Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate
  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. Laid down December 8, 1913 as "Fuel Ship No. 13". Launched on July 11, 1914 as USS Kanawha. Commissioned June 5, 1915 in the U.S. Navy (USN) with Lieutenant Commander Richard Werner in command. On July 17, 1920 designated fleet oiler AO-1. On December 18, 1929 decommissioned and placed into the reserved fleet. On June 5, 1934 recommissioned. During October 1939 underwent a conversion at Philadelphia Naval Yard with a capacity of 75,000 barrels of fuel.

Wartime History

At the start of the Pacific War, under the command of Commander K. S. Reed. Nicknamed "The Fat Lady" by her crew and operated in the South Pacific (SoPAC). By July 1942 stationed at Tongatapu Island in Tonga. On July 27, 1942 refueled by chartered tanker Mobilube. Afterwards, refueled U.S. Navy (USN) Task Force 18 (TF-18) then departed for Koro Island in Fiji escorted by Task Force 62 (TF-62). Noumea.

In December 1942 placed under the command of Commander John Gilbreth Cross. During 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Brainard Norton Bock.

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

Sinking History
On April 7, 1943 refueling ships in Tulagi Harbor, during a Japanese air raid targeted by Japanese planes and bombed by D3A2 Vals that scored a bomb hit that caused a fire and damage.

Aboard, nineteen men were Killed In Action (KIA) from the explosion and fire:
WT2C Paul Ahlfinger, 3602301 USN (MIA / KIA) TX declared dead April 8, 1944.
Lt. John W. Beedon, O-088110 USN engineering officer (MIA / KIA) NY declared dead Oct 8, 1944.
MM2C Ralph E. Bell, O-3559842 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead Oct 8, 1944.
CWT George Lee Dalthorp, 3160154 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943
CCM Harry Raymond Eames, 1348960 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943.
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 (MIA / KIA, BR) IN declared dead April 7, 1943
MMC Tarpley Johnson, 2675221 USN (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 (KIA, BR) Alameda, CA declared dead April 7, 1943.
EM1c Charles Edward Stuart (KIA, BR) Austin, TX declared dead April 8, 1943.
MM1c Frank S. Veltri, 2581327 (MIA / KIA) WV declared dead April 7, 1943.
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.

On April 8, 1943 at 4:00am Kanawha sank off the southern tip of Tulagi Island. Kanawha received one battle star for her World War II service.

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

Memorials
The nineteen crew that died in the bombing or fire each earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. Note, the nineteen crew killed on April 7, 1943 were were officially declared dead on either April 7, 1943 (actual date of death) or April 8, 1944 or October 8, 1944 as their administrative date of death.

Sixteen of the crew remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Ahlfinger also has a memorial marker at Faulkenberry Cemetery in Groesbeck, TX at section H.

Bell also has a memorial marker at El Reno Cemetery in El Reno, OK at 1st addition, block 22, lot 4.

Delmar Johnson is buried at Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, IN.

Tarpley Johnson also has a memorial marker at Macedonia Baptist Church Cemetery in Mayday, GA.

Spillman has a memorial marker at Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, CA.

Wood has a memorial marker at Kanady Cemetery in Junction, IL.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil The Story of Fleet Logistics Afloat in the Pacific During World War II pages 23-24, 405-427 (Appendix Kanawha AO-1)
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Navy Department Communiques 301-600 and Pacific Fleet Communiques March 6, 1943 to May 24, 1945 page 31 (April 7, 1943), 435 (Appendix Kanawha), XIV (index Kanawha)
"3. The Allied naval vessels which previously were announced as sunk by Japanese air attack on Allied shipping in the vicinity of Guadalcanal on April 7, 1943, now can be named as the destroyer USS Aaron Ward, the tanker USS Kanawha, and the corvette HMNZS Moa. The next of kin of all casualties aboard these vessels have been notified. The action previously was reported in Navy Department Communiqués No. 337, 338, 339 and 340."
X Attack of I-Operation by Richard Dunn
Navy Source USS Kanawha AO-1 (photos)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul Ahlfinger date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John W. Beedon date of death October 8 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ralph E. Bell date of death October 8 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George L. Dalthorp date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry Raymond Eames date of death April 7, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lloyd C. Fawl date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Herbert M. Griffith date of death April 8, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul G. Hough date of death April 8, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Tarpley Johnson date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Francis J. Lipinski date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leslie B. Marshall date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Neil McKeller date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Newton B. Muller date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank S. Veltri date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Elbert Wood date of death April 8, 1944
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry J. Zimmerman date of death April 8, 1944
FindAGrave - WT2 Paul Frank Ahlfinger Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Paul Frank Ahlfinger Jr. (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Lt John W Beedon (ship photo)
FindAGrave - MM2 Ralph E Bell (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ralph E. Bell (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - George Lee Dalthorp (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Harry Raymond Eames (tablets of the missing photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - Lloyd Celeans Fawl (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lloyd Celeans Fawl (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - EM3 Herbert M Griffith (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - F1 Paul G Hough (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Delmar Joseph Johnson (body lost at sea)
FindAGrave - Delmar J Johnson (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Tarpley Johnson (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - F1 Francis John Lipinski (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - MM2 Leslie Bennett Marshall (tablets of the missing photo, obituary)
FindAGrave - CMM Neil McKeller (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - MM1 Newton Bruce Muller (photo, tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - PO Newton Bruce Muller (photo, Saint Johns UCC Cemetery photos)
FindAGrave - Gene Harding Spillman (buried or lost at sea)
FindAGrave - Gene Harding Spillman (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Charles Edward Stuart (death certificate, grave photo)
FindAGrave - MM1 Frank Samuel Veltri (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Elbert “Dues” Wood (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Elbert Wood (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - MM1 Henry John Zimmerman (tablets of the missing photo)
Thanks to Neil Yates / Tulagi Dive for additional information

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?

Last Updated
August 20, 2022

 

SCUBA
200'

MIA
MIA
19 Missing

Photos
Photo Archive

Map
Map
Iron Bottom Sound
  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
 
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram