WELCOME ABOARD LETTER - 1965
FLEET POST OFFICE
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 96601
Dear: _____(your name went in here)_______
I welcome you as a member of my Ship's Company in USS BENNINGTON.
As you commence your duties in this proud ship - it is important to me and to your shipmates that you fully understand certain characteristics which are unique to aircraft carriers. I will discuss these and their importance in this letter. I urge you to read it carefully - to read it with resolve that you will retain and recall its important message during every day and night you serve in this ship.
Your ship is one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of our nation - designed to carry destructive power against enemies of the United States. It can, of course, accomplish this mission and accomplish it well - but, as it will soon be apparent to you - every once of power which this ship can project must be carried within the hull of the ship itself. BENNINGTON is a big ship; however; when you become aware of the tremendous power which has been compressed into her, you may well question that it is possible for any single vehicle to carry and to manage so much.
And here without intent to alarm, but rather to enlist your respect - I will go into various hazardous elements which are always present in operating an aircraft carrier. I say hazardous. They are hazardous, but only so when improperly handled or mismanaged. Your Navy has acquired vast experience throughout many years in the operation of aircraft carriers. Sound rules do exist for the safe handling and operation of all that is onboard --except, that no rule has yet been devised which will protect us against the consequences of someone who violates the established rules.
Let me start deep in the ship. Below the lower decks we have a huge network of tanks containing some 1,687,194 gallons of fuel oil - black oil it is called. Black oil is burned in the fire boxes of the ship's 8 boilers. The flame from its fire reaches 3,000 degrees F temperature. The super-heated steam which this fire generates comes out at pressure of 600 lbs/sq inch and temperatures of 850 degrees F. A jet of super-heated steam, if it were to strike your body, would pass through it like a bullet. The high pressure steam drives the ship's main engines - engines which can thrust 41,000 tons of dead weight through the water at approximately 35 miles per hour. It also drives many other engines.
So, we have oil, fires, boilers, steam and engines placed throughout the entire lower regions of the ship. It is all nicely contained, but I am sure you can see that mismanagement of any kind within this powerful and complex system could be highly dangerous. Now, also in the lower areas of the ship are some 600,000 gallons of aviation fuels. This is half JP-5 for burning in jet engines; however, there is in addition over 300,000 gallons of high octane aviation gasoline stowed here. Various piping systems from the aviation fuel tanks lead upward through the ship to some 30 fueling outlets on the hanger deck and flight deck. Great care must be taken in the handling of these highly volatile and explosive liquids, particularly when you consider the many places in the ship where fuel is kept under pressure in order to quickly fill airplane tanks.
I now come to those spaces which hold the ship's most destructive power, the magazines - - placed generally below the waterline throughout the hull. Within the magazine we find a wide variety of lethal weapons including bombs, rockets, missles and gun ammunitions up to 5-inch. It is difficult to visualize the devastation which 400 tons of high explosives might create, yet this quantity is your daily companion in this ship.
Throughout the decks above the magazines are numerous storerooms, many of which contain flammable materials. You may recall the lubricating oil you buy for your automobile - a few quarts at a time. Onboard this ship we have about 10,000 gallons of it; plus some 5 tons of grease, solvents, plastics and acids. In addition, in other storerooms are 21 tons of paint, clothing and paper - all first class fire makers. You should now begin to understand why it is vital that we work hard at fire prevention in USS BENNINGTON and that we must make certain that we can conquer a fire quickly, if it occurs.
On the hanger decks we find airplanes - some undergoing maintenance and some being armed and refueled for flight. It requires extreme care indeed to maintain a safe environment in the hangers with so many actual and potential fires sources in close company. Moreover, in or near the hangers are various workshops, e.g., a carpenter shop using wood, a battery shop using acid - and others using greases and hydraulic fluids.
Pilots require breathing oxygen to operate modern airplanes. The ship therefore manufactures liquid oxygen. The oxygen plant is close by the hanger and normally has large amounts of this highly unstable liquid on hand for round the clock issue to the ship's operating airplanes. The making and handling of liquid oxygen definitely requires the utmost in precaution, since no element in the world is more burnable than oxygen.
Moving on to the flight deck, we find a scene which would have delighted Dante'. It is not unusual to see 8 or more high powered airplanes turning up preparing for launch. A deafening roar covers the entire deck. Approximately 80 men of the flight deck crews are at work in, near, about and over the noise of high velocity exhausts and prop blast of airplanes in motion. Within a 6 plane armed launch, there can be as much as 4 tons of high explosives hanging on the aircraft, not to mention over 4,000 gallons of aviation fuel within the airplanes' tanks. The flight deck must be regarded as a place where the highest professional skill is continuously demanded to avoid accidents and fatalities.
Remember too that all those intricate operations are taking place on the rolling and pitching deck of a ship which is knifing through the oceans of the world - mostly at 25 knots - always in company with other Naval ships - all of which turn and maneuver regularly - day and night, in complex formations.
One of the most dangerous areas to the individual is the flight deck. Aircraft come and go quickly and with little warning. Jet blasts and prop blasts from aircraft at considerable distances are powerful enough to blow men over the side. For those reasons the catwalks and flight deck are out of bounds when the ship is at flight quarters. Men needing access to those areas may obtain permission from Flight Deck Control. Because of its vulnerability during the final stages of an aircraft landing, the fantail is also out of bounds during flight quarters except to personnel assigned fantail watches.
Hats, pencils, rags and papers have in the past caused aircraft crashes by blowing into jet engine intakes and destroying the engines. To prevent this from happening on BENNINGTON, hats are not to be worn on the flight deck and above outside of the island structure while at flight quarters. Nothing is thrown over the side at any time except from the fantail.
If you have followed me closely - I think you must be convinced of at least one thing; namely, that there is little margin for error by anyone in this ship. The key point of my letter is therefore that you learn your job so thoroughly that you can perform it with absolute perfection. Anything less spells danger for you and for some 2,500 of your shipmates embarked. I know of no organization in the world which requires greater team work than that demanded of the crew in an operating aircraft carrier. The successful operation of the ship and in fact, the life of each man embarked is, minute by minute, dependent upon proper performance by each one of his shipmates. It is therefore vital that as you join this team, you understand your individual importance and your responsibility to each of us.
And one final word - should you ever be faced with operating any part of this ship's equipment or systems - any part with which you are unfamiliar or have doubt as to the correct procedure - make it your rule that before you proceed - you will ask someone in authority who positively knows how to do it. You will never be censured in this ship for asking how to perform you duties correctly.
USS BENNINGTON CVS-20
Joseph L. Pires