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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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Vietnam Ribbon Bar
Noxubee Crest

A Long Trip Home


By Paul Gryniewicz

 

Relief August 2, 1967 was a memorable day for the crew of the USS Noxubee. On that day her first deployment to Vietnam ended. After 7 months and pumping 8,284,535 gallons of petroleum products in support of army and marine units in the I Corps Tactical Zone Noxubee departed DaNang. She was on her way to Japan then home to Pearl Harbor. Reunion with family in Hawaii or leave back to the mainland was just a few short weeks away.

Japan Noxubee spent 2 weeks in Sasebo, Japan undergoing some minor upkeep and the crew enjoyed some much needed liberty. But a generator casualty delayed her departure for Pearl Harbor and caused her to spend an additional 10 days in the shipyard at Yokosuka, Japan. After three and a half weeks in Japan both ship and the crew were more that ready for the long trip across the Pacific and home. By this time, the crew's wallets were empty and the ship was full of cameras, electronics, and china.

Japan Singer One month and a day after departing DaNang, Noxubee finally set sail from Japan to continue the trip home. Much to everyone's frustration it was not to be an easy passage. Weather was bad for most of the trip. Three days were spent dodging typhoons Opal and Ruth. Then just 5 days from home Noxubee received new orders. To everyone's great disappointment the much anticipated home coming was put on hold once again. But orders are orders and Noxubee set course for her new destination, Wake Island.

Wake Island was the sight of a desperate battle between US Marines and Japanese forces 25 years earlier and is still a US Military Installation. A civilian tanker, the SS RC Stoner owned by Standard Oil ran aground on the reef surrounding the atoll while entering the lagoon to deliver a cargo of avgas to the airfield. Noxubee was ordered to assist in the salvage operation by off loading her cargo. It was hoped that would allow the Stoner to float off the reef. To complicate matters the coral reef opened her hull and avgas was spilling into the lagoon.

Storm Unfortunately a third typhoon, typhoon Sarah was beginning to kick up the wind and seas in the area. By the time Noxubee arrived on scene the weather conditions had deteriorated so much that Noxubee was unable to off load the cargo. So for four, long, tedious days Noxubee steamed around the 1 1/2 x 2 mile atoll enduring worsening weather and boredom. Everyone anxious to get home. Each day more avgas flowed into the lagoon so that by this time it was more than a foot deep. A major environmental disaster was in the making.

By then Typhoon Sarah started to make a beeline straight for Wake Island. Any salvage attempt would have to wait until the typhoon cleared the area. The operation was canceled and Noxubee was released just in time to miss the storm and headed straight for Pearl Harbor. Sarah pummeled Wake Island with 105 m.p.h. winds and leveled most the buildings on the island. Sarah also blew the Stoner off the reef and wrecked her so badly that after the storm she was declared unsalvageable and sunk. But Sarah did have a positive effect, her extreme winds and waves flushed the avgas from the lagoon and the ecological disaster was averted.

Diamond Heaad At long last on September 22, 50 days after leaving DaNang, Noxubee finally doubled up her lines at Pearl Harbor and was home. The much anticipated homecomings could begin.


home coming

--"A Long Trip Home" based on information provided by Bob Heidinger.
Photos by Darryl Walker


Noxubee Crest

Incoming!


By Paul Grynieiwcz

Noxubee On October 28,1968 the USS Noxubee came under enemy attack for the first time in her long career. Noxubee was at NASD Cua Viet, Vietnam pumping cargo through the underwater pipeline and to a bladder boat along side. LT James McCall, Captain, LT Brian Boyce, XO and Ens Vince Liberto, Operations Officer were on the bridge. At 1530 hours RM3 Ed Angeloff on watch in Radio Central began recieving an urgent message ordering the Noxubee to immediately get underway. The message indicated that a NVA attack was immanent. Just as Angeloff was copying the message, NVA artillery began firing on the ship.

mike boat ENS Richard Bland, Command Duty Officer, was at the pumping station on the port side of the tank deck when the first rounds came in sending up plumes of water off the starboard side. He reacted quickly calling away the sea detail and had the engine room standby for an emergency underway. EN3 Dennis Stevenson remembers, "When general quarters was sounded it took me all of thirty seconds to make my way to the engine room and we got all engines up to 680 rpm's for flank speed. Also all auxiliary power was brought on line to provide power to the gun mounts. "

ENS Andy Bavarik, the First Lieutenant recalls what happened next. "I remember the event clearly. Boatswain Chief Thomas Franklin and I were on the tank deck. We saw the splashes (no explosions) and the 1MC announced emergency underway. Chief Franklin went aft and literally yanked the stern anchor out the sea bottom. I went forward with our 1st Class Boatswain and we pulled the Noxubee forward with the bow anchor. I just remember the next splashes being where we were." Noxubee quickly went to General Quarters. No one on the ship could see where the enemy fire was coming from and there were friendly forces near by so Noxubee did not return fire.

pipes Back on the tank deck, Bland and the tank deck crew cast off the bladder boat and then grabbed fire axes to away the fueling hoses. All the while the enemy's artillery was bracketing the ship searching for the range. By the time the fuel hoses were cut free and the bow anchor was pulled up, LT McCall had the Noxubee underway at 14 knots and took her safely out of range. A couple of hueys flew over the ship providing air cover. After a few hours, the situation calmed down and the Noxubee returned to the Cua Viet anchorage and resumed pumping as if nothing happened.

34 years later, Andy Bavarik has nothing but praise for the crew. "The biggest thing I remember was how everyone did their job just as we had practiced. And they did it in record time. There was also a great deal of initiative doing things we didn't think we would have to do."

-- "Incoming" is based on information provided by Ed Angeloff, Andy Bavarik, Richard Bland, Gary Harger, and Dennis Stevenson.


Noxubee Crest

Mine!


By Paul Gryniewicz

 
On Monday September 8, 1969 I was a Gunners Mate Striker aboard the USS Noxubee. We were anchored off the mouth of the Cua Viet River in South Vietnam having come up day before from Da Nang with a load of diesel fuel. jet fuel, motor fuel and aviation fuel for NSAD Cua Viet.

At 0855 we began pumping cargo ashore to the fuel farm. Then later in the day at 1640 YOG-76 moored astern of us and we hooked up our hoses and began filling her cargo tanks. About 4 hours later we secured pumping and YOG-76 got underway.

Cua Viet Map An hour later at 2137 the fantail sentries sighted two swimmers in the water 10 to 15 yards astern of Noxubee. They alerted the bridge and immediately took them under rifle fire. I was on duty as Messenger - of - the -Watch and on my way to the fantail when they opened fire. I got there a few seconds later and immediately began throwing hand grenades at the two heads I saw in the water. These were concussion grenades designed for maximum impact underwater with no shrapnel so we could drop them near the hull without damaging the ship. As quickly as the swimmers appeared they were gone. While this was going on we got underway and went to general quarters expecting a mine to go off at any second. We kept up our search for the swimmers and kept up small arm and .50 cal. machine gun fire all the while tossing hand grenades all around the ship. We wanted to keep those guys far away if they were still around. After all we didn't know if we saw them swimming toward us or away from us. As it worked out, we never saw them again.

The CO ordered cease fire at 2203 and we steamed around the anchorage while we waited for a mine to go off and for divers to come out and inspect the hull. At 2215 we anchored about 1200 yards off the beach so the EOD divers from Cua Viet could take a look. By 2350 they reported that because of the dark conditions, strong current and rough sea they could only inspect the stern area and did not find anything. A more complete inspection would be made in the morning. At this point we all began to breathe a little easier. The swimmers were seen off the stern and the stern was inspected and found to be clear. So it was decided to move further out from the beach and anchor for the night.

A little after midnight we once again hauled up the anchor and got underway. At 0106 we anchored for the night and secured from anchoring detail. The normal watch and sentries were set. I was instructed to break out a couple more cases of grenades for the for foc'sle and fantail sentries as orders were given for the sentries to toss grenades over the side every few minutes to keep any unwanted company away. All damage control parties remained at their stations with their gear ready to go just in case. The rest of could turn in and get some sleep. Mine or no mine tomorrow would be another busy day.

At 0201 KA-BLAM!!!! The mine exploded. The sentries on the foc'sle said the column of water reached as high as the top of the radar mast. The swimmers placed the mine not at the stern by the engine room or the tank deck where it would have done the most damage but forward on the port side by the dry cargo hold in a relatively "safe" spot. The blast opened a 3 foot by 5 foot hole in the hull flooding spaces underneath the cargo hold and the hold itself with 2 feet of water. Also it caused the forward magazine to flood with over 6 ft of water. The blast was in a "safe" spot because being underneath the dry cargo hold it caused no personnel casualties and no fires.

General Quarters sounded before the noise of the blast went away. I flew out of my bunk threw my clothes on and made it to my GQ station which was on the forward gun director. In just the couple of minutes it took me to get to my director and report manned and ready, the deck crew on the foc'sle had slipped the port anchor chain and we were once again underway. Being high up on the director I could tell the ship already had a sizable list and was down by the bow. As I looked over the side I could see life jackets, boxes and other gear from the cargo hold floating down the port side. The list was noticeably increasing and more and more objects were coming out of the hold. It looked to me that we could easily be sinking. The bridge kept announcing the distance and bearings to the nearest land and landing craft from Cua Viet were coming out just in case we had to abandon ship. I remember thinking about the sea snakes, jelly-fish, and sharks we had seen swimming around the night before so the prospects of swimming for it were not to appealing to me.

Before the dust settled the crew went into action, The engineers began dumping the remaining cargo over the side and the forward repair party quickly appraised the damage and began to stem the incoming flood by the construction of a cofferdam made from mattresses, life jackets and plywood. The hole was plugged and the bow began to rise and the list decreased to only a couple of degrees as water was being pumped out faster than it was coming in. By 0346 the damage control crews had the situation stabilized and Noxubee was no longer in immediate danger of sinking. But we were not out of the woods yet. We still had several flooded compartments and a hole in the side of the ship to contend with all the while being in some very dangerous water.

USS Grapple The CO made radio contact with USS Grapple ARS-7 which was in the area and obtained her assistance in making emergency repairs. We then spent the rest of the night steaming around the anchorage working to repair the damage and maneuvering to keep as much water as possible from entering the hull. At first light Noxubee anchored 100 yard from the Grapple and we secured from general quarters.

Throughout the day the repair crew from the Grapple worked with Noxubee's Engineering Department to make Noxubee seaworthy enough so we could make the trip back to Da Nang. By 2112 on Tuesday, September 9, Noxubee in company with Grapple got underway and at 7 knots limped back to the relative safety of Da Nang Harbor. Once we secured from Sea and Anchor Detail in Da Nang the work of undoing the damage really began. A major list to starboard was put the ship so as to lift the hole on the port side out of the water. A steel plate was then welded over it and enough internal repairs made so that a week later we were back on station delivering cargo to Cua Viet, Tan My, Thon My Thuy and Sa Huyhn.

mine damage By the end of the month we were on our way to Subic Bay for dry docking and permanent repairs. After a few weeks in the shipyard and much needed liberty in the Philippines, Noxubee returned to Da Nang and our mission of supplying I Corps with fuel.