“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
“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
“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
“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.)