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USS White Plains (AFS-4)
USS White Plains (AFS-4) and USS Weehawken (YTB-776)
Name: USS White Plains
Namesake: White Plains, New York
Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego
Laid down: 2 October 1965
Launched: 26 July 1966
Sponsored by: Mrs. Bob Wilson
Commissioned: 23 November 1968
Decommissioned: 17 April 1995
Struck: 24 August 1995
Fate: Sunk as target 2002
General characteristics
Class & type: Mars-class combat stores ship
Displacement: 17,500 long tons (17,781 t) full load
Length: 581 ft (177.1 m)
Beam: 79 ft (24.1 m)
Draft: 25 ft (7.6 m)
Propulsion: 3 × Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 580 psi (3.7 MPa), 8250 °F (4400 °C)
1 × De Laval turbine, 1 shaft
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Complement: 42 Commissioned officers and 445 enlisted personnel
Armament: • 4 × 3"/50 caliber guns (2×2) (originally 6)
Chaff launchers
• 4 × M240G 7.62×51 mm medium machine guns or M249 5.56×45 mm light MG
• 1 × M2 12.7×99 mm heavy machine gun when security detachment is embarked
• 2 × Vulcan Phalanx CIWS
Aircraft carried: 2 × CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters

USS White Plains (AFS-4) was the fourth Mars-class combat stores ship of the United States Navy. The ship was named after the city of White Plains, New York, scene of the Battle of White Plains during the American Revolutionary War.

Construction and commissioning[edit | edit source]

White Plains was laid down on 2 October 1965 by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego. She was launched on 26 July 1966, sponsored by Mrs. Bob Wilson, and commissioned at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Long Beach, California, on 23 November 1968, with Captain Thomas B. Brenner in command.

White Plains was used as the trial vessel for the class to mount the two Vulcan Phalanx CIWS. The ship retained the Phalanx systems after decision was made not to mount them on the rest of the class.

Service history[edit | edit source]

In 1978 The U.S.S. White Plains was struck by the U.S.S. Mount Vernon during an underway replenishment operation. The only time I had ever seen a Captain leave a ship at sea as he and the captain of the Mount Vernon went to the local aircraft carrier for deposition of the incident. The U.S.S. White Plains was the guide ship and as such just maintains the course heading, the ship receiving is supposed to maintain the distance between ships. I am an eyewitness to this collision and I was on the U.S.S. White Plains flight deck at the time. Later in port you could get souvenir T-Shits that read "Survivor, USS White Plains - USS Mt Vernon Collision. While the collision did destroy some of the flight deck safety nets and a few radio antennas no serious damage was done to either ship.

In 1978 in the straits of Malacca the ship lost power and propulsion while being followed by a super tanker, collision was imminent and the call went to man the life boat stations collision was avoided but it was a close call. There were many nervous sailors looking back at the tanker wondering if it would turn and not strike us.

In the late 1980s, the ship was one of the first U.S. Navy ships to have women sailors aboard. By 1991, and after a berthing retrofit accomplished in overhaul, the ship had a complement of female officers, and female senior and junior enlisted aboard.

On 9 May 1989, while underway in the South China Sea en route to Guam, the White Plains experienced a major Class Bravo fire in the main engine room while conducting underway fuel replenishment with the combat replenishment ship USS Sacramento (AOE-1). The fire resulted from the ejection of a valve stem on the fuel transfer system which sent a high-pressure spray of fuel over the boiler and consequently ignited into a fireball. The cause of the valve stem ejection was from navy supply system black coated/painted fasteners, that were not the right type of metal (brass vs. copper) to withstand the pressure and heat of the system and environment. It was determined after an investigation that navy logistics had purchased the black coasted fasteners for use on ship fuel systems, without confirming or inspecting their metal content. After the tragedy, a complete review of these fasteners was conducted navy wide. There were 6 fatalities and 161 injuries reported as a result of the fire.[1] The ship and the ship's crew never really recovered from the tragedy. A plaque of the 6 who died hung in Damage Control Central as a constant reminder and the ship would occasionally receive mail for the crew that had died.

In January 1991 the White Plains was relieved from its deployment in Persian Gulf by sister ship Niagara Falls.

In early August 1992, the ship received an extensive refit, including her main steam plant. Later that same month, as the ship was unable to be leave on its own power, its mooring lines were reinforced with anchor chain and steel cables to keep it moored to the pier as Typhoon Omar approached the island of Guam.

On 27 August 1992, under the command of Capt. Robin Y. Weber, and although the ship weathered the initial pass of the eye of Super Typhoon Omar, after a relative calm and then the final pass of the eye of Typhoon Omar, White Plains was torn from her moorings. The ship with its skeleton crew rode out Omar's 150 mph winds in Apra Harbor. The ship ultimately ran aground on the coral beach. The responsibility for the safe mooring of a ship during repair lies with the shipyard. At the beginning of the repair availability the ships first lieutenant meet with Ship Repair Facility Guam engineers and developed a plan to moor the ship in the event of a typhoon. The plan took into account the surface area of exposed portions of the ship and pounds per square inch of expected force generated by typhoon winds along with the strength of pier cleats, bollards and deadmen. The plan required more lines then were apart of the ships normal complement. An agreement was reached about which lines would be provided by the ship and which would be provided by the shipyard. All lines were to be of nylon construction. On the morning of the storms approach the shipyard riggers used springlay mooring lines. Springlay is a combination of wire and synthetic fiber and does not stretch. Nylon mooring lines can stretch up to a third of their length with no damage to the line. Despite the first lieutenants protest of the incompatibility of the two types of mooring lines, the shipyards riggers claimed they had no other lines available. This resulted in the springlay mooring lines trying to hold almost the full force of the winds while the strength of the nylon mooring lines was not fully utilized. The springlay lines gave way followed by the nylon lines. In the weeks following Typhoon Omar, the eyes of two other typhoons passed over the ship while still in the shipyard. During these events the original mooring plan was utilized using all nylon mooring lines and the ship rode out both typhoons with no problems.

Very fortunate to have run aground near Polaris Point, after the ship left the pier in the storm, the ship lost its only power source for a day, a notoriously fickle emergency diesel generator. The generator situation was corrected after several hours and troubleshooting, and ultimately solved by a simple observation made by the electrical officer, LTJG Lee, that a control governor mechanical linkage was undone. Essential power for emergency services were restored to the ship, enabling the crew to handle any flooding or fire that would occur. While the ship was aground for 3–5 days, the crew sustained on MREs, and helped plan, with harbor operations, for her ungrounding. There was no real damage to the ship's hull.

The ship recovered completely from the grounding and was underway for gulf operations in May 1993.

The ship, well past its life cycle and usefulness to the U.S. Navy, was decommissioned in 1995.

References[edit | edit source]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links[edit | edit source]

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