WWII (1943-46)

“Brace For Collision!!!” — Sea Trials at Casco Bay

Memory from: Fire Controlman 1st class Robert Hatfield

Setting the Scene

It takes a while for 330 individuals to learn to function as one solid team, particularly on a new ship fresh out of builder's yards. Fire Controlman 1st class Robert Hatfield relates a story of a nerve-wracking yet later-humorous incident occurring during the midst of the KIDD's early sea trials.

The Recollection

This goes back to the beginning: our near-fatal crash into the destroyer tender USS DENEBOLA (AD-12) while on our first sea trials. After a few round-the-clock days at sea drilling, maneuvering, war games, etc., we finally were going in port in Casco Bay, Maine. Now, understand, we were a green crew, so don’t nobody sue me for this. But I was right there in the compartment where it was caused and have witnesses! As the ship’s handlers came in to tie up alongside, they evidently were coming in too fast and were overshooting the tender. The bridge through its telegraph system gave an “All Back Full” to cut our speed. The Special Sea Detail watch was set but someone over the phone said “Secure the davits on the gig,” I believe, and the IC man [Internal Communications] of the watch in IC-Plot where I was on alert for gunnery use understood “Secure the Special Sea Detail” at that precise time. He turned around and secured the complete IC switchboard, telegraph, sound-powered phone systems, … everything on the whole ship, especially the bridge and enginerooms! Here we were going flank speed reverse into the tender.

You can imagine the panic on the bridge and tender: all sailors were running to hide someplace for a big collision. I don’t remember the name of the young Chief Bos’un [Chief Boatswain’s Mate] we had on the foc’s’le at the time, but he envisioned a crash. He grabbed a sledge for that purpose and hit the release clamp on the pelican hook which dropped our big sea anchor and took up slack real fast. Then the bridge did a reflex thing: hollered “All Stop, All Engines” as loud as he could. This is just a brass pipe that went directly down there for the OOD [Officer of the Deck] to get a personnel action done. It required no power or wires communicating. Commander Roby at the time did not push an investigation but he sure did step up the drills double-time after that. It was just a misunderstood message that caused it all and, to this day, he was never told who. But a couple of Fire Controlmen and I knew the story! [Editor’s Note: Hmmm, …. perhaps he knew more than he let on! This next recollection comes from Rear Admiral Allan B. Roby, the KIDD’s first commander.] There was an Electrician’s Mate aboard the KIDD. I believe his name was Hollins.

He manned the electric power board in the forward engineroom at times when we were underway in close navigation within a harbor. On this occasion, as I was approaching the Admiral’s tender at approximately 22 knots at some distance, the electrician below decks got the idea that we had dropped anchor and immediately secured the electric switch panel. This cut off all communicating circuits. I had no way of communicating with the fireroom, the engineroom, or the after steering room near the fantail. There was a 17-year old sound-powered telephone operator on the bridge, who, seeing what had happened, communicated with another 17-year old sound-powered operator in the engineroom. Between these two, the problem was straightened out. When we brought the ship to a stop, I could reach out (like this) and touch the barrels on the Admiral’s tender.

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