World War II: When My Dad Was a MoMM

Yes indeedy, how do you think I felt? With amazement I read the words on my father’s World War II Navy Training Course certificate, learning that on 1 May 1946 he had become a MoMM.

My Dad, Berwin H. Webster, wearing his WWII Navy uniform.

 

Okay, I fess up. This situation was not as grim as I imply.  Who’d have known that “MoMM” is Navy lingo for Motor Machinist’s Mate. Dad used to reminisce about World War II–when he was sent to Newport Rhode Island for training, and that he was a member of the crew on a mine sweeper.

Photograph of several U.S. Navy ships from WWII. YMS 245 is on the far left

My father’s navy discharge papers and a postcard he saved provided additional insight. The mine sweeper he served on was the USS YMS 245 (see photograph above, the smaller boat with the number 245 on the bow, and FYI just to the right of the minesweeper is the larger landing craft repair ship, ARL18-Pandemus) . Apparently the YMS class of mine sweepers were wood-hulled, and all of them pretty much looked alike except some had two stacks, rather than one.

These “service crafts” were used for inshore sweeping of mines (you know, the type of mines that go *ka-boom*) in order to clear the way for amphibious assaults. My Dad said it was “dangerous work.” He told me that he, and other crew members, were able to board a captured Japanese submarine, and as proof of this feat he showed us a log book containing many pages of kanji.  He kept it on his workbench in the garage for years, until as kids we decided it made a great coloring book.

At some point Dad was transferred to the Philippines, and indeed his discharge papers list “NOB Subic Bay, P.I.” which refers to Naval Operating Base, Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippine Islands.  All I can remember him saying about that experience was “it was so humid that wet clothes hung out on the line didn’t dry.” He felt unpleasantly damp the entire time he was stationed there.

Five Peso Note, my Dad’s souvenir from the Philippines

He brought back a small souvenir from his Philippines assignment–a Five Peso Note printed by the Japanese Government.  I don’t know how accurate the description of this currency is, but a recent Ebay auction states: “The Japanese Army occupied the Philippines in 1941. Soon after the Japanese government issued its own paper currency to take the place of the Philippines money. This was done to hopefully control the markets and stop guerrillas from buying weapons and other merchandise. Despite threats of torture or being killed, the Philippine people continued to use their own currency. The invasion currency became known as “Mickey Mouse Money” to express contempt of the Japanese by the Philippine people. These are genuine notes seldom seen and are historic pieces of World War II history… One and five dollar denomination bills.”

By December of 1946, my Dad was stationed in Hawaii, at NAS (Naval Air Station) Barber’s Point, on the island of Oahu.

NAS Barber’s Point, Oahu, Hawaii, circa 1947. My father is on the far right.

 

Dad loved being stationed in Hawaii, and spent most of his time there as a driver in the transportation division’s vehicle pool.  He was never much of a writer (he enjoyed going to the dentist more) but his mother did save one exciting (ahem) letter from him.

********(Letter as follows)*************
N.A.S. Barbers Point T.H. Navy #14.
February 10, 1947

Dear Mother & Dad, how is ever thing going with all you folks back there in N.H.  OK I hope.   I’m feeling swell and like this new job ok.  Have been driving several weeks now and like it better all the time.  Most of my driving is with buses.  Have several different bus runs to make every day except Sat- & Sundays.  Have one school bus run that covers about 30 miles or so to a round trip.  Have to make that twice a day.  Also take a civilian bus run that is about 28 miles round trip.

Only make one trip with that unless I don’t take the first school bus run.  The school run goes back out into the country to a place called Schofield.  Have to go over a small mountain to get there. It sure is swell out there though.  Have to go through a lot of farming district to where the school is located. Most of the farming is sugar cane & pineapple.  They really do a lot of that on this Island.

My other run goes along the coast & takes in about five small villages. Pick up about 20- or 30 civilians who work on this base. Also make other trips in between.  Make trips to Honolulu & Pearl Harbor once in a while. Honolulu is about as busy as Boston & just about as hard to drive in.  A lot of narrow & also one way streets.  But even at that– putting all of my driving altogether I really like it.

The time goes by fast which is all that I’m interested in right now.  At least I can begin to count the months instead of years before I will be home for good.  The only thing I will miss when I leave here will be the climate. This place has the best climate of any place I’ve ever been.  And I guess that covers a lot of territory.

From the last letter that I got from you folks I guess that you are having a good old fashion New England winter. Well it will soon be over in a few weeks at least.  We’ve had a gale here last night with a wind of about 60 m.P.H.  But tonight its nice out.  Temp about 68 degrees or better. All we’ve worn since we’ve been here is a blue work shirt & dungarees or my whites. Not even cool enough for a sweater.

Have been here now since December and haven’t been on liberty as yet.  Can get about any thing I want right here on the base. Have movies every night.  Also get a lot of my meals at the civilian mess hall.  Can get a good steak for about 1.50.  Get breakfast there most every day after I get in on my run which is either 7:30 or 8:30. My first run tomorrow starts at 6:15 & will get in at 7:30.  Got in tonight from my last run at 6:30. The most miles that we covered in any one day is about 245 miles. About half of it with a 40 passenger bus.

Well I guess I will have to stop for now.  Will write again soon.  Write when you can.

Lots of Love,
Berwin.
********(end)*************

You’d have to know my reticent, New Hampshire-born-and-bred father in order to realize that he was being extremely chatty in this letter.

My Dad completed 5 years, 10 months & 17 days net service in the United States Navy. His Honorable Discharge record states there were medals, ribbons and insignia that he was entitled to wear, including: Asiatic Pacific (one star), American Area, Victory, Philippine Liberation, Good Conduct, and Philippine Independence.

Remnants of navy memorabilia could be found around our home for at least twenty years after the war ended. I fondly remember wearing Dad’s itchy, dark blue wool Navy uniform and white “Gob” cap for a few Halloween romps in the 1960s.  His duffel bag acted as a “rag bag,” plunked down on our basement stairs, until it became fashionable to use paper towels.

He also brought home some Navy words that he liked to say, and that I grew up thinking were routinely used by everyone.  He put “sand” (sugar) in his coffee, he slept in his “skivvies” (underwear), he had a potent cup of “joe” (coffee) before going to work, and wanted some hot “chow” (a meal) when he got home.

As a MoMM, my Dad had been trained to operate machine tools, operate and maintain internal combustion engines and engine auxiliaries, had knowledge of pressure and air systems, was familiar with electrical apparatus, and understood diesel mechanics. No wonder he could fix pretty much anything that broke.

Janice

P.S. This article was written for as my submission to the 32nd Carnival of Genealogy: War Stories, about a wartime event or soldier in my family. The entire Carnival will be posted on September 18, 2007 on the Blog: Family Oral History Using Digital Tools.

Also don’t forget to tune in to your local PBS station to see Ken Burn’s “The War,” a new seven-part epic documentary about World War II.  The first part airs September 16th.

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  1. Pingback: A 2016 Military Father’s Day: My Dad’s WW2 Navy in Photographs | Cow Hampshire

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