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USS Kanawha (Fuel Ship No. 13) circa 1915-1917
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Class: KANAWHA (AO-1)
Design Navy AO-1
Displacement (tons): 5,950 light, 14,500 full
Dimensions (feet): 475.6' oa, 455.0' pp x 56.0' mld x 26.2' mn, 26.3' mx
Original Armament: 4-4"/50
Later armaments: 4-4"/50 4-3"/50 (1942: AO-1);
2-4"/50 2-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 0<8-20mm (1942: AO-2);
2-5"/51 4-3"/50 8-20mm (1942: AO-1);
1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-1.1"Q 8-20mm (1943: AO-2); 1-5"/38 4-3"/50 2-40mmT 8- 20mm (1945: AO-2)
Complement 143 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 14
Propulsion (HP): 5,200
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 2 screws (AO-1); Diesel, 2 screws, 5,000 SHP (AO-2)
||23 Jan 13
||NYd Mare Island
||8 Dec 13
||11 Jul 14
||5 Jun 15
||24 Mar 13
||NYd Mare Island
||23 Jul 14
||17 Apr 15
||23 Oct 16
||19 May 43
||7 Apr 43
||5 Nov 46
||12 Mar 48
||5 Nov 46
FY 1913 (Act of 22 Aug 12). On 8 May 12 the Bureau of Construction and Repair noted that the naval appropriation bill then in Congress included one or more "Fuel Ships." The Bureau also noted that the General Board's characteristics of 10 Jul 11 for "colliers" called for 1,500 tons of cargo fuel oil, approximately half as much as provided for in the Navy's large colliers including the latest, JASON (No. 12). It then noted that the Navy had eight battleships that used oil fuel in conjunction with coal and two (BB 36-37) that used oil only. One full supply of oil for these and the Navy's oil-fired destroyers and submarines plus the ships requested for FY 1913 added up to 25,403 tons. The Navy's present oil carriers (ARETHUSA, seven large colliers, and two barges) carried only 24,741 tons and thus could not provide even one full supply of oil to the fleet. The Bureau therefore asked the Secretary of the Navy if he wanted the new "fuel ships" to have the same fuel oil capacity as recent colliers instead of the 1,500 tons specified or to be fitted for oil only. In responde on 15 May 12 the General Board recommended that any fuel vessels authorized furing the present session of Congress be designed for carrying oil fuel exclusively and that they have a cargo capacity in tons of oil approximately equal to the combined coal and fuel oil capacity of recent colliers. Otherwise the general characteristics of these fuel ships should be as those prescribed for colliers in the Board's letter of 10 Jul 11.
On 29 Jul 12 the Bureau forwarded to SecNav its preliminary design for the 1913 Fuel Ship. It called for the largest oil tank vessel that the Bureau believed could be built at a navy yard within the cost limits in the pending naval bill. The design provided for 7,590 tons of cargo fuel oil -- approximately enough to fuel four new battleships -- and 1,500 tons of oil for her own use. In response to the General Board's wishes provision was made for carrying either coal or oil in four of the holds, with a coal capacity of about 2,182 tons, and handling gear was provided in way of these holds similar to that in recent colliers, capable of handling about 150 tons of coal per hour. Finally the Bureau asked, given that the Navy had one seagoing oil tanker, ARETHUSA, albeit small, whether the new vessels should be listed as Fleet Oilers Nos. 1 and 2 or Fleet Oilers No. 2 and 3. The General Board on 7 Aug 12 recommended that the design be approved and that the ships be designates as Fleet Oilers Nos. 1 and 2. SecNav, however, on 8 Jan 13 informed the General Board that the two new ships would fall in the list of regular fuel ships and that the Department had directed that they be known henceforth as Fuel Ships Nos. 13 and 14 instead of Fleet Oilers Nos. 1 and 2. On 24 Sep 12 and 20 Nov 12 the General Board recommended that all auxiliaries have torpedo defense batteries of 5"/51 guns, but on 9 Dec 12 SecNav (Division of Material) directed that there would be no changes from the present approved plans for 4-inch guns for the battery of the two fuel ships in the 1913 program.
On 23 Jan 13 the Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard was directed to proceed with the construction of the first of the two ships in the FY 1913 program but a decision on the second vessel was deferred pending receipt of additional cost estimates. On 4 Mar 13 Congress approved the FY 1914 naval appropriation act which included funds "for the development of a type of heavy oil engine suitable for use in one of the fuel ships authorized by the act approved August 22, 1912, and the expenditure thus incurred shall not be a charge against the limit of cost of such vessel." The Navy decided to build the ship at Mare Island and the engine at the New York Navy Yard, and the Commandant, Mare Island, was directed on 24 Mar 13 to proceed with the construction of the second ship except main propelling machinery. The second ship, MAUMEE, followed the first, KANAWHA, on the same building ways. After completion their cargo capacity was rated as 7,455t oil, 597t gasoline
The two 2,500 horsepower two-cycle single-acting six-cylinder Diesel engines for MAUMEE were built in the machine shop of the New York Navy Yard by a team led by then-Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz. Nimitz wrote that the engines were designed by the German M.A.N. company who sold the plans to the Navy via the New London Ship and Engine Co. Nimitz and two shipyard experts spent the spring of 1913 in various diesel plants in Germany learning about the technology. Once the engine was built Nimitz became executive officer of MAUMEE and chief engineer, and in addition to operating his machinery he developed the ability to refuel destroyers alongside while underway. Nimitz was detached in August 1917 and, according to him, "a merchant crew and officers replaced the skilled Navy men on MAUMEE and in a few months her engines were a shambles due to ignorance." Whatever the cause, her early-design diesels gave a lot of trouble, causing the ship to remain out of commission between the wars.
On 25 Apr 40 SecNav approved an inspection report of MAUMEE dated 28 Dec 37 and placed her on the list of Naval vessels to be disposed of by sale. By early 1941 the main naval auxiliaries still in reserve were PROMETHEUS and AROOSTOOK (CM-3) at the Puget Sound Navy Yard plus BRIDGEPORT (AD-10) and MAUMEE (AO-2) at Philadelphia. On 30 Apr 41 CNO's War Plans Division recommended that, because the growing demand for ocean tonnage was making it difficult to procure proper ships for conversion to naval auxiliaries, the brand new Auxiliary Vessels Board determine the best use that could be made of the two ships at Puget Sound. On 16 May the Board extended the discussion to the other two ships and noted that recommissioning of MAUMEE had heretofore never been seriously considered because of the cost of replacing the unsatisfactory diesel engines with which the ship was powered. Recently, however, the Board had been informed that a spare set of diesel engines originally constructed for FULTON (AS-1) was available for installation. Because of the otherwise generally good condition of the ship and the urgent need for oilers the Board believed that her recommissioning was fully justified. The Board therefore recommended that immediate steps be taken to refit and recommission MAUMEE as an AO. SecNav approved this recommendation on 17 May 41, and the ship was placed in commission in ordinary at Baltimore, Md., on 14 Oct 41 and in full commission on 2 Jun 42.
On 28 May 45 CominCh ordered MAUMEE to proceed to the Pacific for duty with ServPac. On 5 Jun 45 CinCPac stated that she was to be used as a harbor fueling ship for ServRon 10 and to provide quarters and offices for harbor fueling personnel. He recommended that the ship be reclassified AG because of her use for limited repair and oil storage. CominCh approved this recommendation on 25 Jul 45 and on 31 Jul 45 CNO reclassified the ship AG-124 effective 15 Aug 45. The loan of the ship to China under Lend-Lease was approved on 27 Jun 46.
||Ex Fuel Ship No. 13 1920. Decomm. 18 Dec 29, recomm. 5 Jun 34. Sunk by Japanese aircraft off Guadalcanal.
||Ex Fuel Ship No. 14 1920. Decomm. 9 Jun 22, recomm. 2 Jun 42. To AG-124 15 Aug 45. To China under Lend-Lease 5 Nov 46 as OMEI, returned from Lend-Lease and transferred to China 7 Feb 48. Scrapped 1967.
Compiled: 04 Sep 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012