October 1987 Issue
With the 789th PipelinersBy Norm Maino
Much of the line from Budge Budge through and beyond Calcutta was laid along a railroad right-of-way, and then new rail lines built over pipeline, which in many cases we had to pull rail ties, and a few times move the complete rail line two to three feet, do our work and then replace and tamp ties into proper alignment. Luckily we had a couple of ex-railroad workers on our crew. We took 2x4's, bamboo poles, rock and all kinds of sticks, etc., out of the line.
We also pulled a line across Hooghly River. It was 3,000 feet across. We built the line in three 1,000 foot sections and as we pulled the line across, we would weld the next section. On the pulling end, we could only go about 200 feet and then unhook, back up and hook on again. The tide would carry our line downstream and we would lose lots of slack.
We had a few blowouts when the contractions would pull the pipe apart at the couplings. One blowout was Christmas morning of 1944. It happened near Camp Canchparra. We had over one inch of gas on all water wells. Another was near Station 1. We pumped all we could into tanker trucks and had guards to keep natives from starting fires, but someone did start a fire and we had quite an inferno, which burned a few thatch roofs and some natives, but no G.I.'s were burned.
No, we did not fight with guns and bombs, but we did the job we were sent to do. We had a good company of men and very good officers. I am sure if we had been called upon to fight in the mountains we would have made a good showing. I am also sure other pipeliners and pumpers had their share of problems. The 789th received the Service Award for superiors service by increasing volume from 81.5 capacity to 96.72 designed capacity, also for untiring effort, initiative and attention to duty. There was lots of improvising such as melting down aluminum and casting bell housing from a grey marine engine. The shop was under the supervision of M/Sgt. Glen W. Brewer, under the command of Maj. General Covell.
AT WARAZUP, BURMA
Chinese pose in their tank. Photo by W. O. Rutledge.