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WWII tug boat rescue

ratbldr427

Stainless
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Location
jacksonville,fl.
Ran across this in the local paper last week [.https://beacononlinenews.com/2022/05/25/the-mission-rescue-a-world-war-ii-tugboat-made-in-deland/]
I used to spend a lot of time on the lake and St Johns River as a kid. My uncle had a boat yard on the lake and across from him was an old metal shed not really very large. When I asked about it he told me that it was tug boat building operation during the war.

Florida was loaded with practice airfields which were turned into drag strips in the 50's-60's.
The local air port was a Navy PBY base. They also built some of the D-Day gliders.
One of my paper route customers Harry Babcock, had a lamp on his porch made out of a Jenny prop.He also had a boat stored at uncles boat yard. My uncle told be he was an engineer that worked on the gliders. He was one of the early fliers to have a pilots licence, signed by Orville Wright.
The whole country had small towns contributing to the war effort with men and materials. To bad we don't have a little of that spirit of unity to day instead of people trying to tear the country down.
 
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m-lud

Stainless
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Location
Missouri

A01-tugboat-e1628528299527.jpg

Deadline approaches to bring artifact home

Dan Friend has a passion to preserve a World War II artifact with a DeLand connection that is thousands of miles away in Scandinavia.

Despite the challenges, Friend is certain it’s worth the effort to save the aging U.S. Army tugboat, ST 479, which took part in the Normandy invasion.

Built along Lake Beresford, the ST 479 was taken to Europe and put into the drive to liberate Europe from the Nazis.

Unlike many of the tugs built in DeLand, somehow this vessel survived the war. It’s a rare artifact of the worldwide conflict that took at least 40 million lives.

The tug sits moored in Stockholm, Sweden, while Friend works to raise money to bring the boat home.

“What a documentary this would make! I’ve got to raise 200 grand to get it back from Sweden,” Friend told The Beacon. “We’re hoping to get national attention.”

So far, his efforts to secure grants from companies interested in tax breaks for nonprofit causes or foundations established to save bits and pieces of American history have been unfruitful, but Friend isn’t giving up.

The ST 479 and its sister tugboats were used to tow large pieces of concrete from England to Normandy to create an artificial harbor known as Mulberry. The concrete chunks were quickly arranged to form a breakwater and haven for landing craft and supply ships, after the first waves of U.S., British and Canadian troops assaulted the beaches.

Once the concrete piers were in place, supply vessels could dock away from the beach without risking running aground, and could offload their cargoes of vehicles, weapons, ammunition and food.

Getting Allied troops and their supplies on shore quickly was essential to consolidate the beachhead and move inland into France before the Germans could mount a counterattack against the otherwise-vulnerable invaders.

Details are elusive, but Friend said the ST 479 was damaged in close combat.

“Legend has it that it was damaged by a German grenade. The uppermost part of the wheelhouse was steel. Only the wheelhouse,” he added.

Not surprisingly, the tugboats came under enemy fire. Some were lost in action, including another boat built in DeLand, the ST 344, which hit a mine off Cherbourg in July 1944, according to Friend’s in-depth research.

Crewmen inside the small tugs were too often unable to escape if their boats were damaged and took on water.

“These things were never designed for open water,” Friend said. “They were deathtraps.”

Friend said the small tugboats could be unstable to sail.

“The only way I would get in that thing would be with outriggers — 30-foot floats,” he said.

Still, the ST 479 is a historical treasure that Friend is determined to save and repatriate to DeLand. The DeLand Historic Trust, of which Friend is president, now owns the vessel, and both time and money to move it are of the essence. Friend is also curator of the DeLand Memorial Hospital & Veterans Museum.

Friend said the boat was at one time taken over by vagrants, who lived aboard it and took some items. The ST 479 has now been towed to a private marina for safekeeping, and Friend has one year to secure funds to move her. He also would like to be financially able to get the vessel out of Sweden and back home to DeLand, hopefully during the summer and before the onset of winter and harsher weather conditions.

“We can’t move it after September,” he said.

The stay in Stockholm is not free, either, Friend added.

“It’s costing two grand a month,” he said, referring to the rental fees in the private marina.

Meanwhile, the full, actual expense of putting the ST 479 aboard a cargo ship and sailing across the Atlantic to Jacksonville is not clear. That is a big obstacle, in a time of rising costs, with no visible means of paying them.

“It’s intangible,” Friend replied, when asked about the cost of a trans-Atlantic trip.

Assuming the Army tug can be brought to Jacksonville, Friend said he is ready for that next, easier and final phase of the long voyage.

“I’ve got a pirates crew of volunteers ready to go, once it gets to Jacksonville,” he noted.

Once back in West Volusia, Friend said, more people may come forward to help with restoring and refurbishing the ST 479 to ready it for public display and close-up looks by visitors wanting to go aboard.

A major part of that preparation is removing any asbestos and lead paint. Museums and facilities putting historical hardware on display are required, Friend explained, to comply with federal environmental standards on toxic and hazardous materials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces those health and safety regulations.

Some of that cost, Friend said, may be covered by funding under the Volusia ECHO program. ECHO is an acronym for “environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreational” projects, and that phase of the effort to save the tugboat and set it up as a monument may qualify for such grants.

“I’ve gone to their meetings,” Friend said, referring to the ECHO Advisory Board. “As soon as we bring the boat into the county, at that point it is eligible.”

Anyone desiring more information about the effort to save the ST 479 or wishing to donate may contact Friend at [email protected].
 
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Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
The tug is likely what is known as a 'ship docking tug' built in large numbers for WWII. These were a very common tug, and quite a few still survive to this day. Yards all over the coasts of the USA and some inland waters built these tugs. I believe they are about 95 feet long.

We had one of the same class of WWII ship docking tug on a job where I was construction superintendent back in 1985. This tug was hired to shift barges of 'dredging spoil' (material excavated by dredging the bottom of the Hudson River for a 'submarine cable crossing'). The tug had a colorful skipper, since deceased, named Tiny. He was hardly that. Tiny owned the tug. The tug would pick up two 'coal scows' (coal barges having deep holds and a high coaming or bulwark around the hold opening) loaded with 'spoil'- a clayey soil with some cobbles that the dredge ( a historic 'whirly' crane on a barge called the "Weeks 500") excavated from the river bed. I think each barge, loaded, held about 1400 cu yds of spoil. Tiny would bring his tug to the dredge site, and make up to two of the coal scows, taking 'one on each hip' to use his term. He'd then push upriver to the disposal site. There, he'd spot the loaded scows at some temporary 'dolphins' (pipe pilings driven into the riverbed). We had another barge moored there with a Whirly crane on a higher pedestal. This whirly dropped a suction pipe into the hold of the loaded scow, and a diesel jetting pump shot high pressure water in a ring of nozzles around the suction pipe's intake to mix and loosen up the clay. A dredge pump on another barge- a 16" discharge I.P. Morris dredge pump driven by a Clevelan 8-278A series diesel from a WWII submarine- suctioned the slurry and pushed it uphill from the river bank and 1/4 mile inland via a temporary 16" discharge pipe. The slurry wound up in a former clay pit used to supply clay to a defunct brickyard. The slurry was allowed to settle and the water decanted off and re-used via a return pipe to the jetting pump.

Tiny and his crew and their tug were running up and back with two coal scows at a time, empty of full. I got friendly with Captain Tiny. I won't use his last name, nor the name of his tug as some of his and his tug's carryings on were a bit less than legit. Tiny's tug originally was a 'bell boat", relying on an engine room telegraph to convey engine orders from the wheelhouse to the engine room. The original engine was a Cooper-Bessemer direct reversing diesel engine. This engine and the engine room telegraph were long gone. The tug had been repowered with a GM 8-567 diesel and Falk reduction gear with air clutches. This had come out of a WWII landing craft.

In the process of the repowering, air controls for the engine and for'd and astern clutches was added, so the wheelhouse had full control of the engine. There were leather pieces on the wheelhouse aft bulkhead with the opening where the wires (or small diameter wire rope "control cable") for working the engine telegraph had been run. The engine room was a hodgepodge of Detroit 71 series diesels driving original direct current generators and newer alternating current generators, a few Quincy air compressors with DC motors (probably newer compressors on older bases with original DC motors), and all sorts of piping ran every which way. The GM-EMD diesel drank lube oil and Tiny's engineer and deckhands were often putting 55 gallon drums of lube oil aboard the tug.

Tiny was an experienced tug skipper and great at handling and spotting barges where they needed to be. I used to deadhead in the wheelhouse of his tug to get from the disposal site downriver to the construction site, about 20 miles or thereabouts. One fine early summer morning, I was deadheading downriver in Tiny's wheelhouse. Tiny had his usual cigarette with 1 1/2" of ash hanging off his lip, wheeling his tug easily with a couple of fingers on what he called a "destroyer wheel", claiming it was the style of wheel used on WWII navy destroyers. The wheelhouse doors were hooked open, and the tug was moving right along in the channel. Like probably 99% of oldtime tug skippers, Tiny had a barstool in the wheelhouse to sit on if he got tired of standing. The barstool had to be stolen to be right for use on a tug. Tiny had been on me to try what he claimed was a favorite delicacy of his: a fried liverwurst sandwich. I LOVE liverwurst and in the ensuing 37 years since that summer aboard Tiny's tug, I have NEVER tried frying liverwurst. Anyhow, Tiny was ragging me about trying fried liverwurst and asked how I liked my coffee. "Straight Black and Dirty, Bunker C coffee" sez I. I figured Tiny was going to pull the air whistle to get one of the deck apes (no cook aboard) to get the coffee. Instead, Tiny simply walked out of the wheelhouse, casually saying "Take 'er Chief..." and headed down the ladder to the main deck. That left me alone in the wheelhouse on a tug that was underway in a not-too-wide channel. Of course, the tug started wanting to run out of the channel, so I cranked in some rudder. I watched the pointer on the rudder position indicator on the helm and nothing happened. The rudder was apparently not answering. So, I cranked in more rudder and still nothing. Now the tug was really heading out of the channel. I cranked in still more rudder. I was thinking: "this is a diesel tug... it's gotta have electro hydraulic steering... why isn't the rudder answering ?" Right about then I heard a hellacious clanking of chains and a the rudder position indicator went to hard right right rudder. The tug heeled like a motorcycle banking around a curve. I heard the guys in the house on the main deck slam the watertight doors shut. Naturally, I cranked in way too much opposite rudder. The tug was making S curves. I began to get the sense of how the rudder responded and the S curves diminished to where I was holding her fairly straight in the channel, just enough rudder to deal with the current and wind and torque component from the single screw. Right about the time I got to breathing again, the radio went off, hailing the tug by name. I grabbed the mike and answered with the tug's name. It was a tanker, downbound light from the Port of Albany, coming up fast on the tug. Tiny heard the radio down in the galley and came barrelling up to the wheelhouse. "One whistle side or two , 'Cap ?" was his response. He laid the tug over so the tanker could pass us. Tiny and his crew had a good laugh over my short trick at the wheel. When Tiny and his tug were done on our jobsite, Tiny handed me two books: an old copy of Bowditch's text on navigation, and a text on marine salvage work.

The tug was a classic WWII ship docking tug, made likely to the same design as the tug in this thread. They were durable little tugs and survived a long time after WWII. Anything made of steel and sailing on salt water inevitably becomes a rust bucket. Patches get welded on and more patches get welded on top of them as time goes on. The seas stove in the plating between the tug's frames and the tug's hull often resembles an old horse with its ribs showing. Eventually, there is little steel left that will 'take weld' due to heavy corrosion and wastage. Modern regulations catch up with the old tugs on matters like disposal of oily bilge water and sanitary waste. Modern regulations in some major ports now require twin screw tugs handling oil barges and the like, fearing a single screw tug losing power could create a major disaster. Horsepower ratings on tugs have climbed considerable. Manueverability of tugs has also changed drastically with "Azipod' or Voith cycloidal propulsion systems rather than the conventional screw propellors. Tugs are now able to be maneuvered like a tracked tractor, turning about a point or even able to push sideways with some of the new propulsion arrangements. The old WWII ship docking tugs are likely about done as far as being in regular working service.

There are plenty of them quietly sitting at docks or in ship graveyards around the USA. Can't figure why anyone would want to spend 200 grand to bring this one back from Europe. A person could buy a couple of ex WWII ship docking tugs in reasonable working order and seaworthy condition for what it will take to bring this particular tug back to the USA and restore it.

Captain Tiny and his tug had a sad ending. Tiny was only in his 50's when he died. Too many cigarettes, living on sliders that he bought in bulk and kept in the galley freezer, too much time in the bars when the tug was tied up far from his home port. The tug became a rust bucket beyond any hope of keeping seaworthy unless you threw a ton of money at her. Abandoned in an estuary, she sank on her own. Diesel fuel from her bunkers & lube oil made a hell of a mess that required a cleanup. She was raised & an abatement of all the lead based paint, asbestos and oily sludge- had to be done. Once that happened, the tug was stripped of a lot of her fittings and some of her machinery. She was 'reefed', joining other vessels with similar stories, becoming a condominium for the local fish population.

It was a special summer, and Tiny and his tug were a throwback even then to what the waterfront characters and their tugs used to be about. The ship docking tugs of the type in this thread are classic in their design. They have what is called a 'molded hull', a hull made where the plates are formed into graceful curves, with some real 'lines' to it. The newer tugs are often 'Chine built' hulls. Plates slabbed together with none of the fine curved lines of the old tugs. WWII was a time when the US mustered every imaginable resource to manufacture what it took to support our allies, and then to join the fight. Even in the face of that, the old tugs had been built with the fine lines.
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
Was that the same "Tiny" who ran the steam crane at
Rough and Tumble Kinzer, PA
Rollerman:

Cap'n Tiny was not the same Tiny who ran the steam crane at Rough & Tumble. The Tiny with the steam crane had been a stationary engineer at the steam powerplant of one of the NYS Mental Health facilities. The steam crane had been owned & operated by NYS Bridge Authority. It was last used around Newburgh, NY in the early 1980's, then surplussed. Tiny (the stationary engineer) and another guy bought it, had it hauled to Kinzers, PA to the Rough and Tumble grounds.

Captain Tiny was a whole other story. A real waterfront character of the old school. The term "Rough and Tumble" applied absolutely to Cap'n Tiny and his crew.

One fall Sunday, I was home with my family. We lived about 30 miles from the work site, inland a ways from the Hudson River. I got a phone call: a flush-deck barge was seen by persons on shore to be sinking at its mooring. I forget how the call wound up coming to me. I knew the only hope was to get a tug to get that barge shoved onto the shoals along the shoreline before the barge sank. I also knew Cap'n Tiny and his crew spent most of their weekends in a local saloon, eating free hotdogs and peanuts and watching the television over the bar. I called the saloon and the bartender hollered and got Cap'n Tiny on the phone. I explained a 'car float' ( a flush deck barge used for transporting railroad cars) belonging to one of the contractors was sinking at its mooring, not far from where Tiny's tug was docked. The dock was at the foot of a steep upgrade, with the street entrance of the saloon a good 50 feet above the elevation of the dock and about 300 yards distant as the crow flew. Tiny said he'd get right on it and I could hear him hollering in the bar to roust his crew.

What followed was quite funny in retrospect. Tiny and his crew had appropriated a shopping cart from a local supermarket. They used this cart to shuttle grub and supplies from shore onto the dock and thence onto the tug. One of Tiny's crew had done more than putting a splice in his main brace and was a lot more than three sheets to the wind when I called the saloon. Tiny carried the guy out and folded him into the shopping cart. Another crewman got on the stern end of the shopping cart as helmsman and brakeman and they set off down the steep grade to the dock. The cart got away from those two guys, with the helmsman riding it and burning shoe leather all the way to the dock and both guys and the remaining crew whooping and yelling loud enough to bring the patrons out of the saloon. The cart crashed into some immovable object (probably a dumpster near the dock), ejecting both crewmen. They picked themselves up and boarded the tug.

Tiny piloted the tug out to the sinking barge. One of his deck apes boarded the barge long enough to undo its mooring line. Tiny nosed the tug hard up to the barge and began making flank speed to get the barge grounded on the shoal. The barge had taken on plenty of water and was listing with part of its deck awash. Stuff the contractor had on the barge deck- wood pilings, lots of lumber, propane tanks, gasoline and diesel fuel cans, and anything else that could float was already coming adrift with the tide taking it downriver. On the deck of the barge was a 50 foot long hollow box girder from a scrapped bridge crane. The contractor was planning to use this girder as a screed to level and set the grade on bedding sand placed in the bottom of a trench dredged in the river bed for the pipes containing the power transmission cables. The crane girder still had a rail on its top surface that the crane trolley had run on, and had a 'car stopper' clamped to the rail at each end. Fortuitous, as things developed.

Before Tiny and his tug could get the barge into the shallows, it turned about halfways and slid sideways, sinking. Anything else on deck that could float and was not lashed down was now floating and going downriver. A crowd of people from shore came out in small pleasure boats and began a freelance salvage operation based on the principals of: "possession is 9 tenths of the law" and "finders keepers". In the midst of all of this, Tiny said the crane girder was actually floating, resembling a cruising alligator or a semi-submerged submarine. Just the top surface of the girder and the rail on it were above the water surface. Trapped air within the cells (created by bulkhead or diaphragm plates inside the box girder) was keeping it afloat. Tiny could see it was not going to remain surfaced for much longer as the girder was never built to be watertight or airtight. He conned his tug close alongside the girder, and his deckapes lassoed the car stopper on one end of the rail. They made the line onto the towing bitt and headed into the shoals, beaching the crane girder. Meanwhile, the locals with their boats were lassoing wood pilings, planks, and fishing out gasoline and diesel fuel cans and taking propane tanks in tow.

The barge was never raised and likely is still down on the bottom of the Hudson River, in deep enough water to not pose a hazard to navigation. In another famous incident, Tiny was headed upriver late one night, catching the tide. He had two loaded coal scows on this hips of his tug. One scow had a steel coaming around the hold opening. The other had been a flush deck scow, and had a coaming made of angle iron and plywood. It was a stormy night and a pretty good wind coming downriver. For the Hudson River, had fairly good sized waves running. Soon enough, the cargo on the barge with the home-made coaming shifted, being slurry. Waves began to break over its deck and busted down the plywood coaming, flooding the cargo hold. The barge began to sink by the bow. Tiny saw an ancient breakwall at a monastery. The breakwall was made from rotting wood barges, filled with stone rubble ages ago. He got the sinking barge alongside the breakwall, and his deck apes moored the sinking barge to a cleat on the wooden breakwall/barge. Come next morning, Tiny and his tug arrived at my upriver disposal site and reported the incident. He said the sinking barge was not where he left it tied to the monks' breakwall, and was MIA. We had about a 40 foot work tug for shifting barges at the disposal site. Several of us got on the work tug with large portable gasoline driven pumps, hoses, and tools. We set off downriver, poking the work tug's nose into every cove. Soon enough, we found the MIA barge. The barge was in a secluded little cove where it had drifted during the night. Apparently with the turn of the tide and increasing winds, the barge tore the cleat off the rotting wood breakwall barge and, while listing badly, made its way into the cove. There, it proceeded to turn turtle, with its bottom facing the sky and one end of the barge sitting on the cove's bottom, the other end clear out of the water and 1400 cubic yards of clay dredge spoil dumped under it into the cove bottom. We went ashore as there was a very angry woman there, needing to get landowner's permission to access the property from the land to do what we could. The woman was a wealthy lady, she owned the land surrounding cove, and was using some amazing language.

We contact the US Coast Guard down at Governor's Island in NY Harbor to report the wreck. We were told to put warning lights and warning buoys around it and get underway with efforts to get the barge out of the cove. Environmentalists in our corporate office had a major problem with the dumping of 1400 yards of dredge spoil in what amounted to a private cove, aside from the Hudson River environmental concerns. We welded angle iron clips to the upturned bottom of the barge and fixed warning lights and set out warning buoys. In record time, the local people discovered the capsized barge and decided it made a great water ski jump. They cut off the angle iron clips and took off the warning lights and made off with the buoys. We heard from the Coast Guard about that, warned we had to keep these warning devices in place. Now we had an irate rich property owner on our necks, the Coast Guard, and we had the corporate legal department telling us we had to stop people from using the barge as a water ski jump ramp.

It took three salvage attempts to get that barge out of that cove. The succesful salvor actually sank the barge in its inverted position to level it, then used compressed air in some of the barge's tankage to float one side up first to right it. The dredge spoil in the cove had to be re-dredged and brought up to our disposal site. I know Cap'n Tiny had some choice words for that rich woman, offering to do some wildly improbable acts with her. We had one more barge break loose on that job, and that was due to persons unknown cutting partway thru the mooring hawsers on the night of a flood tide. The power transmission line project was controversial and we did have some real incidents of vandalism and sabotage. After we retrieved that barge, we inspected the parted mooring hawsers. It was obvious someone who knew what they were doing had been at work. I issued an order after that: all barges were to be moored 'with wire hawser' (heavy wire rope with eyes splices on the ends), and all 'wire hawsers were to be doubled up'. Tiny and his crew bitched about that order, with Tiny only too eager to go deal with whomever was responsible for the cut hawsers. It was a nice thought as we were getting a lot of heat from a lot of self-styled "experts" as to why the power transmission line project was going to kill every living thing anywhere near it and similar. Turning Tiny and his crew loose was not a bad idea, but we could not let it happen. He was enough of a wharf rat to smell out the perpetrators and make them disappear if we'd let him.
 

duckfarmer27

Stainless
Joined
Nov 4, 2005
Location
Upstate NY
Joe -

You HAVE to write the book. My one uncle should have written one as well - and I've forgotten more stories than I remember of the escapades a one armed petroleum engineer from Ohio State had in the mid east oil fields over 40 years told me about. If not for us, for your family.

Dale
 

jeff76

Cast Iron
Joined
Jan 21, 2009
Location
Ohio USA
Joe -

You HAVE to write the book. My one uncle should have written one as well - and I've forgotten more stories than I remember of the escapades a one armed petroleum engineer from Ohio State had in the mid east oil fields over 40 years told me about. If not for us, for your family.

Dale
Id buy a copy!
 

ratbldr427

Stainless
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Location
jacksonville,fl.
The tug made it to Jacksonville and is now in Palatka for a bit.
If this link loads there plenty of pictures and history of the tugs.
The idea is not to get "A tug" but to get one of the few remaining relics that were built there.
When I used to go by there ( only 10-15 years after they ceased operations) there was only a metal shed there. One would have no idea that tugs were built there. Not knowing much about ship building I thought they were all built in dry docks like what was in downtown Jax when I moved here.
I have since seen some very large barges bult on the shore across from Mayport and if the few support buildings were gone then one would have no Idea that such were built there.

One interesting thing about the dry dock that was downtown was that it was a floating ship by its self.I think it was leased from the Navy originally . I was told that it was designed to be towed out to the Pacific during the war. One of my buds who worked at both the SS and NS yards told me that the sides had rooms in them. They had opened one at some long ago and it had a machine shop inside.
 
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Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
I did some on-line research about Captain Tiny's tug. Some information conflicts as to whether it was built in a Florida vs California shipyard, though the website in Ratbldr's post does show it as a Deland-built tug.

The tugs were built with a variety of engines in them, probably based on availability during WWII. Some early ones had Atlas-Imperial direct reversing diesels. Captain Tiny told me his tug had a Cooper-Bessemer direct reversing diesel as original power. From the writeup, a lot of the Deland built tugs seem to have had National Supply diesel engines, a maker I am unfamiliar with.

Captain Tiny was only 52 years of age when he died. He and his tug were not too far apart in ages when each went to their respective graves. His tug, being abandoned in an estuary, made a real environmental mess when it sank. It was raised once, and sank again. Probably too far gone a rust-bucket. Raised a second time, the tug was patched up and stripped for reefing. An assessment of the condition of the tug was made, and it had so much hazmat still aboard that it was not a candidate for shallow-water reefing. The tug was taken into deeper waters to be reefed, and lies in about 100 feet of water. Some of Cap'n Tiny's towing work with that tug had actually been towing other old vessels out for reefing. His tug went to join them.

I did see photos in the writeup of the wheelhouse of a Deland-built tug. In the photo, there is a wooden 'ship's wheel' with handled spokes. As I wrote, Cap'n Tiny had a large stainless steel wheel, fabricated out of tubing. He spun the wheel quite easily to steer the tug. He said that steering wheel was off a WWII US Navy Destroyer. The slow response of the rudder the one time I attempted to steer the tug was due to it having the original steering system. Rather than electro-hydraulic, as I had assumed it would have, it had electro-mechanical steering. This was a direct adaptation of the steam steering engine, using a drum and chains to work the rudder quadrant, and a geared DC motor. It made for a much slower response of the rudder when the wheel was turned. It was a servomechanism, and had open gearing, open link-chains to the rudder quadrant, and likely had plenty of lost motion in all of the working parts from years of hard use.

Captain Tiny (or some other previous owner) had stripped out the galley, so the galley range, as shown in the writeup pictures, was long gone. A modern range, propane tank lashed abaft the house, modern reefer, freezer, microwave, and modern household sink made up the galley. Tiny and his crew seemed to live on either fried egg sandwiches, or sliders. Tiny bought large cartons of frozen "White Castle" sliders and kept them in the tug's freezer.

He did invite my wife, infant daughter and me to come downriver on his tug to a celebration at the Statue of Liberty. He said not to worry about food as he had stocked plenty of sliders. Due to the fact our daughter was an infant and we'd have been on that tug for an indeterminately long time, we declined the invite. I wish we could have taken him up on it.

As a P.E. and Certified Welding Inspector, I am fortunate in that 'retirement' is merely a new version of my profession. One client that I do have is Feeney Shipyard, on the Rondout in Kingston, NY. Feeney has been there well over 120 years, still family owned. They have a floating drydock, as well as using inflatable cylindrical roller bags to launch or haul tugs and barges in and out of the water. I get to Feeney's now and then when they call me for inspection or engineering services. They work on a lot of oil barges and tugs in coastal service. It is good to get into their yard and around the tugs. Some work involves repairs and some involves alterations such as additions of high pilot houses when a tug is 'in the notch' pushing a long oil barge. Shipyard work changed a lot, and instead of the whirly cranes on towers running on rails, or gantries, Feeney relies on construction cranes, mainly big Manitowac Vicon's. Instead of the traditional ways to launch or haul vessels, they now use these inflatable roller bags. It is a sight to see a massive oil barge being hauled or put back in the drink using the inflatable roller bags and a rubber-tired loader or two to push or pull. The real big change is Feeney's plate shops. They installed the biggest CNC cutting table I've ever seen, and it also has CNC submerged arc welding capability. When they have a large piece of plating to make up, they land several smaller mill-run pieces of plating on the table and subarc them together. They then use the CNC cutting capability working off CAD files. No more 'lofting' and making templates, no more having draftsman do 'development' to work up the shape of plates to be formed in the brakes. Instead of permanent buildings, a lot of Feeney's buildings are made from stacks of ocean freight containers and roof trusses or structural steel spans between them.

I first met the Feeneys in 1985, same time as I met Cap'n Tiny. Feeney had a small work/pusher tug called the 'Lil' Rip'. She was made from a section of scrapped Liberty ship hull, run sideways to the former Liberty ship's hull design. She had (3) GM 6-71 diesels in her and a raised pilot house. She had a shamrock on her stack. I met the two Feeney brothers who were teenagers learning the business at the time. I remember sitting in her raised pilot house with the Feeney brothers and their tug skipper, eating fried egg sandwiches going out to the work site. Years later, I came back to Feeney's yard when they asked around for a local welding inspector and PE. The two teenagers are now middle-aged men, running the yard and carrying on the family tradition. The 'Lil' Rip" sits quietly, slumbering at the far end of their yard, retired. The tugs that come into their yard are built for coastwise work, mainly shoving oil barges. They get the "Circle Line" tour boats and Statue of Liberty ferry boats in their yard, and all sorts of other interesting work. I am glad I have that connection and get to be around the water and the tugs and barges.
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
Jim:

I never learned which Liberty Ship or from which reserve fleet the "lil' Rip's" hull section came from. I was told "Lil' Rip" was built down on Staten Island. The design of that pusher tug was interesting. The hull of a Liberty ship had been cut between several frames, probably midships where the hull had a fairly shallow curve to the bottom. The ends of the hull section were closed with steel plates, making a watertight and independent small hull. The former Liberty Ship hull section wound up with what had been the sides of the Liberty Ship's hull becoming the bow and stern of "Lil' Rip". I remember sitting in the wheelhouse of "Lil' Rip" to go out to our work barges. It was a colder morning, and the heat was on in the wheelhouse. This consisted of a sectional cast iron radiator piped into the cooling systems for the Detroit 6-71's. I noted a "Crane" bronze angle valve on the radiator to turn the heat on and off. What caught my eye was the word "NAVY" cast into the body of the valve and the fact it was a 300 lb union bonnet valve- a valve meant for higher pressures than the cooling/heating system would ever see, and probably meant for steam service. I remarked about it, and the skipper ( a Captain with the last name of Rich) remarked that it was typical of the times and where the "Lil' Rip" had been built, amidst scrapping of WWII vessels.

I do not know where the 'Mothball Fleet" on the Hudson River was scrapped at. In more recent times, the ships in US Government 'reserve fleets' have become not only obsolete, but environmental hot potatoes. Hazmat of many types abounds in the old ships. In California, out near Richmond, the reserve fleet there has been slowly going to the razor blades. To get the ships ready to be taken to the scrappers, the ships are first 'decontaminated', with asbestos abatements and removal of other hazmat. The costs to do this are quite high, a LOT more than those vessels cost to build.

Meanwhile, much of the world sends their ships to places like Alang, India for scrapping. No regard for hazmat, no regard for environmental concerns, and even less regard for the workers employed to scrap the ships. With the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting hit on the cruise ship industry, some fairly recent cruise ships are winding up at Alang. US registered vessels would have to go thru the whole cleanup process and be scrapped in a manner which protected the workers and the environment. The cruise ship industry sidesteps all of this by keeping their vessels registered under 'flags of convenience'.

During my own career, I bought surplus equipment from scrapped ships, dealing with companies like "Zidell Explorations" (Portland, Oregon- scrapped a lot of Liberty and Victory ships), and Boston Metals (Baltimore, MD, also scrapped a lot of Naval as well as merchant vessels). When we'd need a motor driven pump, or flanged-end higher pressure valves, we'd go to the shipbreakers. I remember needing a centrifugal pump to circulate fairly high flows of heated water to get a powerplant boiler ready for hydrostatic testing. I found the pump we needed from Zidell, and it was not much money. It was an Ingersoll-Rand centrifugal pump, 480 volt 3 phase motor, and had a bronze volute (case) and bronze impeller. I was able to get the performance curves for that model pump, and it was what we needed. No waiting, pump in good shape, great price. Stuff from the shipbreakers in the USA (Brownsville, Texas being one such location) is still turning up for sale.

Some stuff from the WWII era Liberty and Victory ships found its way onto the Great Lakes ore boats. Stuff like steam turbo generators, and the Troy-Engberg steam engine driven DC generator sets as well as various steam pumps were sometimes retrofitted into the old steam powered ore boats. There was a rubber mill in Brooklyn, NY which had a vertical steam pump for boiler feed, and that pump came off a Liberty Ship.

Even in the rush to build ships for the war effort, traditions and a standard of quality (in some areas) was held to. Liberty Ships got brass cased Chelsea ship's clocks and barometers in the wheelhouses, and there were brass cased gauges down in the engine room. Plenty of polished brass on lubricators and other 'steam specialties', even on things like Liberty Ships and tugs. I have a US Navy Mark I deck clock on a steel stand in my office. It is dated 1940, solid bronze nickel plated case, shock mounted, made by Seth Thomas. No idea what vessel it came off of. I bought it at an auction in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back in 1977. How a US Navy deck clock made it off the salt water and to the UP is something I never learned. Sometimes, when a ship was headed to the razor blades, the crew would liberate things like the ship's clocks, builder's plate, bell, compass, engine telegraphs and anything else. Bolted or welded down never stopped this sort of thing.

The pinnacle of the US Navy and US Maritime Commission (which is how the faces of gauges and clocks on the Liberty and Victory ships were engraved) were the clocks made by Chelsea. Even the WWII era Chelsea clocks with black bakelite cases command quite a price nowadays. Back when the 'Mothball Fleet' on the Hudson River went to the razor blades, I am sure that between the ships' last crews prior to layup, workers in the layup crews and people with pleasure boats, the clocks and barometers were all long gone.

Interesting sidenote: for a number of years after the ships were put into the reserve of 'mothball' fleets, there was a layup crew that looked after them. One thing they did, at least in the early years, was to look after the machinery. A work tug with a barge having a generator and large engine driven air compressor was brought alongside some of the vessels. Air was connected to the 'jacking engine' on the Liberty Ships, and the main engines were turned over. Steam pumps were also run on air to be sure they had not frozen up. Boilers had been drained down and pans of dessicant were usually put into the steam drums. How long this routine continued is unknown. I think this was during the 1940's into the 1950's and was a short term layup. Eventually, true long term storage or mothballing was done. True 'mothballing' meant really putting on the preservatives , building temporary enclosures around some deck equipment, and spraying on a 'cocoon' around preserved machinery in the engine rooms and machinery spaces.
 

jim rozen

Diamond
Joined
Feb 26, 2004
Location
peekskill, NY
I own a couple of navy battle lanterns, that were probably lifted from the mothball fleet on the hudson. I bought this from local antique and junk shops. For those who have not seen this yet:

(IP units two and three in the background...)
 

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ratbldr427

Stainless
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Location
jacksonville,fl.
I wiki'ed the floating dry docks and damned if we didn't mass produce them! In multiple sizes. The scope of WWII production amazes me . Small pieces ; tanks, artillery,vehicles,aircraft ect are somewhat understandable as to the mass production, in a five year span, but the amount of ships and dry docks?

I saw a picture of the "ghost fleet" that was at Green Cove Springs after the war. Small ships,pt boats,destroyers. Looked like a thousand of them. I think A. Onasis got his start buying and using surplus Liberty ships.
 

Joe in NH

Diamond
Joined
Jul 28, 2007
Location
Stratham, Cow Hampshire
Dad was in WWII. Well that is - he caught the "very end" of the war.

He a 2nd Lieutenant Armored Infantry at Fort Knox and tank training for a main island assault on Japan. My mother was nearby they having been married a year before. As you might expect, a large portion of his training was "beach landings" done from simulated landing craft placed at the bottom of a gravel pit.

Word came through the ranks - "They've dropped an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima." My mother confirmed this to him after Japan capitulated and ended the war and it made the then "real" news..

"Well, it looks like I won't be part of a frontal assault on Japan?" my father's relieved observation.

Two weeks after the peace was declared, my father was brought in to his commander. "Do you have any experience with boats?" was the query. My father had grown up on Cape Cod and knew full well Port from Starboard.

He was reassigned to the Quartermaster Corps and his base would be Manila in the Philippines. He left later that month without my mother.

He was assigned to Captain a Tug Boat, probably very much like the Tug mentioned in this article. As Dad expressed it, a Tug Boat was a "Floating Engine."

His duties primarily involved carrying barges of war material offshore, possibly to the Marianas Trench, and either scuttling the barge there, or positioning it for sinking by aircraft or floating battery.

"You like jeeps?" he said to me during my jeep period growing up. "I sunk HUNDREDS of them off of the Philippines at the end of the war."

"Gee Dad, why didn't you bring one home?"

"You gotta understand that if every Dog-Face brought home a jeep after the war, nobody would be buying civilian cars - it would put a dent in the consumer market for YEARS. And the politicians wanted to do everything they could to "re-start" a peacetime economy. All those jeeps would prevent that.

He didn't address my enthusiasm in his comment. Today I understand "economies" even if Congress doesn't.

One comment which stuck, however. "You know, if the US hadn't dropped the Atomic Bomb, I would have been required to be part of the frontal assault on Japan. And like Normandy, losses would be high - possibly to include me. And if I'm not here, where would you be?"

Joe K
 
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Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
My father served in the US Army in Europe during WWII. Dad was a private, starting out in a combat engineer outfit and winding up in the infantry. Dad spoke excellent 'Hochdeutsch' (high German), so found himself in various roles where being able to speak German was needed. As Dad told me, 'if it fit in a mailsack, you could send it home'. Dad, speaking German and dealing with civilians, got hold of souvenirs- classic German literature books, toys, and anything else that seemed interesting. It found its way home and some of it is in our house to this day. Dad said he was involved in a house-to-house search and confiscation of any firearms in occupied areas. As Dad told it, the confiscated firearms were piled in the street and run over with tanks, or placed on a pyre of wood and doused with gasoline and set afire. Most GI's were grabbing Lugers and Walthers and daggers. Dad said he saw fine 'drillings' (three barrelled guns) with engraving and silver inlay work being confiscated and destroyed. Dad had no interest in firearms, but did say he would grab off some of the Wehrmacht sidearms and sell them to green replacement troops arriving from the states.

The comment about the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan reflected a sentiment among many people. When I first hired on at the NY Power Authority in August of 1981, I had to pull some time in their corporate offices (then in the old Coliseum Tower in NYC). There was one man who worked in contracts, and he was always singing, happy, and would occasionally burst into some Japanese. He was a fine Irish-American, and a WWII USMC veteran. I asked him about his knowledge of Japanese. He told me he had been a USMC 2nd lieutenant, and had been sent to a rapid course in basic Japanese. The reason was the planned invasion of Japan. As this fellow told it, the Marines would land, and spearhead the invasion. The general staff had decided that a certain number of Marines able to speak basic Japanese (probably little more than ordering civilian population to surrender). This fellow spent a short time in the crash-course in Japanese, and he said that they were told that something like 100,000 US casualties were expected if an invasion of Japan had to happen. When he got word the atomic bomb had been dropped, he said there was much relief and celebrating.

When I worked in Wyoming, there was an engineer who worked for the General Electric Installation & Service Engineering division ( I & SE). This division sent engineers out to powerplant sites where turbines and generators were being erected or overhauled. We were erecting two new 650 Mw GE steam turbine generators. The GE I & SE engineer sent to our site was a WWII US Army Air Corps veteran. He had piloted bombers in the Pacific Theater. After the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, he piloted a bomber near the area (I forget whether it was Hiroshima or Nagasaki). This fellow came in low and slow and he and his crew got a good look at the destruction. As he told it, everyone was quite happy that the atomic bomb had been used, happy Japan had surrendered, and said they would not hesitate to go on a mission to drop more of them.

Different times, and we are talking about members of that "Greatest Generation".
 

Joe in NH

Diamond
Joined
Jul 28, 2007
Location
Stratham, Cow Hampshire
Dad had heard that 500K fatalities were expected for a frontal assault on Japan. IIRC, I think 340K were lost in Normandy and the subsequent taking of Europe.

And the Europeans were not nearly as motivated as the Japanese.

Dad also indicated that the Atomic Bomb probably SAVED lives. Again IIRC, between the two bombs the Japanese lost about 340K. So this might be about 1/3rd the total loss (both sides) of a frontal assault?

The purpose of war is to "demoralize" your enemy...not necessarily kill them.

Joe in NH
 

jim rozen

Diamond
Joined
Feb 26, 2004
Location
peekskill, NY
My story: I worked at a research plant in Waltham, MA at one time. The model shop there was run by an old school german machinist named Peter Oberhouser. There was one phone in the entire shop: in HIS office. For you get get or make a call on that phone, a family member had to be either dead or in the hospital. Quite the autocrat.

The man that ran the tool crib was named Kenny, and he had been a navigator on a B24 in europe in WW2. So there was a bit of a natural antipathy between the two guys. But Kenny did a good job of running the tool crib so there it was. I was the recepient in a way, of the minor tussle between the two. I had been taking a shop class at the local voc-tech school at night, in machine shop practice (the only formal training I ever had in machining btw) and found myself often seeking out some stock or a lathe tool or suchlike. I would make my interests known to Kenny, and he'd slip me the material on the sly, "don't tell that german guy up there..."

His other stories were pretty good about being a navigator. Apparently there was a case of mile-high club for one of the crewmen, in the plexiglas nose of the plane. Kenny mentioned the lady in question was later illegally immigrated to the US, transported in a returning warplane. Sounds crazy that it would happen, but one never knows.
 








 
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