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