Buffington recalls life on a ‘super tanker’

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND
Kenny Buffington served in the U.S. Navy from 1962-66

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND Kenny Buffington served in the U.S. Navy from 1962-66

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

Life in the U.S. Navy for Marshalltown native Kenny Buffington was time spent on a replenish ship in the South Pacific during the Vietnam era from 1962-66.

“Our ship was a ‘super tanker’ and we refueled many destroyers and other vessels in places like Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and other islands in the South Pacific,” Buffington said. “I spent my entire four years and one month service time aboard the USS Kawishwi — AO146.”

Buffington was in boot camp training in San Diego, Calif., and then went straight to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii where the Kawishwi was being built. While there he was on the deck force. Once sailing, he did deck duty and was line handler during the refueling process.

“Our ship was 683 feet long, had a crew of 263 men (counting officers) and carried 7.5 million gallons of fuel, including black oil, diesel fuel and aviation fuel,” Buffington said. “We refueled ships like the Intrepid, the Kitty Hawk and the USS Enterprise (the first nuclear carrier). Then little tankers would come and refill us.”

“One thing for sure, while on deck – everyone worked,” he laughed.

Buffington said the closest they ever got to heavy action was when they were refueling a hospital ship in the harbor at DaNang. He said that refueling process took about eight hours to complete.

Work on the “oiler” included being a trouble shooter and being in charge of the fueling rig which had hoses stretching 300 feet in length. These lines needed daily greasing and there was also painting to do as well as occasional gun practices.

Buffington said the crew had a change of command every year he was on the ship, and that they wore mainly “whites” all the time he was on duty. Before getting out, Buffington had earned the rank of BM 3rd Class.

“When I was close to getting out, the Navy implemented the “Vietnam extension” and I caught a 30-day extension, making my service time four years and one month,” Buffington remarked.

“My time spent was a good duty, and I can honestly say I met good people from all over,” he said.

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Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: jhutton@timesrepublican.com or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: iapost46commander@gmail.com