I found this thread last night while looking for information on Yellow Water. Thanks to all who have posted here with such interesting details of this long forgotten school. The reason I began searching was because I had just learned that my father spent a little over a month training here at the Gunners School in 1943.
During my youth my father didn't care to talk much about his time in WWII. He passed away several decades ago when I was in college and about the only information I had learned was that he was in the Marines and was a gunner on a B-25 in the South Pacific. Just recently I have come into possession of all the letters that he wrote as a young man while he was away from home and a majority of them were during his service with the Marines in WWII. Back then phone calls were expensive and difficult to connect so letter writing (which now seems to be a lost art) was the main method of communications. He probably wrote about once a week on average over this period so you can imagine how enlightening this is for me to learn about all the experiences that he never cared to speak about while he was still with us.
I learned that after Boot Camp in San Diego he was sent to MAD NATTC Radio School in Jacksonville, FL in May of 1943 at the age of 18 years old. After completing four months of training there he was sent to Yellow Water in October of 1943. Apparently, it must have been known as "Yellowater" back then since he spelled it that way in each of the 6 letters that he wrote during the roughly 30 days he spent there and you can also see the "Camp Yellowater" painted on Butt 4 in the photo posted in the second entry of this thread. Some of the observations he made in his letters are provided below to offer a young man's perspective on what it was like training at Camp Yellowater.
From his last letter from NATTC he wrote, "Well everyone is packed and ready to leave for Cherry Point. That is all but the gunners who will be sent to Yellowater or Hollywood."
From the six letters he sent from Yellowater he wrote, "This is a very nice base, it is rather small but it has all the conforts of home. It has a nice ships service, a theater with a different show every night (except Thursday which is field day). It has a bowling alley... There is a chance for lots of liberty, but not very good transportation facilities so I will not take any liberty while staying here."
"The NCO's here are all for you instead of trying to put you on report for every little thing. I really think that I am going to like it here."
"Now that I left N.A.T.T.C I can tell you that it was the worst Navy base in the U.S.A. Perhaps you heard Walter Winchell talk about it. He had made a tour of Navy bases and he said that he would hate to be stationed there. The food wasn't good except on Sunday noons."
"I have shot about 200 or more shot gun shells not to speak of all the rifle and machine gun shells too. I believe that I have hit about 3/4 of all my shots, that is with fixed shot guns on swivles and in turrets too."
"This is to let you know that I am still alive and having lots of fun costing the Govt. money doing what is fun. Shooting all the ammo they will let me. The most I hit out of 100 shotgun shells was 90, and the most out of 400 machine gun shells was 59. That was good, cause the bullet pattern spreads 20 ft square if held in a vice so you only expect to hit about 10% of your shots."
"We have a few Waves as instructors in 3-A-2 which is instinctive sighting. We sit on a roller seat or turret and shoot at planes moving across the screen. If we shoot too soon the bell rings. Have to learn range estimation by using a 35 mil. ring sight."
"The food here is fairly good of course some meals aren't so hot but as a whole they are lot better than at N.A.T.T.C. The base is small only 150 Marines and about 2,000 Sailors and a few French Sailors. The Waves come from the main side over at Naval Air Station."
"It is little wonder that you couldn't find Yellowater on the map cause there isn't any. No town, no Post Office, just a Gunnery School."
"I found out what kind of plane that I get in for operations. It is an S.B.D. It is a Scout dive bomber. I will be chief gunner, first radioman, co-pilot and crew chief, and still be a P.F.C. The irony of it all. You remember Torpedo Sqd. 8 well this is something on the same order only dive bombing. You are bearing straight on the target for about 30 sec. with no protection from ack. ack. guns. You can only protect yourself from 90o right and left and behind you while on the bombing run. Another thing if for any reason I don't like the plane, pilot, guns, or sound of the motors I can refuse to go on that plane. I don't imagine that it will come to that but it is a nice thing to know. I only hope that I get a nice young pilot about 21 to 23 years old. He will have a good sense of responsibility and not be an old fogey."
"The other evening, Wed evening to be exact, we had a picnic - and I thought the Marines were tough. We played tackle football without suits or head gear against the swabbies and we beat then 18 to nothing."
"The eats here are fair, they are good to eat but they don't give you enough to fill you up. No seconds or anything."
"Yellowater is approx. seventeen to twenty miles from Jax. It's practically out in the swamps of Northern Fla."
"Found out the other day that Radio-Gunners are issued 45's so I don't have to worry about side arms. But I guess that I will have to furnish my own knife."
"This will probably be my last letter to you from this base, cause we graduate tomorrow. These last four days we acted as instructors. We took over the classes just comming in and taught them about firing and stoppages & etc."
"Yesterday I had gotten the highest score, in the class, in range estimation; so I was the lucky one to get to ride in the Piper Cub for about an hour while the others practiced range estimation."
"Then Yesterday while I was an instructor on the morning target range one of the gun mounts broke and he was still shooting when it knocked him off the firing stand. After shooting about 600 rounds in about 45 min. the barrel was still red hot so he got burned pretty bad cause the gun landed on top of him and it was burning his legs and he pushed it off with his hands. Part of his hands are still on the barrel jacket. The way I put this it hardly makes sense does it. This is the type of accident that happens once in a lifetime, so don't worry about me. It happened at the stand next to mine."
"Monday evening after we got through instructing, some officers brought up a bunch of turrets and free guns. They started by shooting 50 cal. turret then 50 cal. free fun, 30 cal free gun, and 30 cal turret. It was an experiment to see if they would need another turret range. Anyway I got to fire about 600 rounds in approximately 20 minutes. I guess it also was to see how long it took to fire two full relays."
I'm reading these letters chronologically so I'm only just to the point where he finished at Yellowater and is now stationed at Deland, Florida. I apologize for the length of this post but I find these small details of life very interesting and I hope this helps give a picture of what it was like training at this facility.