Signalman Third Class (SM3c)
Updated: Jul 3
In the early part of 1945 the YMS-346 was headed back to the US and by mid year was headed to the Pacific. After assisting with the rescue efforts following the sinking of the SS Leopoldville at the end of 1944, Jack wrote only two short letters in January. The next letter he wrote was dated July 23, 1945. He was able to spend more time at home on liberty and his rate finally came through after many delays. The letter dated November 5, 1944 expresses his frustration. The envelope for the letter dated July 23, 1945 was the first envelope where Jack's return address was written as John P. Whiteman, SM3c (Signalman Third Class). The photograph above is the U.S. Navy patch for Signalman Third Class.
11/5/44 - Dear Bess: ...Well! there really isn't much new on my end. We do pretty much the same day after day. ...I wish I could say I made third class but I can't. They closed the rate just when I was going to get it. Now I'll just have to wait until there is an opening and I don't know when Washington will send that letter. I'm so mad. I'm about ready to give up.
The photograph below shows Jack proudly wearing the patch for Signalman Third Class. It was taken while he was on liberty at home in 1945 sometime after January and before July 23rd.
The following letter, although very personal, is also filled with stories of everyday life on the ship and Jack's great appreciation for life's simple pleasures. Many people are referenced in this letter. I don't know who Charlie is but I assume his wound and death may have been war related. Joseph is Jack's cousin, Joseph McGahren, who entered the seminary about the same time Jack enlisted in the Navy in 1942. Joseph, or Fr. Joe as we knew him, was a Maryknoll Priest for 66 years, a Missionary and a Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, where he achieved the rank of Colonel. Jack and Fr. Joe were very close. Pauline, our Mom, was one of the mob of girls Jack refers to in his letters. Foxy and Joe (Meyer Leavitt (Foxtail) and Joseph Prokopchak) were Jack's shipmates. They must have come home on liberty with him during that time. I don't know who Cambone is. He may have been a new shipmate as there were many changes to the crew of the YMS-346 in 1945.
7/23/45 - Dear Bess: It seems funny to be writing letters again after being home so much. I sure was lucky to be able to get home as much as I did. All good things have an ending though and I knew it couldn't last indefinitely. Gee! I had a swell time Bess, and I'll never forget it. Just sitting around the house taking it easy and chatting over the supper table was what I had looked forward to all the time I was overseas. I'll even appreciate it more the next time I come home. It might seem long but it really won't be. Being able to see all my old friends again was wonderful. I felt awful when I received the news of Charlie's wound and then his death. Being able to see him once more, even though in death, was something I'll remember for a long time. He was one of the finest pals I ever had and it's hard to realize that he's gone. I'm going to write his mother first chance I get. It might help.
I bet I looked a lot different in Joseph's eyes. I hope he doesn't think too bad of me because I had a swell time with him. He's serious minded now and doesn't realize he's changed some. I guess both of us have - him for the better - me for the worst. We had fun though those days we did have together.
I think the world of that "mob" of girls that tramp in and out of that house. I may have been black and blue on half of my liberties but I really enjoyed it. I didn't want to see Sis go either and felt bad when she did leave. Sis is O.K. I'm going to miss them all. I've never met a bunch of girls that were as much fun as they are. Of course I couldn't say that while I was home. They might think that I had softened. Don't forget and give my love to Peggy, Ann, Dorothy, Helen, Pauline, and the rest. Foxy and Joe really enjoyed that last night home for it was more or less like leaving their own home. I'm glad you treated them so swell. I noticed you ate cold-cuts in order for them to eat chops that were intended for yourselves. It's no wonder I love you so much. Cambone says I have wonderful sisters and I agree with him.
[Some of "The Mob" of girls - top to bottom L to R: Betty, Ann, Peggy, Grace, Pauline and Sis]
...I am writing this letter while underway and it will be mailed at our first stop. The trip has been peaceful and sunny so far but it is getting a little choppy now and I guess we will have a small storm. I'll bet a lot of the new fellows will take on a pretty shade of green. (Ain't I a rat?)
We have been having drills all the time and had some firing practice. Some fun! Our movie camera works O.K. except that the sound doesn't come out. We hope to have it fixed when we hit our first stop. Meanwhile - no movies. I put up the backboard for the punching bag and have it all fixed up nice. I'm still teaching fellows how to punch it. (just call me "muscles") ...They say our mail will follow the ship. So I'll probably get some at our first stop, I hope, I hope, I hope. ...Well I'll sign off for now. Don't worry if you don't hear from me for a period of time. Give my love to Gracie, Betty and Uncle Pat. Love and kisses, Jack
7/28/45 ("Underway") - Dear Bess: Today is your birthday and though I may be late, I wish you a happy one.
...It is pretty rough out right now so if I mess this up any, you will have to overlook it. It should calm down by morning, I hope, I hope, I hope. Our movie machine shows pictures swell. If we could get some sound out of it, it would be better. ...Our Coca-Cola machine is working good and we get three cokes a day. The machine is nice and small and takes up hardly any space, which is very convenient for our small ship, All we have to buy is syrup. We make the carbonated water ourselves at no cost. We can make root beer and other drinks if we want to. This is more like a yacht than a man-of-war.
The meals are still pretty good and if it wasn't for the heat, I'd have a big appetite. ... I write a little every day so by the time we hit our next stop I'll have said all I can think of. If the mail seems confused it is because of these long hops and short time in port. Once we get settled things will be O.K. I hope.
...We have a lot of books on different subjects that we received aboard just before we left. It is those courses that the armed forces uses to make up for the education that was interrupted by the war.
The ship isn't the same anymore. The new fellows don't kick up a rumpus like the old fellows used to do. All the old fellows feel the same way. Maybe when we hit where we're going they'll go crazy and things will be like old times again.
Well I'll sign off for now Bess I have to go on watch. I'll write again at my first chance.
Love and kisses, Jack. P.S. Wish Gracie a happy birthday for me on August 4th.
Today, April 28th, is Jack Whiteman's birthday. When he enlisted in the Navy, he was 20 years young. He spent his 21st birthday as a sailor learning about mines in preparation for war. In one of his early letters, regarding this milestone birthday, Jack wrote:
April 30, 1943 Dear Bessie: ....I enjoyed reading your letter wishing me a Happy Easter and a Happy Birthday. This is how I spent my Happy Easter and Happy Birthday.
Jack lived to be 85 years old. He enjoyed many happy birthdays in his lifetime. The photograph below shows him celebrating his 75th birthday with one of his nine grandchildren. This photograph was featured in Kidsville News on Long Island in 1997.
Happy Birthday Dad ~ Grandpa ~ & Great Grandpa too!
Next: News of the End of the War