Kawishiwi Memories
by Jim Barton

My career in the navy spanned seven ships over 30 years (I retired in 1994). Reunions are a big deal these days. I have attended reunions for my first and second ships and helped organize call lists and those sorts of things for them. Kawishiwi was my third ship. My sixth and seventh ships are setting up reunions as we speak. I note that the next one for Kawishiwi is in Mobile which is not too long a drive from here in Jacksonville. I have it on my calendar and we hope to be able to attend.

Bravo Zulu on building a 1975 Cruise Book. I have no idea why we didn’t have one on that cruise. It is the only cruise I have ever taken (out of 12) where I do not have a book. Actually, that’s incorrect. I was relieved by Bob Peck as Kawishiwi CHENG in February 1977, leaving from the
Philippines and I never received my copy. I am glad that you have included one on the web site. It is fun to look at. Speaking of the web site, under the Crossing the Line section in 1976, the picture of the shellback tucking away his list is of me. I was Davey Jones for that crossing, my third. The list I tucked away was the official list of pollywogs and the official proclamation. By the way, two years later I crossed the line at 0 degrees Latitude and O degrees Longitude on board USS Inchon, becoming a Golden Shellback. I was an admiral’s aide at the time and the admiral was a pollywog and my special case. I paid for it later!

 I have enjoyed reading some of the accounts for my time on board although the embellishment of some of the events is amusing. One account mentions comments about the end of the Vietnam War during the evacuation operations in 1975. That was an incredibly emotional time. I was responsible for going aboard a number of those boats myself. Those which we were sending on to Subic Bay under their own power, we had to ensure they were seaworthy and had fuel and water. I had served in Vietnam on three previous tours beginning in 1968. The war officially ended for the US in 1973. It seemed to me that in two short years that it was such a pity it had all come to this.

The following tells a little different story part of which some folks may not want to remember.

QUOTE Kawishiwi was a defining assignment for me. I was assigned to Kawishiwi as part of a new officer assignment program where destroyer officers at the department head level were sent to service force and amphibious ships to broaden the experience pool. I remember the good and the bad. By the mid-1970’s, Kawishiwi had long suffered and was in poor material condition. When I reported on board in February 1975 training was non-existent. There was no engineering log room. Schematics were nowhere to be found. There were no written light off, shut down or casualty control procedures. Check lists normally associated with good engineering practices did not exist. We found most of the ship’s blueprints tucked away behind piping and wiring runs in after steering and other places on the ship. The hard working engineers were frustrated because maintenance requests which they had filled out had not been forwarded. They had few tools (there was no accountability of those tools we did have) and they had no money to do anything about it. There were some serious maintenance issues which had been long ignored. There were leaks in the cargo transfer piping and steam leaks everywhere. The list goes on. But, the most distressing part was that drugs in the 1970’s were running rampant on board. We set about to change all of that with a cadre of key officers, chiefs and enlisted. One of the stalwarts in that was MMC Wakefield. Tragically, one of the drug pushers on board slipped LSD (“window pane”) into his coffee cup while he was standing watch in Main Control. We had to medically transfer him and I believe he might even have had to take an early retirement as a result. We nabbed the perpetrator and sent him to court martial for attempted murder. Those who served in the 1950’s would not have recognized the ship from your time on board. We were ultimately successful through an unbelievable effort by a dedicated crew. Not only did we win the engineering and Battle E by 1977 but we really became serious about drug enforcement. We busted a couple of major drug rings on board and the engineering department was rid of some 17 people involved in these activities early in the 1975 deployment.

 The list of those who contributed to the renewed professional pride contains too many to name but I am extremely proud of my department’s performance as well as those in the Deck, Supply and Operations Departments as well. I reported early to the ship in Pearl to observe refresher training. From the time we got underway from our berth until we reach 1PH (the sea buoy) we lost the electrical load 11 times. We had a few instances on the 1975 cruise where we lost the electrical load as well or had to shut down due to low water in the boilers. One of those instances is cited in the accounts of the 1975 deployment. After a lot of hard effort, we determined that our electrical problems owed themselves to a few factors. The first was the Woodward governors on the SSTG’s. We salt box tested them for days in Subic Bay. Many of us had little sleep but we finally got them to stop “hunting.” The second had to do with the safety mechanisms for the generators and we fixed and reset them as well. The third had to do with the wiring and circuit breakers on the switchboard which we overhauled as well. This took hours and hours of work and a lot of assistance from the shipyard. The frequent low water problems in the boilers and main condenser with the loss of vacuum were mystifying for a long time. When we had our engineering casualty during the evacuation of Saigon and were subsequently surrounded by boats and boat people, loss of vacuum and low water in the boilers were the causes. Folk lore had it that water mysteriously disappeared. Machinist Mates blamed Boiler Technicians and vice versa for the problem. We went through a systematic tracing process. We ultimately, on that deployment, determined that the problem originated in the DW tank. In the Neosho class, rather than having main feed booster pump, head pressure for the main feed pump is maintained by gravity flow from a Distilled Water (DW) tank. We finally determined that a valve for that tank was installed backwards and probably had been for years. Once we straightened those things out and pumped a bunch of money into improving material condition, I must say our reliability increased dramatically. I can remember one generator incident after the 1975 deployment. It occurred on a dependent’s cruise to Lahaina, Maui. The cause of the casualty was “old blue” a wiping rag inadvertently left in the lube oil sump of one of the generators. It happened the first day in port as I recall. I was on liberty ashore with my wife when the shore patrol tracked me down and told me the Captain wanted me back on board. I looked out to the anchorage and saw us smoking black and blowing steam. I returned to the ship and never got ashore again. I saw my wife again when the dependents re-embarked for the return to Oahu. I think she enjoyed the resort which cost us money we could not afford! We picked bits of that rag out of the generator’s piping system and the governor for weeks after the cruise.

I do not recall losing the load or having to shut down the plant due to a casualty on the 1976-1977 deployment (I made four months of the deployment before being transferred). The reason for that success was an improved material condition and more importantly was due to the efforts of a great bunch of Snipes with whom I had great pleasure to serve.

For all of my shipmates from that era, you have my most sincere gratitude for all of the hard work and support you gave me as Chief Engineer. While my 30 year career in the Navy defined me as a destroyer man, I look back to that tour as rivaling only that of my command at sea as the best that I ever had at sea. What a responsibility for a senior O-3! I certainly learned what humping and pumping was all about, got new found respect for the service force, became much more understanding of what the delivery ship was going through in my subsequent at-sea tours and learned that AO does not just mean Auxiliary Oiler. It means “always out.” Just ask my wife!  Jim Barton (Captain, US Navy – ret) UNQUOTE

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