On February 28- March 1,
I visited the Suisun Bay MARAD facility ( Vallejo ,CA) to
inspect and review potential artifacts from the USS Wabash
(AOG4), a 2762 ton gasoline tanker built in 1942 at the Todd
Seatac Shipyard in Tacoma. The Wabash is the last surviving
vessel of this type built at Tacoma. She was launched in
October, 1942 and served the balance of WW11 in the Pacific.
Following the war, the Wabash served the occupation fleet, was
reinstated for active duty for the Korean War, and was finally
inactivated in September 1957.
She has been under MARAD
control at Suisun Bay since then, regrettably without any
maintenance expect to maintain watertight integrity.
Attending with me on this
Former Executive Director, Working Waterfront Maritime Museum,
President, Combatant Craft of America (CCoA), Port Ludlow WA
There were a surprising
number of artifacts in varying condition which I believe would
be of interest to the WWMM in terms of celebrating our
military ship building heritage in Tacoma.
Chuck has summarized
these in a memo which I have copied below:
List of Artifacts
U.S.S. Wabash (AOG-4)
Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet/
U.S. Maritime Administration
March 1, 2005
for possible removal for
future exhibit use at the
– 500 pound, located on both bow and stern
Amplifier Unit – located in
GE Wall Fan
– officer’s stateroom
Desk, Chair – officer’s
Portlight – officer’s
stateroom, about 24 inches diameter, with moveable glass
window and screw down locking dogs (several others available
from other cabins)
Repeater/ Gyro – foredeck
Antenna – 5 feet tall, on
Bill – in wood frame on wall,
passage way to bridge
Notices – eg. “Use of gun and
rocket apparatus” and “Use of lights”
Alarum Bell – port side of
Stateroom Voice Tube – in
Table – in wheelhouse
Ship Drill Instructions (1957)
– in wheelhouse
Starboard Shaft Tachometer Gauges
– in or near wheelhouse
Searchlights (2) – aft
equipment room locker
Lights (4) – aft equipment
Thermometer – in engine
Brass Handle Controls (2) –
hanging from ceiling, in engine room, also in wheelhouse
(4) – brass, on single panel
Items – RBO Receiver, GE Fans,
LM-1 Oscillator, McKay Radio – Receiver/ Transmitter,
Receiver-mid height under portlight
Attack Instructions/ Notice –
in frame, engine room
In addition, we have a
complete digital photo record of these artifacts as well as
pictures of the Wabash in general and the Suisun Bay fleet.
Time is of the essence if
we want to capture these artifacts.
Earl Johnson, the Fleet
Operations Mgr at Suisun Bay has told us the Wabash is likely
to be scrapped later this year. Once the contract is let to
scrap her, then nothing may be removed.
Our window to remove the
artifacts is most likely within the next 60-90 days. [now
There is one other factor
that we must consider when thinking of removing the artifacts:
a significant environmental safety concern.
The ship as been sealed
but over the years has been the home to numerous birds which
have left their calling cards- in some areas 6-8 inches deep.
There is a strong odor
throughout the ship which will require any workers who are in
these enclosed spaces to wear respirators. I would recommend
ankle high boots as well as full coverall type suits and study
Any activity working in
the bridge and aft house areas will raise dust from the
droppings as well as possibly asbestos dust from the old
insulation. There are warning signs throughout the vessel.
By the first of May, the
lower Delta area gets much warmer and working inside these
closed conditions will be close to unbearable so time is of
the essence just from the well being factor of the volunteers
who complete this project.
1. We need to decide if
this is even a project we want to pursue at this time,
recognizing this is likely our last chance to capture
artifacts from this unique vessel.
2. We should review the
list quickly plus photos with Chris E and decide what we want.
Dan Withers may have some interest in some items as well for
his 83527 project so a co-op effort is possible.
3. Chuck will communicate
with the proper MARAD sources to indicate what we want to
take off. They will then give us a time frame to get the
artifacts off the boat. There is a possibility of short term
storage at MARAD before we transport them up here.
In any event, all
artifacts will have to be thoroughly cleaned right after
4. I would estimate it
would take 2-3 volunteers max 2 days to unbolt and remove the
artifacts from the ship.
The anchor is the
heaviest piece at about 500 lb and MARAD can get that off the
ship on to a lighter with a crane. The rest should be ok to
handle with 2-3 people although getting some items out of the
steerage room aft of the engine room will not be easy.
If we remove any of the
portlights, we will need to ensure watertight integrity-
however, many portlights are missing already w/o that!
I would not recommend we
consider any furniture items since the bird crap has likely
gotten well into the wood and it will be very difficult to
5. It would seem that the
best way to execute this project would be to drive down with a
trailer or small truck capable of hauling 2000 lbs. Chuck has
talked to Todd and they seem interested in helping restore the
artifacts but this requires further conversation.
My recommendation is that
Tom schedule a meeting with Chris ( I know she is busy right
now but we can do this in an hour); Chuck should be available
for that meeting as well, and we can review the list and
photos and formulate a project plan on this.
I'll be back Thursday and
any time after that will work for me.