1st Korean Cruise (1951-52)

“Typhoon!”

Memory from: Bill Wells

Setting the Scene

Bill Wells, a Damage Control Assistant aboard the KIDD, relates to us a story from one of her Korean War cruises. Rough weather at sea is always hard to deal with, but what happens when you run headlong into a typhoon with only one propellor working? According to Bill, only one thing: "pray."

The Recollection

The time I prayed the most and hardest was during the first Korean KIDD cruise. The ship was returning to Sasebo, Japan, after one of our regular four-week tours off the east coast of Korea with Task Force 77. Our forward main condenser started leaking sea water into the steam system. It was necessary to secure the engine to prevent damage to all of the steam equipment, including the boilers. That meant that Captain Jefferies had only the port screw [propellor] available. We were caught in a typhoon with limited maneuvering power. I was standing my regular JOOD [Junior Officer Of the Deck] watch and our Chief Engineer, Pat Bingham, was OOD [Officer of the Deck]. Captain Jefferies had the conn because of the extremely high winds and seas. With only the port shaft, it was an unremitting battle for him to keep the KIDD headed into the wind, and she frequently came very near to broaching. Captain Jefferies ordered me to record the roll angle on each roll. The instrument was very crude, consisting of only a cast iron pendulum and angle sector with a brass screw supporting the pendulum. The only damping was of the cast iron against the brass screw, but this was sufficient to arrest the swinging pendulum at the maximum roll angle, because the righting moment is so low that the ship remains at the maximum roll angle for several seconds. The greater the roll angle, the longer the ship remained at maximum roll. I recorded numerous 55-degree rolls.

At that angle, I would get the feeling the ship was not going to right itself. I was KIDD’s damage control assistant and knew the ship’s plans indicated if all tanks were full or ballasted and all spare parts stored properly, the ship was stable to 62 degrees. The KIDD had various additional equipment installed topsides, which reduced our stability. Feed tanks that supplied the boilers were not full, since we were burning about 100 gallons per hour. I do not know if the other tanks were either full or ballasted. Water tanks and diesel tanks were never completely full. I was concerned that equipment and gear might not be stored exactly as specified on the blueprints. I knew that our stability was somewhat below the 62 degrees specified on the ship’s drawings. Even so, the stability limit is a fairly accurate figure and a ship that exceeds its stability limit will turn turtle and sink, as many naval ships had done in World War II in the Pacific when encountering typhoons. On each 55-degree roll, the ship stayed at 55 degrees for what seemed like minutes, but in reality it was probably only 15 seconds. This indicated to me that we were approaching the stability limit. Most of these occasions were when the ship almost broached on its starboard side, because the port screw tended to turn the ship to starboard. It seemed that the approaching wave was almost vertically above the bridge and that the waves were taller than the top of our mast. Even when the ship was at a nominal roll, you had to look up to see the tops of the waves. Prayer was constant on the part of everyone aboard. We, of course, survived, and I feel that Captain Jefferies deserves a commendation for his excellent seamanship under the existing conditions, . . . but we may have been saved because of intense prayer.

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