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Sampson Naval Training Station, NY 1942

Updated: Feb 3

Seaman John P. Whiteman

Training Base on Upstate Lake Turns Out Gobs of Sailors. -Daily News-January 26, 1943

"Twelve miles from this town [Geneva, NY], on 2,500 acres at the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, the Government has reared a mighty training station for some 30,000 naval recruits, and its first graduates have joined the fleet."

Sampson Naval Training Station

Jack began his service in the US Navy November 21, 1942, at the age of 20. He spent twelve weeks at Sampson Naval Training Station in Romulus, NY. He was among the first group of men to be trained at Sampson, in Company 440, Group F. His family received this official letter from the Navy confirming his arrival. The letter states "When a man enlists in the Navy, he is assigned to a Naval Training Station for fundamental recruit training. During this period, the Navy endeavors to produce a future leader of men, a man of whom his family, his community and the service will be proud."

Jack wrote many letters to his family about his training and experiences. "Today we were drilling and learning different commands. We were pretty sloppy at first but we were pretty good at the end. While we are learning to drill it is known as "Boot Training" because we wear leggings." His letters express both enthusiasm and pride. In this post and subsequent posts, I will include excerpts from letters. Some will have links to view in a separate window or more on a topic or story. I will also try to demonstrate how the letters relate to actual events. This first letter details a great deal about what it was like when Jack first arrived at Sampson.

11/26/42 - Dear Bess: "I am writing this letter on the first chance I had. I have been very busy since we arrived here. We left Penn Station at 11:45 and arrived here at the training station at Sampson, N.Y. at 8 o'clock. I arrived first in time for a hearty breakfast. Wow, did I eat. We were then given a thourough (excuse the spelling) physical. We were then given a Wassermann, a vaccination, and our first needle. We were then issued our uniforms and equipment. Wow! What a load. I could barely carry the bag. Boy, do I look snazzy in my blue. I could list all the equipment I received but it would take a full page. I was then assigned to my barracks and instructions.

Bessie, you should see this place. It has just been built and occupied, It is still under construction in parts of the place. The buildings are all modern and equipped with modern equipment. My building is a two story barracks and I am on the bottom floor. I sleep on an upper bunk though. Of what I have seen of the place so far I think it is swell. I am not homesick as yet, but give me time. Tomorrow starts my real day, I start drilling. I have to get up at 6:30 and go to sleep at 9:30 P.M. The meals are good and wholesome and I should put on some weight. The fellows here in my barracks are swell and you can have a lot of fun with them. They have two Masses here on Sunday so you will not have to worry about me going to Mass. Every boy in the place has to attend some religious meeting or service. I am not yet assigned to any locker as yet so my bunk is covered with about a closet-full of clothes.

We have to take a shower every day. We have to shine our shoes, dust off our bunks, sweep the barracks, mop, wash windows, drill and do our own laundry. Gosh! I thought I left all that behind me. The whole place is spotless. This is the cleanest service in the world. (and I ain't kidding). Don't worry about me starving to death, because the meals are swell. I eat more for breakfast then I ate for supper at home. (Don't tell Betty and Gracie though). This morning for breakfast I had - oatmeal, beans, 2 slices of bread and butter, a piece of cake, and a cup of coffee.

I had to send my clothes home the first thing so please forgive me for not writing right off the bat. It was orders. As yet I did not receive my haircut, darn it, I still have to comb it.

...I have to go now Bessie but write me and let me know how you are getting along. Keep up my morale, you know. I'll write you again as soon as possible. Your loving brother, Jack.

P.S. Do not send me any clothing as the Navy has given me every article I need. You can send a little candy or something like that though.

1/7/43 - Dear Bess:..."Today we received our dress blue uniforms. That's the uniform the sailors wear when they are on shore leave. It's what the whole company has been waiting for. I got a thrill when I put them on. It made you feel proud to be a member of the United States Navy. You will see me in it when I get home."

"This is the inside of our barracks if you wonder what I live in."

Sampson Naval Training Station

"So Deanie sent the camp paper home huh. Well just for that I'm sending home two." Sampson News issue dates 12/11/42 and 1/1/43. Click either image to read both issues.

Sampson News 12/11/1942

Sampson News 1/1/43

P.P.S In the paper you will find me. I was late getting to my company from guard duty so I had to line up with the smaller fellows and I stick out like a sore thumb. (click on image below to see Jack's comments on the image.)

3,500 Sampson Recruits Remember Pearl Harbor - Sampson Naval Training Station

1/19/43 - Dear Gracie:...."We had a half week of "Regimental Guard". I stood at the gate and stopped all the cars and made people identify themselves before they could enter the area. The officers had to produce buttons. I stood my post with another fellow from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock, 6 A.M. 6 P.M. Brr-r-r it's cold on that post. It's lucky we have our little shack and a big fur-lined jacket or we would have froze to death. We were armed with clubs in case we had to persuade anyone that he couldn't enter. I'm glad I didn't have to use it on anyone. It's like the one a cop uses only a little shorter.

WW2 cartoon of standing Regimental Guard at Sampson Naval Training Station by Jack Whiteman

1/21/43 - Dear Gracie:......."Today the fellows, 112 of them, chipped in 40 cents each and we bought a peach of a radio. We hear all the programs on it. We heard the Army-Navy game today and of course Navy won 14-0. Ahem!

2/3/43 - Dear Brown Eyes: "I can hardly wait to get home. I still have two full weeks here to go and then I am a full pledged 2nd class Seaman. ....Last night I hooked up my hammock between two stations and slept in it. I tried getting in and out of it a few times at first to get the hang of it. I fell out once and I banged my toe. I slid it down to about a foot off the floor just in case it happened again but it didn't. I can turn in any position and still be comfortable and without falling out. (Click the date to view entire letter with more cartoons).

WW2 cartoon by Jack Whiteman- Sampson Naval Training Station

After completing basic training, Jack was then transferred to a Navy shipyard in Philadelphia, PA where he ended up in a Navy hospital (USNH Philadelphia, PA).

3/18/43 - Dear Bess: "I have bad news. I won't be home Saturday or Sunday. I am in the navy hospital with (sabotage) German Measles." ... "Measles, Bah! It ain't funny."

WW2 cartoon by Jack Whiteman in Naval Hospital with German Measles

Next: USS Sangay AE-10 and US Naval Mine Warfare School, Yorktown VA


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