Underway replenishment (UNREP) is a method of transferring fuel, munitions, and stores from one ship to another while under way. UNREPs are routinely carried on throughout the Navy but occurred frequently for carriers in the South China Sea to keep jet fuel and munitions at required levels necessary for combat theater operations. UNREP operations at sea become quite hazardous as two or more ships are traveling through the water, fast, and close together. They are so close you can talk to persons on the other ship. Then add huge waves that re-position the ships. Perhaps the two ships collide and long gashes are cut into the sides of the ships. This happened with Auxiliary Explosives ship USS MOUNT KATMAI on 10 October 1967.
Here is a personal recollection from Albert Bodt. "I remember the Mount Katmai collision very well. I was on the hangar deck standing just inside the hangar bay by the starboard aft elevator. I saw the Mount Katmai come slowly closer and suddenly, I believe a swell may have pushed her into us, we collided and then separated again. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The next UNREP with her was at 2 AM in the morning, a week, maybe two later, as I recall, and they played music during the UNREP and had a large target painted on the side at the point of impact."
This is a chunk of metal that came off CORAL SEA as a result of the collision. From crewman Bodt's testimony no injuries, but there was damage to both ships. You can see the port side damage to MOUNT KATMAI forward of the aft rigging booms and the now unuseable starboard elevator on CORAL SEA.
Damage to either ship did not have any significant impact on their assigned missions. In typical US Navy fashion MOUNT KATMAI on her next routine scheduled UNREP with CORAL SEA displayed Ageless Warrior a target. CORAL SEA has two starboard elevators. Only one is shown in this image, both were damaged and beyond use. No problem there is still a port elevator to transfer aircraft between hanger deck and flight deck. Not a single CVW-15 sortie was canceled. CORAL SEA remained on station at the line until scheduled relief before returning to port for elevator repair.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.