Com Seventh Fleet Alongside

It seems like only yesterday, but it was during Kawishiwi’s 1971 WestPac deployment in the Tonkin Gulf.  We had been unrep’ing carrier task forces in the area when we received news that we would be receiving the cruiser USS Oklahoma City, which was then flying the pennant of ComSeventhFleet.

Captain Wyand told all hands that this was a fine occasion to show them our stuff, and then directed all hands to make the ship “ready for inspection”.  Among other things, all our fuel rigs were dropped to the deck & a combination crew of deck & R-gang meticulously cleaned hoses and fittings inside & out.

The following day, under beautiful clear blue skies,  USS Oklahoma City made a smart approach to our port side. What a sight!  All their officers & crew in whites, brass polished, beautiful gray hull, holy stoned wood decks, everything in its place.

Shot lines were fired, and soon we were sending fueling rigs amidships and aft.  Their forward receiving station was immediately below their bridge, and when our nozzle assembly hit their Robb receiver, it locked in place. They secured the riding line & gave us permission to pump NSFO
(Navy Special Fuel Oil or black oil).

We fired up the pumps in our midship pumping station, opened our gate valve, and then it happened. The line pressure surged way over operating range, and our probe kicked out of their receiver! Worse yet, the automatic valve in the nozzle (which only permits flow when the rig is seated) failed to close!  Held in place by its riding line, the nozzle assumed an up-angle of about 60°, so now we were shooting 3000 GPM of high pressure black oil rightinto their bridge! Huge clouds of oil vapor were wafting over the entire ship, officers and men in their pilothouse were either knocked down by the stream or slipping & falling on deck.

At their end, their men grabbed axes & tried to cut the riding line, to drop the rig into the water. But they couldn’t cut it, so after about of minute of continuous douche-down, they just executed a hard turn to port  All our rigs just screamed with tension, then parted & fell into the drink.  They didn’t bother to hold station, they just left us there.

Everyone on board was stunned and speechless. Soon, we had flash traffic in the Comm Shack from Oklahoma City & ComSeventhFlt, which – after deleting the expletives – amounted to “What are you guys doing??!”.

We retrieved our rigs, and investigated why the nozzle valve failed to close. The culprit  - a pair of old dungarees (from the rags used earlier to wipe down the hoses inside & out) lodged in the discharge – holding it open and restricting flow (which built up the over-pressure). In our quest for quality control, we had – ahem – a few impurities in deliverable product.  What was to be sharp evolution, ended in disgrace.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. And ships – as well as reputations - can be cleaned up.  Embarrassed though we were then, with the passage of enough time, well….. there really was something hilarious seeing those guys getting sprayed down!

Respectfully, LTJG Jon Bernard  An Officer of the 70-71 Cruise.