Monthly Archives: May 2015

Refueling at Sea

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BB55 (left) refueling a destroyer at sea.

BB55 (left) refueling a destroyer at sea.

“While at sea during the Guadalcanal campaign, we had to fuel often, sometimes as often as every three days. Out of nowhere a tanker would show up and we would take on fuel from her. While we were fueling on one side, we would fuel destroyers on the other. This was always a big event, as the tanker usually had mail for us and other supplies we might need. They would rig a breeches buoy and transfer things over to us.  We would send them our outgoing mail along with ice cream and other goodies.”

Bill Taylor, Boatswain’s Mate 1/c

BB55 (right) refueling at sea.

BB55 (right) refueling at sea.

“I remember a story about [Captain] Hanlon when we were refueling. Hanlon was not a sailor, but his experience was as head of the underwater demolition team. But, once when we were refueling, he wanted to steer the ship to approach the oiler. It took him a while because he had to keep backing up for adjustments. The Task Group Commander (who had gone to school with him) noticed this and sent him a message asking why it was taking so long. Capt. Hanlon ordered one word to be sent back. This word was “inexperience.” The next time we refueled Hanlon wanted to try again. This time he did it right away, so the Commander of the Task Group sent a message that said, “Experience is a great teacher.”

Ensign William Wrape

Charles Paty, Radioman 2/c, describes the skill and perils of refueling at sea.

“Word was received from the tanker yesterday that this ship was much more efficient and faster than any other in this area in the handling of lines, fuel oil hoses, and fuel oil. This is very gratifying to hear and all hands are congratulated on their good work.”

Commander J.W. Stryker, Executive Officer, July 7, 1943

BB55 (center) providing fuel to two destroyers.

BB55 (center) providing fuel to two destroyers.

 “We did give fuel to destroyers and smaller ships. We would maintain a chosen course while the smaller ship came within 25-30 yards of us taking great care to avoid our bow wave. Generally, if it was calm and we were quite close, leading seaman would get one shot with a heaving line and monkey fist to pass a messenger line to the other ship. 99% of the time the messenger line was fired by a gunner over the bow of the ship to receive the fuel. The messenger line then pulled across a bigger line and so on.

I was a talker to the ship receiving fuel. I relayed their requests to the fueling officer standing next to me and relayed his messages [back]. The seamanship required to handle the hose, valves and lines was outstanding. Sometimes a little fuel was spilled during the disconnect and once we broke off tearing the hose away from the valve and spilling fuel oil under pressure all over everything and everybody.”

Mark E. Sullvan, Electrician’s Mate 3/c

BB55 fueling detail heaving lines preparing to fuel a destroyer alongside to port, January 1945.

BB55 fueling detail heaving lines preparing to fuel a destroyer alongside to port, January 1945.

“When we first got to the Pacific and started our supplying of ships, resupply underway and refueling…it was of great interest to a commander from the Royal Navy. He was the liaison officer with us to sort of see how we did things and tell us how they did things in combat.

The first time we were refueling a destroyer alongside I glanced over at the commander and he had a big pad of paper and he was drawing lines. I said ‘Take it easy. I can give you a finished detail of this thing that we used in training.’ He replied, ‘This is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen. That destroyer came up alongside. You’re in charge of this thing and you didn’t give him any orders. Things just happen automatically.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s the way they should. Who knows better when to fire the line-throwing gun than the man who is shooting it? So they [destroyers] come up alongside and we shoot that over and they pass a line here. We know how to do it.’”

Rear Admiral Joe Stryker, USN (Ret.)

Planning a Bombardment

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Aerial view of island and airfield from spotting plane

Aerial view of island and airfield from spotting plane

In late January 1944, BB55 anchored at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands. Task Force 37 was dissolved and Task Force 58 was born. On January 23rd the Battleship was underway with Task Group 58.5 under command of Admiral Wills Lee.

“Our particular task force went to Roi and Namur which is the northwestern end of the Kwajalein lagoon. It is a beautiful lagoon, hundred miles long. The Japanese had installations at both ends but at Roi and Namur they had one island that consisted of nothing but an air strip. The other was where they had revetments with stores, torpedo warheads, bombs and so on and also their living quarters. John Kirkpatrick [Air Defense Officer] and I finally persuaded Captain Thomas to request from the carrier that they take photographs of these islands after the first strike from as low an altitude as possible.

They sent a fighter out taking oblique pictures, circling the islands at high speed. They came back with these things, took them back to the carrier, and they were developed. Then they flew them over and dropped them on the NORTH CAROLINA. We didn’t have accurate charts of any of the islands. We had maps that were drawn up by school children and things like that. We had nothing modern and we didn’t know what we were doing.

With these blowups that we had taken on the morning of the first strike we could see everything perfectly on the island…revetments, hangers, fuel supply, and personnel quarters. We took these pictures and sat down and numbered the targets. Then we put them on a board and gave one to each of the [fire control] director operators and the other two we took to Sky Control. We were able to designate the targets by numbering and assign a target to Sky I or Sky III or whatever it happened to be. They could look at this board with the picture on it and look over to the island and see exactly which end of the island it was and actually see the targets.

It worked absolutely perfectly. It was the first time it had been used. Our skipper was a little reluctant to ask this favor of the carrier but we finally talked him into it. It was a fantastic thing for us. At that point we had Marines ashore.”

- Lt Commander Richard Walker

Richard Walker, Gunnery Officer

Richard Walker, Gunnery Officer

“The plan was to bombard every two hours all night long…to keep the Japanese awake and hoping they would be less able to resist our landings. I didn’t get much sleep that night.”

- C.J. Baker, Firecontolman 3/c

Ships bombarding

Ships bombarding

“I went topside to watch our 5-inch guns fire at the island. We were about six miles off the beach. I could plainly see the water tank, radio tower, hangers and other buildings. The three battleships were all firing 5-inch rounds. It was quite impressive. We set an oil dump afire twice. We fired at pillboxes all along the beach. Many hits were made on the runways. I had the mid watch so I didn’t hit the sack until 0030.”

- Charles Paty, Radioman 2/c

Fires from bombardments on Roi Island

Fires from bombardments on Roi Island

“We were to spend the night just lobbing shells in on these two islands to keep the Japanese from getting a good night’s sleep before we hit them in the morning. We did an awful lot of good because we blew up a lot of ammunition dumps and kept the Japanese off balance for the night.

We got in there about dark and saw a small ship anchored to a pier in the lagoon. We opened up on her…and she sank. I found out later that the next day they went onboard that ship and found Japanese charts of depths and channels of every lagoon in the Pacific which saved us months and months of surveying and hydrographic work.”

- Commander Joe Stryker