USS Neosho (AO-23)
|USS Neosho (AO-23)|
|Namesake:||The Neosho River in Kansas and Oklahoma|
|Builder:||Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey|
|Laid down:||22 June 1938|
|Launched:||29 April 1939|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. Emory S. Land|
|Commissioned:||7 August 1939|
|Fate:||Sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 11 May 1942|
|Class and type:||Cimarron-class oiler|
7,470 long tons (7,590 t) light|
24,830 long tons (25,228 t) full load
|Length:||553 ft (169 m)|
|Beam:||75 ft (23 m)|
|Draft:||32 ft 4 in (9.86 m)|
Twin screws, 30,400 shp (22,669 kW)|
Steam (600psi), NSFO
|Speed:||18 knots (21 mph; 33 km/h)|
• 4 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal. guns (4×1)|
• 4 × 20 mm AA guns
|Operations:||World War II|
|Awards:||2 battle stars|
She was laid down under Maritime Commission contract by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, 22 June 1938; launched 29 April 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Emory S. Land, wife of Rear Admiral Emory S. Land (Ret.), Chairman of the Maritime Commission; and commissioned 7 August 1939, with Commander AV. E. A. Mullan in command.
Conversion at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard completed 7 July 1941, Neosho immediately began the vital task of ferrying aviation fuel from west coast ports to Pearl Harbor. On such a mission she arrived in Pearl Harbor 6 December, discharged a full cargo to Naval Air Station Ford Island, and prepared for the return passage.
Next morning, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor found Neosho alert to danger; her captain, Commander John S. Phillips, got her underway and maneuvered safely through the Japanese fire, concentrated on the battleships moored at Ford Island, to a safer area of the harbor. Her guns fired throughout the attack, splashing one enemy plane and driving off others. Three of her men were wounded by a strafing attacker.
For the next five months, Neosho sailed with the aircraft carriers or independently, since hard-pressed escort ships could not always be spared to guard even so precious a ship and cargo. Late in April, as the Japanese threatened a southward move against Australia and New Zealand by attempting to advance their bases in the Southwest Pacific, Neosho joined Task Force 17. At all costs the sealanes to the dominions must be kept open, and they must be protected against attack and possible invasion.
As the American and Japanese fleets sought each other out in the opening maneuvers of the climactic Battle of the Coral Sea on 6 May 1942, Neosho fueled USS Yorktown and USS Astoria, then retired from the carrier force with a lone escort, USS Sims.
Next day at 10:00, Japanese aircraft spotted the two ships, and believing them to be a carrier and her escort, launched the first of two attacks which sank Sims and left Neosho, victim of seven direct hits and a suicide dive by one of the bombers, ablaze aft and in danger of breaking in two. She had shot down at least three of the attackers. One of her crewmen, Oscar V. Peterson, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts to save the ship in spite of his severe injuries suffered in the attack.
Superb seamanship and skilled damage control work kept Neosho afloat for the next four days. The sorely stricken ship was first located by an RAAF aircraft, then an American PBY Catalina. At 13:00, 11 May, USS Henley arrived to rescue the 123 survivors and to sink by gunfire the ship they had so valiantly kept alive against impossible odds. With Henley came word that the American fleet had succeeded in turning the Japanese back, marking the end of their southward expansion in World War II.
Neosho received 2 battle stars for World War II service.
- Phillips, John S. (May 25, 1942). "U.S.S. Neosho Detail: Engagement of U.S.S. NEOSHO with Japanese Aircraft on May 7, 1942; Subsequent Loss of U.S.S. NEOSHO; Search for Survivors" (Memorandum). United States Navy. http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/logs/AO/ao23-Coral.html. Retrieved 2008-11-06. (Primary source)
- Wildenberg, Thomas (1996). Gray Steel and Black Oil: Fast Tankers and Replenishment at Sea in the U.S. Navy, 1912–1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781557509345. OCLC 32924773. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/GSBO/index.html. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- history.navy.mil: USS Neosho
- navsource.org: USS Neosho
- hazegray.org: USS Neosho
- Naval Historical center: USS Neosho
- The U.S. Neosho (AO-23) Details the survivors' ordeal.