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Esso Utica
SS Esso Utica

As Captain Herbert A. Nelson put it to Chief Mate John D. Hall, "It was the first time in my career at sea that I went to the Hotel Pennsylvania to pick up a couple of messboys."
Mr. Hall, in an interview for this history, was referring to Honorable Gordon Canfield, three-term member of the House of Representatives from New Jersey, and Honorable Hugh D. Scott, Jr., Representative from Pennsylvania (his second term expired on January 3, 1945). The two members of Congress sailed from New York as utilitymen on June 24, 1944 aboard the Esso Utica, of the Standard Oil Company (N. J.) tanker fleet, for a voyage to the United Kingdom. They wanted first-hand information about life in the American Merchant Marine.

Congressmen Tankermen
After his return, Congressman Canfield was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Propeller Club of the United States, Port of New York, on November 15, 1944. His address, as reported in The Ships' Bulletin for October-December, 1944, is quoted in part below:
"I am a member of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and I am proud to add that I am a tankerman. With Congressman Hugh D. Scott, Jr., of Philadelphia, I shipped incognito as a utilityman on the Esso Utica, a tanker carrying 128,000 barrels of high octane gasoline. We were in a convoy of 40 ships, including two troopships, guarded by an aircraft carrier and six destroyer escorts, bound for the British Isles. I learned more about the Merchant Marine from this experience than I have from taking testimony over a period of forty-five months on the House Committee."

During 1944, although no tankers were built for the Company under private contract, eight new vessels, including the Esso Utica, were acquired on purchase agreement from the United States Maritime Commission.
The SS Esso Utica was built in 1944 by the Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Chester, Penna., and is a sistership of the Esso Camden, Esso Memphis, Esso New Haven, Esso Portland, Esso Roanoke, Esso Scranton, and Esso Springfield.
A single-screw vessel of 16,619 deadweight tons capacity on international summer draft of 30 feet, 2 inches, the Esso Utica has an overall length of 523 feet, 6 inches, a length between perpendiculars of 503 feet, a moulded breadth of 68 feet, and a depth moulded of 39 feet, 3 inches. With a cargo carrying capacity of 138,335 barrels, she has an assigned pumping rate of 7,000 barrels an hour.
Her turbo-electric engine, supplied with steam by two water-tube boilers, gives the Esso Utica 7,240 shaft horsepower and a classification certified speed of 14.6 knots.

Launched on April 20, 1944, the Esso Utica was sponsored by Mrs. Adolf Anderson, whose husband, chief engineer of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey tanker M. E. Elliott, lost his life when the vessel was sunk by enemy action on June 3, 1942.

The Esso Utica began her first voyage on May 5, 1944 when she sailed from Chester, Penna., under the command of Captain Herbert A. Nelson and with her engineroom in charge of Chief Engineer Gurnie R. Lee. She took aboard bulk cargo (130,355 barrels of aviation and motor gasoline) at Aruba and arrived at New York on May 18, en route to the United Kingdom. After deck loading twelve P-38 (Lightning) Army pursuit plane fuselages and twelve boxes of wing assemblies at New York, the Esso Utica proceeded to Liverpool, where she delivered all cargo between May 31 and June 3.
Shortly before 2 a.m. on June 6, the tanker sailed tor New York oh the return leg of her maiden voyage. At exactly 2 a.m. on that fateful day the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as British airborne troops, were dropped in vital areas in the rear of German coastal defenses guarding the Normandy beaches from Cherbourg to Caen. Aerial bombardment of beach defenses began at 3:14, preliminary naval bombardment at 5:50, and at 6:30 the first waves of assault infantry and tanks landed on the invasion beaches.

Vital Cargo
Following her first voyage, which coincided so remarkably with the greatest amphibious assault in history, the Esso Utica transported a split bulk cargo of 100 octane and 80 octane gasoline to Ayonmouth, England, where she arrived on July 5, and a deck cargo of twelve knocked-down Lightning fighter planes to Liverpool, reaching there July 8. The tanker returned to New York on July 19 and loaded 126,953 barrels of high octane gasoline, ten P-47 (Thunderbolt) and four P-38 (Lightning) pursuit planes; joining a convoy at Norfolk, she arrived at Casablanca, Morocco, on August 8. After delivering all cargo there and at Fedala, the Esso Utica loaded at Casablanca a part cargo of Diesel oil, which she discharged at Gibraltar between the 16th and 19th. When the vessel returned to New York on August 31 she had completed her United Kingdom and Mediterranean wartime service.

"Until Further Notice"
On September 7, 1944 the Esso Utica left New York tor Aruba to load cargo for the South Pacific. She was commanded, by Captain Harry B. Darling, and her engineroom was in charge of Chief Engineer Ferdinand Villamore. Sailing orders of September 5 addressed to Captain Darling said in part: "Your vessel has been allocated to continuous service in the U.S. Naval Forces until further notice." With 131,811 barrels of high octane gasoline, the tanker transited the Panama Canal on September 16-17 and arrived at Hollandia, New Guinea, via Finschhafen, October 11. On October 12, 30,615 barrels of 100 octane gasoline were discharged into the SS Kaptein Warsoe and on the 14th the Esso Utica proceeded to nearby Tanahmerah Bay, where part of her 80 octane gasoline was delivered to the Army oil terminal on shore.
The Esso Utica then went to Biak Island, arriving on October 17. At Biak, between October 17 and 28, she discharged into Navy vessels and through shore lines; she also used her cross-over lines to discharge cargo ashore from other vessels. Among the ships involved in these operations were the following naval auxiliaries: gasoline tankers USS Rio Grande (AOG 3), USS Elkhorn (AOG 7), and USS Sakatonchee (AOG 19), and the net laying ship USS Teaberry (AN 34).
The Esso Utica returned to Hollandia on October 30 for bunkers, left on October 31 for home, and arrived at Balboa on November 24, completing a typical wartime Pacific voyage. Between then and the end of 1944, the vessel transported an Aruba cargo of Navy Diesel oil, discharging at Manus and Hollandia and returning to the Canal, via Manus, where she bunkered.
In 1945 the Esso Utica reached Balboa oil April 23 from another Pacific voyage and proceeded to New York, delivering Pool gasoline from Aruba to Guantanamo, Cuba, en route.
Leaving New York on May 22, with deck cargo which included eleven P-38 (Lightning) pursuit planes, the tanker loaded Navy Diesel oil at Baytown and again went to the Pacific, where she called at Manila and Subic Bay. She, returned to Balboa from this voyage on August 14, 1945 and carried one cargo coastwise before going to Chester, Penna., for repairs. She was at Chester on V-J Day, September 2.

The World War II transportation record of the Esso Utica was in summary as follows:

Voyages (Cargoes)

The masters of the Esso Utica in wartime were Captains Herbert A. Nelson, Harry B. Darling, and Lionel E. Crowder.
Her engineroom during the same period was in charge of Chief Engineers Gurnie R. Lee, Reginald E. Harris, Ferdinand Villamore, and Laurence B. Jones.