After an all too short stay aboard the USS Amphion, the repair ship USS Tutuila (Too Too Wee’ La) returned to Norfolk and tied up at its customary spot. I was detached and left the Amphion with a heavy heart; due not only to the recent tragedy, but because I was leaving what had quickly become an otherwise happy home. I had fit in nicely in the Amphion’s engine shop, and had made new friends. I also liked that the ship was located at the D & S (destroyer and submarine) piers which were separated, just a bit, from the main portion of the naval station.
I was fond of the destroyer, as a ship type, and had originally, unsuccessfully, requested assignment to one of these “greyhounds of the fleet”. While this was not to be, at least aboard the Amphion I was surrounded by destroyers, and could at least feel that I was somehow a part of it all.
So once again, for good or bad, I ventured forth into the unknown. I transported myself, and all of my stuff, to my new destination; this time the repair ship USS Tutuila (ARG-4), located at Pier 2 of the sprawling main complex of the Norfolk Naval Station.
Also tied up just then at Pier 2, across from the Tutuila, was the USS Long Beach (CGN-9), a guided missile cruiser with the distinction of being, at the time, one of only three surface ships with nuclear power; the others being the USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25), and the famous aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) — successor to the even more famous USS Enterprise (CV-6).
Additionally on Pier 2, at the time of my arrival, was a sharp looking Marine detachment from the Long Beach going through close order drills. It was through this altogether impressive example of the real Navy that I walked, with all my stuff, to my new home; an ancient — but nonetheless shipshape — member of “Service Fleet, Atlantic”.
The “Toot” was the last remaining repair ship dedicated almost exclusively to the service and repair of diesel engines; which the Navy employs in great numbers. From small boat engines, to generators, to the main propulsion of small ships, diesel engines are, literally, everywhere, and the Tutuila’s large ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Shop was kept quite busy.
In the U.S. Navy, ships are named by type, and each type for particular things. (i.e. Battleships were named for US states, Aircraft Carriers — with exceptions — were in those days named for battles (or for very important persons), Destroyers for war heroes, and Submarines for fish and other sea creatures, and so forth.
Ships of the ARG (Auxiliary Repair, Engine) class to which the Tutuila belonged were named for islands which were, or had been, owned by the United States. Tutuila is in fact the principal island of American Samoa, on which is the capital of Pago Pago. So our old repair ship did have an exotic, if somewhat unusual, name.