Tug Marpole

Letter from the commanding officer of  Hull at the time of this incident, Jim McConville Captain USN (ret)

     Hull was Senior in command of three ships returning from deployment. Once directed to conduct search and rescue from shore we set up search patterns and were later joined by a Coast Guard plane which spotted the lifeboat. Hull sent the other two ship on to San Diego while we picked up the survivors.
     Marge Lasrsen was the one female, of the three rescued, and the crew brought all sorts of things to her such as perfume and dainties etc.. Since HULL did not have huge fuel storage tanks a tanker was sent to refuel. We played a couple of great jokes on the tanker crew: Marge had taught navigation as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. While we were hooked to the oiler the word was passed for the navigator to report to the bridge. We arranged for her to be in khakis and she exited from the main deck aft while coming to the bridge. She got on the phone talking to the oiler's navigator in proper terms and said she was one of ten females aboard as an experiment and quickly left the bridge. You could almost see the word being relayed on the oiler. Remember this was before we had women aboard our ships. Next we put the captain of the tug on the phone and he explained to the oiler skipper that Admiral Z had directed him to look at civilianizing oilers. The tug skipper gave his fake credentials as a ship builder and a personal friend of Admiral Z.
     The tug was on it's way to Indonesia and the skipper had intended to replace the lines on the life boat but time did not permit. How fortunate in that the weak lines permitted the boat to surface as the tug went down and it went down in short order of less than two minutes. Marge got the SOS out and HULL, which I'm sure participated in many search and rescues, was able to help some fellow seaman.

                    Jim McConville Captain USN (ret)


Account of rescue supplied by Doug Hisey xMM2 ‘71-‘74

     I recall the rescue as being 12/20/73 starting at about 1130 after being diverted to search the afternoon before. We answered all ahead FLANK @ 223rpm for 25 kts. to intercept the life boat. Don Ward and I were the respective Tops in Aft Fire and Enginerooms. Rescue and Assistance detail was called shortly after we were relieved at 1145. I went back down with a “whatever I could get” sandwich in my teeth to relieve John Lee MM2. John was the Captain’s 1JV Talker from April 1972 until we entered the yards in 1974. I saw both my cruises through John’s eyes and commentary from his excellent vantage point. The 1JV was always on the Aft Engine room amplified SP phone speaker, except when we were eavesdropping on the X1JV. The rescue was completed with the sinking of the waterlogged lifeboat using “the 50’s” when we were unable to hoist it aboard. We turned again for San Diego by mid afternoon. Unfortunately at only 18 knots … but that’s another story – oil embargo politics and the 945 class’ notoriously short legs.
     Less than 24 hours later at precisely 1135 12/21/73 as I logged it, #2B boiler suffered major tube ruptures. At least one of the survivors of the Marpole was in the passageway above the Fire room as well as 30 or so people queuing in the noon chow line. The smoke and concussion from the rupture filled the passageway immediately as all ventilation and power dropped out aft. MMCM Page was EOOW at the time of the boiler explosion and recovery. BTCM Putnum was not on watch and jumped (inadvisably) from the Chiefs’ Mess into the fireroom as Ward, Strauss, Tafoya and Rupert successfully evacuated the fireroom and promptly secured Main and Auxiliary steam from the “remotes” on the main deck. After reporting status to Main Control the fireroom Watch remotely operated the Aft Fireroom cross-connect valves to promptly and safely restore steam aft.
     The watchstanders knew that the valves that needed to be secured were inaccessible in the fireroom (the main steam valve was only a few feet from the ruptured tubes) and that the best and quickest way to isolate and recover was to leave the space. Very fortunately there were only minor injuries. Tafoya was unlucky enough to have been jumping the “hump” ladder above the starboard propeller shaft and was launched into the booster pumps. The fantail watch was scalded by the some of the 125,000 pounds of steam and water that went out the stack and into the fireroom in about 5 seconds. Ward had some great bruises from being launched from the burner front of #2B boiler into #2A boiler. The professional actions of the fireroom watch and leadership of chief Page (and others) very likely saved BTCM Putnum from being cooked at “1275 at 950”. I don’t know that he ever knew how close he came to “Buying it” by jumping down the “hole” with nothing but his trusty “snipe’s rag” to breathe through. There was not much to be done in the fireroom … it was “already blowed-up” as they say in TX.
     It worked out OK (like the old ropes holding the lifeboat to the Marpole). The chief didn’t become a casualty and Hull again was making “Liberty-turns” for home in about half an hour. Lots of Liberty-turns btw… we were a day late and a day out.
     At just after midnight on 12/23/73 we dealt with the hole in the bottom, flooding and “water cooled” spring bearing damage in the starboard shaft alley. Mike Riley (DCA) and I dove through 4 feet of water and 35 gallons of 2190 TEP to (eventually) find the hole and attempt to find and fix the bilge suction obstruction. My ’73 crew included Lee, Young, Meincke, Evans, Panke, Scotty, Base, Baker, Bisson, Crosby, and apologies to the names that will come to me after I hit send. The last 72 hours of that cruise proved that it’s never over until it’s over. It was good to get that one behind us. There was plenty of work to be done in the upcoming yard period.
     We finally arrived in San Diego 12/23/73. I relieved EMCS Straley (who had flown to SD from Hawaii and missed all the fun) as Duty Engineer on the morning of 12/24/73, Christmas Eve. I remember it well, the shaft alley was flooded again and it’s hard to get a “doughnut” at 32nd St. on Christmas Eve.

                    Regards to Hull shipmate! Doug Hisey xMM2 ‘71-‘74