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Bullwheel (YO-46)


An oil field term applied to the large wheel that turns the drum upon which the drilling line is wound in percussion drilling.

(YO-46: displacement 1,731 (full load); length 235'0"; beam 37'0"; class Bullwheel)


Bullwheel (YO-46) -- a large fuel oil barge built at Superior, Wis., by the Lake Superior Shipbuilding Co. -- was launched on 20 December 1941; sponsored by Mrs. Mildred Luella Bergman; and placed in service on 21 October 1942, Lt. Henry P. Timmers, USNR, officer-in-charge.

Bullwheel departed Superior on 9 November 1942 bound for Boston, Mass. The voyage took her across the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence River. Along the way, she made stops at several cities and towns, both Canadian and American. The ship arrived in Boston on 8 December where she fitted out at the navy yard. Late in January 1943, Bullwheel embarked upon a voyage, via New York and Norfolk, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She joined an Aruba bound convoy at Guantanamo Bay. On its way to Aruba, Bullwheel's convoy lost two ships to U boat torpedoes. Bullwheel, however, arrived safely at Aruba and took on her first cargo fuel oil. From there, she moved on to Panama and completed the canal transit on 19 March. The ship then moved north along the west coast via Manzanillo in Mexico and San Diego and San Pedro in California to Seattle, Wash. At Seattle, she discharged her cargo of fuel oil, had her tanks steam cleaned, and loaded aviation gasoline.

Throughout the late spring and summer of 1943, Bullwheel delivered aviation gasoline to such Aleutian air bases as Adak, Attu, Amchitka, and Dutch Harbor. In October 1943, the fuel oil barge returned south to San Francisco preparatory to her transfer to forward bases in the Central Pacific. She made a brief stop at Pearl Harbor during the last week in October and then continued on to the Ellice Islands. During the remainder of 1943, Bullwheel delivered aviation gasoline to 7th Army Air Force bases in the Ellice Islands. By the middle of the first week in January 1944, however, she had moved to recently captured Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. While at Tarawa, the ship witnessed Japanese air attacks on shore installations but experienced no direct enemy action herself.

During the remaining months of the war in the Pacific, Bullwheel followed the fleet across the Pacific as it captured base after base. The first step had been to Tarawa. From there, she moved to Majuro in the Marshall Islands where she provided services to PBY Catalina flying boats based at the atoll. After Majuro, Bullwheel moved forward to Eniwetok, also in the Marshalls. From Eniwetok, the fuel oil barge made a voyage to the southwestern Pacific during which she stopped at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Finschhafen on New Guinea, and Manus in the Admiralty Islands. Next, Bullwheel moved to recently won Leyte in the Philippines. That island remained her base of operations through the end of hostilities in August 1945 and into the postwar period.

Though Bullwheel's naval career lasted another 18 or so years, specific information on her activities is fragmentary. The Naval Vessel Register/Ship's Data Book lists "advanced bases, Pacific" as her assignment through those years. The little evidence that exists suggests that she served as a district craft in the Philippines until late 1963 or early 1964. In any event, she was sold to the Luzon Stevedoring Corp., of Manila, P.I., late in November 1964.

Raymond A. Mann

23 November 2005

Published: Mon Sep 12 00:28:27 EDT 2016