‘Underway replenishment was the U.S. Navy’s secret weapon of World War II.’of call in which to replenish ships. Though this never has been a problem unique to U.S. ships, it appears the U.S. Navy was the first to solve it. The first documented replenishment of a warship at sea was conducted by the USS Constitution in the Caribbean Sea during the 1799 Quasi-War. The Constitution was replenished by small boats, with supplies lowered in barrels from one ship, rowed across, and then hoisted on board the U.S. frigate, a method that kept her on station for almost an entire year.
But it was not until the years following the 1898 Spanish-American War—during which the inability to resupply coal at sea led to one of four battleships missing a major action—that the Navy began to develop systematic at-sea replenishment. The most successful idea used equipment exclusively located on colliers to transfer bags of coal, though it quickly became obsolete with the Navy’s shift to oil-burning engines. These early efforts nevertheless provided important foundations for subsequent systems.
World War I and the Interwar Years