Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA


Dead in the Water off Cape Hatteras


Shortly after the "Korean Conflict" started, 25 June 1950, Whitehurst was Recommissioned for duty as a power ship in Korea.  The ship was taken from Green Cove Springs Florida, to Charleston, SC for some refitting before heading south for the Panama Canal then to San Diego, Pearl Harbor, then on to Korea.  Shortly after entering the vicinity of Cape Hatteras, which has some of the roughest seas anywhere, the ship lost steam pressure from both boilers. Without boiler pressure, the turbines, generators, propellers, and even the oil pumps quickly stop. The only light below decks is the emergency lights from battery powered lanterns.  Above decks was the darkness of the sea at midnight.   mc

contributor: Al Crawford QM1 in 1950

What I remember the most of the incident of Cape Hatteras was lying in my bunk and trying to get some sleep.  Without power we were unable to keep the bow of the ship into the wind, and lost steering control and slipped into a trough.  I have no way of knowing how far the ship rolled to port, then to starboard, and back and forth again, and again.
    Guys were actually being thrown out of their bunks.  My solution was to lie flat on my stomach, bend my arms at the elbows and use them like outriggers, then spread my legs and  have like a four point moor. 
   I'm not sure there is really enough to tell a good story here.  Thinking back on it I know the question came to my mind, and I'm sure others, as to if on one of those rolls, we would just keep on going over until water came down our stack, and we went under.  I guess if I and others had any sense we would have put on a lifejacket and got the hell out of the compartment, at least to the main deck level.  
    I know nothing about the engineering casualty that caused us to go dead in the water.  Hugh Toney, or another snipe would have to provide that.   Al


Hugh Toney's Memory of the Incident


Hugh Toney  1951 and ca 2000


I was trying to stay in bunk, so seasick I almost wanted to die.  BTC Kloever came in and said "Get the hell out of the rack Toney and lend a hand on the auxiliary oil pump in Boiler Room #2.  I struggled in my clothes and followed him into the midships passage way where some other seasick guys were lying on the deck in the after head.  The excessive rolling had caused water to pour out of the old trough toilets and was sloshing back and forth over the seasick sailors.  Chief Kloever caught a sailor who was headed aft in the passage way and told him, "Get some help and drag these guys below before they drown."

I went into the darkness in the #2 Boiler Room to man the auxiliary oil pump.  It is a crank  device operated by one man.  The objective is to pump oil to the burners manually until the boilers produce enough steam to power the turbines, main oil pump, generators and the motors which drive the propeller shafts.  Initially men with torches are waiting to light the oil that is manually pumped to the boilers.  The same process takes place in both boiler rooms.  The Auxiliary Pump is operated by one man until he must turn the job over to a man who is less exhausted.  Imagine doing this on the rolling, pitching deck, in a dark, hot, sweaty, foul smelling boiler room.  It is no fun and even less so when weakened by sea sickness.


Jack Nettles Account


Jack Nettles 2003

When the Whitehurst was put back in commission on 9-1-50, there was only a couple of regular boiler tenders on board. Most were reserves. On September 23, 1950 I and 12 other firemen apprentices, fresh out of boot camp, came aboard. Eight of us went into the boiler room, the other four into the engine room.  You can see there was little knowledge on board that knew about the boilers on the Whitehurst.  After a couple of days of checking out the power system we would go to sea on our way to Norfolk but would break down and have to be towed back in. This happened twice. On the third try we were off cape Hatteras when we hit bad weather and things happened. I had the 8 to 12 watch and I was so sick I thought I'd die.  I was relieved at 11:45 and we still had power at that time, so what caused the fires to go out, I have no idea. While on my way to my bunk I was so sick that a draft of cool air just aft of the  the after head felt so good that I just laid down on the deck. Later some mates came along and carried me to my rack, which was in 2nd  division compartment, top bunk right under # 3, 3 inch gun mount, When we lost power and the ship started to roll the horizontal control gearing on the  gun mount broke loose, allowing the gun barrel to swing around from stop to stop, and it did make some noise!  We had a good amount of damage aboard when day light came.  The gun barrel had to be replaced.

We didn't make it to Norfolk under our own steam.  A tug was sent out to tow us in. I turned 17 on October 14 while in Norfolk. To the best of my knowledge this is the way it was in 1950, many years ago.


Memories of Ens Dave Harlan, Communications Officer 1950 & '51

The Whitehurst was headed for Norfolk for inspection before she headed to the Pacific.

At the time my bunk was in the after officers quarters, and I was trying to sleep.  All I remember is that a large sewing machine in the adjacent compartment broke loose and was rolling back and forth with each roll of the ship. It was loud as a cannon, and to heavy to secure.

The ship got steam pressure at about 0600, and we headed back to Charleston for repairs.  We did make it to Norfolk, under our own power, several days later.

WWII Era | Korea War & '50s | Viet Nam & 60s |  Reunions | All Links Page  Search & Rescue

Memorial | Poetry  | Enemy Below | Taps List | Photos/Armament | History | Crews Index | Home