I – INTRODUCTION
The U.S.S. CACAPON (AO-52), named after the Cacapon River in West Virginia, is a twin screw, geared turbine propelled tanker of the continuous single deck type. The profile shows the conventional tanker arrangement of forecastle, bridge, and poop, with a raked stem, a cruiser stern, and the machinery located aft, abaft the cargo tanks.
The vessel bears the design designation T3-S2-A1. This design was prepared by the U.S. Martime Commission in collaboration with tanker operators and builders to provide a large fast tanker suitable for naval operation during wartime. The construction group, of which U.S.S. ASHTABULA (A0-5l) is the first of the class, is exactly similar to the national defense tankers built early in the Commission’s shipbuilding program, except the conversion features necessary for naval use were incorporated in the design. Conversion changes included the rearrangement of the accommodation spaces, provision of a structural deck above the main deck, and addition of a considerable amount of military equipment.
Characteristics of the vessel are presented below.
Length overall 553′-0″
Length between perpendiculars 525′-0″
Beam, molded 75′-0″
Depth, molded 39′-0″
Full load draft, even keel 32′-4’5/8″
Displacement at full load draft 25,466 tons
Light ship weight 7,136 tons
Deadweight at full load draft (cargo) 18,310 tons
Gross tonnage, U.S. 12,155 tons
Net tonnage, U.S, 7,144 tons
Cargo tank capacity 149,286 bbls.
Fuel tank capacity 16,348 bbls.
Shaft horse power, normal (both shafts) 13,500
Designed speed, (knots) 18
There are nine main cargo tanks. Tank number 1 is subdivided into port and starboard sections by a centerline bulkhead; tanks 2 to 9 inclusive are subdivided into centerline and port and starboard sections by two continuous longitudinal bulkheads.
II – Building and Commissioning
The CACAPON, second of her construction group to be completed, was built under special survey of the American Bureau of Shipping at Bethlehem – Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., as Maritime Commission Hull Number 718. The keel was laid on November 16, 1942; the vessel was launched June 12, 1943; she was delivered to the Maritime Commission on September 21, 1943 and the same day was accepted by the U.S. Navy and placed in full commission as the U.S.S. CACAPON (AO-52) by Commander L. Augustine, USNR, representing Captain E. N. Ward, USN (Ret), as Assistant Industrial Manager, FIFTH Naval District. Commander Augustine, in appropriate ceremony, turned over command of the U.S.S. CACAPON to Lieutenant Commander George Eyth, DM, USNR, the first commanding officer.
III – “The Year 1943”
The day following the commissioning of U.S.S. CACAPON was spent in provisioning and fueling at Port Covington, Maryland. Two days later the ship was enroute to the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia. During this passage the time was profitably spent in indoctrinating the crew in the operation and use of the ship’s equipment and machinery. The “measured mile” was run – at an average speed of 19.7 knots – and “crash back” exercises conducted. On 27 September the ship moored at the Marginal Wharf, Norfolk Navy Yard, for a six day availability period. On 2 October the ship was depermed at Lambert’s Point, Virginia, after which she returned to Hampton Roads.
Early on October 3, 1943 the CACAPON got underway to commence her “shake-down cruise” in Chesapeake Bay. During this cruise the tactical characteristics were checked against the Model – Basin data off Wolf Light; the radio direction-finder was calibrated off Cape Charles City; the magnetic compasses were compensated and the degaussing system was calibrated. Structural test-firing of the armament was completed, and both surface and anti-aircraft gunnery practices were conducted. Numerous emergency drills were conducted to insure the familiarity of all hands with their proper stations and duties. Various speed trials and other engineering drills were also conducted during this period. On completion of this shake-down training cruise the ship returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard for an eight day post-shakedown availability.
At 1600, October 22, 1943 U.S.S. CACAPON, in ballast with U.S.S. OVERTON (APD-23) as escort, set sail from Norfolk, Virginia to Aruba Island in the Dutch West Indies, arriving at Nicholas Bay, Aruba on 26 October. There the CACAPON discharged her fresh water ballast ashore and took her first full load of Navy Special Fuel Oil and aviation gasoline. The two ships departed from Aruba on 27 October and set course for the Panama Canal, which they transited on 29 October mooring at Balboa City docks on completion of the transit. Two days later U.S.S. CACAPON and U.S.S. OVERTON headed for Pearl Harbor, T.H., arriving there on 12 November 1943.
In order to give the CACAPON an opportunity to gain a little actual experience in underway replenishment operations before sending her out to join the fleet, a group consisting of U.S.S. CACAPON, USS SAUGATUCK, U.S.S. ELDEN and U.S.S. HONOLULU left Pearl Harbor on 19 November to conduct fueling exercises about 200 miles northeast of Pearl Harbor, returning to Pearl Harbor on completion of the exercises.
When, shortly after returning to Pearl Harbor, the ship began to load to full operational capacity, conjectures were quickly made that the CACAPON was at last about to embark on her first major operation of the war. Excitement ran high through the whole ship’s company as the ship steamed out of Pearl Harbor in the afternoon of 26 November 1943 in company with U.S.S. KASKASKIA (AO-27) and escorts. It was not until well at sea that the crew was called to quarters and informed by the Captain that the ships were enroute to rendezvous with the FIFTH Fleet which was currently at sea preparing for a strike at the Gilbert Islands. The first active participation of the CACAPON in World War II, therefore, began at dawn on 30 November, 1943 when she provided logistic services to units of the FIFTH Fleet with which she rendezvoused in Lat. 13° – 00′ N, Long. 179° – 00’W. On completion of this assignment, the CACAPON returned independently to Pearl Harbor, arriving there on 6 December, 1943, and thence proceeded to San Pedro, California for a week availability at the Terminal Island Naval Shipyard.
IV – “The Year 1944”
With a full load of cargo, the CACAPON left San Pedro in mid-January 1944 and returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 27 January, 1944. In company with U.S.S. GUADALUPE (AO-32), U.S.S. TAPPAHANNOCK (AO-43), U.S.S. ESCAMBIA (AO-80), and escorts, the CACAPON departed from Pearl Harbor on 3 February to furnish logistic support to Task Force 50, which was then engaged in the capture of the Marshall Islands. When the ship was empty, she returned to Pearl Harbor to reload and then proceed to Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, arriving on 27 February, to furnish fuel to other FIFTH Fleet Units.
After but a brief stay in Majuro, the CACAPON, together with three other fleet oilers and escorts, left the Marshall Islands and proceeded to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands where, upon arrival, she reported to Admiral Halsey, Commander Third Fleet, for duty.
During the period 15 March to 8 May, 1944, U.S.S. CACAPON was employed in providing logistic support to units of the THIRD Fleet engaged in bombardment and anti-shipping strikes against Rabaul and Kavieng, and to units of the THIRD Fleet engaged in the seizure and occupation of Green, Emirau and Admiralty Islands, In the latter part of this period the CACAPON was among the mobile logistic units loaned to the SEVENTH Fleet as part of a service support group in conjunction with the New Guinea campaign.
From May until the end of the year 1944, the CACAPON served as station tanker successively at Efate and Espiritu Santo in the New Herbrides, at Port Purvis in the Solomon Islands, and at Manus that the CACAPON had the first “close call” of her career. The harbor, which was one of the important bases for our surface striking forces, was full of shipping on this sunny Friday afternoon. Routine work was in progress. Some of the crew had left the ship to go over to the beach with the daily recreation party. Suddenly, in the middle of the harbor, there was a blinding flash followed by a huge pillar of smoke billowing skyward.
It was several moments before full realization came over the nearest onlookers of the tragic event. They had just witnessed the ammunition ship U.S.S. MT. HOOD blowing up. Burning powder fragments were falling all around, as were also nearly invisible bits of white hot steel. Suddenly, with a very loud thud, an unexploded five-inch shell landed on the starboard side of the main deck of the CACAPON. For a few seconds only, everyone in the vicinity stared at it dumb- foundedly, then two men went into action quickly, Gunner’s mate first class Richard J. Hess and Seaman first class Arthur P. La Fiedr rushed to the shell, picked it up, and jettisoned it over the side. For their cool thinking and prompt action, they may well have prevented a serious accident, each of the men was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
V – “The Year 1945”
Although U.S.S. CACAPON ushered the new year of 1945 at Manus Island, she was shortly destined for a change of scene. On the 8th of January, the CACAPON set sail for Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands for duty once more with Admiral Halsey’s THIRD Fleet.
With other vessels of Task Unit 30.8.12 she left Ulithi on 12 January 1945 to provide logistic services to Task Force 38 in its series of strikes against Luzon and Formosa, returning to Ulithi on 27 January to reload.
Early on the morning of 8 February, CACAPON again set forth from Ulithi, this time as a unit of Task Group 50.8 under command of Rear Admiral D. B. Beary in U.S.S. DETROIT (CL-8), and headed for a distant rendezvous in the forward area to furnish support to Task Force 58 there conducting strikes against the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoya. On completion of this operation, Task Group 50.8 proceeded on a mission in support of the forces engaged in the invasion of Iwo Jima.
Lieutenant Commander George Eyth, USNR, who commanded the CACAPON since commissioning; was relieved by Commander George D. Arntz, USNR, on 3 March 1945 and Lieutenant Howard G. Dean, USNR, Executive Officer since January 1944, was relieved by Lieutenant Frank H. Phillips, USNR.
From 7 March to 19 March, the CACAPON served as station tanker ia San Pedro at Leyte Island in the Philippines, fueling various units of the SEVENTH Fleet after which she returned once more to Ulithi and the FIFTH Fleet. On completion of reloading at Ulithi on 23 March, the CACAPON commenced a three-month period of operation as a unit of Task Group 50.8 in support of the Okinawa campaign, providing services to units of Task Force 58 in the “objective area”, returning to Ulithi periodically to reload whenever her cargo was expended.
The 3rd of July 1945 marked the beginning of a seven weeks period of continuous underway operations. As a part of Task Group 30,8, the CACAPON together with other auxiliaries and escorts, provided logistic support for ships of the THIRD Fleet engaged in bombardments and aerial strikes against various objectives on the main Japanese Island of Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaddo. This particular logistic group was steaming in enemy water at the cessation of hostilities following the acceptance by the Japanese government of the surrender terms of the Allies. As one of the naval members of General MacArthur’s occupation forces, U.S.S. CACAPON arrived in Tokyo Bay on 20 September 1945.
In the twenty two months since the start of her first wartime mission in support of the FIFTH Fleet units in their raids against the Gilberts, the CACAPON fueled some 600 naval vessels, in the course of which she discharged some 2,100,000 barrels of fuel oil, 134,000 barrels of diesel oil, and 5,824,000 gallons of aviation gasoline.
Shortly after arrival of the CACAPON in Tokyo Bay, it was learned that her stay there would be very brief, for she was scheduled to head for the United States in about ten days, for a much needed overhaul. An incident that occured on the evening of 28 September 1945 came very close to necessitating a modification of sailing orders. On the day in question the CACAPON was discharging aviation gasoline to U.S.S. NECHES (AO-47) when one of the sudden “northers”, that are common in Tokyo Bay, sprang up and both ships started to drag anchors. The NECHES got underway in order that the CACAPON might be free to maneuver to keep clear of the three cruisers OAKLAND, ATLANTA, and SPRINGFIELD which were anchored in the near vicinity. Before she could maneuver however, the CACAPON had dragged anchor sufficiently that she had drifted down on the OAKLAND, the port quarter of the CACAPON “nudging” the starboard bow of the OAKLAND. The anchor chain of the OAKLAND became fouled in the screw of the CACAPON. Finally the OAKLAND slipped her anchor chain and “withdrew” from the engagement. Except for some small dents on the port quarter of the CACAPON, no damage was done.
It was with a feeling of relief at not having sustained any damage in her second close call, and a feeling of happy anticipation at returning home again that the CACAPON got underway on the morning of 30 September and steamed out of Tokyo Bay in company with the U.S.S. PLATTE (AO-24), Following the great circle route, the two ships arrived in San Pedro, California, on 11 October 1945.
Almost immediately after arrival, the CACAPON went into the Navy Yard for overhaul. During the 60-day period the ship was under overhaul, a large number of the men who had served in her since commissioning were discharged and were replaced by new men.
On completion of her overhaul, CACAPON was ordered to proceed to Yokohama, Japan. She departed from San Pedro on 17 December and, after a voyage that will be long remembered for the heavy seas encountered, arrived in Yokohama on December 30th.
VI – “The Year 1946”
Having greeted the new year of 1946 in the Harbor of Yokohama, the ship remained there until January 6th, on which date she embarked on a new assignment – a shuttle service between Tokyo, Japan and Shanghai and Tsingtao, China. It was inevitable that the crew should dub her current service as the “chop-suey milk run”. That assignment lasted until 15 March 1943.
An interesting incident, which was appropriately reported in a United Press news release, occurred on the 18th of March 1946. While CACAPON was anchored in Tokyo Bay, a nearly exhausted carrier pigeon fluttered wearily to the deck. The tired bird made no attempt to evade the open but gentle hands of one of the men of the ship’s company who went to pick up the bird. The man saw that a message tube was attached to the bird’s leg. When the tube was opened, the following message was withdrawn:
“July 25, 1945e SIIKO MARU COMPLETED MACHINE GUN PRACTICE. WILL RETURN HARBOR ELEVEN. REQUEST BE MET OUTSIDE HARBOR”.
The bird had done his best to live up to the carrier-pigeon code that the messages must get through. Even though he could not get it through to the Japanese Navy, the message was delivered to a “naval unit”.
The ship was in Tokyo Bay when, on 26 March 1946, Captain John A. Edwards, USN relieved Commander George D. Arntz, USNR, as Commanding Officer.
On April 1st the CACAPON left Tokyo Bay and headed for Bahrein in the Persian Gulf for a load of oil. She stopped at Singapore on 12 April for recreation and sightseeing, resuming her journey on 14 April and, after passing through the Straits of Malacca and crossing the Indian Ocean, steamed into the Persian Gulf and arrived at Bahrein on 22 April I946. The next day, after loading was completed, CACAPON got underway to deliver her cargo to the ships participating in “Operation Crossroads” at Kwajalein Atoll,, But she never delivered the cargo; for, while proceeding out of the Persian Gulf at 15 knots, at 0237 on 24 April 1946, she struck Shah Allum Shoal (Lat. 26° – 26′ N. Long. 52° – 08′ E).
The course had been laid to clear the shoal by about four miles, but, apparently due in part at least to strong and unpredictable currents, she was pulled clear of the reef. A course was ordered to the nearest land, (Arabia), in order that the ship could be beached if she began to flounder. However, even before the course to the nearest land could be taken, the auxiliary engineroom began to flood and a course back to Shah Allum was set. Before the shoal was reached, all power failed and the CACAPON dropped anchor in 30 fathoms of water. The engineroom and fireroom began to flood and all emergency pumping apparatus was brought into action. Distress messages had already been sent out and the Inspector of Naval Material at Bahrein had dispatched the SS FORT ERIE and directed the SS FORT STANWICK to the scene to assist in pumping off the CACAPON’s cargo, thereby lightening her. A collision mat was lowered over the side and, after several attempts, was finally properly placed over the hole in the ship’s bottom and the inflow of water considerably checked. The two merchant ships pumped off most of the cargo oil. The CACAPON’s emergency portable pumps soon began to make progress in pumping out the fireroom and engineroom spaces. The U.S.S. CHIKASKIA (AO-54), inbound to Bahrein took CACAPON in tow and towed her back to Bahrein where, through the facilities of the .American-Arabian Oil Company, temporary repairs, sufficient to permit the ship to return to the United States, were effected. The ship left Bahrein in ballast on 24 May and returned to the United States via Singapore, Subic Bay, Manila, Guam and Pearl Harbor, arriving at San Pedro, California on 17 July where preparations were made to dry dock the ship at Terminal Island Naval Shipyard.
It was during the period of the long shipyard overhaul that followed that the rumor was first bruited about that the CACAPON was scheduled to participate in “Operation Highjump” in the Antarctic. Although information available to personnel of the CACAPON was scanty at first, it was not too long until the “rumor” was confirmed and planning for the forthcoming operation commenced in earnest.
On 15 October 1946, LCDR Rhodes E. Day, USNR, Executive Officer, temporarily relieved CAPT John A. Edwards, USN, as Commanding Officer until the arrival of CAPT Mellish M. Lindsay, USN, who took command of the CACAPON on 25 October.
The ship left the shipyard on 2 November, but, after two shuttle runs to San Diego, returned to the shipyard for accomplishment of necessary alterations to enable her to conduct cold weather operations on her forthcoming trip to the Antarctic. Although he had commanded the ship barely a month, because of physical disability Captain Lindsay was relieved as Commanding Officer by Captain Ray A. Mitchell, USN, on 29 November 1946. That same day the ship left the shipyard and proceeded to Pier 86 San Pedro to commence loading for “Operation Highjump”. She sailed from San Pedro on 2 December to join other vessels of Task Force 68,
CACAPON was assigned to the “western group”, officially designated Task Group 68.2, under the command of Captain C. A. Bond, USN, in U.S.S, CURRITUCK (AV-7). The route to the Antarctic took the ships past Guadalope Island, through the Marquesas Islands, to the eastward of New Zealand, and thence down the 160th Meridian to the Antarctic Circle. CACAPON experienced one of the very few machinery casualties of her career on this voyage when a spring bearing on the starboard shaft overheated and was wiped. It was necessary for her to leave the formation and steam on the port engine along until repairs to the damaged bearing were completed, after which she proceeded at full speed until she overtook the Task Group.
During the trip to the Antarctic, CACAPON fueled the U.S.S. CHURRITUCK (AV-7), U.S.S. HENDERSON (DD-785). When not in formation for fueling, the ships were spread out 50 miles apart in order that a wider coverage of soundings could be obtained in the areas through which the Task Group was purposely routed, for very little was known about the depth and character of the ocean floor in those areas. Although the ship was many miles from home on Christmas Eve, good spirit pervaded throughout the ship and in the mess hall where the men assembled near the Christmas Tree, all decorated ia the traditional manner, and sang Christmas carols and other songs and opened the numerous packages of Christmas gifts that had been provided by the American Red Cross. It was on Christmas day that the crew of the CACAPON had their first view of an iceberg. It was but the first of what seemed an endless parade of icebergs for the next 10 weeks.
VII – “The Year 1947”
Toward the end of January 1947, CACAPON was temporarily detached from Task Group 68.2 to rendezvous north of the Ross Sea Ice Barrier with U.S.S. PHILIPPINE SEA (CV-47), in company with the icebreaker NORTHWIND, a destroyer and a submarine. The PHILIPPINE SEA, in which Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd was embarked, had brought down six twin-engined Douglas transport planes which, with the Admiral in one of them, were to be launched from the carrier and flown in to Little America. CACAPON fueled the small vessels in company with the PHILIPPINE SEA but was not required to fuel the carrier. Two of the planes were launched on 30 January, and the remaining four on the following day. All six made uneventful flights and successful landings at the base at Little America, After taking on board the mail that the PHILIPPINE SEA had brought, CACAPON returned to join Task Group 68.2.
During the ten weeks of their operations in Antarctic waters the ships of the Task Group steamed about 20,000 miles, down the 180th Meridian, around the southern side of the world to Longitude 30° E. Units of the Task Group made valuable weather observations, sounded the depths of the ocean, took samples of the ocean bottom and samples of the water, made flights over the Antarctic Continent and photographed and mapped territory never before seen by the human eye.
For the western group, “Operation Highjump” ended on 1 March 1947, and course was set for Sydney, Australia. During the trip north, the group encountered a violent storm during which U.S.S. CURRITUCK lost one PBM flying boat and sustained damage to two others. CACAPON lost one life raft, and all ships of the group suffered minor damage from the heavy seas. But, thankful that the toll of the storm was no greater, the group steamed into Sydney Harbor on March 14 and exchanged salutes with the shore saluting station and with the cruiser HMAS HOBART. There began a never-to-be-forgotten six days of liberty and recreation. Not enough could be said in praise and appreciation for the way the Australian people welcomed the personnel of the Task Group and went out of their way to insure that every one was shown a good time. Liberty hours averaged 22 hours a day, and the men of the CACAPON were forced to admit that for once at least, in their careers they really had “had enough liberty”.
The Task Group left Sydney on 20 March and sailed directly to the United States, arriving in Long Beach on the 8th of April. A “leave and upkeep” period was assigned to the CACAPON, which included a restricted availability in the shipyard. A large portion of the crew was granted leave at this time.
On 18 May, the CACAPON again put to sea to engage in fueling exercises with ships of the FIRST Task Fleet, returned to San Pedro on 22 May, and two days later headed for San Diego with a full cargo. After discharging this load, the ship was then ordered to proceed to Bahrein, Persian Gulf to load. She departed from San Diego on 28 May and arrived at Bahrein on 27 June 1947. On her return trip, the ship put into Singapore for two days of liberty and recreation, then continued eastward via Guams Siapan and Kwajalein off-loading a portion of her cargo at each stop.
From Kwajalein, CACAPON sailed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 15 August 1947, to commence her second major Navy Yard overhaul since commissioning. While the ship was in the yard, portions of the crew were granted twenty days leave periods in the United States. And, as is customary during an overhaul period, some of the “old hands” left the ship for the last time, either to report to other duties elsewhere, or to return to civilian life; new faces began to appear about the decks and new friendships cultivated.
With the “face-lifting” overhaul completed, and with a reluctant Aloha to the land of grass skirts, swaying hips, and haunting strains of Hawaiian guitars, the CACAPON left Pearl Harbor on the 1st of November 1947 and headed to Kwajalein, thence to Yokohama and from there to Yokosuka, arriving on December 2nd. The following day, Captain Ray A. Mitchell, USN, was relieved of command by Captain Mellish M. Lindsay, USN.
Sailing from Azuma Island, Yokosuka, Japan, on the 5th of December, she pointed her bow southward toward Manila. On leaving Manila, she again headed south, threading her way through the pinnacle spotted waters of Palawan Passage, then along the northwest coast of Borneo, through the narrow Api Passage and, on 15 December, into the Domain of Neptunus Rex, where all the slithering, slimy, boasting Polywogs, who so ungracefully paced the decks of the CACAPON, were formally and properly, albeit not wholly willingly, indoctrinated into the Mysteries of the Deep.
It was on the following day that the beloved Captain Lindsay passed away at evening twilight. LCDR Rhodes E. Day, the Executive Officer, assumed command. The next day, December 17th, in Batavia, Java, as she lay alongside the U.S.S. RENVILLE, the late Captain Lindsay was rendered full honors by his officers and men in a military funeral conducted on the cargo deck of the ship he had commanded for so brief a period of time,
Only a short six hours after arriving in Batavia, CACAPON headed out through Sunda Strait into the Indian Ocean and thence northwesterly to Colombo, Ceylon. After a forty eight hour stay in the land of gems, elephants, turbans, temples, rupees and right-hand drive, the ship departed Colombo on Christmas Eve and arrived at Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia on the next to last day in 1947.
VIII- “The Year 1948”
The second day of the new year 1948 found the CACAPON on her way from the Persian Gulf to Athens, Greece. After steaming out of the Gulf of Aden, she proceeded through the Red Sea, and after a brief stop at Suez, transited the canal and made an equally brief stop at Port Said, then nosed her -way through the minefields of the Mediterranean, passed to the north of the Island of Crete, and arrived in Piraeus, the port of Athens, on January 14th. After a memorable five day stay, during which a most enjoyable time was had by all the officers and men, the CACAPON departed from Piraeus and retraced her steps to the Persian Gulf to reload.
On leaving the Persian Gulf this time, on 4 February 1948, she headed eastward once more and arrived at Hong Kong, B.C.C. on February 19th, where she fueled a group of ships of Task Force 38 and enjoyed a four day period of recreation and sightseeing.
After a short trip to Manila, on 29 February she commenced a series of short logistic runs to various ports in the orient, including Buckner Bay in Okinawa, Tsingtao, China and Yokosuka and Nagasaki, Japan, completing this assignment in Okinawa on April 29th. It was on 23 March 1948, while she was moored at Forrestal Pier, Yokosuka, Japan, that Captain H. C. Behner, USN, relieved LCDR Rhodes E. Day, USN, as Commanding Officer.
On May the 1st, CACAPON again headed homeward via the great circle route, entering San Francisco Bay on 14 May, A few days later she commended a ninety day overhaul period at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, On 26 August 1948, after commanding her barely five months, Captain Behner was relieved as Commanding Officer by Captain John F. Henkel, USN.
Her overhaul completed and post-repair trials successfully conducted, CACAPON steamed out of the Golden Gate on 8 September and headed for San Diego for a period of refresher training, on completion of which she participated in “fleet maneuvers” off Southern California. During these maneuvers, her officers and men witnessed the sinking of a submarine and a large transport, both of which had previously been among the target group of ships subjected to atomic bomb tests at Central Pacific atolls.
From San Diego, CACAPON departed on 7 October 1948 for Pearl Harbor with 100 marines as passengers and a deck load of kerosene in drums. After off-loading her passengers and deck cargo, she left Pearl on 16 October and set course for Guam. During her four day stay at Guam, she off-loaded oil, conducted training exercises and loaded gasoline for Manila, leaving Guam on October 31st and arriving in Manila on November 4th. Two days later she once more was on her way to the Persian Gulf.
With another full cargo of “black gold”, CACAPON pulled out of the Persian Gulf, after a 48 hour stay at Bahrein, on 22 November and after threading her way through Malacca and Singapore, headed for Tsingtao, China for a two day stay, thence to Okinawa and to Yokohama for a one day stay in each port, and finally arrived at Yokosuka on December 23rd where she was given a ten day restricted availability.
IX – “The Year 1949”
It was at the fuel pier at Azuma Island, Yokosuka Harbor, Japan, that CACAPON greeted the year 1949, On January 3rd, she set sail for Okinawa from whence after a six day stay she set out on 6 January once more along the by-now-familiar route to the Persian Gulf, stopping for two days at Colombo, Ceylon while enroute. Leaving Bahrein on the last day of January, she proceeded, via Singapore, to Nagasaki, Japan where she off-loaded her oil. Then followed a trip to Yokosuka for a short availability and a five day training period before she took on a load of oil for delivery to Okinawa arriving there on March 17th.
All hands were jubilant when the ship got underway the next day, for orders had been received to return to Long Beach for thirty days of “leave and upkeep”. She was five days out of Okinawa when orders were received diverting her to Guam, Kwajalein, and San Francisco. The first two diversion stops were happily very brief—less than twenty four hours each and no one objected seriously to a three day stop in San Francisco, under whose Golden Gate bridge she passed on 16 April. She departed for San Francisco on 19 April and arrived at Long Beach the next day to commence the much anticipated thirty day leave period.
For the CACAPON the days of seemingly continuous world travel had come to an end for a time. On completion of her rest period at her home port of Long Beach, she proceeded on 19 May to the training operating area off San Diego, and thereafter until the end of the year all of her operations were conducted close to home, as she operated in the area in the vicinity of San Diego and Long Beach.
On 1 July 1949, Captain Royal L. Rutter, USN, relieved Captain John F, Henkel, USN, as Commanding Officer. During the months of October and November 1949, the CACAPON was assigned to duty with the Underway Training Command. She returned to Long Beach on December 2nd. During the next two months, leave, liberty and recreation were equitably granted, while routine maintenance and minor overhaul was in progress.
X – “The Year 1950”
The start of the mid-century year found the CACAPON quietly berthed in her home port of Long Beach, California. By the 10th of January essentially all personnel had returned from holiday-period leaves, and the ship conducted only local operations in the nearby operating areas until January 27th when she proceeded northward to Port Chicago to off-load ammunition in preparation for entering the San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunter’s Point. The overhaul period extended from January 31st to April 28th.
On leaving the yard, the ship loaded ammunition at Port Chicago and, on 29 April, headed back to Long Beach, arriving there the next day. After a short refresher training period, the ship again participated only in local operations until the end of June.
The “Korean Incident”, opening with the attacks of the North Koreans on South Korea, had commenced on 25 June 1950. On 4 July 1950, Captain John G. McClaughry, USN, relieved Captain R. L. Rutter, USN, as Commanding Officer. Two days later the CACAPON was enroute to the Western Pacific area. , 7s
After a one day stop at Pearl Harbor, the ship arrived at Okinawa on 27 July. She had already reported to Commander Service Squadron THREE for duty-with the SEVENTH Fleet and was one of the first two fleet oilers to participate in operations of the United Nations Naval forces in the Korean War; the other oiler was U.S.S. PASSUMPSIC (AO-107). The CACAPON left Okinawa on 5 August 1950 and arrived at Sasebo, Japan on 9 August to commence in earnest her first of several tours of duty as a unit of the mobile logistic support forces in the Korean War. She continued the work of her primary mission of mobile replenishment of the United Nations Naval forces until the end of the year, operating primarily in the area off the east coast of Korea and returning to Sasebo to reload periodically. CACAPON was, however, a part of the naval force that so successfully invaded Inchon, well up the west coast of the Korean Peninsula on 15 September. On 22 December, Rear Admiral F.C. Denebrink, USN, Commander Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who had flown out from his headquarters at Pearl Harbor for a first hand view of underway replenishment operations in the combat area, was transferred at sea by highline to U.S.S. CACAPON, He remained on board over-night and transferred by highline to the PHILIPPINE SEA the next day,
XI- “The Year 1951”
By the start of the new year of 1951, the CACAPON had already had a good sample of the severity of the winters off the coast of North Korea and had gained experience in conducting underway replenishment operations for long hours under conditions of bitter cold driving winds, heavy seas, icy decks, and almost blinding snowstorms. There was no regret then when her first Korean tour drew to a close and, on 20 January 1951, on departure from Sasebo, she headed southward to round the southern tip of Kyushu and then set course for Long Beach, California, once again.
She arrived in her home port of Long Beach on February 4th for all too brief a stay. On 20 February, she commenced taking on a full cargo of fuel oil, diesel oil, and aviation gasoline at the fuel piers in San Pedro. On 26 February, she again headed westward across the Pacific, this time enroute to Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands -where she arrived on 9 March. While at Eniwetok, on 14 March, she was ordered to proceed to rendezvous with U.S.S. MOCTOBI (ATF-105) which, with a tow, was in need of assistance. By the time the rendezvous was effected, the MOCTOBI had recovered her tow and no longer required assistance. However, CACAPON was ordered to remain with the two vessels until MOCTOBI delivered her tow to Eniwetok, which was successfully accomplished on March 17th.
After a round trip to Kwajalein, CACAPON proceeded to Midway Island arriving on 29 March and departing on the following day for Pearl Harbor. While enroute, overheating of the bearings on the port main engine necessitated stopping for a period of some six hours to effect temporary repairs after which the ship proceeded at a reduced speed and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 4th of April. After discharging her gasoline at Ford Island, the ship entered the Navy Yard where she remained until 20 May while various repairs, including repairs to the port main engine were completed. A small percentage of the crew were permitted to go on leave to the United States during this period.
While at Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral F. C. Denebrink, USN, Commander Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, presented the Legion of Merit to Captain John G. McClaughry, USN,the Commanding Officer, and the Bronze Star to Lieutenant Commander C. J. Merritt, USN, the First Lieutenant and Gunnery Officer for their performance of duty in the Korean Theater during the period 9 August to 20 January 1951.
The ship commenced loading on May 20th and on the 24th departed from Pearl Harbor enroute once more to Sasebo, Japan, to commence her second tour of the Korean War. As on her previous tour, CACAPON again provided logistic services to the naval units off the coast of Korea engaged in the support of the United Nations action, returning to her base at Sasebo from time to time to reload.
A change in the routine commenced on 22 August when, after loading, the ship steamed out of Sasebo and headed for Keelung, Formosa to act as logistic support vessel for the ships of the Formosa Patrol Force for a period of about one month. The custom had become established to rotate one of the fleet oilers in the Western Pacific to that duty about once every month. The change was a welcome one. While on this duty,the ship made a trip to the Pescadores Islands in the Formosa Straits to refuel the U.S.S. SALISBURY SOUND and her patrol plane, then proceed to Hong Kong, B.C.C. for a rest, recreation, and shopping period of about six days, departing on 20 September to return to Keelung.
Upon being relieved in Keelung by U.S.S. CIMARRON (AO-22), on 25 September, the CACAPON headed northward again to resume operations with the mobile logistic group in the Korean area for another month before returning to the United States. After completing her last “replenishment trip” of her second Korean tour, she sailed to Yokosuka for a five day stay before starting for home on 31 October. On arrival in Long Beach in mid-November, portions of the crew were granted leave. The ship -was ordered to San Diego for inspection by Sub-Board of Inspection and Survey, and arrived there on November 23rd. On December 1st, Commander Alfred D. Kolmartin, USN, relieved Captain John G. McClaughry, USN, as Commanding Officer.
In order to accomplish various machinery repairs considered necessary before CACAPON should return to the Korean area, she was ordered to San Pedro and entered the Todd Shipyard in mid-December. It was there that she passed Christmas and saw the close of the year in 1951.
XII – “The Year 1952”
After leaving the Todd Shipyard at San Pedro shortly after the start of the new year, the CACAPON proceeded once more to San Diego for a short tender availability. On 25 January, she returned to San Pedro to commence taking on a full cargo.
During the last week of her stay in her home port before again heading westward, a most successful and enjoyable ship’s party was held at the Wilton Hotel in Long Beach. Then on 1 February 1952, CACAPON again steamed out of Long Beach and set course directly for Japan where, after a very rough passage, which is not unusual in the Northern Pacific during the winter months, she arrived 18 days later in the harbor of Sasebo, having made no stops enroute.
She set out from Sasebo on the first replenishment run of her third Korean tour on 22 February. The Korean Was was completing its twentieth month. The tasks of the naval forces, and especially of the mobile replenishment force, were much the same as on the CACAPON’s previous tours. She easily slipped back into her position on the replenishment team as a member of which she resumed her task of refueling ships of the fast carrier task force as well as vessels in the bombardment groups and blockade groups variously engaged along the northern portion of the east coast of Korea.
The CACAPON’s third tour was scheduled to be shorter than the average tour for the fleet oilers, for she was scheduled to return to the United States in late May to commence her regular bi-annual Navy Yard overhaul. On 30 April, the logistic support unit to which CACAPON was attached was scheduled to replenish Task Force 77. For the CACAPON, it was the first replenishment of the task force since she had come back out to the line after reloading at Sasebo. U.S.S. PRINCETON (CVA-37) had been alongside CACAPON’s port side for some little time and had already completed taking on gasoline but had not yet completed taking on fuel oil when, over the bridge-to-bridge telephone, she announced she had lost steering control. A destroyer to starboard of CACAPON was just finishing fueling. The PRINCETON started to sheer out to port. There follo-wed, with almost machine gun rapidity, a series of conflicting reports, by telephone from the PRINCETON, that “She had.'” – “No” “She had not” – regained steering control. In a matter of moments, both fueling hoses were stretched to violin-string tautness. Seconds later the telephone lines parted and the forward fuel hose was released. PRINCETON had begun to back. It was later determined that she had in fact momentarily regained steering control and the rudder had been shifted to some degree of right rudder before the telephone line had parted. Therefore, although backing her engines, with headway not yet killed, she was veering steadily to starboard toward U.S.S. CACAPON. The Commanding Officer of the CACAPON took prompt action to avoid or minimize the danger of collision by turning away to parallel the heading of the PRINCETON while trying to clear ahead under her bow. The destroyer to starboard of CACAPON had already cleared her side. The danger of the situation clearly perceived, both PRINCETON and CACAPON sounded “collision – quarters”, and CACAPON personnel were ordered to clear the port side “on the double”. The large moment of inertia, with her relatively low power, and the rather sluggish maneuvering characteristics of a heavily loaded oiler, contributed largely to the inability of CACAPON to get clear as PRINCETON inexorably bore down on her. With PRINCETON backing hard, and the action of both ships contributing to the PRINCETON’s steadily dropping aft relative to the CACAPON as the lateral distance between the two ships steadily closed, the sound of steel tearing steel soon rent the air as the forward starboard corner of the flight deck of the PRINCETON projected inboard of CACAPON’s port side and, as she drew aft, “raked” the CACAPON from just forward of the after fueling station to the stern. Because of the height of the flight deck, overlapping the CACAPON, and because CACAPON was down in the water owing to her heavy load condition, major damage was confined to the superstructure of the oiler. The after port king post was struck and almost completely sheared off just below where it rises through the cargo deck; the motor whale boat was crushed and the davits mangled; and the after 3″ gun torn from its base and the gun shield nearly demolished. The hulls of the two ships apparently did not touch.
With Number 6 station completely out of commission, and Number 4 station temporarily out of commission until it could be re-rigged, CACAPON’s ability to fuel to port had ended for the time being, and since the king post was in an extremely critical position, leaning at an angle of about 15 , and holding by a scant eight inches of as yet unknown metal, CACAPON was ordered to return to her base. PRINCETON was able to remedy the electrical trouble in her steering system and remain with the task force. After rigging temporary shrouds and stays to the damaged king post and lowering the boom, which had sheered off at the base swivel, to the cargo deck, CACAPON proceeded to Sasebo, arriving on 1 May.
In Sasebo, the damaged king post was cut off and lowered to the cargo deck to be restored to its normal position during the forthcoming Navy Yard overhaul. In her “crippled” condition, however, she made one more run up the east coast of Korea to refuel the smaller naval units engaged in bombardment and blockade operations. On completion of this run on 8 May, CACAPON returned to Sasebo to off-load, after -which she headed for home.
She arrived in her home port of Long Beach on 4 June for a welcome reunion of all hands with their drives, families, and sweethearts. After a stay of a little more than a week, the ship steamed northward to San Francisco Bay and on 17 June entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul.
After completing overhaul on 2 September, the next week was spent in the San Francisco area, during which time post-repair speed trials were conducted, magnetic compasses were compensated and ammunition and stores and provisions were loaded. On 10 September the ship passed under the Golden Gate, outbound once more, and headed for San Pedro, stopping only briefly to take on a partial load of cargo fuel oil before continuing to San Diego, arriving there on 13 September to commence a three week period of refresher training. When the training period was completed, CACAPON reported to operational control of Commander Amphibious Group ONE for duty with forces under his control participating in special fleet amphibious exercises during the period October 4-12. These exercises completed, CACAPON proceeded to San Pedro and, on 20 October commenced taking on a full combat load of cargo. On 22 October, she sailed from San Pedro bound for the Western Pacific to commence her fourth Korean tour since the beginning of the “incident”.
After an extremely rough and stormy crossing, CACAPON arrived in Sasebo on 10 November 1952. She was soon once again engaged in underway replenishment of the naval units in the combat zone off the Korean coast, furnishing fuel oil, aviation gasoline, various lubricating oils and greases to the fast carriers, the cruisers, and the destroyers of Task Force 11 and to the vessels of the United Nations Blockading and Escort Force, The delivering of mail, freight, and passengers brought from the advance base to the ships in the combat zone, was an additional duty of the CACAPON, as it is with all the fleet oilers in the Korean Theater.
XIII – “The Year 1953”
Having passed Christmas day in the combat EOne, the CACAPON arrived back at her advance base on New Year’s Day of 1953, As a result of experience gained since the start of the Korean affair, improvements in the scheduling of replenishments had resulted in longer turn-around periods for reloading and relaxation for the oilers than on previous tours of the CACAPON, But the routine of the operations was essentially unchanged. Nor had the severity of winters off the northern part of the coast of Korea abated any. It was, therefore, a welcome relief for the CACAPON to commence her turn as logistic support oiler for the Formosa Patrol Force on 11 February.
During the six and a half week period 11 February to 28 March, the CACAPON served with the Formosa Patrol Force, for her second tour in those waters since the outbreak of the Korean War. On completion of duty in Formosan waters, the CACAPON made a four day visit to Hong Kong for “rest and recreation” before returning again to the Korean area. On March 29th, for persons interested in statistics, during the six runs from her advance base to the combat zone on her fourth Korean tour, CACAPON replenished 215 ships, during which she delivered more than 340,000 barrels (14,280,000 gallons) of oil, and more than 1,900,000 gallons of gasoline. While serving with the Formosa Patrol she delivered another 33,500 barrels of oil, and, in consolidations with other oilers, an additional 20,000 barrels, bringing the total amount .of oil delivered during this tour to nearly 395,000 barrels (over 16,500,000 gallons).
In operations in both the Korean theater and the Formosa area, the “additional services” of U.S.S. CACAPON included transfers to and from other ships of: more than 1,000 passengers; nearly 6,000 bags of mail; some 35 tons of freight; over 1,200 movies; over 400 cylinders of compressed gasses; nearly 300 drums of lubricating oils.
During her current tour in the Korean theater, U.S.S. CACAPON established her eligibility for the latest engagement star authorized to be worn on the Korean Ribbon. Thus, the CACAPON, in her four tours in the combat zone, has become eligible for eight of the total of nine engagement stars authorized since the start of the Korean hostilities.
On completion of her final run on the “replenishment line”, the CACAPON visited Yokosuka, Japan arriving on 11 May for a nine day recreation period, from whence she departed on 20 May for her home port of Long Beach, California. .
Enroute home, she stopped at Pearl Harbor for a three day stay, which, on Memorial Day, with all hands in white uniforms, Rear Admiral Burton B, Biggs, USN, Commander Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, on behalf of Commander SEVENTH Fleet,, presented the Commendation Ribbon with Combat Distinguishing Device to Commander Alfred D. Kilmartin, USN, the Commanding Officer for his performance of duty during the two tours in which he had commanded the ship in the Korean Theater.
Leaving Pearl Harbor on 1 June, the ship arrived in Long Beach in the afternoon of 7 June where she was once again very warmly greeted by a host of waiting families and friends.
After a tough nine months tour of duty amid high seas and strange peoples, the crew lost no time in taking advantage of all available home leave, and the CACAPON had her own overhaul period at Long Beach Ship-yard from 22 June until 24 July.
It was a mechanically sound ship manned by a well rested crew that joined Task Group 12.1. on 27 July, ready with a load of fuel and ammunition to participate for the next two weeks in “Operation DESTRAEX 54L”. With experience gained from this exercise and after detachment on 14 August from Task Group 12.1, the crew took in stride the operational readiness inspection conducted by the Commanding Officer and crew of the U.S.S. LAERTES at Long Beach.
On 8 September, the Commanding Officer of the CACAPON, Commander Kilmartin, took his ship out for the last time, joining Fleet Training Group and providing them with essential services. He was relieved on 19 September by Captain Albert L. Beeker, USN.
The CACAPON steamed out of Long Beach on 23 October, armed with a capacity load of fuel for other ships, and an ample supply of ammunition for her own protection. She was operationally ready to give support to the attack units of the fleet whose might was helping bring the Korean Conflict to a foreseeable conclusion. This was to be the fifth tour of the conflict for the CACAPON and hostilities would be terminated prior to its completion. The CACAPON arrived in Sasebo on 9 November, and Commander Service Squadron THREE employed her services during the next several months in support of Task Force 77 in the China and Japan Seas. This period was no honeymoon for ship or crew. More often than not, the weather was furiously inclement—gusts of biting wind whipping the blinding snow and frothing seas over the decks on which the men struggled to stay at their posts and get the job done; and get the job done they did. The five previous tours had seasoned men and ship alike and made them almost impervious to the more cruel elements of nature. It was this kind of determination, courage and spirit which inspired Captain Beeker to conceive of a new house flag “-a flag which would be symbolic and representative of some of the feelings of the officers and men”. The final result, unveiled amid a roar of approval, depicted a rambunctious black rooster in earnest pursuit of an equally black but terrified hen with the slogan “Find ’em. Fuel ’em, Forget ’em”. Since then, this flag has been hoisted during every fueling operation and has become well known throughout the Pacific.
On 22 December, the CACAPON anchored in the Japanese port of Osaka, where the crew enjoyed a well deserved period of Christmas liberty. New Year’s Eve was spent anchored in high spirits in Sasebo»
XIV – “The Year 1954”
During the first two months of the New Year, the CACAPON supported the fleet from Sasebo, making extended replenishment runs and returning to that port upon their completion to pick up more fuel. The schedule that had been drawn up for the ship for this period was an arduous one. The CACAPON completed it, and also made four relief trips for other tankers which for diverse reasons were unable to meet their operational commitments. Making relief trips was nothing unusual for the CACAPON, and she would make a great many more in the future.
After a trip to Subic Bay, P.I., where the ship remained from 15 to 23 March, the CACAPON sailed out to fulfill further operational committments, and on 4 April moored between Buoys Number 1 and 2 in Kaohsiung. The Kaohsiung tour, during which the CACAPON served as the tanker for the Taiwan Patrol Force, was a welcome change. For one thing, a considerable amount of upkeep work could be accomplished. Furthermore, the CACAPON did not have to go out on the high seas to seek out the vessels she was to replenish, but remained moored between the two buoys while the patrol destroyers returned to the sheltered harbor, pulled up alongside, and then got refueled. Finally one week of rest and recreation in Hong Kong which followed the completion of the Kaohsiung duty gave the crew something tangible to look forward to.
The CACAPON left Hong Kong on 23 April enroute for Sasebo. The morale of the ship’s crew which was relatively high, was considerably bolstered when at 1000, 10 May, after all hands had been inspected for smart uniforms and fresh haircuts by the Captain, Commander Service Squadron THREE presented to the ship’s company a handsome plaque in recognition of outstanding services in support of the fleet. Five days later, the CACAPON left Sasebo enroute for Long Beach via Pearl Harbor where some of the crew celebrated the completion of the tour in a manner which was just a little too boisterous for the shore patrol.
The tour had lasted 222 days. One hundred and sixty nine of them were spent out at sea. During this time, the CACAPON had serviced 182 ships with 429,747 barrels of NSFO and a proportional amount of other fuels. Her mission had been accomplished, and Captain Becker, who was relieved by Captain John B. Smith, USN, on 16 July, could leave the ship with a certain sense of satisfaction over a job well done.
The CACAPON arrived in Long Beach on 3 June, and on 28 June, with a considerable percentage of the ships crew on leave, commenced her bi-annual overhaul at Bethlehem Shipyard in San Francisco. On 8 October, the overhaul completed, the CACAPON returned to Long Beach, loaded up, and was ready to display her efficiency while training for three weeks with the Fleet Training Group in San Diego.
A period of preparation followed the completion of these exercises to ready the ship for departure for another tour of duty in the Western Pacific. It was during these preparations that Don R. Little, SN, met with a violent accident, which resulted in his death – the first accident of such gravity on the ship since her commissioning.
On this ominous note, the ship got underway five days later, and moored at “H” Dock in Pearl Harbor on 24 November, While still moored there on 8 December, Captain Smith left the ship for the last time – he was seriously ill and was being transferred to Tripler General Hospital, The Executive Officer assumed temporary command until Captain W. McCann, USN, reported aboard for TAD as Commanding Officer on 20 December, Christmas thus found the CACAPON at Pearl Harbor, not exactly at home in the United States, but also not in a foreign country. On 28 December, the ship set out for Midway Island and was anchored at destination prior to setting Watch One of 1955.
XV – “The Year 1955”
Little time and thought could be spared to welcoming 1955. The CACAPON started it off with a big splash by losing her starboard anchor under the stress of continuous buffeting of tearing winds and turbulent seas in her dangerous berth just 1,000 yards south of the coral reef surrounding Midway Island. But the ship weathered the remainder of the storm without further damage, and during the next several days accomplished her mission at Midway by transferring her liquid cargo to numerous yard oilers for further distribution. On 6 January, she departed for operations in WestPac.
The CACAPON reported to her operational command in Sasebo after servicing Task Group 70.4 on 25 January. Three days later while moored in Sasebo, word came that Captain J. B. Smith, who had left the ship the previous December because of ill health, had passed away at Tripler General Hospital in Hawaii. He was the second Commanding Officer to meet his end while serving on the CACAPON. The grievous news was passed on to the crew; it was a quiet and saddened ship that proceeded on to the Tachen Islands on 6 February to participate in their evacuation.
The ensuing eight days were to prove the toughest, at least in terms of operational schedule, that the ship had yet experienced, requiring the undivided attention of every man during every moment of duty. The weary crew manned the stations around the clock under the adverse conditions of inclement weather and discharged the assigned duties efficiently with a minimum amount of rest until coming in to Keelung on 14 February. It was during this operation that Captain (18 Knot) McCann, inspired by the admirable exertion and coordination of men and ship composed a ditty, which along with Captain Becker’s CACAPON “Find ’em, Fuel ’em, Forget ’em” flag was soon to become synonymous with the reputation of efficiency that the CACAPON had earned throughout the Pacific. It goes as follows!
Here we are in form six two
Ready to shoot the juice to you
Roger is close-up on every ship
We’re ready to go with hose and whip.
From Keelund, the CACAPON headed for Subic Bay, P.I., under the operational control of Commander Service Division 31. Upon arrival, the crew was granted ample liberty and an opportunity to catch their breath before getting underway once again.
On 6 March, the CACAPON departed for De Lamba Bay, French Indo China, to service ships engaged in the historic operation “Passage to Freedom”. On return to Subic Bay on 15 March, Captain McCann whose TAD had terminated, was relieved as Commanding Officer by Commander F.M. Eddy, USN. On the same day, the CACAPON steamed from Subic Bay to assume duties as station tanker in support of the Taiwan Patrol in Kaohsiung, where she remained till 10 April. After the standard week of rest and recreation in Hong Kong, the CACAPON arrived in Sasebo on 21 April, On 8 May, the CACAPON left Sasebo to participate in fleet operations off Okinawa. This assignment lasted for the next eleven days, and although not quite as demanding as the evacuation of the Tachens, presented a formidable challenge. The result was that 51 ships »ere successfully replenished with 91,427 barrels of NSFO, 13,000 barrels of aviation gasoline, and 3,500 barrels of HEAF. The ship returned to Sasebo on 20 May.
On 29 June, the CACAPON left Sasebo enroute Long Beach on what appeared to be her last trip. The ship had received her orders to report to Pacific Reserve Fleet for inactivation on 15 September. After arrival on 19 July, all departments were hard at work balancing accounts and sending out required reports in an endeavor to have the ship administratively ready for decommissioning on assigned date. The CACAPON was operating with a minimum allowance and quite ready for the transition. However, one day prior to reporting to Pacific Reserve Fleet, the CACAPON received a message from CNO canceling inactivation orders and directing her to embark for WestPac on 27 October. This volte-face was evidently caused by the fact that the new super tankers that had been sent out to replace workhorses like the CACAPON failed to approach expected performance.
With a new lease on life, the CACAPON reloaded and set out for WestPac. For the next two months she serviced the fleet from Sasebo and Yokosuka. She spent Christmas Day in the former port, and on 26 December was underway for Kaohsiung. The CACAPON welcomed the New Year snugly moored between Buoys Number 1 and 2.
XVI – “The Year 1956 /
The CACAPON remained in Kaohsiung until 1 February, efficiently supporting the Taiwan Patrol Force, and tirelessly drinking up the seemingly inexhaustible supply of local tea. The routine week of rest and recreation in Hong Kong followed, and by 9 February, she was once again underway, this time, heading for Sasebo. While refueling several destroyers enroute, Commander Destroyer Squadron 13 was carefully highlined to the CACAPON from the U.S.S. BLUE (DD-774), and satisfied with the efficiency of the operation from this other end of the line, he was returned to his flagship without incident.
In Sasebo, the CACAPON moored just long enough to refurbish her dwindling stock of fuel, and then steamed out in company with Task Group 73.3 for her rendezvous with various units of Task Force 77.
Upon the completion of this assignment, she anchored in Subic Bay on 26 February. This port with the adjoining small town of Olongapo can hardly be considered as even a fair liberty port – little to do, little to see, and after a while, even the ace of local beers, San Miguel, begins to have a stale taste to it. During this stay in Subic however, the above predicament was resolved by the unprecedented receipt of authorization to spend the weekend of 3-5 March in Manila. This hot-spot of the orient with opportunities unlimited for all sorts of catharsis was quite a booster shot for the crew.
On 10 March, the CACAPON headed north for Sasebo where, with the exception o.f refueling at sea on several occasions, she remained until 20 April. She then headed further north, on up to Yokosuka. From here, the CACAPON steamed out on 28 April to transfer fuel to various YO ‘ s at Midway, continued on for her traditional two day stay at Pearl Harbor, and then jubilantly for Long Beach.
Home once again, members of the ship’s company took all available leave, and personnel changes were carried out. The most significant of these changes occurred on 16 June, when Commander Eddy was relieved by Captain E. K. Solenberger, USN, as Commanding Officer.
During the remainder of the year, the CACAPON was to see little operational action. Her first trip after returning to Long Beach on 17 May was on 7 July. The CACAPON then left for a three week tender availability at San Diego, after which she returned to anchor at Long Beach Harbor. Here, her relative state of relaxation over, the next two months was interrupted only on several occasions when she had to get underway to provide services to Fleet Training Group, But even a routine period such as this had its high point, and far the CACAPON it came on 14 September, the time of the Fleet Review. The Quartermasters full dressed the ship for this pageant with particular pride, and the men stood at their best rigid attention in honor of the newly crowned Mrs. U.S. Navy, the symbol of mother, wife, and sweetheart for many a man who rides the waves.
On 5 October, the CACAPON reported to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, where she spent the remainder of the year and also was drydocked for over two weeks in November. During this regular and much needed overhaul period, the most important improvements effected were the installation of new CIC with the latest radar equipment| and an automatic counterweight tensioning system on stations Seven and Eight for fueling at sea operations. The cost of repairs and alterations totalled well in excess of a million dollars; but in the future, the new CIC could be much admired by visiting staffs, while the tensioning system represented a shivering, rain-soaked winch operator’s dream- come- true.
On 19 December, the CACAPON went out for a successful day of sea trials, and then spent Christmas Day moored between Pier 3 and the U.S.S. TOLOVANA. The new CIC equipment was also given a chance to prove itself when on 26 December the ship steamed out for a day of CIC exercises. This was quite a day for the ship because for the first
time in her history, she was taking out wives and children to show them not only how their husbands end fathers work, but that the work that they do accomplish, is vitally important.
The year came to a close with Otis Elevator Representatives, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and the ship’s force all madly scrambling against time and mechanical bugs trying desperately to get the ship ready for sea on 2 January.
XVII – “The Year 1957
The CACAPON left Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 2 January, took a partial load of fuel, and steamed to Saa Diego for the underway training period under the watchful eye of the Fleet Training Group. On 22 January, three days prior to the completion of her underway training, the CACAPON ran aground by Buoy Number 6 in San Diego, when the command “left full rudder” resulted in a rapid swinging of the bow of the ship to the right. Two hours later, with the confused aid of a tug and after deballasting off the San Diego Harbor, the CACAPON was once again floating free, her watertight integrity unimpaired.
After this harrowing experience, the ship returned to Long Beach on 26 January to load stores and fuel and to depart for Yokosuka on 4 February.
During the crossing, the ship encountered so many vicious storms that she seemed to be almost constantly emboiled in one during the eighteen days necessary for the crossing. Sixty foot waves became not uncommon, and the 30° rolls aggravated by rain, sleet, and snow, made land a welcome sight. During the period between 22 February and 4 March, the CACAPON fueled numerous ships off Yokosuka, then took on more fuel, and on 9 March, departed for Subic Bay via Kobe and Sasebo, fueling units of Task Force 77 enroute. The placid warm waters off the Philippines were a pleasant change from the cold climate of the Japan Sea. But there was no respite in sight for the ship. After her arrival in Subic on 22 March, she remained there just long enough to take on more fuel, and then was off for Dingalen Bay as a relief tanker for an incapacitated sister ship, charged with the mission of fueling the amphibious vessels of Task Force 76 anchored there at the conclusion of “Operation Beacon Hill”. For two days the men of the CACAPON remained at their stations while 28 ships came alongside and were successfully fueled with 48,997 barrels of NSFO and 8,096 barrels of diesel.
At the completion of the Dingalen Bay operation, the CACAPON returned to Subic, refueled units of Task Force 77, cautiously edged her way to Quitang Point for more fuel, and on 23 April, was underway for Kaohsiung for her term of duty as station oiler for the Taiwan Patrol. While in Kaohsiung, the Commanding Officer was SOPA during approximately the first two weeks of the stay, and GOMDESRON NINE, who made his quarters aboard, was SOPA for the remainder of the time.
On the international relations side, the furtherance of Sino- American friendship was promoted by the visit of General Pang and the Mayor of Kaohsiung on 7 May, which was followed by almost daily visits of large groups of Chinese Boy and Girl Scouts whose salutes to the quarterdeck and innocent appreciation shall be remembered by all hands for a long time to come. Operationally, the CACAPON met her commitments to the Taiwan Patrol, and also cooperated on a number of occasions in providing services to the Republic of China Navy for underway refueling training.
On the morning of 24 May, with the various friends of the ship tearfully waving from the beach, the CACAPON set her course for Hong Kong. While enroute, she refueled DesDiv 251 on 26 May, and utilizing the new “Squirt” method initiated by Captain Solenberger, she set a transfer rate record for AO’s by pumping at rate of 4,184 barrels pen hour to one of the destroyers. As of this writing one year later, this record still stands, and the “Squirt” method has become widely recognized as an efficient and speedy means of pumping fuel.
At Hong Kong, the ship was met by the Queen’s Officer of the Guard, and Mary Sou’s side cleaners, whose efficiency was impaired by inclement weather.
With empty pockets and full lockers, the men of the CACAPON left Hong Kong on 2 June for Sasebo. The ship refueled Destroyer Division 152, the YORKTOWN and the WORCHESTER before mooring alongside the fuel docks in Sasebo, departing again on 10 June for a rendezvous with Task Group 70.4. At the completion of this mission, operational control was changed to Commander SEVENTH Fleet for “Operation True Blue”, which shall remain memorialized by the seemingly endless steaming around Point Golf. On 22 June, the CACAPON arrived in Yokosuka where additional AvGas was loaded. Several days later, it proved to be much more difficult to off-load this AvGas, as was necessary prior to departure for Sydney, than it was to load it. The situation was resolved in the last minutes by transferring it all to a number of other AO’s and to the fuel dock in Sasebo, from where this ship finally departed for CONUS via Sydney and Auckland, with a “well done” and a “sayonara” from Commander Service Squadron THREE.
On the trip “down under”, the CACAPON was honored on 10 July by a visit from Davey Jones, which culminated the next day with the arrival of Neptunus Rex and his colorful retinue who lost no time in getting down to the grim business of initiating the slimy pollywogs and transforming them into salty shellbacks.
On 16 July, “the Yanks arrived in Sydney with a bump and a groan” to quote the local press headline, and moored alongside the Wooloomooloo Pier. After six days rest and recreation, the ship left for Auckland, arriving in the land of the “Kiwi Birds” on” the 26th, and having delivered her fuel, departed for CONUS two days later.
That long awaited day came on 13 August. The Long Beach Breakwater appeared dimly in the early hours of the morning through the acrid Los Angeles smog, the ship dropped anchor, and another West-Pac tour for the CACAPON came to an end.
Two days later, the ship moved to San Pedro’s Todd Shipyard to have her jet fuel tanks saraned; while there, Captain E.K. Solenberger was relieved as Commanding Officer by Captain Roger F. Miller on 23 August.
The ship left Todd’s Shipyard on 14 September, and anchored inside the Long Beach Breakwater for the next two weeks, which was ample time to complete satisfactorily an administrative inspection conducted by the U.S.S. ASHTABULA. Early on the morning of 27 September, the CACAPON left Long Beach, and later on in the day, moored alongside the U.S.S. AJAX in San Diego for three weeks of tender availability.
Among the significant changes accomplished were the removal of some of the ship’s armanent which in turn made possible, at a later day, the installation of a gyro repeater on the signal bridge, transforming that area into an efficient conning space.
The CACAPON’s tender availability expired on 19 October. The ship returned to Long Beach to load fuel, and from that day on, until 9 December, she was available to provide services to Fleet Training Group, going out for several days at a time, and returning, or at least trying to return, on weekends. While with the Fleet Training Group, the CACAPON’s own readiness was checked on during an operational readiness inspection conducted by the U.S.S. HECTOR on 19-21 November.
On 9 December, the ship entered the Long Beach Shipyard where she was to remain for the rest of the year. The big news that was to have a crucial effect on the ship was received early in December. The essence of the matter was that the normally scheduled tour for WestPac had been cancelled, and instead, the CACAPON had been designated as station tanker at the Eniwetok Proving Grounds for the forthcoming “Operation Hardtack”.
XVIII – “The Year 1958
The New Year found the CACAPON moored in the Long Beach Shipyard, making preparations for her deployment on “Operation Hardtack”, a deployment which would necessitate departure at least a month earlier than had originally been planned. To enable the ship to attain optimum material condition prior to departure, Commander Service Squadron ONE scheduled an extra tender availability.
The first time the ship left Long Beach in 1958 was on 7 January, taking out numerous dependents on a days cruise to give them a general idea of Navy life and its incumbent duties. The second time that the CACAPON was underway was on 10 January, steaming to San Diego and mooring in a nest of several other AO’s alongside the AJAX. On 23 January, she was moved into the stream next to the HOOPER ISLAND for additional availability. It was here that a long range habitability plan was drawn up which, by the time of its completion at the conclusion of “Operation Hardtack”, left the ship in a greatly improved condition. The improvements included the redecoration of the Wardroom, Captain’s Cabin and Chief’s Quarters, as well as the tiling of all living compartments and passageways. Also, a new movie screen was set up on the Wardroom Deck with sufficient benches, and for post-movie comfort, all hands received new bunk frames and bottoms.
On 30 January, the CACAPON left for Long Beach. Almost immediately after her arrival, however, she moved to Craig Shipyard to have a newly discovered crack in the steering engine fixed up. On 10 February, the ship left Craig Shipyard, only to learn four days later that contamination of the boilers with oil from ruptured tubes in the fuel oil heater necessitated another yard period. Thus, the CACAPON found herself again at Todd’s Shipyard, where officials made assurances that the ship would be ready for loading by the 22nd and for deployment two days after that. And right they were. The ship loaded and departed for Bikini, Marshall Islands as scheduled on Monday, 24 February,
The nature of “Operation Hardtack” prevents any discussion of what happened during the six month period, lest such a discussion be prejudicial to the best interests of national security. Suffice it to say that as usual, the CACAPON carried out her mission efficiently and completely. Many aspects of the operation were interesting and certainly unusual. The men who participated are not likely to forget the details that comprised their daily lives on these barren atolls so far away from home and from anywhere else.
In terms of recreation, however, this period was rather productive. All hands acquired a healthy tan, and took advantage of the opportunity to take refreshing dips in the Pacific and participate in all forms of athletics on these tiny atolls which proved sufficiently large for this purpose. Much money was saved and all hands enjoyed liberty on trips to Guam and Pearl Harbor.
By the time the ship arrived at the Long Beach Breakwater in August, freshly painted and in a better material condition than she had been for years, none could say that the previous six months had been a total loss – all were a little richer, and somewhat wiser for the experience of “Operation Hardtack”.
Among those meeting the ship upon her arrival in Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 13 August was Captain W. C. Meyer, who, two days later, in an impressive ceremony, marred only by sporadic and unseasonable showers, relieved Captain Miller as Commanding Officer. It was at this ceremony that the guiding policies for the forthcoming year were spelled out. “During the past several years, CACAPON has established the enviable record of being a capable and reliable ship”, stated the new Commanding Officer. “We cannot rest content with those laurels. I propose to make this ship, within the next year, through close teamwork and firm leadership, the outstanding oiler in the Pacific Fleet.”
Little time was lost in taking constructive steps toward this goal. With the end of the initial leave and upkeep period on 12 September, CACAPON steamed down to San Diego and berthed alongside the tender JASON for an availability. It was a markedly changed ship that returned to Long Beach two weeks later; gone were the bulky tubs that had formerly housed the long-ago-removed 40mm and 5″ guns on the fan-tail and forward deck house; gone was the high staging for the forward director which had now been shifted between the forward 3″ guns. CACAPON remained in her home port only long enough to load fuel and enjoy a weekend; she then sailed to San Diego to provide services to the Fleet Training Group until 3 October, and returned to Long Beach to make final preparations for entering Bethlehem Pacific Shipyard in San Pedro on 13 October for her bi-annual overhaul.
Serious financial considerations imposed stringent limitations on the total amount of work that could be accomplished during this yard period. Some of the more notable jobs completed were the covering of the forward well deck with permanent rubber mastic, the conversion of the steward’s compartment into a spacious and modern toilet, and the overhaul and improvement of much of the ship’s general machinery. During the sea trials on 19 December, among several of the malfunctions discovered was that of the engines turning ahead full and the RPM indicators on the bridge showing them as backing slow. Most of these difficulties, however, were overcome by 29 December when the ship took on a partial load of fuel and went out to sea for various drills on the next two successive days with her new Executive Officer aboard, LCDR Eugene H. Chittenden, who had relieved LCDR W. C. Bliss on 9 December. After this hectic tempo of the concluding days of the old year, CACAPON spent New Year’s Day quietly anchored in her home port of Long Beach.
IIX – “The Year 1959”
The first Monday of the New Year saw CACAPON heading for San Diego to provide Fleet Training Group with services during the balance of the week, and then commence her own underway training period with a week of the inport phase and the practice battle problem on the 19th. It was a hushed and dejected gathering that listened to the Fleet Training Group’s caustic criticisms of this exercise. “Preparations were incomplete”, they charged over and over again. “Briefings were inadequate.”
A distinct challenge had thus been issued to the ship. During the next ten days, CACAPON engaged in an arduous training program. It was drill, drill, drill, and exercise, exercise and exercise over and over and over again. Every evolution was performed under the exacting scrutiny of Fleet Training Group representatives ready with their suggestions and corrections. It was but a short while before all hands were conforming to the pattern desired by the underway training people. Some of the departments even gained distinction, perhaps the most readily noted of which was that gained by the ship’s gunners who shot down the fluttering red sleeves with their ’41 vintage guns faster than the aircraft could stream new ones. On 30 January, the day of the final battle problem, all preparations and briefings were found to be complete and general performance sufficiently competent to earn a grade of high good for the ship. The engineers then put on a few extra turns and late the same afternoon, CACAPON dropped anchor in Long Beach Harbor.
Back to Bethlehem went CACAPON on 2 February for a few final adjustments. She moved to San Pedro Fuel Docks a week later to take on a full WestPac load of fuel, and on 10 February departed for Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, and other points East.
The weather enroute was unusually rough, curtailing much of the planned maintenance. Commander Service Force noted in his inspection of the ship in Pearl Harbor on 17 February, that even though some areas of the ship looked good, there were still others with room for improvement. Somewhat more favorable weather prevailed during the balance of the crossing. The ship even had an opportunity to prove her underway replenishment capabilities by successfully refueling two divisions of destroyers prior to arrival in Yokosuka on 1 March.
Underway again on 4 March with Service Squadron THREE observers aboard, the ship tested her rigs by pumping to the ASHTABULA. The pumping was successful and all fuel samples were acceptable. However, an inspection of the ship’s JP-5 piping system revealed a coating of rust on the inside of the pipes. On Friday, 6 March, the ship arrived in her second home port, Sasebo. The next day, COM3ERVRON THREE decided CACAPON was not ready to operate and ordered a restricted availability to clean the JP-5 piping system and accomplish other small but desirable jobs. This came as a frustrating blow to the ship, particularly since she had passed all the tests and had reported “ready” to COMSERVPAC. So, late that same afternoon, all aviation gasoline having been off-loaded, CACAPON steamed out to gas free her tanks. With the help of strong winds whipping off the coast of Korea, she returned gas free in record time and tied up alongside the dock sufficiently early to hold a Sunday evening liberty call.
The next ten days proved to be the best availability CACAPON had had in a long time. Most job orders submitted were readily approved, including one granting the ship more than 500 man days of labor to be utilized by the ship. The turning point came when COMSERVRON THREE personally came aboard and expressed satisfaction with and confidence in the ship.
CACAPON was now ready to “go on the line”. She left Sasebo loaded down to draft for her first WestPac commitment, a rendezvous with and refueling of units of Task Group 70.4 on 18 March. The message at the conclusion of the exercise from the Task Group Commander was a fine compliment for the previous months of training and preparations.
“From first radio communication until last prep hauled down”, radioed the Admiral, “the smartness, efficiency, and initiative of your ship and crew were impressive–well done.” Several days later, CACAPON coordinated and provided services for underway replenishment training of several units of the Republic of Korea Navy off Chinhae. “Well done”, wrote ComNavForKorea, and, added COMSERVRON THREE, “this excellent performance reflects credit not only on CACAPON, but on Task Force SEVENTY THREE and the U.S. SEVENTH Fleet.” CACAPON had thus started out her service “on the line” in a fashion befitting an outstanding oiler.
But this was only the beginning. There were yet some hurdles to surmount. A gyro casualty sustained shortly after leaving Sasebo on 28 March to fuel the RANGER temporarily jeopardized the ship’s ability to meet her commitment. An anxious night of checking and testing revealed the cause of the difficulty. The malfunction was rectified well in advance of the fueling, and CACAPON was able to return to Sasebo on the last day of the month with the satisfaction of “mission accomplished”.
CACAPON remained in Sasebo until 16 April and then steamed for a replenishment, of BON HOMME RICHARD and several destroyers; on the 18th, she anchored in Buckner Bay where the first swim call in several years, and one of many to come was held. Underway again on 21 April for Sasebo, CACAPON refueled Task Unit 77.5 enroute, hoisting her familiar “find them, fuel them, forget them” house flag which inspired the Carrier Task Group Commander to comment at the completion of the exercise that “you found us and fueled us, but we hope you don’t forget us cause we like your style”.
At this point in the tour, the schedule called for a week in Hong Kong but instead, CACAPON was assigned the task of one of her disabled sister ships – to provide logistic support for the amphibious exercise SEA TURTLE conducted in Korean waters. For her services in this exercise, CACAPON received a “well done” from Commander Task Force 74. On 2 May, she set her course for Subic Bay to undergo a long awaited administrative inspection by PONCHATOULA on 13 and 14 May. The results of this inspection would be heavily weighted toward the final evaluation of the ship at the end of the fiscal year.
An overall grade of “excellent” was assigned, and the Chief Inspector, Commanding Officer PONCHATOULA, wrote that “CACAPON is well ahead of her sister ships in cleanliness, maintenance, excellence of organization and other factors covered by administrative inspections…
I suspect”, he added, “that CACAPON is the outstanding (AO-22) class oiler in PacFleet”. There were others who remarked upon the appearance of the ship. “Come again soon”, said COMNAVBASE SUBIC as the ship was leaving on 15 April. “Your ship and crew presented a very smart appearance.” ; . . .
With all these kudos being lavishly bestowed on the ship, she met her next two replenishments, separated by two lays in Buckner Bay, with justifiable confidence, steamed down the Formosan Straits for an overnight stay in Kaohsiung, and departed the next morning for Hong Kong, Mary Soo and her side cleaners were on hand to greet CACAPON on 24 May as soon as the accommodation ladder was over the side. Some earnest bargaining ensued, and several minutes later, Mary’s girls were working away at the sides, meticulously cutting in the waterline. By 31 May, Mary had finished with the sides, the crew had spent their money, the space set aside for the stowage of all the genuine articles acquired had been filled to the overhead, and the Commanding Officer had a nasty cold; in short, the ship was ready to leave.
Three more replenishments remained prior to return to CONUS. The first of these occurred on 5 June when CACAPON fueled the carrier LEXINGTON and a division of destroyers, returning to Yokosuka to spend the weekend. The second replenishment was on the 9th and contested of the same group as that of the 5th. CACAPON’s last scheduled replenishment almost did not come off at all. The seas were high and the entire operation was temporarily suspended until the advent of more favorable weather. The cruiser even withdrew and headed for her sheltered berth in Yokosuka. But shortly thereafter, the Commanding Officer sent a brief message inviting the remaining ships to come alongside; during the ensuing five hours, the HORNET and seven destroyers did so without any untoward incident.
CACAPGN then headed full speed for Yokosuka, off-loaded her Av-gas, reversed her course for a four day visit to Nagoya, and then on 17 June, back to Yokosuka for a final upkeep period. It was during this period that despite staunch opposition, CACAPON’s quarterdeck area was enclosed, a modification which which was later termed by a SERVFAC representative as the “best material improvement that could have happened to the ship”.
The most demanding of the criteria for an outstanding oiler had been passed. CACAPON showed that she could deliver “on the line” by fueling 77 ships in all kinds of weather at all times of the day with more than 9 1/2 million gallons of liquid fuels. In his sayonara letter to the ship, COMSERVRON THREE noted “with pleasure the outstanding performance of CACAPON during the tour just completed” and expressed his appreciation for her ‘Very substantial contribution to the successful logistic support of the SEVENTH Fleet”.
CACAPON had left Yokosuka on 28 June and arrived in Pearl Harbor for a two day stay on 8 July. It was here that the most meaningful tribute vas bestowed on the ship by Rear Admiral Campbell, COMSERVPAC himself. Recalling that he had seen CACAPON less than five months before, the Admiral commented on the “immense improvement which was evident through the ship” and praised the crew for “pride in the ship and devotion to duty”. On leaving Pearl Harbor, CACAPON briefly rendezvoused with the cruiser LOS ANGELES to act as an example of a
mobile logistic support unit for the benefit of several SecNav guests who were highlined aboard with COMCRUDIV FIVE for a visit and tour of CACAPON while underway. She then set her course for the coast of California and finally on the morning of 17 July, sighted the Long Beach Breakwater.
One year to the day after assuming command of CACAPON, Captain Meyer was about to be relieved by Captain John L. Kelley, Jr., when the ceremonies were interrupted by a message from radio central. It was a message from Commander Service Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, naming CACAPON as one of the ships which had been awarded the battle efficiency “E” for Fiscal Year 1959. This now made it official; CACAPON was recognized as the outstanding oiler in the Pacific Fleet.