Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA


Tug of War with a Fuel Hose


By: Doug Smith WT 2/c

I can't remember if I was on the DE's Whitehurst, Major or Kenyon.

We were refueling in heavy seas back in the WW II era.  Since the sea was so rough at the time, I figured there could be no refueling. Our ship was going up and down like a bucking bronco. I went topside to watch the procedure to see if there would be problems.

We were to be taking on fuel oil from a cruiser.  After securing the lines which supported the fuel hose, because of the rough sea the deck hands had a terrible time trying to pull the heavy line lashed to the 6" fuel hose from the cruiser to our ship. Our bosun kept piping over the P.A. system for more deck hands to fall out to the quarter deck to assist with the hauling. Spray on the main deck caused the deck hands to lose traction, thereby slipping and sliding while heaving the hose across. They ultimately got it to our ship.

A couple times before our deck hands could lash the hose to our ship's refueling trunk, a huge wave would shove the ships apart and the hauling effort on the hose was sadly repeated. Finally they got the fuel hose fitting down into our ship's refueling trunk. They lashed the hose to the trunk and fueling began. That being accomplished, with a big sigh of relief, the exhausted deck hands began a breathing spell from all their hard work!

The next huge wave forced our ship's apart, ending our frazzled deck hand's breathing spell. Believe it or not, the lashing securing the fuel hose pulled loose from the trunk, spraying gallons upon gallons of thick black fuel oil all over the starboard side of the ship! Why the lashing didn't rip the refueling trunk from our ship's deck amazed us. The cruiser's P. A. system boomed out chastising our ship's clumsiness! The voice from the cruiser told our deck hands, " Lash the hose properly next time!” Because of that remark, I could see the hair bristling on the backs of our deck hands’ necks!

With thick black fuel oil making our ship's main deck as slick as a greased pig, there was no way the hose handlers could have traction to pull the heavy rubber oil pipe aboard. Using salt water fire hoses to wash down the starboard side and squeeging of the quarter deck was done before the disheartened deck hands could once more "heave away"! A couple more hauling attempts were repeated before the hose could be inserted into our ship's fueling trunk and lashed down. Did the deck hands lash it down "properly" this time? You can bet your last dollar they did! You never did see so much lashing in your life! Refueling began once more!

A huge wave heaved our ships so far apart, at the same time listing us so far to the starboard side, it almost put the quarterdeck awash.  If it had gone awash, a bunch of our deck hands, although they were wearing life jackets, would have been swept to sea!

The voice from the cruiser finally announced that the sea was turning too rough to refuel... "Disengage the refueling hose and holding lines at once!" So our deck hands tried to unlash the hose from the trunk, but the lines were under a strain as the waves forced the ships apart. Again the voice from the cruiser boomed over their P. A. system, " Get that hose unlashed, even if you have to cut it loose!"

Our deck hands gleefully obliged the cruiser by using fire axes to cut the fitting end of the hose off the hated rubber monster. The cruiser sadly drug it's refueling hose through the water with it's butchered end dangling in shreds. As our ships parted to their own destinations, our deck hands with a smirk on every face and standing stiffly at attention, proudly saluted the unforgiving cruiser good-bye!

We all agreed the cruiser CO was crazy to try to refuel in those rough seas! Cheers from our Destroyer Escort's crew members probably are still being heard by space travelers as our sound waves continue out through the Universe! When we asked the bosun why he told our crew to cut the hose instead of the lashing line he said, "The cruiser didn't say line!"

You know... It's strange I can't remember on which ship it happened. I was up on the aft end of the boat deck watching. I can vividly remember seeing those poor guys straining, slipping, sliding and falling down in that tug-of-war with that refueling hose ... seeing that refueling hose whipping all over as if it were a wounded black snake spitting that fuel oil all over the starboard side. It's as if it had happened yesterday! In fact, I caught some splatters of that oil, too! It was a real blast!

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