News of the End of the War
Updated: Jul 3
News of the end of the war reached the crew of the YMS-346 in 1945 while they were still underway. There are two dates that commemorate the end of WWII. V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day, is celebrated on May 8th. This date recognizes the end of the war in Europe when Germany surrendered its military forces to the Allies. V-J Day recognizes victory over Japan. On August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had unconditionally surrendered. Formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. The YMS-346 was underway on V-J Day, when this news reached the ship. Jack references V-J Day in a letter dated September 2nd.
In order to put this in perspective, I found the following statement on the National WWII Museum website regarding V-J Day: "But as welcome as victory over Japan was, the day was bittersweet in light of the war’s destructiveness. More than 400,000 Americans—and an estimated 65 million people worldwide—had died in the conflict." https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/v-j-day
Even with the end of the war, for the minesweepers, there was still much work to be done. Letters, written by now Signalman Jack Whiteman describe the many stops they made on this trip and how they felt about hearing the news. In his book, my brother Tom writes about the journey of the YMS-346 during that time from his research and conversations he had with Dad. The photograph above is a simulation photograph taken by Jack of the first model he made of his ship.
In the early part of 1945, the YMS-345 was heading back to the US and then by mid year she was on her way to the Pacific. 1945 brought the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April, the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and the official surrender of Japan in September. After that Dad was on his way to Japan. During this year the YMS-346 would be in Okinawa, Japanese and Philippine waters.
On June 18th and 28th and July 19th of 1945, American B-29 bombers laid mines near Kobe, Japan to prevent the Japanese from using their own harbors. After the Japanese surrendered, the Americans had to clean up those mines, and that's where Dad came in.
The war was officially over, but not for Dad. Although the shooting had stopped, Dad's enemy was still there, and heavy, the mines in Kobe Harbor. I remember Dad telling me that when the war ended, they couldn't go home because they had to clean up all the mines that remained. This didn't sit well with the men and they would show their displeasure by pretending that they had imaginary yo-yos. Every time one of the officers would walk by, one of the crew would mimic a man playing with a yo-yo. The Captain didn't find it amusing.
8/6/45 - Dear Bess: Well! Here we are at our next stop. These stops here and there make this trip a lot easier. As yet we are not settled so I can't keep the letters coming. I made a liberty here tonight and had a good time. When I'm allowed to, I'll tell you about the places I've been to and the liberties I made. ...There isn't anything new with me that I can talk about. We do the same thing every day. It's getting a bit monotonous. (I wanna go home.)
...How are things at home? I guess that dizzy gang of girls still tramp in and tramp out. ...I'll sign off for now Bess, it's the middle of the night and I'm tired as he--. I'll write again soon.
8/19/45 - Dear Bess: I'm sorry there were such long lengths of time between letters but it could not be helped. However, we finally arrived here safe and sound but I'm afraid we will only be here a few days. The news of the end of the war is wonderful. We were off the coast of Mexico when the news came over. We tooted our whistles and danced and everything else to show emotion. I sure hope it gets signed today, then I'll feel better. This letter is being mailed in New York by our Pharmacist Mate. His mother died and he is flying to New York tonight. I imagine censorship will be lifted soon and I can tell you all about my doings from day to day. We left New York the day I last called you up and traveled to Miami, Florida, our first stop. I had a short liberty there and enjoyed it sightseeing and taking in a movie. Our next stop was Colon, in Panama. I spent a liberty there and took in a few night clubs. They were pretty nice. We stayed there two days and then went through the canal to the Pacific side. Our next stop was Corinto, Nicaragua. I had a nice liberty there too. What a place! Nothing but shacks and they call them buildings. Our next stop was Manzanillo, Mexico. The enlisted men were not allowed ashore there so-- no liberty. There was nothing to the town anyway. We couldn't even send out mail there. We finally arrived here in San Pedro, California, yesterday (Saturday). I went on liberty in Los Angeles yesterday and had a swell time. It's all lit up and reminds me of New York. It's very expensive though.
I wish I could say I was coming home now that the war has ended but I'm not. We are going over in a few days. The minesweepers work is really just beginning. I guess they want us to clean up our island possessions. Don't worry though I may get transferred over there. I hope, I hope, I hope. We'll use an extra large broom and sweep them all up quicker.
The Navy point system for discharge sure doesn't give us single fellows much chance. However I think it will be lowered and I'll be out within a year or maybe even less. The system works this way: a man needs 44 points for discharge. 1/2 point for each year of service, 1/2 point for each month of active service, 10 points for one dependent (ex. wife). Up to now I have 28 points but I think they will keep lowering requirements as we go along.
9/2/45 - VJ Day - Dear Bess: The war is really over. I could not bring myself to believe it until our troops were actually in Japan. A lot has been taken off my mind now. It's a wonderful feeling to know we don't have to worry about blacked-out ships, torpedoes, planes, etc. All the fellows are looking forward to the day we get our discharge. Oh happy, happy day!
We are still here in California but will be leaving shortly. Our time was extended for a while. We have a brand new movie projector. It's a peach! Everything works swell and we have movies aboard here every night. While I'm writing this "White Cliffs of Dover" is being shown. We have them up on the forecastle. Yesterday we had "Going My Way". ...On liberty the other day I saw "Anchors Aweigh" and really enjoyed it.
Yes! I asked for a transfer but they won't give it to me. I don't know why. He says he'll see what he can do when we hit our next stop. Two years is a long time to be on one little ship. I hope I get a break. ...Did you receive a record of my voice yet? I made a record at the U.S.O. when I was on liberty last week. You should have received it by now. I tried to sing on one side but I guess that side is hardly worn. I guess once was enough.
9/6/45 - Dear Bess: Well! We are leaving tomorrow at last. We have had our time here extended several times but the ship is in good shape now and all set for the trip, I sure will hate to leave the U.S. again. I hope to get transferred at Pearl Harbor but I doubt if I will. Once you leave the States it's hard to get transferred . We should be in Pearl Harbor in two to three weeks, I hope. So, if you don't hear from me for awhile you will know what's what. Yesterday I went to Hollywood on my liberty and just wandered about looking. That evening I went to the "Hollywood Canteen" and saw Phil Harris broadcast "Keysers College of Musical Knowledge" program. ....Our movie camera is still working good and will help break the monotony of the trip. I'm glad you received the record O.K. I don't know what prompted me to sing on the other side. I guess I ran out of words and didn't like to waste any of the record. Wow! Did I murder that song! Right now I am in Long Beach on liberty. I guess it will be the last for awhile. It's like a summer resort here and pretty nice.
I hope Gracie has a good time in Washington with Pauline. She'll probably feel like a woman of the world and be high-hat when she gets back. I'll have to hear all about her travels when I get home again.
The photograph below is of Mom, Pauline (L) and Grace, Jack's sister (R), from Mom's photo album. The picture was taken on Labor Day weekend 1945 in Arlington, Va, on their trip to Washington.
9/18/45 - Dear Bess: Well! We arrived here in Pearl Harbor safe and sound. It only took us nine days. I forgot about the war being over when I said it would take us over two weeks. We spent the whole trip at full speed and with all the lights burning. If the war had been on it would have taken us over two weeks. The weather was swell all the way and that helped a lot. ...We expect to be here in Hawaii for two weeks or more. From here we go to Guam and from there - I don't know.
Next: YMS-44 Headed to Japan