Archive for category Project Updates

Pacific War biography of Lieutenant Martin “Marty” E Roberts

I just posted an eight-part biographical series as shared by Lieutenant Martin “Marty” E Roberts, who served aboard YMS-468 in the Americas and Japan. The write-up, photos, and trinkets attached are very fascinating!


  • A photo of the YMS-468 commissioning
  • An official Sacred Order of the Golden Dragon membership card, bestowed upon soldiers who cross the International Date Line by sea; more on Wikipedia, but its history is mired in controversy over hazing incidents
  • Many rare tourism photos of Nicaragua and war-torn Japan
  • The envelope and artwork sent in celebration of Japan’s surrender
  • A Pan Am travel card with beautiful period artwork
  • …and much more!

Jump into the full story, starting with part 1 of “Navy Days – A Letter to Joe”:

Thank you, Marty!

More information on the YMS-468 build specification can be found on NavSource.

Project Status

Just as an update, it may appear I haven’t posted in a while, but that isn’t the case. Most of the content in this website is back-dated to the time it happened in history. For example, browse back to 1945 and see some of the letters and journal entries I’ve been transcribing and filing.

Coming Soon: Audio Stories

I spent the Veteran’s Day weekend honoring my grandfather’s service by processing a pile of audio recordings I took with him. They are now isolated into specific stories about his service, encoded into .mp3 for posting, and are ready for transcribing. Look for them soon. Stories include talking about going ashore, the alcohol reserves soldiers used for bartering amongst each other, and the monkey and cat aboard the ship that chased each other around.

Also, if you haven’t taken a look yet, see the new menu item for the journal (above). I’ve been rapidly putting up a month at a time of the raw journal text. I’ll circle back and annotate when it is all there, as I have a good amount of supplementary content, definitions, and backstories.

Backdating Letters and Journal Entries

Now that WordPress has fixed the date issue, I’m going to backdate any relevant posts to the date they were originally written. It’ll prevent them from showing up in RSS feeds (I think), but it’ll make them easier to read in order by time.

This’ll also contribute to the ultimate goal of generating a dynamic timeline. Pardon the dust.

Up next, I’m going to just back into transcribing some action reports and muster rolls. I want to get the names up as soon a I can, to start auditing names and families.


More Letters on the Way

As you can see, I posted a couple new letters. I’m making a concerted effort to post regularly again, now that the holidays are over. I certainly have millions of documents that need to be combed.

We’re still pre-action here in terms of Chuck in the war. The next letter will be his first time aboard YMS-299, which is exciting. You’ll get his first impressions of the ship and we’ll be going into the shakedown, where the ship is stress tested prior to crossing the Pacific and going into firefights.

New Facebook Page

I created a Facebook page to post batches of media faster, before I’ve had a chance to transcribe and/or research them fully. It’ll also make it easier to follow updates without having the blog posts mixed into your feed readers.

Timeline Work to Continue

I am on a roll here with the brief status updates, so I’ll also let the cat out that WordPress (the blog platform I am using) has finally fixed the bug about old dates. If you curiously looked at my blog post from 1945, you’ll see I was having trouble backdating posts that far. I wanted to post each journal entry, for example, from the date it originated.

The ultimate plan is to enter all of the journal entries and letters (I’ll go back and fix them) in the actual date they are from. This will allow me to put them all into a timeline that I can also add war context to (e.g., XYZ invasion, presidential speeches, etc.). It will make it easier and more interesting to browse.

It’s a big project, for sure, but it will be a life’s work.

Our Muster Roll and More!

In other news, I was also contacted by Jim Harlan, son of John Harlan, who served alongside my grandfather on the ship. He happened upon the YMS-299 muster roll I’d been searching for. I got my hands on dozens of pages from several roll calls. I am in the middle of transcribing them all and will begin posting pieces of them very soon so people may Google their family members’ names and find this site.

I am holding out a glimmer of hope that one or more of the soldiers on my ship are living. I know it isn’t very likely, but I have found another YMS sibling’s crew member who is living. It isn’t my ship, but I’d like to visit soon to ask questions about the ship that I was never able to ask my grandfather.

Sorting Through Contributions

Taking a break from my grandfather CDP’s letters and such, I’ve been going through the photos and stories you have been sending me to contribute. I am very thankful for them! The last few posts are bits of that. I also have a post-war story from Vernon to review and post.

After posting the muster roll, out of curiosity, I Googled each of the names to contact a few genealogy hits and let them know about this site. Maybe it will lead to some other photos or war trinkets. I am also holding out hope that I run into someone who is still alive…but that window of opportunity is quickly vanishing.

Stay tuned!

YMS-304 3D Rendering & Microfiche Blueprints

I tracked down the source of a digital 3D model of the YMS-304 this week. The artist was gracious enough to give me a copy of the file, as well as copies of some blueprints for the YMS-135 subclass that came from the Naval archives!

I’d give personal credit to the artist, but I need to clarify if he would like me to, as the model was put together for a paid project. If I end up using it for anything commercial, I’ll have to get permissions.

So, what do I plan to do with such a great find?

Well, at the moment, not too much. The 3D model lets me pan and rotate the ship so I can get more intimate with its layout, but it is only an exterior model at the moment. I’m in the process of scheduling some Naval archive visits to get more blueprints, because I’d like to add more detail to the 3D model, then build out the interior for some digital walk-throughs. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to virtually walk around inside of the ship, eventually even adding textures and materials to make it seem life-like. Time to sharpen up those rusty CAD skills!

Here is a quick screenshot of part of the model:
YMS-304 3D Rendering

YMS-304 3D Rendering

The YMS-304 is a near sibling of the YMS-299. Of the same subclass, the same blueprints were used in their manufacturing. The only differences between them would be minor in the construction process, as only YMS-299 to YMS-302 were built by the same builder.

Here is a sample portion from one of the blueprints:
YMS-135 Subclass; blueprint sample

YMS-135 Subclass; blueprint sample

Update: I added the full, stitched-together set of blueprints to this post.

M.V. Rhea Cadet, Vern Mills

I’m here! I apologize for the delay in posts. The holidays were a whirlwind and I’m just getting back to going through the documents again.

I’ve been contacted by another post-war cadet from the 70s. I’ll see if he has anything great he’s willing to share with us. I’m particularly interested in the interior of the ship lately, only because I have no photos of it.

I recently found a blueprint for the ship, as well as a model-maker who does custom WWII ships. The model-maker has made sibling boats of the YMS-299, so I’d like to get my hands on a fairly accurate model of the ship with gun turret placement and all. That would help me paint a more clear picture of battle, when my grandfather talks about what gun he was using and where chaos was happening around him.

To Vern, I have a number of other documents/stories from Charles regarding the cadet service. I’ll work on getting them posted quickly for you.

Cadet Charles “Chuck” Donaldson (post-war)

Chuck Donaldson (not Chuck Paul, my grandfather) joined a junior sea cadet group when he was 13, to learn good seamanship. He was posted on the YMS-299 (then USS-Rhea) for 14 years, until it sank in 1983. Having started in the engine room and worked his way through jobs on the boat over the years, he knows everything there is to know about the boat. Intrigued, I asked him if he had a couple more photos, particularly of any inside the boat. He didn’t have any inside, but said he’d send me a couple anyway.

Well, I was expecting an email at some point, but I was expecting incorrectly. I was surprised today when I checked the mail, to find a scrapbook of the ship with professional photos of the ship sailing, a full history of the ship issued to the cadets in 70’s, handwritten memories aboard the ship, photos of himself as a boy on different parts of the deck, a beautiful painting of the ship his brother made and the sad newspaper article of its unexpected sinking at dock in 1983.

I’ll be typing up these stories and scanning these documents for inclusion here as quickly as I can. Thank you, Chuck!

User Registration

I decided to open up user registration in case I have any repeat commenters who might want to sign up and secure a username, photo, etc. Eventually, when I get more info up, if someone related to this project is particularly interested in sharing their own photos, stories, findings, I might add an author or two as well.

Signalman Thomas Morley

I was contacted by the son of Thomas Morley, a signalman aboard YMS-299 during the same period as my grandfather. Exciting!

We’ll be swapping some photos, documents and stories. More to come…

Getting started

I’m getting this blog set up so I can have a central place to start making notes on photos and such. It’ll be a slow start, but I actually have a good amount of data to begin and as people run across this blog my contacts should snowball.

If you are a historian and/or a family member of a soldier involved in the story of YMS-299, I’d be more than happy to hear from you.