From: John L. Beebe, Captain, USNR, Superintendent, U. S. Maritime Training Station, Sheepshead Bay, NY, June 17, 1944

The training program at the U. S. Maritime Service Training Station, Sheepshead Bay, is divided into a preliminary training branch and six branches of advanced instruction. The courses are: Deck; Engine; Cooks and Bakers; Pursers; Hospital Corps; Chief Steward's Course.

Apprentice seamen, during the preliminary training course of six weeks, may apply for admission to any of the courses except Chief Steward. In addition, they may compete for entry into the U. S. Maritime Service Radio School or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The training of an enrollee normally begins within twenty-four hours of his arrival on the station. As soon as processing has been completed and equipment issued, the trainee is sent with a section of forty-nine other new arrivals to Barracks B-l, the receiving barracks.

For a period of several days the new training is under the supervision of the Indoctrination Officer. The concentrated program includes instruction in rules and regulations of the station; reasons for and proper method of saluting [USMS trainees were required to salute officers of all services]; stenciling of clothing; proper stowing of gear; bunk making; orientation in station operations and facilities. The section instructor drills the men in marching formations, leads the group from class to class, keeps attendance records and is responsible for the discipline of the men.

Free time between completion of indoctrination and start of classes is devoted to barracks' work details, such as standing a fire watch, serving as messenger, polishing decks, washing windows, keeping the grounds trim, etc.

During the next four weeks the trainee receives instruction in 20 subjects. He attends classes eight hours a day, five days a week. The subjects include:

Rules and Regulations Fire Equipment
Mental Hygiene Lifeboat and Raft Equipment
Customs and Traditions of the Sea Practical Boat Training
Safety Seamanship (swimming) Breeches Buoy-Lyle Gun, Compass
Physical Training Gas Masks and Breathing Apparatus
Marching Life Preserver and Exposure Suit
Hygiene Nautical nomenclature
Venereal Disease Knots
Resuscitation Gunnery
First Aid Organization and Classification

A wide variety of training aids are used including mimeographed forms, motion pictures, practical demonstrations of fire equipment, breathing devices, breeches buoy, line-throwing gun. Every effort is made during this period to inspire the trainees with enthusiasm and pride in the service they have chosen.

They are given physical training so that they will be physically qualified for duty at sea. During the winter months this training is given on horses, vault boxes, parallel bars, lines and ladders in Bowditch Hall. During the warm season, the training is given on the outdoor Obstacle Course. The Obstacle Course is 560 yards long and comprises 38 obstacles spaced along six lanes. The men are required to move without pause over the entire course. The obstacles include log piles, hurdles, cargo nets, smooth and knotted lines, 15-foot wall, trough, incline and a 25 foot high enclosed escape hatch which the men enter through small portholes at the base, climb wooden ladders on the inside, emerge at the top and swing out and down the outer wall on knotted lines.

swim under burning oilDuring courses to prepare them for emergencies, they are taught the seriousness of fire at sea, how to swim under burning oil [trainees at Avalon, Catalina Island, CA shown in adjoining illustration], what precautions to take to prevent fire, how to use fire-fighting apparatus, how to use lifeboats and the 39 standard articles of lifeboat equipment; how to rig and use rescue apparatus, gas masks and oxygen breathing equipment. In basic gunnery they learn to recognize and to handle the types of ammunition and guns used on merchant ships.

During instruction in gas masks, the trainees are given practical training in a gas chamber filled with sulphur dioxide gas. Before entering the chamber the men fit on gas masks. Then they remain in the vapor-filled room for several minutes. The mask is removed before leaving the chamber and the trainee is thus forcibly impressed with the effectiveness of the device.

Seventeen courses are given in Deck Training plus three weeks of practical duty aboard one of the U. S. Maritime Service Training Ships which operate on Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. The total advanced deck training period is seven weeks. The courses are:

Boats Mast-Rigging
Swimming Ground Tackle and Mooring Lines
Steering Paints and Maintenance
Compass Sail Loft
Lookout; Bridge (and navigational gear) Lifeboat
Cargo Hatch; Cargo Work Signaling
Ships--Terms, Specifications and Types Preparation for able-bodied seaman exam



Another phase of deck training which requires considerable practical work is gunnery, a continuation of the fundamental course in preliminary training. Advanced Engine and Cooks and Bakers course trainees attend these classes also.

Maritime Service trainees during gunnery practiceGunnery instruction is given by U. S. Navy instructors under the supervision of a Navy Chief Gunner. Station equipment includes these weapons:

  • One 4"/40 caliber, PTS, Mark 7, Mod. 9
  • Three 20mm Oerlikon AA machine guns, Mark 2
  • Nine 20 mm Oerlikon AA machine guns, Mark 4
  • Two 5"/38 Caliber Dual purpose guns, Mark 16
  • One 3"/50 Caliber Dual purpose gun, Mark 3
  • Three 3"/50 Caliber Dual purpose, Mark 7

The men learn proper methods of handling, loading and firing. An electrically operated eccentric drive target showing miniature submarines is used in training the men to sight the 4"/40. A comparatively recent addition to the gunnery instruction is the Polaroid Trainer, which includes a highly secret combination of Polaroid and electric eye equipment. The trainee fires the Polaroid Trainer gun at a motion picture screen on which are flashed movies of airplanes coming in at various angles and altitudes. As he fires, pinpoints of light show on the screen where ammunition would have gone.

Another adjunct of ship safety training is the Night Vision course, in which the men are taught how to identify various types of vessels under light conditions simulating moonlight, dawn and dusk.

In this Advanced Training Division the men in addition to continuing courses in boats, gunnery, physical training and swimming, receive instruction in a wide variety of technical subjects to prepare them for duty below deck.

Similar to the either advanced training units, the trainees continue courses in boats, gunnery, physical training and swimming.


Illustration from "Off Soundings," Vol I, No. 9, May 1943 U.S.M.S. Avalon Training Station


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