Cold War (1953-64)

“How Fast Could She Go?”

Memory from: George D. Van Arsdale

Setting the Scene

Anyone familiar with machinery knows that the best way to maintain equipment is to use that equipment. The same goes for a destroyer. The Fletcher-class tin cans were rated for a maximum speed of 37 knots. The wear and tear of twenty years of service, however, often took its toll on the KIDD and her sisterships, making their top speed and hull integrity sometimes questionable. George D. Van Arsdale, the KIDD's chief engineer from 1963-64, recounts one of the KIDD's last speed trials prior to her final decommissioning.

The Recollection

As you stroll about the deck [of the USS KIDD], watching the gentle current of Ole Miss, it takes imagination to realize that KIDD was built for speed. The four boilers and two 30,000 hp [horsepower] turbine engines make up almost half of the space within the hull. The Fletcher-class destroyers were designed for thirty-four knots in moderate seas … fast enough to plane guard for a fast carrier task force. The top speed of any one destroyer at a particular time depended on several factors: the cleanliness of the hull, the sea water temperature, and the cleanliness of the boiler tubes both inside and out. (Ask a BT [boiler tender] about cleaning firesides and watersides!) In the spring of 1964, as we prepared to put KIDD in mothballs for the second time, a full-power trial was scheduled. We knew that she could do thirty knots on just two boilers; we’d done that while chasing a Cuban gunboat off Gitmo [Guantanamo Naval Station], so we were confident that we could do the required one hour at thirty-four knots. The major chore was rounding up enough BTs. For the last few years of active service, KIDD was in Naval Reserve Training status, which meant that we had enough regular crew to man only two boilers and two gun mounts. In the event of national emergency, such as the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the ship’s company would be augmented by the Selected Reserve Crew to make up the wartime complement.

With the needed men borrowed from the ships in port and the Philadelphia Naval Base, KIDD sailed down the Delaware River and into the open sea. The engineering plant was warmed up and the speed increased. With the engine tachometers registering nearly 380 rpm [revolutions per minute], the ship thundered through the darkness, with all eight forced-draft blowers screaming. It was scary to stand near the fantail, feeling the throbbing of the screws, seeing a “rooster tail” wake behind, and rushing through the sea at nearly forty miles-per-hour. After the successful hour at thirty-four knots, Master Chief “Pappy” Jansen and BTC Culey suggested that we “open her up.” The throttles were eased ahead. Slowly the tachometers crept up and actually wrapped around at 400, suggesting 415, then 420 rpm. We were “off the charts” on the speed curve, but the Pit Log on the bridge was bouncing around thirty-six knots. After about fifteen minutes, a minor steam leak occurred in the After Engine Room, bringing the speed run to an end. We knew that in spite of the years and the rust, the Engineering Plant “had what it takes.”

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