USS Mississinewa (AO-59)

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USS Mississinewa (AO-59)
Career 100x35px
Name: USS Mississinewa
Builder: Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard
Laid down: 5 October 1943
Launched: 28 March 1944
Commissioned: 19 May 1944
Honors and
4 battle stars (WWII)
Fate: Sunk by a Japanese Kaiten manned torpedo
20 November 1944
Status: Sunk at a depth of 22 meters, 1,200 mt north of Mogmog island, Ulithi, Micronesia
General characteristics
Class and type: Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler
Type: T3-S2-A1 tanker
Displacement: 25,425 long tons (25,833 t)
Length: 553 ft (169 m)
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draft: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Installed power: 30,400 shp (22,700 kW)
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines
2 × shafts
Speed: 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h)
Capacity: 146,000 barrels
Complement: 21 officers and 278 enlisted
Armament: 2 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal dual purpose gun (1x2)
4 × 3"/50 caliber guns
4 × 40 mm anti-aircraft guns
4 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons

USS Mississinewa (AO-59) was the first of two United States Navy ships of the name. She was a T3-S2-A3 Auxiliary Oiler of the US Navy, laid down on 5 October 1943 by the Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Maryland; launched on 28 March 1944; sponsored by Miss Margaret Pence; and commissioned on 18 May 1944. Mississinewa was commanded by Captain Philip G. Beck.

World War II

Mississinewa began her brief but active wartime service on 18 May 1944. Having completed shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay, she sailed for Aruba, Netherland West Indies, to take on her first cargo. Filling her cargo tanks on 23-24 June she continued on to the Pacific Ocean, arriving Pearl Harbor on 10 July. As a unit of Service Squadron 10 (ServRon 10), she then steamed to Eniwetok where she first fueled ships of the 3rd Fleet. On 25 August, she got underway for Manus where she supplied fuel and stores and delivered mail to ships of TF 38, the fast carrier force, 32 and 31 during the assault and occupation of the Palaus.

Returning to Manus on 30 September, she replenished her tanks and again headed north to refuel TF 38 as that force struck at Japanese shipping and shore installations in the Philippines, on Taiwan, and in the Ryukyus in preparation for the Philippine campaign. On 19 October, having emptied her tanks into ships scheduled to take part in the landings at Leyte, she sailed to Ulithi, her new base. Thence in early November, Mississinewa sailed her last fueling at sea assignment, returning on the 15th.

The next day, she replenished her cargo tanks, filling them almost to capacity with 404,000 gallons of aviation gas, 9,000 barrels of diesel fuel, and 90,000 barrels of fuel oil. Four days later, 20 November, she was still anchored in berth No. 131. At 05:47, shortly after reveille, a heavy explosion rocked the oiler. Seconds later, fumes in an aviation gas cargo tank ignited, causing a second explosion. Massive flames immediately burst from midship forward. Bunker C oil immediately engulfed the ship, with aviation gas on top of that. The aviation gas acted like a wick. Fanned by a light wind, the fire spread aft quickly. A few minutes later the fires reached the after magazine and caused yet another explosion tore through the ship. The ship was abandoned and soon enveloped in flames over 100 ft (30 m) high. Fleet tugs were immediately brought in to extinguish the fire. In spite of the tugs' efforts to extinguish the fire, at about 09:00 the ship slowly turned over and disappeared. Fifteen minutes later, the fire on the water was out and Ulithi anchorage was again quiet. This ship was the first to be hit by a Japanese Kaiten manned torpedo. The ship sank with a loss of 63 hands as well as the kaiten pilot.

Of the five kaiten sent against US ships, only one was successful, but the explosion and fire from Mississinewa was so great that the Japanese Naval Command back in Tokyo were erroneously informed that three aircraft carriers were hit. This resulted in an expansion of the kaiten program, even though it would not significantly affect the war. Mississinewa was hit in the front starboard bow area, the kaiten probably released by Japanese submarine I-47 just outside Ulithi Lagoon, Palau.

Mississinewa received four battle stars for World War II service.

Recent history

On 6 April 2001, after a search, the hulk of the ship was found again. It is now treated as a memorial for over 50 sailors whose remains are still there. A full narrative of the wreck's discovery, with details of the ship's loss and photographs of the initial exploration dives, is documented on the website

Later in 2001, in response to concerns voiced by the local government about oil being released from the site, the U.S. Navy led a survey dive to determine the status of the wreck and the potential for environmental damage from the deteriorating hulk. Divers confirmed that the potential for a large release of the tanker's cargo fuel made a recovery attempt necessary. A report from that survey expedition is posted on the at Supervisor of Salvage and Diving website.

In February 2003, a US Navy salvage team led an expedition to recover as much oil as possible. Divers used "hot taps" to drill into the oil tanks and removed all accessible oil, nearly 2 million gallons, rendering the wreck safer. This final expedition is also documented on the SupSalv website and is available here.


  • This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
  • Mair, Michael Oil, Fire and Fate: The Sinking of the USS Mississinewa AO-59 in WWII by Japan's Secret Weapon ©2008. SMJ Publishing, Platteville, Wisconsin. ISBN 978-0-615-21644-7

External links

Coordinates: 10°6′0″N 139°42′58″E / 10.1°N 139.71611°E / 10.1; 139.71611