USS Neosho (AO-23)

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USS Neosho (AO-23)
United States
NameUSS Neosho
NamesakeThe Neosho River in Kansas and Oklahoma
BuilderFederal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey
Laid down22 June 1938
Launched29 April 1939
Sponsored byMrs. Emory S. Land
Commissioned7 August 1939
FateScuttled, Battle of the Coral Sea, 11 May 1942
General characteristics
Class and typeCimarron-class fleet oiler
  • 7,470 long tons (7,590 t) (standard)
  • 24,830 long tons (25,230 t) (full load)
Length553 ft (169 m)
Beam75 ft (23 m)
Draft32 ft 4 in (9.86 m)
Installed power30,400 shp (22,700 kW)
Speed20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Service record
Operations: World War II
Awards: 2 battle stars

USS Neosho (AO-23) was a Cimarron-class fleet oiler serving with the United States Navy, the second ship to be named for the Neosho River in Kansas and Oklahoma.

After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, Neosho operated in the South Pacific. During the Battle of the Coral Sea she was attacked and set alight, but managed to keep afloat until rendezvousing with an American destroyer on 11 May 1942. The destroyer rescued the crew and sank the vessel.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

She was laid down under United States Maritime Commission contract by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, 22 June 1938; launched on 29 April 1939; sponsored by Mrs. Emory S. Land, wife of Rear Admiral Emory S. Land (Ret.), Chairman of the Maritime Commission; and commissioned on 7 August 1939.[1]

Conversion at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was completed on 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 on 6 December, discharged a full cargo to Naval Air Station Ford Island, and prepared for the return passage.[1]

Service history[edit]

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, shooting down one enemy plane and driving off others. Three of her men were wounded by a strafing attacker.[1]

For the next five months, Neosho sailed with the aircraft carriers or independently, since escort ships—now few and far between—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 (TF 17). At all costs, the sea lanes to the dominions had to be kept open, and they had to be protected against attack and possible invasion.[1]

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 refueled the carrier Yorktown and the heavy cruiser Astoria, then retired from the carrier force with a lone escort, the destroyer Sims.[1]

Neosho burning, 7 May 1942.

The next day at 1000, Japanese search planes spotted the two ships and misidentified them as a carrier and her escort.[1] 78 aircraft from Shōkaku and Zuikaku soon arrived and began searching in vain for the "carrier" force.[citation needed] Eventually, they gave up and returned to sink Sims and leave 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.[1] 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.[2][3]

CPO Oscar V. Peterson

Sound seamanship and skilled damage control work kept Neosho afloat for the next four days. The stricken ship was first located by a RAAF aircraft, then an American PBY Catalina flying boat. At 13:00 on 11 May, the destroyer Henley arrived, rescued the 123 survivors and sank by gunfire the ship they had kept afloat. With Henley came word that the American fleet had succeeded in turning the Japanese back.[1]


Neosho received two battle stars for her service.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Neosho II". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.
  2. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients – World War II (M–S)". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. 3 August 2009. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Peterson DE-152". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.

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