The Chain Expert

During the early sixties I was in charge of construction matters for the Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding in Seattle. Another commander was in charge of repair activities. On an occaision when the Repair Officer was away, his senior civilian asked for my assistance.

An amphibious ship was being overhauled. Per a repair request, cracks in a few links of an anchor chain were welded, but the ship’s commanding officer refused to accept the work as being satisfactory. His refusal was per a recommendation from his first lieutenant who was relying on the ship’s bosun for advice. The latter wasn’t about to stick his neck out.

I was also told that the ship’s skipper would sign off on the job order if a chain expert said that the welding was satisfactoy. “He has never met you. Let’s tell him you are a chain expert,” the desperate civilian urged.

“Slow down,” I replied, “where were the cracks, and how were they oriented?”

My suspicious mind was in gear. He described a single crack that was aligned longitudinally in the center part of each link. I confirmed that he was talking about die-lock chain links and then had a hard job to keep from laughing at the would-be conspirator.


We summoned all parties to the dilemma, including the shipyard’s repair superintendent. As the expert I directed, “Chip the paint from some more links and you will find that everyone of them seems to be cracked.”

I then described to the embarassed group how, during forging, metal is forced from both sides of each link to form the center part that serves only to keep the two adjacent links apart from each other. The metal so formed sometimes butts and sometimes doesn’t. Whatever gap remains is always small and usually becomes filled with pigment when the chain links are painted.

Aside I told the civilian, “You did indeed enlist a chain expert. I once visited the forge shop in the Boston Naval Shipyard in order to see how anchor chain was manufactured.”


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