27-28 JAN 1962
Within the context of greater reliance on mobility and versatility the oiler has a very vital role. Because of her ability to transfer fuel underway, the oiler provides logistic support to the Navy's combatant ships - carriers, cruisers, and destroyers. This enables them to remain at sea for extended periods of time in a ready status for battle. For instance, during the MANATEE's previous West Pac cruise the Laotian crisis erupted. Many Seventh Fleet ships were directed to proceed to the waters off the coast of North Vietnam. The MANATEE was one of those ships. Her presence enabled two carrier task groups and an amphibious task group to remain on station in a completely ready status to extinguish any brush fire that might arise.
The USS MANATEE (AO-58), commanded by Captain H. J. Trum, USN, is one of a group of war-tried fleet oilers built for the Navy by the Bethlehem Steel Ship Building Company at Sparrows Point, Baltimore, Maryland, and named for a river in Florida. She is expressly designed for fueling ships at sea. She is 553 feet long and 75 feet wide. Her power plant is built around four steam turbines which, coupled with her twin-screw propulsion, gives her both the speed and the mobility necessary to operate with the fast carrier task forces that are the nucleus of the Modern Navy. In her spacious tanks, (26 in number) she carries a most vital product - fuel - some 5 million gallons consisting of the following products and percentages of total cargo carried: Navy Special Fuel Oil (NSFO), 75%; Aviation Gas (AVGAS), 10% and Jet Fuel, (JP-5) 15%.
Having both port and starboard transfer rigs, the MANATEE is capable of refueling at least two ships simultaneously. The normal replenishment situation finds one carrier or cruiser to port and one destroyer to starboard. It was while conducting underway replenishment exercises during World War II that MANATEE and her sister ships were revealed by Admiral Nimitz to be one of the principle "secret weapons" contributing to the success of the United States in the war.
Briefly her history is as follows:
Commissioned at Baltimore on 06 APR 1944, the MANATEE entered World War II in the Eniwetok conflict and saw extensive action for the remainder of the war. Shortly after the termination of hostilities, she was converted to an MSTS vessel. Her most commemorative event while serving in this capacity was an around-the-world cruise starting and ending at Long Beach. During the Korean War there was a shortage of oilers and thus the MANATEE was reconverted to a fleet oiler. Since the cessation of the Korean conflict and throughout the Cold War years, the MANATEE, along with many other Pacific Fleet ships, has been rotating between the Western Pacific and the Continental United States. Frequent underway replenishment exercises keep the crews of both the oiler and the combatant ships in a high state of training and readiness. Not withstanding the high degree of readiness, the mere presence and latent potential of ships like the MANATEE present to the communist bloc a formidable deterrent to any military acts of agression. In this way, the MANATEE participates in the two all important tasks facing the Pacific Fleet - immediately that task is the defense of the United States from a militant communism and ultimately it is the survival of the Free World.