completed taking on gasoline but had not yet completed taking on fuel oil when, over the bridge-to-bridge telephone, she announced she had lost steering control. A destroyer to starboard of CACAPON was just finishing fueling. The PRINCETON started to sheer out to port. There follo-wed, with almost machine gun rapidity, a series of conflicting reports, by telephone from the PRINCETON, that "She had.'" - "No” “She had not" - regained steering control. In a matter of moments, both fueling hoses were stretched to violin-string tautness. Seconds later the telephone lines parted and the forward fuel hose was released. PRINCETON had begun to back. It was later determined that she had in fact momentarily regained steering control and the rudder had been shifted to some degree of right rudder before the telephone line had parted. Therefore, although backing her engines, with headway not yet killed, she was veering steadily to starboard toward U.S.S. CACAPON. The Commanding Officer of the CACAPON took prompt action to avoid or minimize the danger of collision by turning away to parallel the heading of the PRINCETON while trying to clear ahead under her bow. The destroyer to starboard of CACAPON had already cleared her side. The danger of the situation clearly perceived, both PRINCETON and CACAPON sounded "collision - quarters", and CACAPON personnel were ordered to clear the port side "on the double". The large moment of inertia, with her relatively low power, and the rather sluggish maneuvering characteristics of a heavily loaded oiler, contributed largely to the inability of CACAPON to get clear as PRINCETON inexorably bore down on her. With PRINCETON backing hard, and the action of both ships contributing to the PRINCETON's steadily dropping aft relative to the CACAPON as the lateral distance between the two ships steadily closed, the sound of steel tearing steel soon rent the air as the forward starboard corner of the flight deck of the PRINCETON projected inboard of CACAPON's port side and, as she drew aft, "raked" the CACAPON from just forward of the after fueling station to the stern. Because of the height of the flight deck, overlapping the CACAPON, and because CACAPON was down in the water owing to her heavy load condition, major damage was confined to the superstructure of the oiler. The after port king post was struck and almost completely sheared off just below where it rises through the cargo deck; the motor whale boat was crushed and the davits mangled; and the after 3" gun torn from its base and the gun shield nearly demolished. The hulls of the two ships apparently did not touch.
With Number 6 station completely out of commission, and Number 4 station temporarily out of commission until it could be re-rigged, CACAPON's ability to fuel to port had ended for the time being, and since the king post was in an extremely critical position, leaning at an angle of about 15 , and holding by a scant eight inches of as yet unknown metal, CACAPON was ordered to return to her base. PRINCETON was able to remedy the electrical trouble in her steering system and remain with the task force. After rigging temporary shrouds and stays to the damaged king post and lowering the boom, which had sheered off at the base swivel, to the cargo deck, CACAPON proceeded to Sasebo, arriving on 1 May.
- 15 -