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 
      another delay. 

      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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