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Esso Annapolis (2)
SS Esso Annapolis (II).
From May 4, 1942, when the Esso Annapolis (second vessel so named) was delivered, until V-J Day, September 2, 1945, the vessel's wartime performance record - for three years and four months - reflected closely the historic ad-vance of United States forces in the Pacific.
For a first comparison, the Esso Annapolis entered service in the initial stage of the Pacific war - the defensive - when the United States was engaged almost exclusively in protecting its shores and lines of communication from enemy encroachment. Admiral King's report of naval operations during this period incniidns important bases at which the Esso Annapolis discharged cargoes of Navy fuel:
"In view of the absence of any well-developed bases in Australia and in the South Pacific islands between Australia and the United States, one of our first problems was to establish bases which would serve as links in the line of com-munications. Early in 1942. therefore, after surveying the situation, Efate, Espiritu Santo, and certain islands in the Fijis and New Caledonia were selected for advance bases and developed in varying degree to suit our purposes."
The record of the Esso Annapolis discloses that between October 12, 1942, when the existence of American bases in the New Hebrides and Fiji Islands became generally known, and October of 1943, the vessel made two voyages to New Caledonia, one each to Espiritu Santo and Efate Island, in the New Hebrides group, and one to the Fijis.

Navy Fuel for Pearl Harbor
It is also interesting to note the fueling missions of the Esso Annapolis to Pearl Harbor preceding the advance of our Central Pacific Force. Concerning the capture of the Gilbert Islands, Admiral King reported:
"During October and November, 194S, various units of the Pacific Fleet were placed under the command of Vice Admiral (now Admiral) R. A. Spruance, USN, who was designated Commander. Central Pacific Force. The entire force consisted of battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts, transports, and numerous auxiliaries and landing craft. During the second week in November, the force under Vice Admiral Spruance headed west." Between August 26 and October 7. 1943. the Esso Annapolis made three voyages to Pearl Harbor and de-livered 302,448 barrels of special Navy fuel oil.
For a final comparison of war events with the record of the Esso Annapolis it is sufficient to recall that from January 30 to February 8, 1944, offensive operations on a hitherto unprecedented scale resulted in the capture of Majuro and Kwajalein atolis, in the Marshall Islands; and between February 17 and 20, Eniwetok atoll, in the same group, was also taken. The Esso Annapolis made three voyages to Majuro in February, March, and April of 1944, with special Navy fuel in bulk and lube oil in drums.

The SS Esso Annapolis (second vessel so named) was built in 1942 by the Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., at Sparrows Point, Maryland. She is a sistership of the Esso Hartford, Esso Harrisburg, and Dartmouth.
A single-screw vessel of 16,585 deadweight tons capacity on international summer draft of 30 feet, 1/8 inch, the Esso Annapolis has an overall length of 501 feet, 7 3/8 inches, a length between perpendiculars of 487 feet, 6 inch-es, a moulded breadth of 68 feet, and a depth moulded of 37 feet. With a cargo carrying capacity of 131.136 bar-rels, she has an assigned pumping rate of 6.000 barrels an hour.
Her turbine engine, supplied with steam by two water-utbe boilers, develops 7,700 shaft horsepower and gives her a classification certified speed of 15 knots.

Leaving Sparrows Point on May 9, 1942 the Esso Annapolis, under the command of Captain Harry B. Darling and with Chief Engineer Daniel Marshall in charge of her engineroom, completed her maiden voyage on May 17 at Corpus Christi; at Aransas Pass she loaded 107.665 barrels of bunker "C" and Mirando crude oil tor New York. The vessel then lifted a cargo at Aruba and another in the Gulf. Thereafter she embarked on a career of Pacific war ser-vice second to none.
For the first two years of her Pacific adventures the Esso Annapolis was commanded by Captain James S. LeCain; from June 1, 1944 to V-J Day, her masters, for about equal periods of time, were Captains Arnulf Hariman and Harry F. Murray.
During the same time of Pacific service, the engine-room of the Esso tanker was in charge of Chief Engineers Daniel Marshall, Charles A. Hicks, Jose F. Pontes, William H. Ahrens. and Emoor S. Bordelon.

In an interview for this history. Captain LeCain described the highlights of his experience as master of the Esso An-napolis from July 28, 1942 to May 31, 1944:
"On August 1. 1942 we left Sparrows Point, Md., on what started out as a voyage to Aruba, but we did not get back to an east coast port until May 28, 1944. At Hampton Roads. Va., we were made the vice-commodore vessel of a convoy formed there, comprising upwards of 40 merchant vessels with 7 to 10 escorts.
"Off Cape Lookout, on the North Carolina coast, a destroyer ran up the signal that it had made contact with a sub-marine. Another escort rushed in with her for the kill; they forced the submarine to the surface and sank her. From Cape Lookout south to Key West, depth charges were dropped several limes. We lost no ships.

Submarines Ahead
"At Key West. some of the vessels, which were bound for Gulf ports, left the convoy. Most of the formation proceed-ed along the north coast of Cuba, heading for Windward Passage, between Cuba and Haiti. Toward the end of the first day, just before dark, the commodore warned us that submarines were ahead and ordered us to fire at any small craft we sighted. While on the bridge that night I saw a small object just off our bow, but recognized it as an Allied escort craft and gave orders to hold fire. Then I noticed some other small vessels and switched on my navi-gating lights; the other ships in the convoy followed suit. We found out that the small craft were escorting a convoy going in the opposite direction.

Precision and Disaster
"After passing Cape Maysi, Cuba, we discovered the light at Point Caleta burning full power. I had just remarked that it was too bad to be silhouetted against this light when we received an order to change course. The convoy was then making 6 knots. A Netherlands merchant ship right astern of us was keeping her station with the greatest accuracy I have ever seen. When our change of course brought us more northward, I was admiring the precision of the Dutch vessel in lining up behind us when she blew up at about the spot we had left. She was gone in what seemed a few seconds, but the escorts picked up a number of the crew. The Esso Annapolis was the biggest ship in the convoy and I believe the torpedo was aimed at us.
"Off Cuba, some vessels dropped out. but the majority, including the Esso Annapolis, continued on to Trinidad. We went without escort from Trinidad to Aruba, arriving August 16.

"New York by Saturday Night"
"We loaded topped Venezuelan crude and fuel oil at Aruba and had waited three days for a convoy when the USS Bancroft (DD 598) and USS McCalla (DD 488) came in. The McCalla tied up alongside us and the commanding officer asked if we were ready for sea. I answered 'Yes. New York by Saturday night.' He said, 'You are not going to New York. I left Hampton Roads with orders to take you to the Southwest Pacific.' When I asked him about the split cargo we had just loaded, he replied we were to substitute special Navy fuel for what we had. I wired New York and received the answer, 'Be governed by Navy orders.' Accordingly, we discharged the topped crude and fuel oil and reloaded with special Navy fuel.
"We sailed on August 22 for the Canal with two Navy oilers, the USS Lackawanna (AO 40) and USS Tappahannock (AO 43), and were escorted by the Bancroft and the McCalla. The two oilers were 18 knot ships, as against the 15 knot speed of the Esso Annapolis, and they were continually asking me to hurry. As we neared the Canal, we spot-ted submarines on our listening device and gave the Esso Annapolis all she had. The U-boats had been waiting for us; they watched us pass, and then started to give chase. Contact was made 45° to the right. The Bancroft and the McCalla came tearing down between our vessel and the point of contact; they must have dropped 25 to 30 depth charges each.

Engineer "Gave the Annapolis Everything"
"When we arrived at Cristobal the commanding officers of the oilers came aboard the Esso Annapolis to hear what had happened. They said they looked toward their rear. where the attack took place, expecting to see the Esso An-napolis in trouble, but couldn't see us; thereupon, one of the executive officers pointed us out to his commanding officer. We were ahead instead of behind! Chief Engineer Marshall, who said he was scared to death of torpedoes, certainly did give the Esso Annapolis everything?
"We tried to purchase more clothing at the Canal as most of the crew weren't prepared for the change of orders at Aruba, but we were told that 14 supply vessels had been sunk en route to the Canal and that nothing could be spar-ed.
"I tied up to a Navy oiler and was asked if I could load more fuel. We look on enough to compensate for what we had used on the way to the Canal. We were then requested to carry general cargo. We filled the dry cargo hold to capa-city - packed in torpedoes, war heads, airplane parts, spare parts, explosives, a little of everything - but finally ma-naged to get the hatch closed. Then our decks fore and aft were loaded with pontoon tanks for the building of float-ing dock's and barges. The tanks were about 6 ft. square and at least 300 were well lashed 10 the deck. The Ban-croft and the McCalla sailed before we finished loading; they were badly needed out there. On our way across we had considerable bad weather and many of the air-filled pontoon tanks broke loose.
"The Esso Annapolis finally arrived at Noumea. New Caledonia, on September 19 and we delivered our entire car-go. We lowered the box-like tanks over board and they floated to shore. In the harbor were the famous carriers USS Yorktown and USS Hornet.
"We returned to the west coast and on November 20, 1942, sailed from San Pedro with 96.691 barrels of special Navy fuel oil, which was urgently needed in New Caledonia. We also carried 14 invasion barges, which we delivered at Noumea on December 9. We loaded additional fuel oil there and proceeded to a Navy anchorage in the New He-brides; there, between 11 a.m. on December 17. 1942 and 3:45 p.m. on January 2, 1943, we discharged into 42 different naval vessels."
Chief Engineer Charles A. Hicks, assigned to the Esso Annapolis from November 7. 1942 to March 23, 1943. also described the New Hebrides bunkering operation:
"We fueled 37 destroyers and 5 cruisers, including the USS Louisville, USS Minneapolis, and USS Pensacola. We saw the destroyer USS McFarland (DD 237) in the harbor with her stern blown out, undergoing temporary repairs." (The McFarland had been damaged by a Japanese dive-bomber on October 19. The violent and decisive naval bat-tle of Guadalcanal was fought on November 13, 14, and 15, 1942.)
Returning to Captain LeCain's account:
"On June 11. 1943 we left San Pedro with 98,624 barrels of special Navy fuel for the Fiji Islands, but received diver-sionary orders, instructing us to meet a French auxiliary cruiser at a designated rendezvous.

The Flashing Light Trick
"Before we could reach the position given, a message warned us that a submarine was in the vicinity of the rendez-vous; we were instructed to proceed to our original destination, the Fijis. Soon after dark, one of the men on watch reported a 'lifeboat' throwing off flashes of light. I looked at it and ordered a reversal of our course because I did not believe it was a lifeboat. However, in case it was, I figured that the Navy could rescue it after we got to port. The next morning, when I reported what I had seen, I was told that a Japanese submarine had used the flashing light as a trick and that U. S. Navy planes, catching it on the surface, had sunk it.
"At Suva, we fueled the French cruiser Cap des Palmes, which we were supposed to meet, and she escorted us up the coast. She had nothing but 20-millimeter guns visible. However, her fore deck, which was built up to look like life-boats and rafts, concealed cleverly disguised 6-inch guns. On closer inspection, we also found that more 'lifeboats' on her after deck were 6-inch guns. The commanding officer was Captain B. E. Ybert, of the Fighting French Navy. The French vessel look us to Havannah Harbor, on Efate Island in the New Hebrides, where, between July 1 and August 5, 1943, we fueled a naval task force.

Helped Refuel 40 Warships
"We returned to the Fiji Islands on November 5 with another cargo of special Navy fuel from San Pedro. On arrival at Nandi Waters, we were told that a large task force, including the battleships USS Washington and USS Soulh Dako-ta, was coming in. Some 40 warships steamed into the harbor and formed a huge circle. The Esso Annapolis, to-gether with two other commercial tankers and three Navy oilers, fueled the entire force."
In commendation of the fueling services of the Esso Annapolis, Vice Admiral W. L. Callioun wrote the following letter to Capiain LeCain:

1 Dec. 1943

Tthe Master, SS Esso Annaplois
Navy Number 225
Fleet Post Office San Francisco, Calif.

Dear Sir:
The Commanding Officer of an Advanced Base has reported to me the excellent character of services performed by you in connection with the recent successful fueling of combatant ships.
By your conscientious devotion to duty throughout this period, you, and the officers and men attached to the Esso Annapolis, contributed greatly to the fueling operations described.
Well done !
Very sincerely yours,
W. L. Calhoun
Vice Admiral, U. S. Navy

The "Well done!" at the end of the letter was written in the admiral's own hand.
Captain LeCain continued:
"On the return trip to San Pedro, we brought Commander James V. Claypool, USNR, chaplain of the battleship South Dakota, back to the States. He conducted impressive Sunday morning church services on board the Esso Annapolis."
Captain LeCain was relieved on May 31, 19-14 at New York. Soon afterward, by sailing orders dated June 9, the vessel was allocated to continuous service in the U. S. Navy Forces until further notice. Under the command of Captain Arnulf Hartman from June 1, 1944 to February 8, 1945, the Esso Annapolis performed Navy fueling mis-sions at Finschhafen, Manus, Abadan, Palau, and Leyte.

An Active Refueler
In an interview for this history, Captain Hartman described an action-filled six days at Leyte, from December 9 to 15, 1944. shortly after the invasion:
"At about 12:30 p.m. on December 14. I was walking back and forth on the boat deck. A short time previously, we had completed discharging the remainder of our cargo into an Australian fleet auxiliary, the Bishopdale, and were about 1.500 yards away from her, as checked by sextant. The U. S. cruiser Minneapolis had tied up to the Australian vessel. Suddenly one of our men working on deck let out a yell. A Japanese plane came out of the sun and made a dive for the Australian ship, but hit her forward deck and crashed. The Minneapolis pulled away immediately.
"While at Leyte we had an average of five air raid alerts a day but they were directed mainly at the beaches. A Liber-ty ship, a big seaplane, and an LST received direct hits from Japanese suicide planes. The action on the beaches was about four miles away from our anchorage in San Pcdro Bay, near Tacloban.
"On December 10, 11, and 12, 1944, we fueled the following vessels of the Uniied States Navy: the fleet oiler Are-thusa (IX 135); the heavy cruiser Portland (CA 33); and the destroyers Dashietl (DD 659), Paul Hamilton (DD 590), Howorth (DD 592), Barton (DD 722), Laffey (DD 724), and O'Bannon (DD 450). While we were discharging into the Arethusa, she was fueling the destroyers La Vallette (DD 448) and Pringle (DD 477), and a high-speed transport on her off side."
Radio Operator Clinton Provost furnished the names of other Navy vessels fueled by the Esso Annapolis; the oiler Cimarron (one of the twelve National Defense Features tankers) at Manus in the Admiralties, on September 16, 1944; the light cruisers Denver, Columbia, and Montpelier; the heavy cruiser Minneapolis; and the battleship New Mexico, in the Palau Islands, during December, 1944.
The wartime transportation achievement of the Esso Annapolis is not completely reflected in the Company's records because the vessel loaded under Navy orders at various bases in the Pacific in addition to lifting cargoes at regular terminals. The following table, significant in view of the distances covered and the importance of fueling American warships, represents information obtained from the Company's files:

Voyages (Cargoes)

On V-J Day the Esso Annapolis left Abadan and arrived in New York on November 7, having returned by way of Leyte, Balboa, Puerto La Cruz, Aruba, and Las Piedras.