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Photo. GATUN (

Launched: 1925

Dimensions / Tonnage: 3,362 GRT.

2,900 DWT

Length: 316 ft

Beam: 45ft

Draught: 32ft

Laid Up 1958. Final disposition.

Scrapped in 1960.

Acquired 28 MAY 42 by the War Shipping Administration at New Orleans LA. from Standard Fruit and Seamship CO.

Allocated to the War Department at New Orleans 7 April 43.

On 22 April 1944 when the Gatun, a U.S. ship carrying fuel and supplies, caught fire while in Recife Harbor en route to Ascension. Everything on the ship was destroyed, forcing Ascension to temporarily ration supplies and call for emergency fuel. Water also had to be rationed to 3.5 gallons per person, as fuel was needed in order to run the distillation units. Given that only 15 days’ worth of fuel remained on the island, a tanker needed to arrive quickly. The call was answered on 5 May with the arrival of the DE 176 Micka with emergency fuel supplies. However, the situation remained critical until further fuel and supply transports arrived later in the month on 21 and 26 May.


New fire and maintenance equipment were installed at Camp Ingram. Fire Bills were promulgated for the area. The importance of such an organization was demonstrated on April 22, 1944 when a large fire started aboard USS GATUN. Fire engines reported immediately. The fire began at 20 00 and the Executive Officer of Base Fox, upon being informed of the fact, immediately made a complete survey of conditions. With the assistance of Executive Officer of USS PATOKA, and with the use of approximately fifteen sets of rescuing breathing apparatus, he made an effort to fight the fire by lowering men in the two exhaust blowers which terminated in holds #3 and #4, where the fire existed.

Flames were partially extinguished, but approach to the sit of origin of the fire due to extreme load of cargo in both holds, was found to be impossible. Hatch #3 was opened, and an attempt made to remove some of the cargo, but this procedure was prevented by intense heat and smoke. I was finally decided to flood the ship to extinguish the fire, after ground her to prevent capsizing from the load of water in the holds. A serious and major catastrophe was thus narrowly averted, for the GATUN had been carrying 100 octane gasoline, and all neighbouring shore establishments could have gone up in flames if prompt and efficient handling of the situation had not been effected. In May additional protective and security precautions were put into effect. United States controlled ships were boarded by the Security Officer  who discussed with the Officer-in-Charge of the Armed guard crew precautions to be taken in port.

The Armed guard crew served as a dock patrol when ships were discharging fuel, aviation gas and othe combustibles. A signal tower was established and maintained by N.O.F. in the dome of the Dock Administration Building between warehouses 6 & 7. Its approximate location was 08º 27' 32" South and 34º 52' 09" West and bore approximately three hundred degrees True from the end of the swept channel. All communications from ships officers to the port were chanelled through this station which challenged all ships as soon as they were sighted. Because the tower operated only two 12º lights, some ships failed to recognize the signal, and did not answer the challenge until too late to receive assigned berthing and other instructions. For ships approaching Recife for the first time, it was recommended that a sharp lookout with powerful glasses be maintained until contact with the signal tower was obtained. 



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