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  USS Neosho AO-23
USN
Cimarron Class
Fleet Oilier

7,470 Tons
553' x 75' x 32' 4"
5" gun
4 x twin 40mm AA
4 x 20mm AA
Click For Enlargement
USN October 11, 1939

PacificWrecks.com
Click For Enlargement
USN December 7, 1941

Ship History
Built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Kearny, NJ. Laid down June 22, 1938 as  a Maritime Commission type (T3-S2-A1) tanker hull, under Maritime Commission contract (MC-6). Launched April 29, 1939. Commissioned August 7, 1939 with Commander AV. E. A. Mullan in command. This ship had a fuel capacity of 146,000 barrels. Went through preliminary conversion at Philadelphia Naval Yard in October 1939. Known as "The Fat Lady" by her crew an served in the Pacific.

Next, the vessel was converted at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, completed on July 7, 1941. Afterwards, Neosho began ferrying aviation fuel the west coast of the United States to Pearl Harbor. On December 6, 1941 finished delivering aviation fuel to NAS Ford Island and was prepairing to depart for the west coast.

Pearl Harbor Attack
On December 7, 1941 during the Japanese surprise attack, Neosho was still unloading fuel but managed to get underway, maneuvered safely and claimed one Japanese plane shot down during the attack and managed to reach a safer area of Pearl Harbor away from Battleship Row. During the attack, three of her crew were wounded by strafing aircraft.

On May 1, 1942 during rough seas, Neosho refueled USS Yorktown (CV 5) prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Battle of the Coral Sea
On May 7, 1942, Neosho was escorted by USS Sims DD-409 in the Coral Sea. The pair were spotted and shadowed by B5N Kate EI-302 and B5N Kate EI-306 that misidentified Neosho as an aircraft carrier. Soon afterwards, vessels were attacked by two waves of Japanese planes: high level bombers then D3A Val dive bombers. During the attack, the D3A Val dive bombers severely damaged the oiler, scoring seven direct hits and eight near misses. Aboard Neosho, anti-aircraft gunners claimed a D3A Val shot down, but the pilot dove for the deck, starting a flash fire which spread across the starboard side. Despite the damage, the oilder remained afloat.

Aboard, twenty-one crew were killed during the air attack including:
Yeoman Third Class Eugene H. Self, 6160121 (MIA / KIA)

For his role in the repair party, Chief Water Tender Oscar V. Peterson who was wounded closed the bulkhead stop valves and in so doing received additional burns and died from his injuries on May 13, 1942. Later, Peterson earned the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Rescue
On May 11, 1942 USS Henley (DD-391) reached Neosho and rescued 109 survivors plus fourteen survivors of USS Sims (DD-409).

Sinking History
On May 11, 1942 Neosho was deemed to be non salvageable, and was scuttled at 2:28pm by gunfire from USS Henley (DD-391).

Memorials
The crew killed in the attack were officially declared dead a year later on May 8, 1943. All are memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

References
NavSource USS Neosho (AO-23)

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - USS Neosho, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Coral Sea: Events of 7 May 1942
delsjourney.com - The U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene Hal Self
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Oscar V. Peterson died May 13, 1942

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Last Updated
January 10, 2018

 

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