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  USS Kanawha AO-1
USN
Fleet Oiler

5,723 Tons
475' 7" x 56' 3" x 26' 8"
2 x 5"/38 DP guns
2 x Twin 40mm AA guns
2 x Twin 20mm AA gun
Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
USN c1943

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
USN April 7, 1943

Ship History
Built by Mare Island Navy Yard at Mare Island in California. Laid down on December 8, 1913 as "Fuel Ship No. 13". Launched on July 11, 1914. Commissioned on June 5, 1915 with LCDR Richard Werner in command. On July 17, 1920 designated fleet oiler AO-1, then decommissioned on December 18, 1929 and placed into the reserved fleet. On June 5, 1934 recommissioned. USS Kanawha received one battle star for World War II service.

Wartime History
Went through preliminary conversion at Philadelphia Naval Yard in October 1939. Known as "The Fat Lady" by her crew. Sent to the Pacific.

During December 1942 - 1943 under the command of CDR Gilbreth Cross John. During 1943, the ship was under the command of LCDR Brainard Norton Bock.

Sinking History
On April 7, 1943 while refueling ships in Tulagi Harbor, Kanawha was targeted by Japanese aircraft as part of Operation I-Go. Attacked by D3A Val dive bombers escorted by A6M Zeros, the ship was hit by a bomb dropped by a Val dive bomber that caused the ship to burn. Aboard, 19 men were killed in the explosion and fire. On April 8, 1943 at 4:00am Kanawha sank off the southern tip of Tulagi Island.

During the attack, 19 men were killed by the explosion and fire including:
Lt. John W. Beedon, O-088110 USN engineering officer (MIA / KIA) NY, declared dead Oct 8, 1944
WT2C Paul Ahlfinger, 3602301 USN (MIA / KIA) TX declared dead April 8, 1944
MM2C Ralph E. Bell, O3559842 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead Oct 8, 1944
CWT George Lee Dalthorn - spelling? (MIA / KIA)
BMKR2C Lloyd C. Fawl, 3601180 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
EM3C Herbert Miller Griffith, 6331142USNR (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943
F1c Paul Glenn Hough, 6230466 USNR (MIA / KIA) IN declared dead April 8, 1943
F2c Delmar Joseph Johnson - spelling? (MIA / KIA)
MMC Tarpley Johnson, 2675221USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
F1c Francis John Lipinski, 3824120 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
MM2c Leslie Bennett Marshall, 3824120 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
CMM Neil McKeller, 2866186 (MIA / KIA) NC declared dead April 8, 1944
MM1c Newton Bruce Muller, 3210384 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
WT2c Gene Harding Spillman (MIA / KIA) Alameda, CA
EM1c Charles Edward Stuart - spelling? (MIA / KIA)
MM1c Frank Samuel Veml - spelling? (MIA / KIA)
EM3c Elbert Wood, 6684986 (MIA / KIA) IN declared dead April 8, 1944
MM1c Henry John Zimmerman, 3371767 (MIA / KIA) MS declared dead April 8, 1944
CCM Harry Raymond Eames, 1348960 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943

Shipwreck
Kanawha is upright on the bottom on a gently sloping sea floor bottom at a depth of 200'. The shipwreck is divable by SCUBA divers.

Memorials
The nineteen crew that died in the bombing went down with the ship. All were officially declared dead on April 8, 1944. All nineteen are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Norman S. Voehl
"I was a crew member of the USS Kanawha AO-1, from 10 January 1942 until 7 April 1943."

References
X Attack of I-Operation by Richard Dunn
Navy Source USS Kanawha AO-1 (photos)
FindAGrave - Gene Harding Spillman
FindAGrave -
Thanks to Neil Yates / Tulagi Dive for additional information

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Last Updated
August 18, 2018

 

SCUBA
200'

MIA
MIA
19 Missing

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