The Cold Storage Building
Frozen Pipes, Hawaiian Style
This is the story of how my father (WOI's) built a big cold storage
building in Pearl Harbor. It was one of the first big projects
he took on after getting there and was started before the attack
on 7 December, 1941. As told to me (WGI) on 13 January 1996.
I have done some editing and rearranging, to improve the readability
and keep things in sequence. - WGI
WGI: You told me once about a cooling plant that you...
WOI: We were building a cold storage plant.
WGI: Is this the one on Ford Island?
WOI: No, no. No, it was across the channel from Ford
Island. I can't describe the exact location, but it's
just immediately across the channel from Ford Island.
It was kind of a peninsula that ran out there.
We were building this 4 story cold storage building
with an ammonia refrigeration system. And it had an
ice plant connected with it. Normal construction and
everything except for this ammonia system for which we
didn't have proper, good, welders.
I had an older man, maybe 55 years old, Mr. Fawcett,
who was a refrigeration expert. Mr. Fawcett could see
flaws in the plans, and things that wouldn't work.
These plans were all Navy generated, and Navy produced.
We had two floors of sub-zero freezer rooms, and then
lesser degrees up above and below. Mr. Fawcett said
this will never work because the defrost lines were
running through from the upper floors down to the lower
floors and passing through this sub-zero, or zero,
freezing rooms. (I don't know what the temperature was
exactly - I don't remember.)
Anyway, we went in to see this Captain who was the chief
architect of the building, or chief engineer of the
building. Mr. Fawcett sat down and explained to him in
detail that the defrost lines would freeze up as they
passed through these freezing floors.
This Captain, who had designed the thing, said "You
fellows just build this building and I will design it.
I'll be responsible for the design."
Mr. Fawcett came back to me three times. The second
time he tried he said, "Now Captain, this will not
work because... this is this, etc."
He [the Captain] said, "You just build this thing and
I'll be responsible for the design."
This storage building was needed, so [badly] needed. It
was the only meat storage facility on the island, and
serving the Pacific, that part of the Pacific.
OK. To start with, we turned on this ammonia system
and you could just see the vapors leaking from this
building. The ammonia leaking from the building was
all the faulty welds and everything. After about two
or three weeks of shutting down the system and airing
out the building so you could work in there, we finally
got all the faulty welds, which was *my* workmen's
faulty workmanship. The Captain was just breathing
fire down our necks because we couldn't get this thing
in shape. But there were not any welders [available]
that were capable of doing good finish welding.
So finally we got it so it would hold ammonia. We
turned it on. Exactly what Mr. Fawcett had predicted!
These [defrost] lines froze up solid.
We called the Captain in, and he said, "These lines are
not properly insulated!"
I said, "Your plans don't call for insulation."
"Oh. Well," he said, "we've got to insulate them."
I said, "OK, we'll insulate them."
So another delay. We purged the system and started all
over again. To insulate these pipes... These pipes
were coming down three floors through this freezing
area. I had sent a crew up there with jack-hammers to
chop out 6 inches of floor around these pipes to get
the insulation through.
I had a Filipino welder there, that as they jack-
hammered out this larger hole where the pipe was going
through, there'd be re-enforcing that was in the floor
be exposed. So I'd told him to just burn off this re-
enforcing bar just enough to let the insulation go by.
And I gave him a sleeve of insulation to show him how
far to cut back the re-enforcing.
Darned if he didn't burn everything off flush with the
concrete that had been cut out. There was nothing to
support the patch that was going to go in. So I had to
send them back to cut back another 6 inches to expose
some re-enforcing so you could pour a patch. That was
If that Captain had just listened to Mr. Fawcett [long]
enough for Mr. Fawcett to say, "We gotta have
insulation around these pipes." All this would have
never happened. Never happened. It was just a comedy
of errors from then on out, partly my crew's fault.
It's just a wonder we ever won the war.
Copyright © 1996 by William G. Innanen. All rights reserved.
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