Water in the Fuel

Water in the Fuel

By Tony Och


March 30th, 1988 was a typical cold, gray, moisture laden, yet rainless depressing day, off the coast of South Korea steaming in the Sea of Japan. Topside at the starboard refueling station hooking up my sound powered phones, I was pissed off. BTCM assigned me phone talker for the upcoming UNREP, I always stood Lower level man during UNREP or GQ, keeping an eye on them ever so important boiler main feed pumps. The hole was nice and warm, I’d be sitting up against the spring bearing of the starboard shaft on the lower level in Bravo 2.

My pride was hurt, now a lowly topside phone talker, freezing my ass off. BTC showed up with two cups of coffee, unbelievable, I thought silently laughing to myself, Chief you are one good messenger.

This refueling operation was going to be the first since the Korean war, in which a U.S. Naval vessel dumped a South Korean man of war some F-76, so I was told? Gazing at the fishing boats on the distant horizon, BMC Cloonan kept my spirits up as he was barking at his BM’s. The ROKS Chung Buk DD-915 made her approach. A Gearing class Fram II, former United States ship, USS Chevalier DD-805(LCDR Chevalier made the first trap on USS Langley on 26OCT22). Just a little history lesson for you all. Well anyway, ROKS Chung Buk looked mighty sexy pulling alongside for the hookup. Riding low in the water, you could see the heat coming out of her twin stacks. Two General Electric geared main turbines, 60,000 shaft horsepower, four Babcock & Wilcox M type boilers, I assume? Rated at 34 knots, this little bitch could get up and go! A real sweet looking vessel.

The Gunner mates shot over the monkey fist and the BM’s hooked up and sent over the probe like they always did without a flinch. The ROK sailors directed the hose into a flush main deck tank top, cover removed and tied it down. LPD-8 commenced to pumping fuel. The beautiful white smoke streaming into the grey sky exiting the ROKS DD after stack, caught my eye. Her ass end dipped inboard towards us, she must be losing RPM’S on her port shaft, aft boilers going down, OOD adjusting rudders to maintain a true course, her superstructure dipped in maybe 15 degrees towards us. I was fixated on five or six little men in blue jumpsuits looking quite comical swinging axes, trying to free up the refueling hose. Onboard LPD-8…emergency breakaway…BTC vacates the refueling station…I froze. “Och, get your ass out of there,” yells BTC. I ran up the ladder towards the flight deck, the fucking sound powered phones around my neck stopped me and down I went. Releasing the hook at the breastplate, I regained my footing and was out of there. Once up on the flight deck, I watched as the BM’s retrieved the hose and probe back into the refueling station. Then the guide wire snapped and we headed to port, out of there!

The 4th of April we pulled into Pusan, it did not look good as black military staff cars lined the pier, awaiting our arrival. The CO and CHENG may be in some deep kimchi? Come to find out later after an unofficial board of inquiry, the ROK sailors must have thought our F-76 was golden as it was being dumped into a boiler service tank. LPD-8 shot them some water in the fuel oil. Just plain bad engineering practices on both Navies part. LPD-8 should have stripped and sampled them storage tanks a little better prior to pumping and the ROKS should have directed the F-76 to storage tanks to allow for settling and testing prior to burning it in the boilers. A good example of how you will go down fast, if one ignores common sound engineering rules/principles at sea.

Time to hit the beach for some OB and OSCAR! Don’t forget them egg, ham and cheese grilled sandwiches! A berthing compartment full of “mink” blankets while steaming back to Japan sure as hell does not meet my zone inspection standards!