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Admiral Land and the Construction of National Defense Tankers

Those readers who are familiar with the Cimarron, or know about the thirty-two other "T3" oilers that followed her down the ways, will be surprised to learn that this famous vessel was originally built for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey--a little-known fact that has a large bearing on our story. How this came to pass involves Adm. Emory S. Land and the establishment of the U.S. Maritime Commission's long-range building program.

As Land was putting together his recommendations for the construction of merchant tankers, he was also contemplating what to do when his tour as chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair ended. Though he was only fifty-seven years of age--far from the navy's mandatory limit of sixty-four--Rear Admiral Land had already decided to retire when his term as chief constructor of the navy expired on 16 March 1937.1 Unless selected for a second four-year tour as head of the bureau, he would automatically revert to his preappointment rank of captain, an unpleasant prospect for a man of his status.2 If Land's request for retirement was accepted before this occurred, however, he could retire with the pay and privileges of an admiral. Otherwise his career would become a "descending progression" hardly compatible with the experience of the man who had been in charge of the largest design and shipbuilding program in the history of the U.S. Navy.3 Though there were ninety years of precedents that might have allowed him to continue as chief of the bureau, navy regulations precluded his reappointment to this post.4 Land had received an attractive offer for employment within the private sector, but he preferred to remain in government service if possible and discussed this possibility with Col. Marvin H. McIntyre, President Roosevelt's personal secretary. In a personal note on this subject to McIntyre, Land asked, "Has "The Chief any idea of my going on the Maritime Commission?"5

When Land made this request in early December 1936, Roosevelt, for reasons undetermined, was unable or unwilling to provide an


answer leaving Land to think about what the future might hold.6 Nevertheless, when Roosevelt announced his appointees to the Maritime Commission in March 1937, Land's name was included in the list of individuals nominated to replace the temporary members who had been running the commission during the previous nine months. The nomination did not surprise Land since the president had already indicated his intention of utilizing Land's services in another job.7Their friendship prior to Land's nomination was crucial to his selection, as Roosevelt was skeptical of appointing naval officers he had not known personally.8 The two men had first met during Roosevelt's tenure as assistant secretary of the navy during the Wilson administration. Their friendship continued in the twenties when both were associated with the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics and was renewed when President Roosevelt nominated Land for the permanent position of "chief constructor" in 1933.9

Emory Scot Land

Emory Scot Land was born in Canon City, Colorado, on 9 January 1879. He was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1898 after having attended the University of Wyoming where he received both B.S. and M.A. degrees. After graduating from the academy in 1902, he was assigned to the Oregon then serving on the Asiatic Station. Returning from two years of sea duty, Land applied for and was accepted into the Construction Corps (CC), albeit the reasons for Land's selection remain a mystery. In any case, he was appointed assistant naval constructor with the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) and sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) for postgraduate study in naval architecture, thereby initiating a career in naval ship construction that would span more than forty years.10

At this early stage in his career, Land was already cultivating friendships and establishing contacts with important and influential people. While attending M.I.T., he was assigned summer duty at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the presidential yacht Sylph, captained by his former shipmate "Kid" Evans, was stationed. On most weekends, the Sylph usually sailed to President Theodore Roosevelt's summer home on Oyster Bay. Somehow, Land managed to wangle his way on board, spending summer weekends socializing with the Roosevelts and their guests.11

Land reported for duty at the Bureau of Construction and Repair in 1911 and was assigned to the Material Desk (procurement). In October of the following year he was promoted to naval constructor with the rank of lieutenant, just before the election that brought into office the Wilson administration and the appointment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the navy. FDR's duties included responsibility for material procurement within the navy. Land was under FDR not only from an official point of view, but also from a


geographical point of view, since his office was directly below the assistant secretary's.12 Roosevelt was especially fond of attending motorboat shows during this period and Land, who was responsible for small-boat design and procurement, was frequently required to accompany the assistant secretary on these excursions. After attending one of these exhibits with Roosevelt, Land was once quoted as saying that he had acted as the assistant secretary's "aid, water-carrier and sword-swallower" while doing his best to provide businesslike advice on the construction of small boats and submarines.13

Between 1914 and 1916, Lieutenant Land was attached to Adm. Frank Fletcher's staff as fleet naval constructor, although at one point Roosevelt had Land detached on temporary duty to the New York Navy Yard to help supervise the construction of the battleship New Mexico in an effort to get the new dreadnought launched before the elections of 1916.14 When World War I came, Land, now a lieutenant commander (CC), was back in Washington having been reassigned to the bureau's submarine desk concentrating on the design and construction of submarines. He quickly became one of the navy's foremost authorities in this area and was appointed senior member of the Board on Submarine Design.15

In July 1918, Land was temporarily transferred to London to the staff of Adm. William S. Sims, commander of all U.S. naval forces in Europe.16 While serving on Sims's staff, Land was involved in a number of sensitive missions "performed under the direction of the chief of naval operations."17 These duties involved inspection trips to gather technical information on enemy submarines, and most remarkably for a naval constructor, direct involvement in the negotiations for the Austrian armistice. To be selected for such sensitive duty he must have been held in high esteem by his superiors. Land was later awarded the Navy Cross "for distinguished service" for this activity and his work in the war zone.18 The commendation and the date of the citation (20 August 1919) lead one to believe that it may have been issued in part as an incentive to keep Land, who was already considered a highly talented officer, from leaving the navy for greener pastures after World War I.

After the war, Land served with the Allied Naval Armistice Commission while attached to the staff of the American embassy in London. He also served as assistant naval attache until 1921, when he returned to Washington as a commander.19 Upon his return, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who had attended Harvard University while Land was attending M.I.T., offered to send him back to London as the ambassador's naval attache. Land claims to have declined the position and was assigned instead to the newly established Bureau of Aeronautics.20

It is quite likely that Land, who was well connected to "Teddy" Roosevelt, Jr., utilized Teddy's influence to secure a transfer to the


Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer). Land now considered himself a staff officer and was clearly seeking further opportunities for advancement. He was certainly aware of the discussions on naval disarmament then taking place during the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22, and was probably concerned about its effects on his career as a naval constructor. These talks did not bode well for the Construction Corps, since a freeze on new construction would obviate the need for their services. Evidently, Land recognized the possibilities offered by the new bureau--the first to be added since the Civil War--and decided that it provided him with the best chance to achieve further promotion within the Navy Department.

While assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics, Land attended the aviation school at Pensacola and qualified as a naval aviation observer. By 1923 he had achieved the rank of captain and was running BuAer's Material Division. According to Eugene Wilson, "Jerry [Capt. Land] was no theorist but a thoroughly practical and competent leader. . . . Able to see both sides of an argument, forthright, and honest, he was an ideal head for a division like Material that contained both naval constructors and line officers."21 Lands' abilities were quickly recognized by Rear Adm. William A. Moffett, the famous first chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, widely acclaimed for his political prowess, who nominated Land to be assistant chief of the bureau (BuAer) in August 1925.22 Moffett, it appears, was not much of an administrator--he was far more interested in setting [policy--and left Land to administer the day-to-day operations of the bureau. Most importantly for Land, as assistant chief he was responsible for preparing the bureau's budget data that were frequently brought before Congress. Little is known about the exact details of his work during these years, but it is safe to assume that he learned a great deal from Moffett and the numerous presentations that they made to the various congressional committees and navy boards investigating aviation policy during Land's tour as assistant chief of BuAer.23

Land served in the bureau until September 1928, when at his own request, he was granted extended leave from the navy to become vice-president and treasurer of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. The late nineteen twenties were hard times for the navy--the United States was at peace, the armed forces were unpopular, and congressional appropriations were meager--and it is likely that Land was again seeking to expand his horizons. His decision to join the Guggenheim Fund may have been influenced by Charles A. Lindbergh, the celebrated flyer and Land's cousin. While working for the Guggenheim Fund, Land, at the age of fifty, completed the necessary requirements for and received a pilot's license. Captain Land returned to active duty in March 1930 and was assigned to the staff of Adm. William V. Pratt, commander in chief, U.S. Fleet. Why Land


returned to the navy is unclear, but the country was in the depths of the Great Depression and there were few jobs to be had.

Land's tour with the fleet was short-lived, however, for he was soon transferred to the central division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Whether or not Pratt, the new CNO, had anything to do with the transfer is unclear, but it was a pivotal point in Captain Land's career as "Pratt was the most influential naval professional policymaker throughout the Hoover administration."24 It was a time of awakening, conflict, and controversy within the Navy Department: the General Board wanted to rebuild the navy, Pratt was heavily involved in the administration's negotiations for continued disarmament taking place at the London Naval Conference of 1930, while Hoover continued to chip away at the department's regular budget. The Office of the Chief of Naval Operations was always at the center of any major policy decision and it provided Land with an unmitigated opportunity to study the bureaucratic machine that drove the navy. Congress, and the executive branch. Working for the CNO proved to be a position of high visibility and he soon gained a reputation for being "the busiest guy in the service."25

While serving in the CNO's office, Land continued to cultivate the patronage of important personages including Secretary of the Navy Charles F. Adams and his assistant Theodore "Teddy" Robinson, another member of the Roosevelt clan and a close social friend of the Lands.26 Both men recommended that Land be appointed as the next chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, a billet that would automatically promote him to the temporary rank of rear admiral. President Hoover nominated Land for the post in September 1932, just before the elections that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt into office.

The Democratic Senate would not approve any of President Hoover's appointees, however, leaving Land with a "gunboat commission." Though he took over the bureau on 1 October, he would have to wait until the new administration was installed before he could be assured of his position. In the interim, he ran the bureau as acting chief. Aided by Robinson and Adams, and with the assistance of Rear Adm. David W. Taylor, USN (Ret.), Admiral Pratt and Adm. Frank B. Upham, chief of the Bureau of Personnel, were able to persuade the new Secretary of the Navy, Claude A. Swanson, to submit Land's name to President Roosevelt who promptly placed it before the new Senate.27 His appointment was not joyously accepted by everyone in the department, for some thought his "outside activities"--meaning his sting on the Guggenheim Fund--had left him without sufficient technical expertise in naval construction.28

Rear Admiral Land, once called the "cleverest politician the Navy had [ever] produced," was immediately thrown into the political fray surrounding New Deal appropriations for naval construction.29 Land


worked efficaciously to get warships included in the definition of the NIRA's provision for public works (see chapter 4). On the day before the NIRA was to be passed, Land, in company with Admiral Pratt (CNO) and Rear Adm. Samuel Robinson (chief of BuEng) flew to President Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park, New York, to present an estimate of the bureau's (C&R) recommended shipbuilding program to include in the new bill as a public works measure. Together they drafted Executive Order 6174 allocating $238 million for naval construction for inclusion under the provisions of the Public Works Administration section of the bill. Roosevelt signed the order in advance so that when the NIRA became law, it automatically provided funding to build thirty-two ships for the navy--the first major shipbuilding program since 1916!30 The political acumen demonstrated by Rear Admiral Land during his first months as chief constructor did not go unnoticed by Roosevelt who would later appoint Land to the U.S. Maritime Commission. In the interim, Admiral Land would supervise the rebirth of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, which had languished during the inactivity of the 1920s, and would help Standley assure passage of the Vinson-Trammel Bill for even more ships.

During Land's tenure at the Bureau of Construction and Repair, he presided over the largest peacetime building program ever undertaken by the U.S. Navy up to that time. In the four years he served as chief constructor, the navy laid down 106 new warships: 2 aircraft carriers, 8 heavy cruisers, 9 light cruisers, 65 destroyers, and 22 submarines. While supervising the construction of these vessels, Land laid the design foundations for the huge prewar building program that would follow in his wake. Jerry Land was an active member of the Society of Naval and Marine Engineers during this period of time and was even elected its president.

When Land retired in March 1936, however, it appeared as if he had reached the apex of his career. His retirement caused some wonder within the department until President Roosevelt announced his appointment to the Maritime Commission a few days later. Admiral Land and the other nominees were confirmed by the Senate on 15 April 1937 and sworn into office the following day. Joseph P. Kennedy was named chairman for a two-year term, although it was understood that he would leave the commission after establishing its operating machinery and general policies.31

Kennedy was an astute politician who knew his way around Capitol Hill and the White House. He had been highly successful in organizing the newly established Securities and Exchange Commission and was expected to provide the leadership needed to organize and initiate the work of the new commission. It was widely believed that his appointment was necessitated by the difficulties that were expected in terminating some forty-two ocean-mail contracts that were to be


abolished under the Merchant Marine Act. These mail subsidies were considered a political scandal and Kennedy was appointed with the understanding that he would personally attend to this matter.32

Kennedy was the "Boss" when it came to matters of organization policy and, according to Land, "generally carried the votes of at least three of the five commissioners in his hip pocket."33 As there was no vice-chairman, Kennedy always designated Land as acting chairman when he was away, which was often. Board meetings were regarded as a nuisance by Kennedy and he frequently cast the deciding vote by telephone to Land's office where at least half the meetings were held during Kennedy's chairmanship. The two men frequently lunched together in a separate room set aside for the chairman, his executive director, and his general counsel. Working closely with Kennedy provided Land with a liberal education in politics.

Land's long experience in naval ship construction and wide knowledge of the shipbuilding industry led to his assignment to supervise the commission's construction program. He immediately made arrangements to have Cdr. Howard L. Vickery brought over from the Bureau of Construction and Repair to act as his assistant.34 The commission's research department had determined that American bottoms carried only 7 percent of world tonnage in international trade, although the American share of that trade was 14 percent. It found that the Unites States was third in world tonnage, most of which was obsolete, fifth in speed of ships, and eighth in ranking of modern ships in operation.35 Investigation of the U.S. tanker fleet revealed that it consisted of 341 vessels with a total tonnage of 2,416,000 tons. Over 90 percent had speeds of less than 12 knots and within five years over 88 percent of the fleet would be more than twenty years old. Assisted by Vickery, Land concentrated on outlining and then selling to Chairman Kennedy a long-range program of ship construction for building fifty ships during the next ten years.36

Kennedy jumped on the bandwagon, though it was clear to both men that a program of that size would have to be implemented in several stages. In August, Kennedy submitted to Congress the first of the commission's programs for constructing merchant ships under the provisions of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. As outlined by Kennedy, the commission would construct ninety-five ships at a cost of $256 million (see table 8) over a period of eighteen months to three years.37 Included in the program were ten tankers of an unidentified type costing $28.5 million.

Earlier in the year, the department had prepared its legislative program for obtaining congressional appropriations required for construction expenditures that the department wished to budget in the 1938 fiscal year, which would begin 1 July. Among the measures presented to the Bureau of the Budget was yet another attempt to secure passage


Shipbuilding Program Proposed by the U.S. Maritime Commission

Number Function Type Cost

46 Cargo ship C-1 $58,580,000
14 Cargo ship C-2 19,040,000
10 Combination passenger/cargo P-1 40,000,000
10 Combination passenger/cargo P-2 55,000,000
4 Combination passenger/cargo P-4 40,000,000
10 Tankers 28,520,000
1 Special Manhattan type 15,000,000

of a ten-year building program for auxiliary vessels. The director of the budget, Daniel Bell, did not want to authorize any long-term construction program, believing it likely that the number, size, and type of vessels would change over time.38 Bell preferred to limit the number of ships authorized only to those vessels that could be started during the next fiscal year, or at most, the following year. President Roosevelt sided with Bell, and declined to approve the ten-year program. After much discussion between the department and the Bureau of the Budget, Roosevelt agreed to fund the first six ships only. Congress did not approve construction of any of these vessels until 30 July 1937 when an act was passed authorizing the navy to construct the following ships:

One seaplane tender of about 8300 tons
One destroyer tender of about 9000 tons
One minesweeper of about 600 tons
One submarine tender of about 9000 tons
One fleet tug of about 1150 tons
One oiler of about 8000 tons39

Although the act allowed the navy to proceed with plans to construct these ships, it did not provide any of the funds. These would be authorized by separate appropriations, which only the House of Representatives could approve. While the auxiliary construction bill was still before Congress, Land suggested that the Maritime Commission assume responsibility for securing tankers capable of meeting the navy's requirements.40 By now the question of whether the commission could pay for increased speed as a national defense feature had been resolved in the commission's favor, and it had already included ten high-speed tankers in its building program at an estimated cost of about $2,850,000 each.41 If the commission undertook to build these vessels directly, it would cost the commission $30,000,000. Land proposed that, instead, the commission simply subsidize the cost of providing these vessels with the increased power that would be required for high speed.42 He estimated the added cost for this feature at $300,000 to $700,000 per ship. If the commission could convince the


oil companies to proceed on this basis, the total cost of the commission's high-speed tanker program would come to substantially less than the amount budgeted. If the oil companies would also agree to include gun foundations, magazine spaces, and other features, there would be no need for the navy to develop its own oiler and the commission "would be in a position to request the proper authorities not to build this 'ideal' unit."43

In a memorandum to Joseph Kennedy on this subject, Land asserted that it would be "far better" for the maritime commission to build tankers instead of the navy and noted that "a good talking point" would be the eight or nine million dollars that could be saved in the navy's budget.44 Roosevelt was in a frugal mood at the time and had asked all departments to economize.45 Within a week, Kennedy presented Land's proposal to divert funds from the construction of one naval oiler to the construction of ten or more high-speed merchant tankers to Adm. William Leahy, the new CNO. Leahy was vehemently opposed to the idea. On 5 August he wrote to the president directly, claiming that it was essential to develop a fleet oiler that "must of necessity be of special design."46 Land was so dismayed by Leahy's comments relative to tankers and their construction that he felt compelled to dictate a memorandum for his files. Among the comments contained in this uncirculated note were the following:

no effort was made by the Navy Department to find out whether or not any or all of their special requirements could be incorporated in the tankers under consideration by the Maritime Commission.

It is apparent to me that whoever prepared that memorandum didn't have all the facts in front of him.47

Continued budgetary problems within the administration, however, would lead to an economy drive forcing Leahy and the department to reevaluate their priorities for construction spending. On the twenty-first, Capt. [?] J. S. Woods, acting director of war plans, advised Leahy that "the need for an oiler in no way compares with the more urgent need of the other tenders and its construction should await further appropriations."48

Wood's recommendation to delay funding for the one oiler included in the auxiliary building program was based in part on a study made in 1936 by war plans showing it would be advantageous for the navy to use commercial tankers if they could be chartered for less than the $462,132 that it cost to operate a fleet oiler in 1936. Of the seven navy oilers then in commission, five were employed in fueling ships of the fleet and two were used to replenish navy fuel storage ashore. This latter function could easily be provided by privately manned tankers. The study also showed that for every "Naval oiler that could be replaced by a chartered tanker 12 officers and 123 men would be released


for other duties," an important consideration during this period of budget cuts and economy measures.

On 25 August, the House passed the Third Deficiency Appropriation Act. Although this bill did approve some funds for constructing the auxiliaries previously authorized, it restricted the amount to that required for only two vessels: the destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14) and the seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4).49 For the time being, the navy would have to make do with its existing fleet of aging tankers.

Negotiations between the maritime commission and various oil companies for the construction of high-speed tankers continued throughout the fall. Tentative plans had been reached with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey to build ten high-speed tankers with the government paying the cost of the larger engines needed for increased speed. By the first week in December, Standard Oil had solicited and received bids from a number of yards providing for the construction of a number of 16,300-ton (deadweight) capacity tankers. Bids were requested for two versions: a single-screw design of 13 knots and a twin-screw design of 18 knots. The price difference between the two would be used to establish the government's cost subsidy for greater speed. Plans and specifications for both designs were prepared for Standard Oil by naval architect E. L. Stewart.50 It seems certain that the design for the 18-knot tanker (Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey Design No. 652 NDF) evolved out of the bureau's (C&R) design for a fleet oiler.51 Preliminary plans for this purpose had already been prepared by the Bureau of Construction and Repair in accordance with Standley's previous directive, and it can be readily assumed that Land could have easily arranged to have this information passed to Hague or his company.

The high-speed tankers proposed by Standard Oil would be considerably faster than any similar vessels previously built in the United States. The desired characteristics of these ships were later specified by the maritime commission (see table 9).

Funding for the commission's building program had yet to be approved by Congress though, so that Kennedy, in an effort to assure funding, had to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee then holding hearings to amend the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. In a statement made before the committee on 8 December 1936, Kennedy pointed out that the United States was maintaining "one of the largest navies in existence" as a defense measure, and that "the Navy would be greatly handicapped without a plentiful supply of efficient, modern merchant marine vessels."52

Four days later, on 12 December, an event took place halfway around the world that altered Congress's reluctance to provide adequate funds for the navy and a strong merchant marine. On that date the Japanese sank the U.S. Navy gunboat Panay in an unprovoked attack. Panay


Specifications for the Construction of Oil Tankers (Basic Design Dimensions and Particulars)

Length between perpendiculars 525     feet
Beam, molded 75     feet
Depth, molded to upper deck 9     feet
Draft, molded 29     feet 101/2 inches
Displacement for molded length between perpendiculars, beam and draft 23,000     tons
Deadweight capacity to molded draft 16,300     tons
Capacity of cargo oil tanks at 98 percent full load 145,000     barrels
Number of screws 2    
Shaft horsepower (6,000 per shaft) 12,000    
Revolutions per minute 85    
Power to shafts furnished by two steam turbines through reduction gears
Sustained sea speed 161/2 knots
SOURCE: "Maritime Commission Working on Enlarged Program for Fast Tankers," ME& SR, January 1938, 47.

was not the only American ship struck. Three other vessels, the Mei Ping, Mei Hsia, and Mei An, were also sunk. All three were owned by the Standard-Vacuum Oil Company, a joint venture between Standard Oil of New Jersey and The Socony-Vacuum Oil Company.53 They were operated by Socony as part of a small fleet of river boats engaged in the kerosene trade. While the Panay incident is a well-known event, its influence on the commission's tanker program and the navy's procurement of fleet oilers has not previously been identified. Before this incident, the maritime commission was having a difficult time getting any of the oil companies to agree to purchase the fast tankers that it hoped to subsidize. The sinking of these vessels probably helped convince both Standard Oil and the Commerce Committee of the need to participate in the commission's program.

Admiral Land's appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee on 22 December 1937 to explain the details of the commission's tanker program provides further support to this premise.54 Due to the sensitive nature of the discussion, Land's testimony was heard during an executive session not open to the public. In his statement to the committee, Land (acting as the commission's chairman) outlined the commission's enlarged program for constructing twenty high-speed tankers, precisely the number wanted by the navy.55 He described the negotiations then being concluded with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and explained the necessity of securing these ships in the interest of national defense.56 "With great assistance from the President [Roosevelt], Senator Josiah W. Bailey, Congressman Schuyler Otis Bland, and Admiral Leahy"--who also testified before the commerce committee--Land convinced the committee of the program's value.57 Note the


dramatic change in Admiral Leahy's position vis-a-vis commission-built tankers; within a month he would be writing Land to express the navy's desire to take over one of the Standard Oil tankers.58

The First Twelve National Defense Tankers

On 3 January 1938, an agreement was signed between the maritime commission and Standard Oil of New Jersey for the construction of twelve high-speed tankers, to include certain national defense features

desired by the navy.59 On the same day, Standard Oil signed separate construction contracts with four shipyards: Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company; Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company; Bethlehem Steel Company, Shipbuilding Division, Sparrows Point Plant; and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, each yard to build three twin-screw tankers of 16,300 deadweight tons, at a contract price for each tanker of $3,129,677.60 Of this total, $880,250 was allocated to cover the cost of the national defense features, which were to be paid for by the maritime commission. These features included the following:

  1. Speed in excess of commercial requirements
  2. Two-compartment floodability and stability
  3. Magazine spaces
  4. Gun foundations
  5. Oiling at sea gear
  6. Heavy lifting facilities
  7. Paravane gear
  8. Navy searchlights
  9. Extended cruising radius
  10. Flexible piping arrangement
  11. Twin screws61

Standard Oil would have exclusive control and supervision of the construction, but no changes were to be made in the plans and specifications without the written approval of the Navy Department and the maritime commission.

Although it was not publicized in contemporary press accounts describing the contract awards, it appears that the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company was selected as the lead yard to build the first of these twin-screw tankers. This was to be expected since Sun was one of the country's foremost builders of tankships and had responded to Standard's tender with the lowest bids. It is not clear, however, what contractual arrangements were made between the parties with regard to the development of the final set of lines that would have been required before actual construction could begin. The original tender specified that these were to be developed by the builder in conjunction with model tests that were to be conducted at the navy's experimental model basin.62 Power curves later published by the mari-


time commission (see fig. 5) prove that the navy conducted tests of the design, later designated the T3-S2-Al-type tanker, under contract to Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The lines developed by Sun were probably provided to the other yards free of charge. This might explain the other yards' willingness to match Sun's pricing as it would reduce the engineering effort required on their part. Although the record shows that the other yards agreed to match Sun's bid, it does not provide an explanation as to how or why this was achieved.63After the original agreements were signed, arrangements were made with the Keystone Tankship Corporation to purchase two of the first four tankers that were to be completed for Standard Oil's account.64 Keystone was a new company formed by Charles Kurz with the backing of Shell Oil (for whom the tankers were intended to provide service) and the Standard Oil Company, which had arranged to finance the purchase of both vessels.65 The maritime commission had found it difficult to attract other companies interested in operating its highspeed tankers and was more than happy to approve the new arrangements, which were formally approved on 4 March 1938.66

Increased Speed Capabilities

The fast-tanker program was conceived by the maritime commission to provide high-speed commercial tankers that could be transferred

to the navy in time of national emergency and quickly converted to fleet oilers. At the time, the Navy Department considered a speed of 161/2 knots sufficient for tankers to accompany the fleet. Since this was faster than any tankship previously built in the United States, the commission developed a radically new tanker design based on the engineering requirements provided by the navy from its earlier testing at the model basin.

The data generated from these tests indicated that a propulsion plant of at least 9,000 s.h.p. would be required in order to reach a speed of 161/2knots.67 Since 161/2 knots was intended to be the sustained speed, some degree of additional power would be needed to insure that this speed could be maintained under normal adverse operation conditions (i.e., bottom fouling, scale buildup in the boilers, etc.). While Land was chief constructor, the bureau (C&R) had recommended fleet oilers be provided with excess power in the amount of 25 percent more than that normally required so that the sustained speed required by operational demands could be met under all conditions.68 Adding 25 percent to the 9,000 s.h.p. needed under ideal conditions for 161/2 knots raised the design power to a minimum of 12,000 s.h.p. The subsidies provided by the maritime commission stipulated a trial speed of 18 knots.69 From the design curves (which were developed after the construction contracts were signed), it can be seen that a trial speed of 18 knots would require a minimum of 12,000 shaft horsepower. Estimates of the amount of power that would be supplied


Fig. 5. Horsepower curves developed at the Navy's model basin (U.S. Maritime Commission)
Fig. 5. Horsepower curves developed at the Navy's model basin (U.S. Maritime Commission)


in the designs submitted by each yard during the bidding process actually contained higher values for the estimated power, ranging from a low of 12,600 s.h.p. (Bethlehem) to a high of 13,500 s.h.p. (Newport News). This variation is understandable since each yard intended to install its own equipment, but it had led to much confusion concerning the reported shaft horsepower of this class, especially since each yard furnished its own power plant (or that of a favored supplier) in the ships it was to construct. The design changes made by the maritime commission after the first set of specifications had been issued (normal shaft horsepower was raised to 13,500 s.h.p. with a continuous overload capacity of 10 percent) were never publicized.70 It is likely that they would have raised serious questions within Congress as to the actual nature of the vessels being built and the costs involved. Since they were of a highly technical nature, it was easy to keep them within the maritime commission until after the first ship was launched.

The high speed intended for these ships (12 to 13 knots was then considered the norm for a tanker) led to the introduction of the term "fast tanker," which was coined to describe these and all subsequent high-speed tankers subsidized by the maritime commission before World War II. The increases in speed and the extraordinary size of the propulsion system (the fastest commercial tankers then being built in the United States had only 5,000 s.h.p.) were obviously made to accommodate the navy's wishes, demonstrating once again the mutual interests shared between the navy and the maritime commission.


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