Whaleboat on the Delaware River

Lester describes his first experience with the diesel engine whaleboats. He would become very familiar with these boats–perhaps too much so in the days to come.

The photos in this post all come from the USS North Carolina World War II museum in the Wilmington harbor, a fascinating place to visit for anyone in the area.


Saturday Night.   October 10, 1942

Dear Folks,

What is everyone doing?  I’m in the duty section this week-end so I’m staying aboard tonight.  I guess I have told you that I am in the auxiliary crew. We don’t have to stand any watches yet but we have to stay aboard so they can call us if we are needed.  The chief in charge of the engine and firerooms asked me if I wanted to get out of the auxiliary into a fireroom but I didn’t think I wanted to change. I’ve spent quite a bit of time learning my job and I didn’t want to have to learn another new one so soon.  He changed some of the others without asking them and they didn’t like it very well at first but they really have it easier where they are now.  Haring got changed to one of the firerooms.

I have a Jewish buddy that I run around with. We work together nearly all the time.  His name is Joe Feingold.  He is a second class motor machinists mate so he has charge of the diesel boats.  I am the only other one in the auxiliary gang with diesel experience or school so will probably help with the boats.

A whaleboat such as the one Lester mentioned in his October 10 letter. This one is on display on the deck of the USS North Carolina museum, Wilmington, NC.
A whaleboat such as the one Lester mentioned in his October 10 letter. This one is on display on the deck of the USS North Carolina museum, Wilmington, NC.





Four of us, two coxwains, Feingold and myself, took one of the boats today and went up the river to town.  I had never run the boat before so I took care of the engine.


The boats are steered by a coxswain who handles the rudder.  He rings a bell to signal to the engineer.  One bell means go ahead slowly, two means stop, three means reverse and four means full speed.  I enjoyed it a lot.  Some places the water was a little rough, but not bad. The waves weren’t over a foot high.  The most fun was when we would meet another boat and their waves hit us.  We always headed into a large wave so it wouldn’t come over the side and swamp us.  When we hit a large wave it would pick us up then drop us.  We planned on going out all afternoon but we had to bring the boat aboard after dinner so didn’t get to go.


I don’t know why my letter was so long in getting to you.  Yours usually get here in two days though it sometimes takes longer.

I lost my watch tonight but it was my own fault.  I had taken it off in the washroom and was washing when chow call blew.  In my hurry I forgot to pick it up.  A bunch of apprentice seamen came aboard this evening and some of them came in just as I left for the mess hall.  I didn’t miss it until I had finished supper but it was gone when I got back there.  If some of the older crew had found it, they would have turned it in and I could have claimed it.  It may turn up yet.

How is the scrap drive turning out back home?  You should see the junk that is piled up in the streets here in Philly.  They had a big drive for scrap and there is sure lots of it.  It has been accumulating in the streets for almost two weeks.

Yes I got the cake from Frances okay.  It was mashed a little but it was still fresh–and good!

Yes the trains are crowded and so are all other means of transportation.  Quite often I stand up because I haven’t learned to shove quite as well as most of the people here. I also don’t like to occupy a seat when some ladies have to stand.  Men around here wouldn’t stand for their own grandmother.  Sometimes I feel like knocking their teeth out for them.

There aren’t any mountains around here or on the way to Washington.  There were some hills but no mountains.  I did see some mountains around Johnstown in western Pennsylvania as we came from the Lakes.  They weren’t very large though.  Yes, Philly is on the Delaware river.  I don’t have a map either so I don’t know much about the size of the states or the route I traveled.

(Sunday night)

I didn’t get to finish this last night so will try again tonight.  We fueled ship today for several hours.  A tugboat brings the oil barge alongside then the oil is pumped into our tanks.  No smoking is allowed while fueling ship.  Wednesday we are to go down the river for a trial run.  It lasts only a day, tho.

I’ll have to close now.

Love to all.




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