While the YMS-346 was being built in Jacksonville, Florida, Jack and the crew were busy preparing themselves for what lay ahead. After completing 5 weeks of training at the US Naval Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, VA, Jack spent several weeks at a Navy Yard in Charleston, SC. From there he was sent to the US Naval Receiving Station in Jacksonville. Formal construction of the ship began August 24, 1942, by the Gibbs Gas Engine Co. On August 20, 1943, the YMS-346 was commissioned into the United States Navy.
5/14/43 - Dear Bess:...I leave for South Carolina on Monday or Tuesday. Charleston, SC. I was hoping I would go to New York but I wasn't that lucky. Some of the fellows went to New York that live there. The lucky stiffs. Other fellows are going to California, Washington (State), and North Carolina. I'm not so bad off as I am still on the East Coast...The places we are going to is only to board our ships. I don't know how long I'll be in Charleston but I hope it's long enough for me to procure leave. I'm going to ask for it as soon as I get there.
5/18/43 - Dear Bess: I arrived here in Charleston safe and sound. ... The uniform here is white and I can see where I'm going to do a lot of scrubbing here.
5/21/43 - Dear Bess: Well I'm to be here for a month and a half. My ship is being finished in Jacksonville, FL so I have to wait until it is finished... Half of the sailors here in the base seem to be British. I never saw so many in my life...I've been on liberty here in Charleston and it isn't so hot. The girls here are "cold" toward sailors and the people don't like them so much either. It's down right discouraging "Southern Hospitality".
6/9/43 - Dear Bessie: Well, I arrived here in Jacksonville, Florida. ...We went aboard our ship today for about a 15 minute inspection. We met our officers and they seem to be O.K. They shook hands with each member of the crew. I've already met the whole crew (a good bunch). Our crew sleeps together in the barracks. The ship won't be completed until July and then it will take time to test it and break it in.
6/19/43 - Dear Bess: ...Nothing has happened here that is worth talking about. We have been playing a few games of softball. The fellows here fish off the back dock behind our barracks. They catch crabs with a net. We have two boats that we take out. We have a blinker light here that the signalman has taught me to use. I do it pretty good. He wants me to strike for signalman...and I think I will. ...Betty wanted to know about my ship. It is 130 ft long. Constructed almost completely of wood. Carries a 3" cannon and two 20 mm guns. It has a crew of 28 men and 4 officers......all handsome......like me.
Pictured above in their white uniforms: McMonigal, Mike Cicalese, Jack Whiteman, Vincent Scianna and George Coulombe. The photograph is not dated.
6/25/43 - Dear Gracie: ...Kelley, our quartermaster, has asked for permission for me to go to signal school for a week or two. He wants me to strike for signalman. He says I learn quick. I've been on K.P. duty almost since I've been here and it is taking up most of my time. The rest of the time is spent washing clothes. We have weekly personnel inspection by the commander and if our uniforms aren't spotless, our hair cut right, shaved, etc., then it is just too bad. We have a signal light and a dummy gun here. The gun crews of the various ships practice on the gun and the signalmen and their strikers practice on the light (that's me).
7/20/43 - Dear Bess: ...We will board our ship in a week or so. We will still be around here though. We have to have a shakedown cruise yet. We still have to go up to Virginia for our cable. After that we have to practice sweeping. I don't know where we will go after that.
...I received a letter the other day from Charlie Carola. He had mailed it to my Philadelphia address. It went to Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Norfolk, from Norfolk to the "Sangay", from "Sangay" to Mine school in Yorktown, from Yorktown to Charleston and from Charleston to Jacksonville. It went to every place I've been. It's covered with postmarks and addresses. After all that trouble - all it says is that he feels fine but can't say anything about what he is doing.
7/22/43 - Dear Gracie: ...There is nothing new I can talk about. We do much the same thing every day. Today, however, we loaded our equipment into the warehouse and we are taking inventory on it. We won't finish until sometime tomorrow. It won't be long before we are loading it aboard.
8/9/43 - Dear Gracie: ...There isn't much I can talk about. Our ship had a test run yesterday and today. We will probably board it at the end of the week. We had gun practice. We have a dummy 3" gun here and we practice loading it so that we can do it like a smooth machine. I'm hot shell man. I catch the ejected shells and toss them aside. We do pretty good. We will have a good gun crew.
8/18/43 - Dear Bessie: I'm sorry I did not write sooner but we were busy on the ship. It is all finished and we had to help put on the sweep gear. We still have a lot to do. We have to load all our equipment from the warehouse aboard yet. We have watches on the ship now. Every third day I have to stand an 8 hour watch. That is four in the morning and four again the same night. We carry a loaded .38 revolver. ...I've been smoking for the last couple of weeks. Don't get mad at me. When I'm on watch it takes some of the monotony out of it. I'm twenty one now and I'm sure it can't harm me. I don't smoke much anyway. I don't want to make too much of a habit out of it. I buy a pack once in a while. ...You asked me if I wanted anything, remember? Well, I do. ...Gillette thin blades...Maybe you can get them for me...If the pictures are developed, send me a set or two, O.K.? If you have any more news from Deanie, let me know. I'll close now Bess. Give my love to Gracie, Betty, and Uncle Patsy. Love + XXXX, Jack.
P.S. I won't complain if there are cigarettes in the package?????
Next: YMS-346 Commission Ceremony