Wednesday, December 07, 2011

On Pearl Harbor Day

The ghosts of WWII still sail the Great Lakes. This is the Lee A. Tregurtha, loading up at the Marquette dock in 2010...


And that's just the nose. Check the 1000 px version to get an idea of how big this ship really is.

We were on our way up to Big Bay, and stopped at the Presque Isle Park in Marquette for a bit to rest. I snapped a couple shots and marveled at the length of the dock, not realizing that I was looking at a decorated WWII veteran until I got home and looked up the name of the ship months later.

The history behind this tanker is a long and astounding one. Commissioned by the Navy in 1942 under the name USS Chiwawa, she served in the Atlantic Fleet providing fuel to destroyers and merchant ships, and won two Battle Stars during the years of 1943-44. In 1945 after a refit, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving in Pearl Harbor in August. From there she ran convoys to Okinawa, earning the Navy Occupation Service Medal before being decommissioned in 1946 and transferred to the National Defense Reserve Fleet. The totals of her war service:

To summarize the USS Chiwawa's World War II service from her commissioning to September 1, 1945, the oiler journeyed approximately 164,000 miles (263,925 k) or the equivalent of close to 6.5 times around the world. Her largest monthly mileage achieved was in July, 1945 with 9,229 miles (14,852 k). She carried about 2.8 million barrels (445,860 m3) of gasoline, kerosene, diesel oil and fuel oil of which 417,000 barrels (66,401 m3) were transferred at sea to vessels of all sizes.

Sold to private interests in 1947, eventually she ended up with the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. by 1960, and was retro-fitted for Great Lakes sailing. After various names and ownership changes, including a brief stint as the "William Clay Ford" under ownership of the Ford Motor Co., she became the Lee A. Tregurtha in 1989, named after the wife of Paul R. Tregurtha, an owner of Interlake Steamship Co. As far as I know, she is still sailing out there right now, at nearly 70 years old.

A salute goes out to all the veterans of WWII today. Whether we realize it or not, we are still living the results of that battle, the rise and fall of American manufacturing over these last seventy years starting with the need created during that time. It's something to keep in mind when you see these relics of the past, still in service in our lives today.