The first ship Jack was assigned to after completing basic training at Sampson Naval Training Station in NY was the USS Sangay AE-10. This was a munitions carrier whose motto was "Angel's Coffin". It was named for the Sangay Volcano, an active volcano in Ecuador. The reference no doubt signifies what would happen if a munitions ship were to be hit by enemy fire. The photo below is from the National Archives.
4/7/43 - Dear Bessie: Well I can say I'm feeling fine and I arrived where I am O.K. I didn't expect to arrive where I did but I wasn't too surprised. I can't tell you where I am or what type of ship I'm on as my mail is censured. Don't worry though, I'll be O.K. When you write me, my address is: John P. Whiteman, S 2/c U.S.S. Sangay, c/o Fleet P.O. New York, N.Y. I met a lot of my shipmates from Philadelphia and from boot camp. I'm lucky. The food on board is good and the fellows are O.K. I'm going to be a striker for a Yeoman's rating. On the questionnaire I told them I was best suited for this because of my commercial training. The chief said if I do a good job and work hard he'll recommend me. That is what a fellow needs to get promoted. Wish me luck."
4/11/43 - Dear Bessie: Here is a surprise for you. I am now going to school. I am learning all about mines. A small group was asked to go from our ship and I was one of them. I accepted it with about 9 other fellows. The training will be for 5 weeks. The school here is just like boot camp. It's nicer here though. We have a nice canteen (beer and everything). We have ball fields and equipment, gymnasium, swimming pool (3 diving boards), 1 high and 2 low, bowling alleys, swell movie theater, etc... You should see it here. There are soldiers, sailors, marines, and even a few British sailors billeted in the same barracks. They all seem to get along pretty good. Yesterday, the whole crew on the "Sangay" including me loaded ammunition aboard. Wow! What a job. You should have seen me lugging 5" projectiles about. I ached all that night.
4/12/43 - Dear Bess: Well I'm getting settled here now. I like the place. We started school today. When I graduate I will be a striker for a Boatswain's Mate... This place here is full of officers too. They are all learning mine warfare. When I go to sea I will be experienced in my line. I graduate May 15, 1943.
4/18/43 - Dear Bessie:...School here is very interesting. We are learning all about mines. I never knew there were so many different kinds of mines. We are taught how to sweep them, how they are laid, how to destroy them, etc. The mechanisms of the different mines sure would surprise you. I go out on a minesweeper every other day to get actual experience and I like that part a lot. I like these smaller boats better than the larger ones....We went to a mine depot yesterday. There we saw how mines are made. It's the first time I had ever seen T.N.T. It looks like soap. We had to leave all matches and cigarettes and stuff outside. They take no chances. There were a lot of girls working there too.
5/7/43 - Dear Bess: Well we sure do work a lot now when we go on sea duty. Today we holystoned the decks. That is a certain kind of brick that we scrape on the deck with sand to clean the deck. We had to do this in our bare feet. We learned all about the signal flags on the ships and how to decode them. We also learned how to calculate a compass. You'd be surprised the calculating you have to do to read a compass. We learned about the different instruments and how to use them. They even taught us a bit of navigation. We were taught about the machine guns and big guns (cannons to you). It's all very interesting. We always stream gear for minesweeping but that is something I'm not supposed to talk about. Our system of minesweeping is a secret.
Next: Navy Yard, Charleston, SC and U.S. Naval Receiving Station, Jacksonville, FL.