|USS HALEAKALA AE-25
On August 27, 1969 the ship experienced a catastrophic flare back, in
no.2 boiler, which also knocked out no.1 boiler, stopping the ship dead
in the water. The next day a harbor tug YTB 779, towed the
Haleakala to Da Nang, Vietnam. On the 29th the fleet tug USS
Cocopa ATF -101, began to tow her to Subic Bay, PI. Then on the
30th she broke tow and steamed into Subic Bay under her own power,
after no.1 boiler was repaired. The USS Haleakala stayed in Subic
Bay for the next two months, until both boilers were repaired, and sea
trials began on October 30.
In December of 1991. There was a catastrophic Failure of Elevator
number 8 Cargo Hold 5 which Resulted in one Critical Injury and one
Fatality. Was onboard at the time. U.S.S. Haleakala (AE-25) was
moored to a buoy in Sasebo, Japan
|ANXIOUS MOMENTS IN HAWAII
Just prior to this year’s (2016) AE/AOE Sailors Association reunion I was reading the Preface in the 70-71 Cruise
book. A statement caught my eye about a short stop in Hawaii. “With the exception of suspected problems in the
Engine room and the resultant anxious moments in Hawaii, the ship enjoyed smooth sailing to the Philippines arriving
in Subic Bay on 2 November 1970”
Here is a bilge rats (BT) perspective of the why there was a short “anxious” delay in the isles of Hawaii. It should be
noted these memories are forty some year old but I also worked in the boiler field for those forty years.
The ship had pulled into Hawaii as normal and tied up to the pier. As normal one (#1) boiler was shut down without
any noticeable problems. It was also normal to operate on one (#2) boiler while in port to supply electrical generation
and the capability to get underway in the event of any unforeseen problem like fire on a ammunition ship. My
memory is that the ship was only to be in port for a short stay of a day or so. When the time came to get underway
again or several hours prior it was typical that the other boiler was started up and brought up to pressure so the ship
had full steam capacity to maneuver.
I happen to be on watch during the “light off” period. When the Top Watch requested for the fire be lit in number 1
boiler. When the Burnerman inserted the torch and it was promptly blown out. After lots of cussing and some
discussion several more attempts were made to light fires in number 1 boiler. Many adjustments with trial and error
were employed with no good results. First Class, Chiefs, and Officers came down and discussed all manors of
theories as to why there was a positive pressure inside of #1 boiler. The one that had the highest possibility was that
somehow the division wall between the boilers had some failure. This bad news was taken up to the bridge and I am
sure passed along in the Chain of Command. Hours later word was passed down to the Engine room to shut down #2
boiler for safety reasons and establish cold iron with the emergency diesel supplying electrical power.
The ship was then towed via tug into an out of the way area I believe to be the West Loch Weapons Compound.
There was a lot of activity on the ship and for once I was able to be topside as we were towed through the channel. I
was one of a few granted Liberty. Those going on Liberty were bussed into town and dropped off. We had a good
time visiting the beaches and shopping areas in Honolulu but did have trouble returning to the ship as no one knew
where the ship had been towed (separate sea story).
The next day I was assigned to clean in the uptakes as it was cool (less then 90 degrees). While cleaning I noticed
that a lever on the forced draft air duct was not correct. I reported this anomaly to the First Class (Egan) in charge of
the fireroom and he went up to check it out. It did not take long for him to correct the situation and notify the
engineering officer. Soon word was passed down to light fires in both boilers and prepare to get underway.
The lever on the air duct was for use during emergency operation where both boilers could be cross connected and
operated on one forced draft blower. Why or how this damper position was changed is still a mystery.
Now back to the anxious moments in Hawaii, I am sure that all those in the Chain of Command had some difficult
explaining to do. Here was a fully loaded Ammunition ship tied up to the dock in Pearl Harbor with an undefined
serious problem of unknown magnitude. Add to that the ship had experienced a violent boiler explosion on the
previous cruise while lighting fires in a boiler. Lucky for all it turned out to be very benign and we sailed off to very
successful WestPac Cruise.
Kurt Julsen BT2 USS Haleakala 1969-73
|CATASTROPHIC FLARE BACK #2 BOILER AUGUST 27, 1969
I reported aboard just after Capt. Ward took command. Prior to my reporting the ship experienced a catastrophic
flare back on #2 boiler on August 27, 1969
From what I have been told by my BT shipmates was that the second boiler was being lit off for the unrep with the
USS Constellation (standard procedure). When the burnerman inserted the torch into #2 boiler the fire box exploded
(after proper purging) causing fire and smoke to spew out the stack. GQ was manned in less than 45 seconds. As
the other boiler was tripped off line or the fire blew out, the ship was dead in the water. The boiler/engine room
received only minor damage, mostly soot and some leaks. Being dark it was hard to do anything. My understanding
was the carrier was last seen headed the other way post haste. Arrangements were made to have the ship towed into
Da Nag to assess the damage and a fleet tug could be sent.
I have heard of two different causes for the boiler explosion. One was that a burner leaked fuel past the Teflon/o
ring seal loading the fire box with combustible fuel. The other was that the air register stuck open allowing
combustible gas from the operating boiler to fill the fire box. It would be interesting to read the final Navy report on
Kurt Julsen BT 2 USS Haleakala 1969-73
I never served aboard the USS Pyro but I do have a lot of sweat equity involved with her making a WESPAC tour in
1971 or 1972. The USS Haleakala was returning to San Francisco from a long WESPAC tour and was scheduled for
a yard period. A few days prior to our arrival to the Bay area, B division was instructed to remove #1 Boiler Feed
Pump and prepare it to be “unrep” to the USS Pyro before we went under the Golden Gate bridge.
For the almost 2 years I and other BT’s had worked to repair both Pacific Feed Pumps curing the persistent oil and
water leaks around the salt water coolers that were mounted or stacked on the lube oil pump. Over the years many
gaskets had been beat out on the brass flanges and machined surfaces bulging the supposedly flat surface until
nothing would seal.
When I first went aboard I was trained on how to check the oil by covering my face with a rag (PPE) to minimize the
scalding hot water spraying from the pump while checking the oil. Then draining the water from the lube oil sump
and adding oil until it was at the proper level. Repeat hourly.
Whenever opportunity provided time to take a pump out of service, I would remove the water coolers and oil pump
so I could resurface the mating flanges with a file until they were flat again. After many attempts all of the leaks were
fixed using hand cut gaskets on the water flanges and varnished chart paper gaskets on the oil. So the pump the
Pyro received was leak free, the one we received was rebuilt by the yard and leaked like a sieve. At least we knew
how to repair the leaks with a little effort and sweat.
It should be noted that the deck force was assigned to get the pump from the lower level to the main deck. What a
magical operation they conduced rigging and hoisting with chain falls and the main deck winch using hand signals.
They did comment about the heat (not hot around S.F.) and closed in space.
Kurt Julsen BT2 USS Haleakala 69-73
|Navy Boiler Compound.
We use it in our 600# plant aboard the USS Haleakala AE-25. I was the Oil King during the last part of my Navy
service and did a lot of the boiler testing and treatment. After getting out in 1973 I was roommates with a high
school buddy that also was a Navy veteran. He had a” high level” security clearance and was checked up on by
the FBI frequently. So when a couple of suits showed up at the door I didn’t think too much about it and was willing
to answer their question. I was quite surprised when the topic turned to ME. After a few moments the FBI agents
“invited” me to go down to their office to explain why I altered my finger prints. After a few hours of questions about
how I sanded off any finger prints, I was able to convince the agents that I had just got out of the Navy and those
were the fingers (prints) I had gotten from being in the fireroom for 4 years working on hot steam valves and
chemicals. All this was brought about as I was able to find employment at an Army base power plant that was civil
service and was screened for a security clearance. Really disliked scraping the hardened NBC out of the carboy
and having to dissolve it prior to injection.