from John that day, and the code
group with the AFU in it. There was absolutely
NO DOUBT as to what THIS stood for but the SN
part was a bit of a problem, and may have taken
several seconds to resolve.
was also stationed at a radio station on Kauai
and in a park in Honolulu while I was going to
Japanese Code school at Fort Shafter. I was then
sent to operate in a Signal Intelligence radio
monitoring station in the heights above Honolulu.
This was the outfit that picked up the important
message from the Japs that turned the Battle of
Midway into a victory for our Navy. I imagine
you have heard that story.
to how it spread, there is no way of knowing for
certain. I think initially it got spread all over
the 40th Infantry Division. At that point in time
people were being sent to training schools such
as Fort Monmouth, N.J., & Fort Benning Georgia.
People from other divisions would be attending
such schools and would take "SNAFU"
back to their outfits when their training was
completed. We also had people that were already
proficient in certain jobs and they were sent
in small groups to become the nucleus for new
Divisions. There were also a number of individuals
that were sent to Officer Candidate schools."