World War II Central Illinois Stories

Oral History Interview: Frances Schneider of Champaign


Frances Schneider was a civilian instructor during World War II, teaching Morse Code to enlisted men at Scott Field in Belleville, Ill. Her late husband, Jack Schneider, was a section chief in the Army Air Corps. He was the radio operator in connection with the Enola Gay on its flight to Japan. Schneider was having fun at a skating rink when the shocking announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was made over the loud speaker. She remembers vividly how life changed. Two of her brothers were already in the service. Her other brother enlisted in January after the attack. Frances talks about how her family learned what her brothers (and later her husband) were doing and where they were. Wanting to contribute something to the war effort, Schneider left her position as office manager in a mail order house in Chicago and took tests to study at a radio school in Chicago. That led to her assignment at Scott Field teaching Morse Code to men who would serve as radio operators as well as gunners on B-17s. Her memories paint a poignant picture of the times. She talks about students who left the school as boys and returned as war-weary men, of discrimination issues for blacks, and of the courage of families who faced losses and carried on. She talks about the funny, sometimes sad, human events that also occurred during the war. Her story weaves together the lives of those who served abroad with those who remained in this country.