The museum has recently received a couple objects related to the USS Chemung. Many people are familiar with the Navy tanker that served through World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War but I will admit that I had never heard of it until I started working here. The ship has a long, interesting history of tragedy and triumph. The Chemung was one of the largest, fastest tankers afloat during the Second World War, it was the first tanker to ever circumnavigate the globe, and, for a time, it was blamed for causing the deaths of 225 sailors aboard the USS Ingraham.
USS Chemung AO-30 – Displacement: 7,295; Length: 553’;
Beam: 45’; Draft: 32’4”; Speed: 18.5 knots; Compliment: 304;
|Flag that flew on the USS Chemung during World War II|
A big essex class carrier is selected and the tanker pulls alongside. A light line is shot across, then a messenger, and finally a rope to which is tied the pythonlike hose. A destroyer comes along on the other side, hoses are sent across to her, then telephone lines to the hose station, while the other wires connect the bridge with hers.
The ships continue moving at fast clip through the sea, in the direction of the enemy.
“We’re ready,” comes the word over the telephone. “Start your pumps.” “The pumps are started,” goes back the answer.
The thick, black oil begins to flow through the hoses as the three ships proceed through the water. Keen-eyed helmsmen, the key men in the operation, keep the ships steady, even distances from each other.
The fuel gurgles swiftly now through the snaky hoses, suspended limply on curved wooden saddles tied to booms projecting over the water. They are tended by hand on the big ships, by winch on the tankers. They are paid in and out gradually to compensate for the occasional widening and narrowing of the distances between. Three or four destroyers are re-fueled while the carrier’s thirsty innards are being filled.”
|The Chemung refueling an aircraft carrier|
|Pieces of shrapnel from the USS Ingraham|
The Chemung operated with the Atlantic Fleet from November 12, 1948 until March 17, 1950 when it sailed for San Diego. It was decommissioned in July of that year and placed in reserve. It was recommissioned in 1950 for service in the Korean War and continued as part of the tanker fleet through the Vietnam War. The “Mighty Mung” received two battle stars for its World War II service and four for its service in the Korean War. The tanker was finally decommissioned on September 18, 1970 and scrapped. CCHS has a large collection of objects from the USS Chemung including ashtrays made from shell casings from the tanker’s guns, commemorative lighters, playing cards, and hats, and a sweater from the on-board basketball team. We also have a ceremonial plaque from the tanker that was presented to the museum in 1971 by the U.S. Navy through the Horseheads Naval Reserve.