This story was posted in the a 2007 news letter of the Sister Liberty Ship " SS Jeremiah O'Brien.
In the last issue of "Steady as She Goes" there was an article about how the Liberty ship Arthur M Huddell is being transfered to the Greek government for preservation as a monument to the role of Liberties in rebuilding the Greek merchant marine after World War II. Capt. Patrick Moloney can claim a modest piece of the history thereof, and writes:
In late 1982
the Huddell was in Guam
being used as a cable storage hulk for the Navy’s top secret SOSUS
hydrophone listening system. She was to
be towed to Norfolk and placed in the Reserve
Fleet there (the Atlantic has a more elaborate SOSUS system than the
Pacific). The MSC fleet tug Navajo
tasked with towing the Huddell from Guam to Panama but didn’t have
the range to
do it in one non-stop transit.
I was on my second command, a little av-gas tanker named USNS Chattahoochee, working out of Pearl Harbor. She was a round-bottomed icebreaker originally built for DEW Line work in the 1950’s, but then used for supplying our mid-Pacific outposts with any fuel products they needed. She also had an astern-refueling rig that had been installed but never used. I had plenty of previous underway replenishment experience on oilers and got tasked with refueling the Navajo, with Huddell in tow.
miles south of Hawaii along the track to Panama. Navajo
was making pretty good time in fair weather.
The Huddell was light and
looking at the photos today with 11 years of Liberty experience I’d say
she only displaced
about 6,000 tons. Chattahoochee’s hull was built for
icebreaking and was
not the stable platform one would expect for a replenishment ship, so
that the Navajo would do the
station keeping on the Churnin’ Chat (she
didn’t ride well either). As we
positioned for the job, I could see Huddell
was stripped down to hulk status but still wore her old MSTS “stripes
on the stack.
The Chat was
positioned a hundred yards ahead
and a couple beam widths to starboard of the tug. Speed was
dropped to 6 knots and the
adventure began. We put a paravane (a form of underwater glider)
the stern with a couple hundred feet of messenger line connected to a
the end of our 4 inch refueling hose. We
paid out the hose slowly. There was a
line married to the hose that took the strain.
I think the hose was 400 feet long.
Navajo MSC-169 moved
slowly up and put a grapnel over to the messenger line and pulled it
paravane aboard. The messenger was taken
to a windlass and with the tug moving
still closer to the Chat, started
to heave the hose in. With everything
connected, the tug had our messenger and hose aboard and connected to
fueling fitting. She was riding about
100 feet aft and 100 feet off the port quarter.
The hose was trailing in a large bight from our stern to the tug’s deck
just forward of the house. The tug kept
station by adding and removing a few
turns on the engines. She had direct
throttle control on the bridge wing so her master was able to keep
fairly easily. It would have been a snap
if the Huddell hadn’t been astern
acting as a giant sea-anchor.
There was a moderate swell running and Navajo had to do a two way balancing act. Looking aft, she had to pay out or take in the tow line so she and the Huddell were synchronized with the swell, climbing up or coasting down at the same time. Looking forward, she had to stay in a two hundred foot zone that didn’t stretch the hose or run too far up toward the Chat, with both of us doing the same ballet on the swell.
The master of the Navajo
was the one in the hot seat and he
did a great job. It took about an hour
to top off their tanks. As if the
novelty of the replenishment job weren’t enough, during the operation
seaman on Navajo’s wheel suffered
a mild heart attack. The third mate
stepped up, took the wheel and steered until the other AB took over.
It was with considerable relief that we were able to disconnect, recover our hose and associated gear and haul off to the side. Navajo had a zodiac workboat and transferred the ailing AB to us. We loaded Navajo up with fresh fruit/vegies, milk and all the recent papers and magazines we could find. We bid her and Huddell aloha and made our three day trip back to Pearl Harbor. Huddell was dropped uneventfully in Panama and found her way to Norfolk behind an Atlantic MSC tug, perhaps Catawba. Navajo returned to the Far East and is still in service with MSC Pacific.