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YMS-346 - Photographs of the Crew and Stories - Part 2

Updated: Feb 3


Minesweeper YMS-346 insignia painted by Jack Whiteman

Seaman Jack Whiteman kept an album on the ship with photographs of the crew and his family. The photographs below are of his shipmates and the stories were written by my brother Tom from conversations he had with Dad over the years. The photograph above is of the insignia Jack painted on the smoke stack of the YMS-346.


One amusing story was when the YMS 346 took advantage of Dad's artistic abilities and had him paint a picture on the smokestack of the ship. Stack art was not an uncommon practice in the Navy and during the war, pictures of everything from American flags to Tokyo Rose appeared on the smokestacks of some of the ships. Dad drew a large American eagle pulling a German mine out of the water. On the mine itself he drew a large Nazi swastika. When he submitted the picture to the Captain for approval, the Captain took one look at it and said "O.K. let's say we're out at sea and one of our ships spots us and shines a spot light on that swastika, what do you think is going to happen to us?" Dad, who immediately saw what the Captain was getting at answered "They will blow our ass out of the water?" I don't think the captain answered at that point, nor did he need to. Dad just said, "yes sir, I'll take the Swastika off" and that's the way the picture was painted on the smokestack of the YMS 346; a big majestic American eagle, with his claws firmly gripping a German mine, lifting it completely out of the water. (He did add a little swastika).

Dad never talked much about the war, at least not the horrors that I now know he had faced. I guess he tried to protect us from that. But he would tell me somewhat amusing little stories like how he took up smoking only to cure his boredom while keeping watch on ship, or how he taught himself to play the harmonica for pretty much that same reason. His shipmates would often yell, "hey Flags, how about a song." And Dad would always be willing to belt one out. One story that might have turned disastrous was when Dad was carrying an armful of live shells in the black of night and not being able to see in front of him, stepped right into the hold of the ship. He fell right through and landed on the deck below, but not on his feet. He just laid there for a fraction of a second counting his blessings because not one shell, to his good fortune, landed on its nose.


The photographs below are from Jack's album and loose photographs. Some are additional photos of shipmates identified in the previous post and some are identified here for the first time.


Signalman Neal Smith

Signalman Neal Smith

Neal Smith and Jack Whiteman

Signalman Neal Smith and Jack Whiteman

Michael Cicalese

Michael Cicalese

Joseph Prokopchak

Joseph Prokopchak

Jack Whiteman and Joseph Prokopchak

Jack Whiteman and Joseph Prokopchak

Clarence Hansen

Clarence Hansen

Chief Ivan Walling

Chief  Ivan Walling

Donald Shipp - "the funny one"

Donald Shipp

Neal Smith

Signalman Neal Smith

Signalman Neal Smith

George Coulombe- "the quiet one"

George Coulombe

George Coulombe

George Coulombe

George Coulombe

Meyer Leavitt and Jack Whiteman

Meyer Leavitt and Jack Whiteman

George Coulombe, Gilbert Hostetler, Clarence Hansen

George  Coulombe, Gilbert Hostetler, Clarence Hansen

Madison (?) and Jack Whiteman

Madison (?) and Jack Whiteman

George Coulombe standing next to the smoke stack insignia Jack painted

George Coulombe standing next to the smoke stack insignia painted by Jack Whiteman

Jack Whiteman

Jack Whiteman

Jack Whiteman

Jack Whiteman

Jack Whiteman "Flags"

10/4/44 - Dear Bess: I have a pretty nice album and I guess every fellow on the ship has seen them all. We always look at one another's pictures and talk about the folks at home. We are really a big family right there on the ship and we are always interested in one another's troubles.


11/29/44 - Dear Bess: Well! We just got back from another job and found our mail all piled up again. ... I'm back in form with that harmonica even though I do get bombarded with pillows and various articles that are handy. They just don't appreciate fine music, that's all.


Next: The Sinking of the SS Leopoldville - Christmas Eve 1944


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