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Great Jobs 14 - Taking Care of The Navy

By Leocthasme

Taking Care Of The Navy

During most of ’45 the La Placentia made three trips to the Persian Gulf to get oil for the Navy Ships. We were a big capacity tanker, so we loaded up with bunker fuel for the big ships. Our big electric pumps could pump off a thousand barrels of fuel in a matter of minutes. It usually took longer for us to tie up alongside a big naval ship than it did to supply them with the fuel they needed.

Special care had to be taken while pumping fuel at sea. I mentioned about the bumpers and such to keep the ships from rubbing together. It was also very important to keep any metal from striking and causing sparks. Big rubber hoses with special fittings were used to pump from our tanks to the fuel tanks of the big ships. And for the most part the pumpman was kept busy watching the loading and taking care that fuel was not overloaded or spilled.

When our holds were pretty much empty, we pumped off the last of the fuel to shore tanks, took on ballast, sea water, and then took out for the Persian Gulf for more fuel. Ballast stabilized an empty ship and allowed it to move as fast as it could, without bouncing around in heavy seas like a big beach ball.

As I mentioned before, the Pumpman job was a day job on ship, but many times depending where we had to meet up with another ship or whatever time of the day, the job could be anytime. We were for the most part tied up in Leyte Gulf, and the smaller ships would come to us such as tenders and destroyer escort ships, but we had to move out and go after the big battlewagons and cruisers.

They weren’t about to leave their positions to come to port. The Battle of Leyte had ended in the fall of ’44 and after that the Japanese navy was pretty well shot down to nothing. But Japanese supply ships and a few transports were still sneaking around the islands. And, one hell of a battle raged on Iwo Jima.

Another thing as Pumpman that I had to do was see that tanks were filled or emptied equally. By that I mean that one tank compartment could not be empty while another was full. That is probably easy to understand, but tanks could not be unequally full or empty either while at sea, as such a distribution could cause the ship to buckle or capsize. This would be very hazardous in high seas as well. So when pumping off to other ships all tanks had to be equally unloaded. Or when filling tanks all tanks had to be equally loaded.

Special Globe Valves were used to fill or empty tanks. An ordinary Gate Valve would never do. Gate valves are a type of valve, that you might find around your home to supply water to your garden hose for the front or back yards, even if not completely opened they let the water run through as fast as the local pressure will send it through. A Globe Valve on the other hand has a seat that must be maintained so as not to leak. Somewhat like the valves in your car engine. They must be seated properly so as not to leak or lose engine compression. Thus if you take one turn or less to open the valve only a very small amount of liquid will pass through. And accordingly two or more turns will allow more liquid to pass, so they were much more controllable as to how much liquid went into or out of a tank.

Considering that there could be 12 or more tanks on most tankers, all the valves had to be adjusted in a timely manner so that none emptied or filled faster than another. The La Placentia had 16 cargo tanks, eight on each side. Plus other minor tanks for water and fuel. Approximately every 10 to 20 minutes, depending on pump speed settings, a check of the tanks was necessary. A ‘sounding’ rod was used, with inch and foot marks on it to measure the depth of the liquid in the tanks. And, all had to be kept within inches of each other. The Globe Valves would then be opened or closed accordingly,

You might wonder why the tanks would not fill or empty equally on their own. Well, the 8 inch fill line went straight down the middle of the tank deck, with a connection at each end; 3 inch fill lines to each tank compartment tapped off that with the control valves on them. Without any control valves, the tanks closest to the source would fill the fastest. Simple ‘law of gravity’, thus the care and control and the Pumpman’s constant watch.

During most of 1945 this was our job, and we also made three trips to the Persian Gulf to bring back fuel loads for the Navy Ships. We were at Leyte when the war ended that August of 1945. We were sent to Okinawa the day after the war ended as there had been a monsoon there and there had been much damage. We went there to supply power for a couple of days and then gave them one of our diesel electric generators. And then we were sent back home with two pilots that had been released from Japanese Prisons. They had requested a ‘slow and peaceful’ return to the states

They sure got that and so did we. The old slow boat finally made it home late in September. And I got back to Saint Louis that October.

“Now what”? I wondered.

Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the February issue.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


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Reader Comments

Name: John I. Blair Email:
Comment: Leo, Thanks for sharing this bit of history that never gets mentioned. Most of the people involved in WWII (and that includes millions and millions) were occupied with just this sort of "mundane" but essential work. And so much of the detail has been all but forgotten. Where I grew up (I was a toddler in Wichita, Kansas, during the war) thousands were employed in the aircraft industry, making everything from trainers to heavy bombers. Although the factories are still there, mostly making other things now, the old techniques (fabric laying and doping, spar building, rotary engine setup and maintenance, etc.) are mostly forgotten. But without these workers, and those techniques, we couldn't have fought the war. Here's to the memory of all the people who devoted their lives to this effort, at all levels!



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