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||Scuttled, Battle of the Coral Sea, 11 May 1942|
|Class and type||Cimarron-class fleet oiler|
|Length||553 ft (169 m)|
|Beam||75 ft (23 m)|
|Draft||32 ft 4 in (9.86 m)|
|Installed power||30,400 shp (22,700 kW)|
|Speed||20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)|
|Operations:||World War II|
|Awards:||2 battle stars|
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, who sank her with gunfire after taking off the crew.
Construction and commissioning
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, with Commander AV. E. A. Mullan in command.
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.
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 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.
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.
The next day at 1000, Japanese search planes spotted the two ships and misidentified them as a carrier and her escort. 78 aircraft from Shōkaku and Zuikaku soon arrived and began searching in vain for the "carrier" force. 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. 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.
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.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- "Neosho II". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.
- "Medal of Honor recipients – World War II (M–S)". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- "Peterson DE-152". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.
- Phillips, John S. (25 May 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. Retrieved 6 November 2008. (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 978-1-55750-934-5. OCLC 32924773. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
- "Battle of the Coral Sea – Combat Narratives". Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- Keith, Don (2015). The Ship That Wouldn't Die: The Saga of the USS Neosho- A World War II Story of Courage and Survival at Sea. Penguin. ISBN 9780698157804.
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