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USS Enterprise CV-6
The Most Decorated Ship of the Second World War

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Operations Manual Chapter 31W - War Abandon Ship Bill

Operations Manual provided courtesy of CDR Art Burke (U.S.N. Ret).

  1. General
    1. In the event that this ship becomes so severely damaged that doubt exists as to its ability to remain afloat, the progressive removal of personnel in three phases as set forth hereinafter shall begin, while at the same time every effort shall be continued by regularly detailed personnel to defend the ship, salvage her, and bring her safely into port.
    2. The removal of personnel shall be accomplished in phases, men required for specific operations being retained on board until there is no further need for their services.
    3. Information and orders shall be passed by any means available: loud speakers if electrical circuits are intact, otherwise by megaphone or messengers from the bridge. All Boatswain's Mates shall pass the orders along.
    4. There are two conditions under which the removal of personnel may take place, namely: (1) when destroyers and other ships are available and can be brought alongside and, (2) when uncontrollable fires or other conditions make it necessary to abandon ship on life rafts.
  2. Calls
    1. Phase One
      1. "You're in the Navy Now" on the bugle.
      2. "All Hands Execute Salvage Control, Phase One" by Boatswain's Mates.
    2. Phase Two
      1. "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" on the bugle.
      2. "All Hands Execute Salvage Control, Phase Two" by Boatswain's Mates.
    3. Phase Three
      1. "Abandon Ship" on the bugle.
      2. "All Hands Abandon Ship", by Boatswain's Mates.
  3. Stations and Duties
    1. Officers' stations and duties.
      1. The Executive Officer shall be in general charge.
      2. The Navigator shall be Officer of the Deck.
      3. The Air Officer shall supervise the transfer of personnel and the normal or catapult launching of planes as practicable.
      4. The Damage Control Officer shall supervise Hull Salvage Control.
      5. The Engineer Officer shall supervise Engineering Salvage Control. (Put power on No. 4 Crane).
      6. The Gunnery Officer shall supervise Gunnery Salvage Control and continued defense of the ship.
      7. The Medical Officer shall supervise the transfer of the wounded and provide medical kits to boats and rafts.
      8. The Supply Officer shall supervise the preparation and distribution of food and water to personnel remaining on board.
      9. The Disbursing Officer shall secure and preserve the pay accounts of officers and men.
      10. The Communication Officer shall positively dispose of secret and confidential codes, publications, and devices.
      11. The Ship's Secretary shall save or destroy secret and confidential books and papers. All other officers shall save or destroy similar material in their custody.
      12. The Assistant to the Executive Officer shall secure and preserve the service records of personnel and the Muster Roll.
      13. Mess and Fund Treasurers shall secure and preserve their accounts and funds.
      14. The Ship's Service Treasurer shall secure and preserve the Ship's Service accounts and funds.
      15. The Assistant Navigator shall issue to each of the boats: charts, binoculars and navigating equipment. The position of the ship shall be indicated on the charts.
      16. The Air Department Gunner shall be responsible for the destruction of bombsights (normally by throwing them overboard).
      17. Other officers shall maintain order at their battle stations and direct the movements of personnel under their charge and the launching of rafts and boats.
    2. Special Details
      1. The regular boat crews and crane operators shall man the boats when Phase One is ordered and prepare them for lowering. The division to which the boat is assigned shall be responsible that sea ladders and lines for lowering the injured into the boats are provided.
      2. The Chief Master at Arms shall release all prisoners.
      3. The Navigator's yeoman shall save the deck locks.
      4. The Medical Officer's yeoman shall secure and preserve the medical records of all personnel.
      5. The Damage Control Officer's yeoman shall secure and preserve one copy of the General Information Book and the Damage Control Book to facilitate preparation of damage report.
      6. The Engineer Officer's yeoman shall secure and preserve a booklet of Engineering Plans to facilitate preparation of damage reports.
      7. The Gunner's Mate in charge of the Armory shall issue rifles and ammunition to each boat.
      8. The "K" division shall assign two qualified signalmen to each boat. These men shall carry semaphore flags, binoculars, and signal flashlights.
    3. All items to be secured and preserved such as records, pay accounts, secret publications and devices, etc., shall be transferred during Phase One to the first destroyer that may come alongside to rescue personnel or to the first boat lowered if it is impractical to bring destroyers alongside. Material which must be destroyed, such as bombsights, secret machines, etc., shall be destroyed prior to or during Phase One.
  4. Life Jackets and Stowages
    1. Lockers and canvas bags for life jackets are, in general, assigned by departments. Division officers shall be responsible for obtaining from the First Lieutenant a sufficient number of life jackets to accommodate the personnel of their divisions and maintaining them in the lockers and bags assigned. They shall instruct their personnel on all matters concerning life jackets, salvage control, and abandoning ship.
    2. Provisions have been made so that all personnel having battle stations above the hangar deck shall obtain their life jackets in the vicinity of their battle stations, while those having battle stations on the hangar deck and below shall obtain their life jackets from lockers on the hangar deck, forecastle, and fantail.
    3. Life jackets shall not be worn during action since they hamper the movements of personnel and the kapok type are likely to catch afire.
    4. When a certain phase of Salvage Control is ordered, personnel designated to leave the ship during that phase shall obtain their jackets from the lockers and bags and fall in at abandon ship parades or as ordered by their battle station officer. Where large groups of men are involved, the cognizant Head of Department shall issue prior written instructions requiring men to fall in at the designated parade while specially detailed men obtain and distribute the life jackets. If the hangar deck is ablaze, men having parades on the hangar deck shall fall in at corresponding positions on the flight deck if practicable; otherwise shall proceed to the forecastle or fantail.
    5. Members of repair parties shall be assigned to guard life jacket lockers assigned to personnel of the Skeleton Crew for Salvaging the ship. These lockers shall be marked in bright yellow so that any premature violation of them can be immediately detected.
  5. Life Rafts
    1. Life rafts are assigned by Departments and Divisions.
    2. The First Lieutenant is responsible for the care, upkeep, and equipping of life rafts.
    3. Members of repair parties shall be assigned to guard life rafts assigned to personnel of the Skeleton Crew for salvaging the ship.
    4. Specific instructions for life rafts are given paragraph 3106W (2).
  6. Transfer of Personnel
    1. Condition One - When destroyers can be brought alongside.
      1. Destroyers may be brought alongside forward or aft. Transfers shall be made from the hangar deck. Personnel should be ready to rig whip transfers for the removal of stretcher cases and material ordered herein to be saved. Cargo nets shall be rigged for the use of other personnel. Bedding bags may be used between ships to keep destroyers from being badly crushed.
      2. All personnel when leaving the ship to transfer to a destroyer shall wear their life jackets in order to have them available in case the ship to which they transfer gets into difficulties. Gas masks should also be carried.
      3. The order of transfer shall be:
        • Phase One
          1. Wounded personnel.
          2. Plane handling crews.
        • Phase Two Personnel of all departments not assigned to the Skeleton Crew for Salvaging, excepting the gun crews. All gun crews must remain at their stations during this phase to ward off additional attacks by the enemy.
        • Phase Three
          1. Skeleton Crew.
          2. Gun crews.
          3. Demolition Party.
      4. Every effort shall be made to transfer all personnel to ships alongside. If due to fires or other unforeseen situations that may arise this procedure cannot be followed, life rafts may have to be used.
    2. Condition Two - When life rafts have to be used.
      1. The order of transfer of personnel in each phase shall be the same as in Condition One.
      2. It may happen that part of the transfer may be accomplished under Condition One and the remaining under Condition Two. All personnel shall be familiar with Condition Two Procedure. There are many factors involved in this procedure that must be thoroughly understood by all officers and men, otherwise accidents are likely to occur that may hold up the operation or result in injuries to personnel.
      3. Division officers shall supervise the removal of personnel. All hands shall be cautioned to descend life lines slowly, taking care not to crowd the people on the line below them. (Personnel have had their hands badly burned by sliding rapidly down thirty or forty feet of line).
      4. Life rafts shall be released from their stowages on orders from the Embarkation Officer. This should be done before any personnel enter the water. (Otherwise, men in the water will be injured by rafts falling on them when the rafts are released or thrown over).
      5. Rafts should be released and held alongside (by retaining the end of the holding line on deck) until provisions and water are placed on board and most of the personnel assigned have a chance to descend the life lines and secure themselves to the raft. Special precautions should be taken to see that personnel who cannot swim are guided to the rafts and not left hanging on the top of the armor belt or to the end of descending lines.
      6. When all is in readiness, rafts should get clear of the ship by cutting the holding lines, use of paddles and concerted effort of all personnel. The tow lines should be made ready to pass to any boat that becomes available.
      7. It may happen that the grating inside the floats is secured by stops to the floats for easy stowage. These stops should be cut so that the grating will drop down below the float to the full extent of the netting so that men can stand up inside the float on the grating.
      8. Before leaving stations when acting under Condition Two, personnel shall throw overboard from their respective stations all loose material which will float. Empty powder cans shall be capped and thrown overboard. Rubber life rafts from planes on board shall be inflated and dropped over the side.
      9. If definitely not needed for fighting fires, fire hoses shall be hung over the side as they will provide excellent additional means by which men can descend into the water.
      10. Only those men actually comprising boats' crews and the regular No. 4 crane operator shall leave their gun stations to lower boats during Phase One, Condition Two.
  7. Special Instructions
    1. In executing Phase Three, consideration should be given to the advisability of ordering the personnel of the Skeleton Crew to set Material Condition Cast as practicable in leaving stations.
    2. Everyone must realize that this is a very stable ship with a tremendous amount of reserve buoyancy and stability. Even when listed to the point where the edge of the hangar deck is awash there is no danger of the ship capsizing or sinking suddenly. Therefore, unless fires force personnel to make a quick descent into the water, the operation of abandoning ship should proceed methodically and without undue haste.
    3. Personnel should tie all tie-ties on the life jackets securely, particularly the ones through the crotch as otherwise the life jacket will have a tendency to push up under the arms and greatly hamper movements in the water.
    4. All personnel are cautioned not to jump or dive over the side from the hangar or flight deck with their life jackets on or let go of life lines before they reach the water. The life jacket has a positive buoyancy of about twenty pounds. The hangar deck is normally about thirty feet above the waterline. A person jumping from the hangar deck with a life jacket on would strike himself a heavy blow which may cause serious bodily injury. Another precaution in this connection is that every man should remove his helmet before entering the water since the force that would be exerted on his head and neck by a jump from the hangar deck to the water would be considerable and might in extreme cases be sufficient to break a man's neck.
    5. In preparing to enter the water personnel are cautioned not to remove their clothing and socks. Black socks should be worn at all times in the water since it has been found that sharks are attracted by white or light colors and have been known to attack persons wearing white socks and also persons barefooted. Trousers and shirts will protect from sunburn and aid in keeping warm in the water. Many persons who have drifted for days on rafts have been badly burned by the sun. Those having wounds have found that the water has a corrosive action on the wounds making them very painful. Wounded personnel should be allowed to arrange themselves so that they can keep wounds out of water.
    6. When the ship is dead in the water, it drifts broadside to leeward at a very rapid rate due to the large sail area presented by the ship. This makes it very difficult to get rafts and personnel in the water clear of the ship on the lee side. Accordingly, personnel should not go overboard on the lee side unless there is no other alternative. Rafts on the lee side should be dropped into the water and pulled to the bow or stern of the ship by lines from on deck. Personnel for these rafts should go overboard from the bow or stern to man their rafts.
    7. Personnel must realize that it is their life jackets that will be their support in the water - not the life raft. The life raft would support not more than ten (10) men if they stood on the grating. Its function is to provide a support for food and water and a few injured personnel on the grating, and a base to cling to for mutual protection for the remainder of the personnel. There are short lines on the periphery of the raft that personnel should use to tie themselves to the raft so that they will not have to exert themselves continually to remain with the raft. Paddles are provided on the rafts to assist in getting away from the side. Tow lines are attached for passing to a small boat for assistance in getting clear of the side.
    8. Special care should be taken of provisions and water to see that they are not flooded or do not get loose. If personnel have to stay on the raft for any length of time the provisions and water will be greatly needed.
    9. Once in the water the life jacket should be adjusted down around the body as much as possible. Personnel should take it as easy as possible in order not to overexert themselves. They may have to remain in the water for a long time. The breast stroke and side stroke are considered the better ones to use as these assist in clearing the water ahead of any oil. The breast stroke is best for clearing a path through flaming oil. If any enemy bombing operations are in progress personnel should float on their backs or swim the back stroke for it has been found that personnel swimming on their stomachs and treading water have been vitally injured internally. If there is oil on the water, a handkerchief tied over the mouth will help to keep the oil out of the lungs and stomach. It is said that by placing his shirt over his head, a man can swim through an area of burning gasoline on top of the water.
    10. In the water, personnel should stay close together for mutual protection and to facilitate being picked up. Whistles and Boatswain's pipes are useful in attracting attention.
    11. Personnel boarding a destroyer either alongside or from the water should get clear of the rescue area immediately to make room for others that may be coming along. Destroyers are critical as regards topside weight and many personnel may be ordered below decks in order to improve the stability characteristics.
    12. In all abandon ship procedure, personnel must be made to realize that there is no call or need for them to become excited. The life jacket, if properly secured, will support a man without any effort being expended, and the wearing of clothes will insure keeping warm until picked up. By remaining calm and remembering all the factors mentioned above, each person concerned can aid himself and others to reach safety.

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