WWII (1943-46)

“Kamikaze Warfare – The Aft Fireroom”

Memory from: Watertender 2nd class Amelio P. Juliano

Setting the Scene

If there is one strong suit about a destroyer that stands out above anything else in terms of combat readiness, it is her redundancy. Almost every major piece of equipment has a back-up in the event of catastrophic failure. Gun directors (i.e. remote controls) are backed up by men who manually train and elevate the guns. Radar range-finding is backed up by simple ring sights on the guns themselves. Shipboard communication has multiple redundancies: the 1MC public address system, sound-powered telephones, voice tubes, and runners. Mattress covers can double as flame-resistant padding to help smother fires or water-proof padding to help plug holes in the hull. In the entry below, Watertender 2nd class Amelio P. Juliano, recounts his experience in the aft fireroom of the USS KIDD (DD-661) on April 11, 1945, when she was struck by a Japanese kamikaze plane off the coast of Okinawa and how a secondary fireroom a redundancy of design helped keep the KIDD on the move in a moment of crisis.

The Recollection

When the kamikaze hit, I was Watertender in charge of Number 2 Fireroom. I had seven or eight men under me. I gave the orders in the fireroom. You had to know about boilers and such. When the ship was hit, we felt the bulkhead bulge and I saw a spark of light coming through the bulkhead, which I believe was electrical lines. Immediately, I tried to contact Number 1 Fireroom. See if I could raise anyone. Well, not immediately, really, ’cause I knew at the time that the ship was hit. For a couple of seconds I was frozen. The men in Number 2 Fireroom were all looking at meóme being in chargeóto see what I was going to do. Maybe a minute, maybe less. I can’t remember. But then I started issuing orders to the men: you, stand by here … you, stand by there … and so forth. I had two men on the crossover valve, and I sent one man to open up the bypass valve to heat the steam line. It usually takes about three minutes. If you transfer steam in a cold line, it would blow up the line. So you have to turn the bypass line on first, to heat up the line and make it expand. And then, when I got orders to transfer, I was ready. I was twenty [years old] then. I’d been in the Navy [for] two and a half years. I called the bridge and I said, “This is the aft fireroom. What are your orders? I’m ready to transfer the steam to Number 1 Engineroom.” I had been bypassing the steam, heating the steam lines to Number 1 Engineroom, and I was awaiting orders to open up the crossover valve. So I got orders to do it. I just had men stationed in the right place when it was needed. Normally, Number 2 Fireroom feeds Number 2 Engineroom. Number 1 Fireroom feed Number 1 Engineroom. Both firerooms have bypass valves and crossover valves to transfer steam to either engineroom if something goes wrong with either fireroom. I knew where my job was and I wasn’t alone in that fireroom and I wasn’t alone on that ship. And I knew the forward fireroom got hit because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. And knowing that, I knew my buddies were there and some of them had to have gotten killed. It hit us, you know. And the next day, to bury these guys at sea was too much.

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