as of 04/10/2002

The Virtual Nitro Class Ammunition Ship

Suribachi Class AE configuration

Nitro Class AE configuration
USS Nitro (AE-23)

The profile of the virtual Nitro and Suribachi Class AEs shown above have mapped areas of the different superstructure, lower levels, main deck, helo deck and other areas of interest. To view the layout of different parts of the ship, place your cursor over the area of interest to you. When the cursor changes from an arrow to a hand, click the left mouse button. A top-down diagram of that portion of the ship will then appear. If there are pictures of spaces within the area you have chosen, you will be able to access them by moving the cursor over the room or space and click the mouse button to see the picture.

At the present time, the below deck level diagrams of the Nitro Class AEs has been limited to midship spaces. As pictures become available of spaces below deck that are either fore or aft of the midship spaces, these diagrams and pictures will be included.

While I have pictures of many areas of the Nitro Class ships, I am seeking generalized work .jpg or .gif scanned photos of these ships to show on this page. If you are a former crew member and have some photos (they could be from your personal collection or from a cruise book) that you would like to share, please email them to: Please indicate the area of the ship and year it was taken.

The following information, gathered from the Ships Factsheets from United States Navy's BBS, provides general statistics of the Nitro and Suribachi class:

NITRO CLASS Ammunition Ships:
Displacement: 15,500 tons full load
Length: 512 feet
Beam: 72 feet
Speed: Approximately 20 knots
Power Plant: Two boilers, geared turbines, one shaft,
16,000 shaft horsepower
Aircraft: None
Armament: Four three-inch/50-caliber guns
Complement: AEs 23, 24 and 25: Aprox. 325
Builders: Bethlehem Steel, Sparrows Point, MD


The USS Nitro Association is pleased to announce that we have finalized our web page dealing with the acquisition of Ship's Plans for the USS Nitro (AE-23). These edited plans were part of a larger selection given to us by NAVSEA, Philadelphia, PA during our visit in June 1999 for a wreath laying ceremony at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (now NISMF, Philadelphia). The unclassified BUSHIPS plans are dated 1959 with modifications made by Pearl Harbor Shipyard in 1960, Boston Naval Shipyard in 1961, INDMAN 3 in 1964 and Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock Co in 1967. The plans are complete up to and including the addition of the helicopter platform and FAST equipment installation.

Because of the wide appeal these plans might have among our fellow Nitro and Suribachi Class crew members, we would like to extend the opportunity of purchasing a set of these plans to you. As far as I can tell, we are the only ammunition ship organization to have plans of their ship. It has been my goal to try to recreate the shipboard experience and these plans will go along way in achieving that goal. This may be as close as you can get to the real thing (revisiting your former ship).

As mentioned above, the plans were given to our association during our 1999 Reunion, and at the post-wreath laying ceremony get-together, viewing the plans of the Nitro was one of the major highlights of the Reunion. Regardless of what era a former shipmate was on board, he/she could trace their paths to the berthing compartments, mess decks and workspaces. Countless hours were spent going over the plans, at this get-together, discussing what the spaces looked like prior to 1967 and noting, by crew members of more recent crews, the changes that happened after the '67 conversion and overhaul. The plans are truly a piece of history. Please take a look at the web page we have set aside to describe the views contained in the plan sets. I think you will be quite pleased with what you see.

If you are interested in obtaining one of these plan sets, please inform us as to which ship you were on, so we can keep your paperwork in the appropriate file.

Naval Science 302: Navigation and Naval Operations

The following terms and explanations are part of Penn State University's Naval ROTC Naval Science 302 course. Instructor LT David E. Fowler, USN has granted permission for its use on the Nitro Class AE web pages. If you are interested in viewing additional topics of Penn State University's Naval ROTC Naval Science courses, please visit their web site at the following URL: Naval Science 302: Navigation and Naval Operations II

Underway Replenishment (UNREP)

Definition: A broad term applied to all methods of transferring fuel, munitions, supplies, and personnel from one vessel to another while underway. Another term that you may encounter is Replenishment at Sea (RAS), which applies to all methods except fueling at sea. Clearly, replenishing fuel, ammo, and supplies at sea allows us to stay at sea- and stay on the job.

Replenishment Ships
There are several types. The function of ammunition ships (AE) and oilers (AO) should be obvious. The fast combat support ship (AOE) provides a combination of oiler/ammunition ship capabilities. The combat stores ship (AFS), sometimes referred to as the "Attack Food Ship" is just that- she provides spare parts, food, and other cargo. Many replenishment ships are now operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC) which means they are manned primarily by civilians. A "T" in front of the hull number indicates the ship is operated by the MSC and is therefore designated USNS (United States Naval Ship) vice USS (United States Ship). Theses ships have widely varying capabilities and this is one of the most important things to understand during the underway replenishment planning process, since this will determine our station during replenishment, what stations will be used, etc.

Basic Sequence of Events
Lifeguard station: If multiple ships are engaged in UNREP, a ship (usually the next customer) will be positioned approximately 1000 yards astern of the delivery and receiving ships. Man overboard is a real danger during UNREP, so the function of the lifeguard ship is exactly as the name implies.
Waiting Station: After the previous customer is out of the way, we move up to the waiting station and this is where we begin the sequence of flaghoists and commence our approach.
UNREP course and speed: Generally dictated by the delivery ship if UNREP is a two ship event, or by the OTC for a group of ships. Usually chosen to provide the smoothest ride possible, unless it is vitally important that the force continue along a specific heading. Called ROMEO corpen and ROMEO speed.
Approach course and speed: Should be the same as ROMEO corpen with slightly higher speed, with minor adjustments as necessary to execute the approach. From the time we commence our approach until we are clear of the other ship after breakaway, DO NOT use rudder orders to maneuver the ship- only minor course changes are used. A key tool for use during the approach is the radian rule, which mathematically is

          separation distance x (60/range) = angle off the bow (degrees)

And some good values to remember are, for a separation distance of 50 yards (150 feet):

                    1000 yards - 3 degrees
                    500 yards - 6 degrees
                    300 yards - 10 degrees

Once our bow is even with the other ship's stern, drop speed to ROMEO speed and glide into position. (of course, every ship is a little different and it takes a little experience to determine when to drop the speed).

Shot Line: The first thing to come across. After this comes the messenger, and the phone and distance line, which is used for sound powered phone communications between the two ships and for gauging distance. The line has a flag every twenty feet, and they are color coded in the sequence green-red-yellow-blue-white-green (I remember it as "Go rub your belly with grease").  This line is kept taut by linehandlers.

Tensioning the span-wire: The bridge of both ships must be alerted before this happens. This is a very important piece of information for the helmsman and the conning officer, since the force exerted by the tensioned span wire will tend to pull the two ships together, and the helmsman will have to compensate with the rudder to maintain the ship on ROMEO corpen.

Engage the rig:  The choice of rig depends on the item to be transferred, be it food, fuel, ammunition, other cargo, or personnel.

Transfer supplies and/or fuel: Throughout this evolution, the conning officer must pay careful attention to the separation between the two ships. The delivery ship will maintain course and speed, and the conning officer on the receiving ship will make minor course corrections (half a degree at a time!) and speed changes to maintain position. An extremely competent helmsman is essential to success.

De-Tension the span-wire: Again, the helmsman and conning officer need to know this is happening.

"All Lines are Clear:" Once we know this, we increase our speed (but don't change course just yet!) and once our stern is clear of the delivery ship's bow we put the rudder over (if desired) and head on our way.

Breakaway/Emergency Breakaway: These are the same thing, except the emergency breakaway is done FASTER. We DO NOT cut lines or anything of that sort. (no axes are required for this evolution). Typically, we always end UNREP with an emergency breakaway for practice.

UNREP Communications Sequence
Use of Signal Flags:
  • Delivery Ship: ROMEO at the Dip: I am steady on course and speed and am prepared to take you along side.
  • Receiving Ship: ROMEO at the Dip: I am ready to come along side.

  • Delivery Ship: ROMEO Closed Up: I am ready for your approach.
  • Receiving Ship: ROMEO Closed Up: I am commencing my approach.

  • Delivery Ship: ROMEO hauled down: First line is over.
  • Receiving Ship: ROMEO hauled down: First line is over.

  • Delivery Ship: BRAVO: Fuel or explosives being transferred.
  • Receiving Ship: BRAVO: Fuel or explosives being transferred.

  • Delivery Ship: PREP at the Dip: Expect to disengage in 15 minutes.
  • Delivery Ship: PREP closed up: Replenishing completed, I am disengaging at the final station.
  • Receiving Ship: PREP hauled down: I am clear of the delivery ship.

  • Other Communication Methods
  • Phone and distance lines.
  • Bridge to bridge R/T (safety backup) unless at EMCON
  • Semaphore

  • UNREP Equipment
    1. Inhaul:  used by the delivery ship to retrieve the load
    2. Outhaul:  used by the receiving ship to bring the load across from the delivery ship
    3. Span wire:  actually supports the load as it goes across. A trolley is typically used to roll the load along the span wire
    4. Ram Tensioner:  on most modern rigs, a ram tensioner is used to automatically maintain the tension on the span wire.
    5. Shot Line:  the first line across, fired from rifle.
    6. Messenger:  attached to the shot line, used to guide across more substantial lines.
    7. Manila Highline:  for a personnel transfer, the ram tensioner and steel span-wire are not used. Instead, manila lines are used for the span-wire, outhaul, and inhaul, and all must be tended by linehandlers, not winches or tensioners

    UNREP Safety
    All personnel involved wear helmets that are color-coded to indicate their job.
  • WHITE - Officers and CPOs
  • YELLOW - BM in charge of station
  • GREEN - Signalman and phone talkers
  • BROWN - Winch operators
  • PURPLE - Auxiliary repair personnel
  • RED - Line throwing gunners
  • WHITE w/ RED CROSS - Corpsman
  • BLUE - Linehandlers and deck riggers
  • ORANGE - Supply personnel
  • GREY - Everyone else

  • Other safety issues - Surface Ship Operations.
  • Do not fasten neck straps on intership phone line headsets.
  • No smoking, matches, or flames during fuel transfers.
  • Don't stand under loads.
  • Never get between the load and the rail.
  • Do not stand in bights, straddle lines, etc.
  • If your not involved, stay away.
  • Station a life buoy watch.
  • Firefighting equipment and personnel must be standing by when transferring ordnance or fuel
  • Observe RADHAZ precautions
  • Wear lifejackets with chem light and whistle.
  • Have a safety knife available.
  • No watches, jewelry, etc.
  • Wear safety shoes and battle dress.
  • Eye and hearing protection required for VERTREP
  • Station the helo "crash and smash" team for VERTREP.
  • FOD walkdown prior to helo operations.
  • Ground the helo prior to touching any cables, loads, etc.
  • Do not talk to the helo on the R/T when hovering, unless an emergency arises.
  • Never physically attach the helo's hoist to the ship.
  • Remove your hats when at flight quarters.
  • Closely observe the helo for any signs of a malfunction (leaking oil, smoke, fire, etc.
  • Spectators stay away!

  • The Crews of the Ammunition Ship

    The following are descriptions of the work done by crews of the various departments/divisions typically found on board the Nitro Class ammunition ships. The ratings and duties performed in some of these divisions may vary from ship to ship. Some ratings may appear in more than one division and some of the divisions may have been combined (i.e. Operations and Navigation division into Operations Division) :

    First Division

    First Division mans the forward replenishment stations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. In addition, they are charged with the responsibility for the maintenance of all running, rigging and the cleanliness of the forward section of the ship. The First Division also mans the anchor when required for anchoring of the ship. Ratings usually found in First Division are: BM, SN and SA.

    Second Division

    Second Division mans replenishment stations 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 and the helo deck when helicopter operations are in progress. The Second Division personnel have the job of keeping the after section of the ship's deck painted and clean. Ratings usually found in Second Division are: BM, SN and SA.

    Third Division

    Third Division personnel were in charge of in port loading of ammunition to deliver to the fleet and breaking out the ammunition for the ship's underway replenishments. The mount crews and FT's also were responsible for repairing and maintaining the ship's batteries to keep them in a constant condition of ready to fire. Ratings usually found in Third Division are: GMG, FTG, EM, SN, SA.

    Operations Division

    Operations Division personnel use radar to make sure that the ship is safe from collision with other ships or shoals; transmit and receive messages; keep the ship's movements (either independent or with other ships) and ports of call up to date. Some of their personnel are also charged with repairing and maintaining the radar and radio gear to keep it in top working order. Ratings usually found in the Operations Division are: RM, RD, ET, CYN, YN, OS, SN, SA.

    Navigation Division

    Navigation Division personnel direct the ship on her course through the open seas and oceans. Another important task of the Navigation Division personnel is to signal ships and receive signals of other ships while in formation. Ratings usually found in the Navigation Division are: SM, QM, SN, SA.


    X-Division personnel are in charge of the ship's office, post office and sick bay. Ship's office crew carry out the administrative tasks of the ship from handling service records, transfers, receipts, USAFI courses and GED tests, to routing and handling all incoming and outgoing mail. Sick bay personnel handle all medical emergencies as well as the day-to-day health needs of the crew. Ratings usually found in X-Division are: PN, YN, PC, HM, SN, SA.


    M-Division is in charge of the main engines, ship's generators, pumps and evaporators. These tasks, literally, involve around-the-clock vigilance. Ratings usually found in M-Division are: MM, MR, FN, FA.


    A-Division is comprised of personnel responsible for repairing and maintaining a variety of equipment from the all important liberty boats to the air conditioning equipment. Ratings usually found in A-Division are: MM, MR, BTR, BT, EN, FN, FA.


    E-Division crew's job is maintenance, repair and distribution of all electricity throughout the ship. They also maintain and repair interior communication equipment such as sound-powered phones and announcing systems. Ratings usually found in E-Division are: EM, IC, FN, FA.

    STREAM Division

    Assigned rates of MM's, EM's, BM's, for care and Maintenance of the STREAM Equipment. We also took care of the elevators, including the helo lift, forklifts, and such. We also stood by for all UNREPS in case of failure or breakdowns of the STREAM equipment.


    B-Division or "Black Gang" personnel have numerous and varied jobs; among them: making the steam that propels, heats , lights and drives almost all machinery on the ship. In addition they have the job of distribution and chlorination of the fresh water, handling of fuel and JP-5 and transferring of same during an unrep. Ratings usually found in B-Division are: BT, FN, FA.


    R-Division personnel handle a multitude of tasks on the ship. Any projects that would involve metal or wood on board the ship is the responsibility of this department. They are also responsible for maintaining the ship's watertight integrity, piping and plumbing. Ratings usually found in R-Division are: DC, SF, SFP, FN, FA.

    Supply Division

    Supply Division personnel responsibilities are varied. They provision the ship, run the ship's store and feed the crew and officers three meals a day, seven days a week. This department carries spare parts and consumables (such as paint, varnishes, brushes , office supplies) for the major ship departments. Other important areas of ship's life (such as the ship's storeroom, clothing and small stores, soda fountain, barber shop and laundry service) are run by the Supply Department. From a crew members perspective the most important function the Supply Department carries out is the disbursing of cash on payday. Ratings usually found in the Supply Division are: CS, SK, DK, SH, SD, TN, SN, SA, TA.

    The above department/divisional information was gathered from the 1965-66 WestPac Cruise book of the USS Haleakala (AE-25) and was provided courtesy of Mr. Bill Toohey, who was on board the Haleakala from Feb. 1966 - Nov. 1968 and on board the Nitro from Apr. 1976 - Aug. 1979. Additional information on divisional ratings came from the 1968 cruise book of the USS Nitro (AE-23).

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    Page created: 11/15/2000 Updated: 3/6/2006
    Page maintained by: Jim Timmons,
    Copyright ©2002,2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED for The USS Nitro (AE-2/AE-23) Association by Jim Timmons