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Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Convoy Operations in the Atlantic, to Destroyer Force



              9 June 1917.

From :    Commander Destroyer Force.

To   :    Destroyer Force.


Subject:      Oiling destroyers at sea.


     1.   The following letter from the U.S.S.Maumee, No. TC-60, of 2 June 1917 is quoted for your information and guidance:

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     1.   The following report of oiling Fifth Division of Destroyers at sea is submitted.1 As this is apparently the first attempt at actually performing this operation in anything but smooth sea all details are given and special emphasis laid on the precautions that should be taken. Destroyers can be quickly oiled in a moderate sea, both vessels rolling and pitching considerably, a roll of 10 degrees on fuel ship or 20 on destroyers does not interfere materially.

          Gear and handling.

     2.   The oiling gear consists of 10” towing spring 6” breasts, and 3” oil hose. The use of lines and gear is indicated in enclosure, “Directions for oiling destroyers at sea,” and in sketch and photograph attached.2


     The hose, two leads, is led from the regular oiling connections through a wooden hose carrier which is supported by a line leading to clock on boom and, in on deck where it can be raised or lowered at will. Boom can be rigged in or out and topped up as necessary. The end of hose is fitted with a wooden yoke by means of which the hose is hauled to the deck of destroyers and back again. This makes the hose lead very flexible and readily adjustable and the hose for the most be kept out of the water.


     The details of gear were devised by various officers of the Maumee and all parts, other than the regular ship’s fittings, were made and connected up by ship’s force. Valuable suggestions as to lead of lines and size of hawsers deemed necessary were made by Lieutenant F. M. Perkins, Destroyer Force Engineer, who was temporarily on board in connection with oiling at sea operations.


     The following officers were specially concerned in preparing and operating the gear.

Lieutenant-Commander C.W. Nimitz  Executive and Engineer Officer

Lieutenant (J.G.) C. H. Davis         First Lieutenant

Chief Boatswain M. Higgins.3


          General Remarks.


     3.   The secret of successfully accomplishing oiling in rough weather lies in keeping both vessels absolutely under control with helm and engines. Vessels need not approach nearer than fifty feet of each other and this allows for any pitching or rolling. As long as motion of vessels does not carry away lines, oiling can be carried on. A speed of about 5 knots was found satisfactory, in smoother water a greater or less speed may be used but the speed must be sufficient to give proper steerageway and prevent a great amount of yawing.


     A 10” manila line is rather heavy to handle but a smaller line is not strong enough to take the strain that may come upon it. The fuel ship must maintain a steady course and speed. If this is done accurately the destroyer can adjust her speed and rudder so that destroyer will ride with little strain on the lines, in fact it is believed to be practical to adjust the speed and helm so that no lines are used. This would however require very expert judgement and most constant watchfullness.


     4.   By the method employed any capacity up to 100,000 gallons per hour can be secured by running additional hose. It is believed 3-1/2 or 4 inch hose could be handled about as readily as 3 inch. The hose must however be flexible and light. Oiling over the stern of fuel vessel is not believed to be feasible or desirable. The length of time required to connect up depends of the handling of destroyer and particularly upon the thoroughness and rapidity with which lines are secured. It can be done in less than fifteen minutes from time the destroyer passes stern of fuel ship.


     As this was the first time any of these vessels had oiled at sea, time was lost in men on destroyers being inexperienced and apparently not understanding how to secure lines and the purpose of the various lines. In careful reading of the Directions here attached and explanation to the men of how lines are to be handled will obviate delay and possible damage. In the future it is proposed to supply all destroyers to be oiled at sea beforehand with copies of the Directions so that the whole evolution may be more thoroughly understood.


     5.   Conditions, moderate sea with long cross swell, Maumee made five knots, wind and sea abeam cross swell on quarter, vessel rolling 10-12° also considerable pitch. Lea was on port side. Used two 3” hose lines.































First attempt. Men green on both ships as to how lines would be handled































Forward breast carried away, pulled hose out of tank, required one half hour to connect up again.



Considerable improvement was made by Maumee’s men in rigging and handling gear as operation was repeated but even the first attempt was entirely successful.

                                      /s/ H.C.Dinger4

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Directions Oiling Destroyers at Sea

Prepared on U.S.S.Maumee for guidance of Destroyers oiling at sea

     1. Gear – All supplied by fuel ship

     10” bow spring – This line is lead from the bow of the fuel ship and stopped along the rail, a 3” messenger is bent on about 50 feet from end and stopped along to end. This line should be taken in on destroyer bow through bitts just forward of bridge. Take messenger to captain and assist handling by hand, cut stops as they come to bitts. Take turn around base of gun mount as indicated on sketch and secure end to bitts on opposite side. Be sure that hawser is secure around base so that it will not ride up on mount. As soon as end is secured notify fuel ship which will then heave in to place Destroyer in proper position. Put lashing around and over bitts to prevent hawser jumping.

     2. Bre[a]st lines, 6” – Forward, take in through bitts forward of forward gun then to bitts forward of capstan. Do not secure to capstan as it may be damaged. This line must be securely fastened as a very heavy strain may come on it.

     3. After line – Take through bitts in wake of deck house secure and stand by to tend.

     4. Hose – The hose, two lines, are lead together through a wooden carrier supported from boom. Near end of hose there is a wooden yoke to which is attached a handling line. The hose should be handled on board destroyer with this line, not with end of hose. Rail should be broken down and cleared where hose is taken on board. Get ends of hose and host yoke on destroyer, secure yoke and then put ends of hose in tanks. Pumping will start as soon as destroyer reports ready.

     5. Handling of Destroyer. – Come along on parallel course speed about 8 knots, distance about 50 feet from fuel ship; slow down to keep abreast fuel ship, ease in or out as necessary but do not drop aft too far and get under counter. When 10” spring is fast drop down on it slightly and let fuel vessel take in on breast lines till desired position is reached, about 40 feet from side, then maintain about 4 knots just keeping slight or occasional strain on 10” spring. Destroyer will then ride to 10” spring and forward breast. Do not head out suddenly as this will tear away the forward breast. Speed up if necessary to take strain off 10” spring and keep from swinging too close.

     The breast lines keep the destroyer in and prevent hose being carried away. Destroyers can come and make connections in moderate sea without danger if precautions mentioned are adhered to. The principal danger is coming too close and throwing stern in. There is a suction under counter and destroyer should keep out of this. A speed of about 5 knots is maintained by fuel ship. This is necessary in order to steady fuel vessel and enable her to steer a straight course. The fuel vessel must steer a straight course, rolling is not objectionable but yawing is, hence sea should be abeam or slightly forward of beam.

6. Before coming alongside destroyer should have her forecastle clear, rail clear for hose, have lashings ready, capstan ready and men instructed where the lines are to be led. Lines must be very securely fastened.

        In smooth weather one destroyer can be taken on each side and in calm, destroyers can make fast and receive oil as in port.


Albert Gleaves.   

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B

Footnote 1: For the specific orders regarding this at sea refueling, see: Josephus Daniels to John H. Newton, 18 May 1917.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Henry C. Dinger, Commanding Officer, Maumee.